One of the most important beliefs of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is expressed by the work done within its temples. “We participate in temple work with heavenly joy, knowing that it helps prepare us, our descendants, and our ancestors to dwell in God’s presence,” said past Church president Wilford Woodruff.
An LDS temple differs in scope and purpose from a local meetinghouse. The chapel or meetinghouse is used by local congregations (usually one to three per building) for weekly worship services, activities for youth and adults, baptisms and funerals, and administrative meetings. In contrast the temple serves a region or district comprised of many congregations. In it sacred ordinances are performed not only for living members, but also for deceased ancestors. According to LDS beliefs, marriages performed in the temple will not last only “till death do us part,” but rather will endure for eternity.
In a 1982 address entitled “What Temples Are For,” Church leader W. Grant Bangerter discussed the purpose and importance of temples. “As a people, the Latter-day Saints have accomplished a magnificent work in the temples,” he said. “They serve with commendable devotion to find the names of deceased relatives, to work in extracting names from the records, and then to perform the ordinances for the redemption of the dead as well as for themselves.”
In non-Covid times, Church members in the Tallahassee Stake—which includes congregations in Tallahassee (7), Thomasville, Cairo, Quincy, Crawfordville, Perry, and Madison—enjoy many opportunities to serve in the temple closest to Tallahassee – the Orlando Florida temple.
Service gladly given in Orlando temple
From Tallahassee to Orlando is about a four-hour drive—and even longer for people in other parts of Florida and Georgia. But until the past year, many people traveled these distances at least one weekend every month to serve in various capacities in the temple—greeting patrons, performing sacred ordinances, and helping the work of the temple flow smoothly.
Ken and Cathrie Long
Cathrie and Ken Long of Tallahassee are one such couple. Discussing the commitment to drive monthly to Orlando for most of the weekend, Cathrie Long recalled that, in her childhood, the nearest temple was in Mesa, Arizona, a trip of almost 1,900 miles.
“It required a sacrifice to attend,” she noted in understatement.
In the early 1970s, a temple was built in Washington, DC. Though still a great distance away, it was then the closest to Tallahassee.
“I remember big Greyhound buses driving 18 hours to take our young people’s groups to the DC temple,” Long said. “Those trips were memorable and bound us together as friends … In 1983, our temple was in Atlanta, and today, it is in Orlando.”
Dale and Peggy Dransfield
Under normal circumstances, Cathrie and Ken Long have made their monthly trip to Orlando for the last five years. “We help temple patrons on Friday, stay in a hotel Friday night, and then return to help some more on Saturday,” Cathrie Long said. “We get home late Saturday night. … We love being there and going there together. It’s like one big date night, only even better because it’s not just all about us.”
Peggy and Dale Dransfield of Tallahassee keep a schedule like the Longs’. The main difference is that they tack extra time onto their travels to be with their son, who lives in the area.
“We leave about 8 a.m. Friday morning and arrive in Orlando around 2 p.m.,” Dale Dransfield said. “We serve several hours, then leave the temple at 9:30 p.m. and visit our son overnight. We return to the temple for our Saturday shift from 8:30 – 3:00 and drive back home Saturday night.”
Admitting that there is a not-inconsiderable financial and time commitment involved, both the Longs and the Dransfield’s said it doesn’t matter.
“We make that commitment very willingly and happily,” Cathrie Long said. “In our church, chapels are important, but temples are even more important. They are places we go to gather strength, faith, and peace.”
“It’s a blessing in our lives that we serve in this way,” Peggy Dransfield said. Her husband added, “When we serve the Lord, we’re in a position to call upon Him to bless us and our families. Blessings have come to our family because of our service in the temple.”
Tallahassee temple announced
Through the years, the number of temples has increased worldwide. Today the Church has 231 temples in various stages of operation, planning, and construction. To the delight of area Latter-day Saints, the plan to build a temple in Tallahassee was announced in April 2020. Obviously, this will change things significantly for many people.
“The drive will be a whole lot shorter,” Dale Dransfield said with a chuckle.
“We’ll be able to serve a lot more often,” added his wife.
Cathrie Long considered the announcement a ray of hope and joy amid pandemic anxiety. “I am so happy,” she said. “Now my grandbabies will grow up with a temple. They will be able to attend so much more often than I could when I was young. I am filled with gratitude.”