Sal Tlay Ka Siti

I mean no disrespect to anyone reading this, but I tried reading the Book of Mormon once and couldn’t get through it. I dunno…not enough explosions? Anyway, my knowledge of your religion is limited to having seen the Broadway play and this episode of South Park. I am sorry for everything that’s about to come next.

When traveling through Utah it is impossible to avoid the impact of Mormonism. To walk this land is to be routinely humbled by geologic time, only to turn around and encounter this young, eager, very American religion. The ancient and the modern are bound up together in what feels like an extended piece of performance art. Even the orientation videos at the National Parks pay respect to the Mormon settlers. In every other park, the videos have only talked about the original people who lived on the land – the Anasazi, Paiute, Fremont – never anything more modern than that.

So coming to Salt Lake City was imperative for us. There are equal numbers of Mormon and non-Mormon residents here. Someone described the culture to us in modern geologic terms. “It’s like a layer cake,” she said. “There’s the Mormon layer and the non-Mormon layer. We get along fine, but there is no mixing.”

We visited Temple Square three times. It is so wonderful and weird it’s hard to stay away.

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An arial view of Temple Square. Photo courtesy of LDS.org.

There were a lot of young, female missionaries greeting us at every step. They were mostly from foreign countries. They were all very pretty. They were eager to talk to us. They were so very, very nice. None of them tried to convert us.

It’s difficult to describe just how clean and precise everything is. It feels a bit like walking through dioramas at a natural history museum – only produced by Disneyland.

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Well dressed and coifed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Behind a stanchion as God intended. Photo credit: T
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Walk up a long circular ramp and you’ll arrive at the Jesus of the Universe. The young missionaries will push some buttons on the wall and the Voice of Jesus will boom at you about everything he’s done for you. Photo credit: T
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If you’re not a card carrying Mormon you can’t go in the temple, but there is a seven-foot model in one of the visitor’s centers. A kiosk will tell you what goes on in each room. I’m doing this from memory, so forgive me: At bottom left, the baptismal (there are twelve bulls holding up the pool of water, representing the tribes of Israel). Bottom right, the Garden Room, where they give teachings about life in the Garden of Eden. Middle left, the World Room, where they give teachings about life after Eden. Middle right, a contemplation room where you can sit quietly and think about your faith. Next, a conference room? The top floor is the Assembly Room, where they, uh, assemble. Photo credit: T

The highlight for me was the Family History Library. Imagine a giant room filled with computers and eager Mormons. It’s intimidating at first, but they’re so nice that we found ourselves sitting down and creating an account before we knew it. It’s a remarkable system they have, and it’s free. I traced my ancestry back to 1570 in France.

Go to familysearch.com if you want to take a look. You’ll need specific birth dates and places for you and your kin. Most cities with a Mormon church have these libraries. You can make an appointment and go in to get some help with the site.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is also worth the wait to hear. They perform on Sundays, but you can also attend their rehearsal concerts on Thursday evenings, which is what R and I did. For an all-volunteer effort, it’s impressive – both for the power of the combined voices and for the restraint.

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The Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The organ is a beast. Photo credit: T

Ok, enough about the Mormons. Salt Lake City is also a delicious place to eat. All the thumbs are up on these places:

  • Red Iguana is arguably the best Mexican food I’ve had outside of Mexico, and there’s a line to get in that would rival any San Francisco brunch establishment.
  • Ruth’s Diner makes biscuits so fluffy and buttery you’ll want to slap your (metaphorical) mother for not knowing how to make them. Ruth herself, though deceased now, was known to say, “I don’t know about this women’s lib stuff. I always took good care of myself.” Nah, Ruth, you got it.
  • The Red Rock Brewery pours good beers and they don’t skimp on the pizza toppings.
  • We also had lunch in Park City 501 on Main – the food is solid and the grapefruit martini is excellent – and dinner at the Highwest Distillery and Saloon. Highwest makes their own whiskey, you guys, and it’s delicious. The food is also wonderful.

So thank you, Salt Lake City, for being so kind to us. Hopefully I haven’t irreparably offended anyone.

In other news, the RV seems to be mostly in working order. The generator is working again (huzzah), but we’ve had to replace two rear tires even after our adventures in Goblin (sad trombone). All that’s left for us to fix are some bum light fixtures.

3 thoughts on “Sal Tlay Ka Siti

  1. A while ago, I went the Temple in Oakland and had a quick visit with one of their genealogists. I had exact names and place of birth. Nothing. “Are you sure?”, the young Member in black pants and white dress shirt with creases so crisp I thought I’d cut a finger if touched, ask me. “Yes, positively”, I replied. Her answer was priceless: “If they’re not here, they didn’t exist”. Okay, then.

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  2. well done; thank you for a well executed travelogue entry … but- hey, kid … what were the first 4 words- on coming into the valley ? ya gotta remember ’em … 🙂 if you get anywhere near Denver- you know where to wet your whistle …

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  3. Thanks, Tom! Nice to hear from you. “This is the place,” were the first four words! We are definitely going to be coming through Denver, so we’ll make sure to see you!!!

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