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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended August 27, 2000
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Sent on Mormon-News: 29Aug00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Boston Globe Looks At LDS Church, History of Boston Temple

BELMONT, MASSACHUSETTS -- In a set of articles starting on the front page of the Boston Globe, the newspaper looks at the LDS Church and the history of the Church's Boston Temple, which will open next month for public tours ahead of its dedication on October 1st. The Globe looks at the LDS Church's growth and the more dramatic growth of its temples in the two years since President Hinckley started the small temple program.

The main Boston Globe article points out that the LDS Church has a long history in New England, but that in most of that period the Church was very small. The Boston Temple's new president Loren Dunn says that when he lived in Boston as a college student in the 1960s there were more Catholics in the Archdiocese of Boston that there were Mormons in the entire world.

Now, however, the Church has grown significantly, reaching 16,000 members in Massachusetts, triple the number of members there 25 years ago. The article also mentions several prominent members in the Boston area, including Kim B. Clark, dean of the Harvard Business School and a candidate to be the university's president, Michael D. Schetzel, director of sales for the Red Sox, and Mitt Romney, who opposed Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy in 1994 and now heads the Salt Lake City organizing committee for the 2002 winter Olympics.

These members and others interviewed in the article all expressed pleasure at the Temple. "The church started here, but went away, and was not very large in New England for a long time," said Clark. Romney added that the Temple represents the growth of the Church there, "It feels great to have a temple closer to home. It makes you feel proud that the membership of the church has grown large enough to merit a temple being constructed so close to home."

The Belmont Citizen-Herald also looked at the Temple in an article Sunday, observing that the building will be very noticeable atop Belmont Hill, along route 2, a popular commuting route for those entering Boston. The Citizen-Herald article looks at the interior architecture of the building, exploring the theological purposes for the different rooms in the building. It also observes that in place of the Temple's steeple, the building has a removable, sealed roof, which will be taken out if the Church's attorney's can win an appeal prohibiting the steeple.

The Globe also covered the steeple, giving a history of the four-year battle over it and over the building itself. The Globe observes that the Temple was originally to be a three-story, 94,000-square-foot, six-spired building, but that the Church scaled back the building after neighbors objected.

The Church first filed for a special permit with Belmont's Zoning Board of Appeals on May 23, 1996, sparking 12 public hearings over the next nine months, attracting several hundred people at each meeting. Eventually, the board permitted a 139-foot steeple in a 27-page decision that argued that a steeple "serves a religious purpose."

The debate also sparked a dispute about the so-called Dover Amendment, a 50-year-old Massachusetts law, which favors religious groups and educational institutions in zoning matters in an attempt to keep local jurisdictions from discriminating against them. But the temple's neighbors now argue that the law favors religion, in violation of the U.S. Constitution's first amendment. ''Other communities are watching Belmont because the issues at the heart of the Belmont Temple dispute are central to literally hundreds of zoning cases across the Commonwealth, so what eventually happens here will doubtlessly affect our other decisions as well those in other communities," said Belmont Town Manager Mel Kleckner.

While two lower courts have upheld the state law, three neighbors, including Charles Counselman, are set to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the law. The LDS Church's attorney in the matter, Kenneth Harvey, who is also a Church member, doesn't think that the Church will have to take down the Temple, even if the Court rules against the Church. "We don't think there is much chance any judge would actually order us to take down the building even if the plaintiffs were to prevail. It's here," said Harvey.

But Counselman hopes differently. "Like any developer, the Mormons built this building at their own risk knowing full well the potential consequences if our lawsuit is successful. Our first concern, however, is the protection of our property values and that is an issue that should resonate with every homeowner in the state."

As for the steeple, the LDS Church's appeal to the state's appellate court hasn't yet been scheduled. But regardless of the outcome of both of the lawsuits, they have taken a toll in the feelings of those in Belmont. "If there is one emotion most closely associated with this project, it's frustration," says Belmont Selectman William Monahan. "Those who wanted to see it built don't understand why it has taken so long, and those who didn't want it don't understand why the town didn't have more leverage to keep it out."


A visible faith
Boston Globe 27Aug00 D1
By Michael Paulson: Globe Staff

A refuge of peace atop Belmont Hill
Belmont MA Citizen-Herald 23Aug00 D1
By Linda Pinkow: Staff Writer

Steeple is at center of legal battle
Boston Globe 27Aug00 D1
By Caroline Louise Cole: Globe Correspondent

Some tenets of the Mormon faith
Boston Globe 27Aug00 D1
By Globe Staff


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See also:
Mormon News' Coverage of the Boston Temple Challenges

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information