Saturday, February 20, 2010

Gasp! Are you a Utah Mormon?

Although I now live in the midwest, I'm a Utah Mormon. Born there, raised there, lived there for the first thirty-five years of my life. Growing up I would occasionally hear comments about church members outside of Utah (you know, in the mission field! Ooo, exotic!).

After moving to the midwest, I began to notice occasional remarks about Utah Mormons. Probably no more than I'd heard about saints in the "mission field", but being a Utah Mormon, I paid more attention.

For example, not long after my move to the midwest, a truly sweet lady told me she'd heard that Mormons in Utah don't even DO their visiting teaching! She was aghast and wondered if it was really true. It was after that conversation that I began to think in earnest about the issue and pay attention to the stereotypes.

My conclusion, after exhaustive research and study (okay, after mulling the issue over for some time) is that saints are the same regardless of where you live. Shrewd , huh?

In every ward I've lived there have been three types of people. These are my classifications, and may be lacking. If you disagree, write your own post! (Or comment on mine) The following will surely seem judgemental, and probably is. It should also be noted that the classifications are not strict divisions, but more like markers on a continuum. There may be more members between the classifications than actually in them.

People in all three groups attend church meetings on a regular basis, and, I would assume, have testimonies of the gospel.

Here are the three categories:

1. High yield, low maintenance saints (I stole this phrase from a conference talk, but can't remember who said it. My vague memory is that it was Elder Maxwell, but I didn't bother to look it up). From my experience, every ward, whether inside of Utah or out, has a core of workhorse members. Those that give in abundance (at least of their time, and talents, I've never been privy to tithing receipts) and ask for little if anything in return. They work through all but the biggest of their own trials without thinking of asking the ward for help. They are the ones who step up and act when others have a need, accept whatever callings come their way and serve without fanfare. That their testimonies are deep and abiding is evidenced by the way they live quiet lives of service.

2. Luke warmish saints. These are members who, though active, can't necessarily be counted on to follow through when it comes to service. They serve well and lovingly at times, but frequently aren't willing to put forth the effort. (As I write this, my lack of visiting teaching so far this month nags at my conscience). I've known more than one person who started out luke warm and ended up being high yield, low maintenance.

3. High maintenance, low yield saints (reversed the phrase from the conference all by myself!) These are ward members that are repeatedly in need and tend to loudly make their needs known while expecting a crew to come and get them out of their fix. They infrequently are on the giving end of service, but expect to be on the recieving end on a continual basis. I'm not talking about hard working families that have fallen on hard times and, while doing all they can, still need help. These are saints who expect others to do the heavy lifting whenever they're in a bind. I'm happy to say that this group is the smallest of the three.

I've lived in ten wards and each has had individuals running the entire spectrum. I believe that all three groups are necessary. We learn and grow as we interact with each other. And interacting with whiners in a Christ-like manner helps us grow in ways that interacting with fab, fun, folk simply doesn't.

Give me your thoughts. Do you think people are different inside and outside of Mormondom?


  1. I am just glad I got dunked and can be counted! I don't know the answers yet! HA!

  2. I remember hearing once that 90% of the work in the ward is done by 10% of the members. I think they'd be those high yeilders!

    The biggest diffrence I've noticed between Utah wards and non Utah wards is the non Utah wards tend to welcome you WAY faster than the Utah ones. The members (in general) tend to notice new faces much faster and actually talk to you when they do. Plus, for me at least, I've felt "a part" of the ward much faster with my non Utah ones.

    Nice post!

  3. Very interesting post, and a very accurate description, I think, of the different levels of service within any given ward...

    I've never lived in Utah with the exception of when I was a student at BYU, and I don't think student wards are a good representation of what a typical family ward might be like... so I don't have much personal experience to go on. I have a lot of really wonderful, exceptionally faithful friends who have lived and attended church in Utah their entire lives. I love them. They are awesome.

    Perhaps the differences aren't necessarily in the actual members, but just in the functionality and the culture? of the ward or branch... I mean, I know that there will never be any such calling as a Relief Society birthday specialist in my little branch. People are not released from callings just because they are having a baby, many people hold multiple callings at once simply because someone has to do the job... I don't think that sort of thing happens in bigger, more populated areas.

