Are Utah Mormons really different from Latter-day Saints elsewhere in the nation?
It’s a question posed by writer and researcher Jana Riess, who polled Utah Mormons and non-Utah Mormons in an attempt to determine if we are and how much.
Riess concluded that “there is such a thing as a ‘Utah Mormon,’ who is generally more orthodox, traditional, and politically conservative than Mormons in the rest of the country.”
I didn’t need a survey to figure that out. I immediately noticed a huge difference when my military father was ordered here from California in 1970. My overwrought feelings at the time were that we had just moved to some Soviet bloc country.
Having spent the first 16 years of my life in various parts of the world, it took our first Sunday at church to know that Utah was going to be the worst duty station of them all. And, boy, was I right.
Utah Latter-day Saints were the most intolerant and judgmental people I’d ever met. I believed that until 1991, when I started writing about Mormon culture in newspapers.
Imagine my surprise when the most hostile feedback (and lack of humor about themselves) came from Latter-day Saints outside Utah — specifically those in Washington, Virginia and California.
Since I didn’t care, I never bothered to figure out why.
While my personal experience has led me to some different conclusions about Utah vs. non-Utah Mormons, Riess’ survey is more scientific.
There are 10 points of comparison in her survey. For example, which of the two groups was more likely to turn down a church calling/job?
Answer: Half of Utah Latter-day Saints believe it’s never appropriate to turn down a church calling, whereas only 3 in 10 non-Utah Mormons feel the same way.
Near as I can recall, this particular Utah Mormon has turned down only four church callings. The number probably would have been higher, but my bishops have been smart enough to know my true calling is wherever I can do the least damage.
Another finding in the survey is that 6 in 10 Utah Mormons “strongly” believe entering a same-sex marriage should be regarded as “apostasy.” About 42 percent of non-Utah Mormons “strongly” agree with that stance.
Most of the survey results are to be expected. The questions were, after all, relatively expected as well. My survey would be more like this:
Survey • What the hell kind of Mormon are you?
1. Do you believe wearing neckties to church is part of the gospel plan?
2. What about pants on women in church?
3. How much time in church do you spend on impure or hateful thoughts?
4. What color is God? (Hint: Whatever color he or she wants to be.)
5. Is your choice of seating in church dependent upon where someone else is sitting?
6. How often do you bring Hostess products for consumption in church?
7. What’s the longest testimony you have shared in fast and testimony meeting?
8. Assuming that you pay tithing, is it based on your net or gross income, or simply a rough estimate?
9. If you received a mission call to work in a church visitor center in downtown Baghdad, would you go?
10. Are you comfortable enough with the kind of Mormon you already are?
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.