Are These Rooms Modest?

May 19, 2011 | 91 comments
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Salt Lake LDS Temple Celestial Room Manti LDS Temple Sealing Room

Follow up questions:

  1. Is it possible for any room to be immodest?
  2. Can (lack of) functionality render something immodest?
  3. Can extreme departure from the norm render something immodest?
  4. Would rooms designed to draw a lot of attention be immodest?
  5. Can cost make rooms (or houses) immodest? (I don’t know how much these rooms cost, but a lot more than my family room!) If so, what is the price cut-off for modest rooms/houses?

Just in case it isn’t clear, this post really isn’t about these rooms. It is about the parameters of modesty.

Also to be clear, this isn’t about judging the house sitting next to yours that has rooms like this. Or maybe it is because, really, do you have a house next to yours with rooms like this? Tell it!

[Note: Hat tip to Julie. OK, complete plagiarization of Julie's shoe modesty post with minor edits for which I, alone, am responsible.]

91 Responses to Are These Rooms Modest?

  1. Paul on May 19, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    Nope. Nor were they meant to be: “The temple is a peaceful, sacred place, set apart from the cares and turmoil of the world. All areas of the temple are beautifully and carefully maintained to preserve a spirit of reverence.” (From lds.org: http://lds.org/church/temples/why-we-build-temples/inside-the-temple?lang=eng)

    The rooms you show are meant to be peaceful, sacred, beautiful and reverent. But modest? Nope.

  2. Paul on May 19, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    In answer to your five questions (BTW), yes to all.

    I suppose a logical follow-up question is if a room should be modest.

  3. Jacob M on May 19, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    The bathrooms at my work tend to be immodest. I’m not about to explain why.

  4. jimbob on May 19, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    If there’s anything I’ve learned from my wife’s YW teaching manuals about immodesty, it’s that modesty is mostly about not titillating the Aaronic Priesthood. So, I think the answer to your question is to show this picture to a 14-year old boy and ask him how it affects him.

  5. Martin on May 19, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Alison, I’m shocked. These rooms are most definitely NOT immodest, but reserved for private, personal, and intimate spiritual experience. They are not open to the public. You are clearly taking the discussion of modesty outside reasonable bounds to be provocative.

    Next thing you know, you’ll be posting pictures from anatomy textbooks and asking “is this woman modest? Look, at her display her muscles — she’s not even wearing skin!”

  6. Jota G on May 19, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    I guess since our homes are supposed to be like the temple, it’s okay to build extravagant homes.

  7. Ardis E. Parshall on May 19, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Congratulations, Alison. I thought my “Kiss my ass, damn you” post would forever remain T&S’s most vulgar. I was wrong. I surrender my crown to you.

  8. Lulubelle on May 19, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    mod·est? ?/?m?d?st/ Show Spelled
    [mod-ist] Show IPA
    –adjective
    1. having or showing a moderate or humble estimate of one’s merits, importance, etc.; free from vanity, egotism, boastfulness, or great pretensions.
    2. free from ostentation or showy extravagance: a modest house.
    3. having or showing regard for the decencies of behavior, speech, dress, etc.; decent: a modest neckline on a dress.

    Based on #2, no it is NOT modest! These rooms are extravagant, just as many palaces, mansions, homes, museums, castles… I think there is a place for over-the-top beauty.

    That said… I am uncomfortable with the amount of money the church spends on its temples with that money could be spent helping those in dire need of the basics– clean water, clothing, shelter, medicine… Jesus taught among the most poor and destitutue. I often wonder what He would think if he walked into some of our temples while much of humanity is living in squalid conditions.

  9. Suleiman on May 19, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    This is the most wrong-headed post I’ve ever read in the bloggernacle. Does form meet function in those rooms? Yes.

    Alison, you should be ashamed of yourself. If this distasteful nonsense is all you can contribute, please find another hobby.

  10. psychochemiker on May 19, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    I always love when Libruls start preaching their social gospels. I somehow remember a gospel quote of Jesus saying, “The poor will always be with you.” How could Jesus have been so callous? Well, I’m wiser than to try and judge God…

  11. Lulubelle on May 19, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    It’s AMAZING how quickly “some” are offended by some things that I find so utterly tame. Lighten up. It’s an interesting question and post– no one is saying anything blasphemous, as far as I can tell. Are our temples over the top? It’s debatable, now isn’t it?

  12. Bob on May 19, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    IMO__not modest. But then__ neither is Yosemite.

  13. Suleiman on May 19, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    Lulubelle,

    When I enter the SLC temple, I stand in awe of the sacrifice and dedication that our ancestors put into creating “sacred space.” I have similiar feelings when I visit religious edifices of other faiths as I travel. Nearly every religion has tried to create a real space or experience in art and structure, to bring a bit of the heavenly and ideal into the world. Our souls need to be fed aesthetically and visually as badly as our bodies need food.

    You may rightly worry about feeding and clothing the poor. Then do something about it. Many of those who experience these sacred places go forth and do exactly that.

  14. Dane Laverty on May 19, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    Hey peoples, Alison isn’t saying, “The temple is immodest.” She’s saying, “Hey, the temple has some very ornate rooms. Let’s talk about whether that’s modest or not, and why.”

    I don’t understand the automatic assumption that Alison is somehow criticizing the church or the temple with this post. She’s not even touching on any of the sacred work that is performed in the temple. She’s just talking about the architecture. Is it inappropriate to even use the temple as a point of discussion?

    For my own part, I don’t feel the rooms are immodest. I think that the work of the community to create shared spaces that are more than any of us can build on our own is a wonderful gift. When I enter the celestial room of a temple, I often find myself grateful that we church members have been willing to each pitch in so that I can enjoy a place and atmosphere that I could in no way replicate by my own means.

  15. Lulubelle on May 19, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    My ancestors sacrificed, too, to build that SLC temple. And I have sacrificed tremendously through tithes. And, yes, I DO SOMETHING about the poor beyond paying tithes. As if my comment lead you to any assumption that I don’t??

  16. Lulubelle on May 19, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    PS: And in my original post, I will remind you that I wrote: Based These rooms are extravagant, just as many palaces, mansions, homes, museums, castles… I think there is a place for over-the-top beauty.

  17. Ardis E. Parshall on May 19, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    Okay, Dane, the temple has some very ornate rooms. The temple is in an entirely different category from any other building on earth, and to invite commentary that ridicules it or mocks it or denigrates it or says that the House of the Lord should be anything less than our best and that the money should have been spent on any commenter’s pet project (no matter how worthwhile) is unworthy of T&S.

    Regardless of whatever Alison thinks she’s saying, this post is vulgar.

  18. Rameumptom on May 19, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    If one only looks at the price or elegance, perhaps it could be called immodest. However, the true focus of whether something is immodest is not its price, but its function. These rooms are to represent the Celestial Kingdom and the Shekinah or Lord’s Presence. Could we approximate such an experience with lesser items, perhaps from a garage sale? Personally, I do not think so.

    In a spiritual or metaphysical manner, these are not immodest, because of what they symbolize and represent. In fact, to create a dime store Celestial Room with dingy colors and tacky lights would actually make it immodest as to what it is to represent.

