LDS foundation donates $25,000 to Krishna temple

Deseret News/June 5, 1999
By Carrie A. Moore

With a focus in recent months on building small temples worldwide, the LDS Church has had no lack of projects on which to spend money.

Now some of that funding fervor has spilled over into another temple-building project - the Krishna community's new edifice now being constructed on a prominent hillside in Spanish Fork.

A $25,000 grant from the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Foundation to benefit the Radha Krishna Temple was announced this week by Krishna devotees.

"When we sat down to do the press release there were just no words adequate to express the depth of our emotion and gratitude," said Caru Das, one of the founders of the Krishna complex, which includes a llama farm and radio station on the 15-acre temple site.

"Every time we've been interviewed during the past 15 years, the question always comes up about what it's like living among the Mormons. They are the most helpful, genteel people anywhere. We couldn't have picked a more congenial place to come and broadcast our religion."

He said the group applied for funds after hearing that the foundation helped the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City with fund raising for the Cathedral of the Madeleine restoration a few years ago.

"We were surprised that it only took a month from when we turned in the application. The local stake president visited and had dinner with us, and a week later he called and asked if he could bring the check over."

Dr. Stanley Green, a radiologist at Mountain View Hospital, is president of the Salem West Stake and said he has been impressed with the Krishnas and their lifestyle.

"These wonderful men, women and children are very honest and law abiding, moral people. They have any attribute of goodness one would want. They believe in strong families, chastity and morality - all things that would make a community strong. Latter-day Saints have everything in common with them when it comes to ideas of love.

"Certainly there are differences in how we worship and how we view Jesus Christ, but those are not a detraction. We feel they are struggling to build this building and they need the help. It would be almost impossible for them to do it on their own."

Green said the devotees willingly share their religious precepts with world religion students at Brigham Young University and occasionally go to LDS seminaries to talk about non-Christian religion and help ease people's fears and misunderstanding."

As far as the building itself, "I don't think there has been one word of opposition or any concern whatsoever" from anyone in the community. In fact, several congregations are scheduled to help the Krishnas tie rebar on the facility today.

"We've had almost every (LDS) ward in Salem and Spanish Fork tell us that when we're ready, they've got 20 to 30 people they can send over to help with the construction," Caru Das said. "We're now coming to the stage where we can save a lot of money with volunteer labor."

Known worldwide for attracting attention at airports with their robed devotees offering flowers to travelers, Caru Das agrees some Hare Krishnas outside Utah have a problem with their public image.

"In the 15 years we've been here, we have not distributed any flowers at the Spanish Fork international airport and somehow we have been successful. In many cases, we believe example is better than precept. We definitely have our own changes to make within our movement, and there are ways to go about things that are better than other ways. I think some things should be and are being reconsidered."

Devotees believe the new temple complex, which is visible from I-15 and has already become a Utah County tourist attraction, will have something for everyone.

Designed after the Palace Temple of Kusum Sarovar, the structure will include columns and archways, elaborate carvings, sculptures, murals and 17 ornamented domes rising to 60 feet high. Black teakwood and gold leaf altars along with marble deities will adorn the main temple shrine.

"Architecture is the most public of all art forms. This building is for everybody and we intend it to be for the community. Not everyone will be interested in the worship, per se, but we hold regular community festivals, concerts, dinners and dance programs. We hope to increase all that with the new facility.

"For people interested neither in the worship or the culture, we will have 15 beautiful landscaped acres here and residents are welcome to treat it as a community park. The llamas and peacocks will still be here and who knows what else in the future."

Once the temple is complete, the Krishnas want to sponsor interfaith seminars and workshops for the public. "We hope it will serve as a theological and intellectual center where people realize they have a lot more in common than they differ on."

Groundbreaking ceremonies for the $1 million facility were held in 1996, and the Krishnas hope to finish their temple by June 1, 2000.

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