Utah’s Identity Crisis

In this article we examine Utah’s identity crisis, problems, corruption, LDS church dominance, homeless crisis and more.


The LDS Church was recently fined $5 million by the SEC for hiding billions of dollars. Perhaps giving unto Caesar what is Caesar’s doesn’t always apply in the world’s second wealthiest Church. 

Utah political leader corruption among LDS members, including former Department of Agriculture Chief Kerry Gibson, is nothing new.

Gibson was let go for corruption and collusion after enriching himself with taxpayer money with the roll out of the legal medical cannabis bonanza. Enormous amounts of money could be earned with the awarding of a coveted Utah medical cannabis grower license. But Gibson isn’t alone. Influence peddlers like David Robinson, who is suing every Utah media outlet for reporting on how he allegedly sexually harassed several women, went on for years.

The “good old boys network” is Utah’s Tammany Hall, where LDS billionaires dream up hare-brained schemes like a gondola that would decimate the environment in one of Utah’s few remaining natural wonders Little Cottonwood Canyon. These “dreamers” who have far more money than brains, advertise their gondola on the illegal billboard at the mouth of the canyon they wish to ruin for all but the elites they cater to.

Still, Utah is home to philanthropists who give enormous fortunes to help the needy: Gail Miller, the Eccles, and tech millionaires like Ryan Smith fuel our incredible economy and help make Utah a leader in cancer research and philanthropic gifts, and of course, there are the exceptional artists you will read about in the following pages. Still, a new prevailing sentiment is beginning to override our spirit of compassion, and that is greed.

Greed is causing billboard giant Regan Advertising to thwart national legislation that prohibits boards on scenic byways. Greed is causing a complete absence in building affordable housing, with our leaders paying lip service to helping the mentally ill who are roaming rampant on our streets. Greed is preventing SLC’s Mayor from ending emergency measures put in place six years ago that allows the raiding and harassing of homeless camps to continue, in effect indirectly causing the deaths of homeless, unsheltered Utahns.

Meanwhile, the rich in Utah get richer and the poor get poorer, and the gap between the two grows ever wider. Our Utah Stories podcast addresses these issues, including how iGens and Gen Zs face an unaffordable housing future. 

The questions boil down to both our values and our priorities. Can we be NIMBYs, rejecting all projects that might allow more families more opportunities to find affordable housing while compassionately allowing our 20- and 30-year-old children to live in our basements a few more years? 

Can we continue giving to the poor with one hand while pushing them down with the other? 

Can we be a state with the nation-leading per capita economic input and charitable giving while we begin to look just like Los Angeles in terms of our homeless population, cultural decay and drug addiction? 

We can’t solely blame the LDS Church network for the corruption and backroom dealing. Utah has always been somewhat of a red-headed stepchild among other western states. Utah’s growth has always been stunted due to our reputation as being a place where it is impossible to get a drink. Charles Barkley reminded us how outsiders view our city as a “boring place”. Many of us took pride that outsiders would skip over Utah for vacations or considerations for places to inhabit. 

Today, SLC is a city of “diversity, inclusion” and a quickly-growing LGBTQ community. The urban core of SLC that never really existed is morphing into an entirely new creature. 

The Church seems reluctant to determine what to do with this creature: Feed it? Shun it? Stop it? Baptize it? The church is like Daenerys Targaryen meeting her dragon children, knowing well it can be a force for both good and evil. It seems the Church will try to ride this dragon and hope it doesn’t get burned in the process.

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