While trying to learn more about the tragic fire destroying most of the Provo, Utah Tabernacle on Friday, I read about a "Letter to God" someone wrote which, at the time, I did not read, but I thought about.
It turns out, the letter is supposed to be satire (see editor’s note) and, while I feel it is written in very poor taste, it prompted me to think about what I would say in response to that person’s letter.
On Saturday, when viewing the Tabernacle personally and with my children, and then after learning about this remarkable painting which survived, I thought more about this person’s letter and how off the mark it really was.
Here is my response:
You already know that a fire burned down the Tabernacle here in Provo, and that others have mockingly wondered where you were that night.
You were there to make sure the fire, which collapsed the roof, happened in the middle of the night, even though people rehearsing for a choir performance had only left hours before it started. Thank you.
You were there to make sure the fire didn’t happen during Sunday services, which would have put hundreds of lives in danger. Personally, I think of the large spiral staircases the building had, and how narrow some of them were, and how scary that would be to try and get my family out of that burning building. Thank you.
You were there to ensure the firefighters didn’t enter the building immediately, which they wanted to, but determined to wait – which proved fateful, as the structure began to collapse shortly after that. Thank you.
You were there to help the firefighters on-scene to save what they could of the beautiful building, including most of the outer structure and the towers, which is beautiful and may serve to help us rebuild what we lost, or at least remember what we should be thankful for. Thank you.
You were there to inspire pioneers of this valley to build a meeting place dedicated to you where they could come together and worship in word and song. You were there to inspire the architecture of the building and the installation of a beautiful organ to help our hearts reach out to you in music. Thank you.
And, most importantly, you have been there, constantly, in so many real though invisible ways—in the hearts and minds of all who ever attended a sermon, a service, a concert or any gathering in that historic and beautiful hall. The inside of the Tabernacle may never be the same, but we carry that memory of your Presence with us in our hearts and minds. Thank you.
Thank you—for the life and Light of your Son this Christmas time.
Thank you for giving me an excuse to take time out of my life to go, with my children, to see the smoldering building, and to share a tender, sad memory with them which has already bound us together, tighter, as a family.
Thank you—for reminding us that nothing man-made is safe from destruction, but Life Eternal comes only through you and your Son (See John 17:3), who taught us to "lay up for [ourselves] treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal… For where [our] treasure is, there will [our] heart be also" (Matthew 6:19-21).
Help us to recognize your steady, sure, protecting hand in these beautiful parts of this tragic loss, and to realize that you work this same way deep inside each of us–hidden from the world’s eyes–to protect us from tragedies that we create for ourselves or that happen to us.
Help us to give up our mistakes and transgressions, and lay claim on your strong arm and be upheld by your righteous omnipotent hand.