Mormon Mardi Gras

Just in time for Pioneer Day on the 24th, I thought I’d share some photos from the Pioneer Day Parade float preview that I went to last Monday. Obviously I knew that there is a parade on the 24th, but I can’t remember ever watching it on TV, and I know that I haven’t gotten up early to stake out a spot for it. In fact, before living in New Orleans, parades didn’t really capture my interest. But then I went to my first Mardi Gras parade and fell in love. Suddenly, it didn’t seem crazy at all for people to camp out for a good spot on the parade route or circle a neighborhood for parking for half an hour. I don’t really like crowds or hassles so I often don’t put forth the effort to attend big events and just kind of assume it won’t be worth it. But Mardi Gras is totally worth it, and if you ever get the chance to go, you should go.

My mom and brother visited us in New Orleans once in October, and we felt bad that they wouldn’t get to experience Mardi Gras (I promise, this is part of the post), so we took them to Mardi Gras World where you can see all of the floats created for Mardi Gras. It was awesome, although obviously not as good as actually being to a parade in person.

Going to see the float preview for the Pioneer Day Parade felt a lot like going to Mardi Gras World. I had no idea what to expect from the floats. I knew that most of them were made by volunteers, so to be honest, I didn’t expect much. Imagine my surprise when they turned out to be amazing. Although, it was a little strange because almost every float was religious in nature. They all talked about faith, sacrifice, temples, missionary work, zion, etc. And the art work for many of them seemed to come straight from the illustrations of The Friend, a church-produced magazine for younger kids. It filled me with nostalgia.

But they were church-related floats with tons and tons of glitter and sparkle!

Like I mentioned, most of the floats were created by volunteers. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is organized into wards (congregations) and stakes (similar to a dioceses) made up of several wards. Most of the floats were created by different stakes. Here’s the one that my stake put together.

Huge desserts! Is there anything more whimsical than huge desserts? The preview event allowed you to vote for the best float. During church the day before, we were encouraged to go vote for the stake float. I wanted to vote for ours, of course, but I wouldn’t vote for it if it wasn’t any good. Luckily, I could vote for it with a clear conscience. Although I was torn because the stake I grew up in also had a float in the parade that was pretty great.

Of course, there were a few other churches that had some floats in the parade. I could tell the one with the big Jesus wasn’t a Mormon one right away. Not that we don’t believe in Jesus. We just don’t usually make big ones for a float.

And there were some secular floats, too. Like two of them.

And one church-made float that looked more secular.

The train actually went in and out of the tunnel.

Here’s the thing about floats, the sparklier the better. There was an impressive float with a zeppelin and a handcart and a pioneer quilt, but well…

it still just looks kind of dreary. It could use some glitter.

They also had lots of activities at the preview, such as foam swords to fight, sheep to pet, beanbags to toss, candy to eat, and a marching band to hear. I thought it was so cool that I told Izzy and Kylie they should take their kids the next day.

But I probably won’t be camping out tomorrow night for a good spot to see the Pioneer Day Parade because it is missing one very important element. Beads! What’s the point of a parade if you can’t shout at the top of your lungs, “Throw me something, mister!” over and over again? What’s the point if you don’t go home with bags of colorful beads and useless throws? What’s the point if you can’t hope for a decorated shoe or a coconut? Or even catch a cabbage? No, I’m afraid that New Orleans created my love for parades, but my desire to attend them died when I left that beautiful city. The float preview is good enough for me.

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Church History Museum

Considering these two facts 1) I grew up in Utah and 2) I am Mormon, I’m a little surprised that I’ve never been to the Church History Museum. At least, that I remember. I think it’s probably because of these two reasons: 1) I’ve never been that interested in church history and 2) I’ve never really liked church-y art (with some exceptions). So the museum never had much of an appeal to me, but when I was downtown a few weeks ago, I decided to check it out.

To be honest, I still have mixed feelings about it as a museum. It tells the story of the church, but in the same way that I’ve heard all my life. I kept expecting the information placards to tell me about the artifacts or the art, but instead they told me how they fit into the history of the church. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just different from what I expect in a museum. I’m used to something more objective rather than… didactic, for lack of a better word. But the museum is actually chalk full of really interesting things and it’s got all sorts of great exhibits. Let’s take a look. First of all, here’s the facade of the museum.

