Source: NorthFulton.com

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Mormons open Temple to public for first time in 28 years

by Aldo Nahed

April 10, 2011

Inside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple, a room called the "Celestial Room," where members are symbolically, "returned to God."
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints "Baptistry," at the Georgia Temple.
Elders Bill Walker, executive director of the Temple Department and M. Keith Giddens, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during a recent media tour of the newly refinished Georgia Temple.
This is a picture of the entryway at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Georgia Temple.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has renovated their Georgia Temple and will open the building to the public.
SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. — For non-members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the temple has been a sight unseen for 28 years.

The LDS is now inviting the public to tour their newly renovated Atlanta Georgia Temple, 6450 Barfield Road in Sandy Springs. This is the first time the building has been opened to the public since its original dedication in June of 1983.

For the last 18 months, the 34,500-square-foot building has undergone a multi-million dollar refurbishing. The building sits on a 13-acre piece of land with adjoining chapel and apartments to house temple caretakers and missionaries. The exact dollar amount of the construction was not disclosed by the church officials.

"As is our practice, if we build or refurbish a temple, we open it to the public to let anyone see," said Elder Bill Walker, executive director of the Temple Department during a recent media tour. "Once the temple is dedicated, it is closed off."

Only members in good standing, who have been with the church for a minimum of one year, are allowed to enter the temple after the dedication.

The temple will be dedicated by the LDS President Thomas S. Monson on May 1.

In Georgia, there are about 77,000 LDS members and 151 congregations.

"Most members will be visiting during the open house," Walker said.

About 80,000 people are expected to visit during the open house, which runs through April 23, except on Sundays.

There are 134 temples in the world — and 26 more announced.

This is the only temple in the state of Georgia and is the first to service the southern states.

For Mormons, a temple differs from a congregation. It is a place of contemplation, marriage and baptism, LDS official said.

Walker said the renovations to the temple were needed due to aging infrastructure, replacement of heating, plumbing and completely overhauling the building. A cafeteria in the former temple was reconfigured into a waiting area near the entrance of the temple.

Religious artwork adorns the walls along with landscape and nature sceneries. In addition to the technical improvements, new eucalyptus hardwood from Brazil, Swarovski crystal chandeliers, etched carpets and added windows for increased natural light. The exterior of the temple, a plaza was added and the front extended to the road for weddings along with new landscaping.

"We try to put the finest material into our temple," Walker said. "We got the finest craftsmen to do our temple, the way we want to honor our God."

Rochelle Draney, a Johns Creek LDS member who attends the congregation at 5995 Spalding Drive, said that while the temple was under renovations, she and her family visited the Birmingham, Ala., temple.

She's pleased with the renovation to the Georgia Temple.

"It's more beautiful," Draney said. "It was beautiful before, but it's even more beautiful now. I'm really excited, especially after walking through it."

Members, Draney said, are allowed at any temple in the world and often make trips to Asia, Europe and Latin America to specifically visit that region's temples.

It's also a place for Mormons to, "clear their minds and wait for inspiration," Draney said.

Tickets to the open house are required, but free, and can be obtained by visiting lds.org/reservations.

New LDS church in Cumming, Ga.

In Forsyth County, an area where about 4,000 members reside, LDS plans to build a 20,000-square-foot congregation at 3185 Dahlonega Highway/Ga. 9 near Browns Bridge Road/Ga. 369. Construction will begin in the fall.