As revelation after revelation spills into the news media about the National Security Agency’s digital spying, the world’s attention can’t help but shift to Utah, home of NSA’s colossal Data Storage Center, a global vortex of phone-tapping, email eavesdropping and all manner of digital snooping.
Everyone from Germany’s Angela Merkel to Utah’s Tea Party wants to know what is going on in the 200,000-square-foot complex of Walmart-esque boxes squatting on the hillside due west of Point of the Mountain. B-29 Enola Gay and her crew trained in total secrecy in the West Desert before kicking off the nuclear age by dropping the world’s first atom bomb on Hiroshima in 1945.
During World War II, the military built exact replicas of German row houses and a Japanese apartment building at Dugway to test fire bombs. The military, if they talk about it at all, explains that the labs at Rhode Island-sized Dugway Proving Ground develop “defensive measures” against potential biological attacks. The remains of 84 prehistoric Indians whose bones were discovered when the Great Salt Lake receded in 1990 have been interred in a concrete vault in Emigration Canyon. Near the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon, carved 600 feet into solid rock, is the Granite Mountain Records Vault, the nuclear blast-proof home of 3.5 billion pages of family history.
No one can argue that the culture of Utah isn’t heavily influenced by the dominant religion. Legend: Under the Uinta Mountains near Moon Lake (or Utah Lake’s Pelican Point, or the Hurricane Cliffs—take your pick) lie the lost mines of Carre-Shin-Obthat worked by Indians enslaved by the Spanish. The military reproduced a Taliban mountain lair on Utah Test and Training Range—basically a sophisticated shooting gallery for U.S.
In 1857, a group of Arkansas emigrants to California were intercepted near Cedar City by Mormon militia and Indians. Underneath downtown Salt Lake, tunnels connect the Temple with the church’s office building and, some say, the Utah Legislature. In the 1990s, NASA prepared an environmental impact statement for testing the mysteriously named (if you’re into ‘50s sci-fi) X-33 at Michael Army Air Field at Dugway.
Shortly after test pilot Ken Collins flew his super-secret A-12 out of Nevada’s Area 51 in 1963, he ran into foul weather.
Two years ago, the Tooele Chemical Agent Disposal Facility finished incinerating 14,000 tons of chemical weapons that had been stored there since the 1940s. Little Mountain Test Facility, a 1,000-acre laboratory for simulating nuclear hardness and survivability of defense systems, lies 15 miles west of Ogden near other facilities where munitions up to the most powerful ICBM rocket motors are tested. 1953: Ranchers were moving 2,000 sheep from a winter range near the Nevada Test Site into Southern Utah when they saw the flash from a nuclear explosion—five nuclear bombs were being exploded above ground. 1971: 1,200 sheep grazing near Garrison collapsed and died with blood pouring from their noses.
Every year, Utah celebrates Pioneer Day on July 24 in honor of the Mormon pioneers who settled the Salt Lake Valley in the mid-1800s. Photographer Michael Friberg found himself living in Utah on and off for roughly five years and became fascinated by the two distinct cultures he found there.
Friberg grew up in the Bible Belt of West Texas and said that experience helped form his interest in the ways religion influence culture. Friberg has worked as an editorial photographer with a diverse portfolio, including series on rodeos, humane slaughterhouses, and mascots. A Mormon man sings hymns on the street in between sessions during LDS General Conference in Salt Lake City in April 2012.
A truck drives around with a banner advertising a single woman's contact information during LDS General Conference in Salt Lake City in April 2012.
Catherine Spruill, an African-American Mormon, sits in front of her ward in West Jordan, Utah.
A security guard stands watch as men line up for the priesthood session at the LDS Conference Center during LDS General Conference in April 2012. At first he wandered around taking pictures of people and events that piqued his interest, eventually landing editorial assignments that allowed him to focus deeper on different stories.

