Is “Mormon culture” a bad thing? Before looking into this subject as something to write on, I pretty much only heard the term “Mormon culture” with a negative connotation. Just ask someone how they feel about Mormon culture, and they’ll probably have some pent up angst about the topic. (I’ve been telling people about this blog, and I get exasperated responses every time).
I think it’s important to realize though that there are some positive things about Mormon culture. I was once talking to a friend who had met with the missionaries a couple times while at BYU. She said she liked learning about the church and interacting with the kind people. That was a great perspective for me to hear. I think that falls into the idea of the values of Mormon culture. Mormons value some great things, like “brotherly kindness” and caring for your neighbor.
In an article by scholar Wilfried Decoo, he cites a reference from 1903 that says “the culture of Mormonism” has the following accomplishments: health, education, the missionary system, unpaid clergy, and the charity system.
Decoo said that as time went on, the meaning of the term changed, and in the 70s, “Mormon culture” became a term that encompassed much more: religiosity, morality, family, health, dedication and involvement, education, work, material objects (ex: recognition medallions), jargon. On the negative side was “critique of the social pressure to conform, the insularity toward non-Mormons, the distrust of feminism, and the condemning attitude toward homosexual behavior.”
When I looked up #MormonCulture on Twitter, I got tweets from both camps. There were funny ones that just comment on the culture, there were positive ones, and there were annoyed ones. Take a look:
#MormonCulture Fact: When a visiting authority comes to visit he arrives with a handshake to the stake presidency, and he leaves with a hug.
— LDS Stake Clerk, The (@Ldsstakeclerk) March 1, 2016
Isn’t it funny that this happens? Often we just fall into certain rituals.
— Shannon Peters (@shanleighpeters) July 6, 2015
Mormons value family, and sometimes that leaks over into what seems like an obsession.
— Alyssa Andreasen (@AlyssaStettler) May 18, 2015
Mormons love their Mormon-related products.
This is a sad one that’s seeped into Mormon culture. In the Book of Mormon, there is a group of people called the Lamanites. The scripture says, “And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion against their brethren.” But luckily doctrine teaches that all are alike unto God. So there seems to be some sort of disconnect between the two in some people’s minds.
— Nearing Kolob (@NearingKolob) January 7, 2016
Missionaries are taught to be exactly obedient.
— Dr. Julie Hanks (@DrJulieHanks) December 2, 2016
There seems to be a sentiment that women’s voices are not heard as much in the church. There has been more effort in recent years to change that.
Someone drinks soda with caffeine in it 😮
But as soon as they drink coffee everyone's like 👿😲😬😨😱😠😡😤😖😳😔😵
— Muñoz (@PorQueSenorita) October 20, 2015
Mormons have certain norms, and one of them is a belief (of some) that Mormons don’t drink coffee because of the caffeine — so some also don’t drink caffeinated soda. Drinking coffee is against the Word of Wisdom, which is a health code commandment.
— Erica Savage (@erica_thesavage) July 23, 2015
Here’s a positive one. Youth in the church go to the temple with their youth groups.
— Victoria Wilkinson (@Victoroscope) March 21, 2015
Mormons are concentrated in Utah and Idaho.
— Dr. Julie Hanks (@DrJulieHanks) April 21, 2016
Here’s an interesting aspect of Mormon culture that’s probably related to values. Mormons value humility and abhor pride, but in doing so often end up practicing a sort of false humility.