He is the unofficial symbol of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Angel Moroni, in flowing robes with a horn pressed to his lips, appears on everything from church pamphlets to the grave markers of Mormon servicemen.
This week, a 10-foot gold-leaf statue of Moroni was installed at the new Mormon temple in Rancho Cordova.
Ad: Vacation? City Trip? Weekend Break? Book Skip-the-line tickets
“He’s a very special symbol to church members,” says Lisa West, the church’s Sacramento-region public affairs spokeswoman, “in the same way that the Star of David symbolizes Judaism.”
The statue is also a sign that the temple is nearing completion. It will serve more than 80,000 church members in the region and is “about 70 percent done,” says West. It is expected to be completed by summer.
Church officials announced this week that the temple will welcome the community during a free open house from July 29 through Aug. 26, excluding Sundays. Open-house tickets will be available beginning June 26.
Gordon Hinckley, the 95-year-old president of the church, is scheduled to dedicate the temple Sept. 3. After the dedication, the temple will be open only to faithful church members.
Mormon temples are sacred spaces used for certain religious ceremonies such as marriages and baptisms as well as ordinances on behalf of deceased ancestors. Inside the temple, members change into simple white clothing to perform their temple duties. Regular Sunday worship as well as social activities take place in neighborhood meetinghouses or chapels.
Church officials expect so much interest in the new temple that church members will probably have to make an appointment to visit during the first six months it is open.
“It can only accommodate a certain number of people per hour,” West says. “Otherwise, they’ll go there and have to wait two hours to get in.”
West says church officials are trying to keep crowds to a minimum – about 500 people a day, six days a week.
Church members have been watching the temple’s progress by accessing the so-called “templecam” at www.sacramentotemple.net, which has a live camera at the construction site. They’ve also been able to see updated weekly photos of the construction site at www.lds.org. This site also features photos of the interior of the temple.
For years, local Mormons have had to travel to the Oakland temple to perform their religious duties. Sandra Lunceford, an environmental analyst who lives in Folsom, has driven to the Bay Area temple once a month for the past 15 years. The new temple is seven minutes from her home.
“We’re all so excited about it, that it’s all everyone talks about,” says Lunceford. She plans to attend as often as she can. “The fact that the temple will be on a hill people can see will be a constant reminder to live worthily.”