Heather at Women in the Scriptures was talking the other day about our lack of holidays that specifically commemorate our religious history as a people.
Sometimes I am a little envious of my friends whose religions involve a year full of holidays. Ramadan, for instance, is kind of like a month-long holiday for Muslims, complete with special foods and lots of family time.When I was growing up, the Jewish family next door invited us over to their house to eat potato pancakes for Purim. Then we listened to the story of Esther, and all us children stamped our feet and shouted to drown out the name of dastardly Haman whenever it appeared in the story. My Catholic friends have a whole liturgical year of Saints’ days and other religious festivals, with their accompanying centuries-old traditions.
Like other Christians, Mormons celebrate Christmas and Easter, both lovely holidays. But really our sole unique religious holiday is the 24th of July, which is called Pioneer Day, and commemorates the day the Mormon pioneers first entered the Salt Lake Valley. Perhaps this is reflective of our rather short history compared to faiths that have been around for thousands of years.
Some of my Mormon friends fill the void by celebrating Jewish holidays, like Passover, which are mentioned in the Bible we share in common. Others like to augment their observance of Christmas by incorporating the traditions of Advent.
Still others (like me) would never be organized enough to get around to celebrating a list of new holidays if it weren’t a direct religious imperative.
I did realize, though, that we do have another Mormon holiday of sorts: our twice-yearly General Conference. Every April and October, we set aside a weekend to listen to ten hours of sermons and music, broadcast from Church headquarters in Salt Lake.
And there are some little rituals that go along with it. Back when we lived in Utah, we would often drive up to Salt Lake for Conference. When I was in college, I’d sometimes get there early to stand in line with my roommates in the hope of getting into the Tabernacle. By the time Tony and I were married with a baby, we often preferred to just set out a blanket on the lawn outside and listen as the proceedings were piped out on loudspeakers. In the early days of the Church, the Prophet Joseph Smith often preached sermons outside, so in a way, listening to the words of the Prophet in the great outdoors connected us to those earlier Mormons.
It’s been quite a while since we’ve been in Utah for Conference. While abroad, we got in the habit of watching the LDS World Report, an hour-long production by the Church P.R. department that’s aired between sessions. It’s always interesting to see what countries the Tabernacle Choir is touring, where the Church has sent humanitarian aid after disasters, or how progress is coming on the many temples that are under construction around the world.
Listening to Conference from the other side of the world presents its own particular challenges, so it’s nice to be here in Florida, where we can not only watch it live, but also feed our children during both sessions, and thus get them to sit still for at least a while.
Even though the “morning” session begins at 12pm here, I still made the traditional cinnamon rolls. We just had them for dessert after lunch instead.
Axa fired up her “little kitchen” too, and used her own little rolling pin to make her own little pan of cinnamon rolls.
There are still two sessions left if you want to join the fun. Pull up a chair, break out the cinnamon rolls, and tune in here.