A Mormon speaks
As a skiing Mormon, I have been both amused and bemused over the years by comments made on this and other ski forums in regards to Utah's culture (or lack thereof), in general, and Mormons in particular. There are plenty of idiosyncrasies relative to Mormon culture, and some have produced a number of myths and misconceptions. In an effort to steer people away and off to places like Missoula where they can bug Gonzo rather than clutter up Utah, I have been tempted to help perpetuate those myths, as I tried to do in my tongue-in-cheek "Utah Conspiracy" thread (and thanks to Pilot 3D for the kind words and to Bonni for the comparison to The Onion):http://forums.epicski.com/showthread.php?t=18994
I mean, as a nearly-life long resident of this state, I have to admit that it's been pretty nice over the years to have much of this state's natural playground all to myself along with a few other enlightened players, both Mormon and Gentile. But like it or not, the times they are a-changin’. It's been getting more and more crowded (and not just because we Mormons all have 18 kids and two wives). Obviously, the word is out, and since Chriscam has asked, I hope you’ll allow me the opportunity to respond. If you already know all you need to know about Mormon culture in Utah and feel that this has no business on a ski forum, by all means, move on to another thread.
We Mormons are a strange group. We can be self-righteous, hypocritical, and boring one minute, and then compassionate, open, and boring the next. Practicing Mormons aren’t supposed to drink alcohol or smoke, yet a fair number of "in-active" Mormons, as well as a few active ones, do (the actives do most of their puffing in the privacy of their pickups and their drinking around the deer hunt campfire). We tend to vote straight-ticket Republican, yet have had some great Democrats for Governor (Scott Matheson and Cal Rampton). We elect ultra-conservative Orrin Hatch for Senator, then watch as he leads the fight for stem cell research. And we’re OK with that. We’re quick to vote down zoning for a brew pub (in my hometown), but continue to resist adequate funding for our overcrowded school rooms. We are thin-skinned whenever the national media points out our strange ways, but we donate millions toward food, clothing, and medical supplies to alleviate disasters around the world. In other words, we’re really not much different from most people.
OK, OK, . . . so we ARE a just a wee bit different. As to your concerns:
I would say that you’ll be fine moving to Utah. Ogden has lost some of its luster over the years, but is trying to get some polish back. Its downtown is a bit tired and vacant, but has experienced a resurgence as of late. I like the area above town (towards the mountains). It’s a bit old, but there are some nice homes up around Weber State University. You’ll find more non-Mormon culture in Ogden than in any other Utah city outside of SLC thanks to a number of Federal Government employers in the area, such as Hill Air Force Base. To the east of Ogden, behind Snowbasin, lie two small, rural valleys - Huntsville, Eden, and Liberty to the north, and Mountain Green and Morgan to the south. Nice areas, predominantly Mormon, but with a number of commuters and second-homers just starting to move in (kind of like Park City/Summit County in the mid-sixties). As noted by Bob Peters and others, most of us Mormons are friendly and more than happy to not bother you with proselytizing, especially if you politely decline any offers to learn more. And yes, we are busy with church meetings on Sunday, so Snowbasin will be EMPTY (but then, it’s rarely crowded). If you’re used to major cultural events, you’ll probably have to drive to SLC, although Ogden does have some things, thanks in part to Weber State. I’m a teetotaler so I have no clue as to drinking establishments, but I know there are a few taverns and restaurants in the rejuvenated historic part of downtown.
As to schools, Bob makes some good points, but as a Mormon, a democrat (you think life is hard for non-Mormons in Utah, try being a Mormon Democrat) and a public school teacher for 26 years, I will say that it depends. I’ve know and taught plenty of non-Mormon students and I’ve found that on a high school level, the non-Mormon kids who had positive experiences were those who were quick to join clubs, teams, and activities. In other words, pro-active. While the "us vs. them" mentality can occur, it seems to me more often a result of other conflicts involving (1) majority vs. minority ethnic groups (in my school, a sizable Hispanic group, along with some Polynesian, native Americans, and African Americans) and (2) the economic "haves vs. have nots" which does include both Mormon and non-Mormon. The difficulty at this age is that socially, most Mormons will go out with non-Mormons in groups, but when it comes time for dating, many Mormons will date only other Mormons. This has to do with the emphasis in the church on marriage and families being eternal (for more doctrinal info, PM me). I’m not going to defend this behavior; I merely tell the reality. Again, this is not always the case, but often. As to classroom curriculum, I can only speak for my school, but I know that the Mormon faculty is very concerned that everyone is treated and taught in a fair and balanced way. I won’t say that all teachers in Utah (both Mormon and non) manage this, but I think we do a pretty credible job at my high school. We even teach birth control, evolution, and such subversive literature as Grapes of Wrath
and Huckleberry Finn
While I would never suggest that Utah is like every other state in the union, I think it has a number of unique things to offer, especially the variety of and close proximity to such neat outdoor venues. The downside is that much of the Mormon culture is NOT going to change. That does NOT mean that changes in laws and politics can’t occur; it’s just that you’ll have to be willing to work and wait in the meantime. If this doesn’t sound good to you, then I’d really consider a number of other wonderful western states for your move.
If you, or any others, have more specific questions regarding Mormons and what makes us tick, PM me.