A high point of our time in southern Alberta, Canada

A high point of our time in southern Alberta, Canada July 18, 2022


Alberta Temple
The Cardston Alberta Temple  (LDS Media Library)


One of the many highlights of our time here in southern Alberta has been our opportunity to participate in a session at the Cardston Alberta Temple on Saturday.  Another temple patron whom I did not know approached me and requested that I take one of his family names through, so I represented one Mills Robinson, who passed away on 2 April 1900.


This is the second time that my wife and I have attended the temple in Cardston, but the first time in many years.  Doing so had special personal meaning for both of us.  For me, there were two particular reasons:  First of all, I love the design of it.  As I mentioned at the opening of my Cardston fireside yesterday evening, when I was quite young, I dreamed of being an architect.  I’m still exceptionally taken by beautiful buildings.  As I said last night, the only thing that really prevented me from pursuing a career in architecture was my utter and absolute lack of even the slightest trace of visual talent.  I can’t draw.  Not at all.  And every time that I sat down, inspired by a striking building that I had just seen to sketch my own, my creation emerged looking like a box.  Or, if I were really on a roll, it looked like a box on a box.  I’ve since realized, of course, that absence of talent hasn’t prevented quite a few architects from having lucrative careers.  But it was enough to dissuade me.


Still, though, I love beautiful buildings.  And one of my architect heroes is the great Frank Lloyd Wright.  (Many years before I realized that Ayn Rand’s fictional character Howard Roark is, in some regards, a thinly veiled Frank Lloyd Wright, I read and loved her novel The Fountainhead.  I’ve since come to a much lower opinion of Ayn Rand than I held as a teenager, and I feel that I need someday to re-read the novel.  I’m curious to see whether I’ll still like it.)  Anyway, as I’ve said here before, the Cardston Alberta Temple — which was designed by the, to me, absolutely great Latter-day Saint architectural firm of Pope & Burton (see the Wikipedia articles on Harold W. Burton and  Hyrum Pope) — is a magnificent exemplar of Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Prairie Style.”  Of course, it’s dedicated to a form of service that would not only have been pure nonsense to Ayn Rand but complete anathema to her.


Another part of my fascination for the Cardston Alberta Temple is its longtime association with Edward James Wood.  When I was a teenager, I believe, I read about a number of remarkable spiritual experiences that he had received, and I’ve always wanted to learn more about him.  In fact, I went into the Cardston Bookstore on Saturday to see whether they had anything about Brother Wood.  I bought a history of the temple in Cardston (written by a son of President Wood), but, although they looked for it, it appears that they had just sold their one used copy of E. J. Wood’s autobiography.  I was disappointed.


My wife has a personal connection to the Cardston Alberta Temple.  Her German-born maternal grandfather, who went on to have a lengthy career as a skilled cabinet maker and woodworker and whom I was privileged to come to know for a number of years at the end of his long life, apprenticed as a nineteen-year-old on the temple, which is justly famous for its beautiful interior woodwork.  We don’t know exactly where he served in the project; given his young age, he probably didn’t take a leading role on any of the prominent features.  But sitting in the unique and elegant dark-wood celestial room after our temple session was complete was an emotional experience for my wife as she thought of her grandfather.


After we were done, I brazenly asked a counselor in the temple presidency whether we might look in on the baptistry.  I was prepared for a No, since, as I told him, I realize perfectly well that temples aren’t built to be tourist attractions.  But he answered with an easy Yes, and deputized one of the other temple workers to take us down.  One we were down in the baptistry — which, in perfect symbolism, is precisely at the center of the temple and exactly below the celestial room — the baptistry coordinators, who were in a bit of a temporary lull for a few minutes, took time to tell us about the history and particular features of that beautiful space.  (They even knew about the rancher whose oxen had served as the models for the sculpted oxen supporting the baptismal font; I think that he was a relative of one of them.)


And then, when we exited the temple (past the sculpted relief of the New Testament woman at the well by Torlief Knaphus that was once exterior to the temple but is now enclosed within its annex), we stopped off at the visitors center, where a kindly local senior missionary couple spoke with us about the history of Cardston and its stunning temple, and showed us historical photographs of both.  The photographs made it even more remarkable to me that so small a town — far smaller still in the early 1900s — is blessed with such a sacred structure and so striking an architectural monument.


In our conversation with the senior missionaries in the visitors center, the thought came up that, surely, among the reasons for the construction of the temple in Cardston was the fact that the Latter-day Saints who settled southern Alberta had come here because they had been sent by the Church.  They didn’t come for land or wealth, but because they were faithful and obedient.  And now they were hundreds and hundreds of miles from the nearest temple, unable to do work on behalf of their kindred dead, unable to receive the ordinances of the temple without a lengthy and arduous journey.  I know that the similar sacrifices of the Saints in Colonia Juarez, Mexico, were on the mind of President Gordon B. Hinckley when the revelation came to him that launched the construction of very small temples — including one in Colonia Juarez itself — immediately after his visit there.


I have loved being here among the Latter-day Saints in Alberta.  My wife and I are already talking about coming back next year, if we can, for the centennial of the Cardston Alberta Temple.  I expect that there will be a celebration.


Posted from Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada



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