The aptly named Easter family parades all of the clichéd characteristics of Mormonism.
And then they don't.
They live here, just north of Salt Lake City, in 7,000 square feet of three-car-garage luxury atop a 5,000-foot hill with the kind of valley views that surely gave Brigham Young pause way back when. They have three children, not 13. Their neighbors, 90% of them Mormons, are doctors and corporate executives -- of caffeine-charged Pepsi, no less. George Easter himself holds a law degree.
And, no, he isn't squirreling away any extra brides.
"'We're normal, mainstream people," insists Michele Easter, 52. "We own SUVs. We car pool. Our kids play soccer."
Still, the Easters admit their culture comes with some colorful quirks. And they want to share them with the world.
Since the opening ceremonies, the Easters have been running an ad in The Salt Lake Tribune promising tourists a comfy bed and hearty breakfast served up with an "authentic Mormon" experience: "Great-great-grandpa was a polygamist! All the green Jell-O you can eat"-- for $350 a night. (They've received two inquiries, including one from a too-big Boston group of six grown-ups.)
The Easters say they would gladly regale visitors with tales of Pleasant Green Taylor, George Easter's maternal great-great-grandfather, who crossed the Plains into Utah in 1850, founded Harrisville, raised 28 kids and four stepchildren and shut down two saloons in nearby Ogden. (That's 10-year-old Jordan's favorite part.)
By 1903, the Ulysses Grant look-alike boasted 500 living descendants. A 1924 black-and-white photo shows a couple of hundred of them with wife No. 4, Sarah Jane Marler Lake Taylor, wearing a black dress and dour expression, the only remaining matriarch. No surprise then that George Easter's mother had 100 first cousins alone.
"See that house over there?" says George Easter, 56, peering through the living room window. "They're descendants of the Shurtliffs," the maiden name of Taylor's sibling wives. Living in Utah, "you start getting related to a lot of people." George actually was born in Manhattan and reared on all-America Long Island, the only Mormon at school.
"The basic church teaching is to be self-sufficient," explains George Easter, sidling up next to a trash can full of cat food. "The point is to be prepared and not have to rely on the government." The Easters, in fact, are professionals at readiness: They publish a newsletter, Refunding Makes Cents, on saving money at the supermarket using coupons and refund offers.
So in 1999, when Y2K fears consumed the rest of the world, "we didn't do anything," he says.
"This was old news," Michele Easter says. "We've been prepared since 1930." That's no exaggeration. When an uncle died, the Easters inherited his stack of 12 boxes, packed with cans of wheat.
The Easters are impressed with how out-of-town journalists are presenting their religion. "They've been having fun with it, and we've been having fun with it," Michele Easter says.
But they would like to dispel some rumors, too.
"People confuse us with the Amish," George Easter says. "They think we wear gingham dresses and stovepipe hats."
"They hear we can't dance or wear makeup," laughs Michele Easter, her own shoulder-length hair perfectly coiffed, her eyebrows neatly manicured.
Michele Easter pops open the refrigerator in the family's spacious kitchen and drags out a tray of orange Jell-O studded with bananas and bits of fruit cocktail. "Definitely bananas," gushes George Easter, joining his thumb and forefinger into an OK sign. His wife pulls out a copper ring filled with pure green Jell-O and, with a few taps, unmolds it on a white plate.
At an opening ceremony party hosted by church friends, Michele Easter thought it would be a hoot if she brought along that icon of Mormon Utah: a green Jell-O salad. Hers featured floating baby marshmallows and pineapple tidbits, as well as dollops of Cool Whip.
"No one touched it," she says, chuckling.