If you're like me, you've already had a few friends and relatives drop by this summer looking to be entertained. And one of the best ways to entertain them, I've found, is a mini-pilgrimage.
Salt Lake City has a mapful of religious sites to visit.There are the big wonders, of course: Temple Square, the Cathedral of the Madeleine, This is the Place monument, etc. And there are small wonders - "pockets of piety" hidden around the valley.
I'm a "small wonders" man.
I load my guests in the car and - like the "Canterbury Tales" - head out to a tiny shrine or monument while everyone talks and trades stories.
Here are some of my favorite destinations:
- The replica of Michelangelo's "Pieta," Christ United Methodist Church, 2375 E. 3300 South. Open daily until 5 p.m.
Set in a lighted niche, this sculpture is a spitting image of the Michelangelo masterpiece in Italy. It was even carved from marble out of the same quarry.
An Italian artist named Palla did the work - after some precise measuring and molding. And it's a dead ringer for the original.
The "Pieta," of course, depicts the Virgin Mary cradling a crucified Jesus in her lap. And as the reading material at the church explains, people love the sculpture because it's a vision of the heart, not the eye. Jesus is life-size, for instance, though Mary is 7-feet tall. Yet by making their heads the same size, Michelangelo gives the impression a smaller Mary is enveloping her son in her love.
The people I take here usually return on their own.
- The Virgin of Guadalupe Tree, 300 East and 700 South.
This stylized image of the Virgin Mary appeared in the rings of a tree when a limb was pruned away.
Local believers flocked to the spot at the time, leaving behind an ocean of candles, flowers and icons. Today the site is less hectic and more understated.
Yet every time I visit this corner, I feel just as I feel among the throngs at the Shrine of Guadalupe in Mexico City. I have a sense that so many people have shown so much faith here, I can walk on their belief as if walking on water.
At the Vrigin Tree, the rules of gravity don't apply. I feel I'm walking on the moon, bouncing and floating on a Sea of Tranquillity.
- The grave of Eliza R. Snow, Mormon Pioneer Memorial, 140 First Ave.
Of all the people in Mormon pioneer history, the two that intrigue me most are the Snows - Eliza and her brother Lorenzo.
In my mind, they go together like bread and butter, like morning and afternoon.
Lorenzo Snow is buried in my hometown of Brigham City. Eliza is buried on First Avenue, along with Brigham Young.
And I love to take people by to visit.
There's a bronzed copy of the words and music to "O My Father" here - the "troublesome" old version written in 9/8 time with four flats. It's the version with the contrapuntal bass part I loved to sing.
Nearby you'll see an image of Eliza in bronze and a brief history of her life.
Sometimes I'll take a copy of the biography she wrote about her brother and sit amid the trees and read.
Her writing sets early Utah in high relief.
For example, when Lorenzo Snow married late - and married more than once - it left Eliza feeling rather "amused."
"Thus, all at once, as it were, from the lone bachelor he was transformed into a husband invested with many domestic responsibilities. Probably a realizing sense of the fact that he had arrived at the mature age of thirty-one years in celibacy suggested to him the propriety of making up for lost time by more than ordinary effort, and out of the old beaten track."
Now there's a writer whose grave is well worth a visit. And well worth taking your friends and relatives with you when you go.