Salt Lake City, UT -- Temple Square -- July 22

Arrive Salt Lake City, UT 7:30am Sunday, July 22
(leave station after 2 hour nap in the sun, with pocket full of free bus tokens provided by driver trying to compensate me for oblivion of bus schedules and general knowledge of the area, and handicap of abbreviated Sunday bus schedules)
Depart Salt Lake City, UT 1:30am Monday, July 23

At Temple Square two men were sent from the security department to ask me to leave, saying that, though they could see this was not the case, they'd received a report that someone was panhandling. I had been approaching people and asking them to tell me about their favorite books for a voice recording I was making. My recorder is very small and hand held. Nothing obtrusive. What they found obtrusive was my approaching people.

It occurred to me that, if I had left my pack in a storage locker at the Greyhound station and worn a dress instead of my jeans, I would have been better received. Though I hadn't felt as though anyone was judging me for my appearance, the majority of the sisters at the square were dressed in long skirts and, though it was close to a hundred degrees, long sleeved shirts and some, even sweaters.

I explained to these men, who had been sent by security, what my project entailed and they concurred that it was inappropriate. I told them that, as I was on private property, I would leave and that I respected their decision, but asked if I could further explain myself. I told them how I am discovering through my experience that people find solace in the books they read, that people have favorite books they read eight to twenty times throughout their lives. Books guide us through difficult times and help us better understand ourselves and our place in this world. I explained that my project would be incomplete without a representation of religious books and that this was a place I felt I could achieve a representation of their religious books.

They appeared genuinely interested in my project and kindly thanked me for the business cards I offered, but still asked that I conduct my research outside of Temple Square.

In retrospect, I do find it ironic that a religion focused on proselytizing would be so quick to turn away someone whose main objective is this: to listen. Perhaps I'm not savvy--is an open area, with flowerbeds and comfortable benches, between a temple and a tabernacle, the wrong place to be asking someone to share with you what they derive from their religious books?

Below are a few books and what in them the readers have found important in their lives.

Alma 32:28. He doesn’t read much, though his father and brother do. He can’t sit still for long. His family listens to books on audio in the car. When his dad has his say, it's Lord of the Rings. His mother prefers Harry Potter.


These Sisters told me that, since their 18 month mission had begun, about a year ago, they have had no time to read anything but religious books but that, when they listen to talks or look them up on the Internet ( , their religious leaders quote poets and writers like Emerson, sources outside of their faith. When their missions are completed they look forward to reading more again.

Here are their favorite passages:

2 Nephi 33:11-15

and 1 Nephi 13:37, below, which is a little fuzzy, so I've cut and pasted:

37 And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be.


Danielle said...

Yeah, sometimes people around that area of the city aren't so privvy to questioning

KennethSF said...

I've read similar experiences chronicled in some travel books. However, the writers were not talking about the Temple Square in Utah. They were recounting their visits to the Tiananmen Square in China. Insecurity is often at the root of paranoia. Institutional insecurity, of course, often manifests in the form of overzealous security personnel.

Anhoni Patel said...

Kenneth - excellent point! Sonya - this was a very interesting experience you had! If you want to go to my temple in Yonkers or Queens, please feel free! I don't think "security" will ask you to leave...=)

HazelNut said...

I think that perhaps there are some misunderstandings here, if you don't mind my saying.

The reason, I suspect, that they would ask you not to approach people is because many people there have come long distances to enjoy the Spirit of the place--and to do so often entails quiet meditation, even silent praying--so perhaps they were just trying to make sure people were not disturbed?

Also, LDS (Mormon) women who are not on missions certainly wear jeans (I don't know what I'd do without them!! :), and would not look down upon you for doing so as well. The reason many of them wore skirts is probably because they were going to go into the Temple later, where jeans are inappropriate.

It sounds like you were saying they were nice about asking you not to approach people, though. If not, I'm sorry to hear it. I sincerely hope you will not judge the LDS people on this one experience.

I said this on your other blog, but I'll say it again--your blog is a favorite of mine, I have it bookmarked and read it often--clever idea!! Thanks!

Bay said...

Hey I love what your doing. I'm a mormon and will say that the book of mormon has always come through as my favorite book when I need comforting. I too hope that your negative experience at temple square does not transfer to an entire prejudice against the LDS Church. Keep this up though, I absolutely love it.