-Most people recognize that Utahans are regular, normal, good people who generally live the gospel, though you will always have a few who do not in a sample size that large.
-Many people have no ill will toward Utah or Utahans, they would simply prefer to live elsewhere.
-A small number of people have very negative perceptions of Utahans and went as far as calling them judgmental, hypocritical, and vain. (Ouch!)
-Several commenters have noted that the people who have labeled Utahans as "judgmental" and "hypocritical" are coming across as...well...pretty judgmental and hypocritical. (It is hard to call somebody judgmental without sounding judgmental. Did that make me sound judgmental? If you said, "yes", please stop being so judgmental.)
As I said in my original post on this topic, I have never really understood why there are some people who lived in Utah and had so many negative experiences with church members. I do not doubt that these experiences were real for the people who lived them. The majority of people who tend to disparage "Utah Mormons", as they see it, are not born-and-bred Utahans. Most of them lived in the state for a few years during college or a for a short job stint and then left for other, more exciting places. You know, like Missouri or Wyoming. While some of the anti-Utahan comments left me with a bad taste in my mouth, the discussion shed light on why a small number of people disliked living among the Saints in Utah. It all comes down to one word:
Several of the people who were critical of Utah used phrases like, "...and I expected great things...", "...my expectation (of Utahans) would be extremely high...", and "...I was disappointed in people who should have known better." If nothing else, I have learned that non-Utahans have pretty high expectations of Utah church members.
While I understand why the expectations are high, my experiences with the Saints in Utah has been overwhelmingly positive, as have my experiences in Idaho, Chile, Arizona, Nevada, and North Carolina. The Utah ward that I grew up in was comprised of just three city blocks and nearly every family was active and sealed in the temple. If I had to guess, I would estimate that the level of active families probably approached 90%. One of the few less-active families were my next-door neighbors, and they returned to activity thanks to the patient service of a faithful Home Teacher who visited them for fifteen years before they returned to activity. The vast majority of my high school friends worthily served missions and were married in the temple. At BYU I found myself surrounded by bright, active church members who loved the gospel and lived it in word and deed. Maybe I am naive, or perhaps I'm just a homer, but I truly believe that the majority of Utah Saints are great people who do their best to live the gospel. This holds true for members of the church in every other place where I have lived. During my visit home to Utah last week I spoke with a High Priest Group Leader who told me that they obtain 100% home teaching every month without having to compel people to make their visits. Are they perfect? Of course not. Those of you who are being so critical of Utah, please let me know when you find a religion or a state where everybody does everything right all of the time. It is probably a wonderful place. Like New Jersey.
But this is just my subjective opinion. I did a little research to see if there is any objective data to shed some light on Utah, and here is what I found:
-According to WebMd.com, Utah has the lowest reported use of marijuana, tobacco, alcohol consumption, and underage drinking (i.e. they tend to live the Word of Wisdom).
-According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Utah has the lowest rate of unwed mothers, lowest teen birth rate, and highest percentage of married-couple households (i.e. they tend to live the Law of Chastity). Utah also has the highest birth rate and lowest percentage of working mothers in the country.
-According to Forbes.com, Utah is the most generous state in the nation (i.e. people pay their tithes and offerings.)
-According to Adherence.com, Utah is the most Christian state in the nation. (I cannot vouch for the quality of this website, but I thought it might be relevant to include.)
-Regarding member missionary work, I have heard repeatedly that Utah missions baptize more converts than any other missions in the United States but could not find any recent, credible stats to back this up. The most legitimate statement I could find was from Elder Thomas S. Monson in 1977 when he said, "It is not insignificant that the Utah Salt Lake City Mission leads all English-speaking missions in effectiveness and in total convert baptisms." (i.e. Utahans have ample opportunity to share the gospel and appear to do it effectively.)
-According to ESPN.com, BYU's football team has the nation's longest winning streak at 10 games and may have a chance to go undefeated this year and earn a BCS bid. (So what does this have to do with the topic? Nothing. It just proves that I'm a homer, that's all.)
In other words, there may be more people in Utah who live traditional Christian values of morality, temperance, charity, proclaiming the gospel, and sweet college football than any other place in the country! Take that, New Hampshire! You too, Delaware! This is obviously debatable, but there is a lot of evidence to support the argument. But still, the key is expectations. Many of you may have read that and said, "Of course Utah ranks high in those areas, it is supposed to!" If you had that thought, there is nothing that can be said that will convince you that Utahans are by and large faithful, obedient Saints. Again, are they perfect? Of course not, but who is?
Now, the objective downside of Utah:
-According to Forbes.com, Salt Lake is "America's Vainest City" as measured by the number of cosmetic surgeons per capita. However, the author is quick to note that the number may be high due to the U of U's School of Medicine, which offers residencies in plastic and reconstructive surgery. Just another example of how the U of U is tarnishing Utah's good name! (Kidding. Kidding. Only a joke. Don't send the hate mail.)
-According to the Deseret News, Utah normally ranks among the highest amount of bankruptcies per capita. The article does point out that this may be a function of larger families and lower incomes as mothers stay at home to raise children instead of entering the workforce. (i.e. it's not like most Utahans are declaring bankruptcy because they cannot afford the payments on their Porsche and winter home in Hawaii.)
When it all comes down to it, I think D&C 1:30-32 sums it up best:
30. And also those to whom these commandmets were gives, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with with I, the Lord, and well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually.
31. For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance;
32. Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven.
As individuals, we are all imperfect whether we are Utahans, North Carolinians, Brazilians or Connecticutters (I made that up, but is sounds good). It is thrilling to me that the Lord will continue to move His work along through us, as imperfect as we are. Because of our universal imperfection, we should be very careful in our judgments of others, whether they be individuals or collective groups of people. We will make our experiences in the church, and life in general, as wonderful and positive or as miserable and mundane as we want them to be regardless of where we live.
Life would be even sweeter if BYU gets a BCS bid this year. Go Coogs!