Temples at the Center

I like the idea of keeping our temples at the center — of our lives and our cities.

I just noticed green mormon architect’s home run on why it makes sense to locate temples in city centers rather than at the periphery in far-flung suburbs. The reasons are intuitive and persuasive — go check them out. I hope that our temple building will trend in that direction from now on.

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18 Responses to Temples at the Center

  1. I wish that stake centers and ward and branch meetinghouses were placed in city centers more frequently, but I don’t feel that way about temples. Temples have a degree of separateness. The public is not invited inside. Even for members of the church, visiting the temple is not a commonplace routine, like going to MIA on Wednesdays. The foothill setting of many temples (Provo, Las Vegas, Oakland) seems ideal to me. Also, though this is shifting, access for people coming from all the stakes in a temple district matters more than the relative access of those few within a temple’s city.

  2. john f. says:

    Thanks John.

    I found GMA’s arguments relating to visibility of temples that are placed in city centers to be very persuasive.

    As to the issue of accessibility, placing temples in city centers makes the temples more accessible than when they are in suburbs. As GMA noted,

    Where the Temple is at an extreme edge of the city, people on the other side of a given city have to travel across the entire metro area. If the Temple were at the center, travel would be evenly distributed for all wishing to attend, including patrons and workers.

    The Las Vegas temple is a very good example of this. If it were centrally located, then people on all the peripheries would have similar commutes to the temple, and the location at the center would allow people to use public transportation to get there, opening up the possibility for temple attendance to many more people.

  3. The Las Vegas Temple and the Provo Temple are highly visible. They don’t receive up close drive-by views, like the Los Angeles Temple, but half a million people can have their eyes drawn to the Las Vegas Temple simultaneously. This will vary with the different cities, but the Las Vegas Temple is very accessible from downtown. It’s six miles straight down Bonanza from City Hall. Under most conditions, a person could drive from Las Vegas City Hall to the Las Vegas Temple in under twenty minutes. A bus route ( 208 ) stops at the temple and is scheduled to take 40 minutes to get there from the Downton Transit Center near City Hall. No one who can reach downtown Las Vegas will have any trouble getting to the temple.

    Looking at the second temple that GMA featured, the Sacramento Temple, there are twenty-one stakes in that temple district, four of which are Sacramento stakes. The relative proximity of those four stakes to the temple is a minor issue.

  4. That yellow circle with the sunglasses was supposed to be the numeral eight followed by a closing right parenthesis.

  5. Kim Siever says:

    A related scripture to this would be Mosiah 2:6.

  6. john f. says:

    That’s a good point about having eyes drawn to the temple from all around — that probably works best in areas with foothills.

  7. john f. says:

    Bountiful is another example of that. You can see the Bountiful temple from the airport.

  8. john f. says:

    Kim, thanks for the reference to Mosiah 2:6:

    And they pitched their tents round about the temple, every man having his tent with the door thereof towards the temple, that thereby they might remain in their tents and hear the words which king Benjamin should speak unto them

    Of course, the early vision for Mormon communities was for the temple to be at the center of the plat system with the city literally laid out around it.

  9. Ronan says:

    Think about the London temple. It’s in a beautiful setting, but it’s miles and miles away from London. Have you tried to get there from Woodford yet, John? I bet it took ages.

  10. john f. says:

    Yes, of course the London temple is primarily on my mind. It is curious that they even call it the London temple. As you know, it’s a 30 minute train ride from London near a village called Crawley. It’s nice that you can get a glimpse of it from the air on some approaches into Gatwick, if you know what you’re looking for, but, apparently (as Allison and I once found out when we first drove out there — a 1.5 hour drive from our house in northeast London — and needed to ask for directions), even people in Crawley aren’t very much aware of it, secluded as it is and separated from the town center.

  11. Greg says:

    The Swiss temple is similar to London. Officially, it is in Zurich, but it is actually in a little industrial town called Zollikofen, a train ride outside of Zurich. I’m confident most Zurichers, let alone the Swiss in general, know of it.

  12. Norbert says:

    My understanding is that the London temple is not where it is because of the church’s choice, but because it was the only parcel of land anyone would make available for a temple. I’m looking for a source on this, but can’t find it … I think it was a lecture by a local church history guy in London. If I remember, he said that Churchill intervened on behalf of the church somehow.

    The Helsinki temple is actually in Espoo, a suburb, but is easily reachable by bus and/or train. Since the temple district covers all of Finland, Russia and the Baltics, the access of the five wards in the area is not probably the biggest issue. The need for a fair amount of land for residence center and peaceful grounds made being any closer to the city impossible.

  13. john f. says:

    It sounds like being located in the suburbs is an excellent choice after all for some temples. Still, as we will be seeing urban areas ascending in importance and the decline of the suburbs in the next few decades, it will make more and more sense to locate temples in city centers. It will be a return to the original idea of having the temple in the center of the city and it will have some symbolic value in reminding us that just as the temple is in the center of the city, so should its principles and the service done there be at the center of our lives.

  14. Ronan says:

    Norb,
    I would LOVE a citation for that. I don’t doubt you heard it, but I wonder about the original source. You see, I’ve heard some wild stories (myths) about the London temple, like the one where the Queen turned up and threw a paddy when she wasn’t allowed in.

  15. Left Field says:

    Putting a temple in Manhattan was a massive improvement over the proposed temple in Harrison, NY. For people in NYC, NJ, and Long Island, getting to Harrison would have been nearly as much an ordeal as going to Boston, even for those who have a car.

    I once traveled from Canterbury to the London Temple and back using only public transportation, but it was an all-day adventure.

  16. S.Faux says:

    I don’t know if temples need to be at the center of our cities, but they need to be at the center of our lives, as long as Jesus is at the center of our temples. My recent essay tries to make that argument, at least. There is definitely a need for Christian temples.

  17. Putting a temple in the center of a city seems like a way of proclaiming that that city is Zion. Maybe the other residents feel better about that sort of thing than the inhabitants of Jackson County did.

  18. Linda says:

    our Nashville Temple is not in Nashville but in a smaller suburb of it…we actually tried for years to get it closer into town. I am very glad it ISN’T. AS it is, I can travel down the country roads on a scenic route and it takes over an hour but it gives me time to get my head going in the right direction too. I think many temples are not really in the cities they are named…I don’t mind. I am just thankful to have one nearby. Before , we had to go all the way to Atlanta, 3 hours and terrible traffic once we got there. Before that…12 hours to D.C. It never occurred to me to complain about where it is, I am just thankful it is there!

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