Although The Church of the Latter Day Saints is one of the fastest growing religious organisations throughout the UK, there are still many countries where we’re yet to gain a firm grasp.
As a holder of the Mormon faith, I’m the first one to admit that I often mix in quite small circles. It’s comforting to surround yourself with people that share your ideologies and beliefs – but sometimes it can give us a slightly warped view of the World.
I’ve had the good fortune of meeting a handful of decent Mormon folk during my years of travel.
You’d be surprised how many you bump into on the road; on a recent trip to Portland I made friends with a young Spanish couple, who were on a pilgrimage to the major temples in the United States. Other than being home to over 10,000 acres of public park, Portland is also well known for being a city that is savaged by rainfall on an almost continual basis. On average, Portland suffers a whopping 154 days of rain. When I first met Maria and Mark, they were both huddling under plastic mackintoshes struggling to read a rain-sodden map.
After helping my fellow Mormons regain their sense of direction, in the warm and dry of one of Portland’s many excellent coffee shops, we exchanged details and I soon found myself with a reason to travel to Barcelona!
The Church of the Latter-Day Saints may well be gaining significant ground in the United Kingdom (we now have 186,193 members), but numbers still lag behind in Spain. Catholicism is still a religion that reigns supreme in Spain, with nearly 70% of the population identifying as Catholic. There are only 47,000 or so Mormons living in Spain at the moment compared to the over 31 million currently practising Catholics. It was a strange feeling to be entering a country where I could be firmly described as a minority.
My hosts were feeling a little isolated having recently made the move back to Spain from the UK.
They’d both found moderate success as artists in London for a good time, but had decided to return to Spain to spread the word about the Church. Although they’d successfully made the long journey back to their home town of Barcelona, thanks to the help of a British removals firm (http://www.advancemoves.com/), they’d found life tough being away from their old congregation.
So I received a very warm welcome indeed from Mark and Maria, when they met me at the airport. Good enough to spend the weekend showing me around the streets of Barcelona. Often described as one of the prettiest cities on the planet, this place definitely didn’t disappoint. Although I was a little tired from the flight, the weather was fine enough for us to take a walk through the town. Split into several sprawling quarters, Barcelona is very much a walking city. We spent the weekend winding our way through the intertwining alleys and pathways of the city.
Although Barcelona does have the reputation of being somewhat of a ‘party town’, at this time of the year the majority of the tourists are closer to my age, and not so much up for partying.
The galleries and museums (of which there are many) are blissfully quiet and the weather was still a balmy 15 degrees. What’s more, the huge selection of cafes and bars, that make the most of their money during the Summer months, still stay open late – so there were plenty of places for us to while away the evenings.
By the end of the weekend, we’d seen most of the city together. Culturally, I had felt accepted and welcomed by Spain and my hosts seemed to feel the same way too.
They both seemed relieved to have found that there’s definitely still a place for Mormons in Spain.