Russian Taxes: A Bleg

Readers know that I’m interested in basically anything that has to do with the church and taxation. And the other day, I was looking at the Church History Library catalog and came across some fascinating snippets about Russian taxes on U.S. missions.

One comes from the Russia Samara Mission, between 1998 and 2001. The catalog summary includes this: “mission’s troubles with Russian tax authorities and KGB regarding financial matters; attempt to register Church in Kazan (15 August 1998.”

The second entry is for journals of a CES missionary in the Russia Rostov na Donu Mission. It includes this entry: “information about Russian tax system and hardship it caused missionaries renting apartments in Russia (22 October 2002).” [Read more…]

Religious Tourism

Last fall, I returned from a trip to the Baltics. One of the best things about traveling to other countries, in my opinion, is coming into contact with other forms of worship and considering how those “other” sacred spaces and forms of worship feel in contrast to my own experiences as a Mormon. When you enter these places, you have to realize that to their worshipers, past and present, these are the places they have gone to experience the divine, to find comfort, and to understand their place in the universe. Come with me on a tour of some of the places I visited.

20160826_103935Copenhagen’s Cathedral: Church of Our Lady

We started our trip with a day in Copenhagen, Denmark. This first church didn’t make my short list, but my husband wanted to see it, and I’m glad we went!  The original Christus status by Danish sculptor Thorvaldsen is found inside.  The chapel is currently lined with white statues of the apostles (also by Thorvaldsen). The interior is simple and light colored with graceful architectural features like the dome over the altar (see picture). The simplicity of the interior invites silence and reflection and has a feeling of peace and welcome.

There have been several churches built on the same site over the centuries (they kept burning down), with the original one dating to 1209. The current church, like most churches in Northern Europe, is Evangelical Lutheran (since the reformation came to Denmark in 1536). The church is still actively in use; in fact, a friend of mine attended a gay wedding there a week after I visited. Both Kierkegaard and Hans Christian Anderson’s funerals were held in this church. Of all the churches we visited, this one felt the most like a Mormon worship space in terms of mood and architecture. [Read more…]

Winter’s Majesty

*This cold winter
  Moon spills the inhuman fire
  Of jewels
  Into my hands.


One December my parents hocked their wedding rings at a trashy pawn shop in Salt Lake City in hopes of scraping together enough cash for something small for at least the youngest children. Growing up, Christmas was an anxious time, my mother crying a lot, my dad working around the clock—hoping for a paycheck that wouldn’t bounce. But it was full of happy memories too, surrounded by family, good music, good food and much joy. People were often generous and our stockings usually weren’t empty. I don’t dislike Christmas, but I don’t love it.

My first December in Moscow I spent a p-day cutting up an ugly red plaid skirt that I was too embarrassed to wear and sewed it into makeshift stockings for all the missionaries in my zone. My companion and I stuffed them with candy and cards that said Happy New Year in Russian. A week later we all walked together beneath the light of the moon through a forest of evergreens. The quiet of the forest felt cleansing; white pillows of snow fell covering the dirt from snows past. It’s one my favorite memories of both winter and my mission.   [Read more…]