The first visitors’ center for the Mesa Temple consisted of a small table and literature racks set up at the temple’s west entrance in the late 1940s. This set-up was soon found to be inadequate and a permanent structure, the Bureau of Information and Genealogical Library, was built across the street at 464 E 1st Ave. This site, shared with the genealogical library, also proved inadequate to meet demand, and was also difficult to locate from the major streets of Mesa Drive and Main Street.
Thus, plans were made to build another center, this one would face Main Street. The citrus grove was removed and the ground excavated to ensure the new structure would not obscure views of the temple that sat behind the new building. Concrete walls were prefabricated in Utah and shipped to Arizona where they were assembled. The Mesa visitor center was the first in the church to be prefabricated. Church president David O. McKay dedicated the new building on December 30, 1956.
By the 1970s, it was determined that the building was too small, and in 1979 the center was enlarged by 3 ½ times. The enlarged structure could now house new exhibits and theaters. Expansion was completed in 1981. The center has since, in 2015, been remodeled to update the exhibit space.
Perhaps the most striking feature inside the building is the ten foot Christus statue. This 1,200-pound statue is a replica of a larger original sculpted by Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (1768-1844).
Two times each year, the visitors center hosts special holiday events: lights at Christmas and the Pageant at Easter. Beginning the evening after Thanksgiving, and continuing each night until New Year’s Eve, from dusk until 10pm, visitors are invited to tour the Christmas light display on the temple grounds, a choral performance in front of the visitors’ center and a nativity display inside.
The Mesa Easter Pageant, entitled “Jesus the Christ,” is performed the two weeks prior to Easter each year (excluding Sundays and Mondays) on a large stage constructed on the front lawn of the visitors’ center. Each evening, between 5,000 and 13,000 guests view the outdoor performance that boasts 475 cast members. Visitors often arrive several hours in advance of the 8pm starting time to reserve seats.