16 August 65 : Mormon marriage and changing plans : Salt Lake City, Utah

Monday 16th August 1965

Salt Lake City 

Dear Family,

I am sitting outside the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, waiting for the potatoes to boil.

The reason for this is that we have just been on a tour of the Temple and are going back later this evening to listen to the world famous organ in the very unique Mormon Tabernacle. This is an amazing domed building, over 100 years old, and the acoustics are so good that you can hear a pin drop 200 feet away.


Salt Lake Temple Square, approx 1900 – the Temple is to the right and the domed Tabernacle to the left.


We arrived here late this afternoon, but apart from the temple there isn’t really a lot to see. We learnt all about this very strange faith and don’t really know what to make of it.

Apparently John the Baptist came down, just outside Philadelphia in 1829, and spoke to a fellow called Joseph Smith and he thereby started this faith. They were run out of the East and came over here and formed this city.

I told Colin that Dad (a Police Inspector) meets people frequently who claim this sort of thing – but they are usually locked up in Redland Police Station.

We drove from Yellowstone down Route 89. This is known as the ‘Park to Park Highway’ as it goes through, or near, many National Parks. We left Yellowstone and went through the Grand Teton National Park, and this was fabulous.


Jackson Lake and Teton Range, Wyoming P2.jpg
Tony’s postcard, captioned: Jackson Lake and Teton Range, Wyoming.  Nestled in dense forests, the smooth waters of Jackson Lake mirror the keaps of the Teton Range whose pointed summits rise with sheers slopes a mile above its level.


The Tetons are a range of mountains which are very jagged and rocky and very picturesque, especially when viewed from over Jackson Lake, a large blue lake at their base.

We didn’t stop at this park but just drove through it. On our last day in Yellowstone we saw moose and elk (nearly ran over one) and, of course, bears. I was doing the washing up one evening outside the van when I saw a huge bear lumbering towards us. I jumped inside and shut the doors, and he then went to our neighbours and pinched their rubbish bag and ran away with it. He was the biggest we have seen so far!!


img146 Bear encounter – Yellowstone N P, Wyoming, USA (1)
Tony’s photo: Bear encounter, Yellowstone National Park.


There was a knock at our door yesterday morning and it was a fellow world traveller. He was Australian and has been away for four years (original plan two years). He had spent two and a half years in England and saved enough to visit North and South America. He had a Land Rover and was very well equipped.

We spent most of the day with him and found him most interesting. We said goodbye to him and went our separate ways, and the next day (Tuesday) we met another couple of world travellers. This was a married couple from Yorkshire who are just completing a two year trip around the world.

He has just retired and they have just been to New Zealand, where the woman had relatives. They also had a Land Rover in which they slept, cooked, and generally lived in. They had been all down through India, and had booked nothing in advance. In Ceylon they just managed to get on a ship before it sailed. They are on their way down to Mexico, like us, and we have seen them twice since on the road.

They told us something which has caused us to change all our plans rather dramatically. They came over on a freighter from New Zealand with a German shipping line, and they told us that this company takes on ‘workaways’- people who want to work their passage.

Apparently on their boat there were six altogether, and at San Francisco another one signed on. So after a bit of thought we dashed into a travel agents and called San Francisco to cancel our ticket with the P&O Line. We got a full rebate on this, and also on our airline tickets too.

Our plan now is to try and get on one of these ships and, if we can, then we shall take our Volkswagen to New Zealand with us, and eventually bring it all the way back to England. It’s a bit of a gamble but we are hoping we can work our passage – so it may pay off. If it does it means we shall have transport and accommodation in New Zealand, and be better off through not having to pay the full fare each. So please all keep your fingers crossed!!!

We are now down at Bryce Canyon National Park, just north of the Grand Canyon. We have only just arrived and, as it is raining, we are in the lodge – letter writing. We have decided to stop here a day or two, as we have been piling on the miles just lately. We have done over 5000 miles since we set off from New York, and the Volkswagen now needs an oil change and a check up.


Tunnel on Navajo Trail Bryce Canyon National Park P12.jpg
Tony’s postcard, captioned: Tunnel on Navajo Trail Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, Just below the rim at Sunset Point the Navajo Trail tunnels through a colourful cliff to present an unexcelled vista of the Queen’s Garden.  In the distance is the unexplored Kalparowits Plateau. 
img156 Bryce Canyon N P, Utah.jpg
Tony’s photo: Bryce Canyon


img155 Bryce Canyon N P, Utah.jpg
Tony’s photo: Bryce Canyon


This morning we had a very interesting talk for about an hour with a gas station attendant. He was a Mormon and told us a terrific amount about this organisation. He ended up by giving us each a big copy of ‘The Book of Mormon’ which is their bible – which was very kind of him.

He told us many strange things, but the strangest, I thought, was this – apparently Mormons, if they are married in the Temple, are married for eternity. This means they are also married for the life hereafter – which they strongly believe in. Only certain ‘high’ members are allowed in the Temple and this means that many die without this marriage. Also millions have died, generations ago, before the Temple was even built.

To rectify this, the records are traced back to the early 1800’s, when all this started, and these dead couples are married by proxy – with two present-day Mormons taking their place. This then assures them of an eternal marriage – even though they have been dead for many years. About 80% of Salt Lake City citizens are Mormons – as is the whole state of Utah, which is known as the Mormon State.

To be continued… 

Note from Tony: I remember the tour of the Mormon Tabernacle very well, and particularly the demonstration of the incredible acoustics. The tour guide positioned us visitors high up, at the furthest point from the centre of the dome.

He stood at a table on the floor level and spoke to us without a microphone, and told us all about the building. Finally, he asked us to be very quiet – and then dropped a pin onto the table. We heard a loud ‘clattering’ sound as the pin settled on the table. Very impressive!

Plus: This ARTICLE has an interview with an ex-Mormon discussing posthumous wedding ceremonies in the Temple.

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