For those of you not living on the Wasatch Front, please know that winter began today. It has nothing to do with the calendar—it is a sixth sense that lets you know. I got up this morning and it was rather cold in the house. I wondered if the furnace would kick on and thought, “I might need a jacket today.” Once outside the air had a bite to it that was not there yesterday. Desert air like cold hands scratching at my skin made it obvious that Mother Nature had spoken, summer is done.
With the arrival of winter my thoughts turned to the 2002 Olympic Games held in Salt Lake City. That was the launching point of the Mormon Moment. The LDS Church encouraged volunteers to serve wherever needed. Furthermore, proselytizing was discouraged. Just serve! If anyone in the world wanted to know about the Mormons they would learn key lessons just by watching and receiving the warmth of the Saints. The approach turned out to be a potent elixir that visitors drank freely. And the Mormon Moment was born.
Memories abound. The quirky berets (a fashion gamble with jackpot success), swapping pins galore, the Olympic Torch, Elder Maxwell carrying that torch, praying for snow, the Church-office-building-high figure skater, and solemnly witnessing, during the opening ceremonies, the raising of the tattered American flag that proudly flew over the Twin Towers five months earlier when planes smashed into the buildings changing the world forever. After all, there had been discussion of cancelling the games but, in a show of American fortitude, the games went on. And Salt Lake City and the Mormons were front and center. The Mormons were warm, open, friendly, inviting. A new title was bestowed upon the games by national and international members of the media. In their writing and broadcasting they referred to the games as the Molympics. That is effusive praise!
Oh wait, there’s more. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s performance of John William’s Olympic theme song caused the fast-paced games to stop in their tracks. Olympic enthusiasts could not, not listen to “Call of the Champions.” Yes, the choir had a home field advantage by performing in the Tabernacle. Even so, the already famous choir became ever more famous before a global audience. Indeed there had never been a bigger audience before and it will likely never be exceeded. All this combined to create an opportunity so rare that the Church was justified in throwing the whole kitchen sink at the effort. And for their efforts, the Church was rewarded. Without so much as a “Would you like to learn more?”, Mormons became the darlings of America and, for a time, the world. They just served their guests and served them well. From a Latter-day Saint perspective, this is the stuff of which the birth of the Mormon Moment was made.
So on this first day of winter on the Wasatch Front, I’m still proud that the Church nailed the Olympic challenge. Great lessons were learned from the Molympics. Hosting the world is a rare opportunity, and whenever the world comes to Salt Lake City it just makes sense to throw the kitchen sink at the gathering, serve like no other, and sit back and watch the good that comes from it. And if we miss an opportunity we, as a people, can do better next time.
The attached link will take you to the Church’s website where you may view the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing “Call of the Champions.” Lloyd Newell of Music and the Spoken Word provides and introduction. Beware, this will bring a flood of memories back and, if you’re like me, tears to your eyes. ENJOY!