The first temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Indiana, standing 106 feet tall and crowned with a gilded statue of the angel Moroni, opens Friday for three weeks of public tours before its dedication next month makes it off-limits to non-Mormons.

Church leaders expect 75,000 visitors to tour the temple through Aug. 8. The 34,000-square-foot structure standing on 18 acres of grounds in Carmel, a couple of miles north of Indianapolis, will be the 148th LDS temple worldwide and one of fewer than 20 in the U.S. east of the Mississippi River. Temples are used for sacred ceremonies, with attendance limited to Mormons in good standing.

The Indianapolis temple will serve about 30,000 Mormons in Indiana and eastern Illinois who now drive longer distances to temples in Chicago, St. Louis, Louisville, Kentucky, and Columbus, Ohio, said Elder Paul Sinclair of Zionsville.

"It's different for members of the church here to feel connected to their own temple that's here in Indiana," Sinclair said Tuesday after a media tour of the temple.

The temple consists of several medium-sized rooms — the largest might accommodate fewer than 100 people — as well as offices and dressing rooms where Mormons can change into simple white clothing for ceremonies. Most of the rituals, called ordinances, are attended by small groups of people, said Elder Kent Richards, executive director of the LDS Temple Department in Salt Lake City.

The Sealing Room, where the eternal marriages that Mormons believe in will be performed, seats only about 50 people. In the baptistry, where Mormons act as proxies in vicarious baptisms for the dead, the font is seated on 12 bronze oxen, like the basin in Solomon's palace described in 1 Kings 7:25.

Richards described the temple as a "unique place where special ordinances take place." The LDS church considers a temple a "house of the Lord" where Jesus Christ is present. Mormons also have church meeting houses for regular worship services and social gatherings, and those are open to anyone.

Having a temple in central Indiana will shave about 90 minutes off of the round-trip travel time for Brad Miller of Champaign, Illinois, a 29-year-old University of Illinois student who now travels with his wife about once a month to the Chicago temple.

"We like to come back to reflect on that, to recommit ourselves, as it were, but also just to recommit ourselves to the Lord," Miller said.

After the temple is formally dedicated Aug. 23, it will be open only to faithful Mormons.

The church will not disclose how much the temple cost. It was paid for through tithes, Richards and Sinclair said.

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If You Go...

The Indiana Temple is located at 116th Street and Spring Mill Road in Carmel, just west of U.S. 31. Open houses will be held every day of the week except Sundays through Aug. 8. Reservations aren't necessary but can be made at www.templeopenhouse.lds.org or by calling 1-855-537-2000.