Periodicals; Mormons; Religious thought; Philosophy and religion
Independent national quarterly established to express Mormon culture and examine the relevance of religion to secular life. It is edited by Mormons who wish to bring their faith into dialogue with human experience as a whole and to foster artistic and scholarly achievement based on their cultural heritage. The journal encourages a variety of viewpoints; although every effort is made to insure accurate scholarship and responsible judgment, the views expressed are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of the Mormon Church or of the editors.
Dialogue Foundation, P.O. Box 2350, Stanford, California 94305
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Johnson, G. Wesley
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Dialogue: Vol 5 No 4
The Last Days of the Coalville Tabernacle
THE LAST DAYS OF THE COALVILLE TABERNACLE Edward Geary Surely if it be worthwhile troubling ourselves about the works of art of today, of which any amount almost can be done, since we are yet alive, it is worthwhile spending a little care, forethought, and money in preserving the art of bygone ages, of which (woe worth the while!) so little is left, and of which we can never have any more, whatever goodhap the world may attain to. —William Morris, Hopes and Fears for Art (1882) The last time I saw the Coalville Tabernacle it was being decorated for a dance. A cheerful crowd of people, blissfully oblivious to anything incongruous in their actions, were energetically draping a false ceiling of slick plastic strips in the most elegant recreation hall in the Church. Above the uncompleted decor, however, the magnificent original ceiling remained visible, with its ornate cornices and its intricate panels still bright and fresh after decades. We had to climb above the plastic clouds on a tall stepladder to get a clear view of the portraits of early Church leaders. The original portrait of Joseph Smith was not visible at all from the main hall but was concealed behind the stage curtains. The three large stained glass windows were not obscured, though. They were ineptly patched in places but still breathtaking in the oblique light of the winter afternoon sun. Outside, in the blustery February weather, we walked around the building, admiring the massive stone foundations, wincing at the ugly iron fire escape. Finally, we stood for a time gazing up at the central tower, high above the wooded lot, high above the whole town. Then, reluctantly, we got into the car for the trip home. As we drove away, my eight-year-old son said, "They ought to let the churchhouse alone and tear down the rest of the town instead." Coalville is not a handsome town, but neither is it the ramshackle mining camp that its name might suggest. Although coal was important to the area in the nineteenth century, reaching a peak in the 1880's, there is scarcely any mining activity today, and the community rests on an agricultural base, with a good deal of dairying and livestock raising and some fur breeding in the cool mountain climate. The town is set in meadowlands above Echo Reservoir on the Weber River, but the narrow river valley is bordered by windswept uplands which seem rather harsh and barren when compared to the pastoral charm of Heber Valley to the south and Morgan Valley to the north. Almost everything in Coalville testifies to a long decline in prosperity and vitality. The business houses along Main Street are old and run-down, even more so than in most small Utah towns. The two major remaining public buildings — also old — are the Summit County