Living in a Religious Theme Park . . . aka Salt Lake City

Most of America already know that Salt Lake City is is located in one of the–if not THE MOST–red states in the country, and that there are a lot of Latter Day Saints here. State wide statistics say around 62% although the figures for SLC is considerably lower, somewhere between 30 and 40%. What we do know for sure is that, ever since Brigham Young assumed leadership of the flock after Joseph Smith was assassinated in the Missouri massacre in 1844, and took off to find “Zion” in Mexico but landed here somewhere in the nearby mountains, woke up to view the great Salt Lake and valley below and announced to his followers that “this is the place,” Utah’s Mormons have greatly influenced culture and daily life here.

What I want to say upfront is that this post is not meant to be a slam against the Latter Day Saints (I’ve learned since moving here, that Mormons prefer to refer to themselves as LDS rather than “Mormons.” I’ve also learned not to automatically say LSD, which comes to my tongue much more easily than LDS!). Rather this post is more an attempt to show how ordinary life is here in spite of its religious theme park ambiance.

Our friends could not fathom why Hubby and I decided to retire here, rather than the laid-back atmosphere of Las Vegas where we were living. (Actually, whenever you get away from the Strip and out into the residential areas, Las Vegas is quite a conservative city, but that’s a post for another day.) Several told horror stories of being chased down the street by Missionaries. One advised us to hold on to our house there, and rent a place here for 6 months to see if we could take living here before a big real estate commitment. They cautioned that I’d be answering the doorbell and finding well-dressed young men with messages to give almost on a daily basis. The fact is, I answered (or ignored) the doorbell to those same young men a couple of times a month during our eight years in Las Vegas. Interestingly, not one has visited in our year and a half  here so far. Furthermore I don’t miss the weirdness of the Las Vegas scene since I can usually count on one or two bizzarre anecdotes to brighten my day as I open my newspaper every morning! For starters:

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Lee Redmond lives in Lehi. She’s 66 years old and hasn’t cut her 33-inch long fingernails since 1979. She appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres show last fall, and when Ellen handed her a roll of toilet paper and asked her what we all want to know–how she wipes–Redmond pinched a handful of tissue between her thumb and forefinger. She then proceeded to give the audience a demonstration, stating at the same time, “very carefully.” She’s been a regular in National Inquirer and I know if you do a search on YouTube, you’ll find her there, too. Vegas, eat your heart out!

Here are a few other bits of interesting trivia I’ve learned or collected since moving here:

  • The state’s name is from the Ute Indian language and means “people of the mountain.”
  • Until around 2002, Utah was No. 1 in jello comsumption, gaining it the nickname of the “jello-belt.” (No. 1 is now Des Moines, Iowa.) This is likely due to all those jello dishes taken to church suppers.
  • Due to the strong Danish ancestry of Utah settlers, I imagine, I’ve seen more “true blondes” here than in any state I’ve lived in or visited, which includes almost all.
  • Utah has the highest birth rate, the youngest population (naturally) as well as the lowest abortion rate, and fewest births to unwed mothers (definitely one-up on Las Vegas!).
  • Reportedly has the highest consumption rate of Prozac among Mormon women, although a BYU Sociology professor takes exception to these statistics, arguing that results were skewed, perhaps because Mormon women were more likely to be telling the truth as opposed to the general population; also that Mormon women were less likely to be depressed, he thought, though he did concede that perhaps they measured lower on self-esteem scales.
  • Since 2002, has had the distinction of ranking highest in bankruptcies.
  • Political breakdown: Republicans rule Utah County (home to BYU) while more liberal counties include Carbon, Grand (a big hippie population in Moab), Summit (due to migration of wealthy Californians to Park City), and Salt Lake (home of the University of Utah).
  • There has not been a republican mayor in SLC since the 1970s.
  • Some Famous (or Notorious) Utahns: Roseanne Barr, Butch Cassidy, Jewel (musician), the Osmond Family (including Donny and Marie), Robert Redford and James Woods among many others.
  • Lowest smoker rates.
  • SLC has its own College of Massage Therapy.

