Salt Lake City, contradictions at every corner.

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Salt Lake City is home to the Mormons or The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (LDS)

They own the city.

Founded in 1847 by Brigham Young and a devout group of farming Mormons, they extensively cultivated the once arid valley. Ever since then they have had a profound influence on the place, even though less than half the population of SLC are members of the LDS Church.

It’s a surprisingly modern and progressive city.

There is a tram, all be it on three limited routes, but it’s public transport that’s not powered by a Diesel engine. It’s a relatively new system with the first line being completed in 1999 and the Airport line commencing operations in 2013.

There are also public bikes to rent, again provided by the city.

In SLC you will come across more dark suits, white shirts and subdued ties than you’ll see in an episode of Mad Men.

Yet there is poverty, with street people on every corner of the CBD.

There is also a vast contrast in the architecture with the Mormon temples built in the 1800s to modern glass and steel skyscrapers that are common in the city area.

And there’s the Salt Lake City and County Building, constructed by the Free Masons between 1891 and 1894 and built in open defiance of the dominance of the Mormons. It was the one and only building designed by the architectural firm of Monheim, Bird and Proudfoot. It went grossly over budget and was deemed as an extravagance by the Mormon side of town.

The weather is also varied with blue sky’s one minute and torrential rain the next.

We even received a ‘flash flood’ warning on our US mobile phone.

Then there’s alcohol.

The Mormons abstain from anything that is in the least mind altering – tea, coffee and of course booze.

Yet SLC is full of bars, restaurants and at least three excellent craft breweries.

One very fine establishment was the Red Rock Brewing Company. This Brewpub, located downtown in an old dairy warehouse was full to overflowing. There were 10 craft beers on tap and an excellent menu to choose from.

Obviously the other half of SLC don’t mind a bit of a tipple.

When the Mormon pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, Brigham Young selected a plot of the desert ground and proclaimed, “Here we will build a temple to our God.”

It took 40 years to build Temple Square with construction starting in 1853. It is now the centre of the city and to many the world wide centre of genealogy.

The Family Search Centre has a number of professional genealogists but is mainly staffed by volunteers.

Elder Kent Nelson spent three hours helping Thea chase ghosts, searching for both her and my ancestors.

The service they offered is excellent and the facility is state-of-the-art, yet we were never pressured to join the faithful or even asked for money.

The cynic in me asks – why?

The answer is ‘Baptism for the Dead’

This is part of the Mormon doctrine and is the practice of baptising a living person on behalf of one who is dead.

This helps to build the number of church followers, even though they may have passed away centuries ago.

I am not sure how a distant relative, from a different faith, might feel about that.

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