We did have a nice celebration

We did have a nice celebration June 2, 2024


The doors of the Rome Italy Temple
The main doors to the Rome Italy Temple, with inscription
(image sent to me by correspondent; ultimate provenance unknown)

This time, I think that I’ll lead off with a few items that I’ve retrieved from the Christopher Hitchens Memorial “How Religion Poisons Everything” File™.  Sometimes, it’s just plain advisable to get the painful and the bitter out of the way first:

An Australian reader of this blog posted in a comment today that he is convinced that religion really does poison everything.  In sharing such horrors as the three above, I’m hoping to provide him with good reasons for his fervent faith that religion is a force for evil.

Apostles in white.
Every member of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the time, dressed in white temple clothing, posed for an iconic photograph in the Rome Italy Temple Visitors’ Center in Rome, Italy on Monday, March 11, 2019. Front center are President Russell M. Nelson and his counselors in the First Presidency, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring. Also included are members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: President M. Russell Ballard, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Elder David A. Bednar, Elder Quentin L. Cook, Elder D. Todd Christofferson, Elder Neil L. Andersen, Elder Ronald A. Rasband, Elder Gary E. Stevenson, Elder Dale G. Renlund, Elder Gerrit W. Gong, and Elder Ulisses Soares. Behind them are marble replicas of Bertel Thorvaldsen’s statues of the “Christus” and of the ancient twelve apostles.   Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.
(I hope that the Deseret News won’t mind my use of this astonishing photograph, with acknowledgement. If there is an objection, I can be reached at daniel_peterson@byu.edu.)

We attended church today in one of the wards that meet at the stake center adjacent to the Rome Italy Temple.  The taxi driver on the way out, realizing that we were headed in our Sunday dress toward the “very beautiful” Temple, commented that, while some of his fares wouldn’t understand, we would — so he turned on his radio so that we could all listen to the Pope’s Sunday mass.  At least once during the broadcast, he crossed himself.  It was good to see an observant Catholic cab driver.  “Have a nice celebration!” he said to us as we left his taxi.  He was, of course, thinking of the “celebration” of the Mass.

We enjoyed the church service, which was quite well attended.  (Having arrived a minute or two late, we sat on the very back row, in the “cultural hall.”). We also attended the English-language Sunday school class, which was taught by a young American woman whose husband works at the Embassy of the United States.  They are relatively recently arrived, and will be in Rome for three years.  It turns out that she is the daughter of a former college roommate of mine, one of my very best friends during my undergraduate time at BYU.  (In keeping with my longstanding policy, since he is not a public figure and certainly doesn’t deserve the tender ministrations of my small but malicious claque of anonymous online stalkers, I will not name him.  At least one reader here, though, will recognize him from his initials, which are SN.)  Both my wife and I knew her parents before they were even married; I believe that we met her when she was a baby.  As I age, hurtling rapidly into advanced senectitude, it’s been gratifying to have such encounters.  A similar one occurred quite a few years ago now, when I was invited to participate in a seminar in Taipei, Taiwan, commemorating (I think) the bicentennial anniversary of the birth of the Prophet Joseph Smith.  Two elders were sent in the mission van to pick me up at the airport, and I realized in speaking with one of them that he was the son of the second senior companion that I had on my own mission.  The missionary’s father and I were together for four months in Interlaken, Switzerland, living upstairs in the home of the Familie Zbären, at Kanalpromenade 46.

And the seasons they go round and round,
And the painted ponies go up and down.
We’re captive on the carousel of time.
We can’t return we can only look
Behind from where we came,
And go round and round and round
In the circle game.

We were in the room with them at the time.
A group photograph of most of those who attended Keith Erekson’s Q&A session today. (Some had been obliged to leave.) Dr. Erekson is standing in back, in a blue shirt. The director of the Institute of Religion in Rome is the blonde woman kneeling at the center in the front.

After Sunday school, we attended a special meeting for young adults — roughly college age and slightly older, I would guess — that was held in a room over in the adjacent visitors’ center and  conducted by the director of the Rome Institute of Religion, who also served as translator (though relatively few of the young people appeared to need the translation headsets).  Keith Erekson, who is a member of our visiting FAIR group, held a wide-open question-and-answer session.  There was time for only a few questions, since he gave excellent but longishly thoughtful and informed answers to those that he received.  The questions that were asked, as it turned out, involved temple matters and early Latter-day Saint plural marriage.  Keith apparently does these Q&As pretty frequently, and I think that’s a wonderful idea.

I spent a fair portion of the time after church in conversation with Elder LeGrand Curtis, an emeritus member of the Seventy who is here as director of the Visitors’ Center and, I’m told, as a sealer in the Temple.  It has been a good day, thus far.  It’s always good to be with the Saints.

Posted from Rome, Italy



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