As a twenty-two year old kid missionary in 1951, I was acting architect for the British Mission of the Mormon Church. The last project that was handed to me was planning a design for a Temple of the church to be built in London.
The mission president at the time, Stayner Richards, had correctly realized that after over a century of Mormon missionary work in the UK that there was insufficient membership build-up to allow for organization of Stakes And Wards of the church which is the mature development of the church concept of Zion. The reason being that the ceremonies of temple blessings could not be obtained in the UK and so new members would immigrate to Utah where they could obtain these blessings.
One day in the summer of 1951 while accompanying Richards on a train trip from London to Liverpool (future home of the Beetles) he stated these concerns to me and requested I commence preparing schematic drawings for a temple to be built in London. I have documented that effort in my biography, Under the Mormon Tree available on Amazon.com . Returning to the States by air in December 1951, I was urgently directed to present my materials to Mormon President David O. McKay at church headquarters in Salt Lake City at which point I would have an honorable discharge of my mission.
This was accomplished and the very first approval for a temple outside the Western Hemisphere (except Hawaii) was a landmark in church growth. The site I had selected was not used but a site some miles south of London was later selected and in 1958 a temple was built there. Twenty odd years after my efforts to design and select the temple site in London I was in a personal position to have completely devalued the temple and its ceremonies so that I was glad that the London Temple as built and located did not have my hand prints on it.
Between 1994 and 1998, a second temple known as the Preston Temple was built and dedicated in Northwestern England. It was built as was the London temple within a complex of buildings such as a chapel complex and housing for temple workers and its Patrons.
Temple Patrons are members of the church who have passed strict investigation as to morals, strength of church membership and the most important, being a full tithe payer to the church treasury. The tithe represents a full ten percent of gross income before any governmental taxes are deducted. A member in otherwise good standing but failing the full tithe requirement is denied a pass from the local church hierarchy to receive a Temple recommend. Sometimes a member of the hierarchy will befriend a member and pass on the full tithe requirement.
Probably less than 30% of Mormons are full tithe payers and therefore 70% are ineligible for the temple recommend. Boiled down to the lowest denominator, only members who have paid the price for the "Blessings" of the temple are allowed in it. These blessings include the right to be married by the Holy Priesthood of God for time and all eternity and to have their children and ancestors "sealed" to them in an endless family chain for all eternity.
Prior to those ceremonies, each patron receives the right of endowment to wear holy underwear of regulation design sold only by the church which is said to ward off the evil one. Afterward each patron may return to the temple and do proxy work for each of their ancestry provided they continue to obtain the Temple Recommend each year by paying a full tithing. It is very similar to the privilege to drive a car upon the highways by purchasing an annual license. The proxy work consists of going through the temple ceremonies in the name of a dead ancestor. Women patrons for women and men as patrons for men. As such, all dead ancestors can, if they elect, become Mormons in the after life and have eternal marriage, give birth to and raise spirit babies and ultimately become Gods.
In the UK a problem arose in relation to the real property taxes which are levied upon all land of the crown deeded in fee simple as a mini proportionate rent for the land. Only the Sovereign actually owns land and leases it to the deed holder of title of possession. Pay the annual tax and one keeps possession. Refusal to pay the tax forfeits it to the Sovereign!
Generally, properties that are used for religious worship are exempted from property taxes which of course increases a burden of governmental support on taxpayers.
In 2008 after a protracted period of litigation, tax exemption was denied the Mormon Church for the Preston Temple and certain ancillary structures. The final appeal can be read here:
In analyzing the pertinent law, it was determined that only structures which were open to public religious services were exempt from the tax. It was ruled that since the public in general and Mormons who failed to pay tithe were denied access to the temple that it failed to meet the test of being open to public worship.
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