Meth and the Mormon Menace

There are many new things to learn when moving into the Mormon Culture Region. I have now encountered methamphetamine abuse (in the Northeast, there’s plenty of drug abuse, just no meth per se that I ever encountered), and I have now encountered a set of conspiracy theories that blame Mormonism and/or its culture for a variety of social woes. I have learned (incorrectly, though repeated on national television) that Mormon women use a disproportionate amount of anti-depressant drugs (one of the more confusing claims, given the medical consensus for ensuring that depression is adequately treated), Mormons are to blame for the extremely high rates of prescription narcotic abuse (though these data are never compared with total narcotic abuse statistics), and most recently for me, Mormons are to blame for Utah having the “third-highest rate” of meth abuse in the nation (despite actual federal statistics––indicating that in the afflicted West, Utah is lower than average).

I should be clear: I feel desperately sad for those affected by substance abuse and am glad to pay higher taxes in order to assure access to needed services, and I do worry about the pressures that our society imposes on women (speaking of US society generally and MCR-Mormon society specifically). Further, solid, empirical data could persuade me that Mormon culture contributes to meth addiction.

I will also confess that I have not performed a literature search to evaluate the state of current evidence. I have several observations and questions, and I am glad to be corrected if in error.

My first observation is that in comparison with the life I just left in a major Northeastern city, Utah is amazingly low-pressure. Sure, there’s a lot of materialism that makes me queasy, but all-told, this (Mid)Western ethos has been a breath of fresh air. For those who feel Mormon society is too focused on excellence, too exhausting, try a decade or two in major cities on the coasts. Not only are we expected to maintain our homes and our children’s grades, we’re expected to beat everyone else in the academy, in the workplace, in the world. The implication that the excellence focus of MCR Mormonism is uniquely potent or widespread seems to be based in something other than fact. Before, taking a weekend off was a sign of weakness. Here, working on weekends is a sign of obsession.

My second observation is that in fact Wyoming, Nevada, and Montana appear to be harder hit than Utah, based on federal statistics. These four states have in common their distance from the coasts and their Mountain Western heritage rather than their Mormonism.

My third observation is that these statistics about Utah drug abuse never seem to pose the question of whether overall drug abuse is similar to other states. What does it mean if instead of taking heroin or intravenous cocaine, Utahns at risk take meth? Is there a difference between XTC abuse and meth abuse? Before indicting a cultural strawman, we should at least be careful about our facts.

Also, a question. What are the data on risk factors for meth addiction? Has anyone actually studied this?

Finally, what does the persistence of what appears to be an urban myth signify? Why the pervasive belief that Mormons are more mentally ill than their neighbors, whether expressed as inaccurate data about anti-depressant use or complaints about particular types of substance abuse? Is it anger at the teetotalling Mormons who smile more than they ought to? Is it an attempt to medicalize or objectivize concerns about the stress of a pietistic and apparently middle-class faith?


  1. Ivan Wolfe says:

    Well, I know in my home state of Alaska, meth use is on the rise, though still low (Alaskans prefer the wacky tobacco/mary jane/pot since it used to be legal and is thus widespread). I doubt very much its because of all the Mormons moving to the state.

    Alaska tends to be like the Mountain states in suicide, depression, alcohol & drug abuse, etc. I wonder if it might be environmental rather than cultural?

    I honestly have no idea, though.

  2. Before, taking a weekend off was a sign of weakness. Here, working on weekends is a sign of obsession.

    Yes, and I say thank goodness for that, because I sometimes feel if my yard is not perfect and I don’t have ten kids that I take camping every weekend, and I’m not “magnifying my calling” and attending every possible church meeting and perfect in my home teaching and building my year’s supply of food, I may be going to hell and taking my family with me. In other words, we do have pressures, perceived or real, that big-city non-mos do not.

    I have understood that meth manufacturers actually seek out more rural environments for their “businesses” because of a perceived lack of police presence and understanding of the warning signs of the presence of meth labs. If that is the case, higher incidence of meth abuse may be related to that choice by the manufacturers, rather than a higher incidence of choosing meth as a recreational drug by users.

