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It always cracks me up when it happens. Quite often, when we meet new people on the road, the conversation goes like this:
Random Strangers: So, where are you two from?
Us: Salt Lake City!
Random Strangers: (In a slightly higher pitched voice, exchanging a look…) Ah, nice!
More conversation ensues. And then finally, their curiosity gets the best of them…
Random Strangers: So is it true you can’t have caffeine?!
This Mormon mistaken identity greatly amuses both us and our actual Mormon friends. You see, living in Salt Lake City, you develop an ability to differentiate Mormons from non-Mormons. No one with this ability would ever mistake James and me for Mormons. We aren’t modest enough, we aren’t nice enough, we shop on Sundays (in the 2 stores open in SLC on Sundays…), and we eat dinner after 9pm. So, to those in the know, it’s funny.
Even though we aren’t Mormon, living in Salt Lake City immerses us in the Mormon culture. There’s good and bad to this.
- Free neighborhood barbeques and picnics
- Random neighbors will help you move
- If you’re doing yardwork when the missionaries pass by – they’ll stop to help.
- Our favorite haunts are closed on Sundays and also Monday evenings (Mormon family night).
- Outside of Salt Lake City, the distance between Starbucks locations in Utah is… well… far.
- When hosting parties, you have to offer two drink options: alcohol for the non-Mormons and flavored lemonades with fruit floating in them for the Mormons.
But getting on to the temple. Yes, the Mormons have temples. To Mormons, their temples are God’s house. That’s where they go to be closest to God. And no, you can’t just go in. Even THEY can’t just go in. They need a “Temple Recommend” to be able to do so. But every so often, when a temple is built or substantially renovated, they’ll have an “open house”. This represents the only chance the non-LDS public has to see inside these interesting buildings. It is incredibly rare, but we had such a chance this past weekend.
The Ogden Temple in Utah has just gone through some extensive renovations. It is currently open for tours until it gets “rededicated,” which is when Mormons believe God’s spirit officially fills the temple.
So we wouldn’t miss out on anything, we brought along some Mormon friends to explain things to us. Test your Mormon-spotting ability. Which ones in the picture are Mormon?
Mormon guys are definitely harder to spot. But, when you see a guy dressed nicely, surrounded by a few dozen small children, and you’re standing in Utah, you could bet good money on it he’s Mormon. ESPECIALLY if he’s with a woman wearing capped sleeves.
After watching a 10 minute video on the history of the temple, and the spiritual significance of temples to Mormons, the volunteers slipped booties over our shoes and in we went. If you envision the temple being an open space filled with pews facing an altar, you’d be wrong. The temple is more like a marble and white-carpeted labyrinth of much smaller rooms, each with their own significance.
Here are two rooms I found most interesting…
The Celestial Room:
Photo Credit: lds.net
This room is a representation of the peace and tranquility of heaven. Jenn, our Mormon friend taking the tour with us, broke it down for me as we toured the room. Mormons believe in 3 “Kingdoms of Glory,” or 3 different levels of heaven. The “Celestial” is the highest form and the one that can only be attained through living righteously and devotedly. The room is a place Mormons can come to pray and reflect, and perhaps feel a sense of what heaven will be like. It sounds like this is an incredibly special room for Mormons. I didn’t know about the 3 levels of heaven before, so that was an interesting new tidbit for me.
The Baptismal Font:
Photo Credit: lds.net
While the concept of heaven is popular amongst many religions, here’s an area where Mormons set themselves apart. Mormons believe one absolutely cannot get into heaven without being baptized. So, Mormons engage in a ceremony in their temples to baptize their deceased ancestors, by proxy, to offer their souls a chance to accept entrance to heaven. The baptismal font looked like an ornate hot tub resting on the backs of a bunch of oxen statues. I was extremely tempted to touch the water and see how warm it was, but the burly (but smiling) volunteer guard had a look in his eyes that said, “don’t you dare.” I walked on.
We did actually see some things we didn’t expect. Like a cafeteria! James got excited about this. Sadly, it wasn’t open. And locker rooms! Our tour took us through the ladies locker room. This, of course, immediately turned James back into a 15 year old.
Sorry to disappoint you, but despite any rumors otherwise, we didn’t see:
Monks (or any Mormon equivalent)
Gravesites (they have these in churches in Europe all over the place…)
All in all, it was a pretty enlightening experience. I’d definitely recommend it as an interesting tour for RVers, if you ever get the chance. There isn’t any trick or “catch” to the tour. No one tries to convert you, sell you on their religion, or get money from you. It’s simply interesting and educational. You can find out about upcoming temple tours around the nation here. If you’re currently RVing in Arizona, there’s a temple tour starting October 10th and running through November 1st! (Excluding Sundays…of course.)