The Most American Religion’s Transgender Temple Architect
by Nathan Kitchen
Earlier this year Atlantic Magazine writer McKay Coppins was granted an interview with the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Russell M. Nelson, to explore the church’s bicentennial birthday.
The resulting article has been hailed as “the most consequential magazine-length feature on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in more than a decade,” and has proved very appealing for Mormons of every stripe as they look at themselves and their 200-year-old identity in the mirror of national reflection.
Affirmation was mentioned in this article as part of the conversation, but there is an extremely significant part of this piece that might go unnoticed by the general public. It is a fact that we should be aware of and can be extremely proud of as a community navigating the LGBTQIA+/Latter-day Saint intersection: the photo that accompanies the Atlantic article about the Church is the Oquirrh Mountain Temple, the design and construction of which was directed by Laurie Lee Hall, the former Chief Architect of Temples for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Despite her breathtaking buildings, physical icons of a church connecting heaven to earth, she was forced from her position for no other reason than she was a transgender woman.
Laurie shared, “There was a time when I could totally relate to Moses in the classic movie The Ten Commandments, when Sethi said, ‘Let the name of Moses be stricken from every book and tablet, stricken from all pylons and obelisks, stricken from every monument of Egypt. Let the name of Moses be unheard and unspoken, erased from the memory of men for all time.’
“Attempts were also made to eliminate my name, my voice, and any connection to my work and service within the church.
“However time has shown that just as my efforts will not be erased, transgender persons within and without the church will never be erased; we are valid, worthy individuals who make enormous contributions to the communities to which we are able to belong.”
It is fitting that a picture of her work headlines such a pivotal article that acknowledges “perhaps no issue has provoked more debate within the Church than its treatment of LGBTQ people.”
After learning about Laurie’s connection with this temple Adam Maughan, a member of the Affirmation Community Conversations Facebook group, wrote, “When I went through the temple, everyone expected me to go through the Logan Temple since that was nearest my home. For some reason, I felt a really strong pull to go through the Oquirrh Mountain Temple. I didn’t know until today that Laurie Lee Hall was connected to that, but I like to think that even though my relationship with the church is no more, that my creator was drawing me to ‘my people.'”
As Senior Vice President of Affirmation Laurie has brought her talents, discarded by the church, to build and connect LGBTQIA+ souls, their families, and friends who take shelter under the house she helped build in Affirmation.
Thank you, Laurie. You and your voice will not be erased.