Las Vegas Nevada Temple
Many LDS Temples have, and are currently, being built at the outer perimeter of cities, literally at the edge where urban and rural meet. In fact over half of the current Temples in the US exist at this edge of development (35 out of 66). One third of Temples in the US are squarely in the suburbs (22 out of 66), while just nine in the US exist at or near the city center. Almost all of these edge Temples have been built since 1998 with new Temple sites continuing to be chosen at the edges of development. While the idea to bring the Temples to the people is a good one, the placement of Temples at the edge is not the best solution for providing Temple opportunities to all people in a given Temple district. The following are reasons in support of placing a Temple at the center of a city, town, or metro area.
Las Vegas Nevada Aerial (red dot is Temple)
1. Decreases travel. 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.
2. People without a car can’t attend most LDS Temples in the US. With locations of Temples at the edge, there are limited transit options other than the automobile. At the city centers, the transit options are maximized for rich and poor alike, providing the best and the most frequent transit alternatives for any given city. I am reminded of one of my favorite movies, New York Doll, which showed Arthur ‘Killer’ Kane, a volunteer in the Family History Library at the Los Angeles Temple, heading there on a city bus. Most of our Temples are not along frequent bus lines that would make such a trip feasible. A Temple at the center would allow equal opportunity for all to attend; especially lower income families and students. For instance, here in Portland it is impossible to travel to the Temple, which is located in a residential suburb, using public transit.
3. Discourages sprawl. There are many problems and issues with developing land on the edge. Adding infrastructure, adding new utility lines, clearing the land, adding roads, impact fees, zoning problems, height restrictions, neighbors who don’t want lots of traffic, bright lights, or a large building next to their home. This would not be a problem in city centers. The infrastructure is already in place and there are plenty of infill sites in every city rather than developing virgin land. These Brownfield sites are everywhere and can be used to help maximize the use of underdeveloped land. Often there are even incentives and significant city support for developing such sites, meaning they will do everything to help the project move forward and be a success.
Sacramento California Temple
Sacramento California Aerial (red dot is Temple)
4. Supports the pattern established in the Plat for the City of Zion where Temples are located at the center. In the Old Testament we read that the Lord "…will set [His] sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore…And the heathen shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore." (Ezekiel 37:26,28) The word midst means "the interior or central part or point: MIDDLE." Even in Jerusalem, the Temple was able to exist in the profane city, being in, but not of the world, through a series of thresholds separating the two spheres of existence.
5. Less land needed. A smaller lot size can be purchased in the center helping to offset the higher land costs of building in the city. Building at the edge offers the allurement of cheap land, but there are other costs. Out on the edge you need an enormous landscape of parking for vehicles since there will be very few other options to travel to the Temple. At the center of the city, you may not need parking at all, ideally being able to rely on an adjacent parking garage.
6. More people in the community will see and visit the Temple. This will allow the Temple to have a greater influence on the community as well as fostering a more open relationship with people in the community. The act of putting a Temple at the center of the community shows them our desire to integrate, contribute, and be involved, rather than remain isolated at the perimeter. The closer to the city center, the more likely it will be used and recognized as an asset to the community. People would respond more favorably if we were seen as one of them. Our role would move from a fringe group on the outside of society and culture to one of acceptance, understanding, and tolerance right at the heart of the action. Just as no one will respond to the message of the Gospel until they know you care and are a friend, people need to see our Temples as a friend to them in the community. When more people can see and touch and feel our Temples, even if only from the outside, the presence of it in the city will help them open up more to us.
Redlands California Temple Aerial (red area is Temple)
These concepts will help fulfill President Hinckley’s goal of bringing the Temples to the people. After the bulk of his Temple-building had been completed, Hinckley stated, "…we are not satisfied. We will keep on working to bring the temples to the people, making it more convenient for Latter-day Saints everywhere to receive the blessings which can only be had in these holy houses." (The Work Goes On Apr 2001 Gen Conf) Placing the Temples at the center rather than the edge will help make the Temples of the Church more accessible for all and readily available to the people, as well as being better for the environment and increasing our presence in the communities in which we live.
Albuquerque New Mexico Temple
Albuquerque New Mexico Aerial (red area is Temple)
Albuquerque New Mexico Aerial (red dot is Temple)
Amazing Sites used to gather data for this post:
LDS Church Temples
Live Search Maps
"Well, I'd say the Church has gone as far as it can in putting temples closer to the Saints."
Kent Christensen in Sunstone Issue 97 Dec 1994