In or out of Utah?

Listener Nate and I had a facebook conversation a while back that got me thinking. Specifically it was about the trials faced by Mormons who grow up or live outside the heart of Mormondom (Utah.) When I talked to my wife about it, she said that seeing hypocrisy in the state was actually harder for her than when she was defending her faith out of state. I wonder which is harder – or whether the trials are just different. Neither JP nor I have lived out of State, other than our missions (well, I moved here when I was 8…) so we kind of lack perspective. Help us out. What’s hard about living a Mormon life out of Utah? What about in Utah? How to we overcome those geography-induced trials?

3 Comments

  1. I lived in Seattle from the time I was born until I was 17 and left for college. I moved to Utah after my mission to attend the University of Utah. I don’t feel like I’ve had the typical Utah Mormon experience though for a few reasons. First, I’ve worked at the University for most of the time I’ve lived here and have frequently been the only member of the church among those I regularly interacted with. Many of the people I worked with spoke negatively about religion in general and the Church specifically. So I’ve never felt surrounded by other Mormons despite being in Utah. Second, the wards I have been in were either student wards (which are their own unique thing) or wards that were quite desperate for reliable members, something unusual in many parts of Utah. Because of these two things, I think I’ve experienced more people’s reaction to Mormon culture and living amidst a high density of Mormons than having experienced that culture myself. That being said, here is a brief list of things I don’t like about being in Utah:

    1. “Splashers” – people who leave the church in Utah seem much more anxious for people to know they aren’t connected with it. Frequently talking about tattoos or constantly talking about coffee are two ways I see people broadcast this all the time where I work.
    2. Maybe I’m the only person who experiences this, but every time I meet someone new in Utah it feels like there is this silent guessing game going on as to whether they are LDS or not. It occasionally feels like people want to determine this secretly before having a meaningful interaction with you.
    3. Exclusion – I’ve had several coworkers tell me that they have felt like people won’t become close friends with them because they aren’t Mormon. I’ve also been told that Mormons aren’t very interesting to talk to and seem to uniform (this is obviously not universally true but I know people who have felt this way).
    4. Don’t feel needed – our Stake Patriarch from Seattle moved to Draper about 10 years ago and despite being a wonderful, spiritual, hardworking individual, he said he didn’t feel needed in Utah. I haven’t experienced this personally but we have six service missionaries in our ward from the east bench that are called to our ward because they simply aren’t needed in their home wards.
    5. Missing church “legitimately” – I have to be careful with this one, but I get frustrated sometimes with how frequently people miss Church in Utah because of baby blessings or missionary farewells/homecomings. I respect that these are important family events; I get frustrated though because it is hard for a ward to function if people are frequently absent. We have ward council members right now who routinely miss two Sundays a month because of these kinds of events. I don’t know how to handle this because these are good things to do to support family, but how do you function as a ward? This may be less of an issue in Utah wards that don’t struggle to fill major callings.

    All of this being said, there are great things about Utah and we choose to stay here because of those things. I think not feeling useful in a ward would really bother me but we haven’t encountered that yet (please don’t make me the Hymnbook Coordinator!). As far as raising children, I would rather raise our children out of Utah because I was so I have a better idea of what that is like. I also enjoy having the perspective and friendship of good people not of our faith, something a little easier to experience outside of Utah.

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  2. On a more humorous note, check out the book To Mormons with Love. It was written by a woman who moved with her family to a city in Utah County that is >95% LDS and had no idea what she was getting into.

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