Monday, June 27, 2011

I Don't Mind Living in The Mormon Bubble

I live in a Bubble. Most people would find this wrong, or intolerable, annoying, or frustrating. Honestly, I don't really find it any of those things.

Most people living in my particular Bubble are very well educated. Several are professors at UVU or BYU. Many of them have lived in foreign countries. Several have experienced things in their families such as adoption (including international adoption), gay children, suicide, drug problems, service missions, inactivity, death, twins (some triplets!), working mothers, single parenthood, marathons, migraines, Depression, hostility towards the LDS Church (by family members and even neighbors), travel, and infertility. The irony is that I'm only thinking about the people who live within a four block radius of my house. The people who live in my ward boundaries.

I grew up in a Bubble full of Jack Mormons (i.e. people who pick and choose which parts of the Gospel they'll believe and live, while ignoring the other parts and assuming they are still super awesome in the Church), I've lived in the BYU Bubble, I've lived in this Bubble, and I've lived in California. What I find interesting, though, is that I did, in fact, live in a "Bubble" in California, too. The difference, dear reader, was that I created that Bubble.

We were the only members of the Mormon faith for three blocks. In our cul de sac, we had one family that hated us and wouldn't even acknowledge our existence because of our religion. We never saw them in person. Another family, after months and months, finally let our children play with our kids --and then I realized it was because they were hoping we would convert to their religion. Some neighbors were just plain fantastic and religion was never a problem for either of us!

Our neighborhood was very safe. We chose that location on purpose. The school had good parental involvement and great teachers --another reason we chose our location. We went out of our way to find a good place to live. The women I associated with daily tended to be in my ward and stake. I found myself defending my family and religion in public places quite often (we had four children and that was just insane!). Pretty soon I realized I was protecting my family from "the world" while also living "in the world."

Utah gets a lot of flak from Mormons who live outside of the state for being "The Bubble," for being weird, for being... well, frankly, for being who they are! Any time you have a saturation of a particular population you will always have communities that tend to cater to that particular population. Bible Belt, anyone? Saudi Arabia? Spain? Utah Mormons (especially Utah Valley Mormons) have been the butt of many jokes by the more enlightened LDS community who have "wisely" moved out of Utah.

I think it's kind of funny. Because most of the jokes are coming from people who haven't lived here since they were kids. Or college. Or ever. And they don't even realize that they have, themselves, created their own "Bubbles" in which to protect their families. They watch carefully what comes into their homes. They take their kids to Church and teach them about respect and charity and love. They have house rules. They go to the Temple. They teach their kids the Gospel in their homes. They do missionary work. They are, as Jesus asked them to be, a "light unto the world."

So you see, we are all living in our own "Bubbles." I just happen to live in the bigger one because my neighbors tend to think like I do. And even though it may sometimes lack in diversity religion-wise, it's really not as bad as people think. In fact, most of the time, it's pretty awesome!

Do you live in the Utah Bubble? What do you love or hate about it? Have you created your own Bubble where you live? How?


Julie P said...

Interesting. And I agree we all create our own bubbles wherever we are based on lots of things: religion, motherhood, hobbies, etc. I have mixed feelings about the bubble. There are things in the Utah bubble I LOVE. But the lack of diversity is hard for us. We search it out and find some, though! You can find anything if you look hard enough.

Julie said...

I couldn't agree more.

Dave and Kathryn Dodds said...

Absolutely love this post and feel strongly about it! I get sick of other good Mormons out here in Missouri telling me how much they would hate living in the bubble because I probably never had such and such an experience...frustrating.

Ann said...

Having lived inside and outside of the Utah Valley bubble, I am completely opposed to ever moving back. It's not the people that I can't handle, but the culture as a whole. The closed-mindedness to anything "different." (And I know for a fact that you've experienced that, Cheryl.)

Of course you get that almost anywhere you live, but the prevalence of "like-mindedness" there in UT Valley is just stifling for me, personally. The "like-mindedness" (in my experience) is just an excuse to remain ignorant about subjects that can sometimes be uncomfortable to talk about.

I totally understand what you mean, though, about "making" our own bubbles. I believe we each try to do that for our families. There are definitely aspects of the world that we don't want them exposed to at too young of an age. And I am proud of the bubble I've created for my kids so far. But that doesn't mean I teach intolerance, which is what I find hard to get away from in your neck of the woods (and if I'm being honest, it's hard to get away from sometimes up here too).

michelle said...

Love this post.

michelle said...

p.s. Sometimes I think diversity in and of itself can be overrated. Are there things to learn from being in a diverse population? Oh, yes. But there are also things to learn when you live with people who are similar to you.

I also think your post illustrates that sometimes the lack of diversity can be as much from our lack of really knowing people as anything. It's more than just religion or skin color -- life experiences can make us so diverse. But human nature is such that we don't often get to know others well enough to really realize that. In fact, I think the more we get to know others, the more we see both the elements of unity and elements of diversity more equally woven through all communities -- or at least more equally than we sometimes think when analyzing sub-cultures on the surface.

It's like The Civility Experiment.

flip flop mama said...

I too have created a bubble for myself and my family with people that I want to associate with but I also agree that it can be dangerous. I like living here where I know my kids will have access to all kinds of people--whether I want to or not--and teach them how to be good tolerant friendly people.

Cheryl said...

I know what you mean. And you are right, I have experienced ignorance. But I've lived here a really long time now, as an adult, raising my kids, and since moving back (I still can't believe it's been over three years!) I'm amazed at how much has changed --either the people, the culture, or just myself.

It's not the same as California, that's true. I don't have the friends like I had there. But that's moot; I'm not talking about my personal problems.

If we're talking about diversity, you are right. There are only two black people in our ward. However, one neighbor of mine is Japanese. On the other side is a wonderful couple from Mexico. Across the street is a Canadian (ha!). My children are used to other ethnicities because of family members (there's a lot of international adoption in our family).

It's easy to judge the community we grew up in. I'm guilty of judging my hometown and assuming everyone there is ignorant and hypocritical, but it's really not fair on my part. Where I grew up may have parts of that, but I have been quick to forget that I loved growing up there. I've also forgotten that I haven't lived there as an adult, and so I have no right to assume anything about the community. Things change. People change.

Anyway, I guess my point is that I really am tired of being told (from several sources, not you!) that where I live isn't good for my kids; that they'll all grow up as bigots because we happen to be around a lot of people of our faith. It's just simply unfair and not true. *shrug

Amy said...

When I was a student at BYU, I took some time off to work. I wasn't getting at home in NC so I moved back to Utah to work and have a social life. I lived in a basement apartment in Orem. I wored in a grocery store down the street. During the few months I lived and worked away from the student crowd, I had a serious eye-opening about the realities of being a Utah Mormon. I realized that Utah is like a giant ward. There are the same kinds of members there that there are in every ward or branch I have lived in, just on a larger scale. I also learned that in mnay ways it is more difficult to live the gospel there. I realized that being in Utah does not make you more in tune with the Spirit, more obedient, more knowledgeable about the gospel or less suseptible to temptaion. The biggest challenge we have, no matter where we live, is making sure our "bubble" isn't a form of snobbery.

Ann said...

Cheryl, I hope you know I don't think you're raising your children in a bad place. Good heavens! How hypocritical would that be, lol? I do think that it can be a wonderful place to raise children. But more importantly, how your children will turn out (I believe) has a lot more to do with parenting than with the culture they're surrounded by. So in your case, your kids are going to be great! I do not believe you are raising bigots.....quite the opposite!

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

As someone who is new to Utah living, and who grew up exclusively outside of Utah, I have to say it has been a hard adjustment for me. I desperately miss the diversity, and I miss the way that your ward feels like a family. Without going into a bunch of details that many people with other perspectives would disagree with, I feel like moving here made my job as a mother a lot harder simply because it will take more effort on my part to create the kind of childhood experiences that I always imagined my children having. It's not because Utah is bad, it's just that those experiences won't happen naturally here like they would somewhere else. It's just more work. That's the way I feel about it. Maybe it all boils down to being a lazy mom, who knows? I will say, though, that many of the things I feared about moving to Utah really are here, but are not nearly as widespread as I thought they might be. And that has been a pleasant surprise.

michelle said...

Steph, I remember when we moved back after being away for several years and feeling that 'where is everyone?' feeling. I was used to the kind of hunger people felt about the need to be together because we were all so spread out and the minority. We 'lingered longer' after Church and our social lives revolved more around each other than they do here.

But it didn't take long for that feeling of family to come for us. I look forward to church every week. It's different -- we don't 'hang out' in the same way we did when we weren't in Utah -- but my heart is so connected with my peeps that it sometimes almost hurts.

Amy Coons said...

Hello Cheryl! I catch your blog every so often when I've got time (you are a fun writer!) I've commented only once on your blog before...I know Brandon from early BYU...I grew up with Emily in CA...don't know if any of this rings a bell. ANYWAY, first congrats on baby #6--very exciting! I've got four myself.

Quickie on my homes...grew up in CA, (short 2 years in SLC in early elementary), lived at BYU, moved to CT, moved to OH (in two places.)

I just had to make a comment on this post. I almost did a "huh?" when I read that "Utah Mormons" were especially poked at from Utah Valley. When I think of Utah Valley I think of members trying to live their religion, raising families, retiring, etc. Seriously, when I think of Utah Mormons it is members up in the Salt Lake area. I have a lot of extended family up there, my mom grew up there, my dad spent some growing up there. My husband lived in this area for Jr+High School. To me the irony is that it is Church Headquarters. (I also have a lot extra extended family down in the Delta area.) Anyway, back to SLC. I'm totally generalizing here...but I do have a small leg to stand on with so many contacts I have there! Something that bothers me about members most uniquely to SLC is that because there is not much diversity in people's general beliefs, goals, ethnicity, members want to be unique and not be defined by church membership, so they use money to define more of who they are. THAT drives me crazy. I know that many people in society do this with money, but I expect members to not be so caught up with it. The correct brands of clothes, the trips, the home decor, blah, blah, blah. Be happy in being around so many members! Jump into the inspired programs of the church! It can be cool! Be willing to quickly embraced new church policy! Don't get caught up in "traditions". Don't try to push every limit in modesty, entertainment, Word of Wisdom, etc. Appreciate seminary! Do your home teaching and visiting teaching (even to those that don't come to church, reach out to them! Please, their families need your help!)

So to me, a Utah Mormon doesn't really live in a bubble, it's someone that has grown up around so many members, taken the Church for granted, gets caught in worldliness, and has forgotten (or not really understood) the core principles of the gospel enough to want to live it whole heartedly (cool or not). Ultimately lives Mormon culture not religion.

O.K. sorry this was so long. I'm sure in a few hours I will say, hmmm, maybe I shouldn't have said this or that or I should have added this or that, but I've gone on too long. Personally, I've been very happy in all the places we've lived. We don't plan on moving to Utah. I like being defined by my church membership. I like my children not constantly facing so many challenges of degrees of living standards.

The end.

Cheryl said...

Your comment was not too long, and I think you definitely nailed something with your analyzation. I'm glad you commented!