The Manhattan Temple and the Gates of Central Park
By Geoffrey Biddulph
have been traveling to Manhattan on business for more than 20 years. For the first
time this week, I felt like I did something truly good. It
involved a trip to the temple and a walk beneath saffron gates.
And I gathered some insights about how they are somehow related.
am a convert to the Church. In the bad old days, trips to New York inevitably involved a lot more time shouldering my
way to the bar than putting my shoulder to the wheel. Before:
Miller Time. Now: Moroni Time.
the Manhattan temple to me felt as if I had just stepped through
CS Lewis’ wardrobe in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
On one side was a bustling city, dirty and grimy with rude taxi
drivers and stern grimaces. On the other was tranquility, whiteness,
peace, amicable greetings and calm visages.
can’t imagine someplace more sparkling and ordered than the
Manhattan temple. The building is small for a temple, and every
square inch appears to be put to good use. But the details
– the Deseret bee hives, the fine wooden panels, the paintings in
the Telestial room – could not be
ceremony is something I have gone through now a few dozen times.
But each time, I learn something new. This time, I learned
something about myself after I left the temple. As I walked
out, one of the temple volunteers thanked me twice with a huge
smile and a squeeze of my hand for coming to the temple during
my business trip. His sincerity washed me clean of cynicism
walked out seeing the city with completely new eyes. Instead
of grime and dirt, I saw a sparkling city and a crisp, sleek
night. Instead of rude taxi drivers, I saw happy couples walking
hand in hand, laughing gaily and enjoying the lights and the
night. I walked past a group of young men hanging out near
Columbus Circle, and instead of fearing their tough talk I admired
it be that you can see the same events completely differently
if you look at it while still clothed with the Spirit of the
Lord? How differently Jesus must have seen the Earth than did
the people around him! Where others saw decrepit lepers, he
saw fellow brothers and sisters with a potential for exaltation.
Where some saw blood and suffering, He saw billions of souls
washed clean by his sacrifice.
that the Spirit of the Lord flowed out of our temples to wash
the earth and change perceptions and minds so that all of us
could bask in the grace and love of the prince of peace! It
would be like a tsunami of truth.
there, in Central Park, were planted thousands of orange arches
over 23 miles of paths. The saffron robes of the arches blew
gently in the breeze. Sightseers calmly clicked pictures of
the rows of orange. Here, just a few blocks from the Manhattan temple, were inanimate, unarmed soldiers of thousands
of arches “terrible as an army with banners.”
orange sentinels were part of “The Gates,” a new public art
fest set up by Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude. Christo
is the artist who wrapped the islands near Miami in pink fabric
in 1983 and ran a 24.5-mile white nylon fence in the hills near
San Francisco. The pair negotiated for 26 years with New York
City officials to install 7,500 steel gates, each 16 feet tall.
Dangling from each gate is a lengthy square orange fabric panel.
our work is about freedom,” Christo
and Jeanne-Claude say. “Nobody can buy our projects, nobody can sell tickets to experience our projects.
Our projects are once-in-a-lifetime and once-upon-a-time.”
Christo and his wife paid for the
project themselves and never asked for a cent from any government.
below these endless saffron gates gave me a feeling similar
to that of sitting in a temple sealing room and looking at myself
in a mirror stretching on forever: I got a sense of the eternal.
The project made me think of progression – just as we must endlessly
progress to arrive at exaltation, we must also progress and have patience to walk
through the endless gates in Central Park.
temples are also free – nobody can sell tickets to enter and
experience them. Entering the temple of the Lord depends on
choices and obedience. The Lord gives us the freedom to choose
whether to pursue the eternities or get stuck in the mundane.
have no idea whether Christo is a
Christian and whether he honors the Messiah who bore his name.
But it is clear to me that he has a special sense of important
symbols – freedom, agency and the eternal appear to have meaning
public show will disappear on Feb. 27 after being in Central
Park for only 16 days. But the temple will be there much longer.
I plan on returning again and again, and I hope each time I
am able to see the city around me with brand new eyes.
Geoffrey Biddulph is the author
of a novel called “Island of the Innocent,” an adventure story that describes one man’s conversion
to the fullness of the gospel. More information can be found