The Incident

I was at an establishment recently. All necessary and mandated COVID-19 protocols were encouraged and practiced. I think the experts would be pleased with what was being done.

However, there was a woman, masked, who was coughing and hacking a bit. She kept her distance from people and didn't seem to mind them avoiding her, and they were.

I watched the dynamics. There was obviously some concern on the part of those present about what this woman might be exposing the rest of us to.

There was even some outrage and even anger. Castigating looks were directed at her and some discussion among those present with groups of family or friends.

I didn't hear any of it but given the non-verbal indications I witnessed, it wasn't hard to piece things together.

At one point in the proceedings, people were even pointedly avoiding being near her.

This physical isolation was marked. The lady was isolating herself but people were giving her even more distance so much so that I became uncomfortable with it.

I pointedly walked towards where the woman was sitting and selected a seat that was close by her. The Spirit told me that sitting right next to her was not wise and that she needed a little space.

The Location

This occurred at the Indianapolis, Indiana Temple.

Top church leaders have instructed us to wear masks in the temple and do everything we can to bring down COVID numbers so that temple activities can return to normal and we can resume the important work of redeeming our dead.

Additional instruction has been given verbally and in writing.

When you make an appointment online for a temple session, the COVID guidance is again reiterated, especially in your email confirmation. The guidance is clear and explicit.

When you arrive at the temple, there are signs and markers repeating the guidance.

The temple workers at the front desk check temperature and generally review participants for compliance, like masks.

I would assume other temple workers have responsibilities for reviewing things and checking compliance.

Along with this is the person's own integrity and honesty. Temple goers are the more faithful members in so many ways. We voluntarily follow standards and make promises. The honor system really means something to all of us.

The Crux

So, isn't it more rational to assume that something else was going on with this woman that explained her unchallenged presence?

Why was the natural result on the part of so many participants to assume the worst about her and judge her accordingly?

I knew what was going on because this woman was part of my temple group.

She has lung cancer. When she gets overheated, she tends to cough and hack a bit more. The temple is kept quite warm, so my giving her some space was wise when I positioned myself next to her.

She wasn't ill with anything contagious. She wasn't exposing any of us to anything.


Why the harsh judgments of her given the temple context?

Isn't it more rational and logical to assume that everyone present in the temple is good, conscientious, and careful about things that matter, especially things that matter most?

Knee-jerk reactions in this context were wildly inaccurate, unwarranted, and wrong.

Not an Isolated Incident

I was judged harshly and inaccurately once in the temple and it unsettled me badly. I remember thinking, "If I can't escape from this type of treatment in the temple, where can I escape from it? I cried throughout my session.

It was so silly, really. It was a knee-jerk, harsh and unjustified reaction on the part of a temple worker.

Although a Utah native and member by birth and everything else, I didn't receive my own endowment until I went east.

My temple experiences were almost wholly in the small isolated temples, not big busy ones.

My first large temple experience at a largely unfamiliar temple was at the Mount Timpanogos, Utah, Temple some years ago now.

I got as far as the women's dressing room, largely unassisted. No obvious order presented itself so I found a vacant dressing room.

Almost immediately I was accosted by an irate temple worker for subverting the system and not proceeding to the appropriate dressing room I was supposed to go to or be directed to.

A bit stunned, I teared up and managed to mumble out, "I'm new here." She softened immediately but the damage was done.

Small temples don't have these systems for directing traffic and assigning you to a dressing room. I was unfamiliar with the proceedings.

I had been able to follow the system in the Provo, Utah, Temple somehow because the direction was more obvious, or else I was able to clue into it easier.

They did things differently at Mount Timpanogos although there was a system for assigning dressing rooms. I wasn't prepared for the difference and thought I was free to select my own dressing room.

Still in tears, I shared my experience with my husband in the Celestial Room. He shared a similar experience he had in the Provo, Utah, Temple.

He was hauled out of one dressing room and unceremoniously stuffed into another one, again by irate little temple workers, seemingly determined to believe that even temple goers and faithful members were inclined to be defiant and non-rule-abiding.

Why these harsh, judgmental, knee-jerk reactions, especially in the temple?

It makes no sense.

The Solution?

I'm not certain I have a solution. I suspect that if we can find a solution that would work in these temple experience examples I've related, it will work in the outside world as well.

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