Moderation in all Salt

September 2, 2008 | 55 comments
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Like in many Mormon families, my siblings and I helped fix dinner. On Sunday’s I loved to fix the mashed potatoes. It was in making mashed potatoes that I learned early that though a little is good, a lot is not necessarily better.

Early on, I served a large bowl (there were 8 of us) of mashed potatoes after thinking that if a little salt was good, . . .

I grew up in suburban Washington, D. C., where my brother and I were the only LDS Church members in our high school. There were other members who lived within walking distance, and most of the high schools in the area had a handful of members in each. The Church was organized into stakes, just three in Maryland and another couple in Northern Virginia. The Temple was built while we lived there, and became a fixture in the city, a landmark framed, when you approached it the right way, by the overpass that had spraypainted on it, “Help, Dorothy!”

After serving a mission and attending BYU, I landed here in New York City, which, in terms of the concentration of members, feels similar. Our stake covers just the island of Manhattan. My daughter starts high school today and will be one of perhaps a handful of members in the school. My son graduated from a different high school a couple of years ago — he was one of I think three LDS Church members in high school. The city is covered by three stakes and a couple districts, with perhaps another 4 stakes covering most of the suburbs.

To me this all feels about right. Here the Church is the salt of the earth. Members are scattered through a larger population, trying to not only live their lives, but also make a difference in their communities. There’s room for the Church to grow, and lots of room for Church members to both improve the community and be improved by the community.

Of course, how much salt to have is a matter of taste and health. Some like more, others like less. Some like more, but their health would be better off with less. For me, New York City has about the right amount of salt.

But regardless of taste, isn’t there a point where there is simply too much salt?

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55 Responses to Moderation in all Salt

  1. Mark B. on September 2, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    There’s just one branch from that second district within the City of New York–and it’s out in Far Rockaway, which comes by its name honestly. So, it’s three stakes, one district and one branch.

    The numbers seem to be growing: my oldest son shared his 3,000 student high school with one other LDS student, who was gone after a year. My oldest daughter went to Hunter College High School from 7th through 12th grade, and didn’t know any other LDS students there. My two younger daughters knew at least one other Mormon was at their school, for the one year when the older was a senior and the younger a freshman. But, with high schools drawing students from all five boroughs, it’s altogether possible that they had Mormon classmates but were unaware of it.

  2. blain on September 2, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    I thought the overpass said “Surrender Dorothy.”

  3. Jim Donaldson on September 2, 2008 at 6:55 pm

    I would guess that it is similar in the interior of most large cities in the US that aren’t in Utah. I’m in Denver, in the central area. There were a couple of inactive church members in my (long since graduated) daughters’ high school classes and they liked it just fine. They never had any trouble finding good friends who had similar values. In fact, both of my daughters spent several years in Catholic schools before high school and that worked out great, too. A whole bunch of really well adjusted families with whom our family got along very well. In general, my kids both felt they were solely responsible for what their friends and their families thought about the church and wanted to represent us well. It was a definite plus.

    This year I have seven kids in seminary from two wards and three different high schools. I think they all feel the same responsibility my daughters did and they are terrific kids. I can’t imagine a better seminary class anywhere. It’s just great. Really.

    Just the right amount of salt.

  4. Researcher on September 2, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    My oldest daughter just spent two years as the only member of the church in her large middle school. She had the interesting opportunity of presenting information about the church to several classes. Ardis wrote up a post containing her presentation awhile back. Now she’s moving on to the junior high and supposedly a new family is moving into the ward with a child who will be going to school with her. It’s a big deal for us. The younger children all have other Mormon children in their schools.

    Our ward is spread out over three suburban school districts and distance is a huge factor in interacting with other church members. We had been used to relying heavily on other members of the church for all sorts of social support, and it has been a real effort to work ourselves out of that mind-set. Not that we only interacted with members of the church, far from it, but certain interactions such as babysitting and play groups were largely church-based.

    For us, it’s too little salt, and we’ve seen several families leave the area for the same reason.

  5. Kent Larsen on September 2, 2008 at 7:10 pm

    Mark, you have a much better idea of how things stand than I do. I stand corrected.

  6. Kent Larsen on September 2, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    Blain, you are correct. I guess I must be getting old or something.

    As I understand it, the spraypaint is long gone.

