Two-Faced Utah | Cover Story | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Two-Faced Utah 

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

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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

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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.

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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!”

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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.

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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.

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


Utahns themselves prefer sushi.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?!

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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.

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

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