Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Potters of the Gathering, Part 2

Why choose Potters of the Gathering for our exhibit title?  This is a great question and one which, as several of my colleagues pointed out to me recently, I completely neglected to explain in my post!

Leonard Arrington identified "The Gathering" as one of seven ideals that leaders of the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints developed to guide their community during the organization's first 15-20 years.  According to Arrington, the ideals were:
1. Gathering souls from Babylon to Zion, through active mission programs.
2. Establishing nucleated villages.
3. Consecrating private property to the Church and having it returned in stewardship for the community.
4. The redemption and beautification of the earth.
5. Frugality and economic independence from Babylon.
6. Group unity and cooperation
7. Equality among members

As Arrington explained, these were ideals that infused government policy, economic development, public discourse, and individual social action.  Like all ideals, people engaged with them in many different ways, but all of the ideals touched the potters and clay workers during their lives.

In terms of our exhibit, The Gathering was among the most important ideal.  Many of the potters came to Utah in response to calls to serve missions settling news town and "building up home industry."  Their experiences were very different within that context, but the principle of the gathering tied many of them together.

My academic interest is in the material practice of the gathering and how individuals experienced and contributed to it in their communities.  The idea of The Gathering also has powerful theological meanings in Latter-day Saint communities, both historically and today. While the principle of the gathering lost its literal and material meanings by the end of the nineteenth century, the Saints kept their personal, theological, and doctrinal connections to Israel.  I am not a scholar of theology, so I'll refer interested readers to Elder Russell M. Nelson's speech The Gathering of Scattered Israel from the 2006 General Conference in Salt Lake City.

My co-workers and collaborators here also chuckle that this exhibit will be the largest gathering of Utah-made pots ever assembled.  I appreciate the double entendre!

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