Gilbert AZ Temple 0002

The Gilbert Arizona Temple, dedicated March 2, 2013, stands like a stunning, desert jewel, the tallest and by far the most magnificent landmark in east Maricopa County, not far from Phoenix. The fourth temple in Arizona, with two more underway in Phoenix and Tucson, it is a “sanctuary of serenity” and a “refuge of peace” in a world that sometimes seems more and more chaotic.

The Gilbert Temple becomes the 142nd operating temple in the Church and at 85,000 square feet, the largest temple to be built in 17 years.

We have arrived before sunrise to take this photo essay, but already the sun is painting a dramatic pink backdrop as we pull into a quiet parking lot, disturbed only by a slight desert breeze. Photos are best this time of day when the first light of morning catches and outlines the temple. The temple door gleams golden in early morning’s light, and before long two other photographers will join us on the scene.

Why is Arizona suddenly the scene of so much temple building? New temple president David Le Seuer, says, “It is a tribute to all of the commandment- keeping, consecrated, tithe paying, sacrificing members of the Church, both who preceded us here in this valley and those who have moved here recently. Their faithfulness is the primary driver of the location of this temple.”

Indeed, to be here this weekend for the Cultural Celebration and Temple Dedication is to sense first hand the sacrifice of pioneers who weren’t finished when they got to Utah, but were sent even farther to cultivate a desert where water was scarce and soil as hard as concrete. Those who stayed were devoted disciples and tough and able, and their children have inherited a hardiness and faith that is a credit to their forebears.

More than 400,000 Latter-day Saints live in Arizona and their numbers and influence continue to grow.

Oh, how the temple shines with impeccable perfection in this early morning as we rush from one shot to the next, lugging our camera gear.

See full article and more than 30 photos of the temple by clicking below.