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Longfellow Park Chapel fire

Longfellow Park Chapel fire - 5/19/09

Last year, our chapel in Cambridge dramatically caught fire during a Sunday meeting. All members were evacuated without injury while twenty-two fire engines from five surrounding communities battled the blaze. The Longfellow Park chapel was the oldest in the Boston area (1956) and a home away from home for thousands of Mormons who’ve passed through Boston in the last 50 years.

Since the fire that gutted the majority of the building, we’ve been meeting in the Harvard Episcopal Divinity School across the street from the Longfellow Park chapel. We have felt very welcome at EDS and our sincerest thanks are sent to our kind and generous renters of the last year.

While it was providence that provided us a location to keep our congregations together the last year, how thrilled we were to dedicate a building of our own this last weekend. Construction on the LP Chapel is not yet complete, but the first Mormon Stake Center in the Cambridge area has been completed not three miles away.

Mormon Stake Center in Cambridge

Mormon Stake Center in Cambridge - dedicated 6/27/10

The specifics of building size, square footage, and activities leading up to the dedication are available elsewhere, but newspapers and other media outlets do little to convey the feelings and spiritual insights at a time of such importance to members in the area.

True, I haven’t spent the majority of my life as a Mormon in Boston. I wasn’t born here and I probably won’t die here. But nearly four years into my life as a resident, I feel so connected to this place–that my history in the area has meaning and importance. I feel connected to the church members in this area as they’ve struggled to plant their seed of the Gospel in sometimes rocky soil and fertilize it the best they know how. “We all drink from wells we did not dig and walk across bridges we did not build,” our Stake President put so eloquently yesterday. I’m grateful for the fore-bearers who came before me in this place.

Printed on the interior of the service’s program is an excerpt from the original Longfellow Park Chapel’s Dedication Booklet:

“A chapel is not an end in itself. It is a place where people can meet and be taught the principles of the everlasting Gospel, and obedience to these teachings; where peace, love, and happiness can reign. Just as the righteousness of the saints in the past has brought the blessings of today, so will the righteousness of the saints today bring forth the Lord’s abundance of tomorrow. This is the simple expression of faith of the Cambridge Branch.

And so the saints of hope and pray that soon their faith and works will bring a Stake of Zion as prophesied; and that the time will come when a Latter-day Saint Temple will overlook the Charles River as it flows on to the sea, along the course trod by the Patriots who lived and fought and died that this land might fulfill its destiny.”

The original Cambridge Branch referenced above was one branch 54 years ago. That one branch has divided, and divided, and divided again — and 30 wards and branches now exist in this region because of the faithful service and diligent action of that original Cambridge Branch. I wasn’t even close to alive in 1956, but I’m eternally grateful for those strong members of the original Cambridge Branch patriots, because they’ve made Boston feel like a home.

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Being a Mormon is a pretty large commitment. Scratch that–it’s a HUGE commitment. There are the lifestyle choices most people outside the church know about—not drinking alcohol or coffee (and boy do Bostonians love both!), not smoking, abstaining from pre-marital sexual activity, etc. And then there are the time commitments—to attending the three-hour block of meetings on Sundays, to devoting time to personal scripture study, to serving fellow members and the community and to strengthening family and personal relationships.

Like I said, a commitment!

But in a global society based on individual preference (“I do what I want”), no one is forcing anyone to be a Mormon. In fact, one of the key scriptures LDS Missionaries use when they teach church investigators (and it applies to all members)  is to “ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true” (Moroni 10:4). Members are taught to continually reaffirm what they know by studying out what they believe and asking God if it’s true. No bishop is holding me hostage in my church commitments. I’m free to leave at any time. (So put those “the Mormon church is a cult” claims away.) I’m here because I want to be. Over time, as I continue talking more about these things, I think you’ll begin to understand why I’m here.

A very long story short, I feel peace being a Mormon. It brings me joy. In a turbulent world, I have faith–and in today’s climate–that’s a rarity, isn’t it? The love I feel from God and from Jesus Christ are enough to help me endure the turmoil of daily living. Isn’t that something you’d want to pass along to your family and friends?

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