Opportunity wards

When I think of cities, I think of places where people of various backgrounds and classes mix, thereby opening up opportunities for social and economic mobility.  But two studies that I heard about today cut against this vision.

The first suggested that women who live in urban areas are more likely than their rural counterparts to emphasize a man’s earning potential and educational attainment when looking for a mate. Rather than producing economic and social mobility, cities seem to produce more couples who look for people of the same education and class background.  These factors have displaced the previously dominant criteria of place of origin and ethnicity, reflecting new ideas of what is needed for successful marriage.

The second study looked at the relative happiness of urban and rural women.  The correlation between a women’s happiness and her attractiveness was far more pronounced in urban than rural areas.  Cities allow for more kinds of people, but perhaps also for more stratification of people.

These studies make me question the degree to which cities are a place of mobility and opportunity, since they seem to indicate that cities might solidify certain group boundaries even if there is a greater chance to come into contact with people from other groups.  But these results also strike me as different from those I’ve seen in LDS wards.

Perhaps because belonging to the LDS church creates a special kind of group that limits Mormon mating options and absorbs a substantial part of time, I have seen real social mobility in LDS wards.  I’ve seen couples of different educational and economic levels marry.  I’ve seen numerous children from poor areas of town become first-generation college attendees thanks to the efforts of their youth leaders.  Many of the LDS children I grew up with are now in professions that they found due to other ward members.   In sum, I think the church can be a great tool for giving people real options.

Comments

  1. It’s important to remember that if there is a tendency towards social mobility in our Church, it’s not because of anything we as members do. Heavenly Father blesses His children according to His wisdom. He compels us through our love to do things for others which will bless them. Suggesting the membership provides social mobility is like suggesting the membership provides blessings.

    We need to remember from Whom all blessings flow.

  2. When I tried to think about any kind of stratification that could occur in LDS wards, the only think I could think of was a (perceived) spiritual stratification. (e.g., who wants to marry an RM vs. a…non-RM?) But to the extent this isn’t class stratification or economic stratification, I guess that does provide new opportunities.

    Which kind of stratification should we prefer?

  3. Natalie,

    When I think of cities, I think of places where people of various backgrounds and classes mix, thereby opening up opportunities for social and economic mobility

    I’m curious why you would think that about cities. If you’ve done much research on cities throughout history, you’d find this is simply not the case at all. The question I have is just what kind of social and economic mobility are you talking about? Are you talking about a poor black woman marrying some rich white guy? A Hispanic woman becoming CEO of a large corporation?

    You give examples of how within the church there are some examples of this social mobility you’re talking about, but these examples are also found within a city. The question is, how do the examples you offer within the LDS setting compare with the overall city? Having lived in several areas of New York, I’ll say that there isn’t much of a difference between the social mobility within the church and that of the city at large.

    Just speaking for myself, my relationship within the church and its members had very little to do with my social mobility or the career I’ve taken.

  4. Paradox…that doesn’t even make sense. All sorts of people are ‘blessed’ in this life, and it has nothing to do with their religious background or lack thereof. And plenty of people are blessed by others who are not LDS. Not to mention, there are plenty of LDS people who do not get “blessed” when they need it most, and in fact, do suffer horrible tragedies.

    I get that you’re trying to say people are inspired by the Holy Ghost to help others…but thats not ALWAYS the case. We are not puppets on strings held by God.

  5. Olive it makes sense, but not if you insist on interpreting what he said in a narrow “God is a respecter of only LDS persons” way. Since no LDS actually believes God only respects LDS, no LDS memeber believes God only blesses them.

    All blessings come by obedience to some principle, if you believe the language of the DC, which refers to this as in irrevocable law.

    You are blessed with life on this planet in a body, are you not? Because you were obedient in the pre-existence and supported the cause of righteousness you have been blessed with many things in your life as a result of God’s laws decreed before the foundation of this world.

