Fresh Eyes on the Beehive

Last time I was in Salt Lake City was on the back of my boyfriend’s Harley Davidson, no helmet, braids blowing from under a pink bandana, headed towards South Dakota. Now, a dozen years down the road, safely buckled in a car with my six year-old son, the bikers rumbled past, headed east for that same bike rally, always held the first week of August.

This time, instead of roaring across the wasteland of Nevada and over the blazing salt flats, I head down from the north. The cattle ranches of Montana give into the gentle rolling wheat fields of Idaho, peppered with the ever present sagebrush. Rocky crags thrust towards the sky, a violent reminder of visible geology, and the valleys of Utah stretch to the horizon.

Heading into Utah, I am struck by an increasing amount of chapels dotting each little town and neighborhood. Simple, plain, white and easily identifiable, the unadorned spires point heavenward. In every direction, reminders we are a covenant people, of why we are here, and on what we focus our time, homes and families.

We are not a perfect people. LDS families share many struggles with families the world over- I know my pile of problems is not particularly unique or special. What did strike me as special was seeing so many people visibly united in their faith. Everywhere I looked, there were symbols I understand, symbols that have deep personal meaning to me, to my family and to my faith.

From someone who grew up in a secular state, with a non-religious family, (and who never cracked scriptures until I was a teen and purchased my own) I dare not take such manifestations of faith for granted.

Say what you will. Complain about the sameness, bemoan the culture of Mormonism, gripe about your bunching drawers and undies, dismay about the uninspired mid-century architecture and homogeneity of our buildings, of the fact that churches in Indiana and California have the same sofa in the foyer, sigh again that white shirts are not part of the Priesthood and that doilies are not required for a woman to have a testimony… go ahead. None of it matters.

If you are a member, or even a thoughtful observer, you are a part of something unlike anything else on earth. No matter what form your testimony takes, what manner your faith assumes, what doctrine you embrace or dismiss, what covenants you honor, if you are a part of this, you are part of something bigger than yourself.

Through this church, I am allowed, even expected, to work out my own salvation. The spires that dot the landscape, the temples shining on the foothills, are reminders to me of others taking on the same battle and beautiful endeavor. I am not alone- and I am grateful.


  1. Amen.

  2. Cynthia L. says:


    Much as I love to mock Utah, every time I go there it takes my breath away with a feeling of coming home (I’ve never lived there) and of a powerful connection with my fellow saints.

  3. Cynthia- exactly. It felt like coming home, even though I have never lived there, and only even riden through that once. It felt like home.

  4. Steve Evans says:

    Amen sister M.

  5. Kestrels_Nemesis says:

    From a thoughtful observer and lurker thank you! I’m a non-denominational Christian, as well as a loving wife of an inactive member. I have been lurking and reading this blog for going on 3 years now to try to get new perspectives on the religion of Mr. Nemesis’ youth.

    Tracy, I have read your writings here and at other blogs in the Mormon Blogosphere, your writing touches me like nothing else. You truly have a gift for the written word and your love for your family, and faith are really inspiring and shine through in all your posts.

    I am going back to lurkdom, but wanted you to know that you have really touched me and helped me better understand what brings people to the LDS church.


  6. Thanks, Tracy. You have a gift for panning gravel and finding gold.

  7. That’s lovely Mrs. Nemesis.

    And Tracy, i’ve had the same feelings – almost a calling towards “visiting the homeland.” I was thinking of taking a road trip to Utah with my 2 this summer, but I think it will be next summer. I’ve never lived in Utah either, but I know I feel really good when I’m in the midst of faithful people. It really lifts me up.

    I love your writing too, T.

  8. Very nice post.
    Three weeks ago I flew to Washington DC by way of Chicago. As the plane took off from O’Hare airport in Chicago on a beautiful sunny afternoon, I watched out the window. The first thing that caught my eye was an LDS ward building. I had the same feelings you speak of, that I was part of something that was everywhere, that I was never really very far from “home”.

  9. Thank you. Particular thanks to Sister Nemesis- for coming out of lurkdom to be so kind, and for letting me know my words are helpful.

    Panning gravel and finding gold… that makes me smile.

  10. Well said. Good stuff.

  11. Fantastic. Thanks for sharing this.

  12. I love reading things like this, especially since I grew up in the shadow of the everlasting hills and have since departed, unsure if I will ever live there again. Going home for visits is so…restoring.

