Oquirrh Mountain Utah Temple: Sacred Space

photo by Scott G. Winterton

photo by Scott G. Winterton

While I was in Salt Lake City for the UUA annual assembly, I took advantage of being in the center of Latter Day Saints country. I went across the street from the convention hall to hear the organ recital at the Salt Lake Tabernacle. The building has amazing acoustics. The organist demonstrated this by ripping a newspaper and by dropping three pins. And yes, you could hear the pin drop from several hundred feet away.

It so happened that a new temple had been built in South Jordan, Utah, just south of Salt Lake City. It was currently open to the public prior to its consecration ceremony in August when it will be closed to the public. The Oquirrh Mountain Utah Temple faces the majestic mountains. 

I had never been inside a Mormon Temple before so I was curious as to what it looked like, how it differed from what I know about temples in general. I was surprised as it did not meet any of my expectations. What I did not expect was the intimacy of the space. The rooms are for individual and family sessions with their god. There are no large sanctuaries within the Temple.

There are small chapels but these are also intimate spaces. There are changing rooms for women and men to exchange their every day clothes for clothing that has been set aside for creating covenants. These covenants are with each other, such as committed in a marriage, and with their god. A pamphlet on the Oquirrh Temple states, “In [these temples], faithful Church members receive instruction, make covenants, and draw closer to the Lord.”

This temple once consecrated will be considered sacred space. This is a place where the holy of holies will dwell. It is for the Mormons the house of the Lord. I began to wonder what constitutes sacred spaces in our lives.

Our Unitarian Universalist tradition does not consecrate sacred spaces in the manner that this other American born religion does. Is there something that we as Unitarian Universalists hold sacred?

We encourage our youth to go on a field trip to Boston, MA where Unitarianism and Universalism had its roots. So there is this Mecca to a historical site not only to the beginnings of our religion but also to the beginnings of our democracy. But this is not the same.

What is held sacred? What is considered by Unitarian Universalists to be holy-remove your shoes-ground? I think there is room in our faith to open the door for such a sacred space to be created. A place where we can experience the transcendent moments that such sacred spaces engenders. What we label these transcendent moments will differ between us but to have an opportunity to experience them is important in our search for truth and meaning. Search out the sacred spaces in our lives and allow them to speak what they will to us. Blessings,


One Comment

  1. I am on the Our Home Newsletter mailing list and I read about your trip to Salt Lake City and your visit to the Mormon Temple. I’m glad that you had an enjoyable time, but feel that you may have come away from the Mormon Temple open house with more than a few misconceptions about the Mormon religion.

    I don’t think this is any fault on your part. Let’s just say that the Mormon Church has a tendency to misrepresent itself to outsiders.

    I know. I was a devout Mormon for 15 years until resigning from the religion in 2002. As a missionary in Las Vegas and later as one of the assistant pastors (First Councilor in the Branch Presidency)of the Laurel, Mississippi branch, I was taught that I was to give potential converts to Mormonism the bare minimum of information. It’s called giving people the “milk before the meat”. I think this is what happened to you at the open house at that particular temple in Utah. Much like Scientology, Mormonism has different levels not available to outsiders or to the general membership. The deeper you go into Mormonism, the more you learn and the greater control the church gains over your life.

    After I converted to Mormonism in 1981, I found out that, in order to become a god and rule over my own set of planets, I had to go to the temple. In the temple, I would go through a ceremony called the “endowment”. There I would learn the “key words, signs tokens and penalties that would enable me to pass by the angels that stand guarding the path to heaven and then become a god with wives, spirit children and my own universe.

    Although the Mormon Temple ceremony has changed since 1990, the following is an accurate presentation of what I went though:

    In the temple, I was given a new name which I was told to keep secret and given special underwear (The Garment of the Holy Priesthood). Before joining Mormonism I was never told about any of this. In the temple I was instructed to keep all of it secret.

    I was later to find out that Mormonism operates on secrecy and deception. My story of how I got out of Mormonism and regain my dignity as a human being is a long one but I’m not alone. Thousands and thousands of people have traveled the same path as I have.

    One exmormon who has a great website is Richard Packham. I’ve met him through the internet and have come to admire and respect this retired attorney and his willingness to help those struggling to break free of Mormonism. His site is as follows:

    It is not my intention here to slander or defame the Mormon people. I met many very good, kind and gentle Latter-day Saints during my time in the LDS Church. Yet many (not all) of those same people that I met along the way have chosen to shun me because I have left their faith. I can’t deny that the leadership in Salt Lake are shrewd businessmen who wield absolute power over a totalitarian system. To them, that makes me an “apostate”.

    In closing, I enjoy your monthly column and want you to know that I fully support the struggle for gay and lesbian couples to marry. I believe the time for that to happen is NOW. The Mormon Church will fight it tooth and nail and but as with their defense of segregation, they will lose.

    All the best to you,
    Bryan O’Neil

    Bryan: thank you for your thorough summary of Mormonism. I think that all religions have something of worth to teach others and the notion of having a sacred space is perhaps what I gleamed from the Mormons. It does not mean that I would embrace the secretness of the sacred space that the Mormons place on the temple. The idea of the sacred space, however, I believe could be grounding for many. I actually dated a Mormon for a time who was excommunicated for being gay. So I got to understand the pain that excommunication cost him. It was total and complete. Again, thank you for sharing your insights. Blessings,

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