An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Since we have a summer garden and I’m not into crafts, I don’t regularly shop at farmers’ markets—much as I love them. Farmers’ markets are one segment of American commerce that fosters local differences. The FM in my Bountiful, Utah neighborhood is small town. I buy radishes and beets from my daughter’s neighbors and cookies from my yoga instructor.

When I visit our son in Seattle’s University District, I join the throng of health-conscious retirees and yuppies choosing fresh seafood and organic milk, cheeses, and vegetables at the local FM. I carry home a gorgeous bouquet of seasonal flowers arranged to order while I wait.

Cedar City, UT has a tiny but thriving FM where recent arrivals to this high desert valley buy zucchini and potatoes grown by descendents of the pioneer stock who mastered the art of coaxing hardy vegetables from barren soil.

Besides fresh vegetables, farmer’s markets offer wonderful people-watching opportunities. For that purpose, my favorite is at Salt Lake City’s Pioneer Park. I spent 3 ½ hours there last Saturday—manning the League of Women Voters’ booth to register new voters. People who believe Salt Lake City is 100% Mormon should visit this FM. Tattoos, bare shoulders, and Starbucks cups are living proof that Zion’s capital city is home to many gentiles.

Parents with small children stopped to buy balloon animals from a clown on stilts. Older kids danced, and gray-hairs clapped in front of a blue-grass band.  Impatient middle-aged women pushed through the crowds—anxious to get their spinach and asparagus home and into the refrigerator. Dog lovers walked their well-behaved pets through the crowds. A less confident dog owner wheeled her Shiatsu in a dog-stroller.

Police officers watched the crowd and encouraged homeless persons who had spent the night to pack up their earthly goods and move on. A young Latino man stopped to read my poster about voting. I asked if he was a registered voter. “No, I can’t vote.” “You don’t have your citizenship yet?” “No, I’m a felon.” “You’ve given up a lot.” “Yeah, I can’t vote, can’t own a gun, can’t leave the country—but it’s still a good country.”  He extended his hand, “I’m Carlos.” I shook his hand and wished him well.

I’m a fixer by nature. When I meet people like Carlos or see the homeless or handicapped, I want to make them whole. Of course, I can’t. I can volunteer time to teach ESL to immigrants. I can donate to charities that help the less fortunate. I can support government programs to help those in need. But I can’t change the world. I can’t make everyone whole and perfect. And while we would all like wholeness and perfection for ourselves and loved ones, do we really want to live in a world as uniform as the look-alike patrons of the farmers’ market in our younger son’s Microsoft-suburb community?  Maybe the uncertainty of this world is part of its charm. I mean, does anyone really want to die to go to Heavenly perfection and freedom from pain and suffering?

I’m not suggesting that pain and suffering are good or that we shouldn’t try to prevent and alleviate misery. Still, when our turn comes to experience the negatives of this world, maybe we should recognize that the potential for a change of fortune makes our good times even more precious.

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