Sunday, November 22, 2009

Are YOU a Utard?

Every once and awhile I'm reminded of a certain mindset, which I and many others refer to as being a "Utard" ("YOO-tard"). This blog post will attempt to explain what a Utard actually is and what it isn't to hopefully help any readers deal with this crippling and debilitating disease and way of thinking.

Of course the root of "Utard" is "Utah", meaning the state of Utah. That's not to say Utards only come from Utah, but most do and this ideology is most prevalent in and near Utah. It is certainly not to imply that anyone from Utah is a Utard. If they haven't come from Utah, their way of viewing reality is so close, and they lead others to believe they are from Utah or a similar environment. Similar environments can be found in many parts of the inter-mountain western United States, particularly in southern Idaho and parts of Wyoming, Arizona, and Nevada. These are typically areas with a high concentration of Latter-day Saints (aka Mormons) but need not be limited strictly to rural or suburban areas.

In the most general terms, a "Utard" is an individual who is also a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka the Mormon Church) who has developed a belief that living in or near Utah somehow entitles them to greater knowledge, understanding, and blessings than those poor, less-fortunate fellow Latter-day Saints who live further away from Church Headquarters. Generally, Utards will refer to areas outside of Utah (and adjacent areas that also have a high concentration of church members) as the "mission field" and will refer to Utah as "Zion." They regard the Church as having reached some level of maturity or perfection in Utah, as demonstrated by the large number of LDS wards, stakes, temples, and meetinghouses that dot the state. They also regard this maturity as a sign not of numbers and demographics, but as a show of spirituality and righteousness. When they do actually venture into the "mission field" it is their job to guide these sweet-spirited, but inexperienced members in the "correct" way of following Church procedures and guidelines. Other Utards will counsel Utards in the "mission field" that they know far more about how the Church runs than anyone in their respective ward or stake regardless of how long any of the involved parties have actually been members of the Church. Remember, being from Utah means that person has additional knowledge and understanding that other members out in the "mission field" do not have, again, regardless of how long anyone has actually been in the Church or what positions they have served in.

In general, most Utards have rarely lived outside a heavy-LDS environment and struggle immensely when required to do so for an extended period of time whether it be for a business trip or an actual relocation for school or work. Most times, Utards will avoid such decisions or spend as little time in a "mission field" as possible. Many Utards' only experience outside an LDS-dominated atmosphere is spent on their own missions (which in themselves are hardly isolated, but hardly totally "in the world" either). Once they finish with their required time in a given mission field, Utards welcome the chance to return to "Zion" to share their valiant stories of struggle amongst the Gentiles (non-Mormons) and having to sacrifice "so much" just to drive to church each week as opposed to walking or how hard it was to "stay spiritual" with all the "worldly influences" surrounding them in these secular, unholy cities. Once back in Utah (if they ever left in the first place), they will reminisce about their days growing up when the nearest temples were nearly an hour away or there were only 2 stakes in town instead of 6. They will regard these as "hardships" where they had to make "great sacrifices" so they can relate to those in the "mission field". I blogged about this specific phenomenon in Utardism a few months ago with the opening of the Oquirrh Mountain Temple.

In dealing with marriage, Utards believe that an individual does not truly enter his or her adulthood until he or she has been married. It does not matter how young someone is when they marry (18-19 is most common for females, 21 for males), but once that threshold has been crossed, they have entered adulthood, which earns to respect of other "adults" (who are also married of course) regardless of any other outward indications that the newly married individual actually possesses an ounce of maturity or life experience. No, until an individual is married, regardless of age, he or she cannot be treated as an adult. People who do not marry obviously have some sort of obedience issues or disregard the Prophet's counsel and should be confined to Singles Wards. While it is true that Mormons in general regard marriage as one of the faith's highest sacraments, they do not regard it as any type of actual barrier in treating an individual differently.

