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Bikers Take Book of Mormon on Road

December 26, 1999|HANNAH WOLFSON | ASSOCIATED PRESS

SALT LAKE CITY — They don't drink, they don't smoke, and they carry extra copies of the Book of Mormon in their saddlebags.

The Temple Riders are mostly Mormon, but they're as proud of their big bikes and black leather as any other motorcycle gang.

"We're just a part of the motorcycling community," says Ted Gregory of Plain City, 40 miles north of Salt Lake.

Don't be fooled. There are some major differences between your local Hell's Angels and Utah's most orthodox motorcycle gang.

First of all, the Temple Riders don't ride on Sunday. They don't drink, smoke or curse. But the mostly over-60 members do wear traditional motorcycle garb. And they keep their duds--and their bikes --immaculate.

"This group is very clean, very well groomed," said Gregory, 62, who joined the group about 10 years ago.

Many of the group's rides, including one or two cross-country trips a year, make a stop at the Mormon temple, and some of the bikers wear hats bearing the image of the Salt Lake City landmark. The group's biggest rides include 95 bikes, almost all ridden by couples who belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

For most, the fellowship is what's important.

"The main thing is they're just a good bunch of LDS people," said president Cliff Beattie, a Salt Lake architectural consultant who at 55 is one of the group's youngest members. "We're way over on the other side from the Hell's Angels."

Temple Riders was founded in 1987 by Frank and Catherine Reese, avid bikers who were frustrated because so many groups rode on Sundays. By the next spring, they had a handful of couples and a regular newsletter.

Missionaries on motorcycles are nothing new. The Christian Motorcyclists Assn. was formed in 1975 and has about 60,000 members around the world.

But the Temple Riders--who claim members in Idaho, Texas and California as well as Utah --are more about lifestyle than gospel.

In fact, Beattie said, more non-Mormons are also turning out.

"You don't have to be LDS to ride," he said. "All we ask is that when people ride with us they keep to the same standards we do."

Though the group is not sanctioned by the church, members say Mormon leaders are well aware of their activities. Many members have been lay clergy.

"We do mission work on the trips," but it's not the main goal of the group, said Ted May.

May, 64, took up motorcycling shortly before he retired from banking. He joined the Temple Riders about a decade ago. Members sometimes have playful competitions to see how many copies of the Book of Mormon they can hand out at rallies.

"You don't try and push it, but if people come up and ask who we are, we tell them. And they always do," he said.

May remembered one time when their "hogs" almost got them in trouble when they pulled up to a Mormon temple. "They called the police on us!" he said. "They were worried this big motorcycle gang was rolling in to the temple."

Fortunately, a group member had already notified local police that the Temple Riders were in town, May said.

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