I have lived here in the UK now for almost 20 years and most of my active years in the church have been here in England. But when I go back home (Salt Lake City) or remember my active years in the church there my mind is constantly doing comparisons!
Here are few of the differences I see.
Talent: Not that we’re not knowledgeable and talented over here ,we are but those attributes are not nearly as saturated here in UK as the wards in Salt Lake. The ward we left could have given Stake and Ward Leadership for all of England. So if you aspire to be a relief society president or bishop and you’re from Salt Lake this place is a gold mine.
Funding: Things are tighter here, from what I am led to believe. We pay about a third of our way and the rest is paid for by you our good friends across the pond. This also reflects in our ward and Stake funding, no youth trips to Hawaii, Disney land, or lake Powell. The youth and the wards have a good time but ward dinners and parties are less elaborate and less frequent and it’s at a much more scaled down version than you would find in probably most the wards in California, Idaho and Utah or anywhere the church is developed
Enthusiasm: Remember the phrase Enthusiasm is contagious-don’t believe it!! If you prescribe to the 80/20 theory 20% of us do 80% of the work. So when an excited American comes along the poor 20% Brit is more than excited to let the excessively energized yank do his thing. This is a sweeping generality I know and there are wards here, which are really vibrant.
We often hear, in England, the sardonic recognition that the Church is really true in Utah. But is it really that much better? I have always thought the Church in Utah would have great teachers, who knew what they were talking about and would develop great lessons. I went to St. George recently and was fiercely disappointed and walked out before Priesthood, now I admit this is fairly small sample, but it still shocked me. So is the Church really better in Utah? What is good or bad about the Church there? Alternatively what is better about the Church elsewhere, even in England? What do we envy about our cross-Atlantic cousins?
Personally, I like the multi-cultural element to the wards here. I like it that we spend most of our time with people who don’t agree with us, I think the opposite is unhealthy. I don’t like the apathy of English people, very little is really very serious. I think, in the south particularly that people are not that friendly, whereas in Utah I had to fight for some time alone: ‘No, I don’t want to talk to you in the supermarket and no I don’t live near your ancestors’? This sounds cynical, but I have to confess, I am from the south and am not that friendly.
- Members in the UK seem to be less afraid of intellectuals and slightly intellectual themselves
- Many UK members are snappier dressers (at least in my ward and particularly men — cuff links come to mind)
- Zealous conservatives don’t seem to be as common, but they still exist. My husband and I call them the Cromwellians. Children’s birthday parties on Sundays and sex education in the schools are of grave concern.
- No one ever talks about R-rated movies! Hooray!
What International or Regional differences do you see?
>My husband and I call them the Cromwellians.
I’m going to start using that.
I’m reading this is grins and chuckles as I have lived in the states (native brit) and for the most part i am thinking ‘oh my goodness are we really that uptight?’ but the truth is yes! South is the most worse for wear for it but the further you travel up north the friendlier we all get. I’ve lived down south and i struggled, being a true northern girl with a happy disposition I wanted to share what I felt and help where i could but reserved is their thing.
As mentioned above, I have lived in the states too, and yes there is a lot more extravigances there BUT that isnt always a good thing and its not always a bad thing either. I find (please dont be offended) that in the british social settings people ar more humble because they appreciate the cost of things. Being a small island we obivoulsy have our growth limits and access restrictions…not helped by high costs on many many things so we think small but teach big.
I can honestly say that its BECAUSE of the cultural differences that I LOVE being in the states and i LOVE being here in the UK….my expectation is purely based on whatever the Lord sees fit in and around any stake, ward, state, country etc. I am just so darn thankful that i have the truth of the gospel in my life!!
I’m interested to know what it meant by “extravagance” in U.S. vs. UK churches. I’ve never attended church in England but served my mission in Italy, where most of the buildings at the time (late 80s) were converted apartment buildings or store fronts, with a handful of stand-alone buildings and more being built every year. There weren’t any big, U.S.-style chapels because there were no locations where needed to fit 700 active members into one building for three meeting times. I get the sense that the church was spending far more per person on buildings and such in Italy than they were in America, but I might be wrong.
Anyway, that’s the question: HOW is it more extravagant in the states? Bigger chapels? Big parking lots? Ward budgets? Curious minds want to know.
