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Utah: Beehive State

CAPITAL: Salt Lake City
JOINED UNION: January 4, 1896
MEANING OF STATE NAME: Taken from the name of the Ute Indians, whose name means "people of the mountains"
1992 POPULATION: 1,813,116
LAND AREA: 82,168 square miles
ECONOMY: Tourism, aerospace research and construction, food products, electronics, agriculture
HISTORY: Home of the Ute and Paiute Indians, Utah was first explored by Spanish monks in 1776. Most influential in the state's development were Mormon refugees from religious persecution in the East, who settled Salt Lake City in 1847. While others had shunned Utah's dry desert land, the Mormons made the land bloom through hard work. Admission of Utah to the U.S. was not achieved until after the Mormon Church ended its support of polygamy, the practice of a man having more than one wife. National parks like Zion, Arches, and Bryce draw many tourists each year and top filmmakers flock to the Sundance Institute in the mountains outside of Salt Lake City, where independent films are nurtured.

Young Leads Young Religion July 24, 1847


Fleeing from religious persecution in Illinois, a group of Mormons led by Brigham Young came to the Salt Lake Valley in the Summer of 1847. A desolate expanse of land, Young told his group that this was where they would build their new settlement and worship their Mormon religion. Today, that spot is the thriving Salt Lake City, capital of Utah, and headquarters of the Mormon Church (seen here). Utah is 70 percent Mormon and Mormon beliefs influence its politics.

Officially called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormon religion was born in Palmyra, New York in 1823. Here, an 18-year-old man named Joseph Smith told of his vision of an angel named Moroni who told him of a book made of gold leaves, revealing the true nature of the Christian Church and explaining the lost tribes of Israel. Though ridiculed by many, Smith did attract followers, called Mormons.

Smith and other Mormons were persecuted in New York and they moved to Ohio, and then to Missouri, where they were attacked and 17 Mormons killed. They then moved to Illinois, where they were promised peace to practice their new religion.

It was in Illinois that Smith said God told him that Mormons should practice polygamy, the taking by a man of more than one wife. This made non-Mormons hostile toward the Mormons.

In 1844, Smith declared himself a presidential candidate and Brigham Young was chosen to take over leadership of the Mormon Church. That same year, a mob killed Smith and his brother in Illinois. Two years later, in 1846, Young and his Mormons headed west facing much hardship along what came to be called the Mormon Trail; they landed in the Salt Lake area.

Finally, the Mormons found a place to practice their religion in peace. As for polygamy, some Mormons are known to practice it very quietly, even though it became officially illegal when Utah became a state -- American law outlaws the practice of a man having more than one wife.

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