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Tactile Tour Helps People with Disabilities Experience the Orem Temple

People with disabilities gather to feel the new temple’s many patterns, textures and shapes

The Orem Utah Temple hosts a tactile tour for people with disabilities on December 5, 2023. Among the guests are Lexi Green, in the gray shirt, Jeremy Green, in the button-down shirt, Elder Conner Green, in the red tie, and Sophia Green, in the yellow dress. Photo by Kaitlyn Bancroft, courtesy of Church News.Copyright 2023 Deseret News Publishing Company.

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By Kaitlyn Bancroft, Church News

Hands felt along walls and carpets, slowing to explore particularly interesting textures. Guides described shapes and sizes and colors, from furniture and decorative moldings to artwork and stained-glass windows. And all around, a steady stream of people passed through the Orem Utah Temple, touring the building before its open house ends December 16, 2023.

But the people who attended a tactile tour December 5 of the new temple weren’t in a hurry. They stopped to savor every bit of beauty on display, especially things the average visitor might miss.

Katie Steed, disability specialist manager for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said records of tactile tours — special temple tours that allow people with disabilities to interact with sacred spaces in ways that are more accommodating to them — go back decades.

For instance, during a Brigham Young University devotional in April 2007, former Church history professor Richard O. Cowan mentioned how he helped organize a special tour for people who were visually impaired during the Provo Utah Temple open house in January 1972. Cowan, who is visually impaired himself, taught at BYU for nearly 46 years.

A more recent example is the St. George Utah Temple, which hosted a tactile tour in September.

But tactile tours typically have been advocated for by local members in a temple’s area, Steed said. In the future, she hopes tactile tours will be regular parts of any temple open-house period.

“Any member can advocate for whatever needs they have, and we’ll do our best to accommodate [them],” she said. “But we’re trying to make it so it’s just a deliberate, obvious part [of temple open houses] and people don’t have to ask.”

The exterior of the Orem Utah Temple.2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Experiencing the Temple Through Touch

The December 5 tactile tour of the Orem temple followed the regular tour route, but allowed more time for guests to linger. Loved ones and missionaries described the surroundings, while guests explored patterns and textures through touch.

Elder Conner Green, who is visually impaired, serves as a missionary at the Provo Missionary Training Center, where he’s a Mandarin tutor, interpreter and evaluator.

He attended the tour along with his father, Jeremy Green, and his sisters Lexi and Sophia Green. Lexi is visually impaired and Sophia doesn’t have arms.

Elder Green said he loves the feeling of peace he gets inside of temples.

“I always go to the temple because it [feels] different than outside,” he said.

Sophia Green, a high school student, said she particularly loved the Orem temple’s beautiful ceiling. But the best part of being in the temple was “the calmness [and] the quietness,” she said.

Jeremy Green said the tactile tour brought back special memories of being sealed to his children.

“[It’s] really neat for Conner and Lexi to ... experience [the temple] in a more deep way than they typically would,” he said.

Copyright 2023 Deseret News Publishing Company.

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