We had the graduation party for the third-year residents that are now either going off into private practice, working for the government, or moving from student to faculty. The head of the program gave an interesting speech on ethics and values. Family values and sexual freedom, he noted, were set to be the big conflict of the next several decades. He mentioned abortion, but talked more about homosexuality.

Judging by both 2000 and 2004 poll numbers, Deseret is one of the two most conservative states in the nation. For a variety of reasons, the medical profession veers noticeably to the right politically. But the subject of politics had me looking around and looking at how unorthodox this program – and the town that houses it – is.

Clancy works for Beck State University at Beck County Medical Center. The town we live in used to be called Fort Beck, named after an early military settlement by that name. Fort Beck was the civil outpost – the only town in Deseret that was created by the federal government rather than mineral/fur prospectors or Mormon settlers. When the federal government and Brigham Young’s boys got into some military scuffles, Fort Beck was on the other side of that.

When all was settled, the Fort was closed and the university was put in its place. The township was dissolved and merged with Zarahemla so that it could be administered by good, elected LDS folk. Even so, Fort Beck remains something of a liberal oasis in the conservative suburbs of one of the nation’s most conservative states. It’s a hub for those that don’t want to leave the area, don’t want to live in the capital city, and don’t want to convert religiously or politically. Incoincidentally, it has a pretty nasty reputation outside of the area. The Butt-crack of Deseret, it is called.

The residency program itself has become something of an anomaly as well. Clancy’s class became the first without a single Mormon and with that the residency as a whole became non-majority LDS for the first time since its inception. The incoming class is 2/3 female making it now a female-majority residency. In Deseret.

But this is Deseret. Fort Beck is split about 50/50 religiously (between LDS and not-LDS, putting Christians and atheists in the same category for the first time in their lives). But just the balance makes Fort Beck the most tolerable place in Deseret.

I work in a town called Mocum that’s about a 50-minute drive. Mocum is a reasonably educated place with a couple colleges all its own, though a lot of them have to go down to BSU to get the four-year-degree of their preference. There’s a county hospital near FalStaff, though they don’t have a residency of their own. One of the thoughts that occured to me during the residency director’s speech was that even if Mocum did have one, I’m not sure it would even occur to them to discuss issues like sexuality.

There is so much assumed here. Just as church is considered a good place to meet a prospective mate down south, it’s considered a good place to find employees up here. Not entirely legal, but pretty widespread. Though it hasn’t happened to me, it’s not uncommon to be asked what ward (religious jurisdiction in the LDS church) you belong to. It’s not even necessarily an effort to weed out non-LDS members. Around here that’s like asking a high school kid what school they go to. Yeah, some might be homeschooled, but you assume not unless otherwise informed. Of course, once they find out you’re not a member of the Brethren, your chances of getting hired go down.

Though I certainly can’t wait to get out, I live in a pretty impressive part of the country. A religious group that is very much a minority across the country have created a bubble for itself. While it’s frustrating to outsiders like me, the homogeny here provides a commonality that makes things considered out of bounds morally also out-of-bounds conversationally. As one who supports gay rights, gay marriage, and so on, this can be quite frustrating. But looking at it from the perspective of someone that disapproves of homosexuality and wants those issues to be introduced later in life, it’s impressive. Deseret has even touched on a national nerve, setting up a handful of companies that – with great controversy – edit VHS tapes to strip them of objectionable content.

And I think that’s a laudable goal. I also think that the modesty displayed in dress around here is not a bad thing, either. The education system is one of the best in the country. Government waste is kept to as minimum as government waste ever can be. The cultural homogeny is to credit for a lot of this. I’m not sure why any of the Brethren would ever want to leave her. Nor am I sure why Fort Beck exists because I’m not sure why any non-Mormon would ever want to stay here.

Back in Fort Beck, Clancy and I attended a community theater production. There were a couple of questionably-dressed young ladies in their young twenties (if that, probably not even). One of them had a stroller. Her provocative clothing was betrayed the charactistic underwear that Mormons wear in order to repel evil spirits. To repeat, she was wearing the characteristic underwear that Mormons wear in order to repel evil spirits. Back in Colosse, such a young lady would almost certainly be doing the club scene until her early thirties, when she would scramble to find someone that’ll do and start a family in the pristine suburbs. But the timeline is different here than it is anywhere else. And there’s no evil-repellant underwear.

I leaned over to Clancy and asked, “Do you ever get the feeling sometimes that we live in a foreign country?”

She did.

Category: Church

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