My wife, parents, and I moved into Utah mid-August 2021. Ten years ago, it never occurred that I would live in Utah and if someone asked, I would have said, zero chance. As Charles Dickins wrote first in The Pickwick Papers, his 1837 novel, "Never say never." Someone recently asked where I was now, and when I said, "Utah," he replied, "I love Utah." That was it. He loved Utah.
The Mormons had to leave Illinois, so 148 took seventeen months behind the leadership of Brigham Young to the Wasatch Valley, the Intermountain region of the United States, in 1847-1848. Approximately 70,000 Mormons came over the next 22 years. Half the population of the state is still, using their preferred title, Later Day Saint. As you might imagine, the LDS religion has had and continues to have a huge influence on Utah.
I know many here don't like this mentioned, but, yes, there are polygamist areas of Utah, certain towns famous for their polygamy. Jon Krakauer wrote about it in his book, Under the Banner of Heaven. He was driving through Southern Utah, stopped in a small town to get some gas, and he noticed that someone followed him out of town to be sure he left.
Besides the Mormonism, Utah is the West. It is a Western state. That's different than the West Coast. Despite LDS, the state has a Western flavor. It looks Western. There are gigantic mountains on both sides jutting up from a desert in the middle of which is the Great Salt Lake. When you leave certain populated areas, you run into nothingness for many miles all around.
When we arrived in August, it was dry and hot. Your lawn won't grow if you don't water it. You don't have mosquitoes. November and December has seen rain and snow in this valley, but especially in the mountains. Now there are very tall white mountains everywhere and wonderful ski resorts and snow sports if you like that kind of thing. Many do.
Utah has five national parks: Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion National Parks. Many states have none. A very short drive from Utah, you have Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier, and Grand Canyon National Parks. You can buy an annual pass to National Parks, so many are in driving distance, for the price of just Yellowstone.
When Brigham Young reached the precipice that looked down into the valley where Salt Lake City is today, he said, "This is the place." They found their promised land. Those words are now on a gigantic statue in Pioneer Park, which celebrates the Mormon founding of Utah. Around it are statues of the founders of Utah, which were Mormons.
Everything from here on is my observation. I like Utah. I think it's a great place to live. Statistics also prove that. Brigham Young and those original men had a good plan. Everything is square, usually with wide streets. They organized everything around the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City and now the other temples built in the state, which are lit up every night. Organized in geographic precision are also the meetinghouses, almost all looking identical, thousands spread all over the state.
The Mormons brought a desire to build good buildings. Most buildings look nice and well-built. When I visit various doctors with and for my parents, you walk into a nice lobby and sit in a very nice waiting room. Restaurants and hotels owned by LDS people are well built and usually well organized and served. Clinics and hospitals are equal distance away from each other, as if they were organized for the greatest convenience for the most people.
LDS people are entrepreneurial. There are businesses popping up everywhere, what seem like more business than what could be operated by one state. The city planning is better than other places. Everything is very convenient. They have everything you would want or need in close driving distance.
Many businesses close on Sundays here. I know Chick-fil-A does it, which seems strange other places, but many of them close here in Utah. Very popular places don't open on Sunday. Traffic is very light on Sunday. People don't have to drive far to get to their meetinghouses. When I get on the highway to go to where we are at church, it's empty. Very few are out there driving.
If you haven't lived here, and you move here, you notice the people. It's different. Mormons are unusually friendly. How do I know they're Mormons? They have a common behavior that has affected the whole state. When I signal, drivers don't speed up to stop me from merging. They slow down and let me in. I'm accustomed to fighting in traffic. It doesn't happen here. Traffic isn't bad, but even with traffic, you don't get the sense that you might get road rage at some point. That rage seems to be absent here. I saw it weekly in California.
I've been to many, many doctors appointments. I've met six different doctors. In every case, the conversation goes like this after the initial introduction. "So you've just moved here, where are you from?" I tell them where we came from. "So what brings you here?" I explain that I'm a Baptist pastor. I've had long conversations in the office. They take their time with you in the office, very patient. I've never seen it where in public places, people talk to you about religion.
