In the heart of Mormon country, south of Salt Lake City, in the tiny town of Spanish Fork sits a temple established not by the Church of Latter Day Saints, but the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. The ISKCON are more commonly known as the Hare Krishna movement and are a Hindu sect known in pop culture for their distinctive orange robes, shaved heads and mantra “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna…”
While Hinduism’s founding dates to more than 5,000 years ago, the Hare Krishna sect is relatively new, founded in 1966 in New York City by well-educated and devout Hindu Indian named Abrhay Charan De. Since then, the sect has grown to include as many as one million followers, though the number is more formally presented as 250,000 globally. Its largest growth came in the 1960s when its anti-war, anti-excess, vegetarian and love focused teachings spoke to the disenchanted youth of the era.
The temple was mostly empty when we arrived, with a few individuals busy working on the daily vegetarian buffet (which, like the temple itself, is open to the public). Tours were not being offered because they were in the midst of planning for their annual “Festival of Colors.” But, we were encouraged to walk around ourselves, which we did.
The temple is absolutely beautiful, but equally understated. Built in 1998, the temple is set upon the working llama and vegetable farm of devotee Christopher Warden. But what makes this temple so unique is that the sect received the first non-Christian grant offered by the Church of Latter Day Saints. And it wasn’t a small grant, the Krishnas received $25,000 for the building of their temple, by far their largest single donation. Talk about religious tolerance.