Print

Page 4 of 5

image Click for more images

“Throw some stuff on the grill like your mother’s done for years and you get some credibility,” heckles one of his friends playfully. Mom’s recipe or not, the simple dish is delicious and authentic, marinated with the essential flavors of Greece: lemon and oregano.

Life with the Mormons. While a degree of ethnic and religious diversity has long characterized Utah and, in particular, Salt Lake City, both remain largely synonymous with its major religious group — the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (L.D.S.), or the Mormons. Mormons consider Utah their religious homeland, and Salt Lake City serves as the church’s spiritual and administrative seat.

In recent decades, the state and its capital have experienced dramatic demographic changes. Utah’s steady economic growth and low unemployment rate have drawn countless “gentiles” (a term some Mormons use to refer to non-Mormons) from other states and countries, making its population one of the fastest growing in the nation. In recent years, for the first time in history, slightly more than half of the one million residents in the state’s most populous county, Salt Lake County, identify as non-Mormon.

Many of Utah’s Greek-Americans have prospered. However, as an ethnic and religious minority, they have experienced discrimination, and still do so on occasion. Diane Johnson, a volunteer at the annual Greek Festival and resident of the predominantly Mormon suburb of Bountiful for 48 years, recalls the difficulties of growing up Greek in a Mormon world.

“Growing up, we were ostracized for being Greek and I didn’t want my kids to go through what I did, so I decided to put them in a parochial school,” she explains. Yet, while her daughter attended parochial school, Mrs. Johnson remembers an incident when, as a high school student, her daughter was no longer allowed to date a young man once his parents found out she was not Mormon.

Jeff Pedersen, an 18-year-old college student of Greek ancestry, describes elementary school in Utah. Mormon classmates would often ask him if he worshiped Zeus or why he wore a “T” around his neck. Mormons do not embrace the cross as a Christian symbol.

“When I was younger people couldn’t be friends with me because I wasn’t L.D.S.,” says his 16-year-old brother, Chris. “Now that I’m in high school, the maturity level has changed and people are a lot more open-minded; I have lots of L.D.S. friends now.”

Vera Limantzakis, co-owner of the Greek Market, recalls attending a Mormon church as a child from time to time, when the weather was too bad to walk the two miles from her home to Holy Trinity Cathedral. “I went to their [L.D.S.] primary [Sunday school] and church, because Mom never drove. Sunday was Sunday and we went to the church just so we could be in a church. They wanted to convert you and everything, but we were never converted,” she says with a laugh.

Yet while many of Utah’s Greek-Americans have an anecdote or two about life with their Mormon neighbors, for the most part, they describe as cordial the relationship between the two communities.

Post a Comment | Comments(0)

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 |


Tags: Cultural Identity Immigration Orthodox Church of Greece Utah