Confessions of an Anonymous Coward

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Last Time In The Temple

So, this preceding Saturday (and yes, I've been meaning to make this post much earlier; still been busy) I went to the temple for what will probably be the last time. I used to be a regular temple-goer, back when I still considered myself a faithful Mormon, going on average once a month or two. Now, of course, I've decided I have better things to do than sit through a two-hour mildly interactive film that I've seen so many times before and that really isn't very interesting to begin with. (And yes, that is what a typical temple visit comprises; I may make a "Mormonism 101" post about that later.) And, as I've mentioned before, my temple recommend--the slip of paper that allows a Mormon to enter the temple--expires in August, and when it does I have no intention of renewing it, since doing so would require telling the bishop and the stake president that I believe in God and believe that the leaders of the church are real "prophets, seers, and revelators", among other things.

So why did I go this last Saturday? Well, because it wasn't a typical temple trip. There was going to be a special meeting in the rarely-used priesthood assembly room. Most Mormon temples don't have such a room; the Los Angeles temple was the first temple built outside Utah to have one, and remains one of only two temples outside Utah that do (the other being the Washington D.C. temple).

I had never seen the assembly room--and besides I was curious just what this special meeting was all about--so I decided that, since my temple recommend was still good for another few months, I might as well take advantage of that and go.

It turned out to be a letdown in pretty much every way. Not that I was expecting any spiritual enlightenment, of course, but I thought, with all the hype and hoopla surrounding this meeting and the stake's fervency in encouraging everyone to go, that maybe there was going to be some big announcement or some supposed "revelation" given there. Nope. It was a standard meeting in pretty much every way, distinguished from the usual chapel sessions that often precede endowment sessions at the temple only by its length and by the presence of a choir. Apparently this "special meeting" had been called not because anyone really thought they had anything important to say, but just to commemorate the temple's "jubilee"--at least, that's what they called it, though I don't know why; it's presumably supposed to be a reference to some kind of anniversary, but since the temple's construction was started in 1951 and completed in 1955 and it was dedicated in 1956, 2007 doesn't in fact mark any noteworthy anniversary of anything in particular. (It's the 70th anniversary of the announcement that a temple was going to be built in Los Angeles, and the purchase of the land, but that would seem like an odd thing to commemorate. Anyway, it seems they're commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the temple's dedication, but why they're doing it a year late I'm not sure.) There was a talk or two recounting the history of the temple, but beyond that it was the usual pap about how this was the House of the Lord, how powerful the Spirit was here, the joy of helping the dead who weren't baptized in life escape from Spirit Prison (through the ordinances performed for the dead in the temple), and so forth. I had considered smuggling in a small voice recording device to record the events of this much-ballyhooed special meeting, but in the end hadn't really felt comfortable doing so; as it turned out, I didn't miss anything, since nothing happened worth recording.

As for the assembly room itself...well, my first surprise was when I took the stairs to get there. Every bit of space I'd seen inside the temple was lavishly decorated and lovingly appointed--until last Saturday. Those stairways were completely unadorned, plain cement stairs that wouldn't have been out of place in any old utilitarian building. Evidently they weren't used enough that anyone felt the need to make them look nice. The assembly room itself, of course, was more ornate...but still wasn't anything really special. It was big--it seated twenty-five thousand, someone said--but it wasn't anything more than a big empty room with an organ and a stand--some tiered seats and a podium--on either end. The attendees were accommodated by filling the bare floor with folding chairs. One of the speakers mentioned that the room had been recarpeted and otherwise extensively renovated before its use this year, which means that previously it was apparently even less impressive.

Ah, well. Still, now I've been in the assembly room and know what it's like, so I won't say the trip wasn't a total loss. But I wasn't really planning on going back to the temple again after last Saturday, and that utterly unimpressive special temple jubilee meeting certainly did nothing to change my mind.