The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
One of the great things about this gig is I get to see people being people. On the one hand, people can be a little pretentious in the context of worship, although the purpose of that escapes me, since if there’s anyone who knows what a person is all about, it’s his or her god. On the other hand, I get to see people loving their families, children acting out, worshippers quite literally baring their souls.
This week, I spotted an intriguing event in a competing newspaper: The Sparks and Reno Stakes of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints invite the public to a Fireside commemorating the 100th anniversary of the church’s establishment in Reno and Sparks of wards and branches.
I’ve only been to two LDS services, so the exact meaning of some of the words escaped me: Stakes (geographic area), Fireside, wards and branches (a ward is the larger of the two types of local congregations). That’s the kind of thing that excites my curiosity. There were two addresses listed, and nobody was answering phones at either location, so Hunter, Joy and I threw the dice, headed to the closer spot with Google Mapped plans to the other if the parking lot was empty.
It was not. It was packed. The church was the Latter-day Saints edifice at the corner of Rock and North McCarran boulevards in Sparks. We were greeted at the door and led into a large space made by combining several halls into one. I’d estimate there were seats for 800-900 people with about a 95 percent occupancy. Hard to tell for sure from my vantage point, but the place was packed.
So, essentially, a Fireside is a supplemental meeting of LDS members. This one was to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the church’s formal establishment in Reno and Sparks. (Many people will recall that at an earlier time, the church had establishments in Genoa and Dayton.) So while this was a service begun with an opening prayer and ended with a benediction, it wasn’t a service per se.
The Fireside was attended by local government, religious and business dignitaries and was made up of informational and inspirational talks by LDS leadership, including Anita Hicks, who came up with the idea to celebrate the centennial. There were also three songs performed by three choirs that had historical roots in the LDS: the Singing Mothers, a women’s choir; the Sierra Singers, a men’s choir; and the stake choir.
As is usually the case, LDS are the most formally dressed of any congregation in Northern Nevada. Suits and ties and dresses are always the dress of the day, and, as usual, I came in underdressed, with slacks and a sweater. Hunter wore white socks with his dress shoes and no tie, and Joy wore slacks. I simply have to make a mental Post-it regarding this fact. I didn’t notice anyone take note of our apparel, though.
The back part of the hall was devoted to exhibitions and multimedia displays that included photos, artifacts, news articles, musical albums, pamphlets, an antique quilt, tales of church leadership, family connections, the construction of the temple—too much stuff to mention, but much of it will be included in a forthcoming book, Saints Among The Sierra, which is planned for distribution in July through Amazon.com. The variety and breadth of the collection was fascinating, and I look forward to the book’s publication to fill some of the holes in my knowledge of the Mormon influence in Northern Nevada.
Bottom line was this was great fun, and it helped a couple Gentiles to get a little insight into this part of our area’s culture. Needless to say, I’m going to keep an eye out for future Firesides.