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Monday, June 9, 2014

Choose Civility-western version

      Having spent the past few days in the Salt Lake City area I have gained a new perspective on how our Country is changing.   First a comment on being in an area that is "Mormon central" or as they refer to themselves-- members of the Church of the Latter Day Saints (LDS for short).  It is hard to be in a place with more politeness, friendliness and civility.  Ask for directions around town and you will also get some recommendations on where to eat.
    Utah is probably the closest thing we have to a church/state in our Country.  It is difficult to win any elected office in Utah if you aren't Mormon.  The Church and political power are one in the same in Utah.  That has always created some tension with non Mormons.  This is seen in the football rivalry between the University of Utah (minority Mormon) and Brigham Young University (99% Mormon).  Their annual football game is called the "holy war."  That has been the way things have always been in Utah but that is changing.
     The secular population of Salt Lake City is growing faster than the Mormon population.  The beautiful city with great climate has rapidly been attracting a non-Mormon population. Projections show that about 2030 Mormons will be a minority of Utah's population. This will probably be sooner in Salt Lake.  This trend was seen once before in the early 20th Century when non Mormon miners came to Utah. The current non Mormon migration doesn't seem to have the temporary nature of the miner migration.  No where is this changing demographic seen more than with Salt Lake's growing gay population.

   This last weekend there was a gay pride festival and parade.  As a reaction to the conservative political climate of the city gay rights organizations have developed a "in your face" attitude. Gay marriage in Utah is still in the courts but the issue was front and center during the weekend event.
    This "in your face" attitude is more directed at the older church leaders than the younger Mormon population.  Younger Mormons, as younger persons in general, have a more tolerant attitude toward the gay population in their community.  In talking with a couple of young Mormons I heard an attitude that sounded more like "live and let live."  One even mentioned that the generational gap in attitude is quite severe in many families.  This can be a challenge because family is the center of Mormon life.  The strength of family support and civility can be tested for any Mormon who decides to come out. 

      Politically Utah is still strongly a red state but it is not hard to see that a "pink" state may be in Utah's future.  Climate and generational changes may move Utah politically in the next generation. Nice that Marylanders are already there.  Utah-nice place to visit- but Howard County still feels more "civil" to me.


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