I just finished The City: A Global History (2005), by Joel Kotkin, a short survey of the city in history. Knowing Kotkin had discussed Mormons with some interest in a previous book entitled Tribes (Mormons are a modern tribe), I hoped there might be some discussion in City of one of the Mormon cities, maybe Nauvoo or Salt Lake City. No luck. That's too bad, since they would be a fine addition to his discussion. Below, I'll note Kotkin's three characteristics of a city, then note how the Mormon cities exemplify one of them. That's one of the less-remarked features of LDS culture and history: Mormons are city buiders (or at least were, in the 19th century). I don't know any other modern denominations that can make that claim. Mormons built Far West, Missouri; Nauvoo, Illinois (which became the second-biggest city in Illinois for a brief period); and Salt Lake City, essentially Nauvoo transplanted to the Salt Lake Valley. Try naming an Evangelical city. In the second half of the 19th century, Mormons colonized a broad swath of the West, termed "the Mormon Corridor," and founded hundreds of settlements, many of which grew into towns and some into cities. Mormons build cities.
Here's Kotkin's simple scheme. Kotkin says cities provide three things to the neighboring citizens, which attracts in-migration and causes a given city to grow and prosper: (1) a Sacred Place, the spiritual center of the city; (2) Selling and a marketplace, the commercial focus of the city; and (3) Security or Safety, both from external enemies or threats and from internal threats like crime or civil disorder. Some cities are stronger on some factors than others; Jersusalem or Rome score high as spiritual centers, London and New York as commercial centers, and so forth. The city stands as a center of civilization and related activities (politics, manufacturing, education, commerce, religion) for the surrounding lands, whether organized as a city-state or as an extended state dotted with cities.
So why do I think the absence of Mormon cities an oversight? Because the factor modern cities are weakest in is the spiritual factor. Modern cities lack a sacred place or spiritual center, for the most part. This absence of a strong spiritual center to most modern cities is, as I recall, one of the reasons he gives for the decline of the modern urban core. For many citizens, the center of the city is not a place of splendor or grandeur but kind of a dreary place, at times even scary. The spiritual center doesn't need to be a church or cathedral, but there needs to be something more than city hall and the local bank to make people proud of the city and to create a nexus between citizens, a sense of common identify and purpose.
Mormons cities are built around temples. This is most noticeable driving through the Utah, where Logan, Ogden, Salt Lake, and Provo all feature LDS temples which become (whether there at the city's founding or added years later) a spiritual center. It makes Salt Lake City a different place than any similar city. What's the spiritual center of Los Angeles: Hollywood? Disneyland? LAX? What's the spiritual center of New York: Times Square? Wall Street? Yankee stadium? The presence of LDS temples as spiritual centers of Mormon cities is such a contrast to modern American cities, and such a fine example of Kotkin's "spiritual center" characteristic, that I'm really surprised it didn't at least merit at least a paragraph or two in his book.