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LDS leaders dedicated Pennsylvania's first Mormon temple Sunday in a sign that the largest U.S.-born religion is coming of age in the city of America's birth.
Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the Utah-based faith's governing First Presidency, did the honors, dedicating the 61,000-square-foot, twin-steepled temple in the heart of historic Philadelphia, not far from the Mormon chapel where he was baptized as an 8-year-old boy.
"It has a feeling in it unlike any temple I've ever been in terms of its beauty and the spaciousness," he said in a news release. "It's really quite remarkable."
During Sunday's ceremonies, the white-suited Eyring joined other church officials in a placing mortar around the cornerstone of the edifice, which features classic Georgian architecture, exterior granite from Maine and interior stone from Egypt and Italy.
"It's a wonderful moment in the dedication of this temple," the release quoted Eyring as saying. "There is a stone prepared for us now to seal. … It's symbolic of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the chief cornerstone of the church."
Now that it is dedicated, only devout Mormons will be allowed to enter the Philadelphia Temple (the church's 152nd temple in the world). There, they can participate in their faith's highest religious rites, including eternal marriage.
Near the structure, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also has built a meetinghouse and is constructing a 32-story housing-retail complex.
The dedication also took place the weekend Americans are celebrating the U.S. Constitution, which, along with the Declaration of Independence, was penned at Philadelphia's famed Independence Hall.