Nathan Poklar ’24
Driving down Kenaston Boulevard near Bridgewater, you might notice a great brick building, decorated with stained glass and with a golden angel crowning the steeple. Over the past three years, the building has slowly crept up, with many wondering what it could possibly be. Finally, we have the answer — a Mormon temple. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (better known as the Mormons) is a religious group largely left misunderstood and mocked by the public.
Though not recognized as a denomination of Christianity by the Vatican, the LDS Church declares itself of the Christian faith, stating, “members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unequivocally affirm themselves to be Christians.” Mormons have places of gathering similar to churches called stakes and wards, but their most sacred places are temples.
There are only 169 temples worldwide, and they serve the purpose of hosting special ceremonies, such as marriages and posthumous baptism. Normally, only members of the LDS church are allowed into their temples. However, when temples are built or renovated, the Church opens them to the public before they are dedicated. Earlier this fall, the Mormons finished constructing their Winnipeg temple and they hosted tours of the building. Not wanting to miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I went to get a tour of this religion. Walking up the visitor’s centre near the temple, I was anxious.
Throughout my life, I had been told that the Mormons were some unknown, weird religious cult. It felt like I was walking into the belly of the beast, knowingly entering the temple of a clandestine and strange group of people. Yet when I entered the building, I was greeted by a group of enthusiastic missionaries. After introducing myself, I was brought to a small room with a white screen, a projector, and a group of people who were also trying to learn more about the Mormon faith. In the room, the missionaries played an educational video that detailed the importance of temples, with testimonials from Mormons around the globe about the spiritual impact of the temple.
After finishing the video, we were directed by two well-dressed missionaries into the temple, where we met our tour guide. The interior of the building was adorned with prairie crocuses displayed in every pattern. First, we were led to the Room of the Baptismal Font, where dead people are proxy-baptized through living members. On either side were great paintings of Jesus being baptized in the River Jordan and Jesus baptizing Indigenous people. Next, we were shown the Instruction Room, where members pray and make personal covenants with God, which they proclaim on an ornate altar at the centre of the room.
We were then led by our tour guide to the Sealing Room, where witnesses sit and watch an engaged couple kneel at a giant altar and proclaim their eternal love for each other. On opposite sides of the bright white walls were great mirrors (symbolizing the eternality of love) and there was a chandelier of thousands of crystals hanging overhead. With great reverence, we were brought to the holiest place in the temple: the Celestial Room. Decorated with mahogany furniture, giant mirrors, marble floors, white walls, and the largest chandelier that I have ever seen, our tour guide joyfully told us that this room was a taste of what heaven felt like—it was the dwelling place of God on Earth.
After explaining the room’s purpose, the organizers invited us to stand and just “feel the presence of God” around us. Standing in the room, I am not sure if I felt God, but it was a calming experience. Five minutes later, we were brought outside, where we were given stickers, pamphlets, a King James Version of the Bible, and a copy of the Book of Mormon. My experience with the Mormons has allowed me to understand a religion often treated as a joke. While I don’t believe that I will ever become a Mormon, being invited to their holiest place of worship has given me the ability to empathize with their unique faith tradition and see past the jokes that mock them.