It has been:
192 years since the First Vision
182 years since the organization of the Church
165 years since the arrival of the Saints in Salt Lake Valley
122 years since the transition out of polygamy began
97 years since the first call for Family Home Evening
76 years since the establishment of the Church welfare program
57 years since the dedication of first temple in the eastern hemisphere
45 years since the first General Conference TV broadcast outside the U.S. & Canada
34 years since the 1849-1978 restrictions on the Priesthood were lifted
19 years since the organization of the first mission in India
9 years since the translation of the Book of Mormon into Zulu
1 year since the announcement of the General Temple Patron assistance fund
3 weeks since my daughter was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church
There were nearly a thousand Genesis-years from Adam until Noah. A few verses between Joseph and Moses cover roughly four hundred years. There were around seven hundred years between Isaiah and Jesus.
Compared to those numbers, the two hundred years from the Restoration to the present seem so small.
Then again, it took the Israelites forty years to get across the fairly small Sinai peninsula between Egypt and the promised land. Scholars estimate there were seventy-five years or so between the birth of Jesus and the time the Gospel of Mark was first written down.
Compared to those numbers, the handful of years since the Restoration feel unbelievably fast.
But is that partly because we're living them? What will these first two hundred years look like another two hundred years from now?
I'm running a contest for short stories and artworks that depict Latter-day Saints during the 19th, 20th, 21st, and 22nd centuries. My hope is that we can get past narrow, shallow, and myopic conversations about the Church today if we use our imaginations to think about what the gospel has meant to people in different times, places, and cultural contexts from the past, present, and future. Which parts of Mormon experience have changed and will change? Which stay the same?
How does one eternal gospel look when refracted through the countless human moments it comes to life in?
If you're interested in writing, you should take a look at the contest rules. Even if you're not interested in writing, you might enjoy some parts of my discussion with Wm Morris on A Motley Vision or my interview with myself on By Common Consent. You can also contribute to the prize fund, should you feel inclined to do so, on the Everyday Mormon Writer contest page.
If you live within reasonable driving distance of Utah Valley, you can also purchase a ticket to a fundraising dinner either this Saturday or September 1st at my home. Both dinners will feature an elaborate Indian feast (two appetizer courses, three main dishes, mango lassi to drink, and dessert) plus a guest of honor with special experience writing about religion in the future or the past.
At the dinner this Saturday, the guest of honor will be Nebula Award winner Eric James Stone and the main topic of discussion will be imagining Mormon experiences in various futures. At the September 1st dinner, the guest of honor will be playwright Melissa Leilani Larson, who was interviewed along with me on the BBC, and the main topic of discussion will be history and faith in storytelling.
I am sort of a snob (to say the least) about writing craft, and I am routinely impressed by work by both Eric James Stone and Melissa Leilani Larson. These are bright people whose work is blessed by deep empathetic connection to their characters and by a contagious admiration for people in their struggles for dignity and goodness. So if you are close enough to come and able to contribute the $40 for a ticket, I hope you'll consider joining us for one of the dinners. I will be very surprised if it isn't an extremely fun, memorable, and thought-provoking night. And I'd love to have a few of my blog readers there.
Correction: the original, 1 a.m. version of this blog post incorrectly identified this Friday as the date of the "Future Dinner" with Eric James Stone. The correct day is actually this Saturday, 28 July, and the text has been updated accordingly.
Update: generous donors have offered to sponsor tickets to the Future Dinner this Saturday for two people who are
interested, but don't feel able to purchase tickets on their own. I've posted instructions on how to win the complimentary tickets if you're interested.