Saturday, March 10, 2012
Mormons and Military Culture... Kind of Like Mixing Oil and Water (Part 1)
For those of you who don't know much about the Mormon faith, we (the ones living our religion, anyway) don't drink alcohol, coffee or tea. We don't smoke either. And if you grew up in Utah, that Mormon culture is everywhere, especially consecrated in the small towns outside our state capital, Salt Lake City. You won't even find beer at any of our small town festivals, and everyone in town knows who the 3 smokers are. Coffee makers can be found in the break rooms of our businesses, but all the ones I worked at sported hot water for everyone's hot cocoa... or just sat unplugged gathering dust.
"Utah Mormons" are a bit of a joke within the Mormon community around the world. Believe it or not, even within our religious culture there are "divisions" and "groups". But usually, we just joke about it. There are ongoing rivals with our neighbors the "Idaho Mormons" who we joke about being "Spuds". My sister married a "spud" and I don't think we ever let them forget it... I think my mom gives them Mr. Potato-head ornaments for their Christmas tree most years. My brother-in-law jokes back and says the number one thing he didn't want in a wife was a Utah girl.
Why are "Utah Mormons" a bit of a joke with in the world wide community? Well, for a long time, Utah was mostly Mormon. It was settled by Mormons. But within the last 50 years or so many people from other faiths and backgrounds have come here because we have a fairly good economy compared to the rest of the US. Utah has a lower crime rate than most, and the weather is pretty versatile depending on which end of the state you live on. And Utah is beautiful! So now, even though most of the smaller towns are mostly Mormon, in the main cities there are almost more who are not of our faith than those who are. According to statistics only 60% of Utahans are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons). Most people feel that Utah Mormons live in a little bubble of naivete. That we don't really know what the world is like because we live like we were still in the 1940's, and some of us act like Jane Austen characters and every toe out of line becomes a "scandal!" Truth is, we know what the world is like. We watch TV and surf the internet. We aren't idiots! (Well, most of us anyway...) We like this lifestyle, it's the one we choose. Isn't our fault that half the population in Utah is like that so we tend to "party" a little different than everyone else does. (Which we do, by the way. We party and dance!)
And no matter what people say, we are well aware of the fact that Utah has issues. We have a high divorce rate. We are also considered one of the top states to have porno and adultery issues.
When a Utah Mormon first leaves the state, for whatever reason, some of us tend to go through a little bit of culture shock. No matter how much we plan and study about it, being a part of it and in the middle of life outside Utah is something we really don't get until we are there. Sometimes, we joke about going to Vegas. Mormons LOVE buffets... we have them all over Utah (I think we have like 10 just here in Logan). Food is a major thing for us and we LOVE it. Vegas has a lot of "famous" buffets... BUT they are always at the back of casinos. As Mormons, we are strongly encouraged NOT to gamble, so casinos make us uncomfortable... but we will brave ANYTHING to get to the buffet (especially if there is all you can eat shrimp!). No kidding. You can always spot the Mormon in the casino because they are walking straight down the middle of aisles -- heaven forbid ANYONE mistake them for a gambler as they lead their family back to the buffet! I remember going on a school trip to Vegas to preform something rather and one of the students could not believe they let people smoke indoors... and oh my gosh, is that guy drinking a beer!? It was pretty funny.
So we live a bit of a sheltered life here. We know it. We laugh and joke about it. Believe it or not, most of us think we are a pretty silly people... and we like it!
So you can imagine how joining the Army has been educational to us, to say the least.
To be continued...
(Note: I decided to write this post in 3 parts, as there are many aspects I would like to cover on this subject. Comments are more than welcome, just be polite and courteous, please. Parts 2 and 3 will be posted next week so come back and check it out!)