As the beautiful, new Pocatello temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opens in the not-too-distant future, we think of another beautiful temple 10,000 miles away in Johannesburg, South Africa. We think of what it was often like for a group in that far-off land to schedule and attend a temple session versus a group attending our local temple almost any time they choose.
We recall details about the African group because we served a welfare mission there some years ago. The Johannesburg temple was built in the capital city in 1982 and has served Church members from a large area of that country until recently as new temples are built in Africa.
Viewing our lovely, new Pocatello temple, we compare the experience a local group might have -- leaving from a community such as Lava Hot Springs or Blackfoot on a warm, summer day to attend the temple. This group would typically jump in their cars, turn on the air conditioners, and travel in comfort for a drive of less than an hour to do a temple session, likely share a meal at a local restaurant, and drive back home – total elapsed time, about five or six hours.
Now, let’s project those 10,000 miles away to a small, no-name bush village in South Africa located fifty miles or so from the nearest temple in Johannesburg. The people in this group may only be able to make this arduous trip once a year – or even once in a lifetime -- due to distance and cost.
Instead of some nice, comfortable vehicles in which to make the trip, 30 or 40 men, women, and children may plan for a year to be able to go, and their transportation will often be an old, dilapidated bus that looks like its on its “last wheels.” There are not enough of the old, wooden benches attached to the metal floor for everyone, so the group knows to bring blankets to use during the ride.
Packing some basic food items, the group clambers onto the bus at daybreak and, if all goes well, they are off. However, it’s not unusual for the bus to sputter and jerk until the gears finally mesh before the bus is off and running – at least for a short distance.
Then, after a few miles, it’s not uncommon for the bus to suddenly sink into an unforeseen mud hole. Taking the situation in stride, everyone must exit and help push, pull, or even dig out of the mess. This scenario can often be repeated several times on the trip. There are no hoses or extra water on board so often the people must depend on the driving afternoon rains to be able to clean off the worst of the mud.
Complaining? No, it’s just a way of life in many remote parts of Africa where the Church is growing rapidly.
Finally, the bus driver nears the destination; he finds a service station where he can hose off the outside of the bus so it looks more presentable as it nears the temple grounds. He drops off his passengers where the Church provides changing rooms and showers in an adjacent building, as well as comfortable sleeping arrangements and babysitters for the time the group will be at the temple.
The Church also provides large kitchen facilities and demonstrations for the women on how to use the modern ranges, etc. Many have used only open fires for cooking throughout their lives.
Basic food items are provided during the group’s stay, and the women are known to laugh and giggle as they work together in preparing sometimes unusual food for their families.
All things considered, the elapsed time for this kind of African temple trip--often starting and ending in primitive villages--may be two (or even three) long days and nights under unbelievable conditions. Quite a contrast from the Lava Hot Springs or Blackfoot group!
For this reason, the Church is building smaller temples in ever more remote locations so that no worthy members must travel long distances to attend. At present there are 252 temples in use or being constructed worldwide.
When we asked those wonderful African members, after their grueling temple trip, if they would do it again, they would invariably smile and excitedly say, “Oh, yes, we would! Yes, yes!”
So--Pocatello temple goers, count your blessings!
Dean & Nancy Hoch are local members of the Church’s Communication Council. They may be reached at email@example.com.