    The tricky thing is trying to judge all blessings and what they are the result of. And the simple fact that all blessings do not come in equal manner as we see it, but we’ll probably be surprised to find out they come in equal manner as we need and qualify for them.

    And certainly many of the most choice blessings do not come until heaven.

    But certainly the scriptures point out several promised specific blessings that result from blessings of obedience to some specific laws. I look for them in your own study, but it is wise to couple that searching and pondering with an understanding that we are often judging with a limited light the spirit reveals to us, so we can’t so easily assume all blessings come in exactly the same manner for everyone. And I think the definition of law, obedience, and blessing expands in importance the more knowledge a person has of God. But certainly all LDS people and non LDS may be blessed when they need it most and it is up to us to discover those ways we are blessed, and if there is something specific the Lord has asked us to do, to do it and qualify to receive the blessings he promises for us — just temper that with an understanding that lessons we’re to learn in this life can’t come if we expect to constantly be saved from sorrows and cares. That’s a hard doctrine and unnecessary to preach to someone in a time of grief, because there is certainly a time for preaching and a time for comforting. But it does not make it true in a descriptive sense of the way God operates.

  6. Natalie B. says:

    Paradox, I’m not quite sure that I see anything incompatible between what you are saying–that blessings come from God–and the idea that blessings come when we participate in church. Maybe I misunderstand?

    Daniel, I’m sure you are right that there are other forms of social mobility. But I appreciate going to church since it is one of the only places where I am friends with people outside of educational and professional circles. Sure, I meet people from other backgrounds in passing, but I don’t build the relationships with them that I do at church. Also, aside from my neighbors and other bloggers, I can’t think of another place where I have had the opportunity to form friendships with people who are of a different generation than me–an opportunity I think is invaluable. I admire all those who can do this without church, but I’m glad that church exists for those like me who need a kick to reach out.

  7. Peter LLC says:

    In my ward, an English speaking one in a non-English speaking country, a group of ex-pats all living next door to each other in the right neighborhood and across the street from the American school determined last semester to hold early morning seminary in a convenient living room as an alternative to the official program of meeting once a week in the evening at the church on the other side of town. Since they did invite the rest of us to come too, I guess we can give three cheers for social mobility.

  8. #1 — If there is a tendency toward social mobility in our church it is ALL about what we as members do. If members live the gospel and open their hearts to new members, the new members are far more likely to keep coming, to continue in their conversion, and to open themselves to whatever blessings the Lord has in store for them. If, however, members are cold and unfriendly, those new members are likely to stop coming. President Hinckley spoke often of this need in new members as he counseled to ensure that new members have a friend, a responsibility, and continually learn the gospel.

  9. Naismith says:

    “When I tried to think about any kind of stratification that could occur in LDS wards, the only think I could think of was a (perceived) spiritual stratification.”

    When I lived in Utah, I felt like a second-class citizen because I was a convert. My in-laws were less-than-thrilled that my husband married out of the church. I’d been a member in good standing for two years, but that wasn’t good enough for a family that joined in the 1830s.

    I never felt comfortable at church and like I fit in, until we moved away and most folks were converts.

    So yes, I did have the opportunity, but at great emotinal cost on all sides. I greatly regret changing my name at marriage, and I am not sure it helped them accept me.

  10. “I appreciate going to church since it is one of the only places where I am friends with people outside of educational and professional circles. Sure, I meet people from other backgrounds in passing, but I don’t build the relationships with them that I do at church.”

    Absolutely!!!

    “a group of ex-pats all living next door to each other in the right neighborhood and across the street from the American school determined last semester to hold early morning seminary in a convenient living room as an alternative to the official program of meeting once a week in the evening at the church on the other side of town. ”

    It seems very unlikely to me that the parents did this without official sanction. If so, they were out of line. But in most stakes there is a very strong preference for early morning seminary. The choice for me as a parent wouldn’t have been meet-with-ward v meet-without-ward, but early morning v home study. If the only feasible way to have early morning seminary was to hold it in a home (NOT unusual) near the kids’ school (great! I wish our kids had been able to do that), I can’t fault them.

