My trip on Wednesday after our Church Planters Conference to the center of Salt Lake City was very interesting. My first stop was the Olympic plaza. Every half hour the fountains erupt to the beautiful orchestra playing the theme song from the 2002 winter Olympics. It is quite an inspirational experience.
I was intrigued by a section of wall near the fountains where individuals are forever recognized with steel engraved portraits for their generous donations that helped bring the Olympic Games to Salt Lake. There were a couple of "gold level" and "silver level" donors. And then there were thousands of "stone level" donors who had their names engraved on paneled sections of granite. It was only after photographing this section that I turned away to realize that I was stepping on other names which were engraved in the pavers that encircle the fountain. It's odd to me that we do this as humans.
My next stop was the family history library. Family history (genealogy) is very important to Mormons because of certain doctrines related to eternal progression. The place is huge. It is a six or seven level library committed to the sole purpose of helping people trace their roots. I couldn't believe how busy the place was. It bustled with activity as mostly Mormon people from all over the world sat busily at work. I sat down at a computer for a few minutes to search their database and see what I could find on a whim. After about two minutes I was looking at the 1930 census record for my great grandfather and his family. I printed it off for 10 cents and brought home a souvenir.
From there I crossed a plaza to the LDS Church History Museum. A self guided tour there gives one the opportunity to understand the romance that pulls Mormons to their history and doctrines. The guides were very helpful in explaining different items on display. If you want to get a very clear snapshot into every facet of the Mormon Church you should plan on giving two or three hours to this museum. It's all free and photos are permitted.
Across the street from the museum is the Temple Square. I entered in the West Gate and came upon the famous Mormon Tabernacle. Parts of the orchestra were rehearsing for a concert that evening. This allowed me to appreciate the incredible acoustics of the building. It really is a construction marvel. I tried to envision what it must have been like the night in 2004 when Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias stood and presented Jesus Christ as the way, the truth, and the life.
Of course, I was not able to tour the temple. It is closed to all gentiles, and even Mormons who are not yet temple worthy.
On my way back to the airport I had a conversation with a woman to told me her story of leaving the Mormon Church. Sadly, she didn't leave it for a biblical faith in Christ Jesus, but rather simply fled from a husband who treated her harshly and drove the whole family on a moralistic treadmill that would lead any of us to despair. She said, "There was no joy in what we were doing so I figured that the whole thing must not be of God." That is an interesting insight indeed.