  19. Mommie Dearest on May 19, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    “Our souls need to be fed aesthetically and visually as badly as our bodies need food.”

    EXCELLENT point. Thing is, aesthetics are individually variable. Or to put it in the vernacular, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Of course, all of us templegoers find the temple to be a sublimely lovely place; lets get that out in the open and set it aside to examine the point of the post: To my 17 year old niece, the epitome of aesthetic renewal can be found in a pair of platform wedgies along with the outfit that matches it, and an appropriate event to wear them.

  20. Rameumptom on May 19, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    And I don’t have a problem with Allison asking such a question, because I have heard many people complain how much we’ve spent on temples, which money could have gone to their favorite charity instead.

    Such people miss the point of the Holy. Spirit needs feeding as much as Body. And in the case of the Temple, we are feeding salvation to the millions of living and dead souls that pass through the portals.

  21. Jonathan Green on May 19, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    This post misapplies the category of modesty (an individual virtue largely defined by superficial and exterior signs) to internal, communal worship space, and is, I think, a bad idea.

  22. Martin on May 19, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    Oh my goodness. My comment was supposed to be over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek. I thought the post was supposed to silly with maybe a hint of a real question — you know, kind of like satire, but without the scorn. Either you people are way too serious, or I’m a little too light-hearted.

  23. Mike S on May 19, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    1) I think sarcasm is completely lost on the internet. If you haven’t, check out the link on the original post.

    2) When we spend nearly $100 million on a single temple importing materials from Africa, China and around the world (Draper Utah), yet only around $15 million in cash annually on humanitarian needs, perhaps asking what our true priorities are makes some sense.

    When I picture Christ in the New Testament, I somehow don’t picture Him spending as much on buildings as on helping people. But perhaps I’m wrong.

    I think the post is fine. Maybe that means I’m vulgar?

  24. PaulM on May 19, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    Those rooms are gaudy and ugly and I pray they in no way represent what I might expect to see in the Celestial Kingdom. In fact, when I do attend the temple I honestly try to ignore my surroundings and concentrate on the ceremony lest I become distracted by the grotesque opulence arround me. Opulence does not offend my sensibilities but poor taste, as demonstrated by these examples, does. These are not modest rooms. They are opulent and designed to highlight expense much like the silhouette of the polo player is meant to highlight the expense of the shirt, tie, etc.

    Hopefully, that wasn’t too disgusting for Ardis’ tastes.

  25. Homer on May 19, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Okay, Dane, the temple has some very ornate rooms. The temple is in an entirely different category from any other building on earth, and to invite commentary that ridicules it or mocks it or denigrates it or says that the House of the Lord should be anything less than our best and that the money should have been spent on any commenter’s pet project (no matter how worthwhile) is unworthy of T&S.

    Regardless of whatever Alison thinks she’s saying, this post is vulgar.

    Seriously? Get off your high horse, if only for a second.

    We are a temple building people and in order to do that we [the church] pour hundreds of millions of dollars into tithing coffers annually in order to build these temples. In the process – throughout the process – we [the church] recuse ourselves of all responsibility in building that temple. We simply give money and leave the design, site selection, financial considerations and all the like to those in charge. Historically, this wasn’t always the case and, to be fair, it is a fairly recent phenomenon… but recuse ourselves we do.

    Who is to say [besides Ardis, who appears to be above this whole conversation] what we can/can’t build? Do we need the works of our hands [yes, build by men] to feel in a place of serenity and tranquility, to feel the Spirit? If we do [and sometimes we do], do we need to spend money hand-over-fist in order to do so, or can we have it look beautiful without the expensive ornateness we’ve all come to expect in LDS temples?

    Questioning the resources we pour into temples [not the point of the OP] is not only not vulgar, but likely prudent. We [the church] have as much a right to ask these questions as those in power who actually do ask these questions [at least I think they probably do].

    Seriously, can we cut the cost of one of our temples from $400 million to $300 million and use the difference to fund some projects for the poor? Does the fact that the temple is “entirely different … from any other building on earth” necessitate $400 million over $300 million? And, is asking about the finances or modesty of a temple “mock[ing] it or denigrat[ing] it”?

    Alternatively, we build temples hand-over-fist without specifying why we build them. We simply meet each general conference expecting more will be announced. I can’t even say there’s a portion of the LDS membership who asks how or why a certain site is selected. We just assume that’s where it’s needed… but, are these temples and their sites selected by revelation? If so, then why doesn’t the membership have access to those revelations? I don’t mind if they keep me out of the design process [because I do that for a living and it's not that fun], but how about we see a revelation stating why such-and-such temples are to be built? D&C 67 implies [and states] that we are entitled to review revelations, to have God confirm the truth of them to us… but we don’t even ask to see them, let alone read and ponder them. It’s become so commonplace that those steps are entirely bypassed these days.

    Is that, likewise, too vulgar a question to even mouth? Are we little more than a class of peasants that have no right to question what goes into temples and their building?

  26. Michelle B on May 19, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    I don’t think this post is meant to be offensive to the temple, but question the definition of modesty.

    We are told that are bodies are temples of God and to treat them accordingly. One of the reasons given to dress modestly is to show respect for HF and that if we wouldn’t mar the temple we shouldn’t do the same to our bodies.

    But we are told to dress our temple bodies modestly. By extension the physical temple building should be also. The temple is an architectural manifestation of our bodies. I don’t have enough time to make this crisper, so I hope my point is coming out.

    When I look at the rooms, not thinking about where they come from and I think they are beautiful but not modest. Should the temple building be modest? If not, then should my temple be modest?

    I have no conclusion for you. But thought provoking nonetheless.

  27. Peter LLC on May 19, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    Rats. I thought you were going to have us appraise these rooms.

  28. Britain on May 19, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    The poor you will always have with you.

  29. Alison Moore Smith on May 19, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    I was actually asked that question directly recently, with our stressing of modesty being applied to the temple. Actually, it wasn’t a question, it was a statement about our temples not following our modesty rules. In addition, multiple times in my life people have asked me why we “spend so much money on temples instead of using that money to help the poor.”

    I have a general response I usually give, but I intentionally chose not to give my own response until I heard what others had to say on the issue. I find the thoughtful responses here very helpful and interesting. And the funny ones, too.

  30. M. Buxton on May 19, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    Wow! I normally don’t agree with Alison, but I think it is wrong to suggest that her post (which just posits a series of questions) is somehow out of bounds for a T&S discussion. I tend to agree with Paul, that in a conventional sense, temple’s are not “modest” by design. I also think that there is some merit to Jonathan’s point that Alison’s questions may present a category problem. More broadly, here are two issues that this post and Julie’s got me thinking about.

    First, it is likely a mistake to (always) equate modesty with the correct moral choice, or that modesty necessarily even operates on the same plane as morality (I’m talking about right v. wrong, not the narrow sense of morality involving sexual behavior). This might be another way of stating Jonathan’s category problem. In other words, just because something is immodest does not mean it is immoral.