  7. Left Field on September 2, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    Kent, we must have overlapped. I was in the Ft. Meade Branch of the Annapolis Ward of the Washington Stake, the Ft. Meade Branch of the Washington Stake, and the Ft. Meade/Laurel Ward of the Chesapeake Stake, and lived in the same house the whole time. My family moved just before the temple was completed.

  8. Kent Larsen on September 2, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    Left Field (7) we must have been in the same stake. We were in the Carrollton Ward. I remember going with my Father to visit the Ft. Meade Ward at some point. I still have fond memories of the area and the wonderful people there.

  9. greenfrog on September 2, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    …my brother and I were the only LDS Church members in our high school.

    That is because you chose not to go the the “regular” high school for your neighborhood with all us scruffy, riff raffy types. If you had, you could have been two of six or eight, depending on which year you counted.

    Or would that have been too many? ;-)

    (The language there was decidedly salty.)

  10. StillConfused on September 2, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    I grew up in Suth Eastern Virginia and we were pretty much very-low-Salt. I now live in the Salt Lake City area. I like the low-salt better I will have to admit

  11. Jim Donaldson on September 2, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    >I like the low-salt better I will have to admit.

    It is better for your blood pressure.

  12. Last Lemming on September 2, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    We were in the Carrollton Ward

    So you’re that Kent Larsen! The Carrollton Ward has made its dent in the world with you, Boyd and Zina Peterson, David Bowie, Brent Moulton (he’s the guy who got the CPI calculation changed–no small feat that) and a certain family of buoyant rodents. (I’m trying to stay anonymous, but I was EQ president between 87 and 89 when you put in a short appearance. Your dad would remember.)

  13. Sarah on September 2, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    Most of the low- and no-salt Mormon kids I know here in Ohio have either a) married nonmembers and become mostly or completely inactive or b) have moved to Utah (and results have varied, though I understand one infamously inactive young man is going to church again — the extensive rumor web our stakes have in the SLC/Provo area is really something to behold.)

    A great many of the stay-and-marry-outside-the-faith kids, married friends they had since elementary school — this is still common in the suburban/rural schools I’m familiar with (among members and nonmembers alike: no one is surprised to learn that my mom and stepdad knew each other from junior high forward, though the “coincidence” generally shocks friends from California.) Around my old branch and in the outlying wards in our stake, the high schools have alumni band concerts that hardly anyone has to travel to, because everyone stays put, and you can pull off a massive reunion of local beauty queens without even resorting to phoning around. One family (four kids, all married non-members; two became inactive, one converted her husband, and not sure about the last thus far) had five generation charts in which every birth, confirmation, baptism, marriage, and death occurred in the same city/state. It was a tad scandalous when their youngest daughter moved out of the branch boundaries, all of twenty miles away. When people talk about rural Utah being insular, I never think that it’s caused by Mormonism. ^_^

    As for me and my house… we were all-salt, all the time types. Homeschooling ensures that the entire student body is equally active in the Church. From what I hear from the kids in our ward who’ve gone to public and parochial schools, none of us missed much (except some lessons I wish I’d never even heard about, all of which apparently occurred on the band bus with parents at the front.) I imagine things were very different one or two generations ago, but I’d say that these days, an excess of salt may be a necessary evil.

  14. Kent Larsen on September 2, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    Nah, greenfrog (9), it wouldn’t have been too many.

    Besides the salty language, I think it was just that we needed someone in the ward to keep from getting regular 2nd-hand highs [GRIN]. Besides, I needed to cultivate that pencil-neck geek thing. I suspect your salt may have had better results there than mine did.

  15. Kent Larsen on September 2, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    Last Lemming (12) wrote:

    “So you’re that Kent Larsen!”

    Oh dear …. perhaps I’ve said too much!

    “The Carrollton Ward has made its dent in the world with you, Boyd and Zina Peterson, David Bowie, Brent Moulton (he’s the guy who got the CPI calculation changed–no small feat that) and a certain family of buoyant rodents. (I’m trying to stay anonymous, but I was EQ president between 87 and 89 when you put in a short appearance. Your dad would remember.) ”

    Hmmm, is it a good thing if we have dented the world? I get the urge to hide when I’ve damaged something. :-)

    You’ve put me in some very good company, I doubt I deserve it. Now my father is another story.

