An artist's rendering of the Cody Wyoming Temple.©2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

Thoughtful and articulate responses to our critics often is not warranted. Why? Because it suggests that we are taking their concerns more seriously than they did in expressing them.

This may sound harsh. However, our critics often make stuff up, throw it at us and hope something will stick.

Sometimes it does, usually it doesn’t. Often, the accusations are more aimed at convincing those outside the Church that are totally ignorant on the subject. Church members can easily unmask the accusations as being without foundation.

Temple controversies often take this form. The Cody, Wyoming temple is no exception.

The objections voiced against that temple are typical of objections voiced against other temples throughout the years. A few objections are Cody specific.


The same objections keep coming up. For example, that the temple is inconsistent with the ambience of the residential neighborhood it is proposed for, that it will lower property values, increase traffic, obstruct views and have obnoxious and intrusive lighting.

This is the perennial list of complaints. It never changes.

There is never any evidence given for these assertions. No one ever references past temples in other areas and how they have affected their communities. There is never any evidence for anything. This supports my contention that the assertions have no basis in fact.

Evidence such as this could probably be compiled. However, I’ve never seen any hint of it. I suspect that if compiled, it would refute the critics, not support them.

Thus, the absence of it.

Residential Location of Temples

The assertion that temples are inappropriate in residential neighborhoods is somewhat understandable as a concern, only because most people are ignorant as to the temple’s mission and purpose.

I was discussing this issue with my brother once. I said, people don’t think they should be located in residential neighborhoods. They think they should be located in commercial areas. He finished the thought for me, “Along with all the other businesses?”

His inference was that people assume that temples are consistent with commercial buildings and commercial structures. They aren’t, but that’s what people think.

Many churches do operate like businesses. People make money out of them and off of them. We don’t. Temples are the opposite of businesses. No money changes hands and there is no cost to attend them. They cost money, they don’t produce it.

This view is evident in the following coverage of the Cody controversy:

Kaelberer and Skinner said they are not against the temple in Cody, they just think it belongs somewhere else.

“One might ask where can one put a hundred foot tall tower church in an applicable zone where they wouldn’t have to go through a conditional use permit or a special exemption for the height,” Skinner said. “That answer’s pretty easy. It’s a D3 commercial zone.”

That would be anywhere in downtown Cody, or where there are businesses already.

There is nothing particularly sacred about zoning. Exceptions do need attention and specific approval and that’s what the official approval process is for. Some exceptions could imperil public safety and that obviously needs consideration. It’s just difficult to imagine what a temple or temple steeple would imperil.

Who made these people/critics experts on temple location anyway?

Temples are unique structures and it is hard to argue they “belong” or “don’t belong” anywhere. Those of us with knowledge of what they are, how they function know they are best located in quiet, residential neighborhoods.

No master plan, zoning or guidelines are going to be set up to address Latter-day Saint temples. It isn’t feasible or rational to do this ahead of time. They have to be considered as a unique exception to planning and zoning. This is what the approval and exception process is for.

I would never presume to inform church leaders as to the best location for where temples should be. I’m amazed at the foresight and inspiration that goes into location decisions. Often, events and situations develop way down the road that shows the wisdom in the location choice.

As for property values, this accusation is truly mystifying. I can’t think of anything better to protect property values. Temples are immaculate structures with meticulously manicured and beautiful landscaping. Can you imagine a better neighbor?

Temples don’t go anywhere. They exist for the ages. They aren’t going to be bought by some nefarious individual or group and left to decay. They’ll remain in the same hands and continue to be breathtaking. You take more of a risk having regular neighbors.

Why do these other people think they are experts on temple location?

Have any of these critics actually talked to individuals living near residential temples about their experience? If they do, I never hear about it, or read about it. Although, I did see a church produced video spotlight a man who was extremely grateful for the property value of his home near the temple when he finally did sell it.

Temples are different than any other structures. They will always stick out as unusual no matter where they are located. There is no getting around that. They can never be expected to blend in anywhere. They are unique. However, they are crucial to the free exercise of our religious worship and should not be impeded under federal law.

Traffic Concerns

What about increased traffic? What about it? There really isn’t any, but people often don’t believe this. I can, I’ve lived around temples.

If all they are referencing for this accusation is the notion of mega-churches perhaps this notion would be compelling. However, it is wildly inaccurate when it comes to temples. You’ll have more traffic to worry about if your neighbors have teenage kids.

I pointed all this out over 10 years ago when the Connecticut temple was being resisted. The article I focused on referenced the Belmont, Massachusetts temple:

”There really were some concerns about noise and traffic, but it turned out to be nothing," said Lt. Richard Santangelo of the Belmont Police Department. "You really can't even tell they're there.”

If noise and traffic truly are problems with temples in residential areas, this would be easily ascertained after-the-fact rather than before. I know of no complaints after temples have gone in, just before. This suggests there really is no merit to this assertion.

Again, critics never point to any actual data from other temples. If it was there, I suspect they could find it if they went looking. I would assume it either isn’t there or doesn’t support their conclusions.

If temples were noisy and busy it would defeat their purpose of being a calm, serene, spiritual entity where you can get away from the hustle and bustle of the world. The Church is careful not to let that happen and it can be controlled.

It can be controlled because numbers are so carefully managed. Only a certain number of patrons can be accommodated at temples. Only a certain number of known individuals have access to temples. Only a certain number of individuals are assigned to a particular temple.

The Church can make certain that these numbers are not exceeded. If they come close, the Church builds another temple in another location to accommodate the increased numbers.

Aesthetics and Law

Do people object to immaculate, picturesque landscaping? Wouldn’t you want that in your neighborhood? With temples that have been around for a while, the word gets around. The Oakland temple is a big draw for a variety of groups and photographers per this Los Angeles Times article:

On any springtime Saturday, a steady stream of quinceañeras can be seen promenading along the blooming rose bushes and gushing fountains of Oakland’s Mormon temple.

It’s a favorite among the 15-year-olds, who travel from all parts of the Bay Area for a photo shoot among the temple’s gardens, creating a unique blend of cultures. It’s not clear how the temple photo shoot tradition got its start, or why certain segments of the community choose the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Oakland over any other locale.

But Dulce Gutierrez, who owns and operates Gutierrez Limo in between pre-med classes, has a pretty good guess: “Its beauty,” she said. “That’s the main draw here.”

The Oakland temple is more urban and not as residential so it is different than many temples. However, the beauty of the grounds is something all temples share. The article continues:

With an imposing modernist design, five gold-crested spires reaching to the sun and the center point climbing 170 feet, the temple has a castle-like, even Disney-esque, appearance. Manicured lawns surround rollicking waters that burble under footbridges. A rooftop terrace rimming the temple treats visitors to sweeping views of the San Francisco Bay.

Photographers tend to recommend the location to their clients, Gutierrez said, and they pass along the tip to other photographers. That’s how videographer Carmen Palacios heard about the temple, she said. Her friend, who is also a photographer and videographer, recommended it, and she’s been coming nearly every Saturday ever since. That was four years ago, she said.

“It’s my favorite place to take photos,” Palacios said.

Not all temple grounds are that open to the public, but anyone can enjoy how beautiful it is, if only from a distance. Temples make excellent neighbors.

One of the specific, but not uncommon, concerns for the Cody, Wyoming temple is the height of the steeple. Although consistent with law and precedent , it may be inconsistent with the Cody Master Plan, a document with no legal bearing that appears to have been dusted off and utilized for objecting to the temple.

The Cody temple would be consistent with law:

During the second meeting in late June, more than a hundred people came. One was Jessica Wille.

“I am for bringing people to God in any capacity,” Wille said. “And, I’m also for just following the laws. And when I went to these meetings, I realized that everything is in accordance with the laws.”

According to Sean Carter, who works for the City of Cody Building Department, Wille is right.

In the latest Planning and Zoning meeting, he told the board, “If they are constructing the Temple Tower out of what we consider non-combustible construction, it can be unlimited in height.”

That’s because a rooftop structure is exempt from Cody height restrictions. But, some of the board members disagreed with Carter’s definition of the large tower as a rooftop structure.

The "non-combustible" clause makes sense. If it's non-combustible then the city doesn't have to worry about having the necessary equipment to put out a possible fire at that height. That would be a legitimate city and legal concern for objecting to height.

This issue may ultimately be settled in the courts, regardless of people’s personal interpretation.

The notion that the height of the steeple is too high and could obstruct people’s views seems almost laughable to me. I’ve lived and traveled in Wyoming. I can’t imagine it being more than a toothpick in Big Sky Country. There is almost no view to obstruct.

View some videos of Cody on YouTube and you’ll see what I mean, especially this one produced by the city itself. I would think the dam there is less consistent with the inherent beauty and terrain of Cody than the proposed temple.

Lighting and Lighting Issues

I’m always astonished at how the Church is able to light up the temples without lighting up the surrounding neighborhood or other structures. They do a masterful job. You have to see it yourself to really appreciate it.

One way you can do so is to search Latter-day Saint or Mormon temple at night on YouTube. There are a variety of videos posted, many taken by individuals via drones. Judge for yourself.

I do remember one instance, years ago, where the Church was asked to mute the lights at night at a particular temple. They did so. They were later asked to increase them back to what they were. Apparently, it wasn’t that intrusive and it was beautiful. I don’t remember enough of the details to search it and provide proof here but I do remember it occurring.

We also have Sharon Osbourne’s evidence, the wife of rocker, Ozzy Osbourne:

One example is Sharon Osbourne, a television personality and the wife of rockstar Ozzy Osbourne. She built a hot tub on the top terrace of her home so she could look out across Hollywood's Santa Monica Boulevard and admire the Los Angeles LDS Temple.

"One of the first things I bought for the house was a big old-fashioned telescope, which I kept in the living-room area. And the first thing I did every night when I came home was go to the spyglass and look out across the city on the Mormon temple," she said.

The lighting is always exquisite at temples and it is stunning as well as respectful to the neighborhood.


So, if all these assertions really are without merit, why are people resisting temples? That is the million-dollar question.

I can’t help but think that if the situation were reversed that these people would be screaming that it’s their land, their money and as long as they aren’t violating any laws they should be able to do what they want with it.

So, why do they want to control our temples?

Why are they trying to control what other people do with their own money, their own land and their own resources. I find it mystifying but you could probably query people who manage Home Owners Associations (HOA) for some answers.

I think it is more about power and control than anything. They are trying to control how and where people worship according to their definition of what is appropriate, despite having very few facts.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that the Church thoroughly investigates the law – local, state and federal when doing anything. Critics generally have to twist something obscure or borderline in order to accuse it of any wrong-doing. Naïve or complicit journalists often help them along. When you can truly obtain all the facts, you often get a very different picture of what is happening.

Here are some quotes from a recent article:

One of the concerns community members have about the temple development is that the proposed Site Plan violates city code and Cody’s Master Plan. The Church says, “That determination is made by city leaders. We feel we are in compliance with both federal and local law.”

The Church also stated, “We have compromised on a number of items in good faith. The opposition only seems to offer one option, no temple in Cody. We are hopeful we can find a mutually agreeable solution for all of Cody and avoid the division being raised by opponents to the temple.”

The LDS Church remains hopeful that the temple will be able to be developed at the proposed address of 555 Temple View Lane, stating, “In addition, the Church has reached out to the representatives of those expressing concerns and were told on several occasions they were simply unwilling to meet or talk.  We remain willing and anxious to reach a mutually agreeable resolution.”

When one side won’t talk or budge on anything, that’s generally a sign they are not bargaining in good faith.

My Advice to Cody Officials

Those of you who must make decisions on this issue would undoubtedly have an easier time of it if you can point to something being technically illegal and saying your hands are tied.

I seriously doubt that is the case here.

Using your personal preferences and interpretation of the law is problematic in making decisions on this or anything. You are setting yourself up for future quandaries and dilemmas.

If you do that, you open yourself up to pressure and influence from any and all sources on just about any imaginable subject. It will increase your problems in the future, not alleviate them.

It’s like giving in to your children on a particular issue that you’ve already set up established guidelines for. Exceptions are for things you can’t or didn’t anticipate when you set up the guidelines. Abandoning the guidelines once simply emboldens the kids to pressure you in the future on additional things. It’s a quagmire.

Also, you could too easily argue yourself into something that isn’t legally sound like denying the Church the ability to build on its own land because you personally think the steeple is too high when there is no legal restriction against it. Legal precedent, legal and technical advice is a better guide to rely on.

Disputing the city planner’s determination on the steeple because it doesn’t align with your view or because he is a Latter-day Saint is an emotional decision if you would accept his determination if it supported your view and he was a Methodist. He’s the city planner. Evaluate his view on the basis of his technical expertise and the proof he offers.

Having the courts decide will get you individually off of the hook but it will cause extra expense for the city of Cody and ultimately, its citizens. That doesn’t help anybody.

So, make the decisions you were elected to make in a timely manner with the best information you have. Paralysis by analysis is expensive and it is just delay. You don’t need to review or study anything more. You have the facts you need.

Don’t make up the rules as you go along. You must follow the rules currently in existence, otherwise you are opening yourself to legal challenges, which apparently you have done already. If you need to change the rules in the future, do it in the future. Otherwise, you are being capricious and arbitrary. History and the law will condemn you for it.

Put your personal preferences aside and make the best decisions you can consistent with law, fairness and equity uncluttered by preferences or pressure. Your integrity is on the line.

Short-sighted decisions that are safe for you now can imperil other people and other things down the road. History will hold you accountable even if gets you off the hook for consequences in the short-run.

Yes, making these decisions could get personally unpleasant. The controversy has turned into a power struggle. People could target you for persecution if you decide something they don’t like.

The temple itself will last longer on the earth than the people currently against it or for it.

However, what usually happens is that emotion eventually dies down and reason prevails, at least in the long term. Ultimately, you want to be on the right side of reason. Make your decisions without emotion.

Remember, you are making decisions for the ages.

Addendum: 2023-08-17

I've been reflecting on the "lighting" issues. It's hard for me to consider this a legitimate concern and not just a reason to scare people into resisting the temple. Concerns over lighting are certainly understandable. They are a reason to work something out with a property owner, not a reason to prevent them from building in the first place.

A comment from Facebook: "In 1987 I spoke to a guy who didn't know I was LDS. He said he used to live in Oakland just below the Mormon Temple. I asked what that was like. He said, "The construction noise wasn't fun but I loved it when I sold my house for much more than even a few streets away.""

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