This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

Understanding the Mormon Church in Arizona

If you live in the Phoenix area, you see a lot of Mormon Churches. The signs say "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints", and it is often abbreviated as LDS. If you yourself are LDS, you know all about it, if you're not, I'd like to explain a bit.

No, I'm not Mormon. And by the way, there's nothing wrong using using that term, it's just that LDS sounds just a bit cooler, making you seem as if you're "in the know". I've been learning about Mormonism since I was about 13, and I still have a lot to learn, but I'll tell you what I know so far.

I'm an adventurer. I have an inquisitive nature, which I guess starts when you ask "why is the sky blue?" and for most people fades away after they start school. But I never outgrew it. I have a good friend who says that when he was a kid he wanted to know everything, and he never outgrew it. It genuinely puzzles most people that I meet, and the people who are intellectually curious are the ones that understand. So no, I'm not trying to convert you, or me, to Mormonism, but if you'd like to learn more, let's take a look.

The place that I started was the Visitor's Center in Salt Lake City when I was about twelve or thirteen. I loved to draw superheroes, and I was very impressed by the heroic paintings that I had seen there. So when I got home that's all I could talk about. Of course the grownups had no idea what I was talking about, and thought that I had confused what I had seen there with my comic books of Thor, etc. But a neighbor of ours was Mormon, and they gave me my first copy of the Book of Mormon. And the paintings are all in there. The artist was Arnold Friberg, by the way, and if you Google him, you'll see more of his artwork, including the amazing work he did for the Book of Mormon.

Arnold Friberg artwork for the Book of Mormon.

I can't really say that I read the Book of Mormon, I mostly looked at the pictures. None of it seemed to make much sense to me, and there certainly wasn't anyone at the Lake Nokomis Presbyterian Church who knew anything about it. It was about at that time that I found out that if you had any curiosity about something that was outside of your common experience, it caused the grownups to panic. I learned to keep quiet.

So it wasn't until I was all grown up, and living in Arizona, that I had the opportunity to talk to anyone about the Mormons. Of course, most people got wildly upset (people do - I call it "throwing chairs") and went off on rants. The people who knocked on my door were surprised that I wanted to talk about it, I had never heard the words spoken out loud. I wanted to clarify about what happened in the war that ended with Mormon giving his son the golden tablets. I would say stuff like, "waitaminute, now who were the Lamanites (and learn how to pronounce the words)?

For me the very best thing was getting a bunch of children's books from a student of mine at the Art Institute of Phoenix who had casually mentioned that she was getting married, and was LDS. I don't usually mention personal subjects in my professional life, but in this case I asked her to help me out, to help me to understand. She gave me a bunch of children's books, and it was wonderful, and I learned more from them than from anywhere else. If you're interested in learning, and the humility to do so, this is what I recommend for you.

Thank you for exploring with me.

Image at the top of this post: Sign on the Food Bank building, LDS, Bell Road and 69th Avenue, Glendale, Arizona.

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