“We often hear, in England, the sardonic recognition that the Church is really true in Utah.”
Not sure I get this. In our Wisconsin ward, I heard more than once that the church is true in Utah, but it’s truer outside Utah. I grew up in Utah, now we live in Tennessee, and I think there’s a lot of truth to that. At least in the states but outside Utah, it seems like you feel closer to your fellow ward members and you get to spend most of your time around people with different beliefs, which helps get rid of the downsides of Utah Mormon culture. If anything, I’ve experienced a not-entirely-justified superiority complex among non-Utah wards in the states compared to Utah. Do overseas Saints see Utah as the ideal, or as I admittedly sometimes call it, a place with too many Mormons for its own good? Just curious.
I went on vacation about 7 years ago and attended a ward in London. I have to say that I really enjoyed the cultural diversity and the people were quite friendly. My wife’s aunt and uncle were on a mission there, so we ended up hanging out with the missionaries quite a bit. Many of the members were from Ghana, and we enjoyed hearing some of their African chants (and funny accents.) 🙂 There are a few Africa Africans here in Utah, but they are much more rare.
I didn’t find LDS meetings in London much different that churches in either New Hampshire, Colorado, or South Carolina. My parents live in St George, so I have some experience there. There are good and bad teachers everywhere. I quit attending Sunday School about 6 months ago because the teachers were so bad. I’ve had awesome teachers in Utah, Colorado, SC, and NH, and I’ve had bad ones in all those places too. I went on a mission in the South Carolina and Georgia, and found every ward has a personality. Some are friendly, some aren’t.
Here in Utah, we often have a saying that “the church is true even if the people aren’t.” My sister in law just moved back to Utah after living in Montana, California, and the DC area. She has been quite disappointed in how the church members take membership for granted.
I think it is a bit of both. There is definately some sarcasm in the comment, implying that the church is really truer elsewhere. However, there is a sense of utah being the ideal as well. I think this is part of the complex attraction/repulsion experience of some members i have met here. I think what my experience taught me was that the church is just the same in its quality, meaning there is some good and bad from ward to ward and then from country to country. I agree that there can be too many mormons, kinda what i was trying to get at a little in my statement.
Anyway, i hope this answers your question. My experience of the church in the states is necessarily limited, so i can only infer from the little i know. So it is highly likely that i am not only wrong but grossly biased.
I think that the British culture doesn’t help when it comes to living/participating in church things. We’re often quick to complain but slow to resolve the problem. As a nation we’re naturally more reserved (speaking as an english girl), less outgoing and rarely truly enthusiastic. However when I visited the states although I did like the OTT enthusiasm it is rather unnecessary and often comes across as insincere.
I think it’s easier for members in largely LDS populate states to live the gospel or be more into the “invite a friend to a church activity” because there is more knowledge of the church, what it stands for and there appears to be less ridicule. Whereas in England the only thing most people know about the church is that we have more than one wife – which isn’t actually true.
I think that in England the percentage/dividing of budget/money for activites and things contributes to the success of the activity. In my ward few people bring things and make an effort because the way they see it – they’re paying tithing, fast offering, other donations and yet when there’s an activity it’s in a cold chapel with no/barely any decorations and they’re expected to also donate food! If you compare the amount of money spent in Utah on educational firesides, programs, seminary/institute buildings, chapels 10 blocks to the lack that’s spent in England (as I said in my chapel they don’t even turn the heating on!). Then yes members in the states may be more willing to participate in activities, be enthusiastic and have lavish functions because they are seeing and experiecing the blessings/luxuries everyday!
In regards to Heidi’s comment about less intellectually afraid individuls, I think that depends on the region in which you live – for example this isn’t necessarily the case where I live (whether LDS or not) but I think because of the cutural diversity that England has in comparison to Utah it means as a nation we are possibly more curious/questioning to things, including the church. Whereas it seems in Utah 90% (or so) are LDS – almost everyone follows it, is connected to it (either through baptism or heritage) and therefore may not question it as much because those around them don’t.
Does any of this make sence?
I have never set foot in the US of A. But here are my perception of things:
1 It must be great being a YM/YW in Utah as I know activities are of a higher calibre and scoutism goes on. It makes the UK feel like a perpetual pioneering attempt.
