‘Mormon Land’: Outside of Utah, ‘there are fewer litmus tests for what makes a ‘real Mormon,’ scholar says

(Matt Cashore | University of Notre Dame) Patrick Mason

Latter-day Saints are full of jokes, jabs and judgments about so-called “Utah Mormons” — how church members who live in the heart of the faith are somehow different than those who live elsewhere.

New survey findings from writer-researcher Jana Riess show that’s true, especially when it comes to orthodoxy and some cultural influences.

Latter-day Saint scholar Patrick Mason, who grew up in Utah but has lived in the Midwest, Egypt, Eastern Europe and now Southern California, has noticed the differences, too. For instance, in those places away from the Intermountain West’s Mormon Belt, he said, when members attended church, it didn’t matter how they were dressed.

"The overwhelming feeling, at least that we experienced, was ‘thank goodness you’re here,’” Mason said in this week’s “Mormon Land” podcast. “Who cares whether you’re wearing a dress or pants or what you think about the Book of Mormon? If you’re willing to walk in that door, you know, thank you for being here.”

There were, he added, “fewer litmus tests for what makes a ‘real Mormon.’”

By the way, Mason, head of Mormon studies at Claremont Graduate University, soon will become a “Utah Mormon” again. In July, he takes over as the Arrington Chair of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University.

He said his family values diversity and “a lot of things that we found outside of Utah. But ... I was raised there, and I’m I don’t think I’m too screwed up. ... I can’t wait to get back there.

For this week’s podcast, listen here: