While in Arizona, I have my own private Minister of Culture, my cousin Tina of Scottsdale. In the past weeks, we have visited two art exhibits and the botanical gardens. I also attended a theological discussion and a Bach pipe organ concert. I wouldn’t have known about any of the events if Cousin Tina hadn’t rousted me from my desert retreat to attend.
The main cultural event last week was a tour of the sparkling, gigantic new Mormon Temple in south Phoenix. Non-Mormon visitors are allowed until the Temple officially opens in March. Cousin Tina thought we should avail ourselves of the opportunity, no matter our theology or lack thereof.
When Cousin Tina decides something needs doing, it gets done.
The Temple tour required advance tickets. For some reason, Cousin Tina decided it would help our cause to declare me mentally impaired. Printed right on the ticket were my expected behaviors: “He is really, really slow. We’ll probably be late.”
And late we were. Cousin Tina hoped we could skip the introductory film due to my impairment and just get the Temple tour. The Temple’s parking lot was jammed. Dozens of volunteers, one every twenty feet or so, lined the drive. Cousin Tina worried that we would have to park in the boonies.
With terrifying suddenness, she developed a bum hip. Terrific pain. Bone on bone. She ordered me to roll down the window to inform one of the volunteers of her malady.
I decided to assert control over the ethical emissions from my car and I refused. However, without thinking, I stepped on the gas and shot right between two of the volunteers into the prize parking lot right in the Temple’s shadow.
We scored a parking spot near the Temple. We hopped over several barricades and marched to the main gate, hoping to get right in. No such luck. A cheerful volunteer intercepted us. We had to go to a side chapel for the movie. “You won’t want to miss it!” she said, “It is really, really neat!”
Any time I am required to take part in something which is simultaneously mandatory and “really, really neat,” I want to escape. But I was too impaired. I decided my mental impairment would resemble Forrest Gump’s. I buttoned my top top shirt button, hitched my pants way up high and talked like a rube.
After a wait in line for the movie, a woman took our ticket. I acted like Gump, but in vain. She didn’t even look at the ticket. She just smiled at me in pity.
As we entered the chapel, not only was my mental impairment healed, but so was Cousin Tina’s hip!
After the movie ended we were ushered towards the Temple. Before we entered, more young volunteers fitted us with haz-mat slippers so we wouldn’t track the floors. The Temple’s interior was opulent, like heaven is depicted in the movies. Everything glowed celestial in the extraordinary lighting. The marbled halls resembled a flagship Macy’s without the clothes racks.
We were to be silent. Our guide wasn’t allowed to talk. If we had questions, they were to wait until we visited the white tent in the parking lot afterwards.
Instead, she gestured at placards, which we were free to read on our own.
I don’t like getting herded around in tours. I don’t care if it is the White House. I want to explore on my own. But this time, due to the ever-present volunteers, I had no choice but to stick with the group. Part of it is that I can’t stand the corny canned speeches of the guides. At the Temple, the guide was mute, which was a great improvement.
Back at the house with my impairment healed, I did some research on the internet to help me understand what I had seen. The Mormon Church is as dominant in the Mountain West as the Lutheran Church is in the Upper Midwest––so I compared the two.
The most important theological difference between Lutherans and Mormons, I decided, is their view of coffee. Good Mormons don’t touch it. Proper Lutherans consume it in mass quantities, as if it is one of the sacraments. No wonder the Mormon Temple is so well-lit! They need bright light as a substitute for coffee to stay awake during services.
It all fell together, even though Cousin Tina and I skipped the white tent. Another successful cultural experience!