When I was a young child, my family lived two blocks south of the Mesa Temple on Udall Street. There is a story in the family, and I remember it being told, because I remember it happening. I would wake up very early and unlock the front door and run down to the temple and splash in the reflecting pool. The security guard, thankfully, was a member of our ward and would fish me out and walk me home. At three years old I remember my Dad being really, really mad and my Mom crying about it. Soon after these escapades Dad put a new, and higher lock on the door. My days of water shenanigans were over.
My family had the opportunity to attend the Mesa Temple open house last week — yes I stayed out of the pool! This has been something we’ve been looking forward to for years, as the Mesa Temple is our family’s temple. My great-grandparents Van and Vida Brinton were some of the first temple workers called in 1927. Grandma Vida, along with her mother May Jerusha Robison, and with many other Relief Society sisters in Mesa, set up their sewing machines inside the temple before the dedication and made temple clothes, and the finishes for the temple. My grandparents, parents, most of my cousins and siblings were married here, as were we. As the sister in the video said, “This the temple where I grew up, it is home.” I feel that same way having grown up in the shadow of the Mesa Temple. It is a spiritual home for me.
There are parts of the temple that are different — rooms used differently, new hallways, and rooms in different places, like some of the sealing rooms and the dressing rooms. However, there were many things left in tact and improved. The baptistery has always been my favorite room in the Mesa Temple, and it was stunning. The baptismal font has been restored to include colored tiles and the oxen have been given a face lift.And something that I would only notice, the hexagonal floor tiles in this room are very period appropriate. The font was also replaced. Gone was the stainless steel bathtub and in was a font covered with blue and white mosaic tiles. The murals of Joseph and Oliver being baptized as well as the mural depicting the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood had also been restored and were more colorful and brilliant than I remember them being. Another change that I noticed is that patrons will move from room to room as the temple ordinances are presented. Patrons will start in what used to be called Room One, the room in the center of the grand staircase, and then move up to the veil room. The rooms were also fitted to be wheelchair accessible, with a lift in each room.
The grounds outside have also been completely redone. I will admit, when they tore down the Visitor Center I cried ugly tears. I remember going there with my Valiant 8 class the first week it was opened in 1981 and being given a tour by a senior missionary couple. But, the gardens are replanted with new trees and some of the old trees they were able to salvage (sorry kids the Sweetheart Tree is gone). The north lawn was also designed to be more “audience friendly” when the Easter Pageant resumes in 2022.
If you’re in the greater Phoenix area, please take the time to go to the open house. Even if you’re not in the area, it’s worth a trip to Mesa to see this beautiful and sacred building. Take your children with you and let them feel the power and reverence of the temple. Open house tickets are free, and can be found HERE. The new Visitor Center is located on the corner of Main Street and LeSueur, right across from the temple, as well as a Deseret Book with a BYU Creamery inside.
Friends, the temple is so important. We need to be there as much as possible doing the important work of salvation for ouselves and those who have passed away. We need to get our children excited to be in the temple as well. I’m convinced if we take our children to the temple and instill in them a desire to feel the spirit of the temple and of temple work they will build the habit of attending which they will carry with them all of their lives.
My parents went to the Mesa temple from San Diego until the Los Angeles temple was built. They loved it too.
When I was little, as I said, we lived in the neighborhood around the temple. I remember the buses of Saints which would come up from Mexico and Central America to go to the temple. There is an Interstake Center just east of the temple that the church owns. They have dormitories there, with kitchens and living rooms. These Saints would come for a week and do all of the work they could and then go back to their homes. At the time, for many, this might have been their only temple trip. Thankfully now there are temples all over the world to serve people.
It is so strange to think about all of the Saints who used to take a bus for hours if not days to get to the temple, and now temples are being built and planned nearly everywhere. My favorite story from Brazil: for a long time the Sao Paulo temple was the only one in Brazil, but there were Saints in Manaus, which is a very large city in the middle of the Amazon. There are no roads to Manaus — still! So, the Saints would take a boat ride down the Amazon river (three days at least) and then a bus from northern Brazil to Sao Paulo (seven days at least). Sometimes the trip would take two weeks. And then they would perform ordinances all day long for several days, and then they would return. Now THAT is faith! I have not been in the Phoenix area for many years, but if I go I will certainly check out the Mesa temple.