The reason ‘Eastern Mormons’ leave Utah: we love the attention.

Community Culture Traditions Utah

I stumbled upon this smaller blog that was talking about “Cultural” Mormons.

…I’ve noticed the strangest phenomenon. Many people view cultural Mormonism as the extra-doctrinal, hyper-faithful parts of the church that make it seem so unbearable, rather than the mere culture of growing up in such a peculiar church. So cultural Mormonism, rather than being an superset that includes faithful and nonfaithful people of Mormon ‘heritage,’ is seen as a subset created by the insulation of Utah Mormonism. And I guess I can understand the cultural excesses of Utah that would make people think that.

I decided to comment on this guy’s blog, being cautious not to show my hand too early (things tend to go downhill if people realize you’re not a believer.) And we talked about a great many things…but most interesting was his theory about “Eastern Mormons.”

Way back in the late 1600’s, several Quaker religious zealots kept coming back into the Puritan colony of Massachusetts. The Puritans kept kicking them out. They would go to Rhode Island for awhile and then they would come back. The Puritans warned them if they came back again they would be hanged. They did, and were hanged. (One of them the first woman to be hanged in America.) Why did they do this? They were perfectly free to practice their religion in Rhode Island and Massachusetts isn’t particularly more attractive then there.

My contention is that there is an attraction for some people for being persecuted. Earlier I stated that the more “enjoyable” Mormons in Washington, D.C. were the ones that loved living in Utah AND loved living in the East. The less enjoyable Mormons were the ones that enjoyed the East more because of the chances they had to defend their religion—much like those Quakers in Massachusetts. They love to contend. They loved to stick their noses in the air and show how caring they are by being among the “sinners” and remaining above it all. To be a shining beacon on a hill for the purpose of exalting themselves.

More after the break.

This was the most interesting interpretation of history (it would not be the only one…on a post I made on my blog critiquing an odd ‘feminist’ [if you could call it that] Mormon argument against gay marriage, he made another comment about ‘history’)

I tried to suggest to him that perhaps this wasn’t the reason why people did not like Utah (and what it does to Mormonism). I tried to suggest that *perhaps* it *is* the culture, and not a reflection on the ‘persecution complex’ of “Eastern Mormons.” After all, I know that living in the Bible Belt and taking flak from all sorts of people has not been fun and I definitely do not choose to embrace this stigma…but on the other hand, I find that Mormonism as applies to Utah becomes such a bizarro world culture…that perhaps I would rather take “the world” over such peculiar homogeneity.

I mean, in the end, John confidently confided things like:

We don’t say in Utah that just because a person smokes he’s a bad person, no one I know in Utah thinks that way. But it is perfectly safe to say that that person had a rebellious or troubled youth. How many 40 year olds suddenly take up smoking? And if they do, wouldn’t you say they are STUPID for doing so. Character assessments can be made by appearances…Why risk your eternal welfare and happiness by ignoring the signs? If you want to take the risks, more power to you, but don’t look down on the Utah guy who looks for rocks on the road.

and

Nose-rings and tattoos are merely symptoms of POSSIBLE deeper issues… The cold hard reality is that 90% or more of the time such non-conformities ARE symptoms of deeper issues. It is too bad for the 10% or less that are perfectly normal and chose these non-conformist attributes.

So, not saying that people who don’t fit the goody-two-shoes Utah Mormon, white-shirt-clean-shaven model are evil and sinful, but 90% of the times, they probably have some deeper issues with their childhoods.

Like those Eastern Mormons…definitely have some deeper issues. As he says:

In sort, the “East” is a place for Mormons who have a psychosis for rebellion and non-conformity. It is easier for them to live the standards of the Church where it marks them as different. They love the attention. They think that makes them stronger in the Church. If such is the case, than they are not truly living their religion. Conformity and non-conformity is NOT an issue in heaven or a Zion society. There is no focus on oneself, but only on others. We’re not there yet in Utah, and certainly not there in the “East,” but we shouldn’t mock each other for our efforts.

Right. I have a confession. I have a psychosis for rebellion and non-conformity too. I realized it was easier to lead the standards of being a decent person if only I dropped some of the superfluity of the church, and that marked me as different. I must say, as a blogger, I love the attention. It makes me stronger outside the church. I admit I’m not truly living my religion.

15 thoughts on “The reason ‘Eastern Mormons’ leave Utah: we love the attention.

