While many of you in the Americas were enjoying your Saturday night, I was walking into the stake center in Singapore for 9 a.m. services. The first thing you should know is that going to church in the Singapore 1st Ward (which is the ward I stumbled into) was almost exactly like going in the United States. The ward, like many you see in large financial centers around the world where expats tend to go, was filled with Americans.
This was my first time in Singapore. It’s a fascinating city. Anybody who wants to learn more about Singapore should read this Wikipedia entry.
The main impression I got is that Singapore is the kind of country many places would like to become. It is multi-ethnic, but most people get along, despite lots of tension in the past. It has a wide range of religions, but the only religion that appears to be banned is the Jehovah’s Witnesses, because they encourage conscientious objectors. Singapore has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, and I didn’t see a single slum, even though I spent most of Sunday afternoon driving around the city. The public transit system is incredible — buses and subways are everywhere. And it is CLEAN and an incredibly well-planned city. American’s urban planners should come to Singapore to learn how to create urban spaces that don’t feel crowded. Singapore has one of the highest population densities in the world, yet there are vegetation and parks everywhere. You never feel claustrophobic (which is how I often feel in concrete jungle cities like Houston or Atlanta).
Singaporeans are rightly proud of their city-state, which has grown from near-poverty to near universal wealth in just a few decades. I heard several people say, “we have the best government in the world.” When was the last time you heard people say that in the United States?
There’s not much I can surprise you with about going to church — as I say it was pretty similar to your typical ward in the United States. Lots of expats, many of them working in the banking business, with large families and sometimes well-behaved kids. One couple who sat in front of me had seven boys aged from about 18 to about 4. I kept on thinking: how do you afford to travel anywhere when you have to buy nine plane tickets? But perhaps that family didn’t travel that much.
Singapore has its problems. It is HOT — tropical weather all year-round. I’m not sure I approve much of caning of drug addicts. But if you ever get a chance to go to Asia, I heartily recommend visiting Singapore. Next time I come I’ll go to another ward — there are apparently other English-language wards in town.