    I have heard for years of the higher incidence of divorce, suicide, mental illness, teen pregnancy and drug use and abuse by members of the church. I believe all those accusations are purely mythological, but they do get repeated, including a reference in the PBS doc.

    It seems to me that it is a persistent myth precisely because it has some basis in fact; i.e., some do have trouble coping with the perceived pressures of living up to the Mormon cultural ideal.

  3. Joanne says:

    Gosh, I don’t know about meth. But I think if lots of people in Utah are on anti-depressants or other prescription drug, it might have something to do with Mormons’ respect for authority. A physician (man, usually) in a white coat seems to exude enough authority to discourage passive people from doing too much questioning. I am probably one of those passive people, as I am just scared enough to trust medical science a bit too much. I don’t know.

  4. Is there a difference between XTC abuse and meth abuse?

    Ecstasy is fairly safe whereas meth is anything but. Seriously though, tweakers are really screwed up people whereas everyone I knew who took E just stopped taking it after a while.

  5. The cynical former-folklorist says:

    The measure of “truth” in rumors like this isn’t how factually acurate the information is, but how well that information validates a valued belief.

    In this case, I think their are probably multiple beliefs being justified, depending on who is supporting the rumor. Maybe. as MCQ suggests, someone wants to justify the belief that Mormons stress too much in an impossible quest for perfection (I think that is how I most frequently hear it used). Someone else might use it, as you suggest, to justify a belief that the teetotalling Mormons are hypocrites. Still another may use it to justify their belief that Mormonism is false by suggesting that it is the only way Mormons can deal with their cognative dissonance. I think there are many possibilities here.

    Last week in Church I heard the “Utah has the highest bankruptcy rate in the U.S.” in a lesson on finance and emergency preparedness. A friend of mine looked it up afterwards and found it is not true. These soft facts get a lot of mileage. I guess they are like the parables — it’s not their historicity that matters — it’s the ideas they represent.

  6. Having spent a significant portion of my life in the mid-west (MO, IN, and MI) the idea of a place without meth is rather shocking. Here is WA there is a significant problem and consequently you have to show ID to buy pseudafed, which is only behind the counter. I’d never heard any rumor about Mormon meth abuse, but perhaps WA is too far out of the corridor.

  7. My daughter just did a college paper on consumerism and referenced several articles stating that Utah does have the highest bankruptcy rate in the nation, although they were from a year or two ago.

  8. I’ve heard that bankruptcy is higher because of Utah’s different bankruptcy laws, and not becuase of disproportionate financials stress. Only something like 1 in 13 families who filed for bankruptcy reported paying tithing. So the other twelve were likely non-members or less active. But since I don’t have hard facts to back this up, I might just be combating rumor with more rumor.

  9. Angela says:

    I totally agree with #5. I don’t remember where I heard this but it’s possible that the reason more Mormons are on anti-depressants(if the statistic is true) is because we’re less likely to turn to alcohol to ease life’s troubles. Even if some of those statistics are true, they can never reveal the whole picture, but when you have an agenda it doesn’t matter.

  10. Ardis Parshall says:

    sjl – Bankruptcy laws are federal, not state, so are theoretically identical throughout the country (although judges in different areas may follow different guidelines as to, say, exactly which household and personal items are protected), so at least that much of what you’ve heard is folky rumor.

  11. There was a great thread over at T&S on Utah’s bankruptcy suggesting that it was more complex than it first appeared. I honestly can’t recall the details though. I suspect that the number of children plus poor health insurance can drive people into bankruptcy when sudden changes happen.

  12. I have to say that I don’t have any stats, either, but I have long felt that prescription drug use (anti-depressants, anxiety reducing, or pain-killers) would have to be more — or at least as — widely consumed by church members as non-LDS, because it’s a way of mitigating pain and self medicating, with (as has been mentioned) permission.