    I do have very fond memories of the Carrollton Ward. Its nice to run into so many friends from that time.

    [And I hope we’re all telling friends in Provo to vote for Boyd Petersen in November!!]

  16. Kent Larsen on September 2, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    Still Confused (10), I know exactly what you mean. I never felt more alienated from local ward than I did while I was at BYU. It didn’t seem to matter whether I went to a campus ward or an off-campus ward, I couldn’t manage to connect with anyone. And getting a calling was like pulling teeth. Came here to New York City and I was called as Ward Clerk within 3 weeks — they didn’t even know who I was! It must have been inspiration, or a pretty bad error!

    There’s just too much salt there.

  17. Kent Larsen on September 2, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    Sarah (13):

    It is clear that too little salt also has its problems. We’ve all seen the problems you’re describing, and they aren’t trivial.

    But you should recognize that too much causes troubles also. When the Church is the majority, its easier for teens to include the Church when they rebel. And its a lot easier for non-members to connect the Church with hypocrisy because its so easy to find those that aren’t living as it teaches. And worse, it is then easy for non-Members to feel like they have been excluded, or that political decisions always go in favor of Mormons, (and from my reading of Utah politics, they seem to be often right) and blame the Church as a result.

    It goes beyond that, of course. There are lots of ways in which being the majority is a negative.

    In a sense, I’m arguing both sides of a question here on T&S, because in previous posts I’ve pointed out how necessary it is for a certain concentration to exist for Mormon culture to develop.

    There is a balance that each of us need to find. I think what I’ve found here is what I want.

    But I also wonder if there isn’t an upper limit — a level at which things are just too salty.

  18. Tom Rod on September 2, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    Holy cow I’m in the Dallas 6th Ward–Carrollton split off from us. Small world!

  19. Kent Larsen on September 2, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    Sorry, Tom. We’re talking about the Carrollton Ward, in what is now (or at least was the last I checked) the Silver Spring Maryland Stake — suburban Washington D.C.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a number of other Carrollton’s around the US.

    The ward is actually in New Carrollton, Maryland, named, like the others, for Charles Carroll of Carrollton, a signer of the declaration of Independence. At the time, Carrollton didn’t exist — it was his way of distinguishing himself from his cousin, also named Charles Carroll.

  20. queuno on September 2, 2008 at 10:57 pm

    Will there be too much salt in the millennium?

  21. Kent Larsen on September 2, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    queuno (20):

    Nope. If I remember the theology correctly, the millennium is BEFORE “every knee will bow and every tongue confess”, so while the devil is bound, there is still a lot of missionary work to do, and presumably a lot of non-members and a lot of places that have less salt.

    Now you may have meant the Celestial Kingdom, where everyone is exalted. But then, I’m not sure if salt is needed when the food is perfect. Presumably, those in the Celestial Kingdom will then not commit the sins of the majority, so if those there are the “salt” you can stand it.

    Here, in mortality, I think too much salt is a problem.

  22. Yet Another John on September 3, 2008 at 12:05 am

    This seems like another “I’m Glad I’m Not A Utah Mormon” post.

  23. makakona on September 3, 2008 at 1:24 am

    my kid’s the only member in her school, but, uh, it’s a catholic school. i guess that doesn’t count.

  24. Kent Larsen on September 3, 2008 at 8:04 am

    Yet Another John (22): well, yes, except there is a question that no one is answering:

    “isn’t there a point where there is simply too much salt?”

  25. Eric Boysen on September 3, 2008 at 8:24 am

    What is CPI?

  26. John Buffington on September 3, 2008 at 8:33 am

    At one point, my HS had me and my sister, and two reorganized members (brothers). Do they count as salt?

    We used to take one of them to Seminary Super Saturdays with us, and they would occasionally come to YM.

    On a side note, it was surreal at the age of 14 to find someone with a testimony of Joseph Smith and the Restoration who did not believe in the LDS church.

    Always made me careful as a missionary not to tell the investigators that gaining a testimony of the BofM means that EVERYTHING else is true. my RLDS buddies taught me otherwise.

  27. Last Lemming on September 3, 2008 at 9:31 am

    What is CPI?

    The Consumer Price Index–the most common measure of inflation. No, Brent’s changes had nothing to do with salt. I’m just bragging on my homies. If you want to know more, Google “Brent Moulton CPI”.

