Mormon churches have a reputation for rather dull interior decor, particularly when compared to medieval cathedrals, Hindu temples and the like. While I’m not suggesting a more ornate decor, a little sprucing up would certainly be in order. Our churches could use more personality and more hominess.
In Cokeville WY, I attended the the funeral of a man I greatly respected. Before the service, as I sat in the chapel, I noticed two original paintings by Minerva Teichert, a Mormon artist/muralist who lived in Cokeville. To me, the two paintings were an important component of the spiritual atmosphere in the chapel, particularly since she had lived in the small community. I’m sure they are also a source of great local pride.
I like to travel a lot, both in-country and abroad. When traveling I always end up looking for religious icons: a crucifix, a madonna and child, a nativity scenes, an image of Christ, etc. I particularly like anything with a colorful, 2-dimensional feel. The Mormon church is not big on icons. In fact, when it comes to crosses, the church is open anti. This latter issue was recently discussed at a Sunstone Symposium.
In August, Robert Rees made the case for including the cross in Mormon decor, on jewelry, etc. He pointed out that historically the church wasn’t always so resolute in its opposition. For example, one of Brigham Young’s wives wears a cross in an historic photograph (it has subsequently been airbrushed out). Rees felt the image of the cross heighted his religious experience. My father remembers singing an “Old Rugged Cross” in church meetings during his mission in the 1940s in New England. Rees suggest that discrete wearing of the cross was in order if a person is so predisposed (think “congregational nulification” here). Those in attendance seemed very receptive to Rees’ message.
A couple of years ago, I attended a Unitarian church meeting in SLC. I was impressed with the informal nature of the meeting and the less sterile nature of the interior of the building. Similar experiences have been felt by others as they attended other Christian religious ceremonies. For example, the following comment was posted by LDS Anarchist: “I walked into a Seventh-Day Adventist church/school yesterday. It was the first time I’d ever been in one of their buildings. . . The atmosphere was inviting, like walking into someone’s cozy home. Religious images and sayings were on the walls and in the classrooms, and the classrooms had a comfortable feeling to them. . . The contrast between that building and our largely sanitized, bare, and non-inviting meetinghouses was sharp. . . We need to re-eximane everything we are doing and what other religions are doing and incorporate every superior thing we find into our church.”
I applaud the latter recommendation.