(In my opinion, it is not right that the Church doesn’t level out the budgets for all countries. It is a universal church in its message, but not in its applications it seems. So it’s great for the Utah boy to go on fancy youth trips, but I was under the impression that the Church, unlike the worldly politics, challenges inequalities and discimination).
2 The law of percentages claim rightfully that the higher the concentration of members, the higher the proportion of good ones. By good I mean a man or a woman with a sincere testimony throwing its weight into the various callings one might get through life. Over here in the UK, France & Co., we are so few, and so widespread over the territories, that we are deemed to be marginal and to be unable to establish a mindset of grand thinking due to scarcity of available ‘good people’ we can rely on.
3 Let’s be wary of the Cookie Culture. It is, for historical reasons (free thinkers in search of a land of free worship; America’s religiousity is based on protestantism which is in essence less oppressive), only natural that Utah (and other) people are very kind and more relaxed about life. More easy going perhaps is the word. But I am led to think that Cookie Culture is so intertwined with the Church’s phylosophy that it is difficult to differentiate what is from Sr Smith and what is from God. What I mean is that the culture tends to take other, and the spiritual and deeply religious affinities with the sacred are treated as part of this culture?????
And since most white americans are from european descent, it is obvious that the reason for members of the Church in the US to be numerically more engaged can only be found in the cultural context.
It’s nice to be surrounded by nice people, but my many encounters with Utah kindness left me slightly perplexed as you never know how meaningful it is (how sincere is that smile? Or have the muscles been som well trained that is is here to stay?).
So let’s not confound culture of niceness and the Gospel in action.
4 Many people from Europe, with kind dispositions of the heart, not enclined to stick to stereotypes, have returned from Utah with more negative than positive to say. Usually around item 3 above, and the youth. Maybe they expect to find Zion but all they meet is human beings in the humble exercise of daily life.
These are my thoughts, but i am open minded.
I attended Church in the UK once. it seemed almost the same as my Ward, at the time, in California. They had a member of the Stake Presidency speak at Sacrament meeting. that doesn’t happen too often in the US, I don’t think. In SS, when the teacher asked how many people read the lesson, a few hands went up. that is the same as well. But the strangest thing was that during Sacrament meeting, the members would open the hymn book to the next hymn and out it back in the holder with the book open to that page. I never saw that before or since. I also attended Church in France and I had to stand up in Sacrament meeting as they introduced me as a visitor from the US.
I’ve been fortunate enough to live in about 20 states and visit a few countries in the western hemisphere. The topic brought up is an interesting one to say the least. Culture and philosophy are hobbies of mine. Here are a few things that I’ve noticed both inside and outside of the inter mountain west (Utah, Idaho, Arizona, and Nevada).
1. Fast and Testimony meetings
In the inter mountain west, people seem to testify much more of the current prophet, the church itself and Joseph Smith, three predominant and important topics / concepts in the church. Very few testify about Christ himself and what he did for us and taught us. In the Midwest, where I’ve spent most of my life, and the regions in South America I served my mission in, Christ is the predominant focus of the meeting. People still talk about the current prophet, Joseph Smith and the Church, but not in the same way as in the inter mountain west. There is also a much more powerful feeling outside of the inter mountain west than in.
LDS film can be considered a reflection of the lighter side of our culture. I was watching “The Singles Ward” the other day with a group of friends. The opening sequence had a guy who married a convert who came home and saw her drinking, smoking, and stating that she never really had a testimony. She subsequently left him. As I watched, I thought to myself, Is that how I’m viewed as a convert? Let me give a few examples and I’ll try to keep it objective.
I lived in a Midwestern ward that had a high concentration of Utah transplants. What bewildered me the most is how they stuck together. My family and I were not able to get into social group however, others that moved into the community from Utah were accepted and integrated almost automatically. We lived across the street from three Utah families with kids the same ages as my own. Not once in a year did they ever invite my kids to come and play with theirs and when mine came out to play, they went in real quick. Multiple attempts were made to build some sort of friendship with them but it never took. I chalked it up to cultural similarities/dissimilarities.
Out here in the inter mountain west, I’ve noticed that social circles are built almost exclusively of church members. Very few members go outside of that. Very few. Outside of here, it’s almost the exact opposite. That is probably due to population demographics and similarities in culture, values, and upbringing.
