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Norine Dresser

"For over thirty years, cross-cultural customs and beliefs have been the focus of my research, writing and
university teaching."

ND

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OnLine Multicultural Manners Column

Not All Temples Are the Same

During the holidays, Bill Cooper, an insurance company employee, purchases a gift for his boss, Mr. Marshall. Cooper has often heard Marshall talk about his temple, so he buys a Hanukkah card to go with the gift and has all the employees sign it. When Marshall phones the office from his vacation hotel to wish his staff Merry Christmas, he thanks them for the thoughtful present and card, but adds, “You might want to know that I’m not Jewish.”

What Did It Mean?

When Marshall referred to his temple, he meant the Mormon temple, the place where the holiest of Mormon rituals take place. Mormons also attend local churches of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints where they go for regular Sunday meetings.

Hindus and Buddhists also worship in temples. A Buddhist patient at a local hospital was in critical condition. Wishing to attend to the family’s emotional needs, a staff member summoned a Buddhist priest. When the priest arrived, the family reacted unfavorably. Unaware that there are two main divisions of Buddhism, Theravada and Mahayana, the hospital had summoned a priest from the wrong branch.

People from Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Sri Lanka attend Theravada temples, while those from China, South Korea, Tibet, Japan and Vietnam go to Mahayana temples.

© Norine Dressser, 2/14/98