Government, Community, and Religious Leaders Tour Philadelphia Temple

Contributed By Sarah Jane Weaver, Church News associate editor

  • 12 August 2016

More than 4,000 business, academic, government, religious, and judicial leaders visited the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple the first week of August 2016. Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, pictured above with his wife, Mary, conducted some of the tours.  Photo by Alan Murray.

More than 4,000 business, academic, government, religious, and judicial leaders visited the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple the first week of August—touring the Church’s 152nd temple, built in the heart of the City of Brotherly Love.

Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles conducted some of the tours. The comments he received from the visits “reflected the wonderful peace and spirituality they felt in the temple,” he said.

“When they see the comprehensiveness and spiritual depth of the revealed religious principles, it gives them a different feeling and an appreciation for the restored gospel and an enhanced respect for the Prophet Joseph Smith,” he said.

The temple is located downtown on 1739 Vine Street, near the Free Library. It will serve more than 40,000 Church members in parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and all of Delaware. President Thomas S. Monson announced plans for a temple in Philadelphia in October 2008. Construction began with a formal groundbreaking on September 17, 2011.

The 61,000-square-foot temple features classic Georgian architecture designed to blend with the historic Philadelphia architecture. The exterior is clad in granite from Maine, and the interior features stone from Egypt and Italy. The building includes original art glass and an oil-painting wall mural of landscapes important in both American and Church history, including the Susquehanna River and the Delaware River.

Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles greets Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Photo by Alan Murray.

A group of visitors lines up to take a tour of the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday, August 10, 2016. Photo by Alan Murray.

Elder Cook said many of those he hosted during the VIP visits commented on the workmanship, quality, and beauty of the new temple.

He said the open house was not only an opportunity for friends of the Church to view the architecture but also an opportunity to answer questions. “Already strong friendships were strengthened.”

In addition to Elder Cook, Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Presidency of the Seventy; General Authority Seventies Elder Von G. Keetch and Elder Larry Y. Wilson; and Elder Lance B. Wickman, an emeritus General Authority Seventy and general consul of the Church, conducted tours of the new building. Other prominent Church members, including Michael O. Leavitt, also led VIP tours.

Elder Milan F. Kunz, Area Seventy and local temple committee chairman, called the VIP portion of the open house remarkable.

“The reaction has been outstanding,” he said.

The new temple has already been featured in many news reports, he added.

The temple is located just one block from the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul—the largest Catholic Church in Pennsylvania. An August 5 article on CatholicPhilly.com featured the visit by Archbishop Charles Chaput and is titled “Welcoming the New Neighbors.”

An August 3 article on Philly.com by Inga Saffron, Inquirer Architecture Critic, calls the new temple “the most radical work of architecture built in Philadelphia in a half-century.”

“Clearly, that’s not because the gleaming classical tabernacle offers a fresh, 21st-century take on architectural form-making, or because the designers inventively use new materials, or because they stretch the limits of technology. It’s radical because it dares to be so out of step with today’s design sensibilities and our bottom-line culture. … The Mormon Temple is the real classical deal,” writes the author.

“Perhaps befitting a building inspired by the architectural language of Imperial Rome, the temple also represents a bold incursion into the hierarchical fabric of Philadelphia. Located on the northeast corner of Logan Square, the Mormon Temple has planted its flag on the city’s premier civic, cultural, and religious space,” writes the author.

In addition, Elder Kunz said the Church hosted a special neighborhood tour, during which businesses and residents inconvenienced by the temple construction were invited to see the building.

Next to the temple is a 24-story retirement building. Church leaders spent two days taking residents of that building, some who needed special assistance, through the temple. “It took a little longer,” said Elder Kunz. “They were so glad they could be included.”

Elder Kunz said the temple will continue to host visitors during the public open house, which will run through September 9, except Sundays. Elder Kunz said the local temple committee anticipates 5,000 to 6,000 visitors each day during the public phase of the open house.

The temple will be dedicated in three sessions on Sunday, September 18.

Business, academic, government, religious, and judicial leaders who visited the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple the first week of August included:

• Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and a group of others who have worked with the conference.

• Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore.

• Archbishop Charles Chaput and a group of priests, bishops, and others from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

• Rabbi Noam E. Marans and local representatives from the American Jewish Committee.

• Former New York Attorney General Robert Abrams.

• Dr. Daniel Mark of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

• Dr. Robert P. George of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

• Dr. Ella Simmons, vice president of Seventh Day Adventists.

• Waseem Sayed and Usman Choudary, national leaders of the Ahmadiyya Muslims.

• Nuns from the Little Sisters of the Poor.

• National and local representatives from the American Jewish Committee.

• New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

• National director emeritus of the Anti-defamation League Abe Foxman.

• Former Mayor Michael Nutter.

• Galen Carey, National Association of Evangelicals.

• Rev. Eugene F. Rivers, a Pentecostal minister in Boston.

More than 4,000 business, academic, government, religious, and judicial leaders visited the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple the first week of August 2016. Photo by Alan Murray. Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (far left), conducted some of the tours.

More than 4,000 business, academic, government, religious, and judicial leaders visited the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple the first week of August 2016. Photo by Alan Murray.

More than 4,000 business, academic, government, religious, and judicial leaders visited the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple the first week of August 2016. Photo by Alan Murray.

More than 4,000 business, academic, government, religious, and judicial leaders visited the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple the first week of August 2016. Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles conducted some of the tours. Photo by Alan Murray.

Visitors wait to begin a tour of the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Church's meetinghouse just across the street from the temple in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday, August 10, 2016. Visitors begin their tour in the meetinghouse, where they watch a brief video about temples, and then are escorted across the street to take a tour inside the temple. Tours began Wednesday, August 10, and the temple will be open to the public until September 9. Photo by Alan Murray.

Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple.

The Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple is located in downtown Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple is pictured at night.