Sunday, July 25, 2010

Our first Pioneer Day

Utah's state holiday was officially celebrated yesterday but kicked off for us last week with a neighborhood parade complete with bag pipes and tractors. Since then there's been nightly rodeos, fireworks, and other small town festivities.

Pioneer Day marks the entrance of settlers into the Salt Lake basin. The overwhelming majority of those were Mormons but it is possible to enjoy many of the fun events without being LDS; kind of like more than Christians celebrate Christmas.

When you dig a little deeper though this state holiday is a little unusual. I can't imagine the state of New Mexico, for instance, celebrating the arrival of Anglos. Pioneer day is only possible in Utah because the culture here is so monolithic. The "Taste of the Town" event in our city last night was attended by at least a thousand, with very few exceptions all of those were the same ethnicity.

The history of the man who led the Mormons into Utah is also not something many would hold up as worthy of celebrating. Brigham Young had as many as 55 wives, held a number of uncouth views, and by some accounts attempted to start his own country called Deseret in the western region of America.

But this state holiday, like others, appears to be largely a secular event and so even interracial, non-LDS families like mine can enjoy it.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Sketches of the LDS

Donald Barnhouse could have been describing our quaint LDS community when he hinted at what a town could look like if Satan took it over,

All of the bars would be closed, pornography banished, and pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The children would say, "Yes, sir" and "No, ma'am," and churches would be full every Sunday...where Christ is not preached.

Many of the Mormons I've met here are genuinely moral people who are trying to conform to the LDS' expectations. The fourth of July celebrations were today (the 5th) to allow for Sabbath-keeping on the 4th. Grandparents start "mission funds" so their grandchildren can travel for two years as evangelists after high school. Utah has the highest birth rate in the nation and the youngest average age of marriage. Cute little children are everywhere.

But the pressure to conform may be behind Utah's high suicide rate, and the mass of extra-biblical theology that drives their moral behavior covers up the gospel of grace.

For instance, marriage is required to be eligible for exaltation after death. Doing their best throughout their life on earth is believed to be required to reach higher attainments in the life to come.

From what I observe living among the LDS, they affirm what sounds like the Gospel of grace. But what they don't see is that it has been so covered over by man-centered duties (along with a fundamentally un-Christian view of God) that the true Gospel is in effect lost and, as Barnhouse suggests, they are a moral people without Christ.