Arkansas’ first House of the Lord is opening for free public tours this week. Invited guests are touring the Bentonville Arkansas Temple from today, June 12, through Friday, June 16. Public tours will then commence on June 17 and continue through July 1, Sundays excluded.
The Bentonville Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was first announced by Church President Russell M. Nelson at the October 2019 general conference.
“As the Church grows, more temples will be built so that more families can have access to that greatest of all blessings, that of eternal life,” President Nelson said before making the announcement. “We regard a temple as the most sacred structure in the Church. Whenever plans are announced to construct a new temple, it becomes an important part of our history.”
This new house of worship will help local Latter-day Saints who have historically traveled long distances and sacrificed much to attend temples in Salt Lake City, Mesa, and Dallas. Currently, members travel to temples in Oklahoma City and Kansas City. The Bentonville Arkansas Temple will serve Latter-day Saints in Arkansas and Missouri.
The temple will be dedicated on Sunday, September 17 in two sessions (10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.). Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who lived in Arkansas for about nearly 20 years in the 1980s and 1990s, will preside at the dedication.
“We have come back home,” Elder Bednar said at a news conference on Monday, June 12, 2023. “We are not Arkansans by birth, but whatever degree of adoption is necessary to be a full-blown Arkansan — that’s what we are.”
“Our heart is here in Arkansas,” Sister Susan Bednar added. “This is where we raised our family.”
At temple open houses, Elder Bednar said he often hears this question: “Why does your Church spend money on buildings like this? Wouldn’t that money be better used in serving the poor?”
The answer, Elder Bednar said, is that the Church of Jesus Christ does both.
“The temporary assistance that people need in terms of clean drinking water in Africa, wheelchairs for those who are immobile, vaccinations to protect children — we do that all over the world,” he said. “But those tend to be more short-term. Necessary, but short-term. We think the greatest change comes when a person’s heart is changed by God and they become devoted disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
In the house of the Lord, Elder Bednar said, “we learn about God, the Eternal Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. We learn about who we are. And as we worship in the temple, we enter into sacred commitments or pledges. The language we use to describe that is covenants.”
And all of this, Elder Bednar said, is to “help a person change from the inside out.”
“[The Bentonville Temple] is spectacular,” said Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston, who toured the temple on Monday morning. “I’ve been involved in a lot of construction work. Years ago my grandma was a paint contractor. So I’m looking at the paint. I’m looking at the trim. It is pristine. That is probably the most pristine structure that I’ve ever seen.”
Secretary Thurston said he was grateful for the opportunity to learn more about Latter-day Saints.
“It’s easy to criticize things when you have no understanding of the topic or the individual,” he said. “It was very powerful when you said, ‘We believe in Jesus Christ. We believe in the Holy Spirit. We believe in the Father.’ And I thought, ‘Is that not the foundation?’ Thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of this historic day in northwest Arkansas.”
The Bentonville Temple’s architecture draws inspiration from local historic buildings such as the neoclassical Benton County Courthouse and the colonial-revival-style Massey Hotel, reflecting the feel of a traditional, small American town. The Arkansas State Capitol, completed in 1915 in Little Rock, was also referenced.
The temple is a steel-frame structure with a precast exterior. The primary designs of the exterior art glass include the dogwood blossom, one of the first spring flowers in the area. Sunbursts and diamond designs are also featured, recognizing Arkansas as home to the only diamond mine in the United States. Red, yellow, and blue patterns are reminiscent of a quilt, speaking to Bentonville’s small-town American heritage. The primary tree planted on the grounds is the dogwood tree, along with other local trees and shrubs.
Soft, gold broadloom carpets are featured in general areas and instruction rooms. Wall-to-wall wool rugs are used in the celestial, sealing, and bride’s rooms. Area rugs are rendered in blues, greens, golds, and hints of pink. The general stone used for the flooring is marble quarried and fabricated in Turkey.
“As we use the word temple, I hope you’ll always equate it to ‘the house of the Lord,’” Elder Bednar said. “There’s a different feel and a different spirit when you emphasize ‘house of the Lord.’”