    Second, (and this is particularly relevant to sub-question 5) there may be good reasons to spend (even a lot of) money on beautiful things. The temple is a good example. But even in terms of personal purchases, what is wrong with me spending a lot of money on a custom suit, handmade furniture, or a work of art, if my money helps to allow the tailor, the furniture maker, or the artist to make a good living from making beautiful things? Certainly, the work of makers of beautiful things is just as valuable to society (if not more so) than those of other well-paid professionals.

  31. Rameumptom on May 19, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    Since 1985, the Church has spent over $1.1 Billion on humanitarian efforts. The average price of a small temple is between $5-10 million. So, we have not spent much more on the temples built since 1985 as we have on humanitarian aid. As it is, had we spent the $1.1 billion on temples, we would now have 100-200 more available. Given we’ve built just over 100 temples since 1985, we can see that the Church basically gives equal consideration for both.

    http://www.templestudy.com/2009/10/16/temple-construction-costs-humanitarian-aid/

  32. Rameumptom on May 19, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Besides, we can feed the poor OR we can exalt them OR we can do both. What good is feeding their bodies, if we do not provide the exalting ordinances? And again, it represents the Shekinah or Presence of God. Those who only can count dollars and cents seem to be like Judas counting the money in his purse. The precious oil poured onto Jesus could have been sold and given to the poor, after all (or so Judas argued). So, even Jesus saw the importance of using the finest products sometimes to perform the most important works.

  33. M. Buxton on May 19, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    Oops. I imagine no one was confused, but it should have been “…temples are not ‘modest’ by design.”

  34. Alison Moore Smith on May 19, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    I don’t want to comment much more until there is more input, but wanted to say that I M Buxton’s two points (#30) are important and some of those I’ve been thinking about (particularly the first) a lot. I hope we can delve into those ideas a bit. Also the idea of relativity (as Rameumpton addresses) is also a good discussion.

    • What is our working definition of modesty? Here is the one from the church website:

    Modesty is an attitude of propriety and decency in dress, grooming, language, and behavior. If we are modest, we do not draw undue attention to ourselves. Instead, we seek to “glorify God in [our] body, and in [our] spirit.

    • Is modesty always required?

    Thanks for the input so far. Look forward to more. :)

    P.S. Take a look at Rameupmtom’s link in #31. That post was prompted by a comment similar to the one that prompted this post.

    P.P.S. On a related issue, I’ve thought a lot about how the church gives donations. We have always donated to causes anonymously, being uncomfortable with the idea of getting recognition for doing good and thinking such attention was “immodest.”

    On the other hand, the church (and many really good wealthy people) often give quite publicly. I’ve wondered about the overall BENEFITS of letting people know about charitable acts. For example, when the church publicizes humanitarian contributions, it may encourage others to give, give a positive impression of the church, let people know about opportunities to serve, etc.

    If you have other ideas on modesty in that vein, please chime in.

  35. Paul on May 19, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    #25 Homer: Really? What is it you aren’t getting that you would like? Site selection criteria or specific revelation regarding each site? In his talk on temples in the April conference President Monson discussed the motivation for building so many — to have the temple convenient to as many members as possible, and he pointed out that now 85% of church members are within 200 miles of a temple.

    In October 1995, President Hinckley taught about temple building and his desire for temples to be closer to the people:

    “I have a burning desire that a temple be located within reasonable access to Latter-day Saints throughout the world. We can proceed only so fast. We try to see that each temple will be in an excellent location, where there will be good neighbors over a long period of time. Real estate prices in such areas are usually high. A temple is a much more complex structure to build than an ordinary meetinghouse or stake center. It is built to a higher standard of architecture. It takes longer and costs more. The work is moving about as fast as we can go. It is my constant prayer that somehow it might be speeded up so that more of our people might have easier access to a sacred house of the Lord.”

    In April 1997, he said, ” I hope to see temples so located that members of the Church can travel to one of these sacred houses within a reasonable distance of their homes. Though I live with it, this matter of temple construction is a thing of awesome wonder to me. We are trying to build in such a way and in such places across the world that these houses of the Lord may stand and serve through the Millennium.”

    In October 1997, President Hinckley announced smaller temples to be built in some locations, staffed and maintained by local workers rather than paid employees, and operated on more limited schedules, again in an effort to bring temples closer to people. But even these buildings should be built to temple standards as described above. He also spoke of how sites might be selected, inviting local stake presidents to let their needs be known.

    And finally when President Hinckely announced in April 1998 the plan to have 100 temples by the end of 2000, he again stressed it was to bring temple ordinances closer to the people throughout the world.

    My own observation is that not all temples are as ornate as the Salt Lake Temple. The one I attend is quite simple in structure and decoration.

    But, as I said in comment #1 — the rooms of the temple are not meant to be modest. From the earliest days of temple building in this dispensation, Saints have sought to give their best craftsmanship and materials in the building of the House of the Lord.

  36. Jacob M on May 19, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Homer and Paul M get my vote for dumbest comments. Have either of you been in a cathedral, particularly in Europe? Our most “opulent” temples are homely and . . . well . . . modest in comparison, and that’s not complaining about the cathedrals, either. Also, to claim that we build temples without specifying a reason is quite possibly the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. Have you lived in an area where a new temple was built? Every time I’ve heard an apostle or a member of the first presidency speak during the dedication or the groundbreaking they have always mentioned being guided by revelation.

    One last note, when you go into newer temples, they don’t look like the pictures up above. They usually look nice but not terribly ornate except for maybe the chandelier.

  37. jjohnsen on May 19, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    There were people in the shoe thread calling those heels immodest based only on price. Why couldn’t we apply the same to these rooms? Can anyone raise their hands and say they wouldn’t feel the spirit in a Celestial room if less money was spent constructing them? If it’s not ok, then is a there anything immodest with me spending a higher sum of money on shoes, laptops or clothing if I’m going to get more out of it?

  38. Wraith of Blake on May 19, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    No, they’re not modest but opulent–as are even the lowest realms of heaven, according to Jos. Smith’s teachings.

  39. Mike S on May 19, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Rameumptom:

    Your figures are wrong. From the 2009 fact sheet (seen at http://providentliving.org/pdf/2009_WELFactSheet_English.pdf ), the Church spent $327 million in cash over 25 years, or LESS THAN $15 MILLION PER YEAR. They also calculate a value for “material assistance”, which is all of the time donated my members, etc. They have obviously caught flak for this low amount, so for the 2010 fact sheet, they “combine” the two figures to hide the fact that they spend so little on humanitarian needs.

    And to see what “humanitarian needs” cover, from the left column of the referenced sheet: fast offerings, storehouses, thrift stores, welfare assistance, humanitarian relief and volunteer work. So, unless the Church releases better figures, for ALL OF THESE THINGS, the Church spends $15 million per year over the past 25 years.

    Regarding temples, the Church keeps secret the costs of its temples. However, the Draper Temple cost nearly $100 million. Just the cost of that SINGLE TEMPLE alone equals the cash spent by the Church for humanitarian needs for 6 years. And other temples cost MUCH more than the $5-10 million you quote.

    Perhaps the Lord wants expensive buildings. Perhaps He wants $3 billion malls. Perhaps that is more important than helping the poor.

