I have known several people who have been excited about their job or education opportunities outside of the state of Utah because they wanted to be “in the mission field”.
My husband and I, both part of two different infamous “bubbles” in Utah had the wonderful experience of living out of state for 4 years. We are definitely far from experts, so I had a lot of fun collecting some pros and cons of both sides of the coin from many of our friends.
I acknowledge that it is easy to look at lists like this and come away with a sense of negativity toward “Utah Mormons”. It is not my intent to turn this into a place to bash all of the things wrong with being a Mormon in Utah. The intent is to highlight the positives of both experiences while also being able to share experiences that were difficult in either situation.
Being able to share our personal experiences gives us a greater insight into what we can do better in our own community to make it more positive and uplifting. No matter where we are, we are a religious community and we should strive to be on one heart.
Here is my own list based on my own personal experiences along with some things mentioned by some of my friends who have lived both in and out of Utah.
Please feel free to add your own in the comments and share this on Facebook!
Positives of being a Mormon outside of Utah
- In Texas, our bishop could have been mistaken for a democrat. That said, I never heard anything political out of his mouth. Or out of the mouths of most people in church.
- The diversity! This one is heralded by most of my friends who responded. Members are spread over a much larger geographical area, so you get a wide diversity of ages, economical status, backgrounds, and ethnicity.
- More chances to feed the missionaries.
- Your neighbors aren’t checking to see if you’re wearing your garments while you do yard work or work out.
- Less kids per family is a major factor in smaller class sizes in schools. Yup, only Michigan has class sizes bigger than Utah. http://www.parentsunited.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/nces-classsizesheet.pdf
- You intersect more with the drinking culture and are able to see a more realistic perspective than many had growing up in Utah. The drinking culture in Utah is much more abstract and is often painted differently than the reality.
- Different interactions with neighbors. Your church community and your neighbor community are two different worlds. As a result, your interactions with your neighbors takes you outside of your comfort zone much more since you don’t have the usual Mormon topics and culture to fall back on.
- People tend to be more genuinely interested in asking about your religion. As part of those discussions you are able to clarify some of the misconceptions people commonly associate with Mormonism.
- Wider diversity in your community of religions. We had the opportunity to have dinner with our Catholic neighbors. Praying with them and talking with them was a very positive experience.
- You are given an opportunity to be in the religious minority.
- While we lived in Texas, many people in our ward did not have local family support. Your ward often becomes your family. Sunday dinners, football games, and holidays were often spent with ward members or coworkers who were also LDS.
- You get a built in community and even professional community wherever you move.
All of that said, some of these experiences happen if you are a Mormon in Utah as well. Likewise, there are many positives of being a Mormon in Utah that still happen outside of Utah.
There are many wonderful parts about being a part of the LDS community no matter where you live.
I also acknowledge that there are some negative aspects about living out of state.
One of the hardest ones for me and for a lot of my friends was that they were far away from their families, but it was also something that brought us together more than if we were living close to family.
I think there are two sides to every coin and for every positive, there is a negative. (don’t judge me for my double cliche!) We just need to remember that everyone’s experience is different and that there are good things and bad things both in Utah and out of Utah.
Positives of being a Mormon in Utah
- I love walking to church!!!!! SO MUCH. Also super handy when I forget something or one of my kids is done.
- The proximity to the church makes attending activities much easier. Youth activities, Relief Society activities, sports, meetings (oh the meetings) are all much more accessible and require less time spent traveling.
- I am so thankful for released time seminary. Eternally. I love sleeping.
- Fountain caffeine free drinks. Not that I have anything against caffeinated sodas, I just appreciate being able to imbibe (and letting my children share with me) in the soda of my choice without the effects of caffeine.
- Cultural Mormon aspects that Utahns understand, regardless of religious affiliation. (ie the common knowledge that Mormons don’t drink alcohol).
- Benefits of being the majority. Your cultural views are almost always enforced by the community as a whole.
- Good and close relationships with more neighbors than you may otherwise have since you do see and interact with them regularly and in a realm of something you all have in common.
- It can feel comforting and reassuring when making friends because you already share a common spectrum of moral beliefs.
- You have to work harder and go out of your way more to associate and have meaningful relationships with peer and neighbors. Having to show that genuine interest and kindness usually opens a door to a friendship.
- The traditions. Well, not all of them and not all the time. But there are some things that are unique to living in Utah that just warm my heart. Ie, my childhood neighborhood’s annual water fight, my parents ward’s annual chili cookoff, and my inlaws street getting together for breakfast in their driveways for every conference. And pioneers and genealogy. So many great things.
