Five Things You Need to Know About Utah

Sylvia Wilcox is hitting the road in Fracture! A missing persons case leads Sylvia to the Utah, a state that has recently become a destination for those looking for a fresh start, the best snow on earth, or a safe, comfortable neighborhood full of friendly faces.

I moved to Utah in 2010 because the economy was strong, and Michigan’s economy had been in dire straits for years. The best part of my story about relocating across country is that I never planned to stay. I mean, think about it. Utah. Who lives there? It seemed like a strange  Well, it turns out that my decision to remain in Utah might not have been so strange. As I look around the state, I see people pouring into the Salt Lake Valley from around the country. Before you move to the Beehive State, here are five things you should know.

Today, I’m going to go through five things people should know before they move to Utah.

5. It’s Not As Religious As It Used To Be, But It’s still Pretty Religious

In the 1840s, Mormon pioneers made the trek across the the country to Utah. While several Native American tribes, fur trappers, and the occasional Catholic priest were already traversing the area, the Mormons moved in and made the place a state. It took over fifty years for statehood to be established due to the faith’s practice of polygamy. But, there have always been people in Utah that are other religions, or don’t have a faith at all. With that said, in 2020, Utah is the “most religiously homogenous state” in the country. Recent statistics show that the population of active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is declining, especially in the state’s largest county. Even so, 60.68% of the state is on the rolls at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints(Salt Lake Tribune). But this number is deceptive. Non-practicing members of the LDS church are counted as members, even if they haven’t attended church in decades. In order to not be counted, members have to ask to have their names removed from church records. This is a bit cumbersome and can cause trouble with family members and friends, so many inactive and non-believing members leave their names on the roll. In reality, I’d say the number of active members falls below 50%, but that’s just a guess.

Even with the decline of active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Utah is still largely Mormon. Some areas are more heavily populated with Mormons, and while those will still be decent areas to live,  communities that are overwhelming Mormon will be difficult places to live for non-Mormons. People will probably speak to you and occasionally make small talk, but it will be very hard to make lasting connections unless you join the LDS church.

So, where is the best place to move in the state? Salt Lake County is going to be the best place for transplant, non-LDS people that move to Utah. Utah County is arguably going to be worst place for a non-LDS transplant, but there are also a few rural counties that are isolated, have poor job prospects and high suicide rates. In northern and central Utah you will find what some call Jack Mormons, people who have some belief in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but do not adhere to the Word of Wisdom-which forbids alcohol, coffee, and for some, tea. You will also find transplants that have moved to Utah for the mountains and trails, and many of them are not part of the dominant faith, so no matter where you move, as long as it isn’t a ranch in the middle of nowhere, or on the edge of the desert, you should be able to make friends.

4. People Are Friendly, But It’s Hard To Make Friends

Utah is one of the friendliest places I’ve ever been, but building lasting friendships is hard. The one exception to this rule is if you have a ready-made community waiting for you. For example, if you’re into Crossfit, you love to hike, have a religion, or already know people, you’ll be fine. But if you’re moving in for a job opportunity, and you don’t know anyone, be prepared for a little isolation.

The good news is that most of the people you encounter are going to be nice and happy to make your acquaintance. Smiles and friendly nods will greet you on the streets of Salt Lake City, and a few people will make small talk, but that might be all it is. The best way to make friends is to have a thing. Any thing that you like to do. Strike up conversations over coffee, or during walks through Liberty Park, and make as many connections as you can because there is a good chance that most of them aren’t going to turn into close friendships.

3. Utah’s Government Is A Bit Controlling…But Only On Specific Issues

When I moved to Utah I thought the government would be a small dot in the rearview mirror of my car. Uber republican state means less government, right? Well, that’s true for some issues. For example, if you want to homeschool your child, Utah takes a very hands-off approach that allows parents to have complete autonomy when it comes to educating their children. Also, guns are readily available for anyone to buy and open carry is legal for anyone 18 and up, but if you want a bottle of wine…Well, you can only get that from a state run liquor store. Pornography websites might have a warning label on them by the time you get here, but that hasn’t become an official law just yet. Polygamy will probably be an infraction, something akin to a traffic ticket, after the currently legislative session, but that is where the freedom ends. Provo, where Brigham Young University is located, recently voted to allow brewpubs in the city. This is the first time Provo, Utah has allowed beer to be brewed in its downtown since Prohibition, but there is currently a referendum underway to overturn this law. As a new resident of Utah, you can expect what most would call social issues to be heavily legislated.

2. The Economy-Jobs EVERYWHERE!

Jobs are plentiful in Utah.  If you want to find a job, you’ll probably be able to find one within a week of starting your search. Salaries are historically low in Utah, but you can always find a job. Now it might not be the job you want, and you might need two or three jobs if you want to buy a house, but you’ll be able to find employment.

Some of the major employers might have decent salaries are eBay, Amazon, and Adobe. There is a section of the state called Silicon Slopes, and that is where you will find tech companies that pay well and have good benefits. Hill Air Force Base is another great place to work in Utah because the salaries are not based on the state’s low pay rates. Instead, you will enjoy salaries based on the cost of living set by the federal government.

4. Safe and Comfortable Neighborhoods…But It’s Going to Cost 

Utah is a great place to live, but the price of housing in some areas may cause a bit of stress. No, in order to move into an affordable area, you will have to be open to living away from the best place, in terms of building your social life, in the state. Salt Lake City is the best place to live in the Salt Lake Valley, and I absolutely loved being in the city, but over time, the price tag was too much. I live in the hip and happy 9th and 9th neighborhood where I was paying 850 for rent in 2012, and that’s before utilities and a required media package. When the rent was raised to 910, I decided it was time to move. Eventually, I was priced out of the market and moved to West Jordan.  And that was in 2012.

If you’re interested in living in Salt Lake City, you will probably end up paying about 1500 in rent. If you want to buy a house…All I can say is that you better bring a hunk of cash with you. My advice, bite the bullet and move north. Not to Davis County, but Weber County. You could move to one of the small cities in the Ogden-Clearfield area and find a place that costs a bit less. Utah County is also going to be cheaper than Salt Lake County, but remember, Utah County is uber religious, so if you’re not into that, choose another county.

1. Downtown SLC, Historic 25th Street in Ogden, and Everything In-between

Historic 25th Street is a wonderful place to visit if you make your way to Ogden. It’s a great place to swing by after a visit to Antelope Island, but there isn’t much to see in the city, which is more of a town for me. There are plenty of restaurants and little shops to stop by while you’re in town, and classical turn of the century homes you can stroll through.

Downtown SLC is a world class city that contains plenty of things to see and do. Visit Temple Square and take a tour of the tabernacle.  After that, you can spend some time in at City Creek Mall, a massive luxury shopping center full of eateries and top notch stores where you can buy a souvenir for family members back home.

One of my favorite things about liing in

Utah has nice cities but, it is nature that people come to visit. Moab, Canyonlands National Park, Zion National Park, really you need to visit all the national parks, and as many of the state parks, but there are also just beautiful natural areas in your backyard you must visit.

Stay tune for Fracture, the third book in the Sylvia Wilcox series. You will be able to purchase the book on my website in April and other platforms, such as Amazon, Kobo, Apple, and other book publishing platforms as well.


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