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.