Yesterday I took at tour of the new Mormon temple in Newport Beach. It's the 6th temple in California, and the 122nd worldwide.
About a month before they dedicate a new temple, they open it up for public tours. After the dedication on August 28th, it will no longer be open to the public. In fact, it won't even be open to all Mormons ... only to Mormons who have been recommended by their local bishop.
The temple, taken just as I was about to go in. (08/17/05)
A lot of people might wonder why I would want to tour the Mormon temple. After all, I'm not exactly religous. In fact, the last time I've been to a mass was probably at my Dad and Malena's wedding a year-and-a-half ago!
First of all, I've always been curious about other religous practices and ceremonies. Anybody who knows me always hears me say how I've always wanted to go to a Jewish wedding, an Indian wedding, a Greek Orthodox wedding, etc. I just don't know enough Jewish, Indian or Greek Orthodox single people. I almost had a chance at going to a Muslim wedding when my Pakistani friend and co-worker Samiya was getting serious with a guy, but she ended up breaking it off.
I guess I qualified! (08/17/05)
Second of all, anytime I have an opportunity to go inside a building where I'm normally not allowed, I'm all over it! It's kind of like the time my old friend Marty worked at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip and gave me a behind-the-scenes tour of the foundation room, lounge, prayer rooms, Captain's room, etc. That was really cool. And I'm still working on getting inside Disneyland's Club 33 (member anyone?).
The Mormon temple tour was actually very interesting. And very crowded. I couldn't believe the hundreds of people that were there. It started with an 11-minute movie about why temples are built. Then we walked to the temple where we had to put these paper booties on our feet. The booties have no religious significance they said. It's simply a way to keep the carpets clean.
Taken from the rear, after the tour. (08/17/05)
The first thing I noticed were all the pictures of Jesus on the walls (and how he often appeared to have blonde hair and light skin, which I found interesting considering he was middle eastern). They led us through the baptistry, which is kind of like a jacuzzi built atop 12 oxen statues, representing the 12 tribes of Israel. Next was the waiting room, which had the most amazing mosaic tile floors.
The ordinance room was unique. On three of the walls were murals representing Newport Beach. I didn't completely understand the purpose of this room, but supposedly it's where they hear God's plan. We walked by some sealing rooms, which is where they have weddings. Finally we went into the celestial room, which was nice, except for the chandelier, which was a little too "Liberace" for my tastes.
Some of the things I learned throughout the tour sounded a little bit crazy ... like the baptizing of the dead, how they only wear white inside temples, and how supposedly there was a tribe of Israelites that migrated to North America before the Indians lived here. Then again, growing up Catholic, I guess we have beliefs and traditions that people of other faiths might consider odd too.
The reception area had a custom statue of Jesus, made from clay. (08/17/05)
The Mormon tour guides were the friendliest bunch of people. One of our two escorts was JoLane, this matronly, 50-something choir director from one of the local Mormon stakes. She kind of latched onto me, probably because I was alone (Tim was supposed to come, but wasn't feeling up for it yesterday). She probably liked that I asked a lot of questions. She was very nice, bless her little heart.
Afterwards they had a reception area where you can get bottled water and cookies (no coffee). Overall it was a very interesting experience. I would do it again if I have another chance.