Saturday, October 3, 2015

Salt Lake City

July 26-31, 2015

During the last week of July, my job put me up in a suite near Salt Lake City. Here I was to undergo hours of rigorous, informative training. I won't go into details on that, though I'll say that at times it was certainly challenging, for personal matters anyway. It brought so many things from the past to the surface, which was excruciatingly painful. But these days I can look back with gratitude because through the pain, I was brought to healing. And now, I can go forward and put more love into helping people, not just at work but everywhere. So overall, there was definitely an opportunity in disguise that I encountered in that valuable training.

But anyhow, aside from that, I would venture out once the training was over for the day. During some of the evenings, I took the Trax into the city and met such warm-hearted, beautiful people all over. This was the first time that I had traveled by myself for such an extended period of time. I was reassured that, even going out by myself, the world is not so scary of a place at all. I learned that I'm fully capable of travelling solo, and that was another major benefit of this trip to me.

Spanish Fork River.

Pete gave me a cooler, which I filled with several gallons of Matrimony Spring water to last through the week. Then I drove solo out of Moab, watching the desert transform into mountains as I entered northern Utah. Along the way, I admired the beauty and stopped at a few places.
Diamond Fork Canyon (above and below).

The traffic was a nightmare as soon as I reached Provo. It was the weekend after Pioneer Day, a celebration in Utah of when the Mormon settlers crossed the Wasatch Mountains into Salt Lake Valley, their new home. I found the exit later at Murray and made it to the hotel parking lot. Finally, I could breathe. I checked in to a lovely suite and decided to walk around the town for a few hours. No way was I getting back in that car!

One of the views from the hotel.

Chief Wasatch, sculptured out of a giant cottonwood tree.

I went on a stroll through Murray City Park, not far from where I was staying. People were lounging and playing all over the place. Because of the holiday, there were several professional photo shoots of Mormon families, all in their best attire, throughout the gardens.

A missionary shop in Murray. You just don't see these shops in the Midwest, so I had to take a picture. I've met many friendly LDS all over Utah, and I'm so fascinated with their religion and culture.
During the first day of training on Monday, a woman told me about the Trax that could take me to Temple Square. I was so thrilled to be reminded about Temple Square, a beautiful place in downtown SLC that one of my roommates had told me about before. I must go! So after our dinner was over, Teresa, of the front desk, pointed me in the direction of the nearest Trax station.

I boarded the Blue Line train and soon I was on my way there. A man named Mick struck up conversation in an unexpected way by asking, "Are you a golfer?" "No." (Obviously.) "Are you a photographer?" A camera was dangling from my neck. But nonetheless, we had a great, interesting conversation. Mick moved to Utah in 2007; prior to that, he lived in California and Washington. He was baptized LDS but left the church, and he told me of his scars from that upbringing. Not very different from many stories I've heard of Christians leaving the church. It's all dogma in the end. But nonetheless, whatever religion or non-religion a person is or used to be, I know they all have a heart of gold. Mick's stop came and we abruptly ended our talk. He got off to change trains.

The train weaved amidst the skyscrapers and soon my stop came. Temple Square sure wasn't hard to miss, clearly visible from the stop! I wandered through the south gate, seeing visitors everywhere.

A tribute to handcart pioneers. They couldn't afford oxen, so they moved all their possessions westward from Iowa City, Iowa to SLC by hand.

Assembly Hall, the first building I entered. Completed in 1880.

Posing with Sister Rodriguez.

In Assembly Hall, I met Sister Rodriguez. She is a missionary from Mexico, serving here in SLC. We found that we had a lot in common. In the past, both of us almost killed ourselves before finding God in our own ways. For her, the Book of Mormon and the Bible are her inspiration. She told me that her dream one day is to get married in the temple here. Upon learning that I have LDS and former-LDS friends, she gave me a copy of the Book of Mormon. She said that if the Spirit guided me to read it, I could. Otherwise, she said I could throw it away. There was no pressure.

"Restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood." John the Baptist laying hands on Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.

Joseph Smith.

The beautiful Salt Lake Temple. Begun in 1853 and completed in 40 years. A sacred place for weddings and other ceremonies, where Non-LDS aren't permitted to enter.

Two recently-married couples were having photo shoots outside the temple. Maybe one day, Sister Rodriguez will too.

Another photo shoot of a Mormon family.

A fountain just north of Temple Square.
Another view of the temple from outside the north gate.

Assembly Hall, home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

A woman pointed me in the direction of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, which she told me has great views of the temple and the city from the 10th floor. Upon entrance, I also found that it contains the Family Search Center, a major center of genealogy in the country.

Jesus overlooks people as they learn about their family history.

Joseph Smith and an incredibly ornate lobby.

I walked up the stairs to the mezzanine floor and met Mike, who told me the history of this building. Originally it was built in 1911 as a hotel, intended to be the best between the Midwest and San Francisco. All presidents from Taft to Reagan stayed here. Later, I think in the 80s, it was purchased by the LDS church.

A chapel that was formerly a ballroom.

A few of the portraits of LDS presidents hanging in the Presidents' Room.

Riding the elevator, carpet complete with the Utah beehive, up to the 10th floor.

Fountains on the east and west ends of the hall. There was also fancy dining available on the 10th floor.
A view out the west windows. The temple and the eastern part of the city were difficult to see out of the other side of the building due to the glare of the setting sun. But yes, that woman was right. The views are spectacular.

Back in the lobby, I stopped to listen to this talented lady who played for us.

The front entrance to the building.
The Blue Line winding its way to the Temple Square stop.

Fountains at City Creek Shopping Center.

Looking back at the temple.
Assembly Hall.

