A fertile valley features the cultivation of grain and fruit but most of all pumpkins and melons, but the ridges are as bare as those we passed on the day before. Soon we discovered the great salt lake that is 129 km long and 48 km wide and stands out by its high salinity of 22,4 percent compared to 3,5 percent of sea water. Only the water of the Dead Sea at 25 percent surpasses it. Just before Salt Lake City we came close to the lake shore and passed multiple bathing places such as for instance the sanative Beck’s Hot Springs. Vermilion bushes that cover the otherwise bare ledges added some variety into the quite monotonous landscape.
In Salt Lake City we at once got in a carriage to visit the „tabernacle“, the main sanctuary of the Mormons and the other sights of the city.
The founder of the Mormon sect was Joseph Smith who organized his followers into a congregation in the 25th year of his life on 6th April 1830 in Fayette, a small town in the state of New York. In the next year they relocated to Ohio and chased away from there in 1833 to Missouri. Evicted out of this state too, the Mormons turned by the way of Caldwell county to Illinois where they built in Hancock county the city of Nauvoo and a beautiful temple in 1840. But they came into conflict with the other inhabitants that led to its destruction four years after Nauvoo’s foundation and to an open fight in which Smith perished. Brigham Young, Smith’s successor in the prophet’s position, emigrated with 1500 men and trekked on trying roads over the Rocky Mountains to the Great Salt Lake where the congregation settled in 1847 and founded the state of Utah. After it had already been recognized as a territory after three years, the federal government appointed Brigham Young as its governor which led to a special boom time for the colony despite many conflicts. In our days, however, one remarks a decline. The number of gentiles — non-Mormons — has increased very much which seems to have markedly changed the social relations. Furthermore the legislative of the United States has condemned the Mormons‘ polygamy and forced them to give up this practice.
A tour of the city showed us what has been achieved here and how the Mormons have managed to turn the sterile ground fertile by untiring labor. In an agreeable contrast to Vancouver and Butte City we saw here avenues that line the streets and tasteful gardens around the houses with evergreen luxurious lawns. On the building’s walls various climbing plants are entwining themselves so that each house displays in a pleasant way the preferences of its occupants for neatness and their enjoyment of green ornaments. Trees and gardens make the chessboard-like structure of the city look less monotonous and some buildings are quite tastefully designed. Through the streets drawn straight as an arrow dashes a continuously ringing electric tramway but one also still sees many good trotters pulling light wagons.
The tabernacle is a giant elliptical building. 76 m long, 45 m wide and 21 m high. The roof carried by 44 slender sandstone pillars is constructed out of wood and covered with iron shingles. It constitutes one of the largest open vaults of the world. The large interior space that is intended for church service activities of the Mormons resembles a gigantic theater. The floor and the wooden gallery contain 8000 seats, while there would be room for 12.000 persons in total. At the Western end is a platform with chairs for the president, the bishops, the twelve apostles and the speakers as well as the choir that is arranged a mighty organ. From the outside the completely unadorned tabernacle is reminiscent of an incredible large turtle.
As there is a festive church service only every Sunday at 2 o’clock in the afternoon we could not attend one which we vividly regretted. The acoustics in this huge building are excellent. Despite the length of the hall one hears every word whispered at the opposite end and can even hear the fall of a pin onto the gallery balustrade, an experiment our guide proudly demonstrated.
To the East of the tabernacle lies the new temple completed in 1862, a stately building of light-grey granite with three towers each on both narrow sides. The middle tower of the Eastward facing main façade is crowned by a colossal statue made out of richly gilded copper that represents the Mormon angel Moroni. As, in my view, the proportions of this building’s height to its width can not be brought into harmonic accord, I can not declare it beautiful. But due to its size it has a commanding look. In the temple religious acts are performed such as marriages, baptisms and consecrations of priests and bishops as well as sermons preached and special prayers held. The new temple did cost 4,000.000 dollars up to now and is said to be richly decorated in its interior. Unfortunately the entrance is permitted only to Mormons. That’s why we had to make do with viewing only its exterior.
Not far from the temple we saw the tithing storehouse where the Mormons have to deliver the quite considerable tithe in kind and for this purpose there were vehicles with goods to be delivered. Next to this prosaic building was a small district owned once by Brigham Young who ruled his congregation like a small tyrant. Here there are the hive house and the lion house ornamented with their respective symbolic emblems. They are worth mentioning as in these buildings lived ten wives of the prophet while his favorite wife owned a villa for herself alone on the opposite side. Brigham Young had 42 wives and was blessed with children whose numbers according to different sources are said to be 56 to 76. Even if the former number is the right one, the unusual head of the family must have had not inconsiderable difficulties in providing food for his household and upholding domestic tranquillity.
Among the gentiles very drastically interpreted photographic caricatures are circulating about the marital life of Brigham Young which would in itself be a sufficient deterrent to join this sect. Currently three widows of the the much-married man are still alive as well as some sons. One out of this offspring we encountered in the streets.
At the spot where Brigham Young and his band of Mormons ended their long trek and divided the surrounding terrain and organized the planning of the city rises a not very tasteful statue showing an eagle that sits like a brooding hen on four plump iron arches. The grave of Brigham Young who died in 1877 and those of many of his wives are covered only with an unadorned stone in a lawn surrounded by poplars and a wrought iron gate.
The most beautiful view upon the city and its surroundings to the wide area of the salt lake is offered from Prospect Hill. With pleasure the eye is resting on the numerous poplar, acacia and maple avenues as well as the gardens over which the temple and the tabernacle are towering in their huge bulkiness. From here one can also see Fort Douglas that „Uncle Sam“ has built after the Mormons had come into too much open contradiction of the laws and institutions of the United States.
Our talkative driver, who seemed to have been a very intimate friend of „Whisky“, then guided us across the whole city and showed us the houses of the most important Mormons and the most beautiful hotels, among them the Templeton Hotel where I took the elevator to the fourth floor to enjoy the panorama from there too.
Finally we visited some curio shops in which very pretty objects, especially minerals from the numerous mines in the vicinity, Indian objects and furs were offered. The Mormons with which I spoke during this encounter made no secret about their feeling much pressure from the constant increase of gentiles and that the polygamy was still continuing despite it being no longer recognized by law.
The remaining time of the afternoon I spent writing in my rolling home, the Pullman car while my gentlemen drove again into the city. Towards the evening a bad tempest unloaded itself in pouring rain with thunder and lightning which escorted us out of the city during our departure to Colorado Springs.