Mysterious Salt Lake City

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This was the reunion weekend, but I had other things I wanted to do.

Decades ago, DH and I heard about the Gilgal Sculptural Garden, a place of visionary bizarreness conceived and built by a devout Mormon by the name of Thomas Battersby Child, Jr.

Thomas Battersby Child, Jr.
Thomas Battersby Child, Jr., 1888-1963

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Back then the garden was still private property, though the owners were not sure what to do with it.  People knew about the garden: if they were polite, they visited on the one day a week the garden was officially open.  Perhaps more often they trespassed, on the theory that they “weren’t doing any harm.”  The garden is now an official city park, but mostly taken care of by volunteers gardeners and the non-profit Friends of Gilgal Garden.  People still trespass, some still vandalize, and a fair number of visitors still think they “do no harm” by climbing on the sculptures for their fun snapshots.

Perhaps the most famous sculpture is the Joseph Smith sphinx:

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Speculations?

Well, at the center of Mormon belief is a connection to ancient Egypt civilization and its writing system (Joseph Smith claimed to have translated the Book of Abraham from a papyrus scroll he obtained in 1835).  Joseph Smith was also a Freemason, and according to scholars, the “Old Charges” (Freemason origin documents) claim lineage from Egypt as the birthplace of the art of masonry (or mystery).

So . . . .  Was Mr. Child a Freemason as well as a mason?  It was a moment of idle curiosity on my part as I made my way around the garden and saw the carved quotation:  “After me cometh a Builder.  Tell him I too have known.”  The line is from The Palace, a poem by Rudyard Kipling published in 1902.  And Rudyard Kipling was a Freemason.  In the poem, he used the language and imagery of Freemasonry — and masonry — to explore his feelings about his place in the community of artists past and present.  As I said, a moment of idle curiosity . . . .  It is enough that Thomas Battersby Child had his visions, and was brave enough to set those visions in stone for posterity.

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