    Who knows?

  40. Suleiman on May 19, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    jjohnsen wrote:

    “There were people in the shoe thread calling those heels immodest based only on price. Why couldn’t we apply the same to these rooms?”

    Because you are comparing sacrifice to God with a sacrifice to a person’s vanity. This is a huge logical fallacy.

    “Can anyone raise their hands and say they wouldn’t feel the spirit in a Celestial room if less money was spent constructing them?”

    You wouldn’t feel the spirit performing the priesthood ordinances in an outhouse because God commanded you to sacrifice the best for HIS house. The Spirit isn’t something one drums up in their head, it is a real manifestation of deity.

    “If it’s not ok, then is a there anything immodest with me spending a higher sum of money on shoes, laptops or clothing if I’m going to get more out of it?”

    That’s your call in your life, mine in my life. But the law of consecration makes us personally accountable to God for our decisions on this issue. In those rooms we’ve laid in all on the altar. Asking someone to justify our decisions only exemplifies the materialism of our age and our own insecurity.

  41. Janell on May 19, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    No, those rooms are not modest in the sense of conservative spending. They are also most definitely seeking to be greater, more beautiful, and more lofty than anything of the world.

    The San Antonio temple is downright opulent. I like to think of it as representative of a mansion in heaven.

    There’s been quite a lot of discussion about the mere cost of a temple. I like to think the reason our meetinghouses are so horrible bland, boring, and even uncomfortable are simply to make the architecture budget balance out to a provident number.

    I am most definitely glad that the Lord’s House isn’t as bland as a meetinghouse. It would be as seemly as wearing a large potato sack to be maintain modesty. And, yes, there is the other end of the spectrum where one doesn’t need to wear a one-of-a-kind red carpet gown either. I do believe the church moderates itself with its newer mini-temples.

  42. Rob Perkins on May 19, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    Is it “modest”? No, if the sense is that it isn’t appointed with moderation in mind; The purpose of the rooms in those pictures is to depict superlatives. Highest states of being, highest covenants, etc. Therefore, it’s appointed superlatively.

    But also, yes, if the sense is “not immodest”, that is, “not lacking humility or decency”; the room is enclosed within a building which keeps its use from being an attractor of vain attention. Further, since its intent is also to encourage and support an attitude of grateful humility in its users, its also not immodest in the sense that the people using it are drawn away from vanity and selfishness.

    So it depends on what you mean.

    In the case of the shoes, their price connotes immodesty, see, for example, all the scriptures in the Book of Mormon and in Isaiah about the way God condemns expensive clothing as evidence of ignorant pride. And their use connotes immodesty, if the wearer uses them to draw attention to herself and/or her property. (A man wearing the shoes would be definitively immodest, since in our culture, he would undeniably draw attention.)

  43. Jacob M on May 19, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    Another note. One of the reasons the church spends so much on temples is that they have to purchase the land that the temple sits on, then they have to purchase materials to make them, then pay workers to build them, and put wires through them, then the electic companies for power. Even if you are doing it as cheaply as possible, it’s going to cost a ton of money. The argument seems to be about whether building temples should be subordinate to helping the poor. If we say yes, logically that means that we wouldn’t have had a single temple, because there are so many poor in the world that even if we spent every tithing dollar to help the poor, there would still be some left who were still poor.

  44. PaulM on May 19, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    Jacob M:

    Yes, I’ve been to Notre Dame, St. Stephen’s, and St. Peter’s (to name just a few) and I find them ugly and showy as well. So you think showy opulence on Mormons’ part to be justified because the Catholics are more so? And you call my comment dumb! Would have loved for you to have been my father growing up! I would have won a lot more arguments as a teenager and been in a lot less trouble.

  45. Bob on May 19, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    Is not the Wall in Jersalem modest?
    Is not Mecca Modest?
    Must rooms be of gold and costly to show devotion to God__ or feel his Spirit?

  46. Bob on May 19, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    Jerusalem

  47. Jacob M on May 19, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    Bob – the Wall is the only thing left of a building that was torn down by roman soldiers two thousand years ago. Reading about it’s ancestor – Solomon’s Temple – I’m guessing that it was made of costly materials. Not the best comparison for your argument.

    PaulM – We are not arguing. You are calling the temple grotesquely opulent. I’m saying it’s not. It’s a matter of taste, and I think your overstatement of the temple’s gaudiness is dumb. But, I shouldn’t have combined my beaf with your comment with the dumber argument of Homer’s. So I apoligize. I should have been more specific.

  48. Bob on May 19, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    @ Jacob M,
    I am saying a place can be modest and holy.

  49. Kaimi Wenger on May 19, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    There is a lengthy history of temple requirements being satisfied by very humble physical settings. The tabernacle was basically an elaborate tent. The early Nauvoo ordinances were performed in the Red Brick Store and baptisms at the river.

  50. Grant on May 19, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    Why do things have to be constantly judged outside their context? This is kinda like all those people who criticize Lincoln for being a racist. Sure, he had terrible views on race, but for his time he was a revolutionary who moved an entire nation to free the slaves and towards liberty and justice for all at a horrifying cost in bloodshed and sacrifice.

    The ornateness of the Salt Lake Temple is in a Victorian-style to represent, at great sacrifice, the beauty of the heavenly home God invites us to. Even the poor are welcome in the Temple (with a recommend) not to mention all the poor who worked on it.

    Personally, I prefer the Terrestrial Room with its more subdued pastels. Maybe that’s because it’s as far as I’m going to get for spending time in the Bloggernacle.

  51. Kaimi Wenger on May 19, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    “Maybe that’s because it’s as far as I’m going to get for spending time in the Bloggernacle.”

    You’re doing better than most of us.

    And why isn’t there an Outer Darkness Room, anyway? Some of us would like to be able to plan ahead, make furniture purchases, and the like.

  52. Julie M. Smith on May 19, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    Alison, I think this is a brilliant addition to what I was trying to do with the modest shoes post, which is to try to consider what immodesty really is, as opposed to how we usually define it for Church purposes, which is “anything that would turn on a teen boy.”

    I think your post here is particularly interesting in that we are often told that our bodies are temples. What would it look like if we were dressed the way that one of our temples is dressed? My I’m-the-Mom Uniform of $5 t-shirts and denim capris seems, well, rather immodest by that standard.

  53. Jacob M on May 19, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    Bob, I’m not disagreeing. I’m just pointing out that choosing the Wall as representative isn’t the best argument, because of it’s history. Sure, it’s not opulent now, but that isn’t exactly by choice.

    Kaimi – but wasn’t it an ornate tent, made with the best materials they had at the time? This and your other examples are all subordinated by future temples, which makes them the exceptions rather than the rule. I’m not 100% sure on why the rule, though. But there are commentors here who seem to be totally sure that the current policy is wrong and un-Jesus like, which is beyond light speed and all the way to Ludicrous speed.

    And the Outer Darkness Room is right next to the Pit of Despair.

