Surprise! Salt Lake City was the destination of the mystery trip I took last week. Touring the heart of the Latter Day Saints country made me appreciate Catholicism and all it offers even more than I did before.
While the tour did take us to fun places like Promontory Summit where the railroad first connected east and west, and the Olympic Park, we also had a thorough introduction to the various places that the LDS Church sponsors, including a genealogy center and a humanitarian aid center. Especially at the humanitarian aid center, I found it uncomfortable listening to the guide who spoke about following Jesus’ example. To me, it seemed a bit preachy; in my mind I had to justify that I do as much as any of them. This should be a responsibility that every Christian takes to heart. But while they are big on the corporal works of mercy, the LDS church seems to be missing out on crucial elements of the faith, like the Real Presence and the sacrament of reconciliation. I can’t imagine having a relationship with Jesus without either of these.
As our tour guide was a member of the LDS Church, she told us that after a church is dedicated, only members can enter. It is a place for private prayer. While centuries ago, the Catholic Church insisted that the catechumens, those studying to become members of the Church, leave after the Liturgy of the Word, now anyone is welcome to attend Mass. The beauty of the Word and the Eucharist can be a powerful force in a person’s conversion. Just being in the presence of Jesus in the tabernacle can be moving. I can’t imagine saying to someone, “You’re not allowed to come into the church building since you’re not Catholic.” The church building is THE place for both communal and private worship. To deny entrance seems like a violation of our human rights.
One thing that did surprise me was the appreciation the members of the LDS Church seem to have for our Church. On several occasions, positive comments were made about Catholics. As Catholicism is the second largest religion in Salt Lake City, it was encouraging to hear how the two churches work together in the community.
Ironically, while I was there, the gospel for Sunday was Mark 9:38-43. Jesus tells the disciples not to stop others not of their group from doing good deeds in His name. The LDS Church certainly does a lot of good in Jesus’ name, but I prefer the rich and vibrant life that being a Catholic offers.