While in California recently, I stopped at an eatery and looked up across the street to behold the majestic San Diego LDS temple. I have spent many hours there convinced I was “saving the dead.” That notion, in a city that boasts the third-largest homeless population in the United States and the largest percentage of homeless veterans, is embarrassing, not to mention incomprehensible.
In 2012, it was reported that the LDS Church spent more money building City Creek Center than it spent in the past 25 years on humanitarian contributions. It’s no small curiosity, since tax-exempt status was granted to religions ostensibly to pick up the slack for the poor and needy. And it’s rather disingenuous, considering that the church requires members to pay 10 percent of their gross income for the privilege of entering one of those temples.
Their own scripture specifically tasks members: “O ye wicked and perverse and stiffnecked people, why have ye built up churches unto yourselves to get gain? Why have ye transfigured the holy word of God, that ye might bring damnation upon your souls? … Your churches, yea even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts. For behold, ye do love money, and your substance and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.” (Mormon 8:33, 36-37)
The root cause of violence and terrorism is poverty and inequality. The proof is evidenced in the staggering increase of crime in the past five years at home and abroad due to economic downturn. Especially hard-hit is San Diego, with its immigration challenges. To its credit, San Diego is progressive in treating its homeless population, but the city is 18th on the list for federal funding, behind cities with less than half its homeless population. With inadequate shelters to accommodate the burgeoning load, on any given night you can see San Diego’s massive homeless population bed down on city streets in what is referred to as “sleeping central.”
It made me wonder … what if, in an enormous gesture of goodwill, the LDS Church was to throw open the doors of the San Diego Temple (as well as several local chapels) and allow the homeless to seek shelter and safety there? What would Jesus do?
The temple has a cafeteria, laundry facilities, lockers, at least three separate large rooms that could be turned into sleeping quarters, and a chapel for instruction. The church has an abundance of multitalented and service-oriented members, coupled with a frustrated and feeling-helpless local community-minded population, who would jump at the chance to save the living!
“What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone [temple or mall]?” (Matthew 7:9)
JULIE L. TAGGART
Salt Lake City