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Cannon: OK, non-Mormon visitors, here’s your ‘Field Guide to Conference’

First Published      Last Updated Oct 01 2015 06:46 pm

Many (!) years ago, my husband and I picked up a colleague of his at the airport who lived and worked in New York City. As we drove through downtown Salt Lake City, the man pointed out the window and asked, "Is that a castle?"

He was, of course, referring to the LDS temple.

I was surprised by his question because COME ON — did he really think that we simple peasants way out here in the Rocky Mountains spend our time building fake castles in which our non-kings and our non-queens could live? New Yorkers! When it comes to anything happening west of the Hudson River, they're pretty much clueless.




And isn't Salt Lake City's Mormon temple an iconic landmark? Isn't the temple to Salt Lake City what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris or Big Ben is to London or the Colosseum is to Rome?

Then I remembered that as much as I love Salt Lake City, it isn't Paris or London or Rome. Which means that the temple as a landmark to non-Mormon visitors — and I say this respectfully to all parties involved — is probably more like what the statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox are to Bemidji, Minn., or what that water tower shaped like a giant peach is to Gaffney, S.C.

At least that was the case before Salt Lake City hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics and "The Book of Mormon" musical won a trillion Tony awards and Mitt Romney ran for president of the United States. So maybe visitors are savvier these days. Who knows?

Still. In case there are tourists here during the first weekend of April who aren't familiar with the Mormon thing, I offer this "Field Guide to Conference." You're welcome.

Conference • "Conference" is the term used to describe the semiannual gathering of Mormons worldwide who assemble for instruction and spiritual renewal. Utah Mormons appreciate the opportunity it gives them to stay home and watch church on TV in their pajamas. This attitude gives non-Utah Mormons just another reason to look down on the locals.

Conference Center • This is the huge granite building with trees growing on top of it where all the meetings originate. It has been said that a Boeing 747 could easily fit inside, although I'm not sure how you would get it through the doors.

All the People Dressed Up, Milling Around the Conference Center • These are the faithful who have come to attend conference. Because she knows how much I love to live-blog about fashion at the Oscars and also the Super Bowl (Whoa! Cute pants there, Tom Brady!), my friend Amelia once suggested I live-tweet about fashion choices at conference, which pretty much can be summed up in two words: "reliably modest."

All the People Holding Up Snotty Signs, Milling Around the Conference Center • Conference always attracts detractors — folks who want to rescue Mormons from Mormondom — although I've never understood why hurling insults at people would make those same people eager to see your point of view.

I once witnessed a protester say something particularly vile to an older woman, who stopped in her tracks, stared him down, and shouted, "WHY DON'T Y'ALL JUST GET ON YOUR BUS AND GO BACK TO OKLAHOMA." I have no idea why she thought all those protesters were from Oklahoma. But at that moment I wanted to elect myself president of her Tough Old Lady Fan Club.

The Weather • Turn on the TV and you'll hear our local weather people trot out a well-worn line or two about typical conference weather, which usually features the word "rain." Bring an umbrella and consider yourself warned.

The Flowers • OK. When it comes to knowing how to plant a plant, the Temple Square gardeners have few peers. As long as you're in town, why not take a minute to smell the roses. And by "roses," I mean daffodils and tulips, hyacinth and pansies. You won't be sorry.

Meanwhile, welcome to Salt Lake City. All of us here hope you enjoy your stay.

Ann Cannon can be reached at acannon@sltrib.com.

 

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