With a glimpse of some sun and breezy weather in sight, last week a friend and I set out to South Kensington to visit the museum district of the city. But sadly …we set out at around 5pm after a very long lunch we arrived to find all the museums had closed so we trailed around the streets, taking pictures of some of the beautiful buildings and architecture before the rain came down with a vengeance. Out of half intrigue and half escape from the rubbish weather we decided to run into a building that appeared to be a museum… the sign said there was an ‘exhibition’…it was open until 8pm so we thought let’s do it! It turned out that we’d set foot on ‘The Church of Latter Day Saints’, a deceivingly modern building that did not look like a Church at all.
We began to take a look around what we thought was a gallery but we had a chance to get a proper look at the art work – featuring depictions of Prophets with whom the origins of the Mormon Church begun, we were greeted by an old couple who after a few questions (Are you Mormon? Did you know we have 18-30’s single groups here?…etc) led us through the first few paintings in the museum. After quite an in depth talk about the religion, its origin and so on, we were taken into the main chapel and the lady told us that their main congregation compiles of a lot of travellers, exchange students studying in London looking for a sense of community and stability while away from home and there were also some older members of the Church who lived locally.
There was also a dedicated section of the Church – which was extremely cool and clinical with its white walls and starkness – that was posted with interactive movies. These movies were basically honing in on individuals who identify as Mormon and who live ‘normal’ lifestyles. For example, they’d show you a clip of someone who works in the city, enjoys going out with her friends, having a normal job but not having that separate her from other people in the non-Mormon world. If you have come into contact with Kings Cross and St Pancras Station recently then you will know that these moving images are currently advertised at that station.
Now, I definitely had my preconceived notions about Mormons; be it from documentaries I’ve watched, things I’ve read or just plainly for the fact that I’ve never actually come into contact with anyone from that religion – every other main religion, but just not anyone from The Church of Latter Day Saints. So it was nice to know that a lot of the ways in which Mormons are depicted on TV are strictly that – for TV. Yes, there are still practising Amish and Mormon people who completely isolate themselves from the world for generations …until…eternity but there are also others who have no qualms about living the metropolitan lifestyle while still staying true to their beliefs.
When I asked the lady who had guided us around what she thought about this often one-sided depiction of her religion and those who follow it she commented that it was unfair and unrepresentative of people like her and her family and she hoped more people would find out more about the faith.
All in all it was very interesting – I personally felt a little cornered into ‘signing up’ for the newsletter and to visit again even after the third time I’d gently but firmly told her I was only there to have a look around …and not become a member but it was an eye opening experience. Something new!
The Church of Latter Day Saints is located at: 64-68 Exhibition Road, South Kensington,