Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sharon, Vermont as the birthplace of Joseph Smith

(This post makes more sense if I tell you that we just got back from a road trip to Vermont. And yes, we went to Middlebury and a post about that is coming.)

In some ways, Mormons are the awkward cousins of the mainstream Christian churches. We consider ourselves Christian and self-identify as such, but there are plenty of churches who don't think we should and wish we wouldn't. We proclaim that Mormonism is not an offshoot or evolution of any modern church but a restoration of the original Gospel from the time of Jesus Christ, which makes us very old but also very new, as far as religions go. So while other Christian sects (using the broad definition) have their Vatican City, or their church doors in Wittenberg, or a legacy of cathedrals across Europe, we Mormons have very little.

A Mormon trail here. An abandoned temple there. And in the middle of more or less nowhere, an isolated wooded path to the site of a cabin not far from where our prophet Joseph Smith's parents lived when he was born in 1805.

It may not be a grand cathedral whose innovative architectural style had a profound impact on the development of the arts in the western world. It is not a place where the world - or even the members of our own faith - look to receive guidance and instruction. All that is left are rocks and stones and boulders: the remnants of a foundation, the crumbles of an old turnpike wall, a crude stone bridge.

But as we visited there yesterday, I couldn't help but feel that this tiny, largely abandoned village in eastern Vermont still holds some sway in the way of things, at least for me. I don't know why we ascribe such importance to the places we are born. It's certainly not an event we remember for ourselves. Still, I stood in Sharon yesterday and the site seemed to be thrumming with all the potential of the excitement and tragedy and sacredness that Joseph Smith, who began life there, would bring to the lives of so many others.

Even if we can't share fully in some of the other triumphs of Christianity, at least we Mormons have a few humble pilgrimages to call our own. Sharon, Vermont, the birthplace of Joseph Smith, is definitely one of them.

9 comments:

Kendra said...

I love the word "thrumming". So descriptive and emotion filled.

Susanne said...

"Our prophet" sounds downright Islamic. :)

B-Rad said...

I thought there was a large obelisk in Sharon, VT that the church constructed back in the early 1900s (when Joseph F. Smith was prophet). Was it anywhere near his actual birthplace?

Jeanerbee said...

Very beautifully put, Bridget! We had the chance to visit Sharon as well when we were out there... though if I'd known you were going I would have recommended you drive a little further up to the tiny town grocery in Tunbridge (the town where Joseph Smith's parents met) and have some of the amazing French chef's sandwiches and fried cheesecake...

Eevi said...

nice post. I love how you talked about the church. I wish I had your talent for expressing myself in writing.

Liz Johnson said...

Very cool. I think where we're born is somewhat important... and that that makes Sharon very significant.

And fried cheesecake, Nine?! Really!?

Bridget said...

Kendra, thanks for noticing. I also considered "thrill" and "hum." :)

Susanne, I chose "our" because if I said "the," then I would be foisting a huge part of my religion on you.

B-Rad, you mean like this?

Jeanerbee, I really could have used that information. Really really.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

As I recall, to find JS's birthplace, you drive the freeway, then exit to a two-lane highway for a few miles. At some point you turn right onto a narrow rutted unpaved road to climb into the wooded hills. You then turn onto a narrower road and continue to climb to the birthplace. This place is so remote that I recall thinking how remarkable it is that one of the world's great and vibrant religions was started by an ignorant farm boy born way far off the beaten track.

Kathy Haynie said...

Thank you. Your post touched my heart today (even if I'm reading it a couple of days late).

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