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How the Feather River California Temple is helping foster relationships with its Sikh and Hindu neighbors

Group of institute directors and their spouses visit the Gurdwara Sahib Sikh Temple and Sri Narayan Hindu Temple in Yuba City

In the heart of California’s Central Valley, the soon-to-be-dedicated Feather River California Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is surrounded by several temples of other faiths — including the Gurdwara Sahib Sikh Temple and Sri Narayan Hindu Temple.

This devoted religious community is why Richard Staples describes the Yuba City area as “heaven on earth” and wanted to share it with other Church educators.

Staples, a coordinator for Seminaries and Institutes of Religion and director of the Marysville institute, hosted with his wife, Melinda, a regional inservice for institute directors and their spouses March 8-10.

As part of the inservice, the group of nearly 50 individuals spent a day visiting the Sikh temple, the Hindu temple and the grounds of the Feather River temple, which will have a public open house beginning in August prior to its October dedication. The Sikh and Hindu temples are within a two-mile radius of the Feather River temple.

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Staples said one purpose of visiting the neighboring temples was to look for similarities and differences among the faiths to help them in their teaching. “We came up with so many similarities. Differences were few,” he said.

“They want to teach their children correct principles and especially focus on God, and not lose their youth — the same is true for us. We’ve got to put as much emphasis as we can into teaching our youth correct principles and helping them to feel the Spirit and feel what the Lord can do in their lives, to help them be good and do good and do service for others.”

Another purpose of the visit was to build and strengthen relationships in the community. Lynne Takahashi, a stake family history consultant in the Yuba City California Stake who spoke at a devotional during the inservice, said the community has supported the Feather River temple since the moment it was announced.

“I believe this is because we have a faith-filled community of good people who understand the importance of worship, however diverse our worship may be. Our Hindi and Sikh neighbors are especially warm and welcoming,” she said.

Gurdwara Sahib Sikh Temple

Raji Tumber, a member of the Sikh community who has close relationships with Latter-day Saints in the area, helped organize the educators’ visit and answer questions at the Sikh temple. 

“I was on ‘cloud nine’ for days because I felt like this was just such a unique, great opportunity for this faith to explore and ask questions. … I saw their smiles. I felt like they felt enriched by the experience,” she said.

Several years ago Tumber’s parents sold part of their 100-acre property in Yuba City to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to house a stake center — and now the Feather River temple. “The relationship that we established with the Church through the years and now with the temple, I feel like it’s a part of us, our family.”

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Staples expressed appreciation for Sarb Thiara, president of the Sikh temple, who made their visit possible. Thiara was unable to attend but commented on receiving a positive report of the event.

“The information I got was that it was very great and everybody enjoyed it. It was a good learning experience for both sides,” Thiara told the Church News.

Thiara explained that Sikhs are welcoming and accepting of all individuals. Like the four doors of the Golden Temple in India, “our religion is open to everyone,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what faith you’re from — we open our doors. That’s what we believe and that’s what I believe. … I hope everybody that came, they feel the same way that we do.”

Institute directors and their spouses visit the Sri Narayan Hindu Temple in Yuba City, California.
A group of institute directors and their spouses visit the Sri Narayan Hindu Temple in Yuba City, California, on March 9, 2023, as part of the Regional California North Couples Inservice for Seminaries and Institutes. | Grant Jensen

Sri Narayan Hindu Temple

Kinny Chatkara, a member of the leadership team at Sri Narayan Hindu Temple, spoke to the educators about the history of the Hindu temple and answered various questions. “It was a wonderful experience,” he said, noting his respect and appreciation for teachers and education.

“Our temple is always open to anyone from the community,” he added. “If anyone has any questions about the religion or the programs we have, the festivals we have, we’re gladly able to help. … We really appreciate sharing our culture and our religion and our festivals with other people.”

The Saturday after the visit, the Staples returned to the Hindu temple for an anniversary celebration and the annual Holi Festival of color, love and spring. They were invited to speak to the congregation prior to the playful throwing of colored powder.

“It was a really good celebration of spring and being together and accepting each other,” Staples said. “They welcomed us and asked us about our temple, when ours is coming, how they can go to it.”

Melinda and Richard Staples attend the Holi Festival of Colors, Love and Spring.
Melinda and Richard Staples attend the Holi Festival of Colors, Love and Spring on March 11, 2023, at the Sri Narayan Hindu Temple. | Provided by Richard Staples

Prem Hunji Turner, president of the Sri Narayan Temple, explained that one of Hindus’ fundamental beliefs is that all come from God, or whatever name an individual may choose to call their source of being. 

“We honor and respect all paths to God and welcome visitors as a wonderful opportunity to listen and learn from each other with an open mind and heart,” she wrote in an email to the Church News. “It’s an opportunity to connect from that place of eternal love, to feel our common humanity, to sense our interconnectedness — helping dissolve preconceived prejudices that we may unknowingly carry.”

Turner and her husband, Richard, participated at the Parliament of World Religions in Salt Lake City in 2015. “We participated in many events, including those hosted by Latter-day Saints, and felt a warm welcome no matter their faith,” she recalled. “We look forward to our continued interfaith connection with all of our brothers and sisters of any religion or none.”

More about the Feather River temple

The 38,000-square-foot Feather River California Temple sits on a nine-acre site at 1470 Butte House Road in Yuba City. President Russell M. Nelson announced a new temple for Yuba City during the October 2018 general conference; the temple was later given its Feather River California name. Ground was broken for the temple on July 18, 2020.

A rendering of the Feather River California Temple.
A rendering of the Feather River California Temple | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles will dedicate the temple on Sunday, Oct. 8. A public open house will run Aug. 19-Sept. 9, excluding Sundays. Prior to the open house, a media day will be held Aug. 15 and invited guests will tour the temple Aug. 16-Aug. 18.

It will be California’s first Latter-day Saint temple dedication in nearly 17 years.

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