Since I've been in Utah, I have evangelized, so far not close to as much as I was especially in our year in Oregon. The neighborhoods I have evangelized have been almost 100 percent Mormon. You knock on a door, LDS answers. Next one, LDS answers. Again, LDS answers. And again, LDS answers. You could easily get 20 Mormons in a row here.
Utah does not stop you from going door-to-door. Its people don't discourage you from going door-to-door. We're going in very cold weather right now, under freezing. They do not act like you're strange for knocking on their door in the middle of Winter, the coldest time of the year. You don't feel like you're going to be kicked out of places. You don't feel like some one is going to yell at you and cuss you out for ringing their door bell. A well above average number of people will answer the door. Very few have no-soliciting signs on their door. This is all different for me.
Talking to Mormons is all very, very similar. They want you to think that they are Christian, that they are like you. They'll even thank you for coming by and doing what you're doing, even though you are there to tell them something that they do not believe. At your most confrontational, they still want you to think they're the same as you, that they are Christian, and that we're all in this together. I don't think it's fake. They do not want you to think they're weird or in a strange religion. In most cases, they are super, super chipper, up beat, and showing you how wonderful it all is.
The Mormons cover for the strangest parts of their religion. It almost seems like they don't know how different and odd it is. I'm not trying to be offensive if you're reading this and you're Mormon. Talking to a 72 year old Mormon man, he told me that both John the Apostle and Moses both right now were living on the earth, and that was part of their doctrine. I didn't know about that one until he told me. The wheels turned in the brain. It is a strange bit of hermeneutics on their part and not even representative of the strangest beliefs that they have.
When talking to Mormons, I find that they do not know how unorthodox they are. They don't know how unlike Christianity they are. Most of them don't know what biblical Christianity is. Many also don't understand their own religion enough and especially in comparison to Christianity to know how far off it is. They are not very conversational with important parts of their doctrine.
Even though Mormonism claims to be a restored religion, something restoring Christianity back to what it was at the beginning, the proof for major doctrines comes down to Joseph Smith, some of the original influential leaders, Brigham Young, and then future presidents. Certain key men, writers and thinkers, took on the task of trying to put together all these disparate sources into a cohesive Mormon doctrine book from the quilt work of contradictions.
I could start with something as simple as who Jesus Christ is. Mormons are not sure about Jesus, at least as I've talked to them so far. They do not know who God is. A main reason, I've found, is that there is so much difference of opinion in Mormon writing. The human authors of Mormonism, and it really is all humanly devised, even though they claim to have received it from God, disagree with one another. Later, editors really, have had to try to piece it all together.
Here's a simple one. Christianity, the Bible, says that Jesus was God who became man. Mormonism says that Jesus was man who became God. When did Jesus become God? In Mormon doctrine, Jesus was man first and then God.
LDS call Jesus eternal God. You might think that means eternity past. It doesn't, but then it doesn't depending on how you explain it. Everyone splinters off an original one spiritual deity. Maybe they mean that now Jesus is eternal God, eternal as in future, but not in past, because even God wasn't God in eternity past, unless he's that one Spirit off of whom God splintered from. Anyway, it's tough.
I know Mormons want us, they and I, to be the same. We're not. A good way to point that out without waiting is to say that when Joseph Smith received his first vision in the grove, where the father and son appeared to him in physical bodies, that they told him that all other religions were wrong. I tell them, I'm not offended. It's just that we know we don't believe the same according to Joseph Smith. And that's important. We're not the same. We can't both be right.
Even if you can persuade a Mormon that what they teach is wrong, giving them actual proof, they can still fall back on new revelation from God, either given to their President or to themselves personally. Their gift of the Holy Spirit, means He still speaks to them. Even if they don't like Joseph Smith, God can give them the same doctrine directly. That is a lot to unravel.
My wife and I talked to a young Mormon wife and mother, and I said we can't believe whatever Jesus we want Him to be, like Jesus is a rorschach test. She disagreed. Anyone can find in Jesus whatever they want to believe. If someone wants him to be Chinese, he will be Chinese. All embrace mysticism, and many do this level of it.
I will have more observations for you in the future.