Since the beginning of its modern-day existence, Salt Lake has been home to varied cultures, religions and lifestyles. Yes, Utah’s capital city is home to the worldwide headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), but it’s safe to say the majority of the world’s religions are also practiced here. Same goes for the ethnic makeup of this, the “Crossroads of the West,” with at least 120 languages spoken in the homes throughout Salt Lake. And though Utah is traditionally thought of as a bastion of conservatism, Salt Lake’s sizable LGBTQ community is both welcomed and celebrated.
The completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 at Promontory Point just north of the Great Salt Lake – just 22 years after the Mormon Pioneers settled in the Salt Lake valley – helps explain Salt Lake’s early multi-cultural heritage, one that thrives today. When the Golden Spike was driven, thus completing the railroad project, thousands of immigrant rail workers, including Chinese, Japanese, Greek and Central European, found themselves out of work, many of whom became the basis of Salt Lake’s diverse makeup. Adding to this influx of multi-cultural inhabitants was the discovery of silver and gold in the towering Wasatch Mountains that nestle the valley, driving yet more settlers into the booming mining towns and into Salt Lake. In more recent times, Salt Lake’s demographics have seen a significant shift with Hispanics accounting for approximately 18% of its residents while Asian population makes up nearly 5% and the Pacific Islander population, mainly comprised of Samoans and Tongans, represent roughly 2% of the population.
The NAACP Salt Lake Branch provides a valuable resource for Salt Lake's multiculturally diverse population. Their purpose is to improve the political, educational, social, and economic status of minority groups with the goal to eliminate racial prejudice while keeping the public aware of the adverse effects of racial discrimination along with taking lawful action to secure its elimination.
Catholic priests and explorers were the first Europeans in the territory that now includes Utah, preceded by generations of Native American tribes, primarily Ute, Paiute and Shoshone. Since the Mormon Pioneers first settled Salt Lake in 1847, the LDS Church has been the predominant religion of the city, county, state and region. However, Mormonism is but one of the many religions practiced in Salt Lake. Today, residents and visitors alike can also practice Baptist, Buddhist, Catholic, Episcopalian, Greek Orthodox, Hindu, Islam, Jewish, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Sikh and Unitarian, to name but a few. All live in a model of religious diversity and interfaith cooperation.