By Lynn Arave
During a recent visit for official LDS Church research on the second floor of the LDS History Building, one of the church employees assisting me stumbled across a rare find --- something that I had never heard of before ...
The Church at one time considered creating a temple on a large ship.
It could sail to countries where there was no temple and offer the blessings of the sacred structure to church members who could reach the coastline ports.
The special ship would feature a celestial room in its center, where normally the large dining room on a cruise ship is. With lodging, water, dining facilities, etc., this idea had merit, as self-contained traveling temple, complete with hotel rooms for temple patrons.
This was a proposal made in the late 1960s.
It never happened, but it was studied. In fact, a suitable ship was available for purchase for $2 million and another $2 million could have made it temple worthy.
Now days, temples are scattered all over the world. So, a sailing temple would likely not be needed today.
A temple on the seven seas ... who knew?
-What doomed this unique idea?
None other than boundary issues.
According to LDS Church policy, temples have to be located inside a stake's boundaries.
Since the temple was roving and could not be tied to any specific stake of the Church, the project was considered not doctrinally correct.
Could they not have made the sailing ship an exception to the stake boundary policy? Yes, but again that didn't happen either.
President Joseph Fielding Smith was said to have studied the idea for a temple ship, but could find no precedent where it could be exempt from the policy of a temple having to be inside a stake. So, he said no to the idea in 1970 and that was it.
So, the "USS Celestial" never set sail.
-For me, there was already a precedent set -- that the Israelites had a roving temple for many decades in the past. They were technically a stake on wheels and that worked way back then.
-Some believe that the "Satan has power over the water" concept in the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C 61) is what stopped the creation of the temple ship. I disagree, since that's also a myth of why full-time missionaries can't go swimming. It is a prophecy for the future, yet to be fulfilled and not pertinent to either swimming or the temple ship.