Friday, January 3, 2020

Temple Story by Brittany Mangelson

The story I have for you, is actually three short stories that connect my distant past, my present understanding and my future with this sacred building. The first time I saw the Temple was 2002. I was a young teenager on a church history tour. I was not a member of Community Christ, but my heritage and history with faith shares roots in the sacred story of the restoration. Unfortunately, our itinerary for the tour did not include Community of Christ’s Temple. We did, however, eat lunch on the lawn of the LDS visitor’s center just across the street. I have a distinct memory of looking up at this building and being so curious about its soft , yet bold design. I was not seeking a new spiritual home at that point, but the architecture of this building stuck with me and I carried that curious image with me throughout the next decade.

The first time I was able to visit this sacred space was in 2016. By that point, I was a member of Community of Christ, an ordained priest, and was set to interview President Emeritus Wallace B Smith for Project Zion Podcast. My 5 year-old twin daughters and 2 year-old son were anxious after being in the car for the two day drive from Utah. My family pulled into the parking lot to set up for our important interview, and we weren’t even in the building before we were stopped and shown Christian love and hospitality by someone who has since become a friend. Nita Harder was a stranger at the time who took a moment to pause and see a family struggling with three young kids. She stopped to welcome us, to tell a few jokes, and help my kids get in a much better mood. She gifted us peace before we even walked in the door.

The next few hours were a whirlwind experience. I had heard so much about this building and I was afraid my enthusiasm was setting myself up for disappointment. Could it really be a place where all were welcome? Was it going to be as open, transparent, loving, and filled with grace as everyone said? As a young mother, I worried that my family would be seen as a burden, or that I would be pigeonholed into one identity and role because of my gender. Could I actually find empowerment and a voice of my own in this holy place?

The answer was YES!

From the moment we arrived, I was treated like family. We happen upon Apostle Linda Booth in the lobby who was thrilled to see us and paused her very busy morning to give us a tour of the Temple complex. My kids were able to meet a significant amount World Church leadership and I quickly realized that not only was I considered worthy and good enough to be in this space, but they were too. We left with chocolates from the UK, wishes and blessings that were given to us in Spanish and whichever language Bunda happened to be speaking at the time, and pens straight out of Scott Murphy’s personal collection.

Christ’s Mission and the ministries of the Temple came alive for me that morning. I was affirmed in a way I didn’t think was possible. I was given a deepened understanding that the soft, bold architecture of this building is reflected in the Spirit of Joy, Hope, Love, and Peace that we experience here.

Since that first visit in 2016, I have had the privilege of coming back four additional times as part of Community of Christ’s Seminary program. Each time, I have tried to carve out space to be alone and sit in the quiet peace I find here. I’ve never told this story before and to be honest, I wasn’t planning on ever sharing it, but during one particularly chilly and gloomy day in the middle of deep study, I found myself looking out a window onto the lawn across the street that I had once picnicked on. I went into deep reflection on what has happened to me since I sat on that lawn. My journey into Community of Christ was difficult, but in that moment the feelings of grace and gratitude was overwhelming. This journey had been worth it. Here I was, again just a young mom, who was being not only welcomed in this Temple, but empowered and educated here, too. I was being educated in the ways and teachings of Jesus. Those teachings of radical hospitality, of reconciliation and healing, and the reality that ALL are worthy and welcome to surrender to God’s divine grace. As I sat staring out the window, I knew I could not keep quiet about this. That’s the beauty of this Temple! We have a message to share! We come into the Worshipper’s Path and into this Sanctuary and we are changed and equipped for mission. We are charged to bring Christ’s message of peace to the entire world. My place in this puzzle of mission was made clear to me on that gloomy winter day. Because I am worthy enough to be here, I must invite others. The message is too important, too critical to remain within these walls.

This space has changed me. It has brought me a deeper connection to God, clarity, community, friendship, and most of all; peace. And that is the message I hope to carry out into the world.