Skip to comments.Female Episcopal Priest Visits a Mormon Temple
Posted on 04/24/2012 1:28:27 PM PDT by Jeff Head
As I stood in front of the new Mormon Temple in Liberty, Mo., it struck me as ironic that close to 175 years ago, Mormons were forced out of this same state.
Whereas the Missouri public once urged their governor to force Joseph Smith and his followers out of the area surrounding Kansas City, Mormons began to return to the region in the 1900s, eventually gathering in such large numbers that the Church organization decided the region needed a temple.
Which is why I came to visit.
Latter Day Saints restrict temple access to members of their denomination who have proven themselves to be faithful and dedicated adherents. Because Mormons believe temples are the most sacred places on earth, one needs to be prepared to enter them by being an active member of the Church. (In contrast, chapels, where Mormons hold Sunday worship, are open to everyone. Temples are used only for certain rituals and are not open on Sunday so that Mormons can be at their chapel services.)
When a new temple is built, anyone may enter prior to its dedication. So, always curious to learn about the faith of others, I didn't want to miss an opportunity to see a site normally closed off to an Episcopal priest like myself.
My visit seemed all the more timely because Mormons have been in the news a lot lately, and so have their temples. Elizabeth Smart recently married her husband in a temple in Hawaii during a ceremony called a sealing, in which the couple and close Mormon friends and family gather together to witness God joining the couple together for time and all eternity. In less complimentary news, Elie Wiesel took Mitt Romney to task for his faith's practice of baptisms of the dead, which also take places within temple walls.
These headlines, in addition to my own curiosity, motivated my visit to the new temple in Kansas City, and with my curiosity came some questions:
What does a Mormon temple look like, and what happens inside it?
Would I feel God's presence in this space, even though it's not a space that's sacred for me?
Before I go any further -- and because I know it's the question at the front of your mind, dear reader -- no one tried to convert me. In fact, everyone was very welcoming. Members volunteered en masse, clad in pressed suits and dresses. They offered guided tours, bent down to put protective boots onto my feet so my shoes wouldn't dirty the carpeting, and offered me a chewy snickerdoodle at the end of the tour. They showed me every space from changing rooms to sealing rooms where marriages take place and answered every question I asked, no matter how challenging or controversial.
And in the end, yes, I did have a God moment.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Mormons go to temples to be close to God. Much like the ancient Jewish people believed God lived at the heart of the temple in Jerusalem, Mormons believe that followers can meet God most intimately in the temple. The reasons they visit temples vary: In addition to having their marriages sealed in the temple, Mormons also have sealing ceremonies that unite parents and children for time and all eternity. Others come to participate in baptisms of the dead, which are intended to be used only for deceased family members of active Mormons, though the Church acknowledged in the wake of Elie Wiesel's comments that others -- such as Anne Frank -- have had baptisms performed on their behalf. These baptisms are not intended to convert the deceased but rather to give them a choice in the afterlife to embrace the revelation of Mormonism: Assuming an afterlife exists, the baptized deceased are free to say yes or no as they please. Finally, Mormons come to the temple to receive their endowment, a ritual ceremony where followers make promises to God and receive knowledge about God.
Unlike a cathedral, which is primarily composed of one large worship space, a Mormon temple has a variety of smaller rooms that serve different purposes. There are sealing rooms and rooms for men and women to change into white clothes (every male or female Mormon who enters a dedicated temple wears the same white clothing) and instruction rooms where individuals learn about God in preparation for receiving their endowments.
It was in these rooms, and the final Celestial Room, where I caught a glimpse of God.
You see, as part of our final stop on the tour, our guide took us to a room with a mural of the Missouri countryside painted by a local artist. The room had earthy colors, browns and greens and rows of cushioned seats. This was the first instruction room. From there, we took a step up -- as if ascending closer to heaven -- and entered a second room, similar to the first in shape and size but all white. This was the second instruction room. When we left that room, we took another step up and entered the Celestial Room, a space designed to give those who sit in it a foretaste of heaven.
It was a simple room yet ornate at the same time, all white with sparkling crystal chandeliers, large mirrors, and plump sofas and chairs reminiscent of those that must have existed in Joseph Smith's day. Our guide asked us to be silent and said we were welcome to sit wherever we liked and take a moment to pray. So I sat down on a sofa that seemed to envelop me, folded my hands on my lap and closed my eyes.
Like Dante, who saw God face to face but had no words to describe the encounter, I have few words to describe what I felt in that moment. But I can say this: While it did not convert me, nor did it make me want to be a Mormon, the silence and peace I felt reminded me of the many other times I've felt close to God, whether in an Episcopal cathedral, in a clear, warm ocean or in my ratty old car. And because of that, I came to understand why temples exist and why they are so important to Mormons across the world.
