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If all goes as planned, the LDS Church soon will be building its first French temple probably outside of Paris near the famed Versailles palace.
Last week, Mormon officials in France submitted temple plans and renderings to Philippe Brillault, mayor of Le Chesnay, according to a report in the Le Parisien newspaper. Brillault then invited townspeople to offer their opinions about the multimillion-dollar LDS sanctuary and adjoining buildings possibly going up on the Boulevard Saint-Antoine.
Of the proposals for the property, the Mormon one is "the strongest ... and especially the most profitable," Brillault told the paper. "From what I know, the Mormons are going to spend 80 million euros [$113 million] in total, including land and buildings."
LDS spokesman Scott Trotter acknowledged Friday that the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hopes to build a temple on that site, but he could not confirm any of the details mentioned by the paper that the lot is 75,347 square feet, for example, and that it would include a "residential hotel," gardens and several "pavilions" in addition to the "worship space."
Trotter said the LDS Church has been working for many months with Le Chesnay officials after several previous attempts to find a suitable site for a French temple fell through.
"I wish I could announce that we could have a temple here, but we do not have a suitable place yet, in my judgment, to build it," then-LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley told a gathering of French Mormons in May 2004. "I don't know when it will be built, but I am confident that … sometime in the future a beautiful house of the Lord will grace this land."
Ardis Parshall, who was an LDS missionary in southern France from 1981 to 1983, says "French Saints tend to think of this date as the date they were promised a temple."
French Mormons have been connected to the LDS Church for more than 150 years. France was one of the first countries outside the United States to receive missionaries (1849), with a French translation of the Book of Mormon published in 1852. But it is one of the last major European nations to get a temple despite having more than 35,000 members.
"Although France has a reputation of being tough on missionaries, with few converts, there are families who have been faithfully LDS for generations," says Parshall, a contributing Salt Lake Tribune history columnist. "They have wanted a temple of their own for a very long time and have waited patiently as temples have been built in newer [mission] fields. It's their turn, finally."
Taylorsville resident Danny Haroldsen, who served a mission in Paris from 2000 to 2002, believes the building would be a boon to members who have had to travel long distances to Germany, Switzerland, Spain or Great Britain to receive ordinances such as eternal marriage performed only in LDS temples.
"Since it's mostly a Catholic area with a lot of cathedrals, having a temple near Paris and having people see it and ask about it," Haroldsen says, "will enhance missionary work."
Charles Randall Paul, who directs the Foundation for Interreligious Diplomacy out of his Alpine home, also celebrated Friday's news.
"Mormons are planting their flag in the [French] ground in a very serious way, telling members, 'We are not going to desert you,' " says Paul, who served a mission to France in the 1960s and has remained a self-described Francophile. "It's a powerful statement."
Mormons in France
Members • 35,427
Stakes • 9
Smaller congregations • 111
Missions • 2
Source: 2011 Church Almanac