Utah (Update)

By Shelley Gollust and George GrowThe western American state of Utah is busy preparing for the Winter Olympic Games next year. Utah is one of America's most beautiful states. I'm Shirley Griffith.And I'm Steve Ember. The state of Utah is our report today on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.

Utah is in the Rocky Mountains of the American West. Most of Utah is dry. Average yearly rainfall is thirty centimeters. Yet, a lot of snow falls in the mountains in winter.

Utah does not have a large population compared to most American states. There are only ten people for every square kilometer. Almost everyone lives in cities. Ninety-five percent of the population is white.

Companies in Utah produce metals, missiles, scientific instruments, and computer parts. Farmers produce beef, corn, wheat, potatoes, and fruit.The state covers about two-hundred thousand square kilometers. Its highest point is Kings Peak, which is about four-thousand meters above sea level. The average temperature in summer is twenty-three degrees Celsius. The average temperature in winter is four degrees below zero Celsius.

Over thousands of years, wind and rain have worn away the land in Utah. As a result, the state has some unusual land areas. For example, Monument Valley has tall towers of red sandstone. Rainbow Bridge National Monument is the largest known natural stone bridge in the world.The Great Salt Lake near Salt Lake City is the largest natural lake west of the Mississippi River. Its water is saltier than ocean water. It is considered one of the natural wonders of the world.

The Bonneville Salt Flats used to be at the bottom of a great inland sea. The area is now smooth, dry and hard. Races with high-speed vehicles have been held there for many years.

Utah also has five national parks, including Arches, Bryce Canyon and Zion. The national parks help make it a popular holiday area. The state is one of the best places in the United States for snow skiing in winter. In warm weather, visitors can play golf, ride horses, walk on trails, and sail on lakes and rivers. They can visit the ruins of ancient native American Indian settlements. And they can see the remains of ancient dinosaurs.Salt Lake City is the capital of Utah. It is also the largest city in the state. It is the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The members of this church are known as Mormons.

About seventy percent of the people who live in Utah are Mormons. Their main religious center is the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City. People of other religions are not permitted inside. Next to the Mormon Temple is the Mormon Tabernacle. It is famous for its singing group, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Here they sing, "Come, Come Ye Saints."

((TAPE CUT:"Come, Come Ye SaintsIN FULL TO :43))The first people who lived in the area that now is Utah more than ten-thousand years ago were American Indians. They lived in caves, and hunted animals and gathered wild plants for food. Other Indians, the Anasazi, moved to the area about two-thousand years ago. They made their homes in the sides of mountains. Later, Navajo, Shoshone, and Ute Indians lived there.

In the middle Seventeen-Hundreds, Spanish explorers arrived. But Spain was not interested in establishing colonies.The Mormons were Utah's first permanent white settlers. Joseph Smith established the church in New York State in Eighteen-Thirty. Brigham Young became its leader after Smith died. The Mormons believe their church is the true and complete church of Jesus Christ on earth. Their beliefs and customs are different from those of other Christian religions.

Many Mormons were oppressed for their beliefs. So they traveled to several states to find a place where they could live in peace and have religious freedom. They did not find that place until Eighteen-Forty-Six. That is when Brigham Young led a group of Mormons on a trip west.

The group reached the Great Salt Lake area a year later. Brigham Young looked out across the Salt Lake Valley and said, "This is the right place." Mormons from other parts of the United States, and from several countries in Europe, later joined this first group of settlers.When the Mormons first arrived, the area belonged to Mexico. The United States and Mexico were at war at the time. The United States won the war and gained a large area of land, including Utah.

In Eighteen-Forty-Nine, the Mormons established what they called the state of Deseret. The Mormon word means, honey bee. It represents hard work. The Mormons set up a temporary government with Brigham Young as governor. They approved a constitution and asked Congress for permission to become a state.

Congress decided to make the area a territory instead. Congress named the territory Utah for the Ute Indian tribe that lived there. Officials of the territory of Utah asked for it to become a state several more times. But Congress refused, mainly because of the Mormon tradition of polygamy. The Mormons allowed a man to have more than one wife at the same time. In Eighteen-Sixty-Two, Congress passed a law banning polygamy throughout the United States.Utah played an important part in the development of communications and transportation in America. In Eighteen-Sixty-One, the first telegraph message across the country was sent along wires from Washington, DC, to San Francisco, California. The wires met in Salt Lake City. In Eighteen-Sixty-Nine, the first railroad across the country was completed at Promontory Point, Utah.

In Eighteen-Ninety, the Mormon Church banned polygamy. Five years later the territory of Utah presented a new constitution to Congress. The constitution said polygamy was illegal. It also prevented any church from controlling the state. Congress approved that constitution. So Utah was admitted to the union as the forty-fifth state on January fourth, Eighteen-Ninety-Six.Today, almost two-million, two-hundred-forty thousand people live in Utah. It is one of America's smallest states in population, but it is growing fast. Its population rose by almost thirty percent during the past ten years.

The state's population is expected to rise by another two-hundred-thousand people in the next five years. People are moving to Utah because of its natural beauty, good jobs, and less tense way of life. The increasing population is causing concerns for some people. They feel the growth of homes, industries and cars will harm the environment.Utah's economy is growing. A few years ago, Utah had the sixth fastest growth rate among the fifty states. State officials say Utah has the youngest labor force of any state. Utah also has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.

Utah earns hundreds of millions of dollars from visitors each year. Next year, one of the biggest public sporting events will be held in the Salt Lake area. The Nineteenth Olympic Winter Games will open on February eighth and continue until February twenty-fourth, Two-Thousand-Two.

An estimated three-thousand five-hundred athletes and officials from about eighty countries are expected to take part. Most Olympic skiing events will take place in Park City - Utah's largest skiing center.The Salt Lake Olympics had problems, long before the games are to open. Two years ago, an investigation found that top officials of the Salt Lake Olympic Committee gave money and gifts to members of the International Olympic Committee. The payments were reportedly made in an effort to win votes for the city to hold the Winter Games. The findings badly damaged the image of Salt Lake City and the Olympics.

The Salt Lake Olympic Committee re-organized. A new leader was named who has a record of buying troubled businesses and improving them.

Utah officials believe that the Winter Olympics next year will be a big success. They hope that the athletes who compete and the millions of people who watch them will discover the beauty of the state.

This program was written by Shelley Gollust and George Grow. It was produced by Cynthia Kirk. I'm Shirley Griffith.And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another report about life in the United States on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.