And along the lines of Mormons being across the world: As I wrote earlier, Mormons were ironically driven out of Liberty, Missouri and the surrounding region nearly 175 years ago. It cannot be lost on those who visit the new temple that almost two centuries later, Mormons are often still held in suspicion by society, but they are far from being as vulnerable as they were in their early years. They are building stronger foundations every day, and striving, as they do so, to catch a glimpse of heaven.
Interesting, nice artcicle by this Episopal woman about a new LDS Temple in Missouri.
Very fair and even handed artcile about her experience.
Glad to see this, it is a representation of how so many others view the LDS faith that we rarely get to see here.
Hope it can stand here on nits own merit without being absolutely assaulted as if though it is sime kind of infectious disease.
PR at its best, as always thanks Jeff.
Isn’t there a statistic like only 15% of practicing LDS can actually enter the temples after they are dedicated? I know someone who was not allowed to attend his son’s wedding, because it was in a temple. This does not seem to be a very kind act to exclude someoneâs parents from attending the weddings of their children.
a woman episcopal priest walks into a mormon temple...
I also know someone who ran into that problem - parents couldn’t attend their daughter’s wedding; ironic considering the effort Mormons put into ensuring all relatives are “sealed” to each other.
2 Cor. 11:14-15
Ya notice she had to cover her apostate feet ???
Yes, the figure is only about 15% that can enter the inner temple.
Very fair and even handed artcile about her experience.
Yes she did seemed to be truthful about the wrongs of Mormonism...
“In less complimentary news, Elie Wiesel took Mitt Romney to task for his faith’s practice of baptisms of the dead, which also take places within temple walls.”
But don’t the tithes of all LDS go to pay for these temples? So I give my 10% of my income, but have only a 15% chance of seeing the inside of the temple? And can’t have my parents at my wedding?
To enter a mormon temple in order to take part in the arcane rituals, the member must satisfactorily answer THESE questions:
No one cares what the relationship is you have with the wedding couple if you have not passed their "worthiness" test...and you must wait outside of the "sacred" areas so that you can then take part in the wedding pictures.
Ann and Mitt Romney were NOT held to the usual rule of not being "sealed" in the Temple unless you had been civily married for one year...they made their vows within a few days. Rank hath its privilege.
It’s not PR.
You actually think the LDS church got the woman to go there and write this article? She did it on her own.
I just referenced it as a counter balance to a lot of the other things we read here on FR.
But thanks for visiting the thread and and bumnping it for others to read.
Wouldn’t it be great if that Episcopal Priest was allowed inside during actual Temple ordinances - just to see how special they are?
Mormons go to temples to be close to God. Much like the ancient Jewish people believed God lived at the heart of the temple in Jerusalem, Mormons believe that followers can meet God most intimately in the temple.
Since you are a Mormon, an LDS trained 'high priset' perhsaps you couldn't catch the error. We'll see. I'll be back later to reveal it if you can't figure it out ... and it is not a Mormon put down, I'll expose the lack of aliveness in the writer.
There are many requirements for the temple recommendation certificate, tithe is just one of them.
I’ll see if I can find the entire list.
All of my family that still are lds are TM lds, it’s hard to get and keep that TRC.
It is purely a free choice decision known well in advance.
It is true that others who do not belong to the church, or who do not live by those tennants cannot be a part of that ceremony.
My brother, for example, who is a wonderful Christian man and an Evangelical associate Pastor down in the Denton, TX area was unable to attend my wedding vows in the temple, or that of my son and daughter who were married there.
It did not bother him. He came to the receptions and dinners and offered his congratulations and indicated that he was thankful they were taking their vows so seriously.
People who get married there know all this going in, as do their families if they talk about their weddings with them at all...and then it is their decision to make.
I know members who elected to have civil ceremonies for just this reason, so they could include everyone in them...who were otherwise worthy to attend. Then, afterwards they have a "sealing" ceremony in the temple.
In such cicumstances, where they are considered fully worthy, they do not have to wait a full year to then be sealed in the temple. Perhaps that is what the Romney's did...I do not know, I just know that in such circumstances, where the couple is worthy and able to attend the temple, that the one year wait usually does not apply. The one year wait is usually only for new members of the church, for those who have long been away from and inactive in the church, or for couples who have lived together before being wed, or something of that nature. Anyhow, I just felt this woman's article was even handed and fair and I appreciated it.
I think that she is an expert on more than one kind of spinning.
“”Danielle Elizabeth Tumminio is a priest, theologian, a certified life coach and spinning instructor, and the author of ‘God and Harry Potter at Yale: Teaching Faith and Fantasy Fiction in an Ivy League Classroom’...””
Requirements are listed in post #12, thanks greyfoxx39.
FYI. A good article about the LDS faith and the new LDS Liberty, Missouri Temple by a woman Episcopal Priest who went through the open house there.