Thursday, April 9, 2015

Gilgal Mormonism

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First draft

Child was aware that many people would find Gilgal Garden strange, but hoped they would accept its challenge. “You don’t have to agree with me,” he explained. “You may think I am a nut, but I hope I have aroused your thinking and curiosity.” 

It's spring break around here and without funds to spend on some tropical destination, the Kendricks are staying around for the week. Hooray for the Kendricks.

In an attempt to make things a little bit more exciting for the six and under crowd we decided to take the kids to Salt Lake to combine some work CK had with some play. I reached out on twitter for suggestions and my friend Emily Jensen replied with a recommendation to go to Gilgal Garden.

I had never heard of this place so I googled it and it immediately perked the part in my brain where my obsessions start. This place! What was this? It looked eerie and spooky and spoke straight to my statue fascination.

So we went.

Basically Gilgal is a garden curated by a man named Thomas Childs who was a masonry contractor. He built sculptures and wrote on stones with an oxyacetylene torch in an effort to represent his greatest beliefs. For instance this is the Sphinx with the head of Joseph Smith:
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(Thank you Erin for the pose.)

And this a monument of a sculpture of Childs with brick pants and "the worlds greatest jacket":

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And there's an altar and ancient Old Testament religious rites and Mormon temple references and it's all so bizarre and mysterious but just amazing too.

As I walked around this garden, my kids asking a zillion questions ("why are there body parts buried all over this mound?") I realized how much I understood Childs. This is the language of my religion. These post-earthly ideas paired with a love of God and a desire to unlock all the things we don't know. I get it. I totally get it.

It reminded me of meetings on my mission where we often gathered as missionaries to talk about the deep stuff. The stuff we were pouring into day and night. Wondrous stuff that we couldn't share with the average person we met on the street. It was like a drug--the mysteries of God. We couldn't get enough, we saw it every where. Our brains bulged with it.

It's not a secret I've been struggling with some of the modern aspects of my religion. I have my frustrations and a whole set of doubts. I don't mind having doubts. I feel like letting go of a perfect surety has done wonders for my ability to relax and live my life. And I don't ever let myself believe that my frustrations don't come from the very same place as my faith.

Frustration has many times been the work of the prophets.

But this garden represents why I don't ever see myself abandoning the Mormon faith. I like to be in a pool swimming in deep waters with deep thinkers. I love this manifestation written on stone and sculpted into shapes only a few people in this world will understand. I love the bizarre. I love the mysterious. It doesn't negate the problems, but it represents the passion. No matter how hard I try (and believe me, I've tried) I can't leave it alone.

(As my friend Zina offered to me at lunch the other day, "You believe in the church of 1830" which is probably true. That's the church of unprecedented forward thinking about women and angelic visits and female blessings and a grasping of ancient wonders.)

I find myself amused mostly, but also grateful that this gets to be my heritage on this earth. A heritage I will pass onto my curious, unsuspecting, smart children.

Sorta makes me laugh--in that giddy way when you finally get to share a brilliant secret you've been hiding inside your throat for far, far too long.

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