EVERYBODY HAS PROBLEMS. You. Me. The Mormon Church.
The LDS Church's problems began right after someone in the construction department, realizing about 12,000 tons of rock were needed for the new assembly hall in downtown Salt Lake City, said, "Hey, we own a quarry," meaning the granite-strewn church-owned mountain property at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon.In no time, protests came from all over.
Homeowners complained. Rock climbers gasped. Recreationalists hyperventilated. Environmentalists fainted.
When all the smoke and public hearings cleared, the church managed to acquire a conditional use permit, with a two-year time limit and other restrictions, a lot of upset environmentalists and at least one pending lawsuit from a woman who owns a home nearby.
Building isn't easy. Not even when you own the rock.
The LDS Church got there first. Give them that. When they came to the valley, not even America had arrived. The great basin belonged to Mexico. Asi es la vida.
The first use for the granite, of course, was to build the Salt Lake Temple. The Mormon pioneers needed rock, and there was rock, right above them in the everlasting hills.
They briefly considered moving the city to where the rock was, but then resigned themselves to the task of hauling the stone 18 miles into the heart of the city. This was before engines, before Peterbilts. They hauled the granite on carts pulled by oxen.
Even with the arrival later on of the railroad, it took them 40 years to build the temple, which, even by stonemason standards, is a long time.
Since then, the quarry hasn't been used much. The church hollowed out a section for its record-keeping vaults, and that's been about it.
Over time, the rocks were discovered by climbers, who established routes up their faces, gave them cool names like Gate Buttress, Wheels of Fire, Satan's Corner and Becky's Wall and adopted massive boulders at the bottom for "bouldering."
Other than an occasional "No Trespassing" sign to keep the insurance company happy, the church let the climbers climb.
Even now, they've asked the rock climbers to tag any "bouldering" boulders they don't want turned into assembly hall facing and have assured them none of their favorite ascents will be touched.
My personal roots are entwined with the granite.
My great grandfather settled at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon soon after crossing the plains. Solomon Despain knew a nice spot when he saw one. He could have opened the first ski shop at the mouth of the canyon but he was 80 years early.
They named the area Granite, for obvious reasons, although my Aunt Genevieve always thought they should have named it Despain.
My mother grew up there on the banks of the creek, splashing in the cool water and smelling the wildflowers on a homestead that stood where the La Caille restaurant and grounds now stands.
There may not be a more beautiful place in the entire state. My regret is that Solomon didn't hold onto any of the land.
But the LDS Church did hold onto its land - land that extends about two miles above the mouth of the canyon on the north side, all the way to the ridge.
They own it like England owns Bermuda, like Nepal owns Mount Everest.
For more than 150 years they've used it to build a temple and the world's safest safe - and now they want to use it to build a bigger tabernacle.
The result: They've got the neighbor lady screaming at them, a lawsuit pending, rock climbers glaring as they skirt around the construction site and head for the Wheels of Fire, and two years to finish the project or else.
Think they ever long for the good old days and the ox cart?