When people think of Utah, the first thought that leaps to their minds is Mormonism. While the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the driving force behind the colonization of Utah and continues to be a major part of our culture, many people with diverse beliefs have found that "this is the place."

- The Sharmas are a family of practicing Hindus who live in Holladay. They have continued age-old traditions brought with them from India. These traditions range from visiting the Hari Krishna temple in Spanish Fork to an arranged marriage for their oldest son to a woman from India.Shree Sharma described his culture this way: "Hindus are a peace-loving people. You would not see a Hindu exhibiting signs of road rage." The overwhelming feeling from talking to the Sharmas is that they are seeking balance in their lives.

Sharma was born in the Brahman caste, which makes him a teacher. He came to the United States to receive his education, and he has attended schools all over the country. He has his Ph.D. in chemical engineering and chose to settle in Salt Lake City because of the strong family values in the state. He currently works as a stockbroker at Dain Bosworth.

One of the most interesting things that the Sharmas believe is that all religions are correct as long as they are teaching moral principles. Hinduism thinks of life as a series of pathways. Christianity, Buddhism and Islam are all separate roads to the same destination. They believe in Old World Indian values, but are very accepting of others. They have LDS missionaries to their home on a regular basis for meals.

- Terri Chambas is a Jewish student at Cottonwood High School. She has lived all over the country, but her family settled in Salt Lake City because of the booming economy.

Terri was born Jewish through her mother's side of the family. Her official entry into Judaism came on her 13th birthday when she had her bat mitzvah. She attends synagogue and Jewish youth groups.

Terri studies from the Torah and says prayers by candlelight on Friday nights. She does try to eat kosher but is not always successful. She likes to eat hot dogs, but avoids mixing meat and milk.

Being a Jewish teenager in Utah is not always easy. She faces many challenges, often just from going to school.

"I've had friends whose parents have told them not to be my friend because I'm Jewish. Sometimes they won't let me come over to their house. Ninth grade was the worst year because most people at my school were Mormon, and a lot of people discriminated against me."

Terri is not easily offended by racist comments, and she usually just brushes them off and chalks them up to ignorance. She did, however, say that she is bothered by people who make comments like, "jewed out of money" and people who show any sort of respect for Adolf Hitler.

Being Jewish also causes one to be the center of attention in many settings, which makes Terri feel a strong sense of moral duty. She feels she must be an example of Judaism at its best. She also feels more is expected out of her because she is in the minority.

- Rebecka Olsen is a junior at Alta High School. She is another student who has a lifestyle different from the mainstream in Utah. She practices Wicca, a form of witchcraft. Wiccans do not believe in a god or a satan; they believe that life is filled with energy, and they simply channel that energy. Such channeling is what the layman would call a "spell." They use a wide range of props to aid them, from candles to chants.

Wiccans believe in goodness. A common perception among Wiccans is that any evil spell put on someone comes back threefold. Wiccans use energy to help the sick, solve financial difficulties and provide assistance for myriad other problems. They want to help others more than they want to mix exotic brews in iron cauldrons.

Rebecka feels accepted for the most part by her peers. While there is curiosity concerning her beliefs, most are willing to accept Rebecka's unusual religion as just one of the many aspects of Rebecka.

"People usually want to know about me when I tell them that I'm a witch. People usually don't understand at first. They think of evil Disney witches with black dresses and pointy hats," Rebecka explained. Such a description certainly doesn't fit with Rebecka. Rebecka has found life much easier since she moved from Tooele to Sandy, as she feels students at Alta are more open-minded.

Diversity surrounds us, even if it may be difficult to find at times. While differences can separate us they can also bring us together. We all have something to offer one another.