Mormons look forward to new Philadelphia temple

Antonio Prado

Local members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can be found at chapels in Wilmington and Newark every Sunday worshipping. But Mormons must go to the temple for certain holy events, like marriage and a special baptism performed for ancestors. They also go to find sanctuary from the world in a holy place.

Right now, that means a laborious trek to Washington, D.C.

Yvette Hadley of Newark and her husband go to temple with their five children once or twice a month, and attend regular worship services at the meetinghouse on Otts Chapel Road near the University of Delaware in Newark.

“With gas prices, it can be difficult. With small children, it can be difficult,” she said.

So, local Mormons are celebrating the recent announcement that a temple will be built in downtown Philadelphia.

During the 178th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, church President Thomas S. Monson announced plans to build at North Broad Street between Hamilton and Noble streets. The new temple in Philadelphia will cut travel time in half for Latter-day Saints in the Wilmington Delaware Stake, a geographic area similar to a diocese.

“This announcement is wonderful news to the thousands of members of the church who live in the greater Philadelphia area, including Wilmington and the Delmarva Peninsula,” said W. Wynn John, president of the Wilmington Delaware Stake. “Having a temple close by will be a blessing in the lives of these faithful Latter-day Saints, many of whom have recently joined and continue to join the church in this area.

“The temple is a central part of the gospel of Jesus Christ, a sacred place of peace and holiness,” John said. “We look forward to sharing the teachings and blessings of the temple with our families, friends and neighbors.”

Typically, an open house is held before a temple dedication, said Flora McConkie, director of public affairs for the Wilmington Delaware Stake, and the community is invited to tour the building and experience the beauty, peace and reverence of the temple. After dedication, only members of the church who are in good standing are allowed to enter, she said.

“We attend as often as circumstances allow. For some it is monthly, for others weekly,” she said. “Retired couples often choose to live near a temple to serve there."

For Hadley, the temple is a place “to go to separate ourselves from the world and all the business, the hectic pace of life. It’s a place to go for peace and draw closer to God. We leave our cares and worries behind and worship. So I’m very excited to have the temple close by. It would be minutes by train.”

In the temple, Mormons make sacred covenants with their heavenly Father, the eternal bond of marriage takes place, baptisms are performed on behalf on people who have passed on in order to ensure entry into heaven for them.

Regular baptisms occur at the local chapels as do partaking of the sacraments of bread and water, and Sunday school -- which features study of the Bible, the “Book of Mormon,” the “Doctrines and Covenants” and the “Pearl of Great Price.”

Sheldon and Karin Sumpter of Pike Creek and their nine children regularly attend worship service on Otts Chapel Road. The Sumpters do not go to temple as often as they would like because of the distance and the cost of traveling, Karin Sumpter said.

“The temple is a sacred place we go to make promises and it’s a place where families are blessed … forever,” Sumpter said. “What a great place to build a temple, in the city of our forefathers,” she said.

With 128 temples currently operating and with 17 more in planning or construction, the plan for a Philadelphia temple brings the worldwide total to 145, McConkie said. A meetinghouse in Wilmington houses three congregations of the Church, including a Spanish congregation. In Newark, the meetinghouse also houses three congregations, including a young single adult congregation.

“The Church is growing, locally and around the world, and church leaders are bringing temples closer to members,” she said. “We look forward to this opportunity to share the temple with our friends and neighbors.”

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