  28. rd on September 3, 2008 at 9:57 am

    This makes me sad. Mostly because I agree. I grew up in SLC. And loved it. But I look back and see the struggles that beset many of my closest friends/cohorts. I would really like to know whether, on a percentage basis, adult activity rates for children from activ families differ much from inside the zion belt or out. Would be very interesting for me to see. In response to some points, one would think that a city full of faithful Latter Day Saints would lead to pure bliss. People helping people, longsuffering, ever charitable, non-judgmental, non-competitive. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

    Living on the east coast with four young children is delightful. But sometimes I wonder if I am keeping my children from having some of the same great experiences I had–surrounded by “salt”–in the SL valley.

    This is an interesting topic, but quite full of intangibles and individual variations. I think it’s impossible to generalize on this. My guess is that the readership around here generally agrees, but because they are experiencing similar satisfaction outside of UT/AZ. There would be many there, many of my family members, who if they happened upon this discussion would balk at the idea of moving away from so much salt as they would be loathe to lose the savor.

  29. rd on September 3, 2008 at 9:57 am

    This makes me sad. Mostly because I agree. I grew up in SLC. And loved it. But I look back and see the struggles that beset many of my closest friends/cohorts. I would really like to know whether, on a percentage basis, adult activity rates for children from activ families differ much from inside the zion belt or out. Would be very interesting for me to see. In response to some points, one would think that a city full of faithful Latter Day Saints would lead to pure bliss. People helping people, longsuffering, ever charitable, non-judgmental, non-competitive. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

    Living on the east coast with four young children is delightful. But sometimes I wonder if I am keeping my children from having some of the same great experiences I had–surrounded by “salt”–in the SL valley.

    This is an interesting topic, but quite full of intangibles and individual variations. I think it’s impossible to generalize on this. My guess is that the readership around here generally agrees, but because they are experiencing similar satisfaction outside of UT/AZ. There would be many there, many of my family members, who if they happened upon this discussion would balk at the idea of moving away from so much salt as they would be loathe to lose the savor.

  30. Mark B. on September 3, 2008 at 10:36 am

    I like to think that the street that gives our neighborhood its name, Carroll Street, is named after Charles Carroll. It would be appropriate for the street and the neighborhood to be named after a Marylander, for it was just a half-mile east that six companies of Marylanders slowed a British advance during the Battle of Brooklyn (August 1776) and prevented the destruction of Washington’s army.

    Another half mile eastward of the Old Stone House at Gowanus, where the Marylanders made their stand, is a monument to them and their heroism. Inscribed on it are the words Washington spoke as he saw their repeated attacks on the British position at the Old Stone House: “Good God. What brave fellows I must this day lose.”

    Of the 400 men of Maryland who were engaged in the battle that day, over 250 died and another 100 were taken prisoner. (They were likely held in the prison ships moored in the East River–hulks, old vessels without masts. Conditions there were horrid, and the death rates high. The bodies of many of the dead were thrown into mass graves in what is now Fort Greene Park.)

    The Wikipedia entry on Charles Carroll of Carrollton says:

    Named in his honor are counties in Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Virginia, as well as East and West Carroll Parishes, Louisiana. Carroll County, Kentucky and its county seat, Carrollton, are both named for him. Also named for him is the Carroll Gardens neighborhood in Brooklyn; as well as the city of New Carrollton, home to Charles Carroll Middle School.

    Our neighborhood elementary school (where our children were the only Mormons–but the seven year spread meant that from 1984 to 1995 there were either two or three Mormons in the school, all but one of them our children) is named Carroll School, and the park across the street from it is Carroll Park. Of course, everyone calls the school P.S. 58, and my hunch is that nobody has a clue where the name Carroll came from.

  31. BruceC on September 3, 2008 at 10:56 am

    Sounds like my wife’s parents would have been in suburban Maryland at the same time you were. I think they left MD in 1974. By the time I lived there, from 1993 to 2007, the area had become far more salty. Of course the whole DC area is one of the saltiest on the east coast. The Laurel Ward has its own building now. And there are a couple brand new wards just north of there in Columbia, a town that probably did even exist when you were there (ah!! suburban sprawl). But they are in the Columbia MD Stake, which probabaly wasn’t there either.

    Now I’m north of Nashville. Less salt. Suits me fine.

