Phoenix residents meet to discuss temple construction
Last night I attended a city of Phoenix meeting where LDS members of the community debated aspects of the temple zoning request with members of the immediate neighborhood surrounding where the temple is to be built.
The meeting itself was to discuss a remaining point of the re-zoning application; whether or not the temple may be built with a 40-ft base structure (not counting the spire), versus the 30 feet which are already allowed in the current zoning. This represents a 10-ft variance.
The council voted unanimously to approve the request. It will now go to the city council for a final vote next month.
More than just a zoning meeting
To me, this was more than just a zoning meeting, for both sides of the issue. As I sat in the audience, I truly felt the frustration and concern the members of the neighborhood felt at the construction of such a large building in their area. They noted concerns such as light pollution, traffic, and visual obstruction. They also shared concerns about how the temple would change their neighborhood.
As an LDS member who lives within minutes of where this new temple would be built, the construction of the temple is no small thing for my part either. With small children, it means an easier time worshiping, and less hassle and expense in babysitting so my wife and I can drive to Mesa. It means more freedom to practice my religion, and more peace in my life.
In the end, the construction of the temple will absolutely change lives. It will change the neighborhood, but likely not in the way that the residents fear. Even so, it is hard, if not impossible, to convey that and have those feelings felt and believed.
The consequences of this meeting, and this process
I was touched that the members of the opposition side made such a distinct effort to point out that they were in no way opposed to the LDS faith or the members of the LDS community. They simply were opposed to the construction and physical aspect, location, size and lighting of the building itself. I don’t know if they realize it, but their willingness to separate the religious side from this debate was a very, very kind gesture.
My fear, in seeing the emotion tied to this debate, is that these fine citizens, and this fine community of people, will forever have a negative impression of the LDS church and its members. While the debate was civil, or even calm for a room full of people this big, the tension was thick. As it appears the temple re-zoning and construction will be completed as expected and desired, feelings may be hurt, and people may be disappointed.
One comment was especially disheartening. An opposition member expressed the desire to simply discuss with the church any possible alternatives to building the temple in their area. He seemed to feel that the LDS church just would not listen, and did not care.
I think sometimes people outside the church view it as an entity so large that it can buy, build or do whatever it wants; but the fact remains, the LDS church already owned this land. As Mormons, we are known for their frugality, and the use of this land for this purpose is an extension of that principle.
We build temples and meeting houses with donations from members, and while it may seem like our options are unlimited, we strive to make our choices for how we spend member donations in such a way that we can maximize them. We use land we already own, and for temples we often use land adjacent to meeting houses to economize on parking, etc.
Healing the neighborhood
As the temple construction goes forward, it is my sincere hope that feelings can be healed. When the construction is completed, I hope that members of the neighborhood will take time to view and appreciate the structure, and the grounds. If questions, concerns, or ill-will remain, I sincerely hope they will address those feelings in whatever way they can.