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Inside Philadelphia's Mormon Temple, Will Music Be Heard?

As The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opens its first Mormon Temple in Pennsylvania on 17th and Vine streets in Philadelphia, many who drive past may wonder: What is it like inside? And will the renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing there? WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston finds out.

Before the Philadelphia Temple was constructed, local members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints most often had to travel to temples in Manhattan or Washington D.C. for important religious events. The Philadelphia Temple, one of 152 across the U.S and the world, will now serve 40,000 Church members in parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland.

The Baptistry in the new Mormon Temple in Philadelphia.

The Temple is open to the public for a limited period before it's dedicated. The interior of the Philadelphia Temple draws upon Philadelphia’s history with Chippendale-inspired chairs, classical columns, wainscoting, intricate millwork, and colonial chandeliers. There are paintings and murals of the Pennsylvania countryside. The Susquehanna and Delaware Rivers are included in scenes of church history. A painting in the foyer shows Benjamin Franklin signing the Declaration of Independence in Independence Hall. The Mountain Laurel blossom, Pennsylvania’s state flower, is featured in the railing circling the baptismal font. The rooms on its four floors are designed as ever-more lavish spaces of beauty, contemplation, and religious significance.

The Temple is a quiet, sacred place of beauty with rooms reserved for significant religious rituals: baptisms, weddings, instruction, and commitments. And while the meetinghouse across the street is open to visitors, only Mormons may cross a Temple’s threshold after it’s dedicated.

Non-Mormons might wonder...what kind of music will be heard in the Temple? WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston has the story.

Radio script:

MUSIC: Mormon Tabernacle Choir, “Thou Gracious God, Whose Mercy Lends” from Peace Like A River

Meridee Duddleston: The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is one of the most famous choirs in the world. The opening of the large, new Temple by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints presents an opportunity to provide some more context to what the choir is, and is not.

MD: How does the church view the choir? They’re almost an ambassador for the music.

Larry Y. Wilson: Very much so. In some ways they are the face of the church for many people. They hear their broadcasts and come to love the choir before they know anything else about the church.  

MD: Elder Larry Wilson traveled to Philadelphia to lead a tour of the new Temple. The opulent granite building looks like it would house a huge sanctuary for worship, but it doesn’t. And so while some areas organ music may be heard, the choir so associated with the Mormon faith, and which sings, after all, for the public, won’t sing there.

The Temple is open for tours until September 9th. Reservations are required. The Temple will be formally dedicated on Sunday, September 18th, following a celebration featuring music and dance by the youth of the Church, Saturday evening September 17th, at the Liacouras Center.