  54. Matt Evans on May 19, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    I have wondered why we so seldom here discussion about Mormon 8:34-40, which Moroni says he writes after seeing our time. How certain are we that Moroni was speaking to everyone but us? Since he’s speaking directly to the reader, I’d think the expected interpretation should be that he’s speaking to those who actually read the book and take his words seriously. If anyone knows of a GA addressing the potential tension between Moroni and our buildings, please pass it along.

    Mormon 8:35-40

    35 Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.

    37 For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.

  55. Kaimi Wenger on May 19, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    Jacob,

    I agree that it’s silly to say that temple adornment is un-Jesus-like. As prior comments have noted (10, 28, 32), Jesus Himself said that having cool stuff in worship might be more important than spending money on the poor. Of course, elsewhere He counseled people to sell all that they had and give to the poor.

  56. Johnna on May 19, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    This post shows me there are situations where modesty isn’t a pertinent concern.

  57. M. Buxton on May 19, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    Matt (#54),

    Moroni certainly knew the difference between a temple and an average place of worship. By almost any standard, our meeting houses are pretty unadorned. In fact, I think it is questionable whether “churches” in this verse is even referring to a physical building. Typically, the term “church” in the BoM refers to an institution.

  58. Homer on May 19, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    @36

    “Homer and Paul M get my vote for dumbest comments.”

    Thank you for showing us, through persuasion and such, why we’re wrong. A beautiful attempt at utilizing that scriptural doctrine you profess to upholding. Either that, or you’ve fallen to the acceptable comportment of the average internet blogger.

    “Have either of you been in a cathedral, particularly in Europe? Our most “opulent” temples are homely and . . . well . . . modest in comparison, and that’s not complaining about the cathedrals, either”

    And, pray tell, what relation do the cathedrals of an apostate religion have to do with the LDS temples? Are we to be building all of our temples off their design and opulence? Are we to be imitating what they do? Seriously, I don’t get the linking of the two… Anyone familiar with the history of cathedrals would know just exactly how they were built.

    “Cathedral means a seat or preaching stand, the center of power of a bishop. And next to the cathedral was the palace of the prince-bishop himself. The dual role of the takeover is represented by Longfellow’s notoriously wicked “Bishop of Bingen in his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine” (“The Children’s Hour”). It was the new order of the fortified palace that ruled the land. These great structures were under a curse as oppressors of the peasants and doomed to fall. Golden Mycenae, sacred Thebes, Troy itself, Camelot, Hersepolis, the Jomsborg, Aasgard, the House of Usher, San Simeon—all claimed the powers of the temple over subjects. Under the castle was the realm of Pluto, or the caves where the dragons slept guarding the heaps of disastrous Rhine gold, and deeper still the toiling dwarves, the once-free inhabitants of the land slaving to bring forth more gold—the cursed gold of the Nibelungen.

    The commercialized temples, “the cloud-capped palaces,” stand out in bold contrast to the true solemn temples of Cologne, Speyer, Bruchsal, Freiburg, Worms…

    @36, continued…

    ” Every time I’ve heard an apostle or a member of the first presidency speak during the dedication or the groundbreaking they have always mentioned being guided by revelation.”

    Telling me that you’ve been guided by revelation, and then not providing us with that revelation goes contrary to the scriptures. And, no, I’m not aware of any “revelation” specifically denoting where a temple is to be built. If there is a revelation, produce it for all to read. Follow our own scriptural admonitions and give them for us to all read… or, instead, follow the modern protocol of just informing us one has happened and reminding us to just “trust” that there is a revelation. One is scriptural, one isn’t.

    @35

    ” local workers rather than paid employees, and operated on more limited schedules, again in an effort to bring temples closer to people. But even these buildings should be built to temple standards as described above. He also spoke of how sites might be selected, inviting local stake presidents to let their needs be known.

    And finally when President Hinckely announced in April 1998 the plan to have 100 temples by the end of 2000, he again stressed it was to bring temple ordinances closer to the people throughout the world.”

    Again, you use the word “plan.” Is it a “plan,” or is it a “revelation.” The two aren’t synonymous. Pushing for 100 temples, no matter how well intentioned, simply isn’t the same as providing some revelation (or even a claim of revelation) that it’s the will of the Lord. And, if we use our own D&C, then were are the following revelations that whichever temple we’re discussing is “acceptable” to the Lord? Do we just keep building for building sakes, or do we build what the Lord wants?

    According to our own scriptures, unless we disavow them, a “new” revelation meets the following criteria:

    - is communication from God.
    - reveals previously unknown information.
    - comes from the Spirit.
    - is given directly to the mind or through another object such as a stone.
    - comes through one appointed.
    - is given in the first person as the Lord.
    - is written down and published.
    - will not contradict a previous revelation.

    If the D&C can be replete with financial questions, instructions on this or that thing, telling so and so to do whatever [including many mundane (IMO) things], then why can’t we simply see the revelations dictating where temples are to be built and what it would take for that temple to be “acceptable” to the Lord [including how fancy, opulent and extravagant it should be].

    In fact, in D&C 124 we have evidence that certain things done in unacceptable ways, or too slowly, are to be rejected by the Lord. And, in that same section (124) we have a revelation that tells us both where the temple is to be built and “all things pertaining” to that House, including what materials to use in building that house. [Interestingly, the story of the Nauvoo temple is worth studying, including how it partially burned down the day after praying that it be dedicated to, and accepted of, the Lord.]

    If that was happening then, shouldn’t we be allowed to see if it’s happening now? And, if it isn’t, why not? Or, am I just “dumb” for asking these questions myself?

  59. Homer on May 19, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    @57:

    “Moroni certainly knew the difference between a temple and an average place of worship. By almost any standard, our meeting houses are pretty unadorned. In fact, I think it is questionable whether “churches” in this verse is even referring to a physical building. Typically, the term “church” in the BoM refers to an institution.”

    Except for the fact that Moroni specifically stated those things were regarding the “holy church of God” [Moroni 8:38]. So, either we disclaim being the “holy church of God” or …

    So, is Moroni directing those comments about polluting the “holy church of God” at us, or some other people who will never read the BoM? And, if the latter, then of what use is the warning? If the former, then are we ignoring his words?

  60. Homer on May 19, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    Oops… scripture reference in 59 should be Mormon 8 and not Moroni. My bad. I’m done now.

  61. Alison Moore Smith on May 20, 2011 at 12:37 am

    Sone great comments. And Julie, thank you very much.

  62. Stephen Hardy on May 20, 2011 at 3:48 am

    Wow, is it over? Did Alison just end the comments? I hope not, because I have a few things to say. I don’t check T&S daily, and I am just finding this now. Here are my few points:

    1. Alison: great post! Really,I enjoyed this idea of looking at modesty from this (and Julie’s) point of view very much. I read your questions before I looked at the pictures you posted. I expected to see pictures of “McMansions” with “lawyer-foyers”. I was astonished to find temple pictures, and it helped me point the finger at me, rather than at others. Really… this is a great post and idea.

    2. My main point has to do with the private aspect of modesty. (I think that this has been raised in other posts. I haven’t had time to read all 61 responses, so forgive me if I am redundant..) Modesty has many interesting aspects and one of them is this: Modesty is about the public display of what ought to be personal.

