A new 44,000-square-foot Tempe Institute of Religion will be dedicated Sunday afternoon on the campus of Arizona State University.
It replaces a building that had served the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 1964. It is on 3.5 acres of church-owned land at McAllister Avenue and Terrace Road. The institute’s first building for religious classes and church services was erected in 1956 at University Drive and College Avenue and has been razed.
With nine classrooms, study rooms, two chapels, a gymnasium, offices, a game room and a 600-space parking garage, the new institute has 1,800 students, a faculty of 12 and about 10 support staff. The institute has the capacity for 5,700 students.
“About 20 different classes are offered, from the Book of Mormon studies to church history, Old and New Testament, Isaiah, travels with Paul, and marriage selection to missionary preparation,” said Roc Arnett of Mesa, who handles public affairs as member of the high council for the Tempe Arizona University Stake.
The stake, a geographical area, contains eight wards, or individual Mormon congregations, serving about 2,000 single LDS students in the Tempe area. Four of the wards will meet in the new building.
Students do not have to be church members to take classes, although the vast majority are. Evening classes will have more of a “social focus,” Arnett said. They will include ballroom dancing, chorus and other arts.
It is one of hundreds of institutes operated by the Mormon Church on its own property next to colleges around the world. Institutes serve people ages 18 to 30. They parallel the “seminaries” the church builds near high schools where its students are given “release time” during the day for church instruction.
Such studies are independent of ASU, and those enrolled earn institute credits and training certificates.
The main chapel has a 20-rank pipe organ. The hand-built Schantz Organ has 20 sets of pipes, or 1,200 individual pipes.
“The church has always been a part of the experience of Arizona State University,” said T. Dennis Barney, stake president. “We are privileged to open our doors and provide a new place for students to study and learn in an enriching environment.”
When Arizona State University first opened in 1886 as the Territorial Normal School, 33 of its first enrollees were Mormons, or half the student body. The first congregation for ASU students was organized in 1955 and the first ward for single students dates to 1960. ASU’s president from 1960 to 1969 was G. Homer Durham, a church member. The Tempe Arizona University Stake was established in 2002.
Expected for the 4 p.m. dedication Sunday will be Elder Henry Eyring, a member of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles since 1995; Gov. Janet Napolitano; ASU President Michael Crow; and the church’s educational commissioner, Elder W. Rolfe Kerr, who has been a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy since 1997.
“It’s a wonderful resource for students,” Crow said. “When I first became president of ASU (in 2002), I invited all faith-based organizations to plant their flags deep in the soil of the university. I am delighted the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has done so in such a significant way, and I continue to offer other faith-based groups that invitation.”
Arnett said that when the institute needed a 50-foot strip of ASU land for the project and its parking garage, it negotiated a land swap. The church gave up “old Tempe 1st Ward” land on Sixth Street west of College Avenue and got approval from the Arizona Board of Regents. “As it turned out, they owed us money,” Arnett said.
For more information, call (480) 967-4498 or visit www.ldsces.org/tempe.