For now, Friberg said he has taken a break from the project to focus on other things, including a project on the Syrian refugee crisis in Jordan with Benjamin Rasmussen; they plan to publish a tabloid-sized newspaper about their experiences in September.
A sign indicating no use on Sunday of a sports field belonging to the LDS church in Provo, Utah.
A picture of the most common representation of Jesus in the LDS church sits on top of a fire alarm at the Missionary Training Center, where young men and women go to train for three months before leaving on their two-year mission. The Snowbird icon, the aerial Tram, was another questionable venture in the beginning.“Half the people in Salt Lake City were after me to not build the tram,’’ he reported. Then there was the hiring Bob Bonar, then a 21-year-old who would eventually turn Snowbird’s avalanche and snow-control staff into one of the most respected in the country and now serves as the ‘Birds president.Johnson also explained the naming of one of the resort’s most popular lifts -- Wilbere Double. Sure, the Smithsonian Institute got the Enola Gay, herself, but Utah got to keep the box she came in—a weather-beaten hangar. It was a horrible “Three Little Pigs” experiment: “Japanesetown,” made out of wood, has long ago vanished. The Indians rebelled and went on to slaughter or dismember, Indiana Jones-style, anyone who attempted to enter them.
The X-33 would be a robot plane capable of flying at 15 times the speed of sound at altitudes of 250,000 feet. Before Collins knew it, he was dangling from a parachute, drifting down 20 miles south of Wendover near the smoking wreckage of his A-12.
By the time the ranchers got to Cedar City, their sheep were dropping dead and lambs were stillborn. The Army investigated what is known as the Dead Sheep Incident and reported the animals had died from eating pesticide-sprayed vegetation. A few weeks earlier, an underground nuke test in Nevada had blown through the ground, sending a radioactive cloud over Utah. Government investigators concluded the horses died of thirst, even though full water troughs were only a few yards away. Above, people dressed as pioneers pose after participating in the annual parade that makes its way through downtown Salt Lake City. Even with that background, Friberg said trying to tackle something as broad as Mormonism was tricky. Twice a year, the LDS church holds the conference, where more than 100,000 Mormons descend on Salt Lake City to hear teaching from leaders in the church and to learn doctrine from their church president, who they believe is a living prophet. Marriage is incredibly important in the LDS church, and for some single Mormons who don't live in Utah, the conference is a great time to meet other young Mormons. Historically, the media has had a lot of fun at their expense, so I expected more trepidation, but I think a lot of them got what I was trying to do,” he said.
Provo is home to Brigham Young University, and the city's population is approximately 90 percent Mormon.
Missionary Mall is set up specifically to supply Mormon missionaries with all the things they need for their two-year missions. Brigham Young descended into the Salt Lake Valley through Emigration Canyon with an advance party in 1846. The building can hold 21,000 people at a time and is used by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir when not in use during the conference. Mormon wedding ceremonies are performed in a semisecret ceremony inside the temple with only Mormons allowed to attend.
Last month Johnson gave a group gathered to officially celebrate Snowbird’s 40th a little insight into Snowbird’s beginning and events that may well have plucked the ‘Bird from the annals of ski history.Johnson, then manager of the up-canyon Alta Lodge and a skier, realized the mountain slopes to the West  presented themselves as material for a world-class ski resort. There was in the beginning a strict policy to not use the names of people for lifts or runs. Perhaps it’s the dominant culture of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has always shrouded its sacred places and rituals in secrecy, and our long relationship with the military-industrial complex.

The exact location is kept quiet, if not secret, to prevent the tomb from being vandalized. Up until recently, the secret temple ceremony included the motions of slashing one’s own throat and stomach if one were to reveal the temple’s secrets that can be googled on the Internet. Some myths say that a Ute chief revealed the location to Brigham Young lieutenant Thomas Rhoades who mined the gold for the temple’s Moroni statue. One of Utah’s unsung attributes is that it looks exactly like Afghanistan (not to mention parts of Iraq and Iran), making military tourism (22,000 sorties annually) to the 19,000-square-mile bombing range a lucrative economic engine.
Within hours, the Air Force showed up with trucks and bulldozers to “sanitize” the crash site.
We know because it was locked down in 2011 when a vial of VX, the most potent of all nerve agents, went missing.
Three decades later (Utah keeps its secrets), the “pesticide” was identified as VX nerve agent that was sprayed on the sheep from an military plane. As the leader of the LDS church at the time, he declared that Utah would be the place they would settle.
Afterward, the couple comes out through a doorway at the temple, and the newlyweds are greeted by the wedding party, family, and friends.
Johnson showed him the Swiss trams “and I saw his eyes roll back in his head and I knew we were going to have our tram.’’ Building the tram was another hurdle. But the tantalizing bits—including that NSA monitors terrorists’ porn browsing, Internet gamers, and a few employees’ ex-lovers—boggles the imagination.
In any case, when it comes to spooky stuff in our midst, Utahns have always adopted a don’t-ask-don’t-tell philosophy (especially if there’s a little economic development involved).
In reality, most Mormons regard the temple ceremonies as not secret, but sacred, and not to be discussed with outsiders. Resembling a low-budget a movie set, the “Taliban camp” includes caves, buildings and mobile launchers complete with dummy missiles. Exactly why it happened and Brigham Young’s role in it was a closely guarded secret that even now is shrouded in mystery. Hikers in the area still find shards of titanium stamped with “Skunkworks,” the secret name for Lockheed aircraft company. He was followed by 70,000 other Mormon pioneers who walked on foot, pulling hand carts, from the Midwest. And, at the time, most of the land was tied up in abandoned mining claims.“Without those claims there would be no Snowbird. He recalled with a chuckle that the team of Swiss engineers sent to Utah to build the tram “required a hot lunch daily and drink . Golf carts whisk high church leaders about—similar to Florence’s Vasari Corridor used by the Medici, or Bruce Wayne’s Bat Cave.
A wine glass imprinted on a container was confirmation that there was also good schnapps inside. And it was an “unbelievable group of young kids, working round the clock, that were responsible for the resort opening.
So intent were the Swiss to complete the tram, when a cable wench broke during cable installation, the two-and-a-quarter-inch cable was hooked to a large piece of heavy equipment that was then driven off a cliff into Mineral Basin, pulling the cable along, where the earth mover sat, buried, for a winter.Also key to the future development of Snowbird was the hiring of Junior Bounous away from Sundance and Robert Redford.
Bounous organized and ran Snowbird ski school program and helped in the early alignment of chairlifts.  “To this day Redford doesn’t like me very much.

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