  32. Cyril on September 3, 2008 at 11:07 am

    To all of you with Virginia roots, I salute you! We could use a lot more salt in the Richmond area despite 3 Stakes here. Apparently, my single worthy endowed daughter (ahem ahem) who just left the DC area to move back to Utah thought she’d find additional spices than just salt back in Salt Lake.

    At a recent adult education conference at Southern Virginia University, a sister approached me and said, “I went to George Wythe High School with you. I thought I recognized you!” Now I gradutated from high school in 1971! Come to find out she was a member of The Church in high school and I didn’t even know there were people called Mormons. I asked why she didn’t tell me about The Church back then and save me years of searching! LOL She had no answer.

  33. Yet Another John on September 3, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    In response to #24 – “isn’t there a point where there is simply too much salt?”

    Maybe the City of Enoch was too salty. That’s why it was taken up.

  34. Yet Another John on September 3, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    But to be serious, it seems that where there is a lot of salt, it has a tendency to lose its savor and is “henceforth good for nothing” (Matt 5:13). I sometimes think it is harder to keep salty in the environs of the Great Salt Lake. Kind of ironic, huh?

  35. Kent Larsen on September 3, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    BruceC (31):

    Columbia (founded 1967) did indeed exist when we were there (I graduated 1979, left by 1985. My parents left in the late 1990s). Columbia is a planned community, and largely doesn’t fit the definition of “suburban sprawl,” although its moving that way. The Columbia stake was created in 1991.

    BTW, I see you have already taken in an aspect of this in your post looking at the Mormon Diaspora. You’ve captured my experience on the matter very well. FWIW, I don’t think its too strong a word, although it also doesn’t have the use of force aspect that the Jewish Diaspora does.

  36. Frank McIntyre on September 3, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    “isn’t there a point where there is simply too much salt?”

    For youth, at least, it seems unlikely, given that the Church spends millions of dollars a year financing BYU — a high salt diet if ever there was one. Of course, that may not apply to old people. My vague statistical recollection is that youth do about as well growing up outside the Wasatch front as inside. I grew up outside, in Kansas. Now I live in inside. The pros and cons are probably about a wash, but for me growing up outside probably worked out better.

    As noted above with the city of Enoch example, the scriptures don’t show any sign of “too much salt” being a problem.

    “I never felt more alienated from local ward than I did while I was at BYU. It didn’t seem to matter whether I went to a campus ward or an off-campus ward, I couldn’t manage to connect with anyone. And getting a calling was like pulling teeth.”

    That sounds less salty than bitter. Maybe you are just particularly high cholesterol.

  37. Kent Larsen on September 3, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    Cyril (32): My sister and her family have lived near Richmond for the past decade, I think.

    I like your comment that your daughter “thought she’d find additional spices than just salt back in Salt Lake.” That may indeed be a good way to look at things — the concentration makes it possible to see a lot more nuances in the salt or spices. Finding that would, IMO, make the concentration much more palatable.

    I also like your story about meeting the fellow high school graduate at the adult education conference. This is, IMO, the principal disadvantage to having too much salt — the chance to influence your neighbors. Not enough salt, and they don’t know who Mormons are. Too much and neighbors may have a bias against Mormons or an annoyance with us.

    Yes, this is largely a matter of taste. But the negative aspects of too much concentration are clearly there, as are the negatives of too little concentration.

  38. Kent Larsen on September 3, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    Frank (36): “That sounds less salty than bitter.”

    I’m not sure what you mean here, but I don’t think I’m bitter about it.I certainly don’t feel like I missed out on anything. I still went to Church and enjoyed the lessons.

    I’m simply relating, 20 years later, the facts. There clearly wasn’t much effort made to make me and my wife feel a part of these wards, and I suspect the “salt level” was part of the issue.

  39. denebug on September 3, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    I grew up as the only LDS in my high school in East Texas until my younger brother was old enough to join me. It was great. Being LDS defined me for the other kids, who respected my standards and were quite protective of me. Going to BYU was a terrible culture shock–with everyone else being Mormon, the fact that I was didn’t matter anymore.

    Now we’re on Long Island, NY, in a little half Spanish speaking branch. The branch, although small and somewhat unorganized, has members with simple, sincere, vibrant testimonies. Almost everyone is a convert–they come because they believe, not because of a predominant cultural pressure.

    Sadly, we’ll be moving to Provo next year for work. DH and I are both apprehensive about going to church in the middle of Mormondom again. We hope it’ll be good for the kids. At least they won’t have to do early morning seminary.

    Our kids have a much higher tolerance for salty food than we do.

  40. Frank McIntyre on September 3, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    Kent, it was a joke. But not a salty joke. Nor, to be honest, a particularly funny joke.

  41. John Mansfield on September 3, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    It reminds me of the feeling of many that doing business with relatives is not a good idea. There are real possibilities for trouble, but if they can’t be overcome, then something is lacking either in one’s business dealings or in ability to deal with disagreements with relatives. There’s nothing more natural than relatives working together and living in proximity to one another, but some can’t handle such a thing and need to lose themselves among strangers with whom their dealings are controlled and limited. “I work with these people. I live next to those people. Ten years from now, the bulk of these contacts will have been replaced with others. My dear old friends and I make a point of getting together at least once every year without fail.”

  42. Alison Moore Smith on September 3, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    I’m with Yet Another John. Having been both a Utah Mormon and a Elsewhere Mormon, I get really tired of the us vs. them stuff. Really.

    Of course there are pros and cons to living where there are lots of members, just as there are living where there are few…or in between. I don’t see either side as having a corner on the market on good flavor.

    In our Boca Raton (Florida) ward, well over 50% of the ward was completely inactive. Not “less active” or “halfers” or “Sacrament Meeting and them Homers.” INactive as in didn’t want ANYTHING to do with the church, didn’t want their kids participating in anything church-related, and wanted NO contact with anyone–but wouldn’t remove their names from the rolls. My Eagle Mountain (Utah) ward was much more active, but a chunk of them were more “cultural Mormons” than “spiritual Mormons.” They may not have been completely converted, but they participated in the church to some extent. In my experience the percentage of baptized Mormons who look (from the outside) to be “valiant” is pretty much the same.

    But regardless of taste, isn’t there a point where there is simply too much salt?

    If there is, then the celestial kingdom is going to be an absolute mess.

  43. Ugly Mahana on September 3, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    Salt not only seasons, but also preserves. I long for the day when we will all worship in spirit and in truth, united, and see as we are seen. Until then, I will neither judge the saints who fall short nor the heathens who fail to see their potential.

    There was a time when I relished criticizing Utah Mormons. Having lived among them, I find the mountain saints as human as any heathen. I have enough problems in striving to reach God myself. I am grateful for any who will help me along the way. I will not cast aspersion upon any of God’s children.

  44. Kent Larsen on September 4, 2008 at 12:02 am

    John (41), I think you have a good point.

    To riff a little on what you are saying, what kind of a Mormon am I if I can’t stand being with a lot of other Mormons?

    Still, that isn’t quite the question I’m asking. I think most non-Utah Mormons, including me, would, if they had to, handle it just fine.

    But I’m more interested in knowing if it is good for the Church.

    For one thing, I don’t think the concentration helps missionary work as much as being spread out to a degree. When Mormons are say 10% of the population, there are a lot of people members can reach. When Mormons are 75% of the population, its a lot harder, isn’t it?

  45. Kent Larsen on September 4, 2008 at 12:05 am

    Alison (42) wrote: “Having been both a Utah Mormon and a Elsewhere Mormon, I get really tired of the us vs. them stuff. Really.”

    I certainly didn’t think this was an us vs. them thing. While it was about my own preference, my question was that final sentence — can there be simply too much salt.

    As for the Celestial Kingdom, please review the comments above — I already addressed it.

  46. Kent Larsen on September 4, 2008 at 12:12 am

    Ugly Mahana (43):

    Again, its not about judging Utah Mormons. I don’t think I said anything negative about Utah Mormons (many of whom are good friends) — except possibly in recounting how I was treated when I lived there.

    Its not about whether or not people are good (or bad), its about how much advantage there is to concentrating members in one place versus spreading members out more (as if you could actually control this).

    Historically, the LDS Church went through a period where concentration was emphasized (a.k.a., the gathering). I think that was a good thing, and really a necessity.

    But today I wonder if the concentration in Utah isn’t a drag on the Church in some ways. When you are the majority, certain kinds of negative things are more likely to happen. Intollerances of neighbors who don’t fall in line, for example.

    That’s why I wonder if too much salt isn’t good for the Church.

