Reputation notwithstanding, Salt Lake City has all the desirable aspects of a big city

Utah has never had the best reputation. Ever since the pioneers were forced to flee the Midwest and Brigham Young proclaimed, “This is the place,” Utah has been “the Mormon state.” Unfortunately, many have deemed Utah as sheltered, unprogressive and ultimately an undesirable place to live. Furthermore, those of us who live here may feel strangled by the conservatism due to its roots in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Utah is and always will be a conservative state on paper. Our local government and national contribution will always be mostly Republican. But how heavily do government policies and party association really affect individual daily lives? The fact that Utah is possibly the most Republican state in the United States doesn’t remove individual right to opinion and the pursuit of happiness.

As a whole, it seems we in Utah actually experience a better quality of life compared to other states — at least in regards to health, wealth and education. The Desert News published an article in 2009 that claimed “[Utah] still has one of the highest percentages of competent readers in the nation … 92 percent of people 16 and older in Utah can read a newspaper.” Utah has positive job growth and the 10th-longest life expectancy. So while we might have to put up with a seemingly overwhelming presence of disagreeable ideals, we are actually living under pretty decent conditions. Along with this, the greater Salt Lake area is extremely metropolitan, with an accessible public transportation system, vast knowledge and social resources and an international airport.

It’s also important to recognize that, contrary to popular belief, we are in no way cut off from “real world experiences.” Just as any other fairly large city in the nation, Salt Lake contains homeless people, drug addicts and the like. In 2013, Salt Lake City was ranked more dangerous than New York and Los Angeles based on FBI reports of murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft.

Not only does Utah have one of the most “urban” cities in the nation, but it also boasts a vast array of year-round outdoor recreation opportunities. You can spend your weeks in the big city becoming literate, getting a job and avoiding imminent danger, and spend your weekends hiking, biking, camping, swimming and, of course, skiing. As residents of Utah, we actually have access to almost anything one could hope to experience from a single state. If we are isolated from the rest, it’s because we really don’t have to go anywhere else for anything, unless you want to go to the beach.

Interestingly enough, our long entanglement with strict religious and conservative behavior may have actually engendered a very prominent and fervent subculture. Considering the idea of group polarization, the imposition of a strong belief system prompted the growth and solidification of a radical dissenting group. For example, not only is Utah 60 percent Mormon and the most Republican state in the nation, but Salt Lake is also one of the best communities for the LGBTQ+ population, according to The Advocate. Think of it this way: We wouldn’t have such strong opinions if we didn’t have anything to be opinionated about. This might lead us to thank our pioneer ancestors for indirectly causing the formation of a tenacious, opinionated and diverse sub-community of individuals.

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