While I was sitting in the Conference Center yesterday, I saw something. And now that I’ve seen it, I can’t stop seeing it.
A while back I scored a box full of back issues of The Improvement Era (the official magazine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1897 to 1970), including almost every issue from 1950-1970.
As you might expect, it is a treasure trove of mid-century design awesomeness, and the April 1959 issue, with its full-color insert highlighting contemporary church architecture, is especially sweet.
The Lord’s House
Throughout the length and breadth of the United States — and in many other countries throughout the world — the Church is constructing new, beautiful, modern, and functional meetinghouses in order to meet the housing requirements of a rapidly growing membership.
Tabulations show that at this writing there are in use 1,718 meetinghouses in wards and stakes, 429 in missions in the United States and Canada, and 451 in foreign missions, or a total of 2,598 meetinghouses completed and dedicated.
[Note: 50 years later, in 2009, the number of LDS meetinghouses topped 17,000 worldwide.]
On these pages, in full color and in black and white, are reproduced architects’ drawings and photographs of buildings planned, now under construction, or recently completed.
The picture changes virtually every day, and new chapels are being started while others are being dedicated each week, but as we go to press 238 meetinghouses are reported under construction in the wards and stakes, and another 303 have been approved and are in the designing stages. In the branches and missions 191 chapels are under construction and approval has been granted and plans are being drawn for an additional 213. This makes a total of 945 meetinghouses that have been approved and are currently in some stage of planning or building. These figures do not include other projects such as educational and welfare buildings, hospitals, temples, bureaus of information, or mission homes.
Although our Church houses are built mainly for worship, because of the widely diversified program of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they contain not only a chapel and classrooms, but also offices, recreation halls, Junior Sunday School rooms, kitchens, libraries, dressing and shower rooms, and other facilities. It is a standard practice to place a lounge area with double folding doors between the chapel and recreational hall, so as to cushion the noises. Many of our meetinghouses are designed so as to provide up to twenty-six teaching areas.
Architects are not regimented, as these pictures show, but are encouraged to use their originality to design buildings which, while meeting the requirements of a ward or branch, still harmonize with the terrain and general trend of architecture in a country or an area.
New materials and modern construction methods are constantly being employed in order to keep costs down and at the same time assure quality buildings and guarantee full value for money expended.
There is no end in sight. With the Church growing at an accelerated rate, occasioned both by baptisms of children and an increasing number of converts, the need for additional facilities is likely to continue to increase.
The Long and Short of Marriage
This is a picture of an idea — and an ideal.
It is a picture of two fine young newlyweds — a tall, handsome, wholesome young bridegroom and a sweet not-so-tall young bride. They have stars in their eyes — stars of eternal hope and happiness.
But the artist intended to suggest to us far more than this. He has here painted the dreams of every normal, healthy young man and young woman — a dream filled with a honeymoon, a happy home, laughing, loving children, faith, trust, honor, achievement — all these and a never-ending love and life together.
Ask any starry-eyed newly-wedded couple how long they want their marriage to last, and the answer will come easily: “Forever!”
Forever? Do they really mean forever? Not to end in divorce court as thousands of American marriages now do? Marriage till death? Yes, that long and longer — for even then separation forever would be tragedy.
Theirs is the hope of eternal living and learning and loving together — an ideal — an eternal “togetherness” of parents and children in the old hallowed patriarchal pattern, consecrated and enriched by the blessings of a loving and eternal Father in Heaven so long as love and faith and fidelity shall endure.
There you have it: the long and the short of marriage. Which will you choose?
BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF
Today is Pioneer Day, the day we celebrate the arrival of the first Mormon pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley.
Last night, children throughout the state lay in their beds, desperately trying to stay awake in hopes of catching a glimpse of Brigham Young flying through the dusky desert skies in his covered wagon, bearing pioneer gifts for all the good boys and girls of Utah. But eventually their drowsy, uncaffeinated eyelids closed and they drifted off to sleep with visions of horehound candy dancing in their heads.
