I Love to See the Temple

Today I went on the open house tour of the new Manhattan New York temple. It was, as expected, a great experience. The temple is in the old stake center building. The first and second floors and the fifth and sixth floors are the temple; the third and fourth will remain a chapel (that split layout seems decidedly odd to me).

The anti-Mormons were outside, as expected: A half-dozen well-dressed professional-looking folks, one hippie-looking yeller, and a cute-as-a-button little girl, perhaps seven years old, who was cheerfully handing out pamphlets about why polygamy is bad. (If I have a moment, I’ll try to go get pictures one of these days).

The temple had some very pretty stained-glass windows, including one at the entrance. It also had the usual Mormon artwork, e.g., Jesus baptized. The baptistry looked a little cramped, but that was not unexpected, since space is at a premium in midtown.

From there we took a weird detour into the chapel area to watch a video. The reason for the detour (space, I think) and the distinction of leaving the temple and entering the non-temple floor was not well explained at all (and seems all but guaranteed to confuse the dickens out of non-members). The video had some nice touches, including some of the most extensive use of non-white testimonials I’ve seen in a church video. The message that we are a diverse church was certainly at the forefront. However, I did think that the video could have used a few better segues — it jumped straight from Israelite temples to Joseph Smith’s love of New York City, without really letting the concepts sink in, or tying together the two distinct themes.

We put on plastic slippers, over the strenuous protests of my two-year-old daughter (she had to be kept constantly distracted to keep from removing hers), and it was off to the temple rooms. The rooms we saw were small but pretty, with a nice unobtrusive mural across the telestial room. The celestial room was quiet — I don’t know how they did it, but I didn’t hear any of the Manhattan traffic that runs nearby. And then we were off to the sealing room, which was also pretty, and also small. (My six-year-old wanted to know why there was no “Spirit World Room.”). We ended the tour eating cookies in the cultural hall of the chapel. (And the chapel looks great, better than it ever has. It looks like it got a serious cleaning up and sprucing up as part of this process).

I’m glad that we’re going to have a temple in New York. It’s going to be just sixteen blocks from my work, just two stops on the 1/9 line. I expect that I’ll attend from work, before or after work days, on as regular of a basis as I can. That sure beats packing the kids up for a four-hour drive to Boston.

I really enjoyed the tour, and I would encourage members and non-members who are in or around New York to go take the tour if they have a chance, and if they’re interested. It’s a calm, tranquil place — even with the kids — and sometimes that’s just what I need. And, for members, it’s even more important. It’s the House of the Lord.

UPDATE: A few pictures from the church site:

The Celestial Room

The Foyer Window

More pictures are available at the Church website.

12 comments for “I Love to See the Temple

  1. Julie in Austin
    May 10, 2004 at 10:58 pm

    We need to get the story behind the split design.

    How’s that gonna work, anyway? Will there have to be people on each floor checking recs. as one gets off of the elevator?

    And just imagine doing something mundane at the stake center and thinking, ‘I am surrounded by the Temple.’

  2. Adam Greenwood
    May 10, 2004 at 11:50 pm

    I tip my hat. If a sweatshop laborer like yourself can find the time to drive to Boston, you deserve to have a temple close by and you deserve to have the feeling of peace that jumps out of your post.

  3. May 10, 2004 at 11:56 pm

    I read somewhere that they went to rather incredible architectural lengths to mask sound from the outside: the interior wall is separated from the exterior wall by a foot-wide gap; there are artificial light sources positioned between the exterior wall and the interior windows–so, in fact, in addition to being incredibly quiet, from the inside of the temple it will look like it’s daytime outside, even at night. (I gleaned this from an overheard conversation, so if anybody can verify this or corrent any errant details, please do.)

  4. John H
    May 11, 2004 at 1:28 am

    Thanks for the description, Kaimi. I was reading a few things about the temple, though I don’t remember where (Church News?) I’m always impressed by the local touches added to the architecture of the temples. I’m not exactly an orthodox member, but there’s something undeniably special and remarkable about Latter-day Saint temples.

    I can’t wait to get back to New York and check it out. How about you chair a Sunstone symposium so I have an excuse :)

  5. May 11, 2004 at 9:22 am

    They did–I got to see it under construction while it was still in process of being cleaned–there is a gap between the outside and inside walls, there are some artificial lights outside of windows to simulate outdoor light, and, in spite of being on the busy intersection of Broadway and Columbus, it is silent.

    Split design: as you walk in, you go left for the temple, right for the chapel. There are two elevators, and I assume only the left elevator will take you to the temple floors, while the right will only take you to the chapel floors (although I’m not completely sure–they both still stop on chapel floors right now, but that’s easy enough to change).

    And it’s absolutely stunning; it makes the decision to stay in Manhattan infinitely easier to stomach.

    So 6 protestors? There were only two on Sunday when we came out of church.

  6. Rob
    May 11, 2004 at 11:25 am

    I’d be interested in knowing more about the history of the whole split-design concept. Back in ’88, Hartman Rector, Jr. told us in Ecuador that we would see temples built as the second floor to stake centers. Of course, he also suggested that the Church might change the announced location of the Ecuador temple from muggy lowland Guayaquil to temperate Quito because they could save a ton on cooling costs–an idea that apparently didn’t go too far, and maybe serves as a nice reminder that Church decisions are not always based on bottom-line costs.

  7. JWL
    May 11, 2004 at 1:08 pm

    There’s nothing magic about the split-level design, it’s just a compromise necessitated by the need to fit a temple into a preexisting structure which was not originally designed to be a temple (the space on the 5th and 6th floors occupied by the temple was originally a health club when the building first opened in 1974).

    The reason for the split level compromise has to do with the baptistry. We had the opportunity to tour the temple with LDS architectural historian Paul Anderson who explained that the baptistry is required to be below the area where people are “wont to meet.” Normally this is accomplished by putting the baptistry in the basement. However, in the Manhattan building the basement is a parking garage, and in midtown Manhattan no space is more sacred and inviolate than parking space (also they are leased out on long-term leases to parking garage operators). So the Church acquired some stores which had been on the street level since the building was first built and built the baptistry there (actually in an area that was the kitchen of a restaurant — that’s where the plumbing was). Being on street level is unusual, but with a chapel on the 3rd floor, it does satisfy the requirement that the baptistry be below the level where people are wont to meet.

    I like to point out to people that having a temple on top of a regular meetinghouse is actually a rather direct illustration of an interesting aspect of LDS liturgy. Our Sacrament meetings are very “low church,” whereas the temple ceremonies are very “high church.” So we have our low church liturgy on the 3rd floor, and our high church liturgy up on the 5th floor. Kind of neat, huh?

    Given the constraints inherent in the project, the architect Frank Fernandez (who is Catholic BTW) has done by an amazing job of creating a sacred space out of space that was formerly quite profane (in the academic sense). Highly recommend the tour if you have the chance (thru June 5).

    Also, the way that the elevators will work is that there is a wall with a door between them. During the week the door will be locked and one elevator will service the temple and the other will service the meetinghouse on the 3rd and 4th floors. On Sunday, the door will be opened, the “temple” elevator will have access to the temple floors turned off, and both will be used for the meetinghouse floors.

  8. JWL
    May 11, 2004 at 1:15 pm

    Yes, the quiet comes from an internal wall that was built about a foot from the existing external wall. The space between is filled with corkwood. The windows have been walled off and stained glass “windows” inside the temple are lit on the inside by artificial lights which give a fairly decent (but not perfect) imitation of natural light.

  9. Kaimi
    May 11, 2004 at 3:27 pm

    By the way, the tour guides handed out church pamphlets with basic information and pictures of some of the rooms and the stained-glass windows. I can’t seem to find those pictures online (I had been hoping to link them). Does anyone know if and where there are (approved) pictures online, as there are in the pamhplet?

  10. May 11, 2004 at 3:52 pm

    There are some pics here, but they’re stills of video of stills, so they’re rather grainy. The Trib has a couple of pics.

    Incidentally, there’s an article in the new Newsweek about the impressive soundproof architecture.

  11. Erin
    May 11, 2004 at 7:23 pm

    The Hong Kong temple also uses the split level design incorporating a stake centre (not to mention mission offices, missionary quarters and the mission president’s quarters). There too the sound deadening is quite impressive, but the frosted-glass windows of the temple look out onto the street.

  12. Richard
    May 12, 2004 at 1:49 pm

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