It’s rare that the general public gets to step inside a Mormon temple. The sacred place of worship for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is reserved only for members of the church, and even they have to be considered in good standing by church leaders to enter.
But whenever a new temple is built—adding to the more than 160 across the world—it’s open to the public for a small window of time before dedication.
The Baton Rouge temple on Highland Road was built in 2000 and underwent a major renovation and exterior redesign starting in January 2018. Ahead of its rededication Nov. 17, church leaders again opened the doors to more than 3,000 visitors over the course of a week. 225 took a tour of the intimate and lavishly designed interiors and stately grounds, and learned a little bit about the sacred ceremonies that take place inside. churchofjesuschrist.org
Unlike other Christian churches or cathedrals, a Mormon temple doesn’t have large chambers with vaulted ceilings. Instead, smaller rooms throughout provide different purposes. In this instruction room, where Mormons can attend religious sessions, there’s a large wrap-around mural painted by artist Linda Curley Christensen. It depicts the creation of the natural world, including recognizable Louisiana swamps. The mural is original to the temple, and during renovations, the ceiling was raised by 2 feet. Christensen came back to seamlessly extend the mural above.
Above the door to the temple, the words “Holiness to the Lord — The House of the Lord,” are engraved in limestone. Only important ceremonies such as marriages or baptism by proxy happen inside the building. Sunday services and other activities are held in the meetinghouse up the hill from the temple, where the congregation gathers and the public is also welcome to attend services.
The baptistry features sleek stone and marble work. The baptismal font sits atop 12 oxen sculptures—symbolizing the 12 tribes of Israel—situated in a recess below. Church members have a deep interest in researching family history, so proxy baptisms take place here with members standing in for their ancestors who might not have been baptized into the church.
WHERE WE WORSHIP
This is another installment in a 225 series on unique architecture and religious artifacts found in Baton Rouge’s places of worship. Over the last year, we’ve highlighted Broadmoor Baptist Church, Tam Bao Buddhist meditation center and Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church. Email suggestions for other places to feature to [email protected]
This article was originally published in the December 2019 issue of 225 Magazine.