Looking through the window of a book store.

Sculptures (above and below) near an art museum.

Back at the Trax station.

I caught the Blue Line and rode it to the end to see more of the city. Then it was back to Murray through the night.

At the front desk with Teresa and I talked again until midnight. Alicia also joined us, along with the Dominos delivery man. As recommended by the last of the three, I learned about Kennecott copper mine. Upon further investigation, I realized I didn't have the means of transportation nor the time to get there in the evenings. Oh well. Teresa loaded an interactive tour on the computer and allowed me to stand behind the desk with her to watch it. She recommended other places for me to go and also helped to look up bus routes. But I preferred not to make any plans ahead of time, deciding that it was best to see what I felt like doing when training was finished for the day.

Gardens near Temple Square.
After Tuesday's training, I chose to relax that evening. But the following day, I got the itch to explore some more. I searched on the computer during a break and found some places that caught my interest, which no one had recommended to me. After dinner I hopped on the Blue Line again.

Along the way, I chatted with Gary and his two sons, Aiden and Lucas. They were so much fun to be around! Gary lovingly teased his sons very often. They were heading to the planetarium, which I learned was free. There were a few other places that they recommended, though I never went to any of them. Gary formerly provided unbiased education for grades 4-12 on drugs; he just provided the information to them so that they could make wise decisions for themselves. These days, he works for law enforcement. My stop came and I wished them farewell.

Cathedral of the Madeleine.

The first place I chose to go to was this Catholic cathedral. It was my upbringing, though I don't attend church services anymore. But I do appreciate the architecture of churches and I adore the stories of Mary Magdalene in the New Testament.

Upon entry, I immediately met a man named Bill. Mass had just let out, and he was staying behind to pray for awhile. He was going through a very difficult time and needed to be around some "good energy." He said that he had a black aura during the past week and needed to better himself to be able to support his friend who had an upcoming golf open. We talked about the power of energy and prayer. I silently refused to believe that he had bad energy and only saw the good in him. As he left, he said that I had pure, good energy and that it helped to be around me. That's all of God, of course, and I reminded him of that. Our meeting definitely was of God, for sure.

Oh, and we talked about how stillness and receptiveness to God go hand-in-hand, which is what I needed to hear at the moment. Bill pulled a scrawled note out of his wallet that had a phrase that the priest had just said during Mass. "Silent has the same letters as listen."

Mary and sister, Elizabeth.

Mary Magdalene wiping Jesus' feet with oil and her tears.

Mary Magdalene is greeted by the resurrected Jesus at his tomb.

What a beautiful experience at that church! From there, I walked up the hill to the state capitol. Now I'm a resident of Utah, I thought it all the more appropriate. I wandered past the building outside but never entered, for I had somewhere else to go next.

Mormon Battalion Monument.

Massassoit, a chief in Massachusetts and proclaimed friend of the Pilgrims.
What would he think now, seeing what the settlers have done to the land in the last few centuries?

I continued uphill through a residential neighborhood, determined to get to Ensign Peak. From here, I heard that there were great views over the Salt Lake Valley. In addition to that, it is also another piece of Mormon history. As I walked into the neighborhood, a sign stated that the road was supposed to be closed starting on the 29th (the very day I walked through). But it was open! I was definitely meant to be there for a reason.

Ensign "Peak."

Ascending the trail to the top...

At the summit, along with the incredible vistas, there was definitely a lot of interesting people-watching to be done. Some of their antics were so amusing. I met a man named Rob, who joined me in this laughter as we talked for hours.

Rob used to be in the Navy and was deployed in Iraq after 9/11. These days, he is based out of Chicago all over the U.S. for work, employed by a 3-D printing company. That week he was sent to SLC. I learned that he has been to Moab before and is familiar with much of the same places that I am. Anyway, we talked quite a bit and continued our people-watching until sunset.

The Mormons had fled westward, under the direction of Brigham Young, to escape persecution after Joseph Smith was killed by a mob. Upon passing through the Wasatch Mountains into the Salt Lake Valley, Young stated, "This is the place." Nine men, including him, hiked up the peak on July 26, 1847. From here, they prayed for the community and named the peak, "Ensign," after Isaiah's words, "And he shall set up an ensign for the nations (Isaiah 11:12)."

Looking toward the Great Salt Lake.

Wasatch Mountains and Utah State University.

Watching the sunset with Rob.

Rob and I walked back down together. I asked him where his company put him up for the night. I had a strong feeling that he would say Murray. Sure enough, that was the case, though he was staying in a different hotel. I told him then that I was staying in Murray too. He offered a ride back, which saved me the long walk back to the Trax stop. We shared travel stories (he has many interesting ones as well) along the way. Then, reaching the hotel, he dropped me off right at the front door.

The next day, training brought up the most challenges for me by far. It really reminded me of the past, some of which I had forgotten. Thankfully, there was lots of support from others there. Without these people, that day would have been much more difficult. After dinner I started to head out with plans to go to the university, but I couldn't do it. I needed to be silent to listen and to process everything. So instead, I stayed in and relaxed.

After graduation the following day, I hopped back in the car and made a beeline for Moab. There were thoughts of different places to go along the way, but what I wanted most was to be with my roommates. So I chose to go home. I stayed up late with Pete, Phil, Connie, and Dan, thankful for these amazing roommates. I don't know what I'd do without my friends. They helped me to heal over the following months from everything that had been revealed.

But everything considered, Salt Lake City was truly a wonderful experience. The sorrows and the joys there were certainly a blessing. Ultimately, it turned out to be all joy because of the healing.

"To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, today is big with blessings."
--Mary Baker Eddy