Wednesday, November 02, 2005

LDS Pilgimages Can be Misguided

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.


Anonymous said...

What about Book of Mormon archaeological sites, such as ..... uh. Help me out here somebody.

Anonymous said...

I've never seen the point of trying to find Book of Mormon archaelogical sites. The geographical description occurs in Alma. At the death of Christ several decades later, mountains are laid low, valleys are raised, cities are sunk into the sea and the whole face of the land is changed.

Scott Hinrichs said...

It might be fun to visit BofM sites if they were ever decisively identified. See here for a good description of the current state of affairs in that neck of the woods and an explanation of why we might never really know for sure where these sites are. Of course, the murder of Brett Richards in Guatemala last year (see here) really diminishes my desire to go galivanting in that area.

Still, visiting BofM sites would, for me, still be more akin to visiting a museum than a house of worship. My personal connection to God doesn't depend on that kind of pilgrimage.

Keryn said...

"Visiting these places is more like dessert rather than the essential main course."
I have to agree with this sentence. Dessert isn't necessary, it's just nice.
This is not to say that visiting these historical places isn't wonderful and testimony-building--at least they have been in my own life. And sometimes a "bribe" is helpful to get kids to eat green beans. Sometimes a visit to a historical place is helpful to get some to allow the Spirit to work in their hearts. Those sites can be another tool to share the Gospel and strengthen our faith.

Scott Hinrichs said...

Keryn, I agree with you. And, as you so eloquently note, dessert is kind of nice.

I am grateful for these places. I just am opposed to the attitude of making them into some sort of pilgrimage, without which, one is assumed to be spiritually incomplete.