Latter-day Saint worship services and chapels are rather plain and utilitarian. How much of that do we owe to early Latter-day Saint conversion patterns? What if those patterns had been different?
The vast majority of early Mormon converts came out of Protestantism, either from northern European backgrounds or from northern Europe itself. (There was a time in Utah when more of the population was European-born, and specifically English, than natively American.) The churches of northern Europe, in many cases, had been stripped of their “papist” ornamentation following the Reformation. (The Grossmünster in Zürich is a good example of this.) And, in England, most of our converts came from the “free churches” or “low churches,” where the emphasis was on preaching, hymn-singing, and Bible-reading; relatively few came out of the liturgical tradition of the Anglican communion.
How would contemporary Mormon architecture and culture be different if, instead, our first converts had come from, say, Italian Catholic backgrounds? How much of our culture and aesthetic tradition flows in any reasonably direct way from revelation, and how much comes from the human backgrounds of those who gave Mormon society and culture its early formation?
Our success in Wales, with its tradition of hymnody and choral singing, is arguably responsible for the existence of the Tabernacle Choir, the relative flourishing of choral music at BYU and beyond, and a number of our hymns. What if we had succeeded instead, or additionally, in Vienna?
If we had been more successful, in those early days, in Paris and Rome, would there be a stronger tradition of the visual arts in Mormondom? Would our churches be less plain and aniconic? Would that be desirable, or acceptable to the Lord?
Just thinking aloud. And perhaps, here and there, a bit wistfully.