It was a dark and stormy night...
No, seriously, it was. It's been snowing all day.
About a month ago, I heard that the new Mormon Temple opening in Calgary was having open houses (you should've seen the schedule. Every day but Sunday for a good month... tours every 15 minutes all day long... you had to sign up online). I signed up for a 7:15 tour on the last day possible - the Temple will be dedicated next week, and after that, nobody that isn't a certified Mormon gets in.
I am fascinated by the Mormons. I've watched numerous PBS specials on the religion, and while I think, in all honesty, that it seems more like a cult than a religion, it doesn't stop my interest.
I showed up to the Temple a couple of minutes late, but they were starting tours every three minutes, so I gathered with one group in a room in the first building (I can't remember what they called this building... but it had a gym - Mormons are big on basketball - some meeting rooms and a bunch of Bishops offices) to watch a short video on the history of the Mormons and a bit about the history of the religion in Alberta.
Then the tour began. I'd be lying if my intention wasn't to take illegal pictures of the inside (no cameras or cell phones allowed), but there was a volunteer about ever twelve feet (I'm not exaggerating in the least) and I couldn't get any shots (and this is coming from a girl that had pictures of the inside of the Sistine Chapel while under the threat of the Swiss Guard).
First stop... booties. Apparently the Mormons don't believe in dark coloured flooring, so everyone had to don little white booties before we entered the Temple.
Our tour guides were a little old Mormon couple. Not sure where they were from, but they were nice enough. We entered the Temple, and off to the side I saw a room of white garments - once the Temple is dedicated people only wear white cotton church mandated clothing inside (for purity). We toured the baptismal room - basically a giant marble hot tub that's base was constructed of twelve marble oxen (I think) that represented the twelve Apostles. There was so much marble in that room - I can't even imagine the cost.
This is one of the things I don't really like about Mormonism... not only do they baptize the living, but they also baptize the deceased, even if they weren't Mormon. Apparently this gives everyone a chance at a meaningful eternal afterlife with God. The signage did say that only those that accept this will actually lead the fulfilling afterlife, and those that don't will basically just go in as they would, but as someone who has chosen to live life without God, I don't want to be baptized at all. But I guess there's nothing I can do but just not accept it.
We saw a couple of sealing rooms, where husbands and wives are bound for both life and the afterlife, and where families are also bound together, with a velvet alter-type bench in the middle of the room. There was an amazing crystal chandelier in the Celestial room and a couple of instruction rooms that had Alberta themes painted on the wall.
The Temple was mainly marble, and there were lots of stained glass widows that all had wheat themes. There were wheat symbols everywhere, in the staircase finials, the woodwork and doorknobs. The colours were all cream, tan and light brown (hence the booties). The carpets were all cream with patterns around the edges of the rooms.
At the end of the tour, we were led back to the first building, where we could have juice or cookies (no coffee as Mormons don't "do" caffeine). There were lots of volunteers to ask questions of, but I just chose to leave.
Everyone was very nice, but it seemed that everyone came from the same mold. Nobody tried to convert me, and I was thanked for coming a number of times.
My only real complaint has absolutely nothing to do with the church or the volunteers - it has to do with three girls that came on the tour visibly drunk. I found that so disrespectful. We were invited into the Mormon house of worship, and whether or not I agree with the principles of their faith or not, I am sure that I did nothing to disrespect them while there. The volunteers didn't single them out at all, but a bunch of us sure gave them the stink-eye.
In all, I'm glad I went. I'd been in Mormon churches before (people still go to those for their regular worship, the temple is more so for special events and such and isn't open on Sundays at all), but unless you are Mormon, you don't normally ever get to see the inside of a Temple. I even know friends that couldn't even see their sister get married, as she had converted to Mormonism and they hadn't - all they have of the day are pictures taken on the Cardston Temple steps.
That said, I'll continue to be fascinated from afar, as I just don't get their beliefs at all.
My Brush with Mormonism
It was a dark and stormy night...