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How Mormon Country Became My Home

How Mormon Country Became My Home

Now, instead of complaining about Salt Lake City's odder aspects, I pray for its well being.

When my husband and I moved from San Francisco to Salt Lake City, we told ourselves and our appalled friends that we'd give it two years. Two years to ascertain whether we could survive summer heat, winter snow, being inland, minimal sources of good Chinese food, and a total absence of Mission-style burritos.

And what we transplants to Utah politely call "the culture."

It's a shifty phrase that can refer to, among other things, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and its members, the conservative political landscape, the relative racial and ethnic homogeny, the baffling liquor laws, or the pioneer spirit—which is sometimes manifested in drivers shunning the idea of lanes or laws.

That move was over ten years ago, and we're still here.

At first, we made fun of nearly everything we observed. We'd tune into the local news and find lead stories about "lake stink"—what happens when the winds blow over the Great Salt Lake in such a way that the smell of decaying algae floats over the valley.

We'd discuss and try to imitate the inscrutable accent that varies from region to region and block to block. Before living here we never knew about wire deer, family portraits the size of big-screen TVs, obsessive leaf-blowing, unironic Jell-O salads, and the Holy War between the University of Utah Utes and the BYU Cougars.

Whenever I traveled and was asked, "Where are you from?" I'd say, "Well, I live in Utah right now but I'm from San Francisco." Puzzled looks, polygamy jokes, and the assumption that we ski and/or are Mormon inevitably followed.

I laughed along, though I also boasted about our cheap rent, the ease of parking, the beauty of the Wasatch Mountains.

Yet I clung to my California connections and identity. For at least a year after moving, I continued editing my San Francisco church's newsletter. I kept working for my Bay Area company as a telecommuter. Friends often asked, "When are you coming home?" But I didn't get the sense that they asked so much because they missed us. The underlying question was, How could smart, cultured people like us possibly make a life in a place like Salt Lake City?


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Displaying 1–4 of 4 comments

Larry Baker

December 12, 2011  10:51am

I moved to Salt Lake in 1981 from Tampa, and I lived there until leaving for a new job in the Northwest in 2001. I am a Christian of the evangelical persuasion, and I loved the people, the recreation, the scenery, the climate, etc. I raised my family there, and return to visit a couple of times a year to visit my LDS and non-LDS friends. I look forward to the opportunity to move back.

cynthia curran

December 10, 2011  10:40pm

Well, actually Salt Lake is more hispanic than San Francisco as a percentage of population. San Franciso has one of the smallest hispanics populations in Ca which is only 14 percent while Salt Lake has the highest in Utah at 23 percent there not many asians or blacks in Salt Lake. But San Fran is more of a white/asian town while Salt Lake is more white/ hispanic. San Fran also has a small black population at 5 while Salt Lake is probably about 1 or 2 percent.


December 08, 2011  11:42am

I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but in many ways I can relate to the Sara. I'm from Arizona but I studied and got my degree at BYU. At first, I and wanted to make sure that all my friends knew that I was not from Utah. I had always viewed Utahns as simple-minded and I didn't want people to think the same way of me. But, after a couple of years living there, I came to realize that I was wrong about Utah. Almost all of the friends I made there were respectable and open minded. Sure, there may be some sour apples but that goes for nearly any place you live. If you can stand the white-knuckle traffic, the Salt Lake are is a great place to live whether you're a Mormon or not. I hope that all non-Mormons can feel welcome there.


December 08, 2011  11:19am

Unfortunatly this article may have cost you some old friends. Don't you know the scripture, "thou shalt not dispell myths about Mormons or there homeland".


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