Last time I was in Salt Lake City was on the back of my boyfriend’s Harley Davidson, no helmet, braids blowing from under a pink bandana, headed towards South Dakota. Now, a dozen years down the road, safely buckled in a car with my six year-old son, the bikers rumbled past, headed east for that same bike rally, always held the first week of August.
This time, instead of roaring across the wasteland of Nevada and over the blazing salt flats, I head down from the north. The cattle ranches of Montana give into the gentle rolling wheat fields of Idaho, peppered with the ever present sagebrush. Rocky crags thrust towards the sky, a violent reminder of visible geology, and the valleys of Utah stretch to the horizon.
Heading into Utah, I am struck by an increasing amount of chapels dotting each little town and neighborhood. Simple, plain, white and easily identifiable, the unadorned spires point heavenward. In every direction, reminders we are a covenant people, of why we are here, and on what we focus our time, homes and families.
We are not a perfect people. LDS families share many struggles with families the world over- I know my pile of problems is not particularly unique or special. What did strike me as special was seeing so many people visibly united in their faith. Everywhere I looked, there were symbols I understand, symbols that have deep personal meaning to me, to my family and to my faith.
From someone who grew up in a secular state, with a non-religious family, (and who never cracked scriptures until I was a teen and purchased my own) I dare not take such manifestations of faith for granted.
Say what you will. Complain about the sameness, bemoan the culture of Mormonism, gripe about your bunching drawers and undies, dismay about the uninspired mid-century architecture and homogeneity of our buildings, of the fact that churches in Indiana and California have the same sofa in the foyer, sigh again that white shirts are not part of the Priesthood and that doilies are not required for a woman to have a testimony… go ahead. None of it matters.
If you are a member, or even a thoughtful observer, you are a part of something unlike anything else on earth. No matter what form your testimony takes, what manner your faith assumes, what doctrine you embrace or dismiss, what covenants you honor, if you are a part of this, you are part of something bigger than yourself.
Through this church, I am allowed, even expected, to work out my own salvation. The spires that dot the landscape, the temples shining on the foothills, are reminders to me of others taking on the same battle and beautiful endeavor. I am not alone- and I am grateful.