Thursday, January 24

Just not my thing

Anyone who knows me well enough, knows that Utah is just not my thing. I do not really enjoy living here or much about this state in general because I was raised in a place that was simply so awesome, it's sad to even compare the two. My family isn't here, and I miss the landscape and greenness of New Hampshire. But, I will say, that today was a nice day here in Utah. Don't get me wrong, it was freezing rain out and deathly slippery, and the nasty smog was trapped around us, but it was nicer than it has been in a while in my humble opinion. I like the rain. I liked that 32 degrees felt kind of warm. I liked that I was able to stay inside most of the day because of my job and that I didn't have to expose my little one to the poor air quality by being outside. It was just a better day. 

At work, we had a discussion about Utah in comparison to New Hampshire. It sounds like the majority of people involved liked or even kind of liked Utah. This came as no surprise to me. But in my defense, I am brutally honest when it comes to my personal opinions. The conversation started out innocently enough: I was just suggesting that my favorite types of pizza are all New Hampshire types. I had not even realized that that was the case until that moment, but as I listed off Pizza Express, Gilford House of Pizza, and Papa Gino's, I thought, "What the heck--none of those are out here." When someone asked me why I dislike Utah so much, my first thought was the people. Then right away I felt bad about that because I have met some wonderful people from Utah. I certainly know they are not all bad. But the culture of the Church out here is tremendously different from what I had expected and from what I'm used to. I quickly discovered this as an innocent east-coast Mormon girl on my first visit to Utah when I was a Junior in high school. I had been so excited to come to a new place and be surrounded by members and feel like I was a part of a huge LDS community. I thought that I would get to see the best parts of the Church and feel empowered from the experience. Then I came out here and the people were not what I expected. They say the Church is true, the people aren't. That proved to be the case for me during my visit. The competition within the Church out here is something that truly bothers me. Who cares about whose house is bigger or nicer? Who cares about having nicer clothes than your neighbors? Who cares about having expensive things? Why do people judge each other on their Church attendance or calling? That stuff doesn't matter! 

I was raised in a small house in the east. When I was in middle school, I was embarrassed because our house was small. It was only one story. Yet for some reason, people always just wanted to come over to my house. I did not really understand why. Most of my school friends had way bigger houses than me. I wondered why they didn't mind that my house was small. It wasn't until high school that I realized that they probably could feel the Spirit within my home. My mother kept our house extremely clean and full of good books, beautiful paintings (some Church-related, some not), and full of things to do. It was around then too that I realized I loved my home. I loved it and wanted to have one just like it someday. I realized that no one cared about the stuff we owned. When I went to the homes of my friends who similarly had small homes, I didn't judge them. That was not an important part of my upbringing. My more wealthy friends didn't judge us either. It just wasn't a big deal. 

When I think of my home ward, I think of how wonderfully strange the people are out there. And how wonderfully black and white their "status" is. No one pretends to be doing all the right things and goes to Church to put on a facade of being righteous. More than half of my ward members live in humble homes. They manage their money and do not go into debt for a home or for expensive luxury items just for show. No one would be impressed by that. There are so many peculiar people who live such different lives than the people out here. I cannot imagine a person going out to bars and drinking and then going to Church the next day. If someone chooses not to live the standards of the Church, they just don't go. They don't fake it. I was so shocked when I saw how the youth dress out here. This is supposed to be a gathering place for the Saints! We were a little strange in our high schools because we did not wear immodest clothing and so we stood out. Many people in my high school asked me, "Why are you so happy all the time?" and "It is so cool that your family is religious. I wish I had that." They would ask me about what Mormons believe in and I had so many sweet opportunities to share my testimony and give a little insight into what Latter-day Saints are really like. I brought many friends to Church, efy, Girls' Camp, and Mutual activities. I loved those missionary opportunities. It felt so good to bring a little light into the lives of those who were surrounded by moral darkness. I love those non-members. I love how imperfect they are and how much they appreciate kindness and the good they see in others. 

