Sunday, 3 July 2016

The man in the white suit

The Temple is unmissable presence on the skyline
Looming out of the distance as we passed the unremarkable town of Chorley was the very remarkable sight of what looked like a 21st century cathedral. The huge spire and massive nave were unmistakeable.
A visit to Mr Google revealed that this was the 'Preston England' Temple of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, better known as the Mormons. I didn't even know there were Mormons in the UK – aside from those politely spoken Americans who occasionally knock on your door – but apparently Preston is a major centre and the Temple one of only two in England.
The exterior is entirely clad in marble
A noisy walk beyond the M61 and the edge of a Chorley industrial estate took us to a spectacular, if slightly intimidating building set in huge grounds more immaculately groomed than Beyonce. The exterior is entirely clad in marble (and, unlike a traditional cathedral, largely devoid of windows). Extremely polite people smile and say hello as we walk around the grounds – and one driver even paused his car for several minutes so I could take a photo.
Atop the spire is the Mormon angel Moroni
I decided to venture in, though a little worried that I might re-appear through the automatic sliding glass doors an hour later wearing a beatific smile and a lapel badge.
Everyone wears white in the Temple
I found myself in something like the foyer of a very luxurious hotel - yet more marble and plenty of walnut too. Behind the desk sat an elderly man entirely dressed in white - suit, shirt, tie. Could I look around? 'No'. Not unless I was a church member. It was a temple, he explained, not a church; a place where people were baptised and families were 'sealed' - tracing families and 'sealing' them is central to Mormonism. He patiently answered in that same patient, mellow, gentle style all the questions I had even though he clearly read the cynicism on my face.
Behind him, people walked quietly about their business – all wearing white – with faintly lobotomised expressions. The atmosphere was eerie, like an episode of The Prisoner.
To be honest, the whole place was creepy. Astonishingly expensive to build, quite obviously, but with all the appeal of a crematorium. It could easily have been the mausoleum of a tyrannical dictator from some unheard of central Asian republic. I was happy to escape without a lapel badge.

1 comment:

  1. My best friend at primary school was a Mormon. We had many enjoyable discussions which culminated in my becoming an atheist at the age of twelve and never looking back.