We Desperately Need To Stop Stereotyping “Utah Mormons”

“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.

utah mormons

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.

utah mormons

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.

Utah Mormons

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.


Facebook Comments

Post Comments

  • jlark

    Utah Mormon culture is wrong. Don’t make it an individual issue. Individually they are all children of God. So you will always win that argument. As a culture they are wrong. They trample on the lives of those that don’t fit the look of perfection. The local ward in Utah is much more like a psych ward.

  • Heather Hazelett Christiansen

    I don’t disagree with the article. I have lived several other places throughout the nation but I am currently in Utah and actually really love our ward. They have been amazing.

    That said, I would rather not be in Utah because I don’t like the general culture that comes from having so many LDS members so close. There is a real sense that lots of people are just going through the motions of the religion and would rather not participate. One example of a difference is that if I say I don’t drink in Utah the response is “you must be Mormon”. If I say I don’t drink in Oregon or Nebraska or Florida they say “oh ok”. It seems like in Utah anything you choose to do or not do is somehow a reflection of whether or not you belong to the church and how well you live it. What if I do or don’t do things because I respect myself and love God? Sometimes the whole point of things we do or don’t do gets lost.

  • Letha Winger

    I agree that no one should treat anyone poorly just by a declaration of where they live. And, as someone who lived outside of Utah for over 40 years and has lived in Utah for the past 12 years, I can honestly say that there are a lot of differences between LDS people who haven’t lived outside Utah and those who have. This isn’t to say it is necessarily always negative, but there is often a feeling of “this is the way things are done” and if you don’t get it, you do stand out. Sometimes this can mean time feeling like the odd man out. My daughter was in middle school when we moved to Utah and we were looking forward to being around more friends with a similar belief system. Imagine our disappointment when she was horribly bullied by the same children she passed in the hallways at church. There is definitely a “culture” here that can be disturbing without a good support system. In addition, there are also many amazing, wonderful people I am happy to have met.

  • Denise Stuart

    I was born and raised in Utah. When I left to go to college in Idaho I received snide remarks numerous times about being a “Utah Mormon” meaning that Utah Mormons don’t live the Gospel very well and take it for granted. I felt like I lived the Gospel just as well or better than most of the other “mission field Mormons.” When I got married we moved out of state for 13 years. I enjoyed my time there but was very grateful to move back to Utah. I love it here and my neighbors are the most kind, loving and accepting people I know. No one is excluded in our neighborhood. It’s sad that people judge “Utah Mormons” the way they do.

  • Lgooch

    I am from the East coast. I went to BYU and stayed in Utah for 12 yrs. Finally being with many people who shared my faith was wonderful. I love Utah and most of the people are great. However, I do see a difference in being a “Utah Mormon” and not for the resaons you mention. I had a roommate in college who was inactive. My other roommates treated her with disdain and were constantly dismissing her as “well she’s not active, so”. I was horrified. I got sick for a long time at one point…and who do you think was the most loving and helpful roommate? Yup, the “inactive” one. The others did nothing to help.
    I then moved back East. I can’t tell you how many members of the church from Utah (or any state where the church is greatly populated) have told we East coasters what we’re running our wrong wards incorrectly. How in Utah they do it this way and that way. How we have no talent and in Utah everyone can sing etc..! They can’t believe we actually go to parties with people who drink and smoke to support non members even though we’re not participating. The list goes on and on. Let me say that this is not all Utah Mormons of course. I have many friends who live there. But the non-acceptance I felt from others against people who are not of our faith is tremendous. With that kind of attitude, you won’t last long here on the East coast. Especially since WE are the minority. Our church should be about helping all people, ESPECIALLY those who are not of our faith…not in spite of them.

  • Reimer Force

    I’m an outsider (whatever that is) and so I’ve never lived in Utah but I’ve visited many times. I’ve also met many who’ve moved away from there. I don’t think that the label “Utah Mormons” comes so much from the fact that there’s so many of them there that you see them being the imperfect humans that we are, so much as it is that there is a definite “Mormon Culture” that’s formed there that can be pretty toxic and often opposite of The Saviors teachings that we all claim to believe. I think that it flourishes there because there isn’t enough outside influence to balance those traditions out and also keep people humble and having to Fight for (and learn more of) what they believe. I’m pretty sure the rest of this world’s Mormons get it that there are many good people there. After all we watch them on tv twice a year. But it doesn’t change the frustrating part that some Utah Mormons and that culture I mentioned is very different from the rest of the world and often gives Mormons a bad name. (Sorry but I just think phariseeism when I see the culture or hear about it from those who’ve left and are trying to find healing) Just thought that it was worth mentioning in hopes to give a broader view for why that name originated. I think it’s important enough to take a second look at it.
    And for the record, I love your articles! But Just wanted to add a view from someplace else.