Since I have lived in Utah for more than a year, my insights have changed. Just a little. Yes, Utah has cool mountains and some pretty cool parks. Yes, I love how there are dozens of temples here and knowing that the prophet is nearby. And as I said, I have met many wonderful people from Utah who are just as great as one would expect for a place where there are so many Latter-day Saints all together. I am still disappointed with how many of the members choose to live when my little tiny stake in the east lives in the midst of moral chaos and still manages to follow the standards of the gospel with careful diligence. We have hardly any examples around us except each other. It is something that I truly don't understand about the culture here but I am trying to. And I accept that I do not have to feel like a part of it and that it is okay if I don't want to be. I need to make sure that I do not make assumptions about all of Utah just because my experience here has not been very positive. I will not be here forever but while I am here I need to strive to set an example and not be guilty of the judging of others that bothers me so. I am not even close to perfect. But I am thankful for my upbringing which has given me a very clear perspective of people. I love the people of this world who are just looking for something greater. They live imperfectly but they are real. I miss that about my home. 

I am not sure what the purpose of this post is. It certainly was not intended to bash Utah or the people who live or love it here. But I do think the members should know that they have it pretty good out here, and so many do not even realize it. Practice what you preach. Do not judge others. And most of all, do not compare yourself to those around you. Like I said, it does not matter who has a nicer home or more Church members in their family or fewer family problems or what your economic status is. In the eyes of our Father in Heaven, we are all equal. We are born into different situations, but we can all be the type of people we ought to if we are trying hard enough. We had better start treating each other like we are all children of God, because I know--whether you believe me or not--that all of us are.  

Do you agree with me? Or do you completely disagree?
Do you think the culture of the Church is different in Utah? 
Or maybe just different than you expected?

4 comments:

  1. I agree with you one hundred percent!

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  2. I want you to come back to NH! ;) And although I don't know about Utah... I agree, one of the most annoying things is when someone doesn't practice what they preach! It can definitely be discouraging. Also, you know I always love your house. :) I'm glad you want to have one just like it so I can come over all the time.

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  3. Pardon the long comment... I didn't expect it to be this lengthy. :P

    I served a mission in the England London South Mission. I lived in and visited London for a time, but most of the time I served in areas in the countryside, far from the busy-ness and pollution of London. When others speak of England, quite often they are in reality speaking about London, which is nothing like what I would call "England." London is a huge grey city with rude drivers, double-decker buses, and endless tourist destinations. England is green, open, quaint, has extremely courteous drivers and small regular buses. It frustrates me to hear people judge England by what they saw in London, because from my experience, they are extremely different.

    Although it's not quite as extreme, I think it's inaccurate to judge Utah by what you find in Provo. If it weren't for BYU, Provo would be no different than any other Utah city. Because of BYU though, Provo is very different. For example, my wife's family, who is from Washington, loves to complain about how horrible Utah drivers are. I love to complain about how horrible Provo drivers are, and we're talking about the same drivers. Driving in Provo can be scary because there are thousands of students from all over the country, all who have come from their own "culture" of driving habits, if you will. I grew up in Kaysville where it's highly unusual to see someone run a red light or hear about a pedestrian get hit by a car, so it's annoying to me how they assume all Utah drivers are like Provo drivers.

    Now I can't say whether all of the things you talk about are specific to Provo, because although I lived there for 4.5 years, I was immersed in the student population and culture and seldom ventured beyond the BYU-approved housing radius. What I can say, though, is that I grew up on the older side of Kaysville in a ward where every home is small... except my family's and our next-door neighbor's. Although we stood out having a home literally three times the size of most of the rest of the ward, I felt the same way you did — I didn't think the size of the home made a difference in where or with whom I hung out, and neither did my friends. It would have been really surprising to me to read a post like this before I moved away from Kaysville for my first time because I would have described my home and neighborhood just like you did yours.

    I'm not saying this is a frustrating post. It's a good reminder of how to live, actually. I'm just encouraging you (or whoever's reading this) to try not to over-generalize or judge too quickly. Like you said, we're all children of God trying to do our best.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Ryan! I can see what you mean about the difference between Provo and the rest of Utah. We have some great friends in Lehi who are nothing like I described. What upsets me are those members of the Church in Utah who do not understand how good they have it. They live in a certain way to be a part of the Mormon community when in reality they are not even trying to live the standards of the Church. I had never experienced so many fake or untrue people until I came here. Utah members have such a great opportunity to shine but it is wasted on so many who don't recognize the importance or blessing of being surrounded by members of the Church.

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