  47. blain on September 4, 2008 at 4:40 am

    6 — Just checking.

    12 — I’ve not run into Bro. Bowie since I quit reading srm. I didn’t always agree with him, but I always found his insights interesting. Good to hear about him again. Anybody happen to know about Robert Woolley? I’ve not seen sign of him for a very long time.

  48. John Mansfield on September 4, 2008 at 8:24 am

    Kent Larsen, your response helps me understand what you’re asking. I originally thought the point of the salt metaphor was what tastes good to the Latter-day Saint, but you are wondering what is best for the world. I don’t think dispersion to the point of having one or half a dozen students in a high school is best for the world; it would increase the number of people who have exposure to a single Latter-day Saint, but if people only know a single Saint, then whatever glowing, superlative qualities we hopefully exude are only a reflection on the individual and not of our religion. If a person is acquainted with several Latter-day Saints, then he can have a concept of the impact of our religion on people’s lives.

    And even if its best for the world that Latter-day Saints are dispersed widely, there can still be value for the world and for the Saints in having a place where some of the Saints are concentrated. The existence of a place like Utah makes the world aware of Mormons in a way they wouldn’t be if the two million or so Saints who live there were scattered along with the other ten million of us.

  49. Kent Larsen on September 4, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    Well, John, I’m not sure its quite that simple. I think there are downsides for individual members too, although it isn’t as clear that those downsides outweigh the upsides from concentration. I’d like to explore those downsides as much as the downsides for non-Members or for the LDS Church’s proselyting efforts.

    Plus, I really like exploring the limits of a metaphor — no one I know really likes consuming large quantities of straight salt.

  50. Mark B. on September 4, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    Actually, Kent, the missions in Utah do very well. I can understand the difficulty in my old ward in Provo, where the total number of families in the ward boundaries who are members of other churches is less than five–how do they do member missionary work? And what’s their ward mission leader for?

    But, there’s a young woman from Brooklyn who returns next week from 18 months in the SLC South mission, which has been fabulously successful.

  51. DH on September 4, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    Some mighty benefits to living in a salty area:

    1. While attending a small public college in Utah, the missionaries knocked on a random apartment door (mine) and the first thing they said was “can you come help us teach someone right now?.”
    2. On another occasion, a young woman knocked on an apartment door (mine) and the first thing she said was “my roommate needs a blessing”.
    3. More recently: On several occasions while visiting a hospital, I have heard the following announcement over the PA system: “A blessing by Mormon Elders is needed in room #…, please call…” Many can also attest to this positive aspect in the aftermath of car accidents, etc.
    4. Taking my regular hour on lunch breaks to walk across the street and do initiatory (OK, not everyone in even salty areas can do that, but I hope something similar will someday be a reality for millions).
    5. Occasionally seeing the prophet speak in person (or even running into him in public) or the somewhat more frequent experience of running into one of the Twelve or Seventy at a restaurant, store, or seeing them drive past you.
    6. Overhearing (OK, eavesdropping) a conversation by two rural Utahans in a fast food restaurant while the younger one eagerly tells his mission experiences to the older one, including the nuggets of wisdom he heard from a visiting General Authority’s talk. The older one then responds something to this effect: “aint so and so still up there somewhere?” (Referring to one of the Seventy he must have grown up with or something). Similarly, HT, VT and RS are daily fair in conversations on the bus, etc.
    7. In 2nd grade, after the teacher explained how ancient Egyptians believed in the afterlife, she then matter-of-factly said “and we believe that too” (I realize some would try to put that in the negative category, but it is a fond memory of mine).
    8. Seminary was a soothing break from algebra/science/whatever and only a 45 second walk from the public high-school.
    9. Scouts was both a church and a neighborhood affair and everyone was welcome. For the big campouts, kids who hadn’t been to Church in ages would come out of the woodwork.

    There are unique blessings and challenges wherever you live and this discussion has pointed out something that is not often recognized: there are many trials and challenges to growing up in a Salty area. Whereas being “the only one in my high-school” has its challenges, it also has its blessings, and so it goes that the opposite is true as well.

  52. Alison Moore Smith on September 6, 2008 at 10:14 pm

    Amen to that DH. As I said, I found both blessings and trials both in and out of the salt.