    Aside here: I remember vividly a discussion which was held in my ward in preparation for Girl’s Camp. The setting was a “parents meeting” where various issues around girls camp were discussed. One of them was swim-wear. Several of the girls, and parents, had specific questions about what was acceptable in swimwear for the camp. This led to various expected comments. The woman running the meeting finally said: “Now, I want you to wear the swimsuit you would want to be in if the Savior visited you.” Five years later, and I still chuckle at this comment.

    Anyway, back on the topic here, let me say this: I am terribly immodest with my wife. This starts with the obvious idea that we see each-other naked. But there is much more than that: I say things to my wife all the time which are immodest. Things like this: “Wasn’t my dinner great?” “I thought I taught a good lesson at FHE tonight.” etc, etc. I would never say such things in public, but my poor wife has to bear my immodesty. I hope that I limit such immodesty to private settings, where I don’t really think it is wrong. Those settings allow me to explore feelings and ideas which could never be expressed or explored in public.

    The reason that I don’t believe that our Celestial Rooms are immodest is that they are for private use in a very particular setting. Our ward-houses are extremely modest. Our Sunday meetings are the very idea of soberness and modesty. I was going to say that even General Conference is modest, although all those flowers… I don’t know.

    The temple is a highly symbolic place. We try to “imagine” there what it might be like in Heavenly Father’s presence. However, we don’t know what his “home” is like, so we symbolically represent it here. We don’t know about his dwelling(s): Do they use wood? Are there carpets? Of so, what are they made of? Cotton? Wool? Polyester? The skins of some animal extinct 250 million years ago? What is the style of celestial dwellings? Queen Anne? Victorian? Post-modern abstract? We can’t know, so we give it one effort or interpretation in each temple.

    For those who complain about the cost of temples? Well, they strike me as similar in nature as those complaints about the cost of the oil used to wash and anoint Jesus.

    I might have more to say, but again I am worried that this thread has already dried up.

  63. Alison Moore Smith on May 20, 2011 at 10:20 am

    jimbob #4:

    modesty is mostly about not titillating the Aaronic Priesthood…

    Funny as this comment was, I think it’s true — at least in the way modesty is stressed in the church. When I was in YW is was 100% about “what it does to the boys.” So the endless modesty lessons were kind of an unintended, repeated lesson in how to turn boys on. I cannot remember having a modesty lesson as an adult, unless it was about teaching youth (mostly YW) to be modest.

    I think we need to teach women OTHER reasons to be modest. (Is “so you won’t turn boys on” the best we can come up with?) And teach men to VALUE modesty, instead of rewarding immodesty. And vice versa.

    Aside to Martin #5, don’t worry, I did get the joke. But it was surrounded by enough valid statements to make me wonder. I decided to go with the joke. :) Life’s better that way. :)

  64. Alison Moore Smith on May 20, 2011 at 10:26 am

    psychochemiker #10:

    I always love when Libruls start preaching their social gospels.

    T&S permabloggers, please take note! I am a liberal. Just so you know. The political mocking can stop NOW.

  65. Alison Moore Smith on May 20, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Dane Laverty #14:

    I think that the work of the community to create shared spaces that are more than any of us can build on our own is a wonderful gift.

    That’s a point I had never thought of. Similar to the way communities build libraries and recreation facilities that we can’t replicate alone.

    It’s also interesting to compare, as a few of you have, the stark differences between our rather drab, functional meetinghouses with the ornate temples.

    Jonathan Green #21

    This post misapplies the category of modesty (an individual virtue largely defined by superficial and exterior signs) to internal, communal worship space, and is, I think, a bad idea.

    I think the argument about private vs. public mostly fails because the outsides of the temples are usually grand as well, and draw a great deal of attention. The grounds, too, tend to be well beyond the norm. And we do open all our temples to the public before dedication — and publish pictures. The general ornateness of temples isn’t a private matter.

    When I lived in Florida, I had a meeting at my house for the kindergarten room mothers. When they saw the picture of the SL temple on my wall, they asked what it was. I told them it was a temple where Sam and I were married. They were incredibly impressed about the “castle.” When I realized it was the perceived COST that astonished them, I explained that there was not cost to get married there. Of course, Sam walked by right then and threw out, “Totally free. It only costs us 10% of our income for life.”

    Heh heh.

  66. Alison Moore Smith on May 20, 2011 at 11:09 am

    Paul M #23:

    Those rooms are gaudy and ugly and I pray they in no way represent what I might expect to see in the Celestial Kingdom.

    I think we have to put the design of the rooms in historical context (just like other behaviors). While I honestly agree that some of the rooms are gaudy and certainly not to my personal taste (I’m a “soft modern” kind of gal), I think the intent has been to create beautiful rooms that are a giant step above the norm in terms of how grand they are. (That’s just a guess.) I think they tend to accomplish that within the time periods they were created.

    Personally I think anything Victorianesque is almost nauseating, but I can look at it differntly (or ignore it all together) in a temple.

    P.S. The chandeliers in the Timp and Orlando temples (celestial rooms) are enormous and very interesting (if distracting — I’m always wondering if they are going to crash down and kill us all!) and I do love the glass in those temples, as well.

    A local company does a lot of temple glass work and I’d love to have a piece someday. But I’d put it over my jetted tub, so it would be totally private and, therefore, modest. ;)

  67. Paul on May 20, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    #58 Homer — what’s the source for your list of what makes a revelation?

  68. psychochemiker on May 20, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    #64
    Alison Moore Smith

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but wasn’t referring to you. You’re still not a librul, at least not in my eyes.

  69. Rameumptom on May 20, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    If temples were only built to be visitor centers, libraries, or museums, I’d agree that the quality and elegance built into them would be over the top.

    Still, what would a museum be if it didn’t have a Rembrandt or a Picasso on several of its walls? Would it be the same? Is it opulence if the museum shares that Rembrandt for everyone to see?

    I look at the photos Allison displayed. They are of the SLC temple. This temple was designed and built by the people. My great-great grandfather helped haul the stones from the quarry in Little Cottonwood Canyon with his wagon and horses. Do we think what that effort over decades did for the people? The sacrifice, when done, would unite a people and provide an image for all the world to recognize Mormons by. Would we be as recognizable as a people if they would have built a wooden framed temple instead? Would such a temple last through the Millennium, or even the past century, if made from regular materials? Would it inspire and build testimonies as does the magnificent edifice that still stands 100+ years after its dedication?

    If we just look at it in dollars and cents, yes, it is opulent and probably more than was needed. They could have built many smaller temples in the 40 years it took to build just the SLC temple. For those focused on the temporal and on social justice, it is a travesty.

    But for those who see the eternal, it becomes a symbol of what they can become.

    In 1980, on my mission in Bolivia, two brothers from Betanzos, Bolivia, took their families on a bus trip to Sao Paolo Brazil temple. It takes at least a week each direction. Do you think their spiritual experience, both personal and shared, would have been as great if the Brazilian temple would have just looked like a plain chapel?

    Perhaps we lose out when we only look at things in dollars and cents. The opulence, or rather, beauty, is there for the shared experience. It represents God’s presence, the Shekinah. I’ve noted that those opposed have not discussed that concept at all. Too convenient to reduce it to dollars and cents, I suppose.

