The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a new 44,000-square- foot building on the campus of Arizona State University — an institute of religion that will serve as a chapel, a classroom and a social center for 4,000 college-age Mormons.
“I think [the institute] is great because it represents faith on the one hand but also secular education on the other and that they can coexist,” said Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano during the building dedication earlier this week.
In his remarks at the dedication, Dr. Michael Crow, president of ASU, said: “We're not just here dedicating a building. We're here dedicating a central principle of the United States: freedom of religion.”
Elder Henry B. Eyring, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — the second highest governing body of the Church — and also a former university professor and college president, told students that “education is the pursuit of truth.”
Education is strongly emphasized in the Church, which has had a formal education board since 1888. The Church Educational System operates institutes of religion, a program that provides weekday and evening religious education classes for over 350,000 postsecondary students worldwide.
The first institute building in Tempe, constructed in 1962, had served the religious needs of ASU students for over 40 years.
“We have enjoyed the relationship of being a part of the university,” said Hyrum Wright, the institute director. “ASU has been supportive of the institute program, just as they have been supportive of all faiths on campus.”
The Tempe Arizona Institute was built on Church property, with an additional 50 feet adjacent to the institute property acquired three years ago in a land swap with the university.
“The university has grown around us, so we needed to build a larger facility to meet the needs of the growing student population,” explained Wright.
All students, regardless of religion, are able to attend the worship services, religious classes and social events.