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Why are There so Many Mormons in Utah?

By O. Wallace
Updated May 16, 2024
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Ask those even vaguely informed about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints what a “Mormon” is, and they’ll likely associate members with the US state of Utah, which is home to the church’s official headquarters. Even before statehood, Utah has had a high population of Mormons, higher than any other state in the nation. Although people of this religion do hold a majority in the state, the majority of the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) reside outside the US.

On 24 July 1847, then church president Brigham Young, after an arduous trip across the plains, looked out over the Salt Lake Valley and declared, “This is the place,” and the first group set their roots down. They had fled deadly persecution from Missouri, Ohio, and Illinois, and had finally found what they thought would be a place of safety and security. Their descendents would come to be known by some as “Utah Mormons.”

Contrary to popular belief, LDS members do not have the stronghold in Utah as they once had. Though the state has enjoyed a 29% increase in overall population from 1990 to 2000, the Mormon portion of the total population is slightly decreasing. Many believe that this may be due to a thriving economy that attracts non-Mormons from around the country, including immigrants from Mexico, as well as many moving to the region for what may be a lower cost of living. Beautiful geography and good weather coupled with many clean living neighbors may also be an attraction.

In 2006, it was revealed that the Mormons' portion of Utah's total population has actually decreased, and that if current trends continue, by 2030 the LDS population will lose its majority. Although estimates that members of this group comprise approximately 70% of the population have been bandied about, the number is closer to 62.4% (2004). Because this is based on church membership records and not actual church attendance records, the number of people who practice the faith in Utah may be much lower.

The primary reason there are so many Mormons in Utah is, of course, due to the fact that it became a veritable mecca for members all around the world. While the church experienced rapid growth throughout the world over the last century, many members in other countries have moved to Utah to escape less than tolerant homelands, or just because they wanted to live amongst other people who share their faith. Another reason may be due to the fact that people of this religion tend to have more children. In Utah in the 1960s, the birth rate was 4.3 children per woman. Today, that rate in Utah is much lower, though higher than the national average, at 2.6 children per woman.

While the Mormon population in Utah may be on the decline and being redistributed throughout the rest of the nation, the group has undeniably left an indelible mark on the state of Utah today, as well as its history.

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Discussion Comments
By burcinc — On Dec 18, 2012

Aside from Utah, which state has the second highest population of Mormons in the US?

By turquoise — On Dec 18, 2012

@anon93724-- It's sad but true. By the time Brigham Young set out for a place of their own, he had witnessed his close friends killed and his community exiled. So security was most important for them and they sought out a place that no one else would want to live, just like you said.

Mormons went through a lot. They started out in New York, were exiled all the way through Ohio, Missouri and Illinois. When people found out that Mormons had finally settled in Utah and were safe, other members followed.

By ZipLine — On Dec 17, 2012

@indemnifyme-- I have a Mormon friend who is not from Utah but worked there for a while. And even she said that Mormons in Utah were a little different than Mormons she knew in other states.

I think Mormons in Utah have carved out a distinct identity for themselves. That's probably why people still refer to them as Utah Mormons versus just Mormons.

By Ted41 — On Dec 11, 2012

@indemnifyme - That's interesting, and not surprising. I think it would be hard to be the minority in any area where people were so homogenous in their beliefs.

By indemnifyme — On Dec 10, 2012

I definitely don't blame people who are Mormons for wanting to live around other people that share Mormon beliefs. It's always nice to be around like minded people. However, I have heard that it can be difficult for non-Mormons who live in Utah.

A friend of mine lived in Utah for awhile, and she said that a lot of the Mormons there don't want to interact socially with people who aren't a member of that church. Also, she said the conversion attempts got to be a little much after awhile.

By strawCake — On Dec 10, 2012

@eidetic - That's true, but it sounds like their influence may continue to decrease. As the article said, more people who aren't Mormons have moved to Utah for various reasons over the last few years.

By eidetic — On Dec 09, 2012
It's sounds to me like the Mormon church definitely does still have a stronghold in Utah. 64-70% of the population is still a pretty large majority, even though it had decreased.

I know the church has a lot of influence there too. I read an article awhile ago about how one of the basic cables channel there pulled a show from the air because the Mormon church didn't approve of it. To me, that shows that it has a lot of control over the affairs of Utah.

By anon93724 — On Jul 05, 2010

Actually, I think you are putting the cart before the horse. The reason that Utah is a Mormon mecca is because there were lots of Mormons in Utah. Why were there lots of Mormons in Utah? Because in the 1800s their homes were destroyed, they were openly killed, and in fact in Missouri, there was an extermination order (only recently rescinded) stating that Mormons should be driven from the state or killed.

So, they moved way out into the desert where no one else wanted to live and where no one could bother them anymore.

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