The Temple Square

In honor of Josh and Sloan’s semi-annual trip to the Outdoor Retailer’s Show, at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake, we submit this SLC catch-up blog entry from 7/6/08 and Park City from 7/8/08. (By the way, have a great show!)

The map of Salt Lake City is easy to learn. The Temple Square is the epicenter of the city’s grid, and all streets surrounding it begin as 100, North Temple, South Temple, East Temple, West Temple: each block going up to the next hundred, outward. Our campground was at 1400 West North Temple.

So, reversing the process, it’s always easy to find the Temple Square, on which sits the Mormon Chapel, which was the first sanctuary built by the early Mormon settlers, the Tabernacle,

the large lozenge-shaped building with the high, domed roof, home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and the Mormon Temple, (off limits for visitors) the one with all the spires, which in pictures, lit up at night, always looks gigantic, but in reality, is an average sized cathedral.

We are always interested in the history of places we visit, so with an open mind, we acquiesced to taking a tour suggested by an man of a certain age, dressed in a light summer suit. There seemed to be a lot of these, eager to greet and inquire ‘Where are you from?’ They all reminded me of senior auctioneers I’ve enjoyed over the years.

We were directed to two sweet young girls with serene smiles wearing calf-length black skirts and summer blouses. There were a great number of these pairs. Indeed, two sprang up from a bench outside the ladies room and greeted me with, ‘Welcome to the Ladies room!’

Our first stop was at a monument to seagulls, who, to quote our guides, ‘Our heavenly Father brought to save our early settlers from a plague of crickets. The birds just came, killing them, not even eating them, but ridding the land of their destruction of that first year’s crops.’ Sounds a bit like the providential run of herring in Otsego Lake that sustained the early white settlers there in their first hungry year. Nature is a wonder!

This tour would not be the in-depth history tour we’d come to expect throughout our travels, but rather, very simple spiels these young girls had learned, in sing-song upspeak (each sentence ending with an upward cadence, though to be fair, they didn’t intersperse ‘like’ into every other phrase) National park docents enjoy our questions and usually delight in being able to tell more obscure facts that are rarely called forth. These lovelies knew nothing except the exploits of their prophet and heavenly father. When further questioned, their serene little foreheads puckered prettily for lack of any other information.

When I was 16, I’d worked with a young Mormon who happened to be a missionary, so I got the whole Mormon story. I found it mildly interesting, believing, as I do, that there are many spokes to the wheel of Spirit. Years later, I read the book of Mormon and found that Joseph Smith’s adventures in Upstate NY seemed plausible, because a simple farm boy couldn’t possibly have made up a whopper like the Book of Mormon from his own imagination, Angels and disappearing gold plates notwithstanding.

Then, in my forties, I read two books of local history in Cooperstown and came across an interesting item. Joseph Smith had worked for a time in an Ohio print shop. Later, an unpublished fantasy manuscript dated before Joseph Smith’s revelations, was passed down from someone in the print shop to a relative living in Hartwick Seminary: Yes, the story of the angel Moroni, the gold plates, the whole thing. Hmmm. Then word got out, and two charming missionaries visited this lady, one keeping her chatting while the other roamed the house. She later found that the manuscript had disappeared. Curiouser and curiouser. With this in mind, I bit my tongue a good deal on our tour. When I get back to Cooperstown, I want to look those two histories up. Just can’t help it; I love history!

I can honestly admire the power of imagination’s ability to spawn mighty things. For example, in the Tabernacle every 15 minutes, a sweet young convert from Mongolia mounted the podium in the Tabernacle, where she ripped a piece of paper three times, then dropped a straight pin, a safety pin, and a nail to demonstrate the space’s perfect acoustics. Impressive.

A docent told us that the dome had been made without nails. For moment I pondered the miraculous, until a sensible man among the tourists asked ‘Mortice and tennon? Wooden pegs?’ The woman grudgingly answered, ‘Yes’.

The Latter Day Saints Conference Center certainly is a mighty thing. It’s auditorium can house 21,000 people at a time, and we were told that the open space between the loggias and the organ could accommodate two 747 jets.

Now, I wonder where the spiritual runway is?

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