SALT LAKE CITY - Brigham Young called it "Deseret."
To writer Wallace Stegner it was "the Mormon Empire" - a vast swath of Great Basin territory from Mesa, Ariz., in the south to Boise in the north, and from Reno, Nev., in the west to Grand Junction, Colo., in the east - whose residents looked to Salt Lake City for religious and political guidance.
The profile of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in America is still centered in the Mountain West, where more than three-quarters of U.S. Mormons live. Mitt Romney's bid for the Republican presidential nomination demonstrated their influence in the region as Latter-day Saints boosted him to easy primary victories in Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Wyoming.
The Intermountain West has become "the most urban area of the country," says University of Utah historian Paul Reeve. The region's 19th century agriculture-based economy has been replaced by a service economy that increasingly attracts job-seeking outsiders.
Diversity and change within U.S. Mormon populations make it increasingly difficult to define the church, says Kathleen Flake, who teaches American religious history at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. "The Intermountain corridor no longer gives a full view of the church's contours."
This weekend, Mormons worldwide will raise their hands at the church's 178th General Conference to signal support for Thomas S. Monson as their 16th prophet. The U.S. church he inherits is distinct from that led by former presidents. Here's how it looks.
* Mini-Utah: Southeastern Idaho is Mormon country, to be sure. Franklin County has the largest percentage of Mormons in the country, 91.5 percent, outpacing even Utah County's 88.1 percent. And influence from Salt Lake City is huge. The church's twice yearly conferences are broadcast on commercial TV.
George W. Katsilometes, 65, of Pocatello runs Lava Hot Springs Inn. His grandparents came from Greece in 1903 to work for Union Pacific Railroad.
"My take on the LDS Church is that they are very communal," he says. "They tend to be together in their group and help each other a lot. . .They want others to mingle with them; they want their church to grow. But they don't necessarily go out of their way to learn about others."
* The Arizona experience: Jacob Hamblin began leading Mormon missionary settlers into Hopi country as early as 1858, and they continued to work their way south. Eventually, Mormon outposts sprung up along the Little Colorado, Salt and Gila rivers.
Mormons learned to get along with their neighbors, says LDS historian Charles Peterson. "Never did they get into quite as much difficulty and bitterness over polygamy as they did in Idaho. Other groups were very grateful for the know-how and tradition of Mormon irrigation. That made for some better feeling." Some towns today, such as Snowflake, Gilbert and Thatcher, are still overwhelmingly Mormon, while others have lost their LDS hegemony. In the past three decades, the LDS population in Mesa has declined from nearly 50 percent to less than 8 percent, says Eric Paul, a Mormon architect.
* Mellow Mormonism: A year before Brigham Young uttered "This is the place" on a hill above modern-day Salt Lake City, some Saints sailed into the San Francisco Bay. Many of today's California Mormons point with pride to that parallel history.
California is home to more Mormons than any state other than Utah - more than 750,000.
Latter-day Saints are steadily climbing the state's corporate ladders and many are reaching the pinnacle of success in, for example, the computer game industry, the L.A. philharmonic, Disney, Univision and the Dodgers. Though few Mormons are among the state's power brokers, church members in 2000 helped push Proposition 22, which defined marriage as between only a man and a woman. But they haven't yet gotten involved in making it a constitutional amendment.
* Polynesian culture: Mormonism in Hawaii is more homegrown.
Missionaries arrived on the islands as early as 1850 and the church boomed. Fifteen years later, the LDS Church bought 6,000 acres of ranch land on the north shore of Oahu, which became a gathering place for early Hawaiian LDS converts. The Hawaiian temple in Laie, dedicated in 1919, was the first temple built outside the continental U.S.
Today, Hawaii's Mormon population is more diverse than in the Intermountain West. BYU-Hawaii, for example, draws about 2,300 students from 70 countries.
"Hawaii is kind of a beef stew - such a mixture of things," says Jack Hoag, 75, the LDS spokesman for Hawaii who joined the church 41 years ago. "We have more interracial marriages than anywhere else in the country. More blending of religions than anywhere."
Hoag says he's never seen "any particular tension" between Latter-day Saints and others on the islands, which he attributes to the blending. "There's hardly a family here that doesn't have a friend or a cousin who's on a mission. There's always an interconnection."