  13. “Panning gravel and finding gold”

    I don’t think I’ve heard a more apt description of your writing, Tracy. That is perfect.

    I have lived outside of my home state for over twenty years. I have been back rarely in that time. There is something that draws my heart still, even though I doubt I will ever live there again. It is my and my wife’s ancestral home, and there truly is a feeling of peace and power in the ordinary, generic, rural town in which I was raised – within a two-hour drive of eight unique Edens.

  14. Excellent. Great post, thank you.

  15. Great post Tracy. I don’t mind that the sofa is the same in every foyer, I just wish it was a little more comfortable.

  16. First of your blogs that I’ve read, but it was wonderful. I truly know the feeling of coming home when I visit Utah and like many I’ve never lived in Utah. You touched my heart with your comments. Thank you

  17. Just minutes ago I read a wonderful post by a guy who doesn’t know me from Adam. He wrote about his home, which he is about ready to move back into, three years after Katrina destroyed it.

    And then this. Tracy, this is beautiful. So many ways of coming home, both to the place you live and a place that you don’t.

  18. Beautiful, Tracy. Thanks.

  19. Steve Evans says:

    Thanks for that link, Ann — great post.

  20. Ditto, Ann. What a wonderful post, especially in connection with Tracy’s.

  21. Reading you post was touching. I can “see” your drive and remember what it was like making a similar drive before. We may refuse to live there, like my father who left 50 years ago and would never even visit if given the choice, but we feel the pull. Every one of my siblings went to a university in Utah. It is home in an odd way that is hard to describe, but which you have done very well. Thanks.

  22. I feel the pull as well. I only spent one year at USU, 3 weeks at the MTC, and lots of summer vacations in Utah. I grew up in Minnesota and Chicago and am raising the kids in TX. But Utah and Southern Idaho are still my ancestral home. 6 generations of my people are buried in the corridor and relatives abound.

    Its kind of like Mecca or Rome

    Well said from my favorite perma

  23. “Its kind of like Mecca or Rome.”
    Or as my non-member mom likes to call it: The Mother Ship.

  24. I have to admit, as I walked around downtown, it crossed my mind, in a funny sort of way, that this was like Mormon Disneyland. He he he. Then I became reverent again.

  25. Seriously lots of LDS families make the trip like a muslim to mecca or a catholic to rome.

    They are all over Temple Square, Down at BYU, fishing up in Idaho on the Snake river etc. Almost every vacation I had as a child was out to Utah and Idaho

  26. merrybits says:

    Wonderful post, Sister Tracy. My only connection with Utah was when I attended BYU. After spending just four years there, I have always considered it my second home, and after reading your post, I am now homesick and need to plan a vist.

  27. Jim Donaldson says:

    I have visited Utah several times, though I’ve never lived there. I like it.

    Fifteen years ago, we realized that only one (uh, my kid) of our active dozen or so older youth had ever been to Temple Square. We commenced planning and then took all those kids 500 miles for 3 days in SLC. We didn’t see everything, but we got all the major things, a choir broadcast, and a couple of parties with the East Bench ward that housed us. It was a fabulous time. We mostly ate in parks while we were traveling. We did it because we wanted them to have that feeling. It worked.

    But I do have to say, I get pretty much this same feeling every time I open the door of our meetinghouse.

  28. Great post and great timing. I will actually be moving to Salt Lake shortly and it is going to be a difficult move since I never in my life planned on living in Utah. Your post has given me some real optimism about establishing my new home there.

  29. “It’s kind of like Mecca or Rome.”

    I recently told a Jewish colleague that Utah is to Mormons what Israel is to Jews. This post captures the sense of the importance of Utah to Mormons nicely.

  30. It’s one thing to visit the “mothership” and quite another to live in it. I’m glad you found gold with your visit.

  31. Having lived in Utah for several years, I find that same feeling of “coming home” whenever I enter our chapel here in central New York.
    Thank you for reminding me of how fortunate I am to have found the place where I truly belong.

  32. Rebecca J says:

    As an addendum to my previous comment, which was made whilst very sleepy, this feeling of being part of something larger than myself is one of the reasons I love being a Mormon. When I was growing up, I always felt out of place among Mormons, and I didn’t have Mormon friends, but when I went away to college, where I was (literally) the ONLY Mormon, it surprised me how lonesome I got for “my people.” I find a certain comfort in this community that I would sorely miss if I left.

  33. Tracy, this was beautiful. Very inspiring. THanks.

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