    BUT... that doesn't mean that the saints that live in Utah couldn't function in a branch that small. I'm sure the vast majority would be willing to step up to the plate if circumstances required it. Different challenges, different situations does not make one group of Saints better or worse than the other. I think generally speaking, we all do the best we can, with what circumstances we are given.

    As for the welcoming/not as welcoming comparison that Laree made... here in little old NC, we are HUGELY welcoming when new people move in. Heck... we nearly accost our visitors just hoping we might be able to convince them to move. Anyone that might possibly move in and help us serve... we throw a stinkin party, it's so exciting!

  4. I love this. I just read to my husband and we've come to the conclusion that the high maintenance/low yield group might be a little bigger than average in our ward! I'm with MommyJ -- the only Utah wards I was ever a part of were student wards -- singles, and then a married ward that was like going to church in the Twilight Zone, I swear. Way too quiet. But it's all just different manifestations of the same problems.

  5. I think you hit the nail on the head. Very interesting.

  6. Well said. I have not lived long periods or often in wards outside Utah, but they seem pretty much the same to me. Just as you have described. If you get tired of dealing with the low yield high maintenance type, just go on a mission to Nauvoo. Mostly low maintenance high yield people with only a few luke warmish. It is the closest to a Zion community you will ever find in this life. We feel like we are living in a bubble and dread going home to the real world, even though we miss and long to see family and friends back home. The main thing? The church is true with many wonderful caring people where ere you live.

  7. Very interesting post! I totally agree about the three types. The one possibly controversial thing I will say about Utah Mormons, though, is that sometimes I sense an attitude where people mistake the 'culture' there for the 'gospel', and focus on it more. I don't see that so much out in the 'mission field' (which term I always thought was hilarious. I always wanted to say, "You mean, the REST of the world?). But, there are wonderful, faithful people everywhere!

  8. Thing's Mommy --- I love your new pictures!!! Pregnancy is so cute (on other people)

    I agree with Laree that you are welcomed more readily outside of Utah. I've pondered on the why and have decided (rightly or not) that it's because, in Utah, most members have family living close by, and so the ward doesn't need to be their support network. Everywhere else, the ward family is your crucial network for support and we end up looking at each other more like family. In Utah, there is more of a separation. The family is your support network and the ward is more a social group (besides the obvious place that you get spiritual nourishment, covenants, keys etc.)

    The one other big difference that I didn't mention in my post (it was already too long!), is that in Utah there are more members who come strictly for social reasons (Things' Mommy meantioned this). However, I think the reason is that in Utah where the culture is predominantly Mormon, people who are only socially converted don't get lost and so often continue to come (my last ward in Utah only had three homes in the ward that weren't members, there were never houses in the ward that were unknowns, here, however, there are hundreds--probably thousands of homes in my ward where we generally have no idea who lives there). Here, if someone is only converted to the culture, they tend to get lost to the church, and by and large, only those who have testimonies attend meetings.

    I've enjoyed everyones comments.

  9. WOW....I think you summed us all up pretty well! Made me smile!

    I've never lived outside of Utah, but as for our ward, we are SMALL! The smallest ward in the stake, and I dare say probably the smallest ward in the entire valley. If you serve in our ward, you serve LONG AND HARD! I have found that, that service has blessed my life greatly! HOWEVER, I can also say, if you move into our Utah ward, you are welcomed one hudred percent! You'll know your loved and we're glad your there. And're handed a calling, most likely right on the spot! HAHAHAHA

    Have a great day.

  10. I have been a mormon for 20 years and have NEVER been to Utah, so this blog is VERY interesting and helpful. I was baptized in Germany where we drove 2 hrs 1 way to go visiting teaching.... Happy mom's comment about wards in the midwest is right on ( I used to live in her ward, am now in NC)...but am moving to Utah this summer for the first time, am excited but nervous. I am afraid I will feel like a minnow, in a huge Ocean of MUCH bigger fish and have soooo much more knowledge, pioneer heritage etc to the gospel and am a little intimidated by that. However, at the same time am VERY excited too. :-)