Most of what I write takes place in the fictional state of Deseret. This post is somewhat unique in that it’s more of an outside look involving the real world. As such, for the sake of this post, state lines are drawn as they are in real life and unfictionalized.

Believe it or not, the Mormons have a temple in Las Vegas. A Mormon Temple is different from a church. They have churches everywhere, but temples are only built in places that have enough members to justify one, enough money to build one, and/or another reason. Las Vegas falls into the latter category. Basically enough Mormons wanted to get married in Vegas that they set up a temple almost especially for marriage. Despite the fact that there is already a temple in nearby St. George, Utah. Who says Mormons are not flexible? They built the temple on the east side of town. When Jesus returns, he is supposed to return to Jackson, Missouri, where they believe the Garden of Eden to have been. On the top of all of their temples they have a statue of Moroni, the angel that gave Joseph Smith the tablets. Moroni faces the way of Eden. So he’s on the east side of Las Vegas, facing away from Sin City and looking at Utah.

That’s quite appropriate, both in their disdain of sin and the special place that Utah holds in the faith.

The Salt Lake Tribune has an interesting series of articles on the declining population of Mormons in Utah. A quick word about the Salt Lake Tribune and Salt Lake City in general. Salt Lake City has two halves and two newspapers. The oldest newspaper, Deseret Morning News, is actually run by the Church. For a church-run entity it is actually a decent news source, but it comes with its fair share of biases (as all newspapers do, my newspaper back home was so in the pocket of the Chamber of Commerce it was not even funny). The Salt Lake Tribune represents the other half of SLC. It bills itself as Utah’s “independent” newspaper. It doesn’t say “independent” of what, but it doesn’t really have to. Most of the writers for Deseret Morning News are presumably Mormon. Most of the writers for the Salt Lake Tribune are not. So when one reads negative news about the church in the Salt Lake Tribune, you have to consider that the writer probably took a little pleasure in writing the story and the intended audience is being served with news they will find comforting.

According to population estimates, Utah may no longer have an LDS majority by 2030. The article does, however, acknowledge that this is unlikely to change the state’s atmosphere. Regardless of the actual populations, Mormons tend to be more civic-minded and are extremely over-represented in the voting population. More than that, the institutions are all theirs. They run the Little League, they are on the school board, and so on. Frankly, it would likely take at least a generation of a non-LDS majority before real cultural changes started to be instituted. Needless to say, my wife and I will not be in or around Utah any time soon.

One of the ironies here is that Utah is a victim of its own success. Out-of-staters are moving here in large part due to opportunities. The Utah economy is doing really well. A lot of this is owed to Mormon industriousness. Some of it is due to a friendly business environment owed in part to Republican dominance that is based largely on conservative social issues. Besides jobs, the fact that Utah is such a family-friendly place helps attract conservative out-of-staters. The LDS connection there is more straightforward. The other thing that helps is the environment, which is bringing in all the “wrong” kind of people.

But places are apparently feeling quite a pinch. Inner-city wards are closing because families are sprawling in Utah just like they are elsewhere. On the other hand, while the LDS majority is being cut across the state, I’d be willing to bet that the largest cut is in Salt Lake City, which may not even be 50/50 anymore.

The original article alluded to another article about LDS families praying for other LDS families to move in. It also discussed that what may be necessary is an economic hit to get those not culturally devoted to Utah to move along. I’d be willing to bet that some people are even praying for that. The Mormon population spills heavily into eastern Idaho as well as in to Nevada (Nevada Senator Harry Reid is Mormon, in fact) and Arizona (most of the wacko fundamentalist Mormons are actually in Colorado City, Arizona) and Wyoming. The one state that has comparitively few is Colorado. There is little concern that Utah will ever turn in to heathen Nevada, but turning into a secular Colorado is quite a concern.

I suspect quite a few Mormons would take an economic hit to ensure that it doesn’t happen.

Category: Church

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10 Responses to Desecrating Deseret

  1. The Boss Man says:

    Hmm, sounds like you don’t care for the Mormons much. I’ve met quite a few in my life and for the most part they seemed to be really good and decent people. I guess out West they make up a bigger part of the population, so of course you will find more idiots/jerks/etc than anywhere else.

    On the other hand, you can’t blame them for “taking” over Utah, since they are the ones who started it, after being driven out of every other place…

  2. trumwill says:

    You can read a more personal account of my feelings for Mormons here and here.

    The best people I know out here are Mormons. The most obnoxious people I know out here are Mormon, too. It’s a lot more complicated than “like” and “dislike,” really. I really have a lot of nice things to say about the people and the faith, and I have a lot of not-so-nice things to say.

    It’s different out here than elsewhere. The social programs they have set up are amazing in scope. One never need to go outside church programs to have a vigorous social life. The problem is that it shuts the rest of us out. On the whole their faith may be a positive thing, but it makes my life a lot more difficult and as such breeds unavoidable resentment on my part. The longer I’m here, the more it seems to be the case and the less patience I seem to have.