I never really could understand this. It was almost as if the PTSD was passed from generation to generation and they were taught that everything church was good and everything not purely church (converts included) was bad. One spouse even asked mine “what do you have to talk about with them, they’re not LDS?” when talking about the neighborhood (a rare occurrence). Many of them even when so far as to say “well out here in the mission field…” when talking about these differences like this topic is discussing. If someone can explain this to me, please do.
Don’t get me wrong, they were all good people with good hearts and a strong drive to live righteously. We had some phenomenal service projects as well. It was just that the outlook was difficult to understand. Again, if someone understands, please explain it to me.
Yeah, there’s a lot more of us out here. Lots with good leadership skills and good hearts. The wards here are predominantly people from multiple generations of church membership in their veins. Back home, we’re mostly converts.
I’ve also noticed that people out here take the church for granted since it is the dominant religion here. In the midwest, members are few and far between and if you’re Mormon, people know it.
4. Adherence to policies
We had a joint PH/RS meeting not too long ago with the stake presidency. It was a solicitation for “friends of scouting.” I even got a letter not long afterwords with a suggested donation amount signed by my bishop. According to the handbook of instructions, that’s a big “no-no.” Stuff like that here in the inter mountain west is common place. Last time I was home, a Utah transplant brought up that same idea in a joint meeting. It was put down pretty quickly, and he didn’t understand why. When he was shown the handbook of instructions section, he just had a confused look on his face.
5. Youth activities
Things are much different here in the inter mountain west than from where I grew up. A YM group just took a trip to California to go fishing, scuba diving and boating. A multiple hour road trip to say the least. Other groups have gone cross country to do a church history tour, scout camp at Nauvoo, etc. When I was growing up, we had to go camping in the woods behind someone’s house. We didn’t have near the money the stakes out here do.
OK. I’ll get off my soap box now…
James and #8 – I have no idea if funding works in the UK, but in the US it is based on an allocation per average Sacrament Meeting attendee. The funds stretch much further in wards with higher attendance and smaller numbers of youth, because youth programs usually take up a good bit of the ward’s total budget.
If there are wards in the US that are travelling to Hawaii, they are probably in wealthy areas and the members are paying the bulk of the costs themselves. Same goes for Disneyland trips (unless the ward is in Southern California) and Lake Powell (unless the ward is in Utah). I don’t know of any ward budgets that could pay for extensive travel costs without the members (or perhaps one wealthy member) paying for it.
As for other differences, I can probably speak more intelligently about that in three weeks, after my wife and I make a trip to London. We should be in one ward or another on December 21.
I can understand why you might have thought that, but, no. In 41 years of Church membership, I’ve lived in several different states (California, Utah, Virginia, Maryland, District of Columbia, Texas, and Colorado) and quite a few different wards, and I’ve seen no correlation whatsoever between geography and quality of teachers. Heck, even in a given ward and a given class (say, Gospel Doctrine), you can go from having a wonderful teacher to having a not-so-wonderful teacher (or vice versa). ..bruce..
My experience is from growing up in the Northeast US mainly as well as serving in a European mission. I think some of the biggest differences are:
1 – Complacency differs. In Utah, there seems to be complacency toward church history, knowing your religion, and even doing service. In other places in the US, there seems to be complacency toward how much effort you put into some of the church stuff (e.g. how much planning into activities, etc.)
2 – Insular attitudes in Utah, even when Utah members relocate outside of Utah. There is a strong (and ironic) sense of cultural superiority that I have seen several times in members from Utah who want to imprint their culture onto other regional areas, despite the silliness of it. You don’t have to eat jello, do crafts or revere other people’s pioneer ancestors above your own in order to be a Mormon.
3 – Where fewer members exist, more is required. We had to drive 26 miles to get to church, even when there was a split meeting schedule (104 miles every Sunday). One of my mom’s VT appts required a 90 mile round trip. Just covering the basics was a huge time commitment. Not so when you can take a plate of cookies next door and call that a visit or walk to the church.
Some of the above comments also seem more related to the US vs. Brits, regardless of church membership. My previous boss was a Brit, and after he had a few glasses of wine at dinner one night, my colleague and I were trying to prod him into saying what Brits really think of Americans. It was much as I suspected: we’re loud, uncultured, uncouthe, superficial and (as my colleague chimed in) obese. He said Brits often look at Americans with a skeptical eye but also a slightly envious view, the way parents sometimes look at their teenage kids. Youth is wasted on the young, as they say.
