More sacred than a meeting house, a Mormon temple provides its members with a refuge from the secular world and allows the faithful to partake in important ceremonies. Not every city has a temple, but church leaders try to make them as accessible as possible. To serve its growing Mormon population, in April 1984, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced the construction of the Las Vegas temple, which was dedicated in December 1989.
To enter and participate in a Mormon temple, baptized church members must undergo interviews with their local leader, called a bishop. The bishop ensures that the applicants understand church beliefs and follow Mormon teachings in their daily lives. If the members are deemed worthy, the bishop issues them a pass, which provides access to any temple and allows them to participate in a number of important rituals.
Mormon temple ceremonies derive from church teachings. Mormons believe that this life is one step in a journey toward eternal life. They teach that individuals existed in a spirit pre-life; that each person has the opportunity to prove his or her worthiness in this life; and that if worthy, each person can spend eternity as a god or wife of a god, presiding over their own world. Temple ceremonies explain this plan of salvation and provide participants with information on how to ensure they are worthy as they enter the afterlife. One temple ritual relates to marriage. Unmarried, faithful couples can be married and sealed for all time and eternity, while married couples can be sealed to each other and their children. In this way, under church doctrine, Mormon families become permanently joined.
Since the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dates only from 1830, Mormons also consider it their duty to not only preach the gospel to living persons, but also offer those who died without hearing the gospel a chance at salvation. Through genealogical work, Mormon leaders provide temple staff with the names of persons who died before the church's founding. Church members then stand in as their proxies in baptisms and sealing ceremonies.
In Las Vegas, these ceremonies take place at an 80,350-square-foot temple with four ordinance rooms for ceremonies and six sealing rooms. The temple sits on more than ten acres of land at the foot of Frenchman Mountain on the east side of the Las Vegas Valley. It is easily identified at night by its six-spire design, bright lights, luminescent white stone walls, and copper roof. The highest spire is 119 feet high.
It may seem odd to find such a sacred building in a place known as Sin City, but the Las Vegas Temple is historically right at home. Mormon missionaries were Las Vegas' first white settlers in 1855, and their fort was the valley's first building. About 30,000 Mormon residents attended the dedication.
While Las Vegas' more than 1.8 million residents are now mostly non-Mormon, the city still hosts a large Mormon population—estimated at just less than ten percent of the nearly two million living in Las Vegas in 2007—with many accepted into the temple.
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