A community in Salt Lake City is showing that the Mormon culture might also be fertile soil for Buddhist mindfulness. It’s working for both observant Mormons and those who’ve left the faith.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
Mormonism and Buddhism – beyond the isms (ph), not many similarities come to mind. But a growing community in Salt Lake City is showing that the Mormon culture, known for its evangelism and rules, isn’t incompatible with Buddhist-inspired mindfulness. From member station KUER, Lee Hale has the story.
LEE HALE, BYLINE: On a weekday evening, just a few blocks east of Temple Square, the headquarters of the Mormon church, a group of more than 100 people gathers to meditate.
THOMAS MCCONKIE: To get started, I’ll invite you to just take a couple big breaths.
HALE: Thomas McConkie guides the group through some traditional mindfulness exercises.
MCCONKIE: Breathe in. Breathe out.
HALE: There are also some introspective questions, journaling. And, as he does with most groups, McConkie shares a little about himself.
MCCONKIE: I’ll tell you just a little story about what brought me into this work. I was actually a human rights consultant in China.
HALE: McConkie has been all over the world. But he grew up here in Salt Lake City in a very conservative Mormon home. Although, as a young teenager, he became disaffected with the church. And at 19, he left Utah and his faith behind.
He lived in New York, Spain, China and study Buddhist mindfulness in each of those places. Eventually, he let go of the angst he felt towards his religious upbringing. And in his early 30s, while visiting Salt Lake City for his sister’s wedding, he realized he should move back.
MCCONKIE: And I had just this moment of simplicity, where it was like, oh, no, I have to go back to Utah (laughter). Sounds funny when I say it like that.
HALE: To the surprise of his friends and family, McConkie became active in the church…