Young Kyson awoke to find a pair of suspenders hanging from his bedpost, while little McKelsey found the bonnet of her dreams tucked under her pillow. Then they rushed downstairs to find the pioneer boots they’d left on the mantle the night before filled with hardtack biscuits and salt pork.
Later, after a hearty breakfast of cracked-wheat cereal and reconstituted dried milk, the children will change into their pioneer costumes, grab their bikes, trikes, and little red wagons, and head to the church where they will recreate the great migration west by parading around on the sidewalk of the church for two and a half hours until they are almost delirious from heat stroke. Then they will gaze across the blazing hot asphalt of the church parking in much the same way that Brigham Young gazed across the arid, inhospitable Great Basin and declare, “It is enough. This is the right place. Drive on.”
The children will then break into four groups…
One group will divide the parking lot into a precise grid with “streets” wide enough to allow four bikes and a wagon to turn around easily.
Another group will build an elaborate irrigation infrastructure capable of moving thousands of cubic feet of water to any block of the parking lot within seconds.
And, in the center of the parking lot, the third group will start construction on a massive granite structure that won’t be completed in their lifetimes.
By 2:00pm the parking lot will have blossomed as the rose…at which point the fourth group, attracted by the affordable real estate prices, low crime rate, and high quality of life, will move in, take over the parking lot, and open a coffee shop on every corner where they can hang out and complain about the liquor laws.
In the evening, extended families will gather together for the traditional Jello buffet, showcasing all of nature’s bounty in suspended animation. Aunt Delsa will probably receive the “Best in Show” award again at this year’s Jello Mold-Off for her multi-tiered replica of Sleeping Beauty’s castle, constructed with alternating layers of lime Jello and baloney. Funeral potatoes will flow like a chunky, cheesy river, and there will be over a hundred “salads,” none of which will feature lettuce or any other type of leafy green.
Kids will bob for tater tots in vats of pink fry sauce and men will stand on the back porch, arms crossed, discussing this year’s vintage (rootage?) of root beers. Some will argue that A&W’s 2007 production has been disappointing, with a cloying vanillin sweetness and a weak finish, but just about everyone will agree that the 2006 Hires root beer, with its heavy sassafras notes, has only gotten better after spending a year in the food storage closet under the stairs.
Pioneer Day usually ends with the traditional Bonfire of the Zucchini, in which all of the neighborhood’s excess garden produce is piled into the middle of the street and set ablaze. Unfortunately, wildfire conditions this year have resulted in a strict ban on open flames, so most families will spend the evening indoors, baking dozens upon dozens of loaves of zucchini bread that they will then leave on each other’s doorsteps in the dark of night.
Then, as the children are tucked once again into bed, their parents will tell them harrowing stories of the hardships their pioneer ancestors endured so they could grow up to be the snotty, ungrateful, over-privileged, upper-middle-class layabouts with no sense of history that they are today. And they will explain to their children that they, too, are pioneers, blazing a trail for the generations of even snottier, more ungrateful, hyper-privileged, upper-upper-middle-class layabouts with even less sense of history that will follow.
Yes, we are all pioneers in our own snotty, ungrateful, over-privileged, upper-middle-class-layabout-with-no-sense-of-history way. And this is our day.
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Great Men Pray
Great and wise men and women of all the ages have sought and received help through prayer and have found an unfailing source of strength.
Washington at Valley Forge — Lincoln before Gettysburg — Eisenhower on D Day — Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove — Jesus at Gethsemane and at Golgotha — all these have prayed:
“Grant us liberty”; “Preserve the nation”; “Give us wisdom”; “Deliver us from evil”; “Thy will be done.”
And these, too, are proper petitions to an understanding Father in Heaven:
The trust of a child at a mother’s knee.
The prayer of a father for the return of a wayward son.
The student’s honest seeking for answers to an examination.
A young man’s reverent request for strength to do this best in ball game or business venture.
A young woman’s plea for guidance in choosing a husband.
The earnest soul’s sincere desire.
That He answers these petitions (though in His own time and way) is a truth to which millions can daily testify.
What about you? Do you ever need help from a Higher Source? Then follow the example of the great and good and wise men of all the ages. Ask and receive. “In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”
BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF