15 April, 2011

A Catholic on a Mormon Temple Tour

A few weeks ago a high school friend emailed me an invitation to go on a tour of the Mormon Temple in Atlanta.  Once the temples are dedicated only Mormons in good standing can enter.  The temple recently underwent some renovations and after being closed for two years, was open to the public for guided tours before it was rededicated.

photo from Google Images


Lisa was kind enough to meet me for lunch to catch up on our lives and to answer any questions I had before we went to the Temple.

I had no idea what to expect.  My only notion of a "fancy church building" is a Catholic Cathedral, or on the more plain side, a large Methodist or non-denominational church.  So I guess my idea of what would be inside what some combination of the two.  I knew that weddings and baptisms were performed in there so I figured there'd be some sort of baptismal font and a place for weddings.

First, the temple was much smaller than it looks from driving down the highway.  As we entered I was surprised to see many small rooms instead of a long nave like in a Cathedral.  The first stop was the changing room.  When the members enter they immediate head to the locker rooms where they change from street clothes to all white, full covering temple clothes and shoes.  We didn't have to do that yesterday, but we did have to put covers on our shoes.  The idea is to leave things of the world behind in exchange for a sacred space.

Next we visited several instruction rooms where you would come hear teachings on different topics and then you'd make a promise to live that lifestyle.  They had classroom style seating with paintings of nature on the walls.  Beautiful.

From there we went to the sealing rooms.  This is were the wedding take place.  The couple kneels before an altar facing each other.  Mormons believe their marriage is sealed for all eternity.  Behind the couple are two huge mirrors.  As you look at your spouse you can see a reflection of yourself for all eternity.  Very neat symbolism.  If a couple is married in the temple after having children or adopts children, the children come to the sealing room with them to be sealed to the parents for eternity.  The family then kneels around the altar.

The next stop was my second favorite - the baptismal font.  When I say it was huge, it's an understatement.  The room was two stories and you walk into the level where you'd walk into the font, which has a few steps down to the pool area.  The font was held up by statues of 12 almost life size oxen representing the 12 tribes of Israel (a good Catholic then jumps to the 12 Apostles as well, making this even cooler symbolism for me).  The Mormon's believe in baptism by submersion, and fittingly there is a picture of John baptizing Jesus in the Jordan in that room.  Off to the side is the Confirmation room where members gather with the newly baptized to invoke the gifts of the Holy (Ghost) Spirit.  I love that the idea of Confirmation is essentially the same for our two faiths.   I learned that a typical member is baptized around age 8.  And converts whenever they are ready. Confirmation is typically done the same day, or the next day.  Members can also be baptized for the salvation of a dead family member who was not a member.  They believe that their family member can then choose to accept the benefits or not.  It sounds very strange at first listen, but when you think about Catholics who pray for the souls in purgatory or do novenas for them, it's really no different.  I love the connection that both faiths have with ensuring salvation for their loved ones.

And lastly we went to the celestial room.  The room is almost all white with Gold accents.  It has stained glass windows of shades of white in organic patterns.  Huge mirrors.  An enormous, fabulous crystal chandelier (which directs your eyes to heaven).  White Queen Ann style or white couches for sitting and praying.  The room is simple, but it's simplicity is so clearly a glimpse at heaven.  This is the ultimate place for Mormons to come pray, receive answers to prayers, and simple center themselves.  Lisa said she would come there often when she was pregnant just to spend time in peaceful prayer with her little one inside.  The way members describe the feelings, emotions and peace they find in the celestial room, is the same that a Catholic would describe an Adoration Chapel: full of the presence of God, a glimpse of heaven.

Our tour ended in a tent with cookies and lemonade.  Many of the missionaries from all over Georgia were there to help with the tours and answer questions at the end of the tour.  I was expecting some kind of bombardment with pamphlets and invitations (as per stereo types, sorry Lisa!), but it was quite the opposite.  I felt so welcomed for being "me" - a visitor. And was respected for my strong Catholic faith.  In fact many of the women I talked with had questions for me, and loved sharing in our common beliefs rather than focusing on our differences. The whole experience was outstanding.

Congratulations to the Latter Day Saints on their new incredible temple in Atlanta.  What a fabulous place to worship!

10 comments:

  1. This is an exceptional post. I found it on the LDS church's website. Very nice rundown of your experience. It is great that people focus on their similarities--not their differences. Happy Easter!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for sharing. I appreciated your perspective. The temple is indeed a special place to worship and I enjoyed taking my children and non-LDS friends on the tour.

    -Lauren

    ReplyDelete
  3. Holy cow, I went to read this article on the temple's facebook page (seems like an oxymoron!), little did I know it was written by my friend!! I'm so glad you enjoyed it- thanks for coming with me. And if you want some pamphlets, I can hook you up! :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you for sharing. I am a Latter Day Saint, but I have great respect for the Catholic faith. It is comforting to know that we can find common ground even though we are from different faiths. To me, this is a testimony of God's love for all of His children.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I too loved this post as a Latter Day Saint. So wonderful to focus on what we share or have in common. You did a wonderful job of describing it. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  6. What a nice post. I'm glad you enjoyed being in the Temple (my brother and sister-in-law were married in the Atlanta Temple just a few months after it was originally dedicated).

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. It was a wonderful way to start my day.

    ReplyDelete
  8. It's great to see what someone of a different (yet not as different as we may think) faith experienced and thought of their time in the Atlanta Temple ~ Renee @
    MeMyselfandMommy.com

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank you for sharing your perspective! This is a beautiful tribute to the LDS faith as well as your own.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thanks a bunch for sharing your experience. As a Latter-day Saint who travels a lot across the US for my line of work, I meet a lot of people of other faiths. I too, love to learn the similarities and common beliefs between my faith and theirs, and yes I have met several of the Catholic Faith. I have also visited several catherdrals~beautiful architecture! Our next stop in travels ~ Atlanta!!! Yahoo...I am super excited to go and visit this temple with my wife. WE were sealed in the Salt Lake City temple six years ago and love to see the many different temples as we travel around. I would love to invite you to drop by my blog that I keep for sharing my faith-building experiences!

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for reading! We'd love to hear from you!