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Architects start designing region’s first Mormon temple, to be built on Expo 2020 site

- GEORGIA TOLLEY

Architects in the US are working on a design for a new Mormon temple to be built on the Expo 2020 Dubai site once the six-month event has finished.

The area will later be known as District 2020.

The first temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Middle East will be built on what is now a car park. It will be the latest addition to the 170 Mormon buildings located around the world.

The head of the Mormon church in the region, Abu Dhabi Stake President Marcus Oates, said he was thrilled when UAE authoritie­s endorsed the temple.

“We are very grateful to the government for permitting this and we just feel it’s a wonderful privilege, and certainly [it’s] in the spirit of religious tolerance in which the Emirates is really leading the way,” Mr Oates said.

“Dubai is such a crossroads. Members coming from Africa, from Asia, from Europe who will pass through here will most likely stop off and attend the temple in Dubai.”

Mormons are more formally known as Latter-day Saints and church members consider temples to be the most sacred places on Earth and a source of spiritual strength.

Unlike chapels, where Latter-day

Saints attend worship services and activities, temples are dedicated for marriages and making sacred covenants or promises with God. Church members also perform temple ordinances on behalf of departed ancestors.

Mr Oates, an Australian who has lived in the UAE for five years, said the temple would not only have a positive impact on the 1,500 Mormons living in the UAE, but would also prove beneficial for those living in the region, too.

“Previously, members would travel to Rome, Frankfurt, Berlin, Switzerlan­d or Kiev in Ukraine to visit a temple,” he said.

“So, you’ve got quite a distance and cost involved in getting there.

“Also, for some of our members, it’s very difficult to get a visa to go to a European country . Expat members – Filipinos and Indians – can’t necessaril­y get a visa to go to Spain or Italy, but they can come to Dubai.”

Mormons can currently celebrate their faith in several locations in the Emirates.

There is a chapel in Abu Dhabi and congregati­ons meet in Dubai, Sharjah and the other northern emirates, but the temple will be a first for both the country and the Middle East region.

The UAE’s longstandi­ng religious tolerance is an example to other nations in the region, Mr Oates said.

“In Egypt, the same spirit of tolerance is growing. The

Ministry of Education has approved the teaching of the common elements of the three Abrahamic religions in schools.

“It’s having an impact in the region,” he said.

When it comes to the temple’s design, expect to see local influences.

“It’ll be built to blend in with its environmen­t and I’m sure there’ll be Middle East themes in the architectu­re,” Mr Oates said.

“But because of the sacred nature of what happens inside the temple, the way we would describe it is like a pearl in a box. If you have the world’s best pearl, you’re going to put it in a box that looks as beautiful.”

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 ?? Vic tor Besa / The National ?? Marcus Oates was thrilled when authoritie­s endorsed the temple in Dubai. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also has a house of worship, above, in the city
Vic tor Besa / The National Marcus Oates was thrilled when authoritie­s endorsed the temple in Dubai. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also has a house of worship, above, in the city

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