In 1993, I took the train to Chicago to experience the World Parliament of Religions, a huge event drawing up to 10,000 people from about 50 flavors of religion.
As I strolled through the lobby of the host hotel, I was overwhelmed by the welter of humanity dressed in all manner of religious garb -- saffron-robed monks, nuns in all manner of habits, Sikhs in their turbans, a truckload of women in saris following who-knows-what faith, not to mention people wearing every conceivable color of clerical shirt, imams, dervishes, priests, pastors, Wiccans, priestesses, witches, serpent handlers and more that I'm sure that I’ve forgotten.
The Parliament has met in several international venues since 1993, but this year returned to the United States and is meeting this week in Salt Lake City, home base for a certain prominent religious group. As Religion News Service reported in a story picked up by the Salt Lake Tribune:
When the World's Parliament of Religions first met in Chicago in 1893, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and even Spiritualists prayed together.
But Mormons were kept out.
What a difference 122 years makes. On Thursday, when the Parliament of the World's Religions -- a slight adjustment of the name was made a century after the first meeting -- convenes in Salt Lake City, it will not only feature a slate of Mormon voices, but will sit in the proverbial lap of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose global headquarters is only a five-minute walk away.