My Travels Among the Mormons
by Dave in Texas
I arrived in Salt Lake City, home of the Great Salt Lake, which incidentally was the original name of the city, it later being abbreviated to just Salt Lake City. This is the manner of abbreviation for the Latter Day Saints. If you have a four word name, cut it by 25% and there you have it. Great Salt Lake City is now tidily abbreviated to Salt Lake City. Done and done.
I suppose this should not be considered an unusual practice for the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Given the official name of their organized religion, they do seem fond of exposition. Well, while they may struggle with word conservation, never let it be said you don’t know what they mean. It isn’t just a Salt Lake. It is a Great Salt Lake. Very Great. Huge in fact.
I was struck by the size of the airport. It isn’t terribly large. I’m sure it suffices, but there are quite a number of ski resorts in the area, and in fact this was the host city for the 2002 Winter Olympics. My first thought was, what a beautiful wintry setting for the Winter games. Lovely snow, beautiful mountain ranges.
My second thought was “how in the hell did they get all those people through here”? Gracious, there are only 5 baggage claim carousels.
The first Caucasian to visit the area is believed to be the explorer Jim Bridger in 1825. I’m sure he wondered the same as I, could you handle the Olympic traffic here? Later U.S. Army officer John C. Frémont surveyed the Great Salt Lake and the Salt Lake Valley in 1843 and 1845. Someone also told me the Donner party stopped nearby for lunch on their way to California, but I haven’t confirmed that.
Then came the Latter Day Saints, led by their church leader Brigham Young, who upon seeing the location in a vision, declared “Lafayette, we are here”!
The next few decades are a bit of a blur. The settlers felt that Nevada would be a good addition to the territory, and appealed for statehood. The Congress replied “perhaps so” but cut the area back down to the size of Utah and declared it a territory in waiting. All this while waiting for the Saints to come to some middle ground, a compromise if you will, on the issue of how many wives a man might have while still walking the earth.
Frankly I do not understand their thinking in this regard. If a man chooses to make himself miserable through one marriage, he deserves every bit of grief a second, third or fourth delivers upon him. I do not see this as an issue of Federalism, so much as some sort of psychotic recidivism. A man usually learns from his mistakes, but a latter day Saint applies mistakes as self-discipline.
Anyway, President Buchanan got a bee in his bonnet and declared the territory to be in rebellion and for a while it was on beeyotch. Many unpleasantries were exchanged, some at the point of a gun. Eventually the issue was resolved and in their 1890 Manifesto, the LDS officially renounced the practice of excessive misery through multiple concurrent marriages. Peace broke out, and there was much rejoicing.
I traveled south to Orem, home of the great University founded by Mr. Young. It was a Monday, Presidents Day, and as I wandered and explored I noticed the strong influence of the LDS almost everywhere. Even at the liquor store. Yes, Utah has liquor stores. These are operated by an arm of the state government, and are referred to as “State of Utah Liquor Stores”, which is consistent with their practice of using exactly the number of words you need to understand what this thing is. The first thing I noticed was they open at eleven in the morning and close at seven in the evening.
The second thing I noticed was they are closed on Presidents Day.
I will say that the people of Utah are gracious hosts, very pleasant and helpful. They are kind and considerate, and very white. With the exception of the indigenous peoples and Hispanic settlers, they are some of the whitest people I have met since my visit to Vermont or those gardeners in Connecticut; those folks were downright alabaster.
I do not recall seeing a single person of African descent, although I am toying with a theory that the layers of salt one acquires in the winter months might do a little bleaching of the skin. I will research this further.
After five days my journey came to an end. The weather had been quite exciting, and upon the day of my departure, it snowed heavily. Being a Texas boy, this was quite a lovely experience for me, watching the large flakes come flying down from the grey skies, collecting on the buildings, cars and ground. I sat in the teensy airport awaiting my departure, gazing out at the beautiful scene. There is something magical about a heavy snowfall, something peaceful and good, and it cheered me so to think I was going to beat it out of here before the rest of these poor souls get snowed in, and my connection through Denver was 6 hours ahead of the storm.
That was quite a comforting thought.
It is a good place, and I’m sure I will return.
With a heavier overcoat. And shoes that do not have leather soles. Those are quite useless in Utah in winter.
Dave is sticking to one marriage at a time. For now.