Tuesday, July 15, 2008

If Being Mormon Means Living Like This, Count Me In.

I spent a good amount of time in Temple Square in Salt Lake City, site of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Temple, North and South Visitors' Center, Conference Center, first Chapel, Joseph Smith Memorial Building and the Bee Hive House (Brigham Young's home).  I really had a fantastic day and learned a lot about Mormons, dispelling some rumors that had perpetuated in my mind.  

First of all, everyone is soo nice.  The sisters, girls who are doing their 18 months of service in Salt Lake, give free tours of the square every fifteen minutes, taking you inside the important buildings an explaining their significance to the Church.  I asked a lot of questions and they were happy to answer me.  All of the buildings are so spacious, accessible, beautiful and logically laid out.  The exhibits on family genealogy and the Mormon leaders are interactive, with computer screens and videos that you can tailor to your interests and family information and every place makes you feel welcome.  Honestly, it's like Jesus Disneyland.  I went on one interactive learning excursion about the Mormon idea of family.  We were escorted for twenty minutes from room to room by two sisters.  In each room there was a short film, decorations and a question and answer session.  Though that sounds intense, it actually was painless and entertaining.  They really know what they're doing. 

Since Mormonism is sort of a home grown American religion, it probably makes sense that everything is so convenient and people-friendly.  Isn't that what Americans love?  Isn't that our specialty?  Nothing was old, small, dirty or difficult.  It truly reflects our culture's desire for comfort, the wow-factor, entertainment and aesthetic value.  The conference center is huge and very spacious.  They had a free organ concert and you just want to stay there all day.  Flowers and waterfalls ornately decorate parts of the square and invite you to linger, talk to more sisters and ask questions.  Overall, I was impressed. 

Temple Square also served as a literary site for several reasons.  First of all, there's the book of Mormon (which I read a chunk of while visiting) that the Mormons believe was divinely revealed to Joseph Smith in 1830, originally written by the prophet Mormon on gold plates and buried in Palmyra New York.  The Mormons believe this is Another Testament to Christ, and it helped to re-find the Church of Christ, something the Mormons believe was corrupted after Jesus and the apostles death.  

In addition to that, the Mormon religion has inspired much discussion, many thoughts and some works of art over the years.  For instance, the HBO series "Big Love," obviously explores the idea of polygamy in modern day America.  This is something, the Mormons emphasized during the visit, that is illegal according to the Church of Latter Day Saints, as of the late 1800's when it was divinely revealed that this was NOT something desired by God for his people. 

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle also used misinformation during the height of the anti-Mormon hysteria, to set the scene for his first Sherlock Holmes short story.  You can read more about this here:http://www.adherents.com/lit/article_Doyle.html

The piece of literature that definitely uses the Mormon Visitors' Center as an important setting is Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize winning play "Angels in America."  In the play, Harper and Joe are a married Mormon couple living in New York when Joe finally admits to Harper that he is gay.  She has several drug-induced hallucinations and sort of fantasy sequences and one of them occurs in the diorama room of the Mormon Visitors' Center.  There's a model family on display moving out West in a covered wagon and one of them comes alive and it seems to be Joe, her husband.  I won't go into too much detail, but I was looking all over for the same diorama.  I didn't find it, but there certainly were other models and there was a video about Joseph Smith moving west, and I visited that for a while.  

So the whole experience was very cool.  I'm sorry that I haven't figured out a way to caption my pictures so you clearly know what each one is, but the photos above do depict, the Mormon Temple where marriages and other sacraments take place.  These are very important because Mormons believe that families will be together not just in this life, but for all eternity.  Yikes, right?  No way out.  Just kidding.  

Also, the first Mormon chapel is still standing in Salt Lake.  

I also took pictures of cool waterfalls and accents that I thought made the buildings and sites just stand out.  

As we know, Mormons are very dedicated to genealogy and family history.  There was one family tree on display and I don't know if it was a joke or what, but it seems that FDR, Richard Nixon, Winston Churchill and George W. Bush are all linked through the same roots!  I took a picture of it because I felt like no one would believe me.  I should do a bit more research to find out the details but for now, I'll just say that it's true and that the Mormons are historical geniuses.   

There is also a picture of the Special Witnesses of Christ.  The Mormon Church is led by a prophet, someone who gains "power" through the laying on of hands, just like John the Baptist received leadership from Jesus Christ.  Under the prophet there are twelve, "apostles," who are called Witnesses of Christ.  I guess the only difference is that now they wear suits and ties.  

The model is Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints.  


Petey said...

Are you sure that you'd want to live with one man and a bunch of women?? I don't think so...

david o smith said...

Salt Lake is my home. I am glad you had a good time.

Ms. Martini said...

Thanks for the comment, David. Salt Lake was beautiful =)

Mike said...

Hi. I live and work in Salt Lake. I appreciate your commentary. Please come back and visit again soon.