Nick, one of our excellent campus ministers, figured that I should start a blog to record and share some of the various things that I learn and study. I have to say that I was very skeptical at first. After all, it would involve using that internety thing in a way that didn’t involve ordering books from Amazon, looking up articles in JSTOR, or shooting zombies or some other form of evil video game malcontents. The other issue, of course, was whether anyone would find the things that I learn about interesting. Most people really don’t care what genre of literature Prokopios’ Anekdota fits into, nor do they find Gospel manuscript traditions fascinating. However, I decided to do it, mostly because once I started working on it, I couldn’t just give up. It’ll also be a good way to disseminate information on my upcoming research study. I think that I’ll also post some of my Amazon book reviews on here, just in case someone is dying to know if A Collection of Dated Byzantine Lead Seals is a good read or not.
For those who don’t know, I’m doing a directed reading course this year on Christianity in the 4th c., with a specific focus on the episcopate. The question that I want to answer is, how did Christianity become so political so quickly? Imperial toleration of Christianity was only enacted in 313 AD with the Edict of Milan (not technically an edict, nor was it done at Mediolanum. In fact, Galerius had proclaimed toleration in 311 AD.) , but by the end of the century we see bishops taking over the roles of secular officials, and even beginning to browbeat emperors. Within two centuries, bishops are leading armies in the absence of emperors in the West. Sure, the Sirmondian Constitutions played a part, but that cannot be the entire story. Exactly how this played out is what I’m going to be studying this upcoming academic year.
Now, I did promise a story, so I’ll tell one. It is a story that I’ve told a couple of times recently, and so I figure that I should put it down in writing so the world can hear it. (Who am I kidding? I can’t even get my own mother to read my blog.) The story should probably be entitled, ‘My Evening as a 19th c. Mormon Polygamist’.
It all started innocuously enough. Back in February, I went to Utah to compete in the North American Speed Skating Championships. I had several days to explore Salt Lake City, as our ice times were early in the morning. However, on the Friday, I skated a 500m race in the morning, but was then done for the day. I didn’t want to just sit back in the hotel room, especially considering how nice it was outside. I had been confined to the hotel due to cold weather and the utter boringness of Saskatoon a couple of weeks past, and I did not want a repeat performance. (Although, I could have used a repeat of my Saskatoon performance on the ice. I am not an indoor skater.) However, I had been downtown the previous two days, so I wasn’t sure what to do. I talked to my friend Janine on Facebook, and she had suggested that I go and see Brigham Young’s house, which I had somehow missed. I thought that this was a good idea, and I wanted to go for a bus ride anyway, because I needed to capture a picture of the elusive 5′ dinosaur gracing someone’s lawn in a slummy neighbourhood en-route to downtown.
I hopped on the bus, got a picture of the dinosaur, and an hour later I arrived at my usual stop downtown, some random bus stop across from a homeless shelter and a nice apartment building, right where the feeling that I’m getting too far away from Temple Square begins to set in. (Only later did I learn that the bus actually goes about another 200m to Salt Lake Central Station.) So I went up to Brigham Young’s house, after briefly running into Sister What’s-her-name who had taken me on a tour the day before. When I get to Brigham Young’s house, a tour is about to start. It is made up some alleged descendants of Brigham Young, and a group of students who were just touring around Salt Lake, as they had recently arrived at the LDS Business College. We went on our tour of Brigham Young’s ‘house’. The usage of the singular is just polite courtesy, because it seems to be three houses, all built into each other. Considering the number of wives that he had, it seems reasonable that it was necessary to house them and all of their children. After we toured around the houses, the missionaries attacked since I was the only non-LDS in the group. After a brief skirmish, the group from the business college invited me to come along with them for the rest of their tour.
We didn’t get all that far. After numerous takes, we finally managed to get our pictures taken with the giant Joseph Smith in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. We went up the 10th floor and looked around, but then it was time for my new friends to meet up with their Singles Ward for a Friday activity. I was invited along. The plan was to go for supper, but there was some debate as to where. Tina and I wanted to go to the Joseph Smith Memorial Building for supper, as the restaurant is up on the 10th floor and offers a great view of Temple Square and Salt Lake City. However, there were protests that it cost too much, and ultimately we went off to this rather neat semi-outdoor mall, after passing through an old and fascinating train station. Tina and Yasmina, two of my new friends were interested in seeing me skate, and they agreed to come to the Oval the next day. Tina lived in South Jordan anyway, so Kearns wasn’t all that far. I departed after supper, hoping to catch the second-last bus back to the hotel. I decided to take the Trax to the station, which turned out to be a disaster. It was late, and I saw my bus driving away as I arrived. So I sat on the curb at the bus station for a rather chilly hour before the next bus finally arrived a little before midnight.
The next day, we skated the 5000m. However, it took the organizers forever to get the events going, despite running quartets. I had expected that we’d be done by about 3, like we usually are in Calgary, so I hadn’t brought a lot of food (nor did many others), so I was not impressed to be skating at 7 PM that night. However, during the day Tina and Yasmina came by, and we decided that after skating was over, we were going to try to go for supper at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. After rushing back to the hotel, I hurriedly had a shower and contacted Tina, who then came to the hotel to pick me up. We drove to downtown Salt Lake with very little time to spare. The restaurant seated the last people at 10, and we just made it in time.
Demographically speaking, the crowd was very much composed of older Mormon couples. The average age was probably 60+, and it did not appear that anyone had more than one wife. When we arrived, however, we discovered that they were closed on Sunday. Since it was Saturday, February 13, they were having their Valentine’s Day supper that night. Remember, this is in Utah. And I just showed up with two women.
We found this fact to be very amusing. Once some of the others start to leave, we table hop to one with a better view of the brightly-lit temple. When the waitress comes back, Tina asks her if we look like polygamists. Without a second thought, she replies, “Yes, you certainly do.” We assured her that we were not. We enjoyed our supper, toasted to Joseph Smith finding more firepower in the Celestial Kingdom, took some pictures, and left. However, the story does not end here. Tina is very fond of horses, and as we walked back to her car, we passed several horse-drawn carriages. This was too good of a chance to pass up, so we paid Richard, the only bearded Mormon in Utah, to take us on a ride around Temple Square. So there I go, cruising around Salt Lake City at about 1 AM in a horse-drawn buggy with two women. If only I had a Lorenzo Snow beard, we would have fit right in during the mid-late 1800s. Richard the carriage driver figured that we looked like polygamists, too. You know what they say: “When in Rome…”