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Published: November 18th 2014
Mormons take families very serious. That's what they say and that's a matter of fact. Salt Lake City in the mountainous state of Utah is the capital of the Mormons and not only that, it is a city completely founded by them. Mormons call themselves "The latter-day saints of Jesus Christ" and are basically a split-off faction of the Christian faith, making up of more than 60% of Utah's inhabitants. Their abstinence from alcohol, coffee and tea, as well as their customs of polygamy are probably what made the most headlines around the world. In addition to the bible, Mormons also believe in the "book of Mormon" (which has become famous through its parody musical), a book which is believed to have been dictated to Mormon founder Joseph Smith by an angel.. So far so good.
If you have been reading some of my blogs you might have noticed my occasionally critical tone of religion (I came THAT close to be raped by a Buddhist monk in Thailand...) and you might wonder why I want to dedicate my time to the Mormons in this entry. Especially because I have left you with the notice that I just checked in the
Hooters hotel and casino in Las Vegas, a story seemingly much more interesting than prayers and abstinence. Well, indirectly I have to say because I am thankful for what the Mormons made me discover today. They did not do it with purpose but it has to do with their dedication to family and family history.
This story starts in the freezing cold Salt Lake City where we arrived yesterday evening and left today in the direction of an even colder and snowier Wyoming. We stranded in Salt Lake City after driving up from Las Vegas, one of the most iconic drives of my life. One of the reasons is of course the landscape. Around Las Vegas sandy stone mountains paint the dry landscape in a canvas of dark browns and greys while the desert sun hits mercilessly on anything and anyone trying to defy the rough landscape. Driving up north to the state of Utah not only the altitude dramatically increases but also the temperature dramatically drops. In fact, as soon as we hit Utah we noticed dew on the side of the roads, a sight which I had not seen since my times in Italy. The grey mountains
of Nevada slowly morphed into greener and snow-cowered peaks towering over endless fields of yellow grass with plenty of cattle munching on. Although Utah is not particularly crowded we could see more and more small villages along the highway, much more than we had seen in our trip down south.
Particularly interesting were also the towering minarets of snow-white Mormon temples, forming an amazing contrast to the bright red of the Utah stone mountains. While we were driving on the outside temperature had reached a dramatic -8 Celsius, making me realize that I had to buy some winter gear before entering Wyoming and morphing into the next abominable snowman. Anyway, where the mountains peak the highest the capital Salt Lake City lies nestled among the peaks of the Rocky Mountains and we arrived there at about 7 pm. Immediately we went for a walk in downtown which, as so often in the States, was completely empty and no pedestrian could be found. The icy temperatures might have helped with that. We got a pretty decent pizza in a Neapolitan restaurant and called it a day.
Today we came back to downtown and went to the main Mormon temple,
which also forms the city center of Utah. Somehow church-like but with more sterile and modern features, the temple is only accessible to a selected Mormon population and only for special occasions such as weddings. What was accessible anyhow, and here we come to the point, was the Mormon ancestry database, which is freely open to look for your very own history among the 3 billion deceased people in the system. I have always been interested in my own background so I first checked on my name. I was quite surprised to discover that most of my surname-buddies were from France, a country with which I did not have any obvious relation. So next I looked for my grandpa, which had migrated long time ago to the US and his traces were lost since about 50 years.
I did not seriously think that I might find something in regard but, believe it or not, I did. My grandpa is deceased since about 20 years, but he spent most of his life after leaving Italy in Brazil and I discovered to have an uncle and a cousin none of my family members had ever heard about. This is of course
not a vital fact that will change my or any of my families life at this time but I do have to admit that seeing my surname on their name registrations gave me the chills. I could not wait to tell my parents which were equally surprised by the findings. The Mormon guide who helped me to look for my grandpa seemed to be very happy and surprised of my discovery too. I was so excited that I accidentally let some swearwords slip within the Mormon place... I should feel ashamed for that I guess haha.
Anyway, with this new discovery in our mind we took our car and drove to the Great Salt Lake outside the city, which obviously gave the capital its name. The huge lake has an approximately 30% salt content, 10 times more than a normal salty sea. In other words, if you can withstand the cold, smell and the mud which slowly eats up your shoes when approaching the shores, you could float on the water Dead-Sea style. I have to say that the peaceful environment at the Salt Lake helped me to get a little clear head from my intense time in Vegas
Salt Lake City
The main temple
and the surprising discovery I just made. So summing up the situation, thanks dear Mormons for giving me the chance to look into my past and to learn from my travel. Not about you or a place but about myself.
From Utah we took another highway to the East in the direction of Wyoming, where our loop will start to get back into Texas in the next 10 days. Wyoming is famous to be one of the US' most empty and most countryside states and as soon as we crossed the border we were met not only by strong winds, but also by even lower temperatures and a considerable amount of snow next to the main streets. As we could not make it all the way to the capital of Cheyenne we are now stuck in a small motel in the town of Rawlins, literally in the middle of nowhere with piles of snow outside our windows. Luckily the heater is on and I feel that this day has really put things into perspective. We can search and we can find, but we do not always find what we search for. And in this case what I have learned
Salt Lake City
Mormon main temple again
today has exceeded all of my expectations. And sorry, what happens in Vegas really stays there 😉 Have a nice day!
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