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SALT LAKE CITY — It's really not that unusual to see a young man on a bicycle approach a temple or chapel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — not in Utah or anyplace else where missionaries spread the Mormon word.
Dalin Earls was once one of those missionaries and not very long ago. And last month, Earls jumped on his bike again to visit a temple.
Well, make that a bunch of temples.
Earls, who moved to Utah in 2010 to attend BYU, rode his bicycle around 1,200 miles as he pedaled his way to every LDS temple in the state. That's 17 of them stretching from Logan to St. George.
"Ever since I moved here, I just really wanted to — at some point — visit all of the LDS temples that are here in the state," Earls said. "I'd had this kind of vague goal for a really long time. It was one of those things like I'd say, 'This summer, I'll do it. I'll go like every weekend or go on a road trip,' but I just never got around to it."
The tipping point for Earls, who grew up in California, was a trip last fall to Malaysia and Indonesia. It was an area Earls was familiar with, as he served a mission for his church there.
"While I was in Indonesia, I went on this crazy solo tour of the highland and saw all these Hindu and Buddhist temples and really cool sites," Earls said. "It got me thinking, 'Why haven't I been putting that same focus and effort into these big, religious buildings for my own religion?'"
It wasn't just sightseeing, however.
Along the way, Earls — who was accompanied by his mother the entire way and occasionally by one of his sisters — would perform LDS rituals inside the temples. While Earls did the heavy-pedal pushing, mom Yun Lutgen drove nearby to offer support when necessary.
"We do what are called ordinances — which are religious ceremonies," Earls said. "You do these things for yourself first and then for your ancestors. Before going on this trip, I actually prepared a bunch of names of my ancestors. Over the course of the trip, we would perform these ceremonies in each of the temples we were able to enter."
Earls' trip started on July 13, dipping briefly into western Colorado, and finished after the Pioneer Day holiday.
In fact, it was that last holiday that prolonged the adventure for a couple of days.
Near the end of his voyage was a gruelling 239-mile trek between the Monticello and Manti temples.
"We were pushing crazy hard to try to get to the Saturday night session at the Manti temple," Earls said. "I think it was 120 miles the first day and a hundred-plus the second day. We pushed super hard, and we got there, but the temple was actually closed for Pioneer Day.
"It was such a shock because, for a week-and-a-half, the only thing on my mind was biking and going in the temples," he added. "I just didn't know what to do. Should I just keep biking and make my way to Cedar City now."
In the end, Earls stayed true to his original vision of what this trip was all about.
"It was one of those moments where we really had to pause and remind ourselves about the purpose of the trip," Earls said. "The main priority was to visit all the temples. So we actually waited two days, so we could go in first thing Tuesday morning.
"Even though I didn't want to rest, it helped me to finish out the trip a lot smoother," he continued. "And it reminded me of the purpose — to visit all the temples and cultivate my relationship with God."