Friday, 22 October 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 30: A tour of the Lāʻie Hawaiʻi Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church)

Hawaiʻi's Taj Mahal, the Mormon (LDS Church) temple in Lāʻie, will be open to the general public for three weeks starting Friday, 22 October, 2010.

The temple is noteworthy in that it was the first Mormon temple erected outside of Utah, being first dedicated on 27 November, 1919, but to those familiar with the religion's history, this shouldn't be surprising.

To make a very long, outlandish story shorter, the Mormon narrative sharply diverges from Christianity in the belief that, sometime around 600 BCE, a group of Israelites sailed to the Western Hemisphere and established themselves somewhere in the Americas. These Israelites ultimately splintered into factions, principally: the fair-skinned and righteous, the Nephites; and the swarthy, wicked Lamanites. Eventually, Jesus dropped by the Americas after his resurrection and imparted His religion, all peoples were united, and peace reigned for 84 years in the hemisphere.

Then, slowly at first, Lamanite darkies started to fall away from Christ's faith, abandoning themselves to wickedness and sin. After ca 230 CE, war erupted between the Nephites and the numerically-greater Lamanites until, finally, in a series of wars from 236 to ca 400 CE, the "true believers in Christ," the Nephite nation, were completely liquidated.

Importantly, though, before the Nephites were utterly destroyed, their two final prophets and military commanders, Mormon and his son Moroni, transcribed the history of their people and of their religion on tablets that are now knowns as the "Golden Plates." Moroni, in anticipation of his death at the hands of Lamanites, buried the plates in what is now Wayne County, in New York state, whereafter Moroni, the last Nephite, was killed.

On September 21, 1823, the resurrected Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith, Jr., and commanded him to first retrieve the Golden Plates from the Hill Cumorah and then to translate the plates into English, so that God's true religion could be once again known to the world. Joseph Smith did just as he was instructed, translating the plates from an unknown script called "reformed Egyptian" to English using at lease two seer stones (rocks, basically). Smith would carefully place the seer stones, known as the Urim and Thummim, in the bottom of his inverted top hat. The Urim and Thummim (plus top hat) would act as miraculous translating goggles, and it was in this manner that Joseph Smith translated the Golden Plates, a work that we now call The Book of Mormon.

This shameless conman and his misogynist cronies were driven out of New York and Ohio and Missouri and Illinois before they walked across the Great Plains to Utah, at that time not fully under the direct control of the United States government, which they dubbed the State of Deseret. The settlers quickly got themselves into trouble with the United States government, famously when they butchered an entire wagon-train of settlers bound for California, the so-called Mountain Meadows Massacre of 11 September, 1857.

With the word out in the United States that Mormons were, at best, a band of polygamist heathens, the nascent church met with little success in its efforts to attract converts. It was decided that the best course of action was to direct the missionaries to England and Scandinavia, not least because, as populations, they were the whitest, blondest and therefore most righteous. Surprisingly, the church succeeded in attracting converts, and, importantly, settlers, nearly all of whom quickly departed for Mormon colonies in the State of Deseret.

At around the same time, the Latter-day Saints sent their first contingent of missionaries to the Sandwich Islands, arriving on December 12, 1850, in Honolulu Harbor. The day following their arrival, the missionaries climbed a hill above Honolulu (Pacific Heights) and constructed the first (albeit crude) Mormon place of worship in Hawaiʻi and prayed. From then on, the church has enjoyed unusual popularity, not only in Hawaiʻi, but across Polynesia.

This popularity isn't completely unwarranted. Though the position has changed, originally, Mormons considered Polynesians to be the forgotten remnants of sainted, Nephite ancestors, and they largely treated them admirably, at a time when purported Christians were shamelessly exploiting Hawaiians (Jack London remarked at the time that "It comes with rather a shock to learn that in Hawaii the obscure, martyrdom-seeking missionary sits at the head of the table of the moneyed aristocracy.") and even stealing their entire country. In addition, the Mormon emphasis on hearth and home must have resonated with the culture-shocked Hawaiians, who loved their extended families and were reeling from demographic decimation and cultural collapse. It's our suspicion, also, that Mormonism represented the "Other" in the minds of both Hawaiians and Haoles of the late 19th century; If Anglicanism was a slap in the face to the children of the Calvinist missionaries, Mormonism was a dead fish wrapped in newspaper on their front lanai.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints centered their colony in Hawaiʻi in the Koʻolauloa district of Oʻahu, at the ancient place of refuge in that district, Puʻuhonua o Lāʻie. The colony prospered, so much so that by the turn of the 20th century a temple was considered justified.

Mormon temples are quite different than meeting houses. The latter are simply the weekly places of worship, similar to regular Christian churches, and all, members and non-members, are welcome to attend. Temples, though, are the holiest of holies in Mormonism, and not only must one be a Mormon to enter, but that Mormon must be in good standing in the church, pass an interview with their bishop and receive something called a "temple recommend," all just to gain entry to the temple.

That's why we read with such interest when the First Presidency of the Church announced a public open house at the Lāʻie Hawaiʻi Temple. This three-week period is a rare chance to enter the temple—something that many church members never get to do.

The open house and the tours that accompany it are possible now because the church has not yet re-dedicated the temple after its recent renovation. Since the temple was completed and dedicated in 1919, it has only been open for tours once before, in 1978 when it was similarly reopened after renovation.

This is the public's opportunity to see for themselves whether Mormon temples are repositories for cryopreserved cadavers (we've heard the names Walt Disney and Howard Hughes mentioned) or immense caches of Pepsi (caffeine-free, we assume) and AK-47s; or whether there is evidence of animal-sacrifice or Masonic rites; or whether members of the church really wear green aprons and confectioner's hats and give secret handshakes while in the temple (we're not telling).

We suggest that you make your reservation and an excursion to Lāʻie. We predict that it will be nothing if not a memorable experience, whether you simply learn the rather banal truth, as we see it, that Mormonism is just plain mass-delusion and groupthink with genuinely friendly people, or whether you only relish in the sight of the spectacularly white temple—itself a "pearl of great price"—standing out against the extravagant black-green of the Koʻolau.

The Lāʻie Hawaiʻi Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) is located at 55-600 Naniloa Loop, Lāʻie 96762-1299, Hawaiʻi, adjacent to Brigham Young University—Hawaiʻi.

For Lāʻie Hawaiʻi Temple Open House Reservations, visit 

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