Where the Mormons Are

November 6, 2004 | 33 comments
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Largest denomination by US CountyThis map, from the New Historical Atlas of Religion in America, shows the largest religious denomination in each US county. This does not mean that the majority of the county belongs to the denomination, only that no other denomination is larger.

My guess is that Hancock County, Illinois (Nauvoo) will be the first purple county east of the Rockies. Maybe it already is (I don’t know the age of this map). What are the other contenders out east? Which will be the first purple county in California?
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33 Responses to Where the Mormons Are

  1. Davis Bell on November 6, 2004 at 8:47 pm

    That’s fascinating. I had no idea Catholics were as prevalent as they are, nor did I know that the western half of the country was so Catholic. Not a bad showing by the Mormons, either.

  2. Mark N. on November 6, 2004 at 8:53 pm

    According to the boundary lines (not) drawn on the map, I live in CalOrengton.

  3. Jack on November 6, 2004 at 9:25 pm

    Bears a slight resemblance to the red and blue electoral map.

  4. Matt Evans on November 6, 2004 at 9:26 pm

    Mark, the map was from an AP story on the presidential election (specifically, how gay advocates perceive their effect and the effect of the Massachusetts court on the outcome). The states outlined in black voted for Bush. The map was irrelevant to and basiclly worthless for the story.

  5. Jack on November 6, 2004 at 9:29 pm

    I cast my vote for Woodbridge Virginia as the first purple spot to appear east of the Mississippi.

  6. JosephN on November 6, 2004 at 9:33 pm

    There are tons of Catholics in the West. They have easily recognizable names like Hernandez, Sanchez, Martinez. They have been Catholic for centuries, and most didn’t want to talk to us as missionaries….

  7. Chad Too on November 6, 2004 at 10:17 pm

    I second Jack on the greater Buena Vista area going purple first. I suppose only the Mormons could make the Blue Ridge purple.

  8. jeremobi on November 6, 2004 at 10:40 pm

    “Bears a slight resemblance to the red and blue electoral map.”

    “The states outlined in black voted for Bush.”

    Perhaps the states without borders are not longer part of the same country. :>)

    See: http://civicspacelabs.org/node/view/1210

  9. Ivan Wolfe on November 6, 2004 at 11:22 pm

    Why doesn’t Iowa have black borders around it? It was called for Bush (admittedly early today or late yesterday)!

  10. ed on November 6, 2004 at 11:25 pm

    I think we’ll have to wait a LONG time for a purple county in California. Catholics are coming accross the border much faster than we can baptize them.

    I wonder what data is the basis for the map? The number of people that say they’re mormon in surveys is significantly lower than the church’s membership numbers.

  11. brayden on November 6, 2004 at 11:31 pm

    You might want to also look at this map – http://coulmont.com/cartes/lds2000-en.pdf. This shows the percentage of Mormons (within intervals) residing in each county in 1952 and 2000. So it gives you an idea of not only which counties in the U.S. are the most heavily populated by LDS but also indicates which parts of the country experienced the greatest growth. The map was prepared by a French sociologist, Baptiste Coulmont.

    According to these data, there are several isolated counties (one apparently in Alabama) that are highly represented by Mormons. Can anyone explain these outliers? You should keep in mind that these are estimates and not actual counts.

  12. brayden on November 6, 2004 at 11:32 pm

    Let me try that link again –

    http://coulmont.com/cartes/lds2000-en.pdf

  13. Jonathan Green on November 7, 2004 at 1:23 am

    Or can anyone explain the existence of the city of Nauvoo, Alabama, for that matter?

  14. Baptiste on November 7, 2004 at 7:52 am

    Following your comments, I thought you might be interested by :
    Map Gallery of Religion in the United States :
    http://www.valpo.edu/geomet/geo/courses/geo200/religion.html

    and also by
    A Cultural Geography of the United States and Canada
    http://www.valpo.edu/geomet/geo/courses/geo200/HomePage.html

    this map : http://www.valpo.edu/geomet/pics/geo200/culture/ancestry.gif is particularly interesting (Largest Ancestry, 2000)

  15. John Mansfield on November 7, 2004 at 11:32 am

    A woman, Diane Sawyer, told me of an area in Alabama where she served as a missionary around fifteen years ago. I don’t know if it was that bright spot on the map that Brayden points out, but conversion and retention were so successful that General Authorities were visiting repeatedly, trying to understand why things were working. She heard introductions from the pulpit like “We want to make this brother from Salt Lake City welcome with us today. What was your name again, brother?” The missionaries were amazed at who was visiting, and the members were just glad to meet fellow saints. It must have been refreshing for the General Authorities. Given all the discouraging stories we hear and experience, it is a relief to know that some place the Church has prospered.

