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Column: I’m not a Latter-day Saint. Here was my experience touring the Pocatello Temple with an apostle

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POCATELLO — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Pocatello Temple is a beautiful and awe-inspiring building. One to be enjoyed, no matter your faith.

I grew up attending St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Waimanalo, Hawaii, even serving as an altar boy. So a media tour of the LDS Church’s 170th temple was my first opportunity to peek behind the veil of the church.

What I saw was a beautiful and meticulously designed tribute from the church to its faith. What I felt was a connection and acceptance one would expect from a religious community.

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The Pocatello Temple. | Photo courtesy The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

For many non-Mormons who live in and around Pocatello, the benefit of having a local temple will not be found through the services available inside. But Elder Gary E. Stevenson offered assurances that the sacred building will serve the region with, what he called during the tour, “the great plan of happiness.”

RELATED | Latter-day Saint leaders open Pocatello Temple to the public

“We think that it’s a beautiful addition to the community in many respects – the physical beauty of the temple is one of those,” Stevenson told EastIdahoNews.com Monday. “The temple is a place of worship, but everything that happens there is to make people better.”

Sister Camille Johnson, the Church’s Primary General President, expanded and said members who do enter the temple do so to make covenants — sacred promises made to abide by the commandments.

“I hope that as we keep those commandments, and keep the covenants that we’ve made in the temple, we’ll be good citizens, good members of the community,” she said.

Church members, volunteers and visiting authorities at Monday’s media tour provided a glimpse of that. Everyone I spoke with seemed to want nothing more than to serve someone they had never met and likely didn’t have much in common with. And that fact was very high among those attending.

As the group of media walked from a nearby chapel to the temple, a man I had never met kindly grabbed my arm and struck up a conversation.

“What’s your name and where do you work?” he asked.

“I’m Kalama. I work for East Idaho News.”

For five minutes or so, this man and I discussed my career as a reporter, the San Francisco Bay Area — where I previously worked — and the massive temple perched high in the Oakland hills.

He jokingly explained to me that the Oakland Temple was so well-lit that it could serve as a beacon for pilots making their approach to Oakland International Airport.

It wasn’t until after our conversation and we were about to begin the temple tour that I discovered this man, who had been so open and kind, was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — which can be compared to a president’s cabinet.

Members of the Catholic Church can liken this to a papabile cardinal striking up a conversation with someone while out for an afternoon stroll. It is not something one can expect.

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Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, his wife, Lesa, and EastIdahoNews.com reporter Kalama Hines put on shoe coverings to enter the Pocatello Temple on Monday, Sept. 13. | Courtesy The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Elder Stevenson and his charming wife, Lesa, proceeded to lead the media group through the temple for over an hour. There was beauty at every turn.

Absent any religious ties or faith-based service, the Pocatello Temple could serve well as a museum of modern art or an art installation itself.

Every room inside the 71,125-square foot building was faced with original art, massive crystal chandeliers and stained glass windows. On the ceilings, there are painted designs embracing Idaho’s state flower, the syringa. On the floors, plush carpets are stitched with similar designs.

PHOTO GALLERY: Inside the Pocatello Temple

Hand railings and light fixtures were finished with brass, or brass-like, syringas as well. And huge doorways have the flowers carved directly into the wood.

While beauty was to behold in every room, the room containing the large baptismal font stood out.

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The baptismal font in the Pocatello Temple. | Photo courtesy The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Looking past the art and iron work of the handrail — once again, featuring the syringa — will bring you to the font itself. More specifically, 12 cast oxen, representing the 12 tribes of Israel, are textured and painted to resemble brass.

Sealing rooms, where weddings are held, as well as the bride’s room feature circular chairs, once again resembling the syringa.

Throughout the entire facility, there is something that will, if nothing else, leave visitors in awe at the artistry.

As someone who had never before had the opportunity to go inside an LDS temple, I implore all, regardless of religious beliefs: Do not miss this opportunity to tour this beautiful building.

A Pocatello Temple public open house begins Saturday and runs through Oct. 23. The temple will be closed to the public on Sundays and Oct. 2. Anyone is welcome to attend the open house. Free Tickets are available here.

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