Probably the easiest trait to pick out in diagnosing a Utard is how he or she responds to open criticisms or even simple jests about Utah and Utah culture. Utards are horribly offended by anyone criticizing their state, even if the criticism is valid or comes from real-life experience. Rather than seek to understand the criticism or even lend a sympathetic ear, a Utard will instead try to counteract with some criticism about the other person's home state or culture (also known as a "Straw Man" argument). Utards take any criticism or joke that is aimed at Utah very personally and generally lack any type of humor in regards to Utah and LDS-related things. It's more than just a simple matter of Utah pride; it's a belief in Utah perfection and superiority without any concrete facts to support such a belief.

In closing, it is my hope that instead of Utards, we can have just Utahan members of the Church who love Utah and celebrate its many blessings and accomplishments as a State without forgetting to understand that how we feel about a certain area all depends on who we are. In other words, there are lots of wonderful places in the world that have great people and assets; LDS and not. Be happy where we are and be proud of it enough to make it better, but never assume that any place has reached any level of perfection of plateau or that an area's blessings are purely the result of that population's righteousness. Of course I also hope to have more members of the Church who recognize that it's not so much a matter of when we join the Church, but that we actually do and stay in the Church. Living closer to Church headquarters makes someone no better, more knowledgeable, or stronger a member than living near Washington, DC makes someone a better American. There are strong and weak members EVERYWHERE in the Church, not just in Utah and not just in the "mission field".


CuriousCity said...

What you are speaking of is 'cultural mormonism'. This is in contrast with spiritual Mormonism which is a belief in and a practice of LDS theological principles. The cultural offshoot is more concerned with outward appearances, public attitudes and orthodox ideas. It is very much a peer pressure driven phenomenon.
The customary explanation has to do with the relative isolation of the SL Valley from the national life until the advent of radio. However, that is now three or four generation in the past and most who have lived in that isolation are dead. It appears more likely connected with the culture wars that began in the 1960s. (up until 1972, Utah tended to vote with the majority in presidential elections, including FDR, Truman, Kennedy and Johnson; it has been Republican ever since whether with or against the majority ever since). So it is apparently self isolated due to parochial social/cultural attitudes encouraged by a combination of church, party and society.

Anonymous said...

werd up man I found uh typo in yo' blog post "a utard" should read an utard.

BriAnne said...'re my hero on so many levels.:)

(And by the way, I certainly am NOT one of whom you speak....)

Jon said...

Hey Mr. Anonymous who's attempting to correct grammar...are you a certain Wikipedia editor? I notice when I edit certain pages on Wikipedia that my name eventually shows up in a Google search to get to this blog (I have my ways of knowing that). Why don't you spend more time being more productive doing something else besides jumping on every perceived error in my blog? In any case, you are actually incorrect. Despite "Utard" beginning with a vowel, it has a consonant sound ("yoo-tard", just like Utah = "yoo tah"), so saying "an Utard" is awkward and difficult. If the word were a straight "oo" sound (like in the word "moon") then you would be correct: "an oo-tard". Using "a" and "an" are for flow of speaking more than anything.

Anonymous said...

"I notice when I edit certain pages on Wikipedia that my name eventually shows up in a Google search to get to this blog (I have my ways of knowing that)."

are you a magician? :-O

The Other Anonymous said...

He should have put pronunciation symbols to make it more clear on how it is to be spoken.

Jon said...

"are you a magician? :-O"
No, but I do know how to operate a web tracker.

"He should have put pronunciation symbols to make it more clear on how it is to be spoken."
I'll keep that in mind for next time. In general, my blog audience is already familiar with the term and its root word (Utah) so I didn't think a pronunciation guide was necessary. I will correct that!

Anonymous said...

Thanks! you never know who might be intersted with google you can get all types of diferent types of people that might be interested.

Mickell Gehret said...

LOVE this post! We are currenty in the thick of the UTARD culture...and it is driving Curt crazy. He likes Utah, but it is the people you spoke of that he really struggles with. Yeah...we miss Ohio.

Jon said...

I hear ya Mickell! I have TONS of friends in Utah and love to visit (especially love the mountains), so this isn't some vendetta against Utah and her people. Just think of yourselves as good influences for those around you (basically like missionaries!!). :) If they weren't active members of the Church I think it would be easier to dismiss or look over.

Ohio misses you too!