Sunday, March 14, 2010

Religious Freedom in the Desert

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” – The Constitution of the United States of America, 1st Amendment (Proposed 9/25/1789; Ratified 12/15/1791)

Many of the first settlers in the American colonies were seeking freedom from religious persecution in Europe. In the same way, some of the settlers of the American West were seeking freedom from religious persecution in the Eastern United States. Our Constitution protects our legal right to practice any religion, but that has not necessarily changed the way people perceive and interact with those who have different beliefs.

Mormonism began in the Northeast but resistance to these different beliefs led Joseph Smith to take the followers of this new faith to Illinois and ultimately Brigham Young led the followers to Salt Lake City. In the same way that the Pilgrims found freedom an ocean away from Europe and in the less populated colonies, Mormonism was finally able to put down its roots across the continent from its birth and in the isolation of the Utah desert. Visiting Salt Lake City reminded us of the diverse applications of freedom in the United States; the Mormon family-oriented, conservative lifestyle is a stark contrast with our previous urban desert experience—the hedonism of Las Vegas.

We took the opportunity to learn about Mormonism from the experts. We visited Temple Square and attended a movie about Joseph Smith shown in the memorial building of his namesake. It was insightful to learn about his journey and the beginning of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

We also enjoyed the modern day benefits of Salt Lake City’s location—the ski slopes! A little bit of powder and warmth reminded us we were not in the Northeast. It is a mystery to me how it can be warm enough to eat lunch on the patio of the ski lodge and then ski down the mountain on fresh snow—must be a miracle.

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