Mormons open temple to public: The Mormons have spent pounds 10m on their UK temple. Martin Wroe reports

Click to follow
The Independent Online
MEMBERS of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints believe that only the best is good enough for the Heavenly Father. Noticing in 1990 that their British temple was looking a bit worse for wear, the decree went out from the 12 ruling apostles at the church's headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, to 'shut the London Temple and refurbish it'.

Yesterday, two years and pounds 10m later, the public was invited into the temple on the A22 London to Eastbourne road for the first time since it was opened in 1958.

Elder Ballard, one of the 12 apostles who flew to Britain for the occasion, said: 'Occasionally, we take a temple and spend a few million on it to make it as beautiful as we know how.'

The interior of the temple has the opulence of a five-star hotel without the room service. Visitors have to wear plastic bags on their shoes to walk on the carpets. New rooms and a new floor have been created and there are now eight sealing rooms where eternal marriages are sealed. Members of the church do not believe marriage is necessarily 'till death us do part' - but only in a temple can they be made to last forever.

The temple has a cafeteria, laundry, changing rooms and a huge stainless-steel baptistry, mounted on the backs of 12 handsome carved oxen, 'representing the 12 tribes of Israel', where members can be baptised 'vicariously' on behalf of ancesters who were not part of the faith.

Elder Ballard said 'no people in the world are more aggressive in seeking out their kindred dead'. But the dead do not have to accept the faith, although, as Mormons believe they are in 'spirit heaven', there are good grounds for doing so.

All Mormons who visit the Temple have to wear white, a sign in the changing rooms indicates that here, 'men change from every day street clothing into temple clothing'. Elder Ballard said in the temple rich and poor 'sit together in white and we are equal, it's about how good we are not about worldly things'.

The coup de theatre in the lavishly remodelled temple is the Celestial Room, decorated in browns and golds with elegant furniture.

When the temple opened in 1958, the UK membership was 6,500. Now it is one of the country's fastest-growing churches with 160,000 members and 256 chapels. For the next two weeks, until its reconsecration as a temple, anyone can enter into the Mormon holy of holies. After that it is just the faithful again.