Sharon, Vermont as the birthplace of Joseph Smith

(This post makes more sense if I tell you that we just got back from a road trip to Vermont. And yes, we went to Middlebury and a post about that is coming.)

In some ways, Mormons are the awkward cousins of the mainstream Christian churches. We consider ourselves Christian and self-identify as such, but there are plenty of churches who don't think we should and wish we wouldn't. We proclaim that Mormonism is not an offshoot or evolution of any modern church but a restoration of the original Gospel from the time of Jesus Christ, which makes us very old but also very new, as far as religions go. So while other Christian sects (using the broad definition) have their Vatican City, or their church doors in Wittenberg, or a legacy of cathedrals across Europe, we Mormons have very little.

A Mormon trail here. An abandoned temple there. And in the middle of more or less nowhere, an isolated wooded path to the site of a cabin not far from where our prophet Joseph Smith's parents lived when he was born in 1805.

It may not be a grand cathedral whose innovative architectural style had a profound impact on the development of the arts in the western world. It is not a place where the world - or even the members of our own faith - look to receive guidance and instruction. All that is left are rocks and stones and boulders: the remnants of a foundation, the crumbles of an old turnpike wall, a crude stone bridge.

But as we visited there yesterday, I couldn't help but feel that this tiny, largely abandoned village in eastern Vermont still holds some sway in the way of things, at least for me. I don't know why we ascribe such importance to the places we are born. It's certainly not an event we remember for ourselves. Still, I stood in Sharon yesterday and the site seemed to be thrumming with all the potential of the excitement and tragedy and sacredness that Joseph Smith, who began life there, would bring to the lives of so many others.

Even if we can't share fully in some of the other triumphs of Christianity, at least we Mormons have a few humble pilgrimages to call our own. Sharon, Vermont, the birthplace of Joseph Smith, is definitely one of them.

Middlebury, revisited

Book Review: 102 Minutes