By Cecily Markland
Phoenix Arizona Temple to Open for Public Tours
In the northwest sector of the Valley of the Sun, on Pinnacle Peak Road, stands the Phoenix Arizona Temple—a pinnacle of the hopes, dreams and spiritual yearnings of Latter-day Saints in the 16 stakes in Phoenix, Glendale, Surprise, Peoria, Buckeye, Goodyear, Deer Valley, Cottonwood and Prescott that make up the temple district.
The construction of the Phoenix Temple, the fifth in the state, was announced by President Thomas S. Monson on May 24, 2008. Now complete, the temple will open for public tours October 10 through November 1, and, when dedicated November 16, will be the Church’s 144th operating temple.
At the groundbreaking ceremony in June 2011, Elder Ronald A. Rasband, of the Presidency of the Seventy, said the temple would be “beautiful and magnificent” and that it would bless both the Latter-day Saint population and the Phoenix community.
“It’s wonderful to have a temple so close,” says Lynn Maxfield, of the Peoria Ward, Peoria Stake, who, with her husband, Mike, has been an ordinance worker in the Mesa Arizona Temple for the past 11 years.
Dave Simonson, of the Thunderbird Hills Ward, Glendale North Stake, agrees. Dave, who lives just a mile from the Phoenix Temple, has had the assignment from the Church to photograph the construction.
“It is pretty awesome. All along it has been ‘my temple,’ and this assignment has made it even more personal,” he says.
For Porter Brothers, the general contractors, those personal feelings run deep.
“It was different than any other job because of my personal feelings about temples,” says Chase Porter, Project Engineer with Porter Brothers and a member of the Hawes Ward, Queen Creek Stake.
He says, from the outset, “We really wanted to put our best foot forward and to do a good job;” and, in addition, “We wanted our subcontractors to have a great experience. We were representing the Church and we wanted to do that well.”
Chase says they were able to see the hand of the Lord in the process, even in the beginning. When representatives of the Church initially met with residents in the area to discuss the project and to share a rendition of the proposed site design, some expressed concerns over increased traffic as well as the color, lighting and the height of the temple. After much discussion—and even though the Phoenix Planning Commission unanimously recommended that the City Council approve the rezoning application that would allow the Church to construct the temple at 40 feet high—Church officials announced in January 2010 that the temple would be completely redesigned to comply with the existing zoning limit of 30 feet.
“From the original 27,000-square foot design, the redesign more than doubled the size, to 60,000-square feet,” that included a much larger footprint as well as a basement and sub-basement, Chase says. “The new design is nicely proportioned, and the way it steps back in, with a spire coming from that, to me, it is much more pleasing to the eye.”
“The Lords’ plan is so much better than what we had even hoped for. It really turned out the way it was supposed to,” he says.
Once the new design was approved, the construction “had to come together quickly to maintain schedules,” Chase says. Yet, he adds, far from being “thrown together” a high standard of quality and craftsmanship was expected and adhered to throughout the project.
They communicated, first with estimators and then with crews, explaining the standard of quality that the Church expected and was willing to pay for, Chase says.
One of the subcontractors was Western Millwork, a Phoenix-based company owned by Bill Roach. Project manager, Robert McKee, says their work included all the wood—the doors, jams, moldings, altars and window trim, as well as veneered panels and columns of sapele, a wood of the mahogany family in the “fanciest” instruction room, and laser-cut patterns of the saguaro medallion, “an emulated saguaro blossom” in some of the wood.
He says their crew, which included up to 15 workers at times, enjoyed the opportunity to work on a project with “such good carpentry and such a beautiful design.”
“You run into a project like this once in a lifetime. I’ve been working for 17 years in millwork, and I’ve never had an opportunity to work on a building like that before,” McKee says. “You just don’t see buildings like this. It’s really high class.”
“I tell everyone they have to go see this thing during the open house,” McKee says.
In addition to the beautiful woodwork throughout the temple, open house visitors will enjoy murals by Keith Bond, a stained-glass focal point, and the presentation of the local terra-cotta element in the second instruction room.
Spencer Stewart, superintendent with Porter Brothers, says there are other, less-obvious things about the Phoenix Temple that add to its beauty and it’s meaning for him.
“One of the interesting things that not many people know is that I had the unique experience of working with my father, Dawson Stewart, on this project. He was the project manager, so we were on the job, one-on-one together much of the time.”
He says, “To be working with my dad on a temple—to be working with him on building that has so much to do with creating eternal family ties—was just such a blessing.”
Spencer says it caused him to think back to pioneer times, when “they often worked on temples as families” and, also to consider “some of the sacrifices they made to do so.”
Spencer and Dawson, who also are members of the Hawes Ward in Queen Creek Stake, often left their homes early in the morning and “sometimes I didn’t get home until my kids were in bed,” Spencer says. He and his wife, Jenny, have four children, ages 14, 5, 3, and 1.
“It was a sacrifice we knew we were making when I took on the project,” he says, “but we were okay doing that. We wanted to do it, and the blessing come.”
Dawson, too, relishes the experience of working with his son and says he gained a new appreciation for what goes into the construction, and, especially, into the design of a temple.
“I was amazed at the things built into the design and the purpose for them,” he says. Not only are things designed to be true and square and as perfect as possible, he says, but certain elements are also intended to teach and instruct.
“I was amazed to see how much attention there is to the principle of progression in the temple design, so that even the finish in one room needs to be slightly better, a little more elegantly done than in a previous room,” Dawson says.
He says, often, such as time when others had left and he was alone to shut the site down for the night, he had times to reflect and to think: “How could you possibly build something of more import or consequence than a temple? There is not anything of more importance,” he says. “It’s not just a building. Not at all.”
“It was an honor,” Chase says. “It was a lot of hard work, but it was such an honor to be a part of it.”
Phoenix Arizona Temple Open House
Invited: The general public, including children of all ages. Admission is free, but reservations are requested.
Dates: Friday, 10 October, through Saturday, 1 November 2014, excluding Sundays
Reservations: Open house tickets will be available at templeopenhouse.lds.org/tickets beginning Monday, September 29, at 10 a.m. MST.
Dress: Modest dress is requested.
Parking: Guests should plan to arrive early to allow time for traffic and parking. Parking attendants will be on hand.
Tours: Tours will begin in the chapel on the east side of the temple, with a10-minute video, followed by a tour of the temple. After the tour, guests may visit a reception area to enjoy displays about the temple and ask questions.
Dedication: Regular three-hour block meetings will be cancelled on Sunday, November 16 for all Arizona stakes and districts, and the Temple will be dedicated in three sessions that will be broadcast to Arizona meetinghouses, at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. that day. Specific instructions for attendance will be made available through local priesthood leaders.