Mormon Stuff That Doesn't Suck
Just because it's a Mormon idea doesn't mean it's lame.
By Kathleen Curry & Geoff Griffin
Things were pretty quiet here in Utah until 1847, when Brigham Young and the Mormon pioneers showed up. Not long after, non-Mormons came and found they liked "the place," too. Thus began a battle that has been waged ever since. The "Gentiles" complain about the Mormons forcing their values on them and electing some of the nuttiest church members to the state Legislature. Mormons, in turn, claim religious persecution and remain suspicious of influences coming from outside Zion, since such influences often corrupt local morals.
City Weekly may be thought of as a bastion for outsiderness in a very insular city, but more Mormons ("self-professed" Mormons, anyway) read City Weekly (and look at the ads in the back) than either side of the equation would care to admit.
Like it or not, Utah was founded by Mormons, and while their attitudes on liquor laws and gay marriage can drive outsiders crazy, they give non-Mormons something to love or rebel against. Plus, Mormons have dreamed up some one-of-a-kind attractions you'd never find anywhere else.
In the spirit of Rodney King ("People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?"), here are a few examples that can be enjoyed by those with no interest in becoming part of the flock.
The Lion House Bakery
The subculture of most religions includes some sort of special bread or other carb that makes people temporarily consider converting. In the case of the Latter-day Saints, it's the delicious Lion House rolls. A dozen or more of the miraculously tasty bits of bread, along with other bakery goods, can be picked up in downtown Salt Lake City at the mansion Brigham Young had built to house some of his many wives and dozens of children. Many Deseret Book stores are also being retrofitted to be able to carry Lion House Bakery products.
63 E. South Temple, 801-363-5466, TempleSquareHospitality.com
Retractable Roof at City Creek
Somebody finally noticed Salt Lake City is nice outdoors in the spring, summer and fall, but it's better to be indoors in the winter. Besides making Salt Lake City temperate year round, what could be more fun than a retractable roof like they have at baseball stadiums sitting over a major part of downtown? The new mall is just one part of the church's overall investment in revitalizing downtown. Stores that are not church-owned but are still part of the City Creek development can be open on Sundays and some restaurants have the choice to serve alcohol. The people who seem to have little interest in staying out late and enjoying a cosmopolitan environment are the very people who have made it possible for Salt Lakers to do just that.
50 S. Main, Salt Lake City, ShopCityCreekCenter.com
Latter-day Saint Humanitarian Center
Religions are at their best when they lay off the rule-making and focus on helping their fellow man. To that end, the Latter-day Saint Humanitarian Center annually sends about 12 million pounds of shoes and clothing, 1 million hygiene kits and 1 million pounds of medical supplies to more than 100 countries. Additionally, the center typically employs about 100 people, many of them immigrants and refugees getting their first work experience in America while receiving training to enter the general workforce.
Anyone, LDS or otherwise, who wants to help out can donate to the Humanitarian Aid Fund or donate supplies for aid kits. The center's Website also has suggestions about what people can do to assist the needy in their communities.
1655 S. Bennett Road (2030 West), 801-240-5954, LDS.org/Service/Humanitarian
Family History Library
Cities are often known for their one-of-a-kind activities that can be found nowhere else. When you're in New York City, you take in a Broadway musical. When you're in Paris, you look at great art. And when you're in Salt Lake City, you happen to be in the best place on the entire planet to do genealogical research.
It turns out, turning up great-great-grandparents is easier, and more enjoyable, than you ever could have expected when you visit the Family History Library, just across the street from Temple Square. Even though more and more research can now be done online—including at the Website FamilySearch.org—David Rencher, the chief genealogical officer for the LDS Church notes that, "We're starting to acquire everything digitally, but it's still just the tip of the iceberg." To that end, the library has 2.4 million rolls of microfilm on hand from countries around the world. The library is so extensive, it's not unusual for people to come from another country to do research on the country they traveled from.
Those who are genealogical virgins need not be embarrassed. There is a special training for beginners, who can even wear a button identifying them as newbies so they can get special treatment from the many volunteer missionaries on staff, who specialize in research rather than recruitment.
35 N. West Temple, Salt Lake City, 866-406-1830, FamilySearch.org
BYU International Cinema
For two weeks out of the year, Utah becomes famous as the home of the Sundance Film Festival. For the other 50 weeks, Utah is also home to a foreign film festival that is less well known, but much more enduring. The BYU International Cinema program has been showing foreign films every week since 1968.
The films shown are diverse as well as challenging, although they are sometimes slightly edited to meet BYU standards. The schedule in recent months has featured a trio of Fellini films, former Sundance picks, a documentary on the controversial French thinker Jacques Derrida, a Bollywood musical and a movie focusing on the challenges faced by Pakistani Muslims since 9/11—and they're always free!
Spencer W. Kimball Tower, BYU Campus, Provo, 801-422-3529, IC.BYU.edu