An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Who Needs Leavening?

Last week our Molly daughter, Lolly, said she’d heard a Church speaker wish the concentration of Mormons along the Wasatch Front and in and around Mesa, AZ could be split up to “leaven” the rest of the country. Interesting idea—and I immediately saw the benefits to the Mormons involved. Isolation from other cultures, which is how most Mormons in concentrated areas live, leads to stagnation. History shows that nations that come into contact with other cultures through conquest or trade make great leaps forward in their own culture. Ideas, like hybrid plants, benefit from cross-fertilization.

But the hubris of the notion that the rest of the country needs the “leavening” of Mormons troubles me. How will spreading more Mormons around solve the ills our nation currently faces?  Problems like political polarization, unemployment, poverty, violence, drugs, immigration, and education declines.

Certainly, if Utah had solved all these problems, we might have hope that spreading Mormons around would benefit the whole country. As things now stand, I’m not sure that exporting more right-wing Republicans from Utah would solve the country’s political polarization. The Church employs a lot of people in Utah, but isn’t large enough to extend that employment benefit to other states. Likewise, the Church welfare system isn’t large enough even to help all Mormon Utahns in need of food and shelter—and certainly not with health care. Utah divorce rates are about the same as those of other states. Plenty of Mormon single moms and their kids live in poverty. Violence and drug abuse are high in Utah—even among active Church members. The Church has taken a humane position on illegal immigration—but a sizeable number of active members oppose the Church position—and the state legislature passed a harsh immigration bill this year. Education attainments in Utah schools are now challenged by budget cuts and the ongoing call for privatization by legislators with financial stakes in the issue.

Possibly Utah and Mesa Mormons are the ones needing the leavening effect of exposure to people of other faiths.

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Comments on: "Who Needs Leavening?" (5)

  1. I don’t doubt that Mormon culture has some sort of leavening effect, though I I enjoy the specifics of a sourdough analogy. One thing seems certain: this leaven has been and will continue to be absorbed and diluted.

  2. Last night we had the opportunity to attend an Interfaith Thanksgiving program. (Hubby was representing our Buddhist Temple.) The opening “prayer” was offered by a Native American in his language, there was beautiful chanting by Thai monks, readings, musical selections, short talks. Thirteen participants from different religions/cultures. The most touching moment of the evening was when one of the ministers looked directly at the Native American and asked forgiveness for the heinous crimes that were done to his people.

    The opportunity to expand and learn about other cultures is available. Most choose not to participate. Sadly, I don’t hold much hope for the LDS people in Utah. They seem to be content with the status quo.

    • Numi,
      Thanks for sharing your beautiful experience. It is sad how often we humans choose the security of our familiar ruts instead of exploring the network of exciting paths the world offers.

  3. Dorothy J.D. Guinn said:

    Numi-I love that you had that opportunity. Hearing about it has healed a torn spot in my heart; thank you.

    It is strange how we are severed from ‘others’. The idea of ‘you marry whom you date’ makes children grow up in fear of their neighbors–which of course we attempt to counteract by sending our nearly-grown children out into ‘the mission field’ to interact with those same not-ok people in hopes of converting them. Apparently ‘other people’ are only good for one thing: conversion.

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