Remember how you felt when you heard the Jets were coming back to Winnipeg? That's how local Mormons have felt for the past 18 months, ever since they learned their denomination will build a temple -- one of their church's most sacred buildings -- in the city.
"This is the most important thing that has ever happened to us," says Allan Robison, president of the Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario Stake (or diocese) of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. "We are tremendously excited."
Plans to build the temple in Winnipeg were announced in April 2011 by Thomas Monson, who presides over the worldwide church from its headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah. It will be the 139th temple in the world and the ninth in Canada.
Church officials are looking for a location for the building. One possible site is on Shaftesbury Boulevard in Tuxedo, where the local church owns property on the west side of that street between the CN railway tracks and west Taylor Avenue.
All costs for construction of the building will be covered by the denomination's central office in Salt Lake City. It is expected to be completed in two to three years, after the location is finalized and the necessary approvals and permits are received.
"This is a real blessing," says Robison. "Members ask me all the time if I have new information about the temple... it's like waiting for Christmas morning. We love the fact it is coming."
What makes the temple so special for Mormons is it's the only place where they can perform sacred ceremonies such as marriages and baptisms for deceased ancestors. Currently, Mormons in Manitoba have to go to Regina, site of the nearest temple, for those things.
"It will be a great convenience" to have a temple in Winnipeg, says Robison. "We won't have to travel so far."
What makes temples different from most other Christian places of worship is what doesn't happen there -- there are no Sunday services.
"Temples do not have large rooms and are not used for regular worship services," says Eric Hawkins, senior manager in the church's public affairs department in Salt Lake City.
Temples, he says, are only open Tuesdays to Saturdays during the day and a few evenings each week. Groups that use it tend to be small, and when marriages take place, they "do not include the typical wedding parties or gatherings," he says.
As for the exterior of a temple, Hawkins notes every effort is made to make them fit into the surrounding area.
"Our experience is that property values in the areas surrounding the temples increase," he adds, noting care is taken to make sure the grounds are well-kept. "Temples provide a beautiful, peaceful addition to any community."
"A temple is a very quiet place," adds Robison. "We only speak in whispers in a temple. And the grounds are immaculate. It's very serene -- a temple is one of the best neighbours anyone would ever want."
As for what it will look like, "temple designs differ from site to site," says Hawkins. One feature common to all temples is a statue of the angel Moroni, an ancient prophet from the Book of Mormon. The statue is placed on top of the building to signify the proclamation of the gospel.
Unlike other places of worship, which typically welcome visitors from other faiths, non-Mormons are not permitted to visit temples. They are, however, welcome at any of the church's 13 other regular Sunday morning meeting places in the province. There will be public tours prior to the temple's dedication.
Once a location is selected, the final decision about timing for construction is up to the church's headquarters.
"I hope it will be as soon as possible," Robison says.
Mormons have been in Manitoba since 1897. In 1910, a Sunday school was organized in Winnipeg with 37 members. The Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario Stake was created in 1978; today it has about 3,400 members.
Besides Regina, other temples in Canada are found in Vancouver, Calgary, Cardston, Alta., Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax.
For more information about the Winnipeg temple, and about Mormon temples in general, go to http://mormontemples.org/winnipeg