Temple Riders: Motorcycling Mormon missionaries

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Members of the Temple Riders Association congregate outside of the Phoenix Arizona LDS Temple. The association is a group of motorcyclists who travel to temples throughout the U.S. and Canada and live standards of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Members of the Temple Riders Association congregate outside of the Phoenix Arizona LDS Temple. The association is a group of motorcyclists who travel to temples throughout the U.S. and Canada and live standards of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Matt Hamilton)

A former Christian pastor didn’t know his love for motorcycles would change his entire spiritual path.

About five years ago, Rick Gibson began selling motorcycle parts on Craigslist where he was introduced to a member of the Temple Riders Association (TRA), a group of motorcyclists who ride to different LDS temples across the country and into Canada.

Gibson began riding with the group, where he met even more members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“I was looking for riders who didn’t ride from bar to bar to bar,” Gibson said.

After his calling as a music minister came to an end, Gibson visited an LDS Church service with his new friends.

In the summer of 2014, a motorcycle trip from his home in Boise, Idaho, to Utah brought Gibson to Temple Square in Salt Lake City where he said he was “overcome” with what he calls one of his “hand of God moments, where you feel the presence of the Holy Ghost in your life.”

Later that year, after attending General Conference, Gibson decided to convert to the LDS Church. The Boise man said he fully believes he never would have joined the church without the influence of the Temple Riders.

“The TRA is an excellent vehicle to expose people to (the church),” Gibson said. “I think all of us, as committed Christ followers, if we believe what Jesus said when he said, ‘you are fishers of men,’ and women, we are bound by our love for Christ to live as examples of God’s love for his children.”

The members of the Temple Riders, their numbers nearing 700, travel to temples throughout the U.S. and Canada, covering a combined mileage of nearly 1,000,000 miles each year, according to Bart Howell, general director. The majority of riders sport Honda Gold Wings, followed by Harley Davidsons, Kawasakis, Suzukis and BMWs.

According to the group’s website, Temple Riders was formed to provide “a spiritual dimension to the joy and freedom associated with motorcycle riding.”

Although membership in the association is not a requirement, it does provide a niche for those who love to ride, in an environment that maintains standards of the church, according to Provo TRA chapter leader Cindy Caldwell. 

“We’re a good, clean cut group. Not the typical motorcycle gang,” Caldwell said.

She added that the only requirements of the being a part of the association are “no drinking, smoking or bad jokes.”

Members of the Temple Riders Association congregate outside of the Phoenix Arizona LDS Temple. The association is a group of motorcyclists who travel to temples throughout the U.S. and Canada and live standards of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Members of the Temple Riders Association congregate outside of the Phoenix Arizona LDS Temple. The association is a group of motorcyclists who travel to temples throughout the U.S. and Canada and live standards of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Matt Hamilton)

Caldwell agrees with Gibson, that the environment and community impact of the association is a great missionary tool. Riders bring business cards, pass-along cards and carry copies of the Book of Mormon to give to fellow riders and people they meet at national rallies.

“We love to ride and we love riding with good people,” Caldwell said.

Each chapter conducts at least one temple visit per month, and many chapters also travel to go out to eat at least once per month.

Caldwell said the large gang of motorcyclists dressed in leather can get some raised eyebrows and stares outside of the temple parking lot, and once an alarmed temple attendee even notified the cops about the gang outside of the temple. But Caldwell said that more often than not, showing up in bunches of 20 or 30 riders prompts questioning from others and welcomes missionary opportunities.

According to Howell, the TRA includes a large percentage of temple workers, former stake presidents, bishops and other church leaders. Many of the members have visited nearly every temple in North America and across all 50 states.

The average age of riders is 60, but Howell said the association is seeing an upsurge of younger members. The association hosts a rally in a different location every two years, which welcomes members from all over North America. 

“I really love the Temple Riders. It’s a really inclusive group,” Howell said. “We really care for each other.”

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