After the BYU, we continued north to Salt Lake City, which wasn’t far, as cities were clustered together, similar to the other Western states we’d been to. It appears that all of Utah’s other major urban areas are either above or below Salt Lake. We decided to go straight to the center of Mormonism to get a feel for the area; we went to Temple Square, which is home to Salt Lake Temple. As we learned earlier, we were not allowed to enter the Temple, but we did go on their tour of the grounds. The temple is huge and quite impressive. It is also hard to photograph as it is surrounded by trees and other buildings.
Here is the video:
In the visitors center, they had a replica of a statue made by someone Danish that has become central to the LDS portrayal of Jesus. It was rather nice and surrounded by some lovely paintings of the cosmos:They also showed us their original tabernacle, which had excellent acoustics:vid
Nearly everyone we met at the center was female and from another country. As many of you may know, Mormons do an obligatory mission abroad when they are young adults. American Mormons tend to go to places like Brazil or Russia, while non-American Mormons seem much more likely to come to Salk Lake. They help with visitors who speak their language and English speakers like us as well. We spoke to a Spanish sister (they are all called sisters) and two other sisters from Hong Kong and the Philippines gave us the tour itself. We learned that Mormons do consider themselves Christians because they believe in Jesus, but that the Mormons we met did not seem to feel any strong connection to either the Roman Catholic or Protestant branches of Christianity, though an American Mormon woman from Idaho who we met on the course of the tour said she admired Martin Luther and we learned from her that both Mormon and LDS are perfectly acceptable terms to use for Mormons. They are happy with both, though the ones we met seemed to use LDS the bulk of the time.
If you do decide to take the tour, be prepared that they really want to sell you on their religion, which is fair enough considering where you are and what you’re doing. We mostly listened with polite interest as they explained that they believe that the book of Mormon was written between 600 BC and 400 AD and that Jesus had lived among the Native Americans, though they don’t know which ones. We also learned that there is no special training to become a leader of a Mormon congregation and such a leader is called a bishop. Their bishops will usually have a secular job at the same time as being in charge of a church. What they do on a Sunday is a service and not a mass and they still believe they have active prophecy. The leader of the entire church is not just a leader, but a prophet who can give new information. This sounded similar to the role of the pope.
After being given a Book of Mormon and several pieces of literature, we headed to the State Capitol:
We then rushed to our room in North Salt Lake and had the world’s fastest buffet dinner at a Chinese restaurant. We had good reason to rush. One of the most famous choirs in the world, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, happened to be practicing the night we were here. They practice most Thursdays and it is usually open to the public. It started at 7:30 and we didn’t want to be late, as we had no idea if they would let you in once it began.
After the practice, we went to take a night snap of the temple:
At the gates, we met several protesters of a sort. One of them was a former Mormon who said he disagreed with the church on a fair number of things and had a pamphlet on those disagreements.
We also met a born again Protestant Christian who wanted to convert Mormons to Protestants. He was also in tech and said that there was way more than just Novell in the area in terms of tech. He recommended it as a great place to be part of a tech start up. He also told us that even though he disagreed quite strongly with the Mormons, most of his friends are Mormons and they are very family oriented, which makes for great communities. He also said as a non-Mormon in Utah, he was a bit of an outsider. Non-Mormons have to work harder to build communities and connections despite Mormons being very open to non-Mormons simply because so many local happenings are Mormon. This is a downside in my mind. I don’t really want to feel like a permanent outsider in whatever community we decide to settle in.
One other downside of this area, is that, for whatever reason, it feels much drier than New Mexico and Arizona. Maybe it is due to being cooler or some other aspect of the climate, but while we enjoyed the dry heat of the South West, this desert in Utah has been wreaking havoc on our skin.
Our hotel had been so lovely and comfortable, and as we were still sort of recovering from Nevada, we decided to stay another day and blog in comfort, as we knew we would soon have to go back through a long stretch of Nevada, as it was the quickest (though by no means especially quick) route to California.
After a second night and day of blogging, it felt less lovely. It turned out that loads of non-guests were doing laundry. This was a problem for two reasons. One – I actually wanted to do some laundry and the queue was a lot bigger than it should have been. More than that, two – it involved having people sleeping or lying around in the hall way near our room all evening and all night. There was a family of four at 11 PM whose children were swimming in the pool with their clothes and the parents were half asleep on benches in the hallway. We weren’t super comfortable with that and it wasn’t in fitting with the higher price bracket of the hotel.
We headed out across Western Utah in the worst weather we’ve had in a while. I know it’s October and for most of you, it’s probably felt like autumn for a while, but with all the time we spent in the South West, it was easy to keep calling it summer. It was rainy and dipped down to 65F/18 C.
That said, as we progressed across Utah, things got more and more interesting in terms of nature. We had a look at the Great Salt Lake, which smelled bizarre and looked very odd with the dark grey sand with green streaks:
It turns out it is also much saltier than the ocean at 14% to 25%, depending on the part of the lake. The sea is 3% salt.
The salt didn’t stop with the lake either. There are miles of what are called salt flats, which as far as I can tell are giant salty puddles:
We also saw several places engaging in salt collection:
We also hit the 15,000 mile mark:
We came across this odd thing:
This is something called the Bonneville Salt Flats. It used to be a lake, and now it’s just a giant salty puddle like the rest of the salt flat, but it appeared a bit deeper than some of the flats. Despite being overcast, it was very bright and even the bits that look like a lake are very shallow:
It was a weird and lovely area of the world that is like nothing else either of us have seen.
Toward the end of the day, we re-entered Nevada. It changed immediately to this:
As we were tired and immediately noticed that this part of Nevada was as full of smokey casinos and as over priced as the South of Nevada, we decided to pay no attention to our location and just stay in and watch the new Doctor Who. It was a good one. This new series has been going much better than last year’s in both of our opinions, but that is probably a topic for a totally different blog 🙂