    As for donations by the Church, it all comes from the members. Whether paid in cash or service, it all is the same to me. So, our donations have equaled what I said it did. When thousands of members went to New Orleans and the Mississippi coast to rescue people, that was donation that money could not pay for. I’ve seen it happens many times with other hurricanes, floods, and tragedies. It all counts, regardless of the attempts by a few to discount it.

  70. Left Field on May 20, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    Just in the interests of accuracy, the photograph on the right is not from the Salt Lake Temple. It’s the Holy of Holies in Manti.

  71. Homer on May 20, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    @67:

    It comes from a compendium of scriptures, mostly in the D&C…though certainly other references can be found.

    Here’s a short list:

    D&C 8, D&C 43, D&C 1:6, D&C 67, D&C 72:21, D&C 104:58, D&C 118:2, D&C 124:89 … as well the standard OP followed by our D&C, Joseph Smith, etc.

    For example, over 90% of the revelations in the D&C are written in the first person (i.e. “I, the Lord…” or other language). I might even start by reading this post from someone else on the subject, which I, personally, find intriguing.

    But, maybe revelation is too confining. I’m not yet sure. Once a revelation is received on a subject, it’s done and over. I’m not sure what side of that argument I come down on yet, but certainly there is a lot more latitude to act/react in the absence of revelation – but from an institutional and personal POV.

  72. Alison Moore Smith on May 21, 2011 at 2:54 am

    psychochemiker #68:
    Fine! Resume mocking of conservatives. The three of us are used to it. ;)

    Left Field #70:
    Yes, the room on the right is frm Manti. Thanks. I thought it was a sealing room. I didn’t realize the Holy of Holies had altars!

  73. Rameumptom on May 21, 2011 at 8:46 am

    I’m a conservative libertarian, so I don’t fit in very well, either.

    Since it’s been about 25 years since I’ve been in the SLC temple, and never inside the Manti (much less the Holy of Holies), I would have guessed the one on the right was a sealing room. But my points still fit in regards to Brigham Young’s building of the Manti Temple, just as it does for the SLC temple. They were designed to last a thousand years. The rooms were designed to reflect heaven. Eternal life is at least as important as feeding the poor, who will someday die regardless of how much we feed them.

    The Church has a focus on helping the poor. But so do many other organizations. We are the only ones providing exaltation to the masses. No one else is building temples, sealing families, and preparing us to enter into the presence of God.

  74. Alison Moore Smith on May 21, 2011 at 10:36 am

    Stephen Hardy #62:
    I love your point #1, that you didn’t see the pictures first. It might have been better had I put the pictures at the end of the post. I love the “oh, that’s so immodest…oh, wait, uh!” reaction.

    I probably blog too much about…ahem…marital intimacy. Let’s just say that marital immodesty is a virtue!

  75. Left Field on May 21, 2011 at 11:56 am

    The Manti Holy of Holies was used as a sealing room for most of the 20th century. But after they did renovations about 25-30 years ago, they quit using it for sealings, and roped it off so you could walk partway into the room. I don’t think it has any specific use now. Based on the mirror above the altar, I suspect that the photograph above dates from the period when it was used for sealings (though the Manti Temple does have one or two sealing rooms without mirrors).

    I’ve heard/read that it was dedicated as a Holy of Holies, but was never used for that purpose. I have also heard/read that it was used as a Holy of Holies until the Salt Lake Temple was dedicated. I don’t know which is correct.

  76. Alison Moore Smith on May 21, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    Interesting. Do I read from that that not all sealing rooms have the double “eternity mirrors”? All the sealing rooms I can recall did, but this just has one.

  77. Left Field on May 21, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    I assume there was a second mirror on the opposite wall behind the photographer’s back, and it does look to me like there might be multiple reflections in the mirror behind the altar. But there are one or two other sealing rooms in Manti that don’t have any mirrors, apparently because the decor of the room precludes wall hangings.

  78. David on May 22, 2011 at 2:44 am

    The rooms shown in the pictures are built and maintained by the pennies of poor tithing women in South America. And those poor women have no access to these rooms.

  79. Paul on May 22, 2011 at 7:29 am

    #78 David, I daresay no South American tithing was used in the construction of the Salt Lake or Manti temples.

  80. Rameumptom on May 22, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    David, and in reality, more tithe money goes TO South America than comes to the USA. Almost all South American nations now have at least one temple, most are larger temples with beautiful celestial rooms, and the vast majority of the money to build/maintain them comes from USA/Canada/European saints.

    Here are outside shots of the Bolivia temple:
    Cochabamba Bolivia temple photos

    And its Celestial Room:
    Cochabamba Bolivia celestial room

  81. Alison Moore Smith on May 23, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    David #78:
    Given that church members all over the world (including in South America) have benefits derived from membership (access to buildings, programs, etc.), and that such benefits require resources, it’s just odd that you’d claim “pennies” from the poor are shuttled off to maintain the Manti temple.

    Just had FHE with some relatives, one of whom just returned from a humanitarian trip (self-funded) to do dental work in South America for prospective missionaries. The church there is surrounded by chain link and guards because it’s in an area now so destitute that people are killed for their clothing. The “pennies” from those area aren’t paying for those facilities. It’s the dollars from places where they have dollars that are.

  82. Yav on May 23, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    Alison:

    Perhaps it should be pointed out that chapels/buildings to meet in were not a part of the original restoration. They were added later, perhaps out of necessity.

    The original church continued to meet without meetinghouses for years after the restoration. They built temples [ones revealed to them, see D&C 124 for example], certainly, but meetinghouses they did not build.

    From a standpoint of tithing, I’d highly recommend this article on the scripturally appropriate uses of tithing. I’ve mentioned it elsewhere, but our scriptures (especially the BoM) state remarkably little about tithing (3 total references in the BoM, 2 of which are greatly clarified by that highlighted article above). For a church that professes allegiance of some sort to the Book of Mormon, we have a remarkable tendency to place emphasis [and tithing is probably the ultimate litmus test in the church] where the scriptures don’t.

    P.S. I thought this quote might be applicable to this conversation:

    “The purpose of all the major religious traditions is not to construct big temples on the outside, but to create temples of goodness and compassion inside, in our hearts. – Dalai Lama

  83. Paul on May 23, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    #82: “we have a remarkable tendency to place emphasis [and tithing is probably the ultimate litmus test in the church] where the scriptures don’t.”

    Oh, yeah, except for Doctrine and Covenants Section 119.

  84. Michelle B on May 23, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    @Yav

    Thank you for the beautiful quote.

  85. Alison Moore Smith on May 23, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    Yav, as far as I know there isn’t any doctrine about chapel building. But not sure what your point is. Of course chapel building came about because of perceived need. As did a host of other things like manuals and scouting and satellite broadcasts — none of which were part of the restoration in the sense you seem to be indicating.

  86. Yav on May 24, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    Paul:

    D&C 119 isn’t even followed in the Church today – not by a long shot. Not sure what your point is. And, if you followed the link I provided previously, you might be surprised how closely it gels with the ideal presented in D&C 119.

