Sunday, January 20, 2013

My Mormon Perspective: Why I can't see myself ever living in Utah

By Common Consent does a recap kind of thing, based on what search terms people use to look up their blog.  One of the phrases, this time, was "I hate Utah" which goes back to this post in 2004.  I started out writing a comment, but as you can see if quickly turned into a post.  All of these stories are true, and accurate to the best of my knowledge.  (Obviously some details were provided by other people.)  I did live in Utah for 4 months, and it was not a good experience.  I may share that at another time, but these experiences all happened while living in Oregon, and interacting with Utah ex-pats, who had chosen to move to Oregon.

Some people don't do well when taken out of their native habitat.

I was sad that the I hate Utah post was old enough that the comments were closed.  I grew up in Oregon, which is a wonderful state, with its own quirks.  Actual visits to Utah when I was a kid were rare (maybe 3) and most of what I knew about Utah was from people who moved from Utah to live in Oregon.  I think the reaction of people who left Utah, and then were surprised that Oregon wasn't Utah, and then wanted all of us who had been living happily in Oregon for quite some time, to suddenly change to their ideas of how to make Oregon more like Utah, just doesn't do the Utah image a whole lot of good. 

Over the years I have been a visiting teacher to many of these transplants from Utah.  Looking back I realize that if my testimony of visiting teaching had been less strong, and I had stuck with the half an hour a month lesson with no real conversation model that is so popular, I might not have such a bad opinion of Utah.  (I am not sure if that is a plug for visiting teaching or not.)  Today I will just share the three most memorable experiences.

I had a woman who called the RS president demanding a new visiting teacher when she learned that I was not a member of any political party.  When I explained that I didn't feel either party reflected all of my political views, and so I just tried to find candidates that I believed in, and volunteered on that candidates campaign, she immediately invited (demanded) me to leave her home and not return.  In her discussion with the RS President, she expressed her concern that if I just looked at the beliefs of a candidate, that for all she knew she could have someone who was a Communist in her home, and then she and her family would have no protection from God.  She demanded only Republican visiting teachers, and was aghast when the RS President told her that she had no idea what political party the women in the ward belonged to, and she had no intention of asking people just to find her Republican visiting teachers. 

I do have a non-visiting teaching incident that left an indelible image on my teenage brain.  There was the man who was a transplant from Utah who tried to get the entire congregation to stand up with him, during fast and testimony meeting, and recite the pledge of allegiance with him, as a way of showing our commitment to making sure that the church would not become corrupted by the evils of unions, people who worked for the government, communists and democrats who were just communists in disguise. 

No one stood up to say the pledge with him the first time. Before he could ask a second time, one of the bishopric counselors escorted him off the stand, and out into the hallway.  There was a loud discussion, that lasted through several more testimonies.  Since the doors were closed, most of what the congregation could hear was phrases like "freedom of religion," "Godless Communists and unions," "I'm going to report this to the Stake President and the Prophet if I have to," and "You have no right to treat me this way."  I am not sure if he was aware that the man who was in the hall with him was a union shop steward, and probably a "Godless Democrat"  although it really isn't considered polite to ask, and as a teenager, I had no reason to ask him.

I got a very distressed call from a woman that I had been visiting teaching for about 6 months at the time.  She was having difficulty with the difference in climate, and while she had struggled with depression in Utah, she found it harder to control in Oregon.  We had become fairly good friends. I tried to visit her once a week, since she was pretty lonely and didn't have a car to go anywhere when her husband was at work. 

After her call, I loaded up my kids and was at her house in about half an hour.  When I got to her house, she was literally white as a sheet.  I got the kids settled playing together and asked her what was wrong.  She had a hard time getting out what her concern was, but I finally got to the point where I understood her situation. 

She had been at the temple the night before and after doing an endowment session, they had been invited to join a group that was doing family file sealings ,and did not have enough people within their own group because several of the families were quite large that were being sealed.  After they had finished, the entire group went to the cafeteria to have dessert before everyone went home. 

When my friend watched the new that morning, there was information about the opening of the legislative session, and the first bills that were going to be debated and who had sponsored them.  To her horror and complete confusion, she realized that three of the men in the group from the night before were members of the Oregon legislature, and they were Democrats!  She didn't know who to call and tell.  She was sure that if their bishops and stake presidents knew that they were Democrats that they would not have a temple recommend, and even though she knew their names, she did not know which wards they lived in or how to find out who their leaders were. 

After calming her down,  I told her that I was sure that they would not have been able to get through an entire election, without their bishops or stake presidents knowing that they were running, or which party they belonged to.  I then explained that there was no prohibition against being part of any political party, and that being a Democrat or a member of the Green Party would not make any difference in answering the temple recommend questions.  She said, but how can you be a Democrat and answer that you are not a member of an organization that is counter to the teachings of the church.  Let's just say it was a long afternoon.

I have no idea if the woman who called me last year, to enlist my help during the election, ever lived in Utah or not.  However, if you want another chuckle, and don't already know that Gay Trees and Gadianton Robbers are a big threat in today's society, you might enjoy this chuckle.

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately, I can never see myself ever living in Utah either. Some of my favorite places in the World are in Utah, such as Bryce Canyon, Zion, CanyonLands, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Escalante GSCNP. But, not one of my Professors at Ricks recommended I transfer or move to Utah.

    As much as people want to refute it, the Church really is different there, or it is different everywhere else. Only 60% of LDS are GOP voters, but its 95% in Utah....which means it is barely over 50% outside of Utah. There's something putrid in that Utah oatmeal or hot cocoa. People outside Utah just don't buy that bat guano conservativism.

    That said, I lived in Utah for 3 months working on the Obama Campaign in 2008. There were some fantastic True BLUE Mormons (and non-members), as opposed to Orthodox RED Mormons. I even stayed with an ORM family. But we were friends in Oregon before.

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