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Mormon temple in Carmel opens doors to public

CARMEL, Ind. (WISH) — A visit to the newest Mormon temple offers some insight into challenges faced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Before entering the building, visitors must put little white booties over their shoes. Our tour guide, Kim Woodbury, the Public Affairs Area Relations Manager for the church, says the booties have no religious significance.

The new temple is open for public tours now. The church expects tens of thousands of people to visit. Woodbury says the booties are just to protect the brand new carpet under all of that foot traffic.

The temple rises from the southwest corner of 116th Street and Spring Mill Road in Carmel. Elder Kent Richards says it is “a marvelous blessing for the members here, the 30,000 or so members who have previously been required to go out-of-state to attend the temple – either Louisville or Columbus or St. Louis or Chicago.  But, now, for the first time, they have their own temple.”

The Indiana temple is the 148th for the LDS faith and is distinct from a Mormon church.

“Thousands and thousands” of those can be found around the world, Richards told 24-Hour News 8. They are similar to the churches of other religions in that they are the places for regular Sunday worship and other activities during the week.

“The temples are unique in that we perform only sacred, special ordinances,” Richards said. “They’re open during the week and not on Sunday because we’re doing our other worship on Sundays.”

The church’s ordinances allow services for the living and for the dead to be performed in the temple. They will not be performed in the church next door.

The presence of the temple represents growth in the Mormon faith. But its growth has critics.

A handful of them gathered in a small tent near the temple.

Lee Baker, who identifies himself as a former Mormon bishop, says he left the church because “I found that it was deceptive, deceiving and we left the church because of the history of the Mormon people and because of the doctrine that they teach that is against the Bible, against Christianity.”

Baker said he spent 32 years in the church. He came to Indiana on behalf of “Witnesses for Jesus” of Colorado Springs.  He said over the years, he learned to question the foundations of the church’s doctrine. He said the church excommunicated him because of his questions.

He hopes the presence of the people in the tent causes people to question what they’re told.

“The teachings of the Mormon church are not biblical at all,” he said. “Not even close.”

Elder Richards said he knows the church has “detractors and former members who have lost their faith and want to criticize or make light of the ordinances that take place in the temple.”  He invites people to come to the temple, ask questions and find out what goes on there.

But the chance to tour the building is a limited opportunity. After the open house ends, the temple will be off-limits to any but the most faithful Latter-day Saints.

The free public tours will be offered daily – except Sundays — through Saturday, August 8.