    Sister Sawyer’s Alabama story reminded me later of the one in Helaman 3:24-25.
    “And it came to pass that in this same year, there was exceeding great prosperity in the church, insomuch that there were thousands who did join themselves unto the church, and were baptized unto repentance; and so great was the prosperity of the church, and so many the blessings which were poured out upon the people, that even the High Priests and the teachers were themselves astonished beyond measure.”

    Concerning Church growth in general, Nephi’s revelation (1 Nephi 14:12) keeps me from expecting much expansion of places were the Church predominates.
    “I beheld the church of the Lamb of God, and its numbers were few, … nevertheless, I beheld that the church of the Lamb, which were the Saints of God, were also upon all the face of the earth; and their dominion upon the face of the earth was small, because of the wickedness of the great whore which I saw.”
    [Comparing a first edition facsimile with the current edition, "dominion was small" is now "dominions were small."]

  16. Not Ophelia on November 7, 2004 at 1:09 pm

    I’m not sure that turning a county purple is a good thing for the way the non-LDS population perceives us, for our long-term missionary efforts, or even for ourselves as a people.

    Any religion with a large majority tends to distort itself and its doctrines in both its own members’ minds and the way others’ perceive what it is really about. This is just as true for Baptists in the south, the Jews in FL, and the Catholics in New Jersey as it is for the Mormons in the Intermountain West.

    Perhaps this is cultural contamination [i.e. a group's cultural dynamics overcoming it's doctrinal realities.] I don’t know. What I do know is that I have done a lot of damage control with people out here in the never-to-be-purple hinterlands who mistake what comes out of Utah for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Perhaps we make better disciples, neighbors and friends as leven than we do as dough.

  17. Jack on November 7, 2004 at 3:38 pm

    Not Ophelia, at some point the earth will be full of the knowlegde of the Lord. We shouldn’t expect to get there without having to deal with a few set-backs.

  18. Mark N. on November 7, 2004 at 3:43 pm

    The states outlined in black voted for Bush.

    I should have recognized that immediately, having seen a similar map the other day where the same boundary lines had been drawn across North America, effectively “redistricting” the continent into Canada (where I now live, according to the map) and “Jesusland”, which is composed of the red states.

  19. John David Payne on November 7, 2004 at 6:04 pm

    All ya’all who are interested in election maps, A Democrat In Utah (not a Mormon, FYI), has links to some very interesting state and county maps of the election, redrawn so that size reflects population.

  20. Daniel on November 7, 2004 at 6:39 pm

    My guess for first purple (MORMON) county in CA is either Sacramento or San Diego. I think San Diego has more members but sacramento’s population is smaller so they might have a larger percentage. I’d like to have hope for LA but there’s so many people and so few of them are even religious. I’ll guess Sacramento just because of percentage with San Diego not far behind.

  21. paulmayne.org Shared Links on November 7, 2004 at 6:41 pm
  22. diogenes on November 7, 2004 at 6:54 pm

    Not Ophelia, at some point the earth will be full of the knowlegde of the Lord. We shouldn’t expect to get there without having to deal with a few set-backs.

    I think Not Ophelia’s point is well taken. Having the earth be full of the knowledge of the Lord is not necessarily the same thing as having a majority of Mormons, and is certainly an entirely different thing than having the earth full of the knowledge of the Wasatch Front. [shudder]

    Experience, whether in nineteenth century Jackson County or present day Utah Valley, suggests that having a preponderence of Mormons in the community is not altogether a good thing. We don’t seem to handle being in the majority very well.

  23. Jack on November 7, 2004 at 7:36 pm

    diogenes, “having the earth full of the knowledge of the Wasatch Front. [shudder]” in some respects is what I would call a set back. But I disagree that the earth can be full of the knowledge of the Lord without the earth being full of faithful members of the Kingdom. Am I reading too much into your comment?

  24. Ethesis (Stephen M) on November 7, 2004 at 7:36 pm
  25. diogenes on November 7, 2004 at 10:07 pm

    But I disagree that the earth can be full of the knowledge of the Lord without the earth being full of faithful members of the Kingdom. Am I reading too much into your comment?

    Perhaps not. We have long been taught that even during the Millennium, to the extent that we understand conditions during the Millennium, there will be plenty of non-LDS folks around, and members of the LDS church will not necessarily be in the majority. If that is the situation when Christ is personally reigning, I see no reason to believe that we will constitute any kind of majority before then.

    Or, as LeGrand Richards used to say, we are the salt of the earth — that means there will be just a little distributed throughout the world. The whole thing is not supposed to become salt. I thnk Not Ophelia mentioned something similar about leaven.

  26. Gilgamesh on November 7, 2004 at 10:11 pm

    According to the PDF link, Alpine county ion California is predominently Mormon. It was settled by Mormon Battalion members.

