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In Utah This Week–Issue #98


That’s What She Said
Religion Rocks–Gilgal Garden gives this conference-dodging gal a way to get in touch with her roots.

by Sarah Nielson

Last weekend was the LDS church’s 178th Annual General Conference. Conference weekend always takes me back to my childhood when my parents forced my brothers and I to watch conference on TV. I absolutely hated it and still haven’t forgiven them.

Every year when conference weekend rolls around I find myself suddenly hit with a twinge of religious guilt – my mother would be oh-so-proud. Since I’m not a practicing Mormon, or a practicing member of any religion for that matter, I had to find other, more creative ways to get my Jesus on.

Clad in my favorite “Jesus Rocks” T-shirt and armed with a full flask and camera, I headed to Gilgal Garden for a little religious sightseeing. The garden is home to 12 religious sculptures and over 70 stones engraved with scriptures and philosophical texts.

I’d never heard of the garden before the woman my brother is dating mentioned it. I started asking around and found that many of my friends already knew about it, and even have fond memories of breaking onto the grounds as kids. I was able to talk one of those friends into going with me. We were going on a Sunday, and just in case it was closed I wanted someone who could scale a fence with me.

I was slightly disappointed when we arrived and found we weren’t alone. It’s more of a challenge to poke fun at the creepiness of it all when a church-clothed family is within earshot. Thank God (pun very much intended) the family left shortly and my regularly-scheduled sarcasm quickly returned.

I’ve always had a difficult time understanding religion, so viewing it in sculpture form only confused me further. We wandered around the grounds and tried to make sense of all the verses carved into the stone. A couple I recognized as Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poems, but the rest were too scriptural for me to be familiar with. All those early morning parentally-forced scripture study sessions didn’t make a lasting impression, apparently.

“The Sphinx” is the best-known sculpture, and by far the creepiest. The face was carved to replicate Joseph Smith and the similarity was uncanny. It looked far too close to the pictures my parents had hanging on their walls when I was a child, which gave me the heebie-jeebies. I quickly shrugged them off, and had my friend snap a picture of me with my finger up the statue’s nose. If I’m going to Mormon hell, I want it to be worth it.

My favorite sculpture was “The Monument to the Trade.” The sculpture is a self-portrait of Thomas Child, the man behind the garden. Child is holding a Bible under one arm and blueprints of some sort under the other, but it was the pants that won me over. Checkered pants on a man, sculpture or real, are always a treat – and by treat I mean giggle-worthy. We took some slightly lewd photos not suitable for my mother’s Christmas newsletter or print.

Once I got home and looked through all the pictures we had taken, my religious guilt doubled. I knew I should have just stayed home and watched “The Ten Commandments” to get my religious fix and also to mark Charlton Heston’s death.


  • I always have wanted to go to Gilgal Gardens, but I always seem to forget about it. It’s a dirty-adhesive mental note.

    But, now that I see those plaid pants, I’m kind of scared to go…

  • Where is this place? I’ve never heard of it and it sooo looks like something new to make fun of. Is it a secret Mormon place? Another one of those things they fail to tell Heathens about when we come here?

  • When I was kid, the gardens had this eery, mysterious allure to me. For some reason, I thought they were some hidden secret that few people knew about. I would peek through the fence in the Chuck-a-rama parking lot (my grandma loved that place) and think strange things were going on there.

  • I’m disappointed in you for not posting the picture you sent me.

    I celebrated Conference by watching prison and serial killer docs…they’re my new religion.

  • Aww… My old neighborhood. [sniff].

  • Where can I get a pair of those pants?

  • Yeah, I miss Charlton Heston, too.

    Great pants pic, although I’ll have to admit I wish you posted the naughty ones too. The one with your finger up the guy’s nose sounds like a rip!

    - M

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