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.

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About Chris Henrichsen

Chris Henrichsen has moved Approaching Justice off of Patheos. Find his latest posts and the new Approaching Justice. Thanks!


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