Even before local members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently opened the doors of their new 17,000-square-foot facility, the structure became a tool for teaching.

Columbus resident Ernest Lifferth, second counselor in the Mormons’ Indiana Stake Presidency, had been inside the new meeting house only a few short minutes when he spotted a scene of Jesus at the healing pool of Bethesda among several framed paintings hanging on the walls.

Sure, Lifferth believes the new building on Goeller Boulevard in Columbus offers a literal foundation for new growth among the faithful. But he also believes its hard-to-miss art presents pictures of insight into Jesus’ ministry.

“Look at this,” Lifferth said as he beamed at the image. “You can just see the expression of hope (for healing) here on this man’s face.”

Story continues below gallery

Click here to purchase photos from this gallery

Bartholomew County’s estimated 1,000-plus active Mormons are focused on hope, including that this already-paid-for expansion will help them make room for more followers. Until recently, their meeting house at 3330 30th Street in Columbus was home to four services every Sunday (that facility will remain in operation).

“Even the parking lot has been a challenge,” said Jack Bartnett, the local Latter-day Saints’ assistant director of public affairs.

The new lot features 220 spaces to keep things moving easily between services and events that will include Scout meetings, youth gatherings, family programs, satellite teaching feeds from the denomination’s Salt Lake City, Utah, headquarters and other activities.

“This is really an everyday-use kind of building,” Lifferth said. “It has a lot of utility built into it.”

The project has been estimated to cost more than $4 million, based on basic new construction per-square-foot estimates. But Mormon church officials never comment publicly on the cost of their meeting houses.

Lifferth and Bartnett emphasize that Mormons are known for their attention to detail in their construction, evident in the oak-stained cherry wood highlighted in much of the chapel area. They also like anything that helps them bolster the family.

That explains why a framed, 1995 document titled “The Family, A Proclamation to the World,” hangs prominently just inside the front door. It highlights what Mormons believe about the family being a central tool of God’s plan to reach people with his love via marriage, child-rearing and other elements.

“Really, this is the savior’s church,” Lifferth said. “He’s the one in charge.”

Mormons, perhaps best known to local outsiders for their continuing door-to-door evangelism, place a strong emphasis on finding ways to share their faith.

“We just want to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to as many people who will possibly listen,” Lifferth said. “We have found that mankind seeks happiness.

“And we find happiness in keeping the commandments. There is also peace in that.”

The Mormons other meeting house was constructed in 1972. The Latter-day Saints’ original, local home was the stone structure built in 1952 at Marr Road and 17th Street.

The newest meeting house, sitting on property purchased by the Latter-day Saints more than 25 years ago, becomes the fifth house of worship to spring up on the west-side Tipton Lakes area in nearly the past 15 years.

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbus building a couple of miles away on Goeller Boulevard was erected in 2002. Terrace Lake Community on County Road 200S completed its sanctuary in 2004 and has expanded since. Faith Ministries built a facility in 2009 on Jonathan Moore Pike just beyond Goeller Boulevard. And Westside Community Church opened the doors of its new facility on Tipton Lakes Boulevard in 2014.

Jesse Shoaf, bishop of the Mormons’ Fourth Ward, sees the new locale as a new way to introduce the ministry to local residents.

“This should make us even more visible,” Shoaf said.

“I believe we’re here in this location for a reason,” Bartnett said. “I believe this is where the Lord’s work will truly grow. This is just a huge blessing.”

About the building

What: New meeting house for Columbus’ Fourth Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Where: 4850 Goeller Drive.

Square feet: 17,000 plus.

Chapel seating capacity: 800-plus including space for overflow into a connected gym.

Dedicated: Sunday.

Open house: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today.

Service times: 9 and 11 a.m. Sundays.

Other features: Multiple classrooms, heated baptismal font and courtyard

Author photo
Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.