“Utah Mormons are so judgy”
“Mormons are so different in Utah.”
“It’s those Utah Mormons…”
“I can’t stand Utah Mormons”
These are some of the things I see and hear on a regular basis from other Mormons who don’t live in Utah… or who have lived in Utah and didn’t have a great experience within their respective wards.
But here’s the truth. There are weirdos everywhere and in every church. Mormon or not Mormon. No matter where you go… you will find them. Heck, depending on who you ask, you might be one of them… and I might be right there with you. There are personalities that won’t mix with your personality in every branch, ward, and stake across the globe. It’s not Utah, and it’s not Utah Mormons.
I believe the stereotype regarding “Utah Mormons” exists for two primary reasons:
1. Higher Chance Of Interaction
In my California city, the odds of me bumping into another Mormon, doing business with another Mormon, or being required to deal with other Mormons on any level other than ecclesiastically, is very slim. There were no Mormons in my neighborhood, were very few Mormons at my school, and I have very few clients who are Mormons.
But in many Utah neighborhoods, the ward building is just around the corner and every single person on the block is Mormon. Brother so and so is the town police officer. He might have to give you a ticket.
The bishop’s kids were acting up at school again and gave your kid a black eye. The teacher who disciplined them happens to be your secretary in the Relief Society Presidency. Mama bear couldn’t be contained.
The local real estate agent sits on the high council and sold you a house that leaks. Was he being dishonest? Do I really have to listen to him speak this month?
The attorney who sued you just got called into your stake presidency and your previous business partner hired him after you guys served in an Elders Quorum presidency a few years back.
Oh dang… and don’t forget how many more church employees there are. The seminary teacher who loves his job but is sick of the pay. The construction company who signed a big contract to work on the temples but lost the contract to a lower bidder and shoddy work. Now a hundred Mormon construction workers just got fired by… you guessed it, other Mormons. Probably church employees.
There are so many potential touch points, so many potential interactions, and so many more opportunities for a situation to go awry.
But if one of my neighbors in California doesn’t like how long my grass has grown, or the fact that I leave my trash cans on the street for way too long, I don’t have to see them at the church on Sunday or at mutual on Wednesdays. They don’t have to see me sitting on the stand (or vice versa) and wonder how such an inconsiderate guy can hold an “important” calling.
The odds of you bumping into a Mormon, and having an issue with that person are just so much higher in Utah. It’s not “Utah Mormons” that are the problem. It’s just a numbers game. More people, more personalities, more problems to navigate. More ways to be offended.
2. We Place Higher Expectations On Other Mormons
It’s hard to deny that we place higher expectations on fellow Mormons than we do on the non-Mormons we interact with. We think “how can that person have the fullness of the gospel and still act like that.”
We zero in on flaws in fellow members because we figure “they should know better.” But if someone outside of the church wrongs us or does something unsavory, we just sort of deal with it, think a few bad things about them and then move on.
It’s similar to the bishop and stake president’s kid’s stereotype. You know… the one in which their kids are always the worst in the ward? But are they really? Or is it just our perception based on elevated expectations? Have we placed a microscope on them and heaped unrealistic demands upon that family?
As I have done business with other members of the church, I know that I have magnified their foibles and weirdnesses in my mind and wondered “Why are they acting like that? They’re a member of the church.” But really, they’re just people. Susceptible to the same shortcomings and failings of others.
Mormons have always been under the microscope. They always have been and probably always will be. Everyone seems to hold them to a higher standard. You do something wrong as a Mormon and you’d better believe that someone is going to associate your belief with that wrongdoing.
There are a lot of good people in Utah. Many of them, as we all know, are Mormon. Households in Provo, according to Time, are the most generous in the nation giving away 13.7% of their discretionary income. The state of Utah as a whole gives away 10.6% of their income to charity. The next closest state is Mississippi at 7.2%.
They are committed to their families, hard-working, industrious, and trying to do their best to follow the precepts of the religion they espouse. Sure, there are some bad apples, but by and large, they are just like any other group of Mormons.
Most of the people who have had bad experiences with Utah Mormons are describing their experience from one point of view. They rarely take any responsibility for the role they might have played in the situation. Then they throw a blanket over the whole state to create the stereotype.
If you’re the type of person that has a really strong opinion on things, and you want things done your way, then you’ll probably clash with others of the same mentality… regardless of where you live.
Your outlook and perspective on a place and a people will become your reality. You can make a heaven or a hell out of it.