Hartley: Finding the humor in Utah’s founding
November 13, 2015
I have a sneaking suspicion that what I'm about to write is going to be perceived as insensitive. I can assure you it's not intended that way; it's just that I've always thought it was kind of funny and I wanted to use it as an intro for this week's column. If it truly is insensitive, please feel free to let me know, and I'll be sure to feel bad about it for a minute or two.
But what I want to talk about is Utah, as I was there last week and I'm too lazy to search for another subject. Did you ever stop and think about the founding of the Beehive State? If you haven't, here's the gist of the story as told by someone who has no idea what the real story is:
If you'll recall, once upon a time, Mormons were treated pretty much the way Donald Trump wants to treat illegal immigrants. First, they were basically driven out of New York. Then they were basically driven out of Ohio, where church founder Joseph Smith was tarred and feathered. Then they were actually driven out of Missouri by angry mobs who'd been told by the governor to essentially go kill Mormons. Then Smith and his brother were killed by another angry mob in Illinois. (Just so you know, these are not the parts I consider funny.)
Eventually, with no place wanting them, the early Mormons headed west across the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains, which must have been a harrowing trek back when there were no roads or cars. Finally, after months of hardship, they reached a wide valley on the western flank of the Rockies, and there they found a massive lake, prompting church leader Brigham Young to declare that it was where they were going to settle.
So here's the funny part: The lake, as you may have guessed, turned out to be the Great Salt Lake, meaning it was utterly useless for any practical purposes. After all the years of persecution and what must have been akin to a death march, the Mormons thought they'd found paradise, only to discover that they couldn't drink the water. If that's not God playing some kind of cosmic joke on people, I don't know what is.
In hindsight, of course, the Mormons had, in fact, found paradise, but since skiing and mountain biking hadn't been invented back then, they didn't realize it. They were just happy to be somewhere where other folks weren't trying to kill them.
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Nowadays, as any mountain person with a bicycle or a pair of fat skis can tell you, Utah is nothing short of magical. It's home to five of America's most astonishing national parks, but to be honest, they could just as easily have put a fence around the whole state and declared it a park in its entirety. (OK, maybe not the stretch of Interstate 70 from Colorado to Green River, but certainly the rest of it.)
Everywhere you look in Utah, there's something amazing, whether it's the Bonneville Salt Flats, Canyonlands, Lake Powell or 4 feet of fresh powder at Alta from a storm that drops an inch or two on Colorado. In short, there's basically no part of the state that wouldn't be a national park if it were east of Denver.
I was reminded of all that last week when I attempted to visit Zion National Park. I'd been there once and always wanted to return, but when we got to the gate, it was raining and so cloudy that we could hardly see anything. (On a side note, don't believe the lie about it not raining in the desert. I get rained or snowed on virtually every time I go.)
With Zion out, we headed a few miles west to a place I'd never heard of called Snow Canyon State Park. Needless to say, it, too, was incredible, with petrified dunes, sandstone monuments and even a couple of ancient volcanoes. The fact that it could fly so thoroughly under the radar was just more proof of how ridiculous Utah is.
Anyway, when it comes down to it, I think we should all be thankful that the Mormons were the ones to settle Utah. I shudder to think what would have happened had the forces that created, say, Las Vegas gotten their mitts on Moab or St. George first. I imagine that would have led to a joke that even God wouldn't have found funny.
Todd Hartley wants to note, however, that 3.2 percent beer will always be a stupid idea. To read more or leave a comment, visit http://zerobudget.net.
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