Hey MSP readers:
I was recently contacted by a reporter from a prominent magazine who is doing a story on Mormons and business. The initial angle for the story was, “Why are Mormons so good at business?” But, in chatting with me, she has realized that all may not be as it seems. As the Eyre’s recently made clear, Mormons are not particularly good at business compared to, say, Jews.
I pitched the reporter some additional angles on this question, like the following: Mormon culture, particularly at the ward level, rewards people in the middle class. Leaders in Mormonism have to be literate and generally educated. They also tend to be quite successful. When was the last time you saw a janitor “promoted” to general authority status? Why are all the apostles former executives or have otherwise been successful in their careers? Why no business failures or bankrupt small business owners among the Mormon elite?
And, at a very basic level, Mormonism encourages people to behave in middle class ways: The way you dress to go to church (nice dresses or skirts for women; white shirts, ties, slacks, andpreferablya suit coat for men; both are indicative of the attire middle class professionals wear to work), the way you act at church (not speaking in tongues, no “hallelujahs,” etc.), are all typical of the middle class. What I suggested is that people who do not feel comfortable in that type of environment won’t be likely to stay. As a result, Mormons appear to be uniformly middle class.
I also suggested that there is a strong culture to appear successful in Mormonism, which ties into the Multi-Level Marketing efforts abundant in Utah, especially Provo, and the high bankruptcy rates.
The reporter had not seen this angle because, well Mormons tend to prefer to highlight their successes (e.g., famousmormons.net), not their failures (the thousands who file for bankruptcy every year or leave the religion because they feel pressured to keep up with the Joneses). I can’t fault Mormons for that; I do the same on my C.V. and my annual evals.
Anyway, in discussing this with the reporter, she was wondering if I knew anyone who:
- Left the religion because he/she felt the pressure to conform to middle class norms and didn’t like it.
- Was unsuccessful at business or had filed for bankruptcy in the pursuit of success (either still Mormon or not).
She is interested in talking with someone in either of those categories who would be willing to be “on the record” for her magazine story. If you’re interested, you can email me directly (profxm -at- gmail.com) or just make a note of it in the comments and I’ll pass your contact information to the reporter. And even if you don’t meet those criteria, if you know anyone who does, please contact them and send them my way.
Oh, and if you want, you’re welcome to just comment on the thoughts I mentioned in this post: Are Mormons disproportionately good at business? Does Mormonism present itself as “middle class”? And, are Mormons pressured to appear successful?
Final note: Seth, given your work, I’m particularly interested in your thoughts on this.