Church and city officials break ground on the first of the religion’s most sacred facilities in Orange County.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints broke ground in Newport Beach on Friday for its first Orange County temple, the religion’s most sacred facility.
The hourlong event, attended by a small number of church and city officials, was a significant moment for the county’s 50,000 church members.
And it had been an occasion that some of the church’s neighbors dreaded.
Initial plans for the temple called for a 124-foot steeple, but nearby homeowners feared that the imposing structure might detract from the values of their million-dollar properties. They also worried that the 17,575-square-foot facility would worsen traffic.
“The differences of opinion were very, very sharp,” said church member and former Newport Beach City Manager Bob Wynn, who attended the groundbreaking.
The city gave the final go-ahead in November, after church leaders came up with a modified plan calling for a shorter steeple, among other concessions, Newport Beach Mayor Steven Bromberg said.
“We struck a compromise,” Bromberg said. “We agreed to a 90-foot steeple and changes in the temple’s structure and lights and coloring.”
Though Mormon meeting houses dot the county and state, there are only five temples in California and 116 worldwide. Temples are used for the church’s most sacred ceremonies, including marriages and baptisms, and only Mormons in good standing are permitted entry.
In addition to the Newport Beach temple, which is expected to be completed in about 18 months at a seven-acre site on Bonita Canyon Drive, another is slated for construction in Sacramento.
The head of the Newport Beach congregation, President Weatherford Clayton, fought back tears during the groundbreaking as he described the importance of temples. The ties that bind Mormons are formed inside them, not just for life but for all eternity, he said.
“Temples are houses of the Lord,” he said. “And in it we are sealed to each other.”
Aug. 16, 2003
Zeke Minaya, Times Staff Writer