We’ve all heard the stereotype, right? Utah Mormons are just different from members of the church outside of Utah – and not in a good way. They take the Gospel for granted. They aren’t as committed because Mormonism isn’t special in Utah, it’s simply the culture. Have you heard that? I’ve heard this countless times my entire life, mostly from people who proudly consider themselves non-Utah Mormons.
I don’t consider myself a “Utah Mormon.” I lived there during my early childhood years but have been in the South ever since. In Utah, my Ward was named after the street I lived on. In Florida, it was named after the city of 40,000 I grew up in, and it was the only Ward there. Then, in Alabama we served in a very small branch that was the only one for miles. That branch no longer exists. On my mission I had companions from both inside and outside of Utah. I’ve had years of experience dealing with both Utah Mormons and non-Utah Mormons, and here’s the ugly truth about Utah Mormons:
They’re imperfect, just like the rest of Mormons around the world.
I had an Elder on my mission with nothing nice to say about Utah Mormons. I distinctly remember him telling me, “You don’t understand. When you live in a Mormon community and drive by the lake on Sunday and see dozens of boats out there, you just know that it’s mostly members out there breaking the sabbath.”
Do members in Wisconsin ever break the sabbath? Virginia? France? Of course they do. Do a higher percentage of them break the sabbath than those inside of Utah? Who knows? And who cares? Don’t we all choose to sin differently, and then think that our neighbor’s sin is inherently worse, because it’s one that we don’t happen to struggle with?
I remember thinking of how illogical this argument sounded at the time. Were most of the Sunday boaters members of the church? Yes, they probably were. When 80+% of a community is Mormon, then sure, you are going to see more faults. You are going to see people walking into stores on Sunday. There will be Mormon teenagers getting caught drinking alcohol and looking at pornography. You may even hear your Mormon neighbor curse when he runs over the garden hose with his lawn mower. This doesn’t mean that Utah Mormons are inherently worse than those outside of Utah. Nor does it mean that a higher percentage of them are (in your eyes) sinning. It simply means when there are a ton of Mormons in one place, the imperfections appear magnified.
Mortality can be an ugly experience for those that care about eternity. Here is an ugly truth about Mormons everywhere: It feels downright shameful, ugly and embarrassing to sin, repent, sin again in the same way, then repent again, then promise to never do that sin again, only to do the sin again. Ugly, right? Maybe on the exterior, but really, this embarrassing cycle is what refines us. This cycle sounds a lot like the “fear and trembling,” that disciples of Christ undergo while working out their salvation.
We don’t know where our brothers and sisters stand in the eyes of the Lord, and thankfully, we don’t have to make that call. Also, we aren’t supposed to make that call. There’s no such thing as a perfect Mormon, whether in or outside of Utah. The less time we spend disparaging groups of people for what we observe about them, the more we become like Christ.