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Orange County

Mormons Unveil a Towering Temple

October 24, 2001|WILLIAM LOBDELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Mormon officials released architectural renderings Tuesday of a dazzling white granite temple--with a 91-foot tower--in Newport Beach as plans for the 17,500-square-foot building began city review.

The one-story Art Deco building will be accented with arches and elaborate window artwork. Towering over the 35-foot temple will be the 83-foot spire topped by an 8-foot golden statue of the angel Moroni, blowing his trumpet to "signify the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus."

"The spire is the very essence of the building itself," said Joseph Bentley, an Orange County church leader. "Its whole function is to symbolically raise man toward God. Without it, the whole significance of what happens inside is lost."

The golden angel spire is a standard feature on Mormon temples.

The building will be surrounded by 5.5 acres of gardens. The site will be next to the church's 28,500-square-foot Newport Beach meeting house on Bonita Canyon Drive and Prairie Road. For Mormons, the meeting house is where regular Sunday services and other events are held.

The sacred temple is a bridge between heaven and Earth for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Ceremonies such as weddings and baptisms take place at the temple, which is off-limits to everyone but church members in good standing.

Mormon officials began officially meeting with city staff Tuesday and said they hope to have their project presented to planning commissioners near the end of the year. They said they are also meeting with local homeowners groups. If the project is approved, groundbreaking could begin by spring.

Until the temple opens in Newport Beach, Orange County's 45,000 Mormons will continue to drive to the much larger San Diego or Los Angeles temples for major religious ceremonies.

California has four temples, with three more--including the one in Newport Beach--on the drawing board. By favoring smaller buildings, the church has been able to build more than 90 temples in the last decade for its estimated 11 million members.

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