  • Stephanie Gibson

    I agree with everything thing that you’ve said, but I think there should be a higher standard for people who have the fullness of the gospel. Doing your best to live the truths you espouse, should be the standard. People are watching to see if you really are who you say you are. It’s the greatest missionary opportunity we have as members of the Lord’s Church. Is anyone perfect, no, of course not, we’re all working on something. But generally we should be a little kinder, a little more Christlike than those without the same knowledge. But that aside, as a convert of 30 years and originally from outside of Utah, there are two things I notice that are different. First there’s a lot of members in this state who are from families that have been long standing members of the Church. And sometimes tradition and culture can get mixed up with actual truths and beliefs. And by comparison, in a population of more recent converts outside of the state, all fired up with their new testimonies, they seem more eager to seek truths, less steeped in tradition. And secondly, having so many people with the Church in common, well the traditions, even the vocabulary can unintentionally exclude others. People in a predominantly Mormon neighborhood/workplace might feel left out as Church events include almost everyone else but themselves. And that’s not to say this isn’t a great state with a of a lot of great people doing a lot of great things. Or that tradition doesn’t play an important role in bonding family and friends. It’s just that sometimes people from outside of the state can feel left out which may give reasons to call members from Utah, “Utah Mormons”.

  • James Paul

    I had lived in Utah for over 5 years and landed a job in AZ where I moved with my “lifer in the church wife” who had been inactive due to her problems of a few years prior to our meeting.
    It was the way we were accepted, fellow shipped and included in work activities that after 3 years of living the religion which included food storage,welfare farm tasks, eventually tithing etc. That I did make the move to be baptised. at age 40. The ward that I joined led the church in convert baptisls with 60 to 80 per year as the norm. I took this to be just hype until a year later went to Texas and found a job as the stake janitors as they were a paid position in those days.
    That was when I learned about different wards being from another world.
    Were as the ward in AZ did lead the Church in converts, perhaps the Texas stake lagged the church in their like activity as the entire STAKE had 9 baptisms in a year, and most of those were 8 year olds
    At some point the Bishop informed me that it is the “same everywhere”. and I could see why that stake had lost several janitors and most had gone into inactivity. That town eventually created a 3rd ward, after 20 years, I heard from a missionary.Now that I ma soon to be 83, and spent my last 17 years in Utah, plus other states with a total of over 30 wards, I can you with authority that you can find a LARGE disparity between wards no matter where you go. and the main difference is the LDS density in an area. Utah is the Land of Zion in case you have not been told that 40 times a month.
    I recall a ward in Orem where there were apartments that had been recently sold as condos, Mobile home park where the poorer folk lived and a couple of subdivisions of 40 years age which had 2 factions living in them.
    Original owners and those who bought and moved in and were shunned by the originals, who also had little to do with the other factions and in realty they may as well have been 5 separate wards.
    This pretty much made us leave for an old single wide mobile home as my wife had two hip replacements 1 week apart and was in a care center for a week from the second one. After that she used a cane to painfully climb the steps into our split level home and we rented the basement.
    Now that I escaped from Utah 12 days from 1 year ago,,as my wife had died about 9 months prior, I am now in a very FREE 3rd world country by US standards and I find the biggest danger is how folks think about Utah,..
    I find scripture does it better than I or any I have seen on this thread.
    Mormon 8

    35 Behold,
    I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold,
    Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.

    36 And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and
    strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities;
    and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of
    the pride of your hearts.

    37 For behold, ye do love money,
    and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your
    churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the
    afflicted.

    38 O
    ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that
    which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? Why are
    ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that misery which never dies—because of the praise of the world?

    39 Why
    do ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the
    hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to
    pass by you, and notice them not?

    40 Yea, why do ye build up your secret abominations
    to get gain, and cause that widows should mourn before the Lord, and
    also orphans to mourn before the Lord, and also the blood of their
    fathers and their husbands to cry unto the Lord from the ground, for
    vengeance upon your heads?

    41 Behold, the sword of vengeance hangeth over you; and the time soon cometh that he avengeth the blood of the saints upon you, for he will not suffer their cries any longer.

  • Linda Meade

    I am Mormon
    I don’t live in Utah
    I don’t even live in the USA, but 2 of my 7 children do. One of them is RM but no longer goes to church. He can only say negative things about the Mormon church in Utah. I tell him to move then but to remember that Utah is a good place to raise kids because of of the Mormon church. My daughter does attend church with her little family. She has fantastic parents in law but they are very judgemental of people or things. She says the trouble seems to be that too many people are too concerned with the behaviour of others and fail to see what they do and say as negative behaviour. Some of it appears to be out of fear for the erosion of standards , the way people dress and how liberal they are.
    Jesus said love thy neighbor
    Thumper in Bambie said-quoting his patent
    “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”
    That doesn’t mean we can’t have an opinion but it does mean that we are not free to spew that opinion and we do need to think about how the Savior would handle things before opening our mouths
    I hope I have not offended anyone. I feel that many LDS people are afraid of the world.

  • Joan Rush Thomas

    I have recently moved to Utah, having previously lived in California and Oregon. I love my new ward. The members have been warm and wecoming. I had heard the criticisms of “Utah Mormons” from Mormon friends who had grown up here, but my experience has not been what I might have expected. True, I am not a young person attending school or raising a family, but if the stereotypes were true I would expect my old folks ward to be cliquish and judgemental. Instead I am finding just the opposite. I’m happy to have moved here and to be surrounded by loving Mormon neighbors.
    An interesting side note is how very many of my former California and Oregon ward members have migrated to Utah. Guess not everyone is turned off by Utah Mormons.

