My favorite thing about living in Utah from a sociological perspective is how much power the Mormon Church has and how many members try to simultaneously downplay this power as well as use it when it suits their needs.
Before I’m accused of being a bitter former-Mormon, let me state that my interest in this topic is purely anthropological. It is a fascinating study of human dynamics. There is a hegemony here. To deny that is an extreme expression of denial and ignorance. It’s how humans here treat and respond to this hegemony that fascinates. It’s not necessarily the beliefs or the practices of those beliefs, but the cultural implications of a homogenous society. There is no separation of Church and State in Utah. The Mormon Church is too powerful a lobby to let that happen. The membership is vocal. Even in the most segregated neighborhoods in urban centers, I can’t think of anywhere else in the United States where an organization/creed/religion has such a reaching political and social power with it’s constituency. Perhaps within the African American community or maybe in the South or the Jewish community in Los Angeles? Either way, there is no other State in the Union whose government is made up of such a majority.
Also, many friends who are practicing Mormons are more open than those portrayed in the media. Just like any other subculture, there is a stereotype. One sees it daily, but my closest Mormon friends have a relaxed vibe that isn’t the stereotypically uptight, stoic and conservative used in sound bites and stories the world over. I’m not trying to disrespect anybody, but rather point to this cultural uniqueness and observe.
There is an almost passive-aggressive quality to the power, from both the membership and the leadership of the church. Issues have a way of being made larger and taking on an evangelical nature. Just read these stories (hopefully, the links will stay active longer than a day or two)…
- Church vs. City Property Rights (an admittedly ill-struck deal getting more tangled with every passing day):
A Family Issue:
It’s true that if one lives in Utah, no matter what your belief system, or lack thereof, you can’t ignore the Mormon cultural impact. One is affected always. It is utterly compelling to observe.