Salt Lake City, Utah: The home of the Mormons

Posted on September 10, 2016

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Salt Lake City is simply stunning. I’ve been dying to visit since I read the book The 19th Wife, and then had endless questions for one of my colleagues from there when we were on a long train ride in Paris. I felt like a semi expert and when the opportunity to visit came up, I couldn’t let it pass.

What makes Salt Lake City stand out is it’s history and strong links to the Mormon Church. In fact the whole city is based on the Mormon church. I dug out memories of reading about Joseph Smith and the Golden plates, and Brigham Young the pioneer who chose this spot to set up the town, and hence Mormon church Latter Day Saints.

It’s fascinating. Such a young religion which has grown exponentially in recent years to 15million globally, in part to the encouragement of their congregation to go forth and multiply – Mormon families start young and have many children (a disproportionate number of whom seem to be redheads, I must look that up). They are a healthy bunch, with strong family ties, believing in hard work and no alcohol. And happy. The ‘sister’ missionaries that greet you at the Temple Square  are young, attractive ladies that come in pairs and are almost scarily positive and smiley. Of course they are recruiting, but it’s way more subtle than that, simply emanating positive energy in the hope of attracting people to join, I can imagine it’s fairly effective.

Frankly the church should be positive, it’s doing pretty well. Not only has it grown in numbers, but also in $$ too. Mormons are required to give 10-15% of their income to the church. And most of the missionaries and workers, including ward bishops, are volunteers. The buildings are spectacular – the conference centre can host 21,000 people – and does twice per year. Inside everything is perfect, of course, and the range of artwork is more than impressive.

The city radiates an almost perfect vibe. The streets are spotless; the lawns glow green; flowerbeds are perfectly manicured; even the team is efficient and free. One of the missionaries explained that a few years ago the city was falling into disrepair and not attracting the kind of companies and people that they wanted. So the church took charge and cleaned the city up. It’s worked. It’s a pleasant place to be.

It’s such a beautiful city, stunning in fact. I just can’t ignore that nagging feeling that its a little too twee and something more sinister lurks. But I’m a skeptic when it comes to religion You should go check it out for yourself.

We stayed at the Grand America. It’s a five star hotel, with old school opulence. It’s more of a business hotel, with large conference and ball rooms. At the weekends it does great rates – we paid around $200 and got a suite. They also do a Sunday Brunch, which was on a Las Vegas level: everything you can think of and more. And all surprisingly good quality, from the coffee to the stacks of king crab & shrimp, roast beef, pancakes, ice cream stall, and so much more – even a full stand devoted to chocolate lollipops. We hadn’t realised this when we walked in and effectively paid $60 each for a coffee and omelette. Don’t make the mistake we did, go hungry!

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Other Salt Lake recommendations that we didn’t get to include:

  • The Red Butte Gardens (especially if they have any outdoor concerts on).
  • Pago is a good Italian restaurant situated downtown
  • Red Iguana is an SLC staple serving authentic Mexican food.
  • Cocktails and sharing plates at: PalletHSL
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