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Cover Story

Two-Faced Utah

It's time to face facts, Utah: We're not what we pretend to be.

By City Weekly Staff
Posted // March 4,2009 -

Utah is bisected along religious, cultural and ethnic lines. But Utah doesn’t like to show its two faces. Every effort is made to wear just a good face for our visitors, to smile for the cameras, to promote our wholesomeness and to otherwise let the world know that Utah is normal. Except it isn’t. And it’s getting worse.

The death of former LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley marked a transitory time in Utah’s perception of itself and of its residents’ willingness to cooperate with one another. Beloved on one side and highly regarded on the other, Hinckley may have been the last finger in the dike, holding back what is becoming a bloodbath of ill will toward each side of Utah’s cultural divide. Since Hinckley's death in late January 2008, a slew of angry influentials have grown so powerful and outspoken that, to persons outside the LDS faith, they appear not only to speak for the LDS faith but are tacitly allowed to do so.

Thus, to non-Mormons and outsiders, state Sen. Chris Buttars—who frequently cites LDS scripture—is the face of Mormonism, not current LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson. We can’t imagine this is a good thing. Nor can a growing number of formerly silent Mormons. If people like Buttars—and his hatemates on Capitol Hill—are ever to change or decline in influence, that change will have to come from pressures within the Mormon community itself.

In addition to the Buttars' dichotomy, Utah claims other “perception versus reality” points. We can all take blame or credit for espousing these views. Distrust cuts both ways. But when it comes to such divisions, there is a major disconnect between how we view ourselves and how outsiders see us. Our face is clearly two-sided. Following are just a few of the dirty little secrets Utah hasn’t fully shared with the rest of the world. Which statement is really Utah? You decide.

—Contributors: Bill Frost, Scott Renshaw, John Saltas, Jerre Wroble


Thomas Spencer Monson, president, prophet, seer and revelator of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints


Chris Buttars, snarling racist and homophobe, Republican state senator for West Jordan’s District 10.


The LDS Church doesn’t promote a specific political affiliation. Look at Harry Reid!


Utah's gerrymandered districts make it nearly impossible to elect a Democrat ... even someone like Harry Reid.

We take pride in each individual having his or her own moral agency to choose between good or evil.


“If you don’t put a lead-lined wall between my 4-year-old and that bottle of tequila, she’ll be doing smack before she learns her times tables!”


Utahns are an industrious people who made the desert bloom.


And after the desert bloomed, Utah's most industrious went on to lucrative careers in multi-level companies like Usana, Nu-skin, Tahitian Noni, XanGo and Young Living Oil.


Marie Osmond, sister of Donny, mom of eight kids, Utah-grown actress, singer, doll-maker, Dancer With the Stars


Moral crusader Gayle Ruzicka, mother of 12, head of the Utah chapter of Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, the wielder of “legendary” influence on Capitol Hill, hater of gays and unmarried reproductive organs.


Utah is world famous for funeral potatoes, green Jell-O and fry sauce.


Utahns themselves prefer sushi.


Salt Lake City is a cosmopolitan destination with a world-class convention center, hotels, restaurants and nightlife.


Salt Lake City currently has two gaping holes where its downtown malls used to be, a Main Street frequented by rolling tumbleweeds and three empty, rotting nightclubs that used to host national touring bands and attract throngs of fans. Plus, a sports arena named after a nuclear-waste company.

Utah is not just for conservative, white Mormons. Look at Gladys Knight, soul singer and sassy LDS sister. She shows up for Conference weekends and the like.


After Gladys leaves town, Utah’s black population remains at 1 percent of its 2.6 million people. And where in the capital city do Utah’s Hispanic people (12 percent of Utah’s population) reside? Most live “out west” or “up north” of town.


Utahns learned to be suspicious of government weapons testing after the Nevada Test Site sent radioactive mushroom clouds Utah’s way in the ’50s.


Utah is the proud home to ever-expanding biowarfare labs at Dugway Proving Ground, a nuclear waste dump at EnergySolutions and ATK facilities that manufacture advanced weaponry and ammunition.


Utah progressed beyond polygamy over a century ago.


The only significant difference between Big Love and reality is that the polygamist leader on the HBO series escaped conviction, while ours (Warren Jeffs) is serving 10 years to life.


This is the place to raise a family!


This is the place where your children won’t be exposed to ideas that are “strange” and “different.”

Utah believes individuals rather than government should have the power.


Only individuals who vote how Republicans tell them to vote—such as in favor of school vouchers—should have the power. The other individuals are stupid and hate their kids.

Utahns are not racists.


Last summer's racist sock puppet was lovingly made by a Utah company.


Utah takes pride in its hi-tech prowess.


Utah’s No. 1 for online porn consumption, according to a Harvard Business School 2009 study.

We’re a lush oasis of parks and golf courses in the desert.


Utah is running out of water.


In November 2008, after the passage of California’s Prop. 8, the LDS Church declared it is not “anti-gay” and “does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights.”


The 2009 Utah Legislature has eviscerated the Common Ground initiatives which might have advanced those rights.

David Archuleta is Utah's ambassador to the world.


David Archuleta is Utah's ambassador to the world?!


Locals make upstanding, wholesome reality-TV contestants.


Locals are mostly dull runners-up, with the exception of Survivor: China winner Todd Herzog (gay Mormon) and Rock of Love Bus’ Kelsey (come on, it’s Rock of Love Bus).

Utahns are patriotic Americans who support their military.


Utahns love the military as long as someone else enlists. Utah is 49th out of 50 states in per-capita enlistments, behind North Dakota, according to a 2007 Heritage Foundation study.

Our economy is still stronger than in many other places.


Utah’s stronger economy means we have more money to donate to kicking gays and lesbians in the ass.

We live in Utah to partake in healthy outdoor activities and ski the greatest snow on Earth


Our winter air quality is sometimes only second worst in the country. Suck it, Bakersfield!

Utah’s Republican delegation in D.C. is a well-oiled machine that knows how to bring home the goods.


No longer in the favored majority, grasping at straws as their power evaporates, Hatch, Bennett and Chaffetz howl at every bill that comes their way. Bishop remains in a trance.

The streets are free of drugs.


The streets are free of drugs because the drugs are all safely stored in mom’s medicine cabinet.


Readers can submit their own “perception vs. reality” points by commenting on this story.

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Posted // March 9,2009 at 11:02 Dear "Jim Crow laws". MAYBE, just maybe, if we Non-Mormons didn't grow up hearing "you're going to hell because your church is not the True Church" and maybe if our (only) newcomer Mormon neighbor didn't tell us that WE should move, we'd feel differently. Maybe if you quit sending your Boy Scouts to our door, telling us "you're supposed to donate to this and the Bishop announced it on Sunday", we'd feel differently. MORMONS: get the chip off your shoulder, quit trying to feel superior by persecuting others, and quit complaining about US. Chris Buttars is to you, as Rush Limbaugh is to the political party you support. You pretend not to listen to ChrisRush, but you follow every word and act accordingly. PERHAPS you should move somewhere else, where you are not the majority and learn how to treat others with respect. WE DO TRY TO IGNORE YOU, but nearly every news article mentions religion. Every political candidate sneaks in a reference to his religion in his campaign ads.


Posted // March 9,2009 at 10:55 WHAT DO PEOPLE IN OTHER STATES THINK? Oh! I see you are Mormon! No? But you have a Utah license plate! Really? You're not all Mormons? WHAT ARE OUT-OF-STATE UTAHNS DOING TO COMBAT THESE MISPERCEPTIONS? bumperstickers from Catholic High Schools, Obama08, "NoNukes", Greenpeace, etc. DOES THAT WORK? Yes! Our Obama08 sticker has ended the questions, and the Catholics reported the same thing.


Posted // March 7,2009 at 14:34 Preception: Utah Non-Mormons are subject to modern day Jim Crow laws preventing them from acting the way they want. OR Reality: Utah Non-Mormons like the ones who wrote this article need to get a sense of reality and perspective and understand that their deep seated hatred and resentment of the religious majority in this state is far more ugly and bigoted than even the retarded ramblings of an old man I voted against. I don't support Buttars and I voted against him. I do find it ironic it is the gay activists that created a witch hunt to intimidate all supporters of Prop 8. I don't have the slightest feeling of hate towards homosexuals, but I still support traditional marriage. When I am constantly being called a bigot for my religious beliefs, I don't like it when actual bigots use my religion as a pretext for their hate, but I'm not about to listen to the other group that already hates me in why I should oppose that LDS who is a moron. Given the choice between a hateful LDS bigot as a representative and a gay rights activist who would force their conception of marriage on me and my religion, I am going to preserve my liberty over that of another. There are things I would change about my own religious community, but outsiders writing things like this aren't helping.


Posted // March 6,2009 at 14:56 This is what the Church has to say about Mormon Politicians: "Elected officials who are Latter-day Saints make their own decisions and may not necessarily be in agreement with one another or even with a publicly stated Church position. While the Church may communicate its views to them, as it may to any other elected official, it recognizes that these officials still must make their own choices based on their best judgment and with consideration of the constituencies whom they were elected to represent." It's easy for people to say that "The Mormons Church controls Utah Politics.." Of course, there is absolutely no empirical evidence to support this statement. It is just ASSUMED that since the majority of Utah lawmakers happen to be Mormons that the Church is the de facto lawmaker in Utah. Consider what would need to take place if this were true. One scenario would be that the Church leaders would have to actively maintain lines of communication with Mormon legislators. If not all of them, at least those who are in key leadership positions in all three branches of the state government. That means letters, phone calls, e-mails, etc. would become part of the public record if it concerns official legislative business. Imagine a letter from say Boyd K. Packer written to Jon Huntsman that says, "Brother Huntsman, the Quorum of the Twelve, Seventies and First Presidency were talking and we want you to propose a constitutional amendment banning all forms of gambling in the state." The General Authorities of the Church do NOTHING without a unanimous vote. So if they were going to try and control government in that way, everybody would have to be on board. Add to that the complicity of Mormon legislators and people who would just LOVE to expose the Church in this sort of conduct SOMEBODY would have leaked this sort of communication to the press YEARS ago. Another scenario would have these ranking Mormon legislators meeting with Church leaders in person, I'm sure clandestinely, so they can get their Church approved marching orders to enact legislation that favors Church doctrine and/or policies. Again, if this were going on, somebody would have caught onto it by now and exposed it to the public. So far, there has been no exposť because this simply doesn't happen. But here's what I have observed in some Utah politicians: We've got a bunch of Mormon politicians who I'm sure would LOVE to be told what to do by the Church leadership but since the Church Leaders aren't pulling the strings of Utah government, these politicians are blatantly ignoring the Church's policy of political neutrality and their counsel to "...make their own choices based on their best judgment and with consideration of the constituencies whom they were elected to represent." Instead, these people, while not going directly to the Church for input on legislation, are making decisions by asking themselves, "What would the Church do?" (Not even "What would Jesus do?" Of course, in my experience people who make a show of asking themselves the "WWJD" question get the answer wrong nine times out of ten) And what do these Mormon politicians do to answer that question? They turn to the scriptures and Church policies (while ignoring their constituencies) and come to conclusions like, "Drinking alcohol is against the Word of Wisdom therefore I should promote legislation that bans alcohol or seriously restricts its sale and consumption because that's what I ASSUME Jesus would do because he knows what's best for us so that automatically makes this I mean...uh... GOOD legislation." (This also conveniently ignores all the historical and literary evidence that suggests that Jesus was a social drinker). So. The Church does not encourage this behavior. They stay out of partisan politics altogether. As for the elephant in the room that is Same-Sex Marriage and Proposition 8 in California, the Church simply doesn't see same-sex marriage as a political or civil rights issue. They see it as a moral and doctrinal issue and, in their own words, they "Reserve the right as an institution to address, in a nonpartisan way, issues that it believes have significant community or moral consequences or that directly affect the interests of the Church." I have more to say on the whole same-sex marriage debate but that's going to have to wait for its own essay.


Posted // March 11,2009 at 10:51 - puetne said: " It's easy for people to say that "The Mormons Church controls Utah Politics.." Of course, there is absolutely no empirical evidence to support this statement. It is just ASSUMED that since the majority of Utah lawmakers happen to be Mormons that the Church is the de facto lawmaker in Utah. Consider what would need to take place if this were true. One scenario would be that the Church leaders would have to actively maintain lines of communication with Mormon legislators." puente, I'm guessing you were asleep under a log in the forest in a foreign country when your church elders summoned state legislators to their offices for a discussion on the new proposed liquor law changes. It was a freaking new story! So, you don't read and you don't watch tv news, is that it? You are either painfully naive or trolling with utter bullshit. Embarassed now? I'm embarassed for you to have used so many words that mean absolutely nothing in the face of facts and reality.


Posted // March 5,2009 at 23:38 City Weekly is a source for news and independent thinking OR City Weekly is staffed by Mormophobic writers with deep seated paranoias and conspiracy fixations.


Posted // February 11,2011 at 16:37 - I couldn't have said it better myself, peacemeal! and I am always wary of City Weekly articles on the Church...