UAE Mormon temple on Expo 2020 site will encourage 'spirit of tolerance' in region

Leader of Latter-Day Saints in Middle East outlines importance of regional temple in Dubai

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, March 17, 2021.  Marcus Oates at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Mussafah.
Victor Besa/The National
Section:  NA
Reporter:  Georgia Tolley

Architects in the US are working on a design for the new Mormon temple to be built on the Expo 2020 site.

As outlined in the Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan, the area in and around Expo 2020 will be entirely re-used and named District 2020.

The first temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the Middle East will be built on what is now a car park on the edge of the Expo site.

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Previously members would travel to either Rome, Frankfurt, Berlin, Switzerland or Kiev in Ukraine to visit a temple

The head of the Mormon church in the region, Abu Dhabi Stake President Marcus Oates, said he was thrilled when the UAE authorities endorsed the temple.

“We are very grateful to the government for permitting this and we just feel it's a wonderful privilege, and certainly in the spirit of religious tolerance in which the Emirates is really leading the way,” Mr Oates said.

“Dubai is such a crossroads. Members coming from Africa, from Asia, from Europe who will pass through here will most likely stop off and attend the temple in Dubai."

Mormons are more formally known as Latter-Day Saints and church members consider temples to be the most sacred places on Earth and a source of spiritual strength.

Unlike chapels, where Latter-Day Saints attend worship services and weekday activities, temples are dedicated to making sacred covenants or promises with God, and for marriages, when families are sealed together eternally.

Church members also perform these sacred temple ordinances on behalf of departed ancestors.

Mr Oates, who has lived in the UAE for five years after moving from Perth, Australia, said the temple would have a positive impact on the 1,500 Mormons in the UAE and those across the region.

“Previously, members would travel to Rome, Frankfurt, Berlin, Switzerland or Kiev in the Ukraine to visit a temple," he said.

"So you’ve got quite a distance and cost involved in getting there. Also, for some of our members, it's very difficult to get a visa to go to a European country.

“Expat members – Filipinos and Indians – can't necessarily get a visa to go to Spain or to Italy, but they can come to Dubai."

The regional impact of UAE religious tolerance

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, March 17, 2021.  Marcus Oates at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Mussafah.
Victor Besa/The National
Section:  NA
Reporter:  Georgia Tolley

The first self-standing Mormon church in the Middle East was dedicated by Elder Jeffrey Holland in Abu Dhabi in 2013.

The UAE's longstanding religious tolerance is an example to other nations in the region, Mr Oates said.

“It’s being adopted elsewhere," he said. "In Egypt, the same spirit of tolerance is growing.

“The Ministry of Education has approved the teaching of the common elements of the three Abrahamic religions in schools. It’s having an impact in the region."

Mormons can celebrate their faith in several locations in the UAE. There is a chapel in Abu Dhabi and congregations in Dubai, Sharjah and the other northern emirates.

The new temple will be built to the highest quality, just like the 170 other Mormon holy buildings around the world, Mr Oates said.

“It’ll be built to blend in with its environment and I’m sure there’ll be Middle East themes in the architecture," he said.

“But because of the sacred nature of what happens inside the temple, the way we would describe it is like a pearl in a box.

"If you have the world’s best pearl, you’re going to put it in a box that looks as beautiful."

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