  • Marty Swartz

    We have two children in Utah, I sent them to BYU and they married Utah Mormons) When we go to visit on in the southern part of the area, we went to church one day, earlier than my son, it was the first time we had attended this ward, but not One single person came up to us to shake our hand or to welcome us. HUMMM. We went to the other end of the valley and the same thing happened. Ok so this time I went up to several and introduced my self and told them I was visiting. It was no big deal so I gave up. I hate it when I am asked what my Pedigree lines are, or what my calling in the church is. I am a convert, but my grandmother went inactive and my mother was inactive right after she was baptized and then I join the church many years later and brought the two of them back to activity. I never share my pedigree with Utah Mormons,, but it is long and filled with lots of the names they are looking for. I just tell them I am me, and that should be good enough. Yes there are a whole lot of great members of the church there, but there are also a gazillion of those that are “active” but don’t know what that means. In Texas where I come from, things are really different in the church, We hold on to each other since we are few and we need every one. No I don’t want to live there but I sure do like to come and hike and go to conference and then come home. I like the church here better than there

    • Katie’s Friend

      Pedigree?? What does that even mean? Do they actually use the word “pedigree”? Are we show dogs? I’m from Texas too, and I ask about callings as an icebreaker, or to find some common ground. I have noticed Utah members don’t seem to be as excited to meet other members as I am (even if we’re on a cruise in the Caribbean and totally unexpected) I guess it’s no big deal to them, but I’m always thrilled to meet other members! Now, when I visit friends in Utah, everyone in their wards are kind and welcoming, but is it because their friend is introducing them to me, or because they’re just nice, good people?

  • Kim Davis

    People pretty much find whatever they are looking for – no matter where they live. Whatever you focus on is what you get more of.
    I love the Saints, no matter where they live. I find good people no matter where I live. That’s what I am looking for and the crazy thing is, that what I find!

  • Debbie Whisenand Snyder

    I moved from California after living there my whole life, 50 years! I love the Utah Mormons. My neighborhood is filled with wonderful caring people. Yes I can see if your not a member it would be harder. They are not excluding others it’s just their whole life is church activities! And most have the same friends they had in high school. Sunday’s are often spent having dinner with their mom and dad and siblings families. But let me tell you if you need help they are there for you!!

  • 15Cal77

    Are Utah Mormons typically stronger in the faith than non-Utah Mormons?

  • Karl C.

    l understand the defensive nature of this post, but my concern is that it does more harm than good by deflecting frustration about ‘church culture’ vs church doctrine. The “No, you have to do it this way” mentality that produces extradoctrinal views and practices everywhere (not just in Utah) gets dismissed by this article. Regretfully, most of the audience that sees this article as completely true is the same audience that feels justified by it. (This article arguably has multiple fallacies, such as 1) appeal to emotion, 2) strawman 3) false dichotomy, etc).

    We have agreed on most of your articles, Greg, but there is often truth behind observation and there is a reason why Utah Mormons, in general, are often distinguished from other Mormons. My personal opinion is that it is has nothing to do with who is ‘better.’

  • Anthony Barney

    Dallin H. Oaks declared, “Too often non-Mormons here in Utah have been offended and alienated by some of our members who will not allow their children to be friends with children of other faiths. Surely we can teach our children values and standards of behavior without having them distance themselves or show disrespect to any who are different.” I suggest Utah members and those of like-practice simply heed an inspired apostle’s counsel. I believe this will go a long way in reducing the stereotyping that this article addresses. Leave the “Utah persecution syndrome” behind and follow Christ in our words and deeds.

  • TrevorH
  • Amanda

    Everybody is going to have a different experience anywhere they go. It makes me sad that people have negative experiences like the ones shared. One thing that is interesting to me is that all the negative encounters with a “Utah Mormon” seems to be a one time incident, which then changes how “Utah Mormons” are perceived. I am born and raised in Utah. The ward I am in right now is very welcoming to visitors and investigators or whoever. Our ward invites all the neighbors and family’s extended family for ward activities and parties. We get awesome turnouts. We had an awesome Halloween party and we had so many non member and less active neighbors show up we had to hurry and double tables and chairs. As a Utah Mormon I try my best to not be judgemental, welcoming and Christlike person I can be, just like any other Mormon. I’m sorry for any negative experiences you have had. But, hearing comments of experiences like the ones I am reading and then being put into a “Utah Mormon” category in a neagative way is hurtful, offensive and kind of frustrating honestly. There are unpleasant people everywhere you go. I guess you just have to know everybody is not the same. Thanks for the article.

  • ph001

    I have lived in Nevada, Utah (3 wards as an adult), Washington, and Nebraska. The wards and branches outside of UT were all small and I felt needed. Not so in UT. It is not really a matter of whether people are kind. It is more a matter of whether they see you at all.