“My family and I were not able to get into social group however, others that moved into the community from Utah were accepted and integrated almost automatically.” (Shadow)
I think this is interesting because of an experience i had in a ward in Ireland. A utah couple moved into the ward for a year and when they were leaving the husband gave a talk where he said that if everyone was treated teh way they were when tehy came to Church no one would leave, but he doubted that they were and he thought that because they were from Utah they were treated in a special way.
“Some of the above comments also seem more related to the US vs. Brits, regardless of church membership.” (Hawkgrrrl)
This is probably accurate to some extent, although i am not sure i have those same views of americans in general i actually think the enthusiastic friendliness is genuine for the most part but that people from the UK aren’t used it and can’t believe that it could be real, just because we rarely see it.
There are good and many reasons why the term “Utah Mormon” exists as a separate category of Latter-Day Saint in the lexicon of many Western US saints. IM(uneducated)O, as much as the Utah colonization helped the LDS in their early, formative years, it stunts and stifles the Church’s mission in today’s world. Just my opinion.
As a Brit convert who has recently discovered the bloggernacle-which must be predominantly Utah mormon-you’ve all been a revelation to me.The level of discourse around church topics is of a different order of information and education,but then again,there are merits to simple faith.I do love the fact that my children engage with global rather than purely local or indeed church issues-I feel they are citizens of the world who are able to bless the world with their talents and spiritual perspectives.But then again they are not corralled in the same way-there is plenty of room for mistakes,or ‘sin’ depending on how you see it.It seems to me there is sometimes a capacity for a more digested mormonism,something that it has taken me 30 years of experience to get to ,and which evidently in some cases has become part of the air that you breathe as your parents have been able to raise you in relative safety.It seems clear that the future of the church in terms of leadership will be largely Salt Lake mormon because of that safety to explore intellectually and to engage in a level of spiritual discourse to which we are only beginning to aspire,largely we simply do not have the language here,we are brought up to believe that civilised society does not engage in discussions about the soul, to do so would be largely viewed as wacky and intrusive.The law,the arts and business are all very hazardous to the soul in a non mormon community and church is too consuming here for people to have the leisure for self expression,quite apart from the internal editing that we do in order to survive a spiritually dangerous environment.Still,we are changing,and it’s a delight to be exposed to A church environment where you can maintain such high standards of relating to one another.It’s been a revelation.
“It seems clear that the future of the church in terms of leadership will be largely Salt Lake mormon”
Actually the opposite is probably true. While the church since its move to SLC has been exclusively the product of that place, the international nature is causing change. SLC is less than half LDS at this point and probably a lot less if you measure activity. So the future leadership is likely to come from outside of Utah as inside. the more leadership that comes from outside, the more the future leaders will be also. Like attracts like.
I guess my point is that you guys produce a very particular and safe environment to grow up in as an intelligent mormon,offering an opportunity to develop and explore your talents and potential in relative spiritual safety.It seems to me that this probably can’t be allowed to be much diluted,although I look forward to a future where we have a more multi cultural leadership,and appreciate your point that this is already beginning to happen.
I fell accidentally on this blog while looking for stuff, so I hope it is not too late to share my views. Thanks for all your comments, most are interesting.
We love to see a church where the management is safe in the hands of white Utah businessmen/members of the church, and where the history has many exotic flavours (a miracle in Tonga island, a very fruitful mission in this land…)
The glory of the Gospel is that it is so universal in its appeal, it disregards the boundaries set up by men. When you hear the kind of thoughts that James is sharing with us, it inevitably leads to thinking that there is best then the rest of us.
Utah is a trustable pool of decent members, but please don’t fall for the so easy appeal of imperialism. If I had 20 guys my age living in the same block, boy, wouldn’t we have fun and regular stuff going on. If the gospel had entered my ancestral line 3 or 4 generations ago, I’m hoping the spiritual and moral refinements would have affected my family and I into a solid culture of vibrant church membership.
But the world has many flavours, and what I read at the top from James, whoever you are, surely leads guys like you to think highly of yourself, to feel invested of a sacred mission of enlighting the world with your great american reliable savoir faire.
