As a Latter-Day Saint (a.k.a. Mormon), I don’t particularly understand the need to make pilgrimages to LDS historic sites. I appreciate the fact that these sites exist and are maintained. But I guess I look at a visit to one of these places the way I look at a visit to a museum rather than to a house of worship.
In saying this, I in no way intend to belittle those whose religious beliefs demand that they make pilgrimages. LDS doctrine demands pilgrimages of its members as well – to the chapel for weekly worship and to the Temple, for example. But while the LDS Church works hard to preserve historic sites, its doctrine does not demand that members visit these sites.
I am concerned with the underlying spiritual pilgrimage attitude with which some of my acquaintances encourage visiting LDS historic sites. I believe that they are getting away from the meat of the gospel of Jesus Christ and are focusing on peripheral stuff.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe I would enjoy visiting places like Nauvoo, Carthage, Independence, Farr West, Adam-Ondi-Ahman, Kirtland, and the Palmyra area. I have studied a lot about these places. But if I don’t make it there sometime during this life I won’t feel like I’ve shirked my duty nor will I feel spiritually slighted.
Of course, living in Utah I have visited many local LDS historic sites. Also, last year I had the opportunity of doing a mini handcart trek at Martin’s Cove. I also visited Rock Creek Hollow. I have enjoyed my visits to these places and have had some personal spiritual experiences on some visits. But I still don’t regard it to be my spiritual duty to make such visits.
I do not discount the value, even spiritual value, of visiting LDS historic sites. But let’s keep things in proper perspective. Visiting these places is more like dessert rather than the essential main course.