Utah's passage to statehood was long and eventful. Because of the Mormon's early belief in polygamous marriage and their self-exile from the rest of the country, eastern politicians were wary of those "unpredictable" citizens. Early Mormon pioneers formed a political government which functioned as the State of Deseret between 1849 - 70, but their petitions for statehood were denied. In 1850, an "outside" form of government was imposed on the area by federal officials. A governor was sent to the new territory, called Utah, to oversee law and order.
It took almost fifty years for lawmakers to admit Utah as an official member of the union. During that time Mormon leaders officially outlawed polygamy. In the autumn of 1895 a constitution was approved, which included granting women the right to vote (one of the first such concessions in the nation). Several months later, on January 4, 1896, Utah was admitted as the 45th state in the union.
Utahns are proud of their heritage, and Deseret (which means honeybee) and its themes of industry and progress are seen in the state flag and motto.
The Capital City and Temple Square
Salt Lake City stretches across a beautiful valley between the Wasatch and Oquirrh Mountains, south and east of the Great Salt Lake. Almost half of the state's 2.34 million people reside in this valley. Salt Lake's clean, broad streets (designed to be "wide enough to turn a wagon around") are arranged in a grid emanating from Temple Square, which is international headquarters for the Mormon Church. Temple Square's walled city-block houses the Salt Lake Temple, Assembly Hall, two modern visitors centers, and the acoustically-famous Tabernacle; home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Directly north of Temple Square is the Conference Center, which is known to be one of the world's largest theatre type buildings. It is used for General Conferences of the LDS Church, held every six months on the first weekend of April and October.
Salt Lake City's downtown district has two large shopping malls and a growing number of office and residential towers. The Salt Lake Visitor and Convention Bureau hosts a variety of meetings, conventions and expositions. The Triad Center, a communications and business center, covers two and one half block's of the city's Gateway district. The Energy Solutions Arena is home to the Utah's professional basketball team "The Utah Jazz". The Gateway Center is Salt Lake City's only open-air contemporary destination that delivers the ultimate in shopping, dining and entertainment. Trax is an extremely popular, lightrail system in Salt Lake and is free to riders in the downtown area.
If prizes were given for statistics, Utah's population would have a lot of trophies. Utah's birth rate is the highest in the nation and its death rate is the second lowest in the nation. Utahn's rank third in the longest lifetime category at 78.6 years. The state's population is younger than the national average - 27.1 years compared to 35.3.
Utahn's have the largest average household size in the country.
The young population is well educated and 88% have graduated from high school.
Utah's minority population is much lower than the national average - 10.8% compared to 24.9% - however the ethnic mix is quickly becoming more diverse as new industries continue to relocated in Utah.
Religion in Utah
For many Utahns, religion plays an integral role in everyday life. Nearly 70% of Utah's population are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, better known as the "Mormons".
In the Salt Lake Valley, active congregations of over 70 different denominations meet weekly. All major world religions are represented in Utah as well as non-denominational houses of worship.
Arts & Culture
When the Mormon pioneers first arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, they employed art, music, theatre and dance to lift their spirits and enrich their communities. In 1899, three years after receiving statehood, Utah lawmakers created the Utah Arts Institute, the first government agency in the nation ot provide funding and support for the arts. This organization has endured and today is known as the Utah Arts Council.
Some of Salt Lake City's grandest structures house many of the state's performing companies. Symphony Hall, site of the Utah Symphony, has been praised by music critics for its splendid acoustics. The Mormon Tabernacle is the historically significant home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The Capitol Theatre is a restored jewel in the Viennese Renaissance style. It houses Ballet West, Repertory Dance Theatre, Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company and the Utah Opera Company
Salt Lake City also has several active theatre groups including the Actors Equity-sanctioned Pioneer Theatre Company on the University of Utah Campus. Elsewhere in Utah, plays and musicals flourish on college and university campuses and in community theatres in cities large and small. One standout is the Utah Shakespearean Festival in Cedar City, featuring plays performed in a replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.
Utah offers other entertainments as well. Clark Planetarium in Salt Lake City is enjoyed by thousands of people yearly. Nearly 100 museum are sprinkled across the state with exhibits of fine art, natural history, pioneer artifacts, archaeological finds, movie memorabilia, rare instruments and dolls.
Fairs and festivals celebrate Utah's past and present. Art festivals blossom statewide in summer months. Each January, Park City hosts the Sundance Film Festival, an international showcase for independent film makers. Special events in many communities highlight Utah's diverse heritage. These include the Folklife Festival outside Zion National Park, Swiss Days in the mountain town of Midway, the Outlaw Trail Festival in Vernal near the stomping grounds of Butch Cassidy and his cohorts, and Salt Lake City's Days of `47 festivities honoring the arrival of the first pioneers.
Travel and Recreation
Tourism is Utah's number one private sector industry, supplying over 130,000 jobs. The 17.5 million out-of-state tourists who come to Utah each year are major contributors to the state's economy. Utah has five National Parks: Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Zion. More National Parks than any other state in the continental U.S. There are two National Recreation Areas: Flaming Gorge, and Glen Canyon (Lake Powel). Seven National Forests are spread throughout the state. Designated National Monuments in the state are Cedar Breaks, Dinosaur, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Hovenweep, Timpanogas Cave, Natural Bridges, Rainbow Bridge. Golden Spike Historic Site in northern Utah is the location of the joining of the transcontinental railroad in 1869. Utah also has 45 developed State Parks with a variety of themes and attractions.
Hiking and backpacking are favorite ways to explore Utah's parks and the thousands of acres of Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service terrain. The use of off-road vehicles is also popular in many areas.
Southeastern Utah is becoming known as the "mountain biking capital of the world", but trails are available statewide through mountains and deserts. For touring cyclists as well as motorists, Utah has a series of Scenic Byways; designated roads through some of the state's most spectacular scenery.
Utah's carefully preserved history provides many recreational opportunities. Native American and pioneer heritage are highlighted in a number of museums statewide. Also, historically significant buildings are found in most communities. Remnants of ancient Native American cultures are plentiful, mostly in the southern portions of the state. Many easily accessible ruins are over 1,000 years old.
For those who enjoy hunting, Utah harbors many game species. Fishing is excellent year-round in lakes, reservoirs, streams and rivers.
Utah's rivers offer recreation of another type. The sport of river running began in Utah and still remains an exciting part of the recreation mix. Both calm, scenic floats and wild, white water rapids are found on Utah rivers, particularly the Green, Colorado and San Juan Rivers.
Other water recreationalists find their niche on lakes and reservoirs in Utah's water recreation areas - from powerboats or houseboats to sailboats and windsurfers.
Each winter, residents and visitors from all over the world come to Utah mountains to ski "The Greatest Snow on Earth". The state has more than a dozen ski resorts, seven of which are within 45 minutes of Salt Lake City. Salt Lake City hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics because of its fine, dry powdery snow and excellent facilities localed in different areas along the Wasatch Front, Park City, Provo and Ogden.
Utah's powder snow also entices cross-country skiers and snowmobilers who explore the state via groomed trail systems or by striking out on their own.
Technology & Industry
Utah's business and industrial base is constantly expanding with emphasis on light manufacturing research, advanced technology, construction and energy development projects. Utah's growing popularity as a center for industry is attributed to the state's educated and hard working population, location of the state as a transportation hub for moving people and goods, and a dependable supply of electricity, natural gas and water resources.