Filed Under Religion

Mesa Arizona Temple Visitors' Center

A staple of the Mesa Temple since 1959

Through several expansions and demolitions, the Mesa Temple Visitor Center has been an integral part of the Mesa religious community.

The first visitors' center for the Mesa Temple consisted of a small table and literature racks set up at the temple's west entrance in the late 1940s. This set-up was soon found to be inadequate, and a permanent structure, the Bureau of Information and Genealogical Library, was built across the street at 464 E 1st Ave. This site, shared with the genealogical library, also proved inadequate to meet demand - and it was difficult to locate from the major streets of Mesa Drive and Main Street. 

Thus, plans were made to build another center - and this one would face Main Street. The existing citrus grove was removed, and the ground was excavated to ensure the new structure would not obscure views of the temple behind the new building. Concrete walls were prefabricated in Utah and shipped to Arizona, where they were assembled. The Mesa Visitor Center was the first in the Church to be prefabricated. Church president David O. McKay dedicated the new building on December 30, 1956. 

By the 1970s, the building was once again too small to meet the needs of the community. In 1979, the center was enlarged by three and a half times. The newly enlarged structure would be able to house new exhibits and theaters and was completed in 1981. In 2015, the center was remodeled again to update the existing exhibit space. 

However, the second iteration of the visitors' center was demolished in 2018 as part of the Church's more extensive plans for renovating the Mesa Temple. A new visitors' center will be located on Main Street adjacent to the Mesa Dr/Main St light rail station.

Perhaps the most striking feature inside the building is the ten-foot Christus statue. This 1,200-pound statue is a replica of the larger original by Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (1768-1844). 

The visitors center hosts special holiday events twice each year: lights at Christmas and the Pageant at Easter. Beginning the evening after Thanksgiving and continuing each night until New Year's Eve, from dusk until 10 pm, visitors are invited to tour the Christmas light display on the temple grounds, a choral performance in front of the visitors' center, and a nativity display inside. 

The Mesa Easter Pageant, entitled "Jesus the Christ," is performed for two weeks before Easter each year (excluding Sundays and Mondays) on a large stage constructed on the front lawn of the visitors' center. Between 5,000 and 13,000 guests, each evening view the outdoor performance that boasts 475 cast members. Visitors often arrive several hours before the 8 pm starting time to reserve seats.

Images

LDS Visitors' Center, Mesa Arizona Temple
LDS Visitors' Center, Mesa Arizona Temple This beautiful facility sits just north of the Mesa, Arizona Temple. It offers tours, exhibits, and various types of media to assist visitors in learning about the Church and the purpose of temples. The center is surrounded by beautiful grounds which feature thousands of lights during the Christmas season and a spectacular pageant at Easter. Source: Photo courtesy of Brigham Young University, Harold B. Lee Library Creator: Kenneth R. Mays Date: December 2002
The Christus
The Christus Inside the visitors' center is a replica of Danish scuptor Bertel Thorvaldsen's (1768-1844) Christus. The original was presented to the church by Stephen L. Richards, an early church Apostle, which currently resides in the North Visitors' Center on Temple Square in Salt Lake City. In addition to this replica, the church has placed replicas on display at the Visitors' Centers in New Zealand, Hawaii, Mexico City, and Washington, D.C. Creator: Stephen G. Williams Date: December 3, 2016
Replica of the temple of King Herod
Replica of the temple of King Herod Inside the temple visitors' center sits this replica of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem during the time of Jesus, commonly referred to as the temple of King Herod, who had expanded the temple during his reign. Immediately behind the model in a window facing the Mesa temple, illustrating the architectural similarities between the two structures. Creator: Stephen G. Williams Date: December 3, 2016
Christmas lights at the Mesa Temple
Christmas lights at the Mesa Temple This photo, taken from Main Street, illustrates the grounds as they appear during the Christmas season. Each year, the grounds are decorated with thousands of lights and each evening choral performances are staged in front of the visitors' center. Creator: Stephen G. Williams Date: December 5, 2016
Nativity display at the Visitors' Center
Nativity display at the Visitors' Center The annual Christmas light display on the Visitors' Center ground includes this nativity scene. Creator: Stephen G. Williams Date: December 5, 2016
Visitors' Center Christmas lights
Visitors' Center Christmas lights The rear side of the visitors' center and reflecting pool during the Christmas light display. Creator: Stephen G. Williams Date: December 5, 2016
Easter Pageant scene
Easter Pageant scene Scene from the annual Easter Pageant, "Jesus the Christ," staged annually on the front lawn of the Visitors' Center during the Easter season. The Mesa Temple in the background of the photo. Source: Intellectual Reserve, Inc., https://www.lds.org/locations/mesa-easter-pageant?lang=eng&_r=1#d
A rendering looking northwest at an area near the Mesa Arizona Temple that will be redeveloped
A rendering looking northwest at an area near the Mesa Arizona Temple that will be redeveloped The new Visitors' Center will be located on the corner of the adjoining development. Source: Photo courtesy Intellectual Reserve, Inc. Date: May 31, 2018

Location

525 E Main St, Mesa, AZ 85203 | The visitors' center and ground are open daily to visitors.

Metadata

Stephen G. Williams, “Mesa Arizona Temple Visitors' Center,” Salt River Stories, accessed July 21, 2024, https://saltriverstories.org/items/show/202.