    And I don’t blame them one iota for wanting to keep Utah as Utah. It was founded by Mormons for Mormons. It just makes things tougher for the gentiles.

  3. Barry says:

    It seems the more that a religious group seeks to establish itself as a closed community, the more insecure and desparate it is to find an identity. Look at Scientologists, they spend millions of dollars filing defamation suits against those who criticize it in print or on the web, they recruit celebrities to champion its causes, etc. The LDS uses is muscle to maintain its (shrinking) status quo as a viable community. There are other examples, I would imagine.

    Methodists, Baptists, Catholics, Jewish… they all have organizational structures of a kind, some more formal than others, but are more concerned with saving souls and loving God than their 401(c)(3) status or what kind of undergarments you’re wearing…

  4. trumwill says:

    Barry, one of the interesting things to me is the difference between Mormons out here and Mormons elsewhere. The people out here are friendly enough (friendlier than the northeast, not as friendly as the south), but there’s just a pretty big difference socially.

    But I guess it makes sense. There simply aren’t enough Mormons in Wichita to make a church-exclusive social circle suffient, but there are more than enough in Cedar City, Utah. And as a matter of class and tradition, I think that they consider themselves a guest outside of home base (from what I understand, they’re instructed to fit in as best they can), but in Utah, eastern Idaho, northern Arizona, western Wyoming, and rural eastern Nevada you are more a guest in their home. First and foremost, of course, Utah.

    For a conservative and institution-intensive religion like LDS, that has got to be threatening. And to be honest, putting my personal biases aside, I was sympathetic while reading the article about the ward consolidation.

  5. Barry says:

    And I guess what I don’t understand, and what most of the rest of us don’t understand, is the fascination with “home” and “community” as an end in and of itself… with us Methodists, sure we’re encouraged to form communities of believers in order to better spread the Gospel, but LDS seems to form communities basically to keep an eye on each other…

  6. trumwill says:

    They have a more systematic outreach in the form of missionaries. One of the beauties of the system is that everyday people don’t have to deal with us. Which is not to say that they never do. They’re genuinely nice folks, for the most part. But to them it’s very much about the church and not the Gospel. Protestantism is very much about the Bible and interpreting it a certain way (which is why it’s the infinitely splitting atom). Mormonism is like Catholicism in that the Church itself is ordained directly by God. I guess that makes it a little harder to reach out since the line is so clearly drawn.

    In the first book of Nephi, it is established that there are only two churches. The Church of God (which becomes that of Joseph Smith and his successors) and the Church of the Devil. There’s not so much in between. So I guess the goal is to bring more people into the circle moreso than to get them to believe something in particular (indeed, that’s why they can be so secretive about what they believe until you are already a member).

    You know, complain as I do, it’s all quite fascinating to me. I’m so used to being around scripture-based evangelical protestantism that the insider-outsider phenomenon is really new to me. I’m used to “If you don’t believe such-and-such, you’re going to Hell” but not as used to “If you don’t swear allegiance to us, you won’t get in to our heaven.” (I’m oversimplifying there, because there are posthumous baptisms and goodly gentiles get a sort of “middle heaven”).

    Particularly such a top-down organization that defines itself in stricter terms than even the Catholics do.

  7. Beth says:

    Your insights to Mormon culture are quite interesting. And let’s make it very clear it is Mormon CULTURE you’re talking about here, not the Church or its policies. I am an eastern Mormon myself… born/raised in NYC and now living (because of the opportunities you mentioned) with my husband in Southwest Idaho. It is a completely different world out here, in regards to the community.

    Second, I’m glad at least that you acknowledge that the conclusions and generalizations you make are simply that.

  8. trumwill says:

    I was wondering how long it would take before a member found my site. Thanks for stopping by.

    I have my issues with church doctrine, but to be honest I have my issues with all church doctrine from the ultra-traditional to the vapid, new-agey stuff. But I have good things to say about some of the doctrines, as well.

    But yeah, the cultural difference is what I’m up against. I don’t care what people believe, but I care how it affects me. This does not give me any moral authority or to say that I have a right to be unaffected, but I’m human and I tend to get resentful of things that make my life more difficult. Right now that’s the Church.

    I had good relations with many Mormons back east. I have good relations here, too (I’m not quite that isolated, thankfully). But being an outsider here kinda rubs ya raw after a while, and like the unpopular kid in high school going all goth, it leads to what are probably unbecoming attitudes.

  9. todd says:

    Ah….another blogger with half a wit and half a brain. Yikes, it’s amazing how the internet creates “experts” in theology, social studies and religious culture. And you would rather stay in Vegas? Hmmm, I rest my case.

  10. Will says:

    Sorry Todd, I didn’t realize that I needed licensure to have a point-of-view.

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