Tuesday, April 27, 2004

“One of the hottest tickets in New York right now is just off Broadway: a tour of a new Mormon temple. It's a rare glimpse of the architecture of a unique, often-misunderstood religion, a sense of the sacred expressed in light and mirrors and enveloping silence.”

This is how USA Today introduced what I consider to be an unusually graceful and insightful article which attempted to explain to New Yorkers what the new LDS temple is, how it operates, and why it is worth it to come on down and experience it for yourself. In my view the article (on page 7D of today’s the Lifestyle section) is well worth checking out.

Topics covered include architectural discussions of the symbolism used in the design and color schemes, the reciprocal relationship between temple building and local membership rates, and a thumbnail sketch of Church history and current membership.

One of the most useful notes in the article clarified the meaning and use of “proxy baptism,” an issue that has generated some controversy with the surrounding community here is NY. While describing the first level of the temple the article noted that:

“The baptismal font is sunk into a platform supported by oxen statues representing the 12 tribes of Israel. The font will be chiefly used by teenagers who take on the honor of baptizing ancestors. Blessing by proxy is "a choice, a free-will offering to a (non-Mormon) ancestor whose consciousness as an individual continues in the next life," explains church spokesman Dale Bills. It's not an imposition, insult or posthumous conversion.”

Given some of the odd things I’ve been hearing about proxy baptism on the “gentile street” lately (do in no small part to careless reporting in other news outlets) I think this is a pretty useful clarification. The article also made efforts to be even handed and intellectually honest, and in doing so demonstrated that such exercises can result in an intriguing and enlightening portrait of our community and spiritual heritage.

Given the current thirst for the transcendent in society, expressed in cultural venues as diverse as the “Passion of Christ” and the “Da Vinci Code,” perhaps this building will call forth more who can feel the Divine presence expressed in “light and enveloping silence.”

Check out the link for the full text: