Care Center Residents Make Temple Attendance a Priority

Contributed By Marianne Holman Prescott, Church News staff writer

  • 20 October 2014

A UTA bus driver and Elizabeth Graff help JoAnn Clemons out of the bus to attend the Jordan River Utah Temple on September 25.  Photo by Marianne Holman Prescott.

Article Highlights

  • Members of the Mingo Branch make temple attendance a priority.
  • Local stake members help residents attend the temple.
  • In their old age, members realize temple attendance is important.

“The restrictions, the limitations and confinement of our branch residents makes all the more our monthly temple excursions a highlight and a joy for [them].” —Gary S. Elliott, president of the Mingo Branch

When Walter Ewell sat outside the Jordan River Utah Temple on September 25, a sunny and warm day, he smiled and said, “I love to go to the temple.”

Even with his 87th birthday approaching a few days later, he called the temple day “the highlight of the month.”

For Brother Ewell—who has spent his life in Church service and served as a worker in the Dallas Texas Temple—the temple has been a big part of his life. Still, after attending the temple for decades, Brother Ewell loves to tell others about the “wonderful, spiritual experience” he has when he visits the temple.

That same day marked an important day for Brenda Gautier.

Although she has been endowed for many years, after more than a year of not being physically well enough to attend, she put on her white temple dress, gathered the pink and blue cards with names of her family on them, and joined a few others from her branch to attend the Jordan River Utah Temple.

“It is just such a special day,” she said.

For all of the members of the Mingo Branch, the fourth Thursday of the month is a good day—it is the day they get to go to the temple.

Many residents at Sandy Regional Health Center have spent decades attending and as workers in temples around the world. Because of various health conditions, they have moved to the care facility and become members of the Mingo Branch, a unit in the Sandy Utah West Stake.

For many, attending the temple has been a big part of their lives. It is difficult for them when health limitations make it harder to attend the temple. Because of the desire of branch members to attend the temple, the branch presidency and the facility management have worked together to provide temple trips for residents.

“The restrictions, the limitations and confinement of our branch residents makes all the more our monthly temple excursions a highlight and a joy for [them],” said Gary S. Elliott, branch president. “However, I still can’t help but feel, as is always the case when serving others, that as branch workers we seem to be equally the benefactors of their joy in attending the temple.”

Brenda Gautier, who serves as a missionary in the Mingo Branch, holds up some of the cards she has prepared to take to the Jordan River Utah Temple on September 25. Photo by Marianne Holman Prescott.

Elizabeth Graff helps Christina Skidmore off of a UTA bus prior to attending the Jordan River Utah Temple. Room on the bus is limited, so residents must take turns going to the temple. Photo by Marianne Holman Prescott.

Mary Beth Peterson goes to the in-house salon to get ready to attend the Jordan River Utah Temple. Photo by Marianne Holman Prescott.

Just as wards and branches around the world take time to attend the temple together, so does the Mingo Branch. Although the care center is located near a handful of temples across the Wasatch Front, getting there even once a month isn’t easy and takes much effort and coordination.

“Because so many of them are in wheelchairs, it is difficult to find transportation for all of them to go,” said Larie Elliott, President Elliott's wife. “But we do the best we can and some are able to go.”

Every month, a few people are prepared—based on a current temple recommend and good health—the day before the trip for an opportunity to attend the temple.

“We have a lot of people who have temple recommends and that are worthy to go but they are not all well,” said Elizabeth Graff, who, with her husband, Michael, serve in the branch by coordinating the monthly temple trip. “So among those who are well and desirous to go, we try to rotate it a little bit.”

The morning of the trip, couples from the local stake who serve in the branch and workers at the facility help the residents who are to attend the temple that day put on their white clothes. Many of the women visit the in-house salon to get their hair done.

After they are all ready, the residents are wheeled out to the front of the facility, where they wait for the care center’s van and a UTA bus.

“We have three people who have UTA passes so they can go every time,” said Sister Graff. “Otherwise, we have four people that will fit on the center’s van. So those we have to rotate.”

Recognizing that the care center’s van—and a driver—is used for so many other things, Sister Graff said that they are grateful for the coordination with the facility, even one day a month, to attend the temple.

Once they are all settled in the van and bus, members of the Mingo Branch are transported to the Jordan River Utah Temple, where temple workers are ready to assist them to a sealing room where they participate in sealings.

“I love the feeling that you get because it helps you stay positive,” said Sister Gautier, who serves as a missionary in the branch. After doing her own family history work, it was a wonderful feeling for her to go to the temple to do their temple work. Going to the Jordan River Temple is a bonus, for it is the temple in which she was married.

“The feeling that you get [in the temple] helps you be happy,” she said. “It helps me to talk to all people about the gospel.”

Although it isn’t as often as some of them would like, the residents are grateful for the opportunity they have to attend the temple and look forward to when it is their turn to go.

“These are people who have gone [to the temple] for years and years and years and now they are reduced to only going once in a while,” said Sister Graff. “It is hard for them.”

But those who are able to go—even once a month—consider it a huge blessing.

“I don’t buy things; I go to the temple,” said resident Christina Skidmore. She uses much of her extra money to buy a UTA pass so she can attend the temple more often. For her, it is worth it, because she said her “ancestors are calling.”