The Temple of Joseph and the Temple of Sam

A couple of years ago, my family made the four hour trip from Casper, WY to Billings, MT to attend the LDS Temple in Billings. Upon arrival in Billings, we decided to do initiatory work for some of Lyndee’s ancestors. She went in first while I waited in the waiting room with Todd, Shem, and Geneva (at the time 11, 9, and 5, respectively).

After the drive, I was looking forward to relaxing in the temple.

Todd had another plan.

He had been promised a cover for his iPod touch when I had purchased covers for iPhones earlier in the week. Due to the trip, the acquisition of a case had been postponed a number of times.

Todd was now frustrated.

He didn’t want to hang around the temple.

He wanted to go to…Wal-Mart.

This made me think of a Richard Bushman essay I had read in which Bushman, a prominent historian of both America and Mormonism, compared the symbolic meaning of two early Illinois cities…Chicago and Nauvoo.

Chicago is the great city of American Industrial Revolution. It is also the back drop of Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle.”

Nauvoo was established at the height of Joseph’s communalism. While the center of Chicago’s activity was commerce, the name Nauvoo replaced the city’s earlier name of Commerce. At the heart of Nauvoo was not money and trade, but the Temple.

As I listened to my tired 11 year-old beg to go to Wal-Mart, I realized that the focus of our family is not the temple of Joseph Smith, but the temple of Sam Walton.

Now, I am not a Wal-Mart hater. Yet, I had then a surreal personal realization that my family, both individually and collectively, is more Chicago than Nauvoo. We are more Commerce than Nauvoo.

This is why the idea of the temple as a refuge from the world is important. Not only is it a refuge from the language and immorality of the world…it is a refuge from commercialism and greed. This is also how I have come to view the idea of the Sabbath.

I am still working through the symbolism of the temple rituals which perplex me to some extent. However, I think I know what I want the temple to symbolize for me and my family.

A refuge.

Categories: Blog

3 replies »

  1. I enjoyed reading this immensely Chris. Thank you for posting it. In the Catholic tradition this is the week of the Feast of Corpus Christi, when the church celebrates what we believe to be the real presence of the Lord in the Eucharist. Traditionally this meant placing a host in a monstrance — that large, ornate and sun-shaped golden stand — and carrying it outside in solemn procession and around the church to share this witness with the world “outside.” Your blog posting reminded me of the tensions between the two worlds we’re asked, as believers, to inhabit every day. If you’re interested in reading the work of a non-Mormon biblical scholar who has influenced a great many LDS, Catholic and Orthodox thinkers about the nature of the temple and the origins of Christianity I recommend to you the writings of Margaret Barker ( I’ve followed your work for some time and wish you much success in the future.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s