Salt Lake City was founded in 1847 by Brigham Young and his band of followers that were seeking religious freedom and territorial anonymity to live out the ideals of Mormonism apart from the predominant culture of the United States. The religious trappings sowed almost two hundred years ago still prevail over the city and its workings, with 59% of SLC’s population claiming to practice Mormonism as of 2010. To live and labor in SLC requires a level of understanding of the culture and beliefs of Mormonism that color business and most activities. The hard-working and communal makeup of Latter-day Saints has also left an indelible mark on SLC that still persists today. Hard work is highly valued alongside family and children. The city is also very self-sufficient and functions in many ways like an island in the West.
The other side of Salt Lake City reveals a growing irreligious population. Statistics have shown that over 30% of Salt Lakers claim to be irreligious, believing in no religion and no knowable God. It is not unheard of to meet people in SLC that have neither heard the gospel nor ever seen a Bible. If you were to walk into a restaurant on any given day, you can guarantee you are the only Christian in the building. Though much of the city claims no religion, Romans 1:25 tells us this population does worship. However, they have exchanged the truth about God for a lie. Many in SLC worship recreation, the environment, scientific advancement, education, sexuality, and prosperity.
This can be seen in the way Salt Lake City always tops the charts as one of the best cities to live in for outdoor enthusiasts, with 10 ski resorts within 25-90 minutes of the city center, the Wasatch mountain range with its very accessible trails, and multiple national parks in the state. SLC also has one of the highest populations of people that have run a marathon of any city in the U.S., and many Olympic athletes make Utah their home. On any given weekend there are tens of thousands of people enjoying the outdoors, which is often a barrier to regular church attendance.
Salt Lake City also values education. The city has one of the highest percentages of college graduates in the country. In SLC, The University of Utah has long been a top university in the U.S. for engineering, medical research, and the arts. In addition to the U of U, many other colleges and universities make the Wasatch front their home, including Westminster College, Brigham Young University, Weber State, Utah State, Utah Valley University, and Salt Lake Community College.
Our city is also very young, with 40% of its population between the ages of 20-39. It has often been noted as one of the most desirable cities for millennials. The economy in SLC and Utah has been booming for the last several years, particularly since the 2002 Winter Olympics. Recently, the tech industry has been growing with many tech companies relocating to Utah’s silicon slopes. This has also provided a rich environment for tech startups.
Additionally, SLC has the 7th highest LGBT population in America, with 4.7% of its population claiming to identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. It is very normal to encounter individuals and couples that live within a varied spectrum of sexuality and gender in the city. This demographic is growing and increasingly celebrated by the irreligious and Mormons alike.
Between Salt Lake City’s historic Mormon influence and its growing secular and pagan population is a growing Christian population. In 2010, it was estimated that 3% of the population of Salt Lake City claimed to be evangelical Christian. But the Christian population seems to be growing through people moving into the valley for work and significant church planting efforts.
Preparing for ministry in SLC provides a context in which classroom learning can daily be put to use in sharing the true Gospel with Mormons and those that have never heard the name of Jesus. Living and working in SLC as a part of the minority Christian population provides the impetus to truly understand what you believe and why it is good news for our broken world. We are looking for students that are excited to live in our city, learn our city, and love our city. We can’t wait to see how God is going to call believers to live out His mission here while they train for ministry.