One thing that I attribute all the weirdness around here to is the strict dietary laws of the LDS population. Consider: No alcohol. No tobacco. No coffee. No Tea.  (although there are lots of coffee and chai shops scattered about the city, not every corner, but lots) No illegal narcotics.

A few of these could come close to explaining several things, don’t you think? Higher birth rate, higher LEGAL drugs, lowest smoking rates. I mean, what else is there to do? Oh yes, I forgot. Grow long fingers and/or make jello and attend church suppers!

I leave you with my own favorite bit of recently discovered weirdness, again in (guess where?) Lehi, Utah. (Now that you know how ordinary in its weirdness Salt Lake City is, y’all come check us out here, y’hear? I’ll leave the porch light on for you.)

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9 thoughts on “Living in a Religious Theme Park . . . aka Salt Lake City

  1. nobody says, ‘you’all come back now’, I’m in my 50’s never seen the woman who grew the long finger-nails, I’m a convert, and I’ve heard of many horror stories of missionaries being chased down the street and sometimes hurt, no, not the other way around, theme park, maybe temple square, there’s nothing theme park about any of it, except for families, which are good, there’s a lot more people from england than scandinavia, so maybe that accounts for the blondes also, and let’s face it in the last 15 years, salt lake city has become much more global and you can find as much here as you could in other larger western cities, I don’t like jello myself, except for 1 dish, I’ve never brought a jello salad to any ward dinner for 30 years, when you’ve got a hungry family to feed, it does a good job, there’s lots of drugs here I worked for Corrections, lots of mom and pop meth labs, prozac, just like anyone lds women get tired, and unhappy at times, they then become the recipient of the modern panacea, which is just a curse, hey I tried paxil, got stuck on it, it’s been 10 years, it’s ruined my life can’t get off of it, got the big payout of $13,000 last year from Glaxco, had I known I would have found another way to deal with my problem(s), I’ve lived other places, and I like it here just fine, however I hate the snow and the heat and now the air pollution

  2. Salt Lake City is a wonderful place to live–most of the time. There are few things I’d “druther” have different if I could have my “druthers” as we said in the south when I was growing up. And yes, we do say “y’all come back now” with variations such as “y’all come back soon.” But yes it was the way I spoke. I’m happy I can still poke around inside my memory bank and find those voices still there. I wrote this piece sort of “tongue in cheek” because in Las Vegas where I used to live, believe me, you’d see stranger things than these. And for the record, I do like jello dishes. Maybe I’ll even share some of my favorites on the blog someday. Sorry about your problems with paxil. I hope you get mental and other support from your Ward. I’ve heard Mormons take care of one another; hope it’s true.

  3. Oh I shoulda read this first … now I see that you live in Utah too. I’ve been in Lehi more times than I could count … darned if I ever got to see the dog skate boarding or the lady with the circular fingernails. I live down in the southwest corner in Ivins … where the dirt is really REALLY red. Jello is apparently the state food and there are more ways to serve it than carter has pills. I’m LDS and I welcome y’all (we don’t say y’all here but I don’t want to hurt your feelings none) to our religious theme park. If any other state could claim the highest birth rate, the youngest children, and the highest bankruptcies then they could have the distinct honor of having the most prozac too. It’s a package deal.
    Grandma Henke
    grandmahenke.com

  4. Hi Edna, glad to meet you “neighbor”!

    Thanks for your comment and the special “welcome”. I’m so glad to see you have a sense of humor too. Without it, it’s hard to keep the blood pressure down anywhere you live these days! I hope you’ll visit again become a regular commenter. (Is that spelled right?) Good luck with your own blog!

  5. Delightful indeed. You do live in a beautiful state….where my brother in law and family live too. We visit every few years cutting catty corner across the state up to Vernal. Only 50% LDS now. I asked. Beautiful parks up there. Marvelous history of the women pioneers too. The Ute areas are so sad. Their convention center abandoned in the middle of nowhere.

    Last year we came back home via Salt Lake City and stopped to have lunch with a college friend before heading to the Flamingo to spend the night rattling around in a suite…of all things. Hugs……

  6. Pingback: SLC Woman’s Fingernail Record Shattered « My Wintersong

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