William Nichols' megawatt smile fails to dim as he makes his way around the intricately landscaped grounds of the Mount Timpanogos Temple in his electrically powered wheelchair.
With painstaking care, Nichols maneuvers close to the large, oval lights lining the winding walks of the sacred, hilltop edifice of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.Armed with a tattered rag and a spray bottle, he's ready to work.
It's his job to clean dirt and debris from the bulbs that brightly shine on the temple's white granite at night, casting a brilliant aura across the spired building overlooking the sprawling Utah Valley.
Taking the bottle in hand, Nichols strains to pump the cleaning fluid on the waist-high lights. Slowly, meticulously, he scours the white glass with the cloth, wiping away the week's dust and grime.
"I spray it on fast and wipe it off," Nichols says in slurred speech, visibly enjoying his task. "It's one of my favorite things to do."
Natalie Henderson, a development supervisor at the Utah State Developmental Center, helps care for Nichols at the 62-year-old home for the severely physically and mentally disabled. He leads a fairly independent life but also depends on staff to help him dress, use the restroom and get into his mechanical chair.
Henderson said Nichols, a devout member of the LDS faith who unabashedly declares "Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel" is his favorite hymn, pleaded with ecclesiastical leaders to let him work at the temple since it was built across the street from the center two years ago.
Church leaders last month relented to his constant pressing.
Asked to consider the request from the incapacitated 52-year-old who suffers from epileptic seizures, Temple President Robert Matthews gave Nichols a calling to work with the temple's landscaping crew.
Nichols, called "Willie" by friends, can't enter all areas of the temple because he does not have the Melchizedek priesthood, an ordination that LDS faithful believe is the sacred power to act in God's name.
He cleans the lights twice a week, wiping down as many as he can in an hour, under the watchful eye of a staff member from the center who helps him cross the street to the grounds.
"He's been asking to work over here for a long time. Finally, they got him this grounds job," Henderson said. "He thinks it is wonderful. He would come five days a week if he could."
Jim Jex, one of the center's directors, said Nichols - a lovable lug with an elfin grin - is one of the favored residents of the institution. He has his own room, equipped with a radio and a telephone, and grows a small garden outside his living quarters.
Staff members enjoy watching him gleefully don a green uniform shirt given to him by the temple crew for his job. He gets depressed when he isn't able to go, Henderson said.
"Every time he goes, he comes back really upbeat," Jex said. "He's always wanted to work at the temple."
Jex said Nichols, nearly a lifelong resident of the center takes his work very seriously, despite his quiet, childlike mentality and demeanor.
Washing the lights at the temple is his passion, along with fishing and camping with his advocate, a member of the community assigned to make sure the state-run facility is caring for him properly, he said.
"It is very important to him," he said. "These people have such a great relationship with their Heavenly Father. I've marveled at their incredible faith."