Building faith: The material culture of Mormonism

A photograph of the Salt Lake LDS Temple hangs alone on the white concrete wall of a South African shanty-town home. An embroidered expression, “Family is Forever,” is passed down from mother to daughter. Slender female fingers display a favorite CTR ring. A hand-carved beehive graces a Mormon meetinghouse and sits atop a famed Utah hotel.

Like all faiths, Mormonism expresses itself in tangible materials that are constructed, displayed, shared and worn as reminders of spiritual notions. Such symbols communicate a depth of belief that requires no sermon or lengthy discourse, but rather acts in a visual and visceral way.

While Mormon men built monuments, temples and chapels, the women created a common world of quilts, textiles, aprons, fruit jars, knitted afghans, needlepoint sayings — and yes, plastic grapes.

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