  1. “We don’t say in Utah that just because a person smokes he’s a bad person, no one I know in Utah thinks that way.”

    I grew up in Provo and this reminds me of a funny, but not funny, experience in high school.

    A friend of mine got pregnant. We were talking about her options. I asked her if she was considering marrying the unborn baby’s father (the son of a prominent LDS sports figure). Her reply stunned me:

    “I couldn’t marry him. He smokes.”

  2. Didn’t David O. McKay say “Grow where you are planted”? Encouraging members to stay where they were, as opposed to immigrate back to Utah/Idaho?

    There was a time in Utah when going without a long beard would have been non-conformist. Now, it’s seen as potentially rebellious. Conformity is in the eye of the beholder.

    I grew up with a handful of families who moved back to the Utah/Idaho area after being in the midwest for a long time. I haven’t asked them, but I would be interested in finding out what differences/similarities they saw in the culture.

    I also think the OP attitude is pretty holier-than-thou. It’s easy to look from the outside and criticize – criticize how other people are handling their lives and their belief systems (eastern mormons). It’s much more difficult to search for common ground.

  3. To be fair, aerin, later on, the poster does try to find common ground.

    You are absolutely right. But, remember, I’ve lived, worked with and associated with the people of Las Vegas for many years. You can’t get much more non-Mormon culture anywhere else in the U.S. Many of these people would never date a smoker, or are “turned off” by tattoos. And they’re not even Mormons! I’m not weird! I’m normal, with normal faults, no different than any random guy you were to pick off the street anywhere. One of the persons I respect the most in this world happens to be gay! He was my boss, and I admired him greatly. I was introduced to my wife at a party hosted by a gay member of the church. I could care less. He grew up in Utah and found that virtually no one really treated him any differently there because if it. In fact, he was one of the most popular people in our ward! (Aren’t they always?) : ) He even moved back to Utah!

    It was no easier or harder to wear a brown shirt to church in Las Vegas versus Salt Lake City. It’s all an illusion, man! If your looking for prejudices, you’re going to find them, sure, but if you’re not YOU WON’T FIND THEM.

    Walk into a sacrament meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah and another one in Orlando, Florida and you won’t know the difference. Except there won’t be as many flip-flops on the feet in Salt Lake—it’s just too cold! The differences are all in your mind, or you will make out any miniscule differences you might find to be more than they are because of your own prejudices.

    All this is really moot. If you absolutely KNOW the Church is true, you would care less what the culture is. If President Monsen said we should all stand on our heads an hour each day you would do it—if you KNEW he was the prophet and spoke to God. But, I guess you would have to know God exists first. If you don’t know then being in the East might be a better place for you. But, there are plenty of atheists in Utah as well, so it really doesn’t matter. It’s all an illusion!

  4. This is just weird. Are all Mormons outside of Utah eastern Mormons? Am I an Eastern Mormon even though I was born on the west coast? It’s like he doesn’t get that their are Mormons, even American ones, who live their whole lives not once going to Utah. Most of us (I mean, I’m not Mormon now, but I was and my siblings are and have never lived in Utah) don’t make a conscious decision to avoid Utah so as to be a minority religion; we simply have no reason to move to Utah. I think this is a transparent reflection of Utah culture and it’s beliefs that it is a beacon for all Mormons, a place we all must be for or against. In fact we all used to make fun of those Mormons from Utah who waxed lyrical about how difficult it is here and how they were strengthened living in the den of iniquity that is, for instance, suburban white bread North Austin, or the ones who longed to return to Zion *snort*. One memorable barbecue at my sister’s included the following statement “I just don’t know how to raise kids in such an unrighteous place”. I should mention that this place that is unsuitable for raising kids is the hometown of my throughly, even obnoxiously, Mormon brother-in-law who was standing right there.

  5. well, sabayon, the ‘map’ uses different terms, but it still has the same idea.

    http://hamsy2000.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/mormon-map.jpg?w=270&h=188

    We ‘eastern Mormons’, who are more “real” because we face more adversity (or something like that, according to his theory), can exist even west of Utah/Idaho.

    His point, I think, is that we should have no reason not to want to move to Utah. Not saying we should all pack our bags, but why don’t we have any reason to move to Utah if it’s the same as everywhere else? I…am not sure if I understand his arguments.

  6. The mistake here, or, one of the mistakes here, is thinking than anyone is all that different from anyone else.

    Mr. Hamilton said: “They love to contend. They loved to stick their noses in the air and show how caring they are by being among the “sinners” and remaining above it all. To be a shining beacon on a hill for the purpose of exalting themselves.”