  27. Jack on November 8, 2004 at 12:41 am

    diogenes, what is the utility of proclaiming the Gospel to the world if it is not to grant unto all the opportunity of receiving the blessings that come from living it? If this is the highest and best reason for missionary work then why should we have any concerns with a majority of people in the earth living the Gospel?

  28. diogenes on November 8, 2004 at 11:04 am

    diogenes, what is the utility of proclaiming the Gospel to the world if it is not to grant unto all the opportunity of receiving the blessings that come from living it?

    1) Because we’ve been commanded to proclaim it, regardless of whether anyone accepts, let alone lives it.

    2) Because of the personal growth that accrues to the proclaimer, again regardless of the degree of acceptance.

    3) Because of the justice of God, who gives everyone the opportunity, whether or not they accept the message.

    4) Probably lots of other reasons that don’t occur to me off the cuff.

    If this is the highest and best reason for missionary work then why should we have any concerns with a majority of people in the earth living the Gospel?

    1) As I’ve shown above, your conditional clause is not necessarily correct, but in any event it does not follow from the fact that we must proclaim the Gospel that anyone — let alone a majority of people — will accept it.

    2) “Living the Gospel” is not synonymous with “joining the LDS Church.”

    3) As a corollary, when a majority of the community is comprised of Mormons, experience indicates that it becomes far more difficult for them to “live the Gospel” (especially in the humility and tolerance department), as I mentioned in my previous post.

    4) The salt and leaven metaphors are the Lord’s, not mine, so if you don’t like the implications you’ll have to complain to Him.

  29. Mark B on November 8, 2004 at 11:28 am

    Diogenes said: 2) “Living the Gospel� is not synonymous with “joining the LDS Church.�

    Because “Living the Gospel” requires accepting baptism and other priesthood ordinances from one having authority from God to perform those ordinances, “joining the LDS Church” is a necessary condition to “living the Gospel”. Because receiving those ordinances is not a sufficient condition therefor, I would grant that diogenes’ statement is correct. Nonetheless, to the extent that it suggests that one could fully live the Gospel without baptism, his statement is false.

    That being said, I do not dispute his basic assertion that we often do better when we’re in the “oppressed” minority rather than the “oppressive” majority.

  30. Jack on November 8, 2004 at 12:29 pm

    “As I’ve shown above, your conditional clause is not necessarily correct, but in any event it does not follow from the fact that we must proclaim the Gospel that anyone – let alone a majority of people – will accept it.”

    Yes, but we must allow for the possibilty that all may be converted. And, in the event that all are converted I expect that something akin to Zion will be the prevailing order on the earth. I like to believe that the social conditions among the Nephites which were a result of the Lord’s appearance to them will be the prevailing conditions during the millennium. It is important to note that Mormon makes it clear that all were converted. However such was not the case in the days immediately following the Lord’s appearance. There was a huge missionary effort carried out until all were converted in the land. No doubt, such will be the goal during the millennium and indeed is our daunting task at present.

    Of course, you are right that one may be a member of the church and not truely converted. But, inasmuch as conversion (for most) is a life long process, IMO most members of the church who are striving to live the gospel are converted to one degree or another in spite of cultural contamination.

    I agree with Mark B. that the ordinances of the priesthood are vital. Therefore, it is incumbent upon one who wishes to live the gospel to join the church that he/she may have access to the ordinances which are key to obtaining the knowledge of God. Therefore, if the earth is to be full of the knowledge of God it will be by virtue of the ordinances of the priesthood by which the power of godliness is made manifest.

  31. D. Fletcher on November 8, 2004 at 12:50 pm

    I think the most interesting thing on the map is the East Coast, showing the Southern states as predominantly Protestant, but New England almost completely Catholic. This is certainly a change from when these areas were settled. The Protestants like Puritans, Pilgrims and Quakers, moved into the North. Catholics, from Ireland and Scotland, moved into the South. Some researchers have suggested that tensions between these differing religious populations was one of the underlying causes of the Civil War.

    If this map is true, then both areas have been reversed in their religious affiliation.

  32. John on January 28, 2005 at 1:49 pm

    D. Fletcher’s remarks deserve some qualification. The Catholics have a plurality, not a majority, in most of the blue areas on the map. There would only be majorities in certain areas like Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Upper New England has become to a large degree deChristianized.

    Secondly, research by everyone’s favorite sociologist of religion, Rodney Stark, shows that most of the immigrants to the US from Ireland and Scotland (in the South) were actually Protestants, not Catholics. This is still a problem today in Northern Ireland, where the Scots-Irish North is mainly Protestant.

  33. Ben on April 3, 2005 at 5:07 pm

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