    Alison:

    My point was – sorry for the confusion – that maybe multi-million dollar chapels aren’t the best use of resources. Historically, Christians had home churches and were less restricted in their definition of church. As for the restoration, if there is no doctrine for chapel building then perhaps we should take a step back and question whether those resources might be better spent elsewhere. I see no reason why meeting in natural temples – like the Parowan Gap – or somewhere else more natural isn’t more appropriate than using our chapel growth as a sign of our strength.

    2 Nephi 28:13 – a scripture directed precisely at us – states that our “fine sanctuaries” robs the poor:

    ============

    “They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up.”

    You must keep the prior verse in mind as you read this one. They are a continuation of thought.

    It is an interesting thought to equate “fine sanctuaries” with “robbing the poor.” Why do you suppose Nephi would make that equation? Does it give us any pause?

    What “duty” would be owed to the poor that entitles them to come before a “fine sanctuary?”

    Is there a duty to care for the poor that comes before the right of someone to wear “fine clothing?”

    What does it mean to “persecute the meek?” Can you “persecute the meek” just by ignoring them? By neglecting them? Does any religion owe some duty to the meek? What obligation is owed to the meek by people of faith?

    Who is “poor in heart?” What obligation do we all owe to the poor in heart?

    Now look at the last phrase. It begins with “because.” Isn’t Nephi saying that our defects are all due to “our pride.” That is, “because of their pride they are puffed up” and this is the reason we “rob the poor.” This is the reason we “persecute the meek.” This is the reason we “persecute the poor in heart.” Or, in other words, we are proud and puffed up and therefore we cannot help but cause these other offenses.

    We necessarily ignore our obligations to the poor and meek because we are filled with pride. We don’t give a second thought to what we’re doing with resources entrusted to us to bless and benefit others, because we believe we are entitled to have “fine sanctuaries.” We just presume we are justified in our “fine clothing” without regard to what we may owe others.

    There is a moment in film that helps illustrate this verse. It is in the closing of the movie Schindler’s List. The Allies had overrun the area and the Nazi rule had ended. As Schindler was receiving the gratitude of those who had been saved by his efforts, he was struck by what more he could have done. He was less interested in receiving gratitude than he was guilt ridden by how many more lives could have been saved had he parted with a ring. Had he parted with a car it would have secured other lives. The thought filled him with guilt. He had done some, it was undoubtedly true. But his conscious was filled with remorse because he could have done more. And in that setting, doing more was saving lives. He preferred a ring to another man’s life. He preferred a car to a family’s lives. It tormented him. If you can harrow up your mind to remember this scene, then think of what we might have done with the great resources we have been given in place of some of the monuments we have built.

    Why do we need chapels at all? Why not meet in homes? What good could be done with the money we have invested in the chapels we have built? Joseph Smith built temples; he did not build chapels. General Conference was held in an outdoor bowery. Do we have anything to apologize for in how we use our resources? Were or are there poor toward whom the Lord would have preferred us to show mercy, and do more? There are families who have supplied church leadership from their large construction companies who have built projects for the church. I am told these relationships are natural. They call who they know and associate with, after all. I suppose that is true.

    Nephi seems troubled by his view of us. We seem untroubled by his words. At least we don’t seem to change our behavior much because of Nephi’s counsel. We deflect it, and point to others as his real target.

    Well, Nephi is nothing if not relevant to almost everything going on today.

  87. Rameumptom on May 24, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    OR, you are reading into Nephi’s words intentions that he never meant.

    Nephi spoke of building a temple similar to Solomon’s. The only reason he gives on why his had fewer precious things in it is because the precious stones were not to be found in the land.

    IOW, when we read Nephi’s words, we have to make sure we are not interpreting them in a way that goes beyond the mark. His focus wasn’t on nice sanctuaries, but that wealth was being used as a measure of whether someone could/should be saved.

    All righteous members are allowed entrance into any temple. All of them, rich and poor, are provided nice temples in the regions where they are. No one visibly dresses nicer inside the temple than another.

    The early Church did not have chapels because of the poverty of the people. Building a temple was more important. Yet, in the Book of Mormon we see that Alma and others built synagogues and churches. However, the chapel became important as a gathering place for the Saints once they were distributed far from the temples of the Lord. It has not been that long since most members in the world did not easily have access to temples. Prior to 1978 there were no temples in South America or many other places. Saints needed gathering places, and chapels fit the bill.

    I know that in many places where we do not have a chapel, people are often not interested in attending church in a person’s home, etc. So, the church does not grow as quickly, simply because it does not have a presence that people expect.

    Chapels provide a gathering place and a shelter. When floods or hurricanes have destroyed homes, chapels are often used as a refuge for families. Chapels provide a place for socializing, as well as spiritual growth.

    So, in my view, such comparisons are apples and oranges. For some of the silly statements made here, such as a poor South American woman has paid for the building and maintenance of the SLC/Manti temple (which were built over a century ago), all I can do is shake my head and wonder if we’re really that lacking in understanding of both reality and spiritual things.

  88. Alison Moore Smith on May 25, 2011 at 3:16 am

    Yav #86:

    My point was – sorry for the confusion – that maybe multi-million dollar chapels aren’t the best use of resources.

    Definitely worth discussing. I do think they are built fairly efficiently, however.

    I see no reason why meeting in natural temples – like the Parowan Gap – or somewhere else more natural isn’t more appropriate than using our chapel growth as a sign of our strength.

    Once as a young married student, Sam and I lived in a ward that had no “home.” “Regular” wards — with assigned buildings — sent us scrambling week after week. Finally, one day, we had Sacrament Meeting OUTSIDE at Aspen Grove up the Provo Canyon, near Sundance ski resort.

    It was fun and unusual. But I wouldn’t have wanted to do it during the winter! :)

  89. M. Buxton on May 25, 2011 at 9:06 am

    It’s clear that the Church saves a lot of money on our chapels through economies of scale–which is a good thing. I just wish it hadn’t bought quite so much of that purple-ish carpeting and quite so many of those floral sofas.

    Although the early saints did not build chapels as such, it is my understanding that they were fond of pratical multi-use buildings for gatherings–I am thinking of the Cultural Hall in Nauvoo. I think our meeting houses serve a similar purpose. As Paul suggested, out meeting houses serve an important role as gathering places for the saints.

  90. M. Buxton on May 25, 2011 at 9:12 am

    It was Rameupton’s comment (#87) that I was referring to, not Paul’s. And it should be “our meeting houses.”

    An aside: Has T&S ever thought about adding the feature that gives you 15 minutes to edit your comment after posting (I’ve seen that on some sites). I could definitely use that!

  91. Be Like Nephi on October 31, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    Old post, I know. I hadn’t read everyone’s replies on this, but my thoughts:

    1. I don’t question our church leaders since I realize they know only too well the financial state of the church and more importantly, seek the Lord’s guidance in all their endeavors.

    2. The Lord said he loved Nephi because he didn’t murmur. I’ve noticed Alison likes to stir the pot quite a bit and it more than resembles murmuring to me in many circumstances.