I love all the carvings. I especially love that it includes the scripture, “The glory of God is intelligence. ”

The museum starts with the early beginnings of the church and tells the story of the first vision and then how Joseph Smith and his brother were killed by a mob at Carthage Jail. Here are their death masks.

And here’s the pocket watch that saved John Taylor’s life.

Then the story progresses to tell about how all the Saints gathered in Winter Quarters after being expelled from their homes in Illinois and Missouri. I loved this painting of all the wagons gathered on the other side of the Mississippi.

The next few exhibits included a lot of artifacts from their journey across the plains. I really liked this part. I loved seeing what possessions the pioneers chose to carry with them along the plains when they could take so little.

Then they arrived in the Salt Lake Valley and settled it. They mapped it out in nice even squares with the Salt Lake Temple in the center (but it took 40 years to build). They built chapels and stores and came up with their own monetary system.

They had a section on temples and some of the craftsmanship that goes into them. Remember when I mentioned the amazing murals painted by Minerva Teichert at the Manti Temple? They had one of the studies she drew in preparation for it.

Speaking of Minerva Teichert… the second floor of the museum is full of art, including some paintings by Minerva Teichert. She is still one of my favorites.

I love the patterns in the dresses and the soft, muted colors.

Right now, the museum is full of entries into its Ninth Annual International Art Competition. I browsed around for a bit. I wasn’t expecting to find much that I like because of the whole not liking church-y art. I thought there’d be mostly stuff like this:

Yeah… not so much my cup of tea. And to be honest, there was a lot of art there that wasn’t really my cup of tea. But then I’d come across art like these that I really liked.

(The photo didn’t quite turn out of that one, but it’s amazing. It’s completely made of paper cuts.)

The museum also had an exhibit about each of the presidents of the church, including different objects from their life. It was really fascinating to see the past 150 or so years represented and the change in technology. Even though I went into the museum feeling a little skeptical, I actually left feeling a lot more interested in church history, especially in the first years of settling the valley. Maybe I’ll have to find a book or something. Or just go back to the museum some time.

Rain Day!

When we left for church this morning, it was pouring rain outside, but Amanda diligently got the kids in the jeep (and got soaking wet, despite the umbrella).

We had only gone a few blocks when it became clear the streets were flooding and we had to turn around. So what did we do instead? Hmm… we relaxed for a bit.

And got in a little Sunday reading.

But my favorite part was laying on my bed with Pete, watching the rain and telling stories.

Meanwhile, the street looked like this:

Missing church was a waste of a pretty new dress.

But we made the best of it.

Day of Service

I mentioned in an earlier post that I did a service project with my church out in St. Bernard Parish on Saturday morning. We were told that we would help clean up a cemetery, so of course I was excited about it. This cemetery was basically in shambles after Katrina, and many of the vaults were washed away. We were told by the people at Camp Hope (with whom we coordinated the project) that after the storm, they found the vaults on the roads and in the forest. They had to get a big crane to bring them all back and then ended up just putting them down wherever they could. For the most part, it seemed orderly, but then there were a few places like this.

Luckily our group volunteered after the group that was assigned to gather all of the remains, place them in body bags and bury them in a mass grave (since it would have been financially impossible to determine the identity of the scattered remains). We simply had to use steel brushes to scrape off all the peeling paint and then paint them over again so they looked nice and bright.

Even with 20-30 of us there working hard for 3 hours, we still only completed a row and a half. I know painting a cemetery probably doesn’t seem like it would do much good, but I think the way we care for our dead is important, and I feel like cemeteries are a very real part of our community. When I drove back to St. Bernard on Sunday to take the photos of the golden fields, I drove Jaime past the cemetery. There was a baseball game going on next door and the place was packed with cars and people walking around and through the cemetery to get to the baseball field. I don’t know if they noticed that a few vaults were painted, but I felt like I had somehow contributed (even just a little) to beautifying the community.

(photos taken with the iphone, so please forgive the poor quality.)