New Harmony: Conference, celebration have different styles, same substance

Published: Saturday, April 14 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

LDS conference attendees walk past the flowers on Temple Square.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

On April 1, thousands gathered beneath the trees on Temple Square in Salt Lake City for the general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Meanwhile, 1,702 miles to the south, thousands gathered beneath the trees by the cathedral on the main plaza of Puebla, Mexico. They were there to welcome in Palm Sunday.

I was in Puebla that day. But thanks to technology, my laptop computer had its eye on Salt Lake City.

It was a fascinating moment. I saw two events similar in substance but a world apart in style.

In style, Mormons tend to commemorate events.

Mexican Catholics celebrate them.

Where the LDS faithful opt for reverence, those in the Puebla plaza preferred revelry.

On one side of the plaza in Puebla a symphony orchestra played classical music while, on the other, a rock band pumped out "YMCA."

And moving between the battle of the bands, families enjoyed each other and the world.

Balloons and balls bounded about. Bubble-blowers, in the form of tiny saxophones, were the "toy du jour," making the plaza look like "The Lawrence Welk Show" during a fire drill.

Meanwhile, back in Utah, families strolled together, pointed out points of interest, smiled and relaxed on the lawn.

The styles were at odds.

But the substance was one.

The key was to see the substance inside the style.

At heart, the families in the North and South were very much the same — carefree kids with parents who stayed up nights worrying about health care and education.

They were families of faith, families who relied on the divine.

They also knew — as a placard proclaims — faith only means something can be done, not that doing it will be easy.

In both Mexico and Utah, flowers abounded.

I've thought several times of all those flowers — in the plaza and on my laptop.

Years ago I was struck by the way flowers are alike yet are amazingly unique.

In the United States, "margaritas" are called "daisies."

In Mexico, "poinsettias" are called "Christmas Eve flowers."

Looking at them, you'd say they have nothing in common.

But they do.

They have leaves, stems, petals and roots.

In fact, they're more alike than they are different.

And so it is with the families celebrating Palm Sunday in Puebla and commemorating the LDS Church's general conference in Utah.

We see the contrasts and believe we're a world apart.

We need to see the similarities, and realize how much we are alike.

We think the distance between us is wide and deep.

It's not.

We are as close as two rows of flowers in a garden, two rows almost touching, tended by the same gardener.

EMAIL: jerjohn@desnews.com

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