Well, it sounds like this is following a thinking process already seen among the Nephites and the Jews, and this caused their fall.
I have travelled much, in places off the tourist paths, and I met faith under many flags. The strength of the Church is the faith of the local members. Rules of participation vary depending on cultural values. For example, in the US you must have fun mostly, otherwise it’s boring. In many other places, the sense of spirituality is given top priority and is the most seeked after component of membership.
A discourse of Utah church supremacy doesn’t stand the scrutinity of the spiritual and cultural facts. It is because of the multi-coloured face of the church that it is enjoyable. Utah is great and enjoys a unique character, but it can’t and will not colonise and dilute the many flavours of the gospel.
19″But the world has many flavours, and what I read at the top from James, whoever you are, surely leads guys like you to think highly of yourself, to feel invested of a sacred mission of enlighting the world with your great american reliable savoir faire.”
“When you hear the kind of thoughts that James is sharing with us, it inevitably leads to thinking that there is best then the rest of us.”
HOHO Thanks for your remarks. MM is quite a friendly place and as much as possible we try to avoid personal criticism. These aren’t set rules but I guess an unsaid rule of etiquette politeness and basic Christian values which I have seen on this sight.
I’ve re read it and I’ve had my family review what I wrote and we are baffled by your reply and tone, if you could point out specifically what bothered you it would be helpful.
I didn’t mean my negative mutterings. I genuinely like Utah people as much as the other guy. In my experience, they tend to be very decent folks. I’m sure you are too.
I was pretty sure you would come back and comment, and I wanted to make a point: Utah people are touchy about their image. Sociologically and historically, it makes sense.
Thanks Hoho and Sorry if I was over sensitive about you saying that I think highly of myself,and that I feel invested of a sacred mission of enlighting the world with my great american reliable savoir faire. I guess I’m not use to such hard hitting critisim and am still baffled why as my article doesn’t justify your harsh remarks, at least from what I can see please clarify when you get a minute.
Also I’m not sure what you meant about Utahn’s being touchy about their image. As FS said “Let’s be wary of the Cookie Cutter Culture” Utah people come in all different sizes shapes and views some are hard skinned some sensitive some very orthodox some liberal. Your a well travelled guy its sounds like you can appreciate the diversity in other countries and even one country the same is true from Stake to Stake, Ward to Ward, County to County and State to State. Utah and salt lake city its a difficult place to type cast
I served my mission in the England Manchester Mission about seven/eight years ago. A difference I noticed between British and American (UTAH) Mormons is that our English members seem to have more thoughtful discussion during classes. I am referring mainly to Elders quorum because this was the only meeting the male missionaries participated in during church services that offered a forum for discussion on some more meaty subjects as apposed to gospel principles, which tailors its content for the investigator/new member type.
When I say that there was more thoughtful discussion I am mainly referring to the ones that induced contentious debate. May I be clear that I do not use the word “contention” as a pejorative, I think it is beautiful that there are members who are passionate about there beliefs. This is not to say that in contrast Utah Mormons are not passionate, and maybe I have no idea what I am talking about, I am only sharing my opinion as I saw it.
I have tried to consider the grounds for this difference. I wonder if our English brothers and sisters, living so far from Utah, don’t get caught up in as much (notice my use of the qualifier “as much”) orthodoxy of which Utah seems to be the source. There seemed to be quit a bit more room for personal interpretation and opinion, whereas in Utah, again it is only my experience upon which I derive these observations, Mormons tend to let the book, policy or culture congeal there opinions. I look back with fondness the life that these meetings seemed to have and although many of my fellow missionaries were frustrated at these displays, I appreciate the sentient character of the discussions. I believe they are healthy for the church.
I must add a disclaimer to my comment. Some of the words used I used to describe Mormons on “both sides of the pond” (as James puts it) are not meant to be taken too far. If taken in an extreme light my opinion will be misunderstood. It would almost seem that I think Utah Mormons are disingenuous, mindless sheep. Of course Utah Mormons have opinions and feelings and they do express them in discussion, I just think the English church allows more freedom for discussion and is more accepting of personal opinion and interpretation by virtue of their spatial relationship to the Utah flavor of Mormonism.