Friday, September 10, 2010

Leave Zion!

Utah is such an amazing place. I was not born here, but I moved to Utah when I was six months old from Colorado and I have lived here ever since; especially in Utah County, “Happy Valley”, the bubble of all Mormondom. For those of you who don’t get that, Utah County holds about 300,000 people and about 90% of that is Latter-Day Saint (Mormon), so it is even more Mormon than even other places of Utah. Utah County holds Brigham Young University, the church owned University, where I attend, and also my city of Provo. I love this place, it is so fun, I have grown up here, and greatly appreciate it. There is very little I would change about it and I think I will always hold Provo and Utah in a special place in my heart. I will always love the view of the mountains we have here too.

"Just look at them!"

All of this information might make it kind of interesting to note why I am about to say this, I am ready to move out of Utah!

Like I said, I love Utah, I do not have issues with it, but there is something out there that is calling me that I cannot seem to satisfy here in the beehive state. Let me explain myself (just an explanation in advanced for any non-LDS people out there, - aka non-Mormons – a lot of my thought process comes from LDS culture and so it might be hard to follow, I will explain it as best I can).

This all started with my trip to Florida this summer on my Disney World internship. When I was there, I experienced many new situations and occurrences that I just could not get in Utah. I think it will be best to compare the cultural experiences I had in Florida compared to what I have in Utah.

1) In Utah, the environment is one of high status, not so much in wealth, but quality of character. LDS people are taught since they are kids to be good, kind, hard working, industrious, integral, to do one’s best, to keep one’s word, etc, etc, basically to have a fantastic character. Not to mention to be good citizens of our countries, not to cheat, or to steal, basically just be the best person you can be. We Mormons are good at these things, especially the ones born in to the church like I was. We believe that no one is stuck in their state, but we can change it, all we have to do is make the conscience decision to change and then change it, no matter that it is hard and will take a lot of time. I am a lot like this and this is why I have a strong character. Well, Utah has a lot of people like this; all you have to do is go to BYU to see it. Everyone has ambition, goals, drive, and motivation. People look to do their best and are always honest. Not to mention some of the nicest people around. Seriously, if a girl, even not a gorgeous girl, were to take a rock, throw it at a BYU student’s head (remember, full of Mormons who were born in to the church), 8 out of 10 students would apologize for getting in the way of the girl’s rock.

This is what I grew up in, something I participate in, and I feel like I am apart of and that I do not deviate from. I also feel like another pea in a pod in this situation, not very unique.

Florida changed a lot of that for me. Florida was the first time I lived outside of Utah in a non-religious function (my mission in Brazil counts as living outside of Utah, but let’s be honest, I was wearing a very Mormon visor the whole time since I was a missionary trying to convert people to the gospel, my life for those two years was completely engulfed in LDS missionary culture). In Florida, I met a lot of great people, but these were different kinds of people, very much more unique from what we have in Utah. Many did not know who they were, did not stand for anything, and thought in completely different ways. Many of them were in a not so productive situation, were happy with it, and planned to be like that forever, others were more motivated. But let’s put it this way, I was in a place where there were bigger differences and the productive, efficient, awesome Mormon persona was less common. I felt unique because I was at a different place in my understanding of life then a lot of these people and my goal-orientedness, my drive, and my kindness set me apart. People noticed that a lot more about me and complimented me on it. I felt special and unique and that felt good. I will admit, in a lot of ways, I felt superior because I felt like a lot of people started to look to me as an example, something I have felt less of in Utah.

2) Me being an example to people allowed me to fulfill a commandment we LDS people tend to call “Be a member missionary”, basically it means to be an example to people about how the gospel can bless people’s lives and make them happy. I am a very happy person who does not tend to worry a lot, even though I may come across that way in my self-analysis (you people out there know what I am talking about!). People in Florida noticed my happiness, my openness, honesty, lack of worrying, etc and wanted to know more about why that was so. I remember talking to a British girl about the law of chastity (no pre-marital, extra-marital sex rule Mormons strictly follow). I told her about how I wanted to live it to show complete loyalty to my future wife (whomever that might be) and how it brings less stress and joy to my life because I don’t have to worry about STDs, children out of wedlock, the complicated feelings that develop from having sex with a partner that you don’t truly love, etc. She thought about it from my eyes and liked the potential of the happiness that comes from obeying the law. Other people said the same thing from other commandments I live as a Mormon, and some were interested to know more about it. In Florida, I was a member missionary, and I changed several people’s lives because of it (so many people loved to refer to me as, the awesome Mormon, - best title, ever!).

I cannot be a member missionary in Utah like I can outside of the state. There are too many Mormon in Utah. If you aren’t a member in Utah, it is because you either have been taught by the missionaries ten times and just don’t feel it is right for you, or you just moved in to the state a week ago and you still have not had the entire congregation come to your door to show you how great it is to be a Mormon. I liked that feeling of being a missionary, it was so much like being in Brazil, but now I was more of a “normal” person. As a missionary, people saw the name tag and thought “great, preacher” and I had to mindset of “Baptism!! Elect! Wooo!” As a member missionary, I am not necessary thinking about a new member in the fold, but rather that they are a good person who I can become friends with and that happen to be influenced by my example of how the gospel blesses my life.

3) I want to explore the world! Staying in Utah will not allow me to do that as easily. When I leave Provo, I tend to be even more outgoing than I am now. I want to meet new people, do new things, and experience all that I can. That has a lot to do with the fact that I am in a new place, but moving out of Utah gives me that chance to actually move more often to explore new things. Something that does not come in Utah where I am complacent and have already seen a lot of the state.

4) There is something I am going to rag a little bit on the Utah Mormon culture. This culture is not present in other parts of the world where the church has a presence that I am aware of, when I was in Brazil, the members there did not have the same issues. Utah is a great place to live because a lot of people live the standards of the Church, it is peaceful, there are so many great people (like I mentioned earlier), and there are certain expectations that help keep the state like this even though it is becoming in more non-Mormon day by day. Well, these great things also lead to a masking that does not happen anywhere else in the world that I know of. With so many people doing good, there are a lot of people who decide to mask them-real-selves and pretend to do what everyone else is doing and do other things that aren’t considered decent in Utah Mormon culture in hiding. Basically they are sinning in a hiding matter while putting up a front about makes everyone think they are a great person. I guess that exists in other places too, but it happens A LOT in Utah because of the peer-pressure. In Florida, even in Brazil, people were honest about their problems, they put them in the open, and they lived by that, or opening told people they wanted to change and that allowed people to help them if they wanted it. And if not, you could develop an honest opinion on the person at least. Much harder to do in Utah. I like the openness of people outside of this culture that we tend to have in Utah.

Those are just some of the things about it. Outside of Utah, I feel in a high place based on others around me (that may seem shallow, but I think it is good. It makes me realize how blessed I am). I can be a real member missionary and an example. I can explore the world outside of Utah. And I can be around more openness with everyone rather than wondering in the back of my head . . . “how is this person really?”

There are other things I like too. I can feel even more tight knitted with the Church communities in these areas, because there are fewer of us. I can interact even more with non-Mormons, which I love; they are so special to me. Plus it gives me a little more independence from my youth, which was great, but is now in the past and sometimes, seems can hold me back when I am so close to it in Utah.

Who knows what might happen in the future. I actually expect, because I love Utah so much, I will live outside for years, but then decide to return and stay forever. I can see that happening. But right now, I have some big plans, even though they may not be solid.

First, next summer I want an internship outside of Utah. I can do a Professional Internship at Disney somewhere, most likely Florida, where I can experience all sorst of new adventures. Or I could go to Brazil and do a business internship there, just to get as far away from anything as possible and grow even more as a person. Or I can grab an internship at some random company and move my way in to out-of-Utah experiences that way. I will return to Utah after the internship, because let’s face it, I love BYU and I am going to finish my studies there.

Second, I want to take a job in some other place in the states and live there for a few years. I will travel, I will learn, I will participate, and I will show off the blessings of my life and help others have the happiness I have.

Third, probably move to even another state with a new job, visit friends and family in Utah often, but continue doing what I am doing.

It comes down to how I feel outside of Utah. I feel different, and I like it. It brings a new dynamic in to my life that I have never noticed before.

I have said it often, I love Utah, and it will always be special to me. But I feel that my place is outside of the state, at least initially, so I can do so much more good out there in the world, outside the “bubble”.


  1. You should do it. Leaving Utah will be the best decision you ever make...

  2. "LDS people are taught since they are kids to be good, kind, hard working, industrious, integral, to do one’s best, to keep one’s word, etc, etc, basically to have a fantastic character."

    Also this is nice, but so are lots of other people. I call BS on this kind of thinking. Just chew on that for a bit, will ya? That will help you to survive outside of "Zion".

  3. Thanks for the insight Kevin, but you will see I did not say other people are not raised like this. I know other people are raised this way. But is there any other group of people out there that produce people of quality quite like the LDS faith, or in such grand numbers? I think not. There are a lot of other good people out there, just not all in the same organization like members of the LDS church.