Please Preserve Minerva Teichert’s Priceless Treasure—The Manti Temple Murals

Margaret Tarkington is a professor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, and active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints living in the Cincinnati stake.

On March 12, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that the Manti Temple murals would be “photographed, documented, and removed.” I respectfully implore the Church and any involved to reconsider this decision, especially as to the Minerva Teichert World Room murals. Teichert is a renowned artist and was the first woman to be commissioned to paint a mural in an LDS temple.[1] Her World Room murals are a masterpiece and a crowning accomplishment of her career. They are arguably the single greatest artistic achievement by an LDS woman. No amount of photographing can replace actually experiencing Teichert’s murals, which are vast in conception, scope, vision, and size (the room is 28 feet tall, 50 feet long, and 25 feet wide). The murals cover nearly 4000 square feet. Unlike prior World Room murals depicting fighting animals, Teichert portrayed the pageant of human history in a fallen world. Beginning with the Tower of Babel portrayed in the back of the room, she painted the history of the Gentiles and Israelites on opposing side walls (including Abraham, Joseph, Moses, the crusaders, Columbus, the Pilgrims on the Mayflower) culminating in the gathering of the early Latter-day Saints to the North American Continent and their efforts to build Zion, portrayed on the front wall. All human history marches towards the restoration, the gathering of the Saints, and ultimately the establishment of Zion. To remove these murals is akin to painting over the Sistine Chapel—in terms of LDS art, history, and women’s contributions and achievement. Most importantly, the decision is irreversible if the murals are destroyed.

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Linguistic Curiosity and Mormon Culture

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A few years ago, I found myself enmeshed in a long afternoon conversation with a linguistics professor.  His area of expertise includes analyzing changes to English wrought by internet communications.  As he opined on the etymological drift of a verb’s transitive and intransitive forms during the last twenty years, I was fascinated by his approach to grammar and language.

“It must drive you crazy to be so precise with your usage,” I remarked, “and yet be surrounded by people who use words incorrectly all the time. Do you ever feel like Henry Higgins?”

Instead of agreeing, he challenged me.  “There is no such thing as incorrect word usage,” he responded. “Rather, when I hear others use a word in a non-standard way, I ask myself: what is the cultural context and experience in which they were raised that led them to that usage?  I’ve found asking that question leads to a wealth of productive research.” [Read more…]

Rules & Relationships

It is common for westerners in India to be amazed at the utter chaos and yet the seemingly laissez-faire attitude of the Indian drivers.  One of our Indian drivers remarked about the traffic:  “In India, nothing is impossible because I-M-Possible.”  He chortled over his cleverness, and repeated that saying many times in our nine day trip. [Read more…]

Drowning in Modesty Guidelines at Girls Camp

Trying out for a role in The Boyfriend? No, just packing for Girls Camp.

Marcel Proust said: “People wish to learn to swim and at the same time to keep one foot on the ground.” That seems an apt description of the Girls Camp and Youth Conference modesty guidelines for Young Women that have emerged in some wards and stakes.

I have heard a few stories on the internet over the last few years about wards and stakes who have created increasingly onerous dress requirements for the YW, including at girls-only events like Girls Camp as well as Youth Conferences.  I naturally assumed this was a handful of crackpots in isolated areas trying to out-righteous each other for scraps of praise until last week when my sister-in-law shared with me that her stake is now requiring all girls to wear both a tee shirt and knee length shorts over their one-piece swimsuit to swim–at Girls Camp!* [Read more…]

The Body as a Temple

No need to go to the temple. Your body is one!

In 1 Corinthians 6:19, it says:  “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?”  As some Mormon youth teachers used to like to say to encourage chastity:  “Your body is a temple, and he doesn’t have a recommend!” or as I saw on a tee shirt:  “Your body is a temple, not a visitor center.”  This scripture is often trotted out in opposition to tattoos or piercings, likening those actions to vandalism of the exterior temple walls.  It’s also used to support the Word of Wisdom, and this interpretation isn’t unique to Mormonism.  Other faiths use it to enforce modesty, anti-smoking and temperance.

But what if this scripture is not referring to our individual bodies, but the body of saints?  Consider this passage from 1 Corinthians 12: 12-14: [Read more…]

To Boss or Be Bossed, and To Buy Things

Wendell Berry just read a draft of an essay on the economy at the Masonic Temple in scenic Salt Lake City. He’s a wonderful warm homespun intellect, and one of the many topics he covered was the shape of education. He quoted a friend as recommending that we have two majors in college instead of the one we have now (upward mobility). [Read more…]