    It isn’t “they,” it is “everyone.” Everyone loves to contend. The difference between Utah Mormons and Eastern Mormons? Eastern Mormons stick their noses in the air and look down on non-Mormons while Utah Mormons stick their noses in the air and look down on other Mormons—they would look down on non-Mormons, but when all of your neighbors are Mormon, what choice do you have?

  7. This is the author of the original post. Things got way out of hand between Andrew and me. Things were said, names were called. I’ve instructed my children to never speak to his posterity, so forth, so on. : ) Actually, I think we agree for the most part. My distinction between “cultural” Mormons and “real” Mormons was an exaggerated terminology to get tongues wagging, or keyboards pounding, rather. It worked. The crux of my argument is that the distinction we perceive between the two classes of Mormons are really almost non-existent. We’re both looking down our noses at each other based on very flimsy evidence. One can endlessly site examples to the contrary, but overall, practicing Mormons in Utah are essentially the same as practicing Mormons in New Jersey. Okay, so the real crux of my argument is that one need not factor in the “Utah culture” so much into a decision to move here or not. You can even order hard liquor in restaurants here now! You can’t do that in parts of Kentucky! We’re not the Islamic-like regime some would like to make us out to be. So, my brother: “Come to Zion, come to Zion, ere his floods of anger flow. Come to Zion, come to Zion, and within her walls rejoice……”

  8. I was a straight laced, cultural, legacy, Utah Mormon (have I missed a label) who thought anyone who smoked was evil and if you did not smoke but did not go to church certainly suspect. (I was just a kid) I started making friends who were not Mormon and I realized that one could be good without the church.(I had to go to Salt Lake to do that, everyone in West Jordan during the 80’s was Mormon.)

    After spending a few years outside the church, still living in Utah, I went to a friends mission farewell. Most of her friends were devout Mormons, I showed up in what I was taught to wear to church; white shirt tie, slacks and dress shoes. Meanwhile her devout friends were wearing sandle’s and khakis; my inner Mormon was absolutely shocked.

    Could my native church have become liberal enough to allow a guy to wear Birkenstocks to church? What next….tie dyes and feminism?

  9. The cold hard reality is that 90% or more of the time such non-conformities ARE symptoms of deeper issues. It is too bad for the 10% or less that are perfectly normal and chose these non-conformist attributes.

    I would just LOVE to see any sort of documentation or proof for these wild and unsubstantiated conjectures and judgements.

    It makes me sad do see how blinded so many people are by their (religious) upbringing and worldview that they can’t see other people for who they really are, and instead judge solely on appearance. In my personal anecdotal experience, part of the reason people pierce, tattoo, or otherwise mark themselves as separate from mainstream society is that they wish to show people who judge on appearance how erroneous it is to do so, and that they (we) reject social norms as being artificial and harmful.

  10. Alternately Craig, one of the motivations for tatooing and piercing is to stand out and take attention away from the lack of personality. As opposed to trying to prove some social truth.

  11. In my personal anecdotal experience, part of the reason people pierce, tattoo, or otherwise mark themselves as separate from mainstream society is that they wish to show people who judge on appearance how erroneous it is to do so, and that they (we) reject social norms as being artificial and harmful.

    one of the motivations for tatooing and piercing is to stand out and take attention away from the lack of personality.

    Interesting. In my personal (anecdotal) experience, I’ve seen that people get tatoos and piercings largely because it’s fashionable. What’s wrong with that? I’ve followed trends even though I’m personally too old (37) to think that tatoos and multiple piercings are particularly attractive.

    But check out the cool tongue-piercing that my cute little cousin got when she was visiting me! 😀

  12. I think that it’s often a combination of both reasons. I know that I got my piercings for both of those reasons (and more). My point is, reasons for body art are inevitably more complicated and complex because the people who get them aren’t one dimensional parodies of themselves, as many are too often likely to judge them simply for not conforming to expected (and largely artificial) social norms (as we have seen here).

    one of the motivations for tatooing and piercing is to stand out and take attention away from the lack of personality

    Perhaps, but I’ve never experienced that to be true myself. I simply find it unuseful to make negative generalisations about why people choose to not conform to certain societal norms. You might just as well say that people conform to those norms because they have no individuality and personality of their own, and it would, of course, be just as erroneous.

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