When plans to build a temple in Rome were announced in General Conference on Oct. 4, 2008, a native Italian, Cinzia Noble, could hardly believe it.
“It was a dream of 44 years finally come true,” Noble said. “It was the most glorious day I’ve ever had.”
Noble had the opportunity to attend the temple open house earlier this month in Rome and expressed the pure joy she felt while walking through the temple.
“When we finally got to the celestial room, I had to sit down because I didn’t have any strength left in my body,” Noble said. “The feelings were so overwhelming and so strong from the spirit that was there.”
Noble was born and raised Catholic in Italy and converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at age 22. After converting, she moved to the United States and is now a BYU Italian professor.
The Rome Temple was dedicated just weeks ago on March 10, almost 11 years after President Thomas S. Monson announced plans to build the temple.
All 15 members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve attended the dedication in Rome. According to Church News, the gathering in Rome marks the first time in Church history that every member of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have been together outside the United States.
BYU religious education professor Anthony Sweat said the fact the Twelve Apostles and First Presidency attended the dedication together is a historic moment in and of itself.
“Particularly, it is meaningful that it is in Rome,” Sweat said. “Jerusalem is where Christianity got its birth, but Rome is where Christianity became its stronghold.”
Macy Whitaker, a returned missionary who served in Italy, said many of the people she encountered on her mission were refugees. They could not obtain a visa to travel outside of the country to attend the temple because of their refugee status. Now, these refugees will be able to visit the temple for the first time.
“While there’s a huge significance for native Italians, it brings on a whole other level for people who can’t get visas into Switzerland (which is the nearest temple),” Whitaker said. “They can’t go to the temple. To finally have a (temple in Italy) where all of these people can get those blessings and can keep progressing — it’s a beautiful thing.”
Italian major and returned missionary Tahoe Jorgenson said he feels the temple will have a great impact on the Italian members and on people of all religions and backgrounds.
“I think it’s a sign that we are not afraid to live what we believe,” Jorgenson said. “To build a temple in the heart of Rome, I mean imagine that.”
According to Whitaker, Italians felt as though they were a forgotten corner of the Church, but the new temple has helped them feel a sense of belonging again.
“Having the temple be there and having all 15 of the apostles in Rome really was a testament to the Italian people that God sees them, He knows them and He’s proud of them for what they do — for the fight that they put up to keep their testimonies in a hard environment,” Whitaker said.
English professor Melanie Henderson attended the open house and said the significance of the architectural and design elements in the temple connects members to the Church’s history.
“I think there is something really beautiful of being reminded of our connections from the past,” Henderson said. “The temple connects us. It reminds us that we belong together. We are a church of history and I think in that sense, it is really beautiful to be reminded that even things from long ago can connect us.”
BYU religion professors were privileged to work on one of those pieces of history: the 20-foot-wide, 7-foot-tall stained glass window in the Rome Visitors’ Center.
Professors Brad Wilcox, Tyler Griffin and Anthony Sweat assisted Tom and Gayle Holdman in creating this masterpiece. Tom Holdman has created the stained glass for several temples throughout the world.
According to Sweat, Holdman requested the professors’ help in creating a mural that summarizes the major life events, parables and miracles of Jesus Christ.
Though the professors did not actually create the stained glass, they helped decide which life events, parables and miracles to include and where to include them.
“We believe in Jesus of the New Testament and we center our worship around him. (The stained glass in the Visitors Center) has helped send the message to people who are unfamiliar with the Church that we are a Christ-centric church,” Sweat said.
BYUSA Student Body President and returned missionary Robert Borden echoed Sweat’s words. Borden, who served his mission in Italy, said he believes the temple will have a profound impact on the people of Italy.
“To be able to see the good that comes from the organization that created (the Rome) Temple and more importantly from Jesus Christ, the pinnacle figure of the temple, will be an opportunity for Italians to connect with God in a way that presents new ideas and will be a blessing to the entire nation,” Borden said.
Both Noble and Borden agree the Rome temple will be a huge blessing for the Italian people, non-members and members alike.
According to Noble, the Church in Italy was previously seen as merely an idea. In her opinion, they weren’t taken very seriously. Now, Noble believes, that viewpoint from the outside will change.
“It’s a tangible brick and mortar that people can see,” Noble said. “We are not just an idea. We are something real.”
In the video below, students and faculty discuss the significance of the new Rome, Italy Temple.