The state of Utah was the 45th state to join the United States on January 4, 1896. Utah is in the western half of the United States. It is the 13th largest state by area, but the 10th least densely populated state, with a population of about three million people. More than half of the population of Utah belongs to the Church Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. A Gallup survey names Utah as the best state to live in as it has the least income inequality of any of the 50 states.
Utah was originally settled by Native Americans, among them Navajo, Shoshone, and Ute tribes. Spanish exploration began in the year 1540, but they were not interested in forming colonies in the area because the mostly desert landscape would have made life more difficult for them.
Europeans began exploring the area in the 1800s, and in 1824 the Great Salt Lake was discovered by Jim Bridger, the first English speaker to see it. Bridger thought that the lake was actually the Pacific Ocean due to its high salt content, but when he realized it was a salt lake, many Americans and Canadians traveled there to build trading posts.
Utah is very well known for its population of Mormons, or Latter Day Saints. This group traveled from Illinois to Utah in the year 1846. The reason this group had to leave Illinois was that the people they living around did not care for their religious practices. Utah was deemed an acceptable area for them to live, as they liked the desert climate and felt removed enough from others that they could practice religion freely. Many Mormons traveled to Salt Lake, where the original group settled, and more settlements were established from this hub of the religion.
During this time Utah was a Mexican territory, and its journey to statehood was rife with contention. The United States first denied Utah's application for statehood in 1848 because most of the politicians in the United States did not agree with polygamy as practiced by the LDS church. When statehood was approved in 1896, it was with the condition that polygamy would be banned.
The 1900s were a time for the beauty of Utah to be recognized and preserved. It began the century with two national parks, and by 1957 the Parks Commission began with four parks. Now, the Parks Commission manages 43 parks, as well as other areas of undeveloped land water which totals over a million acres.
Utah has a very diverse terrain. There are mountains, deserts, and wetlands. The majority of the populations lives in the valleys and basins of the mountains. Because of the variety of terrain in Utah, the climate also differs. Much of Utah is dry and arid with the typical desert climate, but portions of the state receive up to 500 inches of snow a year due to lake effects.
Tourism is one of Utah's major industries. People come to the state for its great natural beauty and many historical monuments to visit. There many outdoor recreational activities, most notably biking and skiing. Utah also hosts the Jeep Safari in Moab semiannually, which is quite popular with people who own Jeeps. In addition, there are cultural attractions, including several film festivals and Temple Square, which is a complex owned by the church of Latter Day Saints.
Rights for granting women the right to vote were granted in 1870, which was 26 years before Utah became a state. However, these rights ended up being revoked and were not reinstated until the granting of statehood in 1896. Utah has rather strict laws regarding alcohol, cigarettes, and gambling. Alcohol is only sold at state liquor stores, and each beverage must clear state-sanctioned labels. While the majority of the United States has set the legal smoking age at 18, it is 19 in Utah. Gambling in all forms is also illegal in Utah.
Historically, Utah has been a mostly Republican state. This has much to do with the conservative beliefs of the LDS church and their tendency to vote for the Republican candidates. While the Church of Latter Day Saints does not publicly endorse either party, they are primarily Republican. It has been said that it would be impossible for a devout Mormon to also hold views consistent with the Democratic party. Currently, all of Utah's national representatives are Republicans, both Senators, four members of the House of Representatives. Statewide government is also primarily Republican in Utah. Approximately 80% of Utah's state Legislature is Mormon, and since Utah became a state only two governors have not been Mormon.
The rural counties in Utah are the most Republican in the state, as well as the Utah County, which is where Brigham Young University is located. The most Democratic areas are around Salt Lake City. Utah is historically the state where Republican Presidential nominees have their best margins. A Democratic president has not won the state since 1964 when they voted for Lyndon B. Johnson.