  11. esodhiambo says:

    Hmmmmm. I’m going to agree that there is a tendency toward upward mobility within the Church. I think of families that have been in the Church multi-generationally (in the US) and college education/white collar jobs is the norm. If convert families enter the Church without that tradition in their families, when they raise their kids in the Church, the social pressure will be towards college education and professional jobs.

    I have also seen lots of Church kids get summer jobs and part-time employment from other members of their ward. In my parents ward, the kids pretty much rotate through a gas station owned by a member, and another factory often has a cohort of recent HS graduates because they have a ward connection there. That may not seem like much, but that kind of employment can make a big difference to a kid, even if it just convinces them that they want a better education so they don’t have to work at a gas station their whole lives.

  12. Natalie, where did you hear about the studies that you referenced?

  13. Do you know how many people are out there that do wrong things and still get ‘blessed’? Try looking in Washington DC or on Wall Street, or in LA. Being prosperous and wealthy are blessings, and certainly most of them did not come from following the laws of God. And while those are only temporal blessings, they are blessings still. Sometimes if you steal, you get rich. Sometimes if you lie, you advance. Sometimes if you cheat, you win. Not every blessing is a gift from God’s hand. Just like every tragedy is not caused by God’s will either. To say “well God made everything and sent us here, so by default, all good things are blessings from Him!”.

    Its just annoying when members point out every single little good thing that happens and they say “its because you deserved it! Its because God loves you! Its because you’re mormon!” Why all the justifications? Its like some members can’t handle going more than a week without finding some ‘tender mercy’ or ‘blessing’ to PROVE God exists and works in their life. Just because the light turned green when you needed it to doesn’t mean God is up there controlling the traffic lights.

    Its just so “Well, of course the ward is experiencing a Utopian state of grace and friendship, they’re Mormon!”

  14. Natalie,

    Daniel, I’m sure you are right that there are other forms of social mobility. But I appreciate going to church since it is one of the only places where I am friends with people outside of educational and professional circles.

    you casually bring up educational circles, but that’s one major land of opportunity for social mobility that is outside the religious realm.

  15. Mark Brown says:

    Its just annoying when members point out every single little good thing….

    Yes, it certainly is, but still not as annoying as it is when somebody points out every single little bad thing about the church or its members, over and over and over. We get it already.

  16. Natalie B. says:

    One was from the book “Welcome to the Urban Revolution.” The one on attractiveness I heard discussed on the radio, but missed the reference. Sorry about that.

  17. Thomas Parkin says:

    Olive,

    The scriptural basis for what you are talking about is Matt 5:45. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and His rain to fall on the just and the unjust. I personally believe that the blessings that come from God are the gifts of the Spirit. All situations are either blessings, cursings or neither based on our disposition towards the Spiritual. The same flood that drowns the village is experienced as the wrath of God by one villager, where the other villager, who is activated internally by the Spirit, experiences the same event quite differently. He is in position where he can experience the expansion of soul that is more or less the very definition of being alive, also the definition of prospering. This latter man can prosper under almost any circumstance, though he might be pushed right to the limit and want to lift up his voice and curse god and die. What you are talking about – wealth , etc. one man may experience as a sign of God’s favor, where the next will rightly see it as just another test, potentially devastating.

    I don’t mean to say that God never grants us our wishes matters of health, wealth, weather, or whatever. We can be generally in a dialog with God, I think, where our desires are taken into consideration as a part of a kind of divine pedagogy. … but, this has nothing to do with what we ‘deserve’ and everything to do with what is needed for us to learn the next lesson waiting over the horizon.

    Cool. ~

  18. As much as I can comprehend, Natalie,I agree with. One aspect that I believe is incredibly significant is the amount of public speaking the average Mormon does in a lifetime. I think it makes more confident and articulate students. The unique opportunities for service and leadership gives us chances to grow that other religions do not offer. Like I said, a lot of what you talk about is over my head.

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