Utah's History

By Thomas G. Alexander; Eugene E. Campbell et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 33
Religion in Twentieth-century Utah

James B. Allen

The history of organized religion in twentieth-century Utah reflects many of the patterns established in earlier years, as well as certain new elements. It was only natural that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) should remain the dominant faith and that some of the stresses between Mormons and other missionary-minded Christians should continue, at least for a time. By midcentury, however, most of the old antagonisms seemed to have disappeared. Missionary zeal remained, but it was generally tempered with a spirit of amity and good will.

A few statistics reveal the unique pattern of religious activity in Utah. Since early in the century about three-fourths of Utah's population have professed church membership, and nine out of ten of these have been members of the Mormon Church. (See Table H, pp. 692-93. Estimates of denominational strength vary widely; numbers used in this chapter are based on this table.) This suggests that a high birth rate and local proselyting have maintained the Mormon preponderance, despite the heavy influx of non-Mormons into Utah mining and industrial centers, especially in connection with two world wars and the defense buildup of the 1950s.

The state's second most prominent denomination has been the Roman Catholic Church, which claimed approximately 2.5 percent of the total population in 1914 and 4.4 percent in 1975. Catholics constitute the major non-Mormon group in the Salt Lake, Ogden, Oquirrh, Provo, and Price regions. The third largest religious body in the early years was the Greek Orthodox Church, which was 1.3 percent of the total population on the eve of World War I. Most of these were Greek and Southern Slav immigrants

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