As early members of the Mormon church, my ancestors joined other converts seeking refuge from intense religious persecution, which in one instance included an order from the Governor of Missouri to “exterminate the Mormons.” After finding temporary refuge in religiously tolerant places such as Pennsylvania (thank you William Penn), these pioneers fled west looking for a place to settle. Along the way they encountered disease, hostility, and violence that left many as martyrs to the cause. Heartbroken mothers buried their babies in shallow graves along the trail, fathers were beaten by angry mobs, and church leaders watched as their faithful members struggled to survive.
Like many of you, the struggle of my ancestors cuts deep into my self-identity. As such, you’ll have to forgive me if I come off a little excited to introduce the world’s newest Mormon temple down the street in Logan Square. Separate from its weekly meetinghouses, temples represent the pinnacle of worship for the Mormon community, and more broadly signify an emergence from the struggle of early Mormon pioneers. Although present-day Mormonism has more members outside of the US than inside, the roots of this uniquely American-born church remain closely intertwined with the vision for religious freedom outlined by the founding fathers right here in Philadelphia.
Designed to reflect local history and culture, the temple mirrors the neoclassical style of its storied neighbors the Free Library of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The 208-foot-tall spires at opposing ends of the building bear a striking resemblance to the clock tower at Independence Hall (and for that matter, the clock tower from Back to the Future), which I’m told served as inspiration for the temple’s architecture (Independence Hall, not Back to the Future). The infusion of local history continues in the interior of the building, with the state flower worked into the wall moldings, a number of original murals that reflect local scenery, and a large painting of Benjamin Franklin signing the Declaration of Independence that dons the main entrance hall.
The temple will be open for a free tour up through September 9th, which includes an extension designed to accommodate demand from the Wharton community (note: Wharton Temple Night is September 7th). The tour is straightforward: a 10-minute video about what goes on in the temple, a 30-minute tour of the inside of the temple, and an optional Q&A session for whoever wants to stick around. The event itself is not designed for overt proselytizing.
So in the spirit of new experiences (that same spirit that compels some of you to hike through Patagonia or get your face pounded in on Fight Night), I invite you to take an hour out of your day and pay the temple a visit. In an environment where new ideas, unfamiliar cultures, and unique opportunities play such a pivotal role in strengthening our collective Wharton character, I encourage you to weave one more thread into your personal B-school tapestry, and see what Philadelphia’s newest temple is all about.
(For more info visit ldschurchtemples.com/philadelphia)