    One of the drawbacks to living in a salty area is that, as I said, you DO have lots of LDS kids whose families aren’t really into the spiritual part of the church. They are there for social reasons (a woman in my Eagle Mountain ward, for example, very bluntly said, “I don’t believe all that Joseph Smith stuff, but it’s good for my kids and all their friends are here.”). Much of the time, those folks don’t really want to LIVE the religion and keep all the “rules.” So, when you go to school and a big chunk of your seminary class wears belly shirts and gropes in the hall 24/7–and gets on your case because you don’t–you don’t have the easy out of explaining your prudishness with, “It’s a religious thing.”

    I’d like to add a couple more to your list of good things about the briny realm:

    Almost every week as an Elsewhere Mormon, my kids got invited to a birthday party on Sunday. If it wasn’t during church it was, invariably, going swimming, going to a movie, etc. In the times we’ve lived in salty areas, not a single one of my kids has been invited to a Sunday party. They have non-LDS friends, but because of the LDS culture here, others respect the Sabbath.

    Same goes for sports. This was a never-ending problem. My kids are involved in a number of sports and every team and league had Sunday play. We tried declining to play on Sunday, sponsoring the team ourselves, and ALWAYS explained our “Sunday issue” beforehand and asked PERMISSION to be excused from Sunday games. No matter how many assurances were made pre-season–and no matter how much time and money we poured into the team–when it came to crucial and championship games, every single coach (as well as lots of parents) made my kids feel like total crappola and like traitors to the cause if they didn’t play.

    I guess that’s what you get when your kids are starters, but it really stunk. We never once had the “New Era” experience where everyone loves and respects you for your beliefs. We got more screaming and cursing than I care to discuss. Oh, and one red-faced coach yelled nose to nose at my then-11-year-old daughter, “God doesn’t care if you play soccer on Sunday!!!!”

    It was such a blessing to be able to live in a place where my kids could actually participate in sports, music, drama, parties, etc., without keeping the Sabbath being a constant issue.

    It’s also nice to have more than two LDS boys for each of my girls to date.

  53. Kent Larsen on September 7, 2008 at 8:06 am

    Alison Moore Smith (52):

    I hear you, and I’ve had similar experiences with sports and parties. My 5 year old daughter was to start soccer this Fall, but we dropped her registration when we found out that ALL her games were on Sunday. We’ve been participants off and on in the league for 15 years, principally because it has always been hard to participate.

    Here in New York City, one of the frequent issues is that there are also jewish kids that don’t want to play on Saturdays. Out of respect for their beliefs, our family decided it was reasonable to participate when there was some Sunday play, a kind of compromise with other believers. But for some reason those running the league don’t see the issue — they are willing to take steps to accomodate jews (there are no all saturday schedules, but there are all sunday schedules), but not christians.

    The issue has been frustrating for us, to say the least.

  54. Velska on September 8, 2008 at 7:49 am

    I waited to have experienced yesterday (Sunday) to look at what I see with this in mind.

    Okay, I have read this discussion and it seems that people are talking two different things. Here where we have 190 LDS out of maybe 200,000, we have to be tough to stand the pressure, for sure. And we have problems with kids or adults falling inactive or worse, which is a problem every unit everywhere has.

    If there is a problem in Utah (this is for you who tend to bash Utah), it is that there are too many UNfaithful members – not that there are too many faithful ones. And somewhere else, where there are only very few saints, it is harder to give your kids the kinds of experiences you can have with units where you have, say, two or more deacons’ quorums. Here they have to pass the sacrament every Sunday and practically every deacon serves as president or counselor in the quorum. And the active members who run the branch tend to be pretty worn out.

  55. Kent Larsen on September 8, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    Oh, I don’t know, Velska. To be honest, I have a lot of problems with some of the apparently faithful members (i.e., those that have Temple recommends). Mostly, my problems boil down to cultural differences, though. I don’t think I can put up with most of the culture and attitudes that exist on the Wasatch Front. Political positions, taste in music, books and art, even ideas about what is funny and what isn’t all don’t jive with me.

    I get enough of those attitudes from transplanted Utahns who show up in my ward and stake here in New York. Too much of it, and I’d go crazy.

    But, again, that’s kind of peripheral to the post. Isn’t there a point to which too much salt makes it harder for Mormons to be what they should be?

    I’m still divided on the question. But its been an interesting discussion, to say the least.