The lights of Las Vegas glitter for miles along a stretch of highway, an oasis in the vast Mojave Desert, just east of Death Valley. In the nineteenth century, the city—its name Spanish for “the meadows”—became a beacon for MormonThe Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also called the Mormon Church, was launched by Joseph Smith (1805-44) who discovered a new revelation, the Book of Mormon, which became, along with the Bible, the “latter day” scripture of the new commu... settlers headed west between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. As the nineteenth century wore on, gold rushes and the Transcontinental Railroad brought people from all over the world to the American Southwest; Las Vegas’ rail, mining, and dam industries boomed. By the early 1900s, this desert oasis was home to thriving immigrant communities, especially from Asia. A vibrant Chinatown emerged and with it came Buddhist, DaoistThe Daoist tradition incorporates a highly diverse range of philosophical, religious, and folk values and practices, all of which share a concern for realigning human life so that it is in better accord with the natural rhythms of the universe. Symbols of..., and Confucian templesA temple is a house of worship, a sacred space housing the deity or central symbol of the tradition. The Temple in Jerusalem was the holy place of the Jewish people until its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE; now the term “temple” is used by th. Ref... and shrines.
Beginning in the 1930s, it was the science and entertainment industries that were booming in the region. Gambling was legalized in 1931 and the Hoover Dam, an engineering marvel, completed in 1935. The Manhattan Project came to fruition in the 1940s, and Nellis Air Force Base was founded in 1950. By the 1980s, the population of Las Vegas had doubled in size as these industries continued to thrive.
As a result of this growth, synagoguesSynagogue, shul in Yiddish, is the most widely used term for a Jewish house of worship. Meaning a “place of gathering,” it is the central institution of Jewish communal life. The structure and role of synagogues has changed through the centuries, but ..., masjidsMasjid (plural masajid) in Arabic means “place of prostration,” or the place where Muslims bow in prayer; in English, this word has become “mosque.” A masjid contains a prayer hall in which there is a mihrab or prayer niche, and a minbar or pulpit..., Hindu and Jain templesEach Jain temple is regarded as a replica of the assembly hall miraculously created by the gods for Mahavira upon his enlightenment. Hence, in entering a temple, a Jain has the sense of approaching the spot where a living Tirthankara sits in omniscient co..., and SikhSikhs call their tradition the “Sikh Panth,” meaning the “community (panth) of the disciples of the Guru.” The tradition reveres a lineage of ten Gurus, beginning with Guru Nanak in the 16th century and coming to a clos. with the death of Guru Gob... gurdwarasThe gurdwara, “the gateway of the Guru,” is the place for community gathering and worship in the Sikh tradition. The Guru is the Adi Granth, the sacred scripture of the Sikh tradition. Each center will include a chamber where the Adi Granth is kept, a... sprang up next to existing Buddhist and Christian communities. Today, these as well as AtheistMultivalent terms that often are used to describe people (or their worldview) who reject the practices, dogma, and creeds of established religious traditions. Some people, on the other hand, may identify as Humanist and also consider this either a belief ..., Bahá’í, PaganThe term “pagan” (from the Latin paganus) originally meant “peasant” or “country dweller.” For many Pagans, the term suggests a life lived close to the land. Today, nature spirituality is an important thread in contemporary Paganism. Some Paga..., and Native AmericanEach of the many Native American nations has its own distinctive life-ways, although there are some widely-shared characteristics. most Native life-ways are primarily transmitted through oral traditions; they are oriented toward living in relation to a sp... organizations and at least thirty Spanish-speaking Catholic parishesA parish is the geographical neighborhood or area served by a church or pastor. dot the landscape. GurdwaraThe gurdwara, “the gateway of the Guru,” is the place for community gathering and worship in the Sikh tradition. The Guru is the Adi Granth, the sacred scripture of the Sikh tradition. Each center will include a chamber where the Adi Granth is kept, a... Baba Deep SinghUpon initiation into the Khalsa, Sikh men assume the name Singh, “Lion.” Ji has been a part of the North Las Vegas’ landscape since 2000, although the congregation has been meeting since the early 1990s. On the city’s western edge, just inside the Beltway, the sandstone Hindu TempleA temple is a house of worship, a sacred space housing the deity or central symbol of the tradition. The Temple in Jerusalem was the holy place of the Jewish people until its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE; now the term “temple” is used by th. Ref... and Jain Center of Nevada sits against the backdrop of the desert.
Today, Las Vegas remains a hub of for both MormonismThe Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also called the Mormon Church, was launched by Joseph Smith (1805-44) who discovered a new revelation, the Book of Mormon, which became, along with the Bible, the “latter day” scripture of the new commu... and BuddhismBuddhism is a multi-hued tradition of life, thought, and practice that has developed from the teaching and practice of Siddhartha Gautama (6th century BCE) who came to be called the Buddha, the awakened one. The three major streams of the tradition—Ther... with over twenty-five Buddhist templesBuddhist temples differ considerably from one another depending upon culture and particular school, but most are associated with the residence of the sangha of monks. Theravada temples focus on one or more images of Sakyamuni Buddha. In Mahayana and Vajra... in the metro area. A few miles west of the famous Las Vegas Boulevard the Chaiya MeditationMeditation is the disciplined practice of quieting and focusing the mind or cultivating the heart’s attention. Different meditation practices commend focusing attention on a word, a prayer, a form, or the breath as a way of practice. Meditation is commo... MonasteryA monastery is the residence of monks, or monastics; the term is commonly used in both the Christian and Buddhist traditions. Monasticism refers to the life of work, study, and discipline led by monks and nuns. “welcomes people from all walks of life, religion, and belief” to learn more about Theravada BuddhismTheravada, literally “the way of the elders,” was one of the eighteen earliest sub-schools of Buddhism. Today, the term designates the various traditions of Buddhism most prominent in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. Although these traditions differ in i.... The Monastery’s website mirrors this welcome by offering resources in Burmese, Thai, Lao, and Vietnamese, in addition to English. On March 25th, 2012 the Chaiya Meditation Monastery celebrated the grand opening of the World Peace-Lucky-Happy PagodaPagoda was originally the Portuguese term used to refer to Buddhist stupas, or reliquary towers. Such towers may contain a relic of the Buddha, or some other treasured item, such as sutras., the first pagoda in the state of Nevada.
Yet the city’s rapid expansion has not been without growing pains. As one interfaith leader explained, the civic infrastructure is frequently left to “play catch up” to ensure municipal services and schools are sufficient to meet the needs of residents. The United States Census estimates that over 13 percent of Las Vegans live beneath the poverty line and less than 30 percent of adults in the metropolitanA Metropolitan is the title given to a bishop, used especially in the Orthodox family of churches today. area have a high school diploma. With an unemployment rate that exceeds 12 percent, leaving more than 70,000 residents out of work, Las Vegas’ economy has been one of the hardest-hit in the recessions of the 2000s.
Responding to these local needs, Las Vegas’ religious and interfaith communities have made social services a high priority. The mission of the Interfaith Council of Southern Nevada speaks of “compassionate leadership, sharing in service and working for justice.” Another interfaith organization, Family Promise of Las Vegas, is a network of over thirty congregations whose doors are open to their neighbors experiencing homelessness. The city’s historical connection to images of “oasis” and “meadows” are a reminder of how these efforts might offer fertile ground for further community growth.