Nearly imperceptible


Mormons are thin on the ground here in central New York. It's as if, once they were gathered to The Ohio, they've never really made a comeback. This is a bit of a change for me as I've lived my entire conscious life in locales with large numbers of Mormons. Granted, I don't really notice this all that much, apart from going to church at my branch and there only being fifteen people in sacrament meeting. But I do notice it because the closest temple is now 70 miles away. I realize this is paltry for some areas of the globe, but back home in Zion, I could get to nine temples by going that same distance.

Now, I'm not a particularly regular temple attender. I've never really much understood people who go every week or who hold that up as a symbol of their righteousness. But I do enjoy the temple and having the option of just popping over on a whim might be nice. Or, like that one time, when I didn't plan ahead and found that the Jordan River temple was closed, so went to Oquirrh Mountain, only to learn they were booked solid. Thankfully, Draper was right there for me to make use of. In other words, I prefer being spoiled.

But, this whinging aside, I did go to the temple last week. My semester's over and I've got some free time and I figured, why not? I actually had a lovely time there, as well (which is typical, but not guaranteed. I'm fickle, ok?) I also had a little thought strike me. The background for this thought actually comes from one of the papers I just finished.

In a sloppy, poorly argued piece, I wrote about the overlaps between a novel and a memoir by mid-20th century Mormon author Virginia Sorensen. At one point in the memoir, talking about the landscape of northern Utah, she talks about the need to "look sharp for color in this country." It's true. There's a lot of beauty to be found in the desert, but you have to have an eye for it. This is also true, I suppose, of southern Utah, where the overwhelming red rock may trick you into not looking closely for fine distinctions.

This need for sharpness was on my mind as I waited for the session to start. I was looking around the room at about the twenty or so of us. We were all wearing white. The party line on this has to do with purity but also with all being alike. As a matter of fact, just earlier that same week, I had explained to a classmate about the white clothing as a symbol of unity. But, as I waited, I noticed we weren't all the same. There were differences. Shirts had different cuts. Ties had different patterns. The dresses had varied trims. Different fabrics appeared in various outfits. They were all white but there was a great variety if you looked sharp.

This lead me to think that the point of these clothes might not erasing disunions at all. Rather, they're a symbol of how we can be, as B.H. Roberts suggested, "united in the essentials and tolerated in the nonessentials." Being Mormon can be hard if you feel like you're a bit outside of what everybody else is and expects. But maybe, just maybe, the temple clothes are trying to look forward to a heaven where the richness of difference is there but largely goes unnoticed, not because it's not valued, but because it's just so obviously a part of the intention that it gets set aside to get down to the work.

I realize this isn't a particularly profound insight. And I'm sure some with disagree with my rosy view of it all. But, it was the sort of idea I needed then. And will probably continue to need for a long, long time.


Nicole said...

Lovely, absolutely lovely.

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