- Ward friendships still happen in Utah. We had ward members who would get together weekly for games and it was easy to do so because they were neighbors. I call on friends in my ward to help with various things when asking my family isn’t an option or convenient.
- Proximity to temples.
- Ease of access to church distribution items.
- Large community of nearby children in my neighborhood that I knew without having to put effort into finding on my own.
As you share your own experiences, please feel free to share the things that were hard AND the things you like. And for all of the negative that people experience, let’s try to be the difference. Our community within the LDS religion is only as good as we make it.
I’m your opposite because I only lived in UT for 4 years. It always makes me laugh when people refer to areas outside of UT as “the mission field”. As a New Yorker I take great pleasure in reminding people that everywhere outside of NY is in fact “the mission field” since this is where The Church was restored, and this is where it became a legal entity.
I don’t really have any notes for comparison though as I was largely inactive the entire 4 years I lived in UT except for a few months really. I will say that it is rare that anyone ever even mentioned Mormonism to me even though I worked, had neighbors, took public transportation, etc.. I think a great deal must depend where in UT you live for the type of experience you have. Also, my personality and facial expressions don’t invite criticism from strangers because I am fairly surly looking. Maybe they were afraid I would punch them if they mentioned the Book of Mormon 🙂
I live in Texas and agree with your post. Thanks for sharing it.
One of the things that I appreciated about being in Utah was that, as an unorthodox Mormon, it was easy to find other unorthodox Mormons in the large masses of Mormons. Living outside of Utah, I can generally only find one or two people I identify with. In Utah, there are whole groups of them.
I also miss how polite people are in Utah. And the mountains.
I don’t miss the “fashion” as it were. Obtaining some kind of ideal beauty is an obsession in Utah, and I like that in other areas I’ve lived people don’t have the same cookie-cutter version of beauty.
We have lived 17 years outside of Utah.
Below are the positive and negative aspects for our family living outside of Utah and each statement is both positive and negative combined (weird but true):
My neighbors know nothing about us!
No one cares if you don’t go to Stake Conference since it is a very long drive.
The youth do like to go to Stake Youth Conferences since there are so many Mormon youth in one place (80-100).
Our kids know other kids from different High Schools. Our ward has 4 High Schools represented.
We get to see several baptisms of new converts each year and then never see them again.
Members who for whatever reason don’t like to stay in the building for the 3 hour block can sit out in their cars and be left alone.
Members here are very shielded from how involved the Corporate Church is in Utah’s economy and politics.
For what it’s worth being outside of Utah has blessed our family to learn to rely on the Lord more than when we lived in Utah with many members and all of our family.
I’d forgotten what high school was like! But, that’s a great one. There were 4 or 5 high schools in my ward. It was always fun at sports, band, and drama competitions when I’d run into friends from the ward or stake. My high school friends always joked about how I knew someone everywhere we went. (This is was in MA, for the record.)
I have shared so many of these benefits and curses. This is a great post. A few things I experienced–a much bigger dating pool than I had in Utah than out (I had to ultimately try online dating, “referrals” from family and friends, and long distance relationships to find my wife). On the flip side, the Institute program was extremely cohesive outside Utah.
I currently live in the South, so politeness (and I would say true warmth and respect, very often) is the norm, but I’ve shared Leah’s experience that it’s harder to find like-minded Mormons if your views are not mainstream. On the flip side, lots of people accept you even with your different views (at least certain views) because they are just happy to have one more family in the pews and fulfilling callings.
I’ve been in Utah for 4 years in college, but grew up in Houston, and served my mission in Memphis. My experience here amongst the members has been such that I refuse to raise my family in Utah with the “Utah mentality”. Maybe it’s just that where I’m in school is very secluded in a valley, and the particular valley culture is harsh, but I miss the genuineness of the LDS community outside of Utah, not thinking we’re better than everyone else simply because were from Utah, and the harsh judgement from everyone doesn’t seem so bad. I have been able to gain a new insight into how things are done differently, been very happy to only being 15 minutes from a temple (instead of 1.5 hours), having easy access to LDS resources like LDS bookstores (which are EXTREMELY rare outside this state), Distrabution centers, larger family history centers, and historical sites. I am happy to have had the “Utah experience” to learn and grow, and see how y’all live, but will also be happy to close this chapter and head back after graduation.