Thursday, October 18, 2007

Utah Mormons: A study in statistics

One time when the family was in New Mexico for a family reunion, one of my cousin’s husband's asked us, “Are you Utah Mormons?” My brother Lani, who was actually old enough to respond to what he was saying, had no idea what he was talking about either. It was the first time either of us had heard the expression. Since we were in fact from Utah and Mormon, Lani said we must be.

As I interact with others who are in Utah visiting, they tend to dismiss almost any disagreement that we have about virtually anything to the fact that I live in Utah. Great generalizations rain down about how Mormons are in Utah versus how they are everywhere else. Maybe it’s true. I doubt it.

I’ll admit my experience with Mormonism is limited to two summers I spent in Oregon. Let there be no doubt that I met a fair number of crackpots while I was up there. My theory is similarly analogous to Utah drivers. Dug did a great review of drivers at http://randomreviewer.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!4E0E3C618B689CDB!1249.entry. I’ll do my ham-fisted best to summarize his point – everyone occasionally does something stupid while driving. Multiply the frequency at which an average person will make a silly mistake driving by the number of people on the road and you’ll see that Utah Drivers are really no worse than average drivers anywhere there is an urban population commuting to work.

And so it goes with Mormons and Utah Mormons. What is it that makes a Utah Mormon? I’m not sure, since the only time I hear someone using that logic is when they are dismissing someone else’s argument. You know, the blowing-a-raspberry or calling-someone-stupid-kind-of response you gave as a child when you couldn’t come up with a decent response to something. And now I’m being dismissive and I digress. Returning to my point, outside of Utah, the number of Mormons within the local population is markedly lower than it is inside of Utah. Thus, on any given day it’s probable that you interact with less Mormons. By extension, the likelihood that you’ll run into a Utah Mormon is less likely. On the other hand, spend any amount of time in Utah County , and you’re nearly surrounded by Mormons. Given that immersion, it doesn’t take long to run into a "Utah Mormon." So my question is, are there a higher percentage of "those" people in Utah, or is it more of a function of density? In reality, I think the answer is somewhere in between, but I’d guess it is a lot closer to the density. I’m not going to discount the fact that zealous people tend to exhibit more zeal when they are among similar people.

An interesting point to mention is that some people I have interacted with have told me the only reason I even thought a certain way about a given topic is because I’m from Utah. This was even when my feelings about the subject, and consequently my argument, are different from most of the rest of the people in the state. So, I guess my whole point is, the next time you get ready to dismiss someone’s argument on the basis that they are a "Utah Mormon," try to resist the urge and engage the argument on its merits. I don’t think, “Well, that’s because you’re from Utah ” is any better of an argument than “Well, what do you know, you’re just a (insert your least favorite societal class here).” - Fish

3 comments:

Fish lady, Fish, and Guppies said...

Like your buddy Dan says, "Let's enjoy our mountains in the fall so we can put up with the crazies the rest of the year." Truthfully, every place has its version of crazies. For my money, however, you can't beat the lifestyle of Utah. It's pretty cheap to live here. It's on the safe side. There is an abundance of recreational activities. The mountains. Cougar football. I could go on and on. Let's just say there's a reason it was both Kulani's family and my family's favorite vacation spot growing up. (Hey, that's what you get when you grow up in a rural town.)

Mr. Flynn said...

I would only say that wards in Utah that I have been in were different from wards I have been in on my mission in Virginia, California, and now Oregon. I didn't say worse, just different. Many like the culture that exists in Utah. For some it seems much safer than other areas, probably because of the assumption of similar values and so forth. It is nice to be able to assume that everyone starts from the same place to some degree because of the amount of LDS people.

In Oregon I make similar assumptions, just in reverse. I assume people have no idea what I all about or what they are about.

Mrs. Flynn said...

Let it be known that I believe we have more crazies here in Oregon especially in the West Hills ward. But there is definately a culture difference and I would never classify the Fishers as Utah mormons. Typically when the term Utah mormon comes to mind I think cheap and someone who gets caught up in the social aspects of the religion or the tangents and not the fundamental basics.