Utah is a beautiful state with stunning mountains, national parks, numerous temples, and more. But living in Utah can have a certain ‘Utah Effect’ as a result of the high percentage of LDS members. Active or not, 60% of Utahns are Mormon. This Utah Effect, then, is the idea that being surrounded by Mormons can actually make it hard to be Mormon. For me, that’s exactly what happened. Utah played a part in my faith.
Some people have lived in Utah their whole lives, others just come to visit, and then there are those (like me), who got a bit of both worlds and moved in. Before coming to the Beehive State, I didn’t hear too much about “Utah culture”. When I arrived, however, I began to realize there was some truthfulness to it. Utah can be super great, but also super hard. There is such a large Mormon culture that it can sometimes seem to overshadow the actual gospel.
My expectations of Utah were probably a bit too high to be honest. I expected the large number of Mormons in Utah to make me feel even stronger about the truthfulness of the gospel. I thought it would strengthen my testimony even more.
I thought I would be affected spiritually and I was. I just wasn’t prepared for how.
My testimony took a hit. Outside of Utah, I was used to being the one and only Mormon girl, and having to act like it. I took joy in sharing the gospel and being unique as a Mormon. After I moved to Utah, I was suddenly one in a bunch. Everyone else went to the same church I did. Suddenly my personal actions did not reflect my religion like before. I did not have to pay attention to everything I did because there were hardly any non-members looking and plenty of other Mormons to give a good example.
Plus, the fact that everyone else around me was already Mormon made the whole member missionary thing much harder. For those few people who weren’t members, they still knew what the gospel was for the most part and did not want to hear anything else. I could no longer grow my own testimony simply by standing out as a Mormon and being willing to answer any and all questions. The growing of my testimony by being able to share it was no longer as easy of an option. Rather than being asked questions about my faith, I was asking questions about my faith.
Why does this strong Mormon culture in Utah affect me so much? Why does it make me feel so inadequate, and my religion seem so blasé?
These are questions that I faced as an out-of-state girl who was suddenly a Utah resident. I could not understand why living among so many Mormons was so hard for me. But then I realized. It was not Utah, it was not Utah residents. It was me.
I expected more than I should have, and just like moving to anywhere else, it takes adjusting. And living in Utah made me adjust how I share and show my faith.
I realized that by living my faith I was still a good example to those around me, even if they were members too. Active Mormon, inactive Mormon, or non-member, an example of faith and diligence is still important.
On top of this, although the proportion of members versus non-members was highly skewed from anywhere else I lived, I could still share the gospel. I could share the gospel with people like myself, whose testimony could use a bit of strengthening. I could share the gospel with people who once knew it was true, but now struggled. There were still many opportunities, but in different forms.
Mormon culture affected me so much because I did not see it for what it was. Mormon culture is a result of people and biases, and not distinctly correlated with what it actually means to be Mormon, to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I felt inadequate because I could not yet see the opportunities around me, and had not yet adapted to the difference of culture. My religion was not blasé; my attitude was.
In the end, I decided to be optimistic and to love Utah for what it is, imperfect and beautiful, just like the other states, and just like us. I try to recognize the gospel for what it is, and the culture for what it is not. The culture of Utah and Mormons in general is not a perfect reflection of the gospel. Imperfect people are members of an imperfect church, but a church that has the perfect gospel. Utah just happens to be home to a lot of us who try to understand that, and to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.