South Korea is the home to nearly 50 million people, and about 10.5 million of them live in the largest city proper in the world - Seoul. The population density of the city is a whopping 45,000 people per square mile! If you count the outlying communities which are part of the Seoul Capital area, it is the second largest metropolitan area in the world with 25.6 million residents. Yet in the middle of this crowded, noisy, neon-lit city, hidden from the surrounding chaos is a small peaceful sanctuary nestled atop a small hill. The Seoul Korea temple, is not easily found, and lies in the university area of Sinchon. To find this hidden gem, you must squeeze your way up a narrow alley, where just past the LDS Church and Distribution Center a left turn admits you into the serene temple grounds. This was the beautiful and welcome sight upon our first arrival to the temple in November 2011. Having spent many years living in Dallas, my first impression was that this was a smaller version of the Dallas temple. And it made me feel as though I was "at home" in this far away place where so many things were foreign!
As you can see, one of the most distinguishing characteristics of the temple grounds are the gardens full of mound-shaped shrubbery which mimic the landscape of Korea. A drive in any direction across Korea presents endless views of green covered rolling hills with tunnels burrowing through the mountains around every bend. We were able to attend the temple with all of our children in June 2012, and that remains the most special experience we have had in Seoul! As you can see in the photo below, the beautiful red Japanese Maple trees provide contrast to the sea of green, along with the colorful flowerbeds and elegantly shaped topiary junipers.
There are currently 141 LDS Temples in operation throughout the world, with 15 more under construction and an additional 14 announced. The Seoul Korea temple was completed in December of 1985 and is the only temple in Korea. It services the approximately 10,000 members of the church in 31 congregations throughout this country (statistics from 2012 as found in this article).
For members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, temples are the most sacred and holy places of worship. They are literally, "The House of the Lord", and are designed and constructed to be worthy of His presence. As attractive as the building and grounds are, the true beauty of the temple is what lies inside. It is here that sacred essential saving ordinances are performed, providing the means for all who accept and keep their covenants with God to return to His presence after this life. Under proper Priesthood authority, families can be "sealed" together for the eternities through the bonds of marriage and adherence to sacred promises made in these temples. In these holy temples, the ordinances required for eternal life, including baptism by immersion, are also performed in behalf of those who have passed through this mortal existence without an opportunity to hear the gospel. We believe that through the marvelous gift of agency, all mankind must be given an opportunity to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ and the conditions and requirements He set forth for admittance into the Kingdom of God. So, for these temples we are extremely grateful! How blessed we are that our children are righteous and worthy to enter the temple and make and keep sacred covenants. Our family is an eternal one and I have no greater blessing than that!
More can be learned about temples by clicking on the following link to the official website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at www.LDS.org
Upon entering the Seoul Korea Temple, one is immediately filled with physical and spiritual warmth. The temperature of the temple is quite warm, fitting for the loving kindness and warmth of the Korean people. I carry a white fan with me when attending the temple, because I prefer a little cooler air that circulates freely around me. Like most Korean homes and buildings, the rooms are small and space is precious and rare. Asians are much smaller people, and the furniture is sized accordingly. It's decor reflects Korean culture and heritage, with subtle accent colors of celedon green, salmon and gold. Celedon is the color of the valuable and prized Korean ceramic as shown below. The furniture also displays hints of Najeon-Chilgi, the beautiful lacquered mother-of-pearl traditional inlays crafted throughout the country.
Bob and I are grateful to serve as ordinance workers in the Seoul Temple where we can bask in it's spiritual warmth. English speaking members, as well as those who speak several other languages, can attend the temple at anytime and hear the words spoken in their native tongue with the aid of a headset. However, the first Saturday of each month, there are special sessions which are officiated and attended primarily by the members of the English speaking Seoul Korean Military District. As we serve regularly in this temple, we have grown to love and appreciate this beautiful holy place and the tranquil spiritual retreat it provides amid this bustling busy place we now call home. It is truly a place of light and truth, and when I am there, I truly am at home!