    I read that 1 valiuim has about the same effects on you physically as a beer. I don’t know how accurate that statement is, but considering the number of people who come home from work and have a beer to de-stress, think about how mom taking a valium at the end of the day is pretty much in sync with that.

    BTW, 2 different friends from Hawaii (one native, one transplant) have told me that meth labs are rampant there. Especially in the area around the temple!!

  13. MikeInWeHo says:

    This is an interesting thread to read from my perspective as your resident gay guy. Seems to me that any minority subculture can easily be criticized in this way: “Mormon women pop pills,” “Gays use drugs,” whatever. The anti-mo’s love to assert that Mormons are excessively depressed and pharmacologically dependent, but there’s no evidence at all.

    But crystal meth?? Mormon tweekers? Come on! I’m pretty sure that’s a Mountain West, not LDS, problem. Anybody who thinks the meth epidemic has anything to do with Mormonism really, really needs to travel more. I’d be happy to show you around West Hollywood. The Church may not do everything right (imo!), but it sure stands as a bulwark against illicit drug use.

    That said, I wonder if people who fall inactive or formally leave the Church might not be at greater risk of substance abuse. Might make sense.

  14. I think this might be the thread Clark Goble (11) referenced. The upshot: in Utah, the percentage of self-identified Mormons within a ZIP-code does not correlate with bankruptcy rates; outside of Utah, bankruptcy correlates negatively with the (self-identified) Mormon population.

    Depression and suicide statistics also make an appearance.

  15. I read that Utah does not have the highest number of bankruptcy filings, but it is the state with the highest filing levels based on filings per 1,000 households.

  16. Methamphetamine is far worse than heroin and significantly worse than cocaine. Its low cost, widespread availability, and, in its early stages, ability to increase productivity create a snare that, imho, is more violent, more destructive, and more morally debillitating than other drugs. Not that I’m advocating other drugs, but I believe that meth has an increased social pathology.

    I doubt, although I do not know it as fact, that Utah has a greater problem with meth than other states. That “fact” doesn’t ring true and appears to be an effort to tarnish the LDS population there. I’m no defender of TSCC but I think I know a falsehood when I see it.

  17. Mormon tweekers? Come on! I’m pretty sure that’s a Mountain West, not LDS, problem. Anybody who thinks the meth epidemic has anything to do with Mormonism really, really needs to travel more. I’d be happy to show you around West Hollywood.

    That is too funny.

    I hesitate to speak for others but I just want to say for myself, personally, that I love having a resident gay guy. Thanks for being here Mike.

  18. I recently read an article that said that one of the major Mexican Meth gangs was based in Ogden, supplying meth to Wyoming.

    Article in the Guardian

    Anecdotally, an aunt who lived along the I-70 corridor near Price said that their ward had warned temple workers commuting to the Manti Temple to avoid the rest stops because of meth gang activity. This was at least 10 years ago.

    So is it meth use or law enforcement activity that highlights Utah?

  19. So what are the stats? I was shocked by the statement in “The Mormons” about drug use among Utah Mormon women. I know I live with my head in the sand, but where’s the data?

  20. About 15 years back one of these myths making the rounds was that Utah had one of the nation’s highest abortion rates. I heard it enough that I looked up figures in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. It turned out that Utah’s abortion rate among the states was about fourth from the bottom.

    John McWhorter wrote a piece last week for the NY Sun on the emotional, non-rational nature of intertribal animosity. These myths are expressions of that animosity, not reasons for it.

  21. According the the Psychiatrists at the University of Utah, Utah or LDS women do not have any higher rate of depression than women of other states. However they feel that the higher SSRI use is due to appropriately treated depression while women in other states self-medicate with alcohol, smoking, or other dangerous prescription drugs at a much higher rate.

    I grew up in a rich LDS neighborhood and my sisters currently live in similar “yuppie” LDS neighborhoods along the Wasatch Front. According to them, the stress and strain of living in such communities is all social and has nothing to do with the church. The stress is caused by the “keeping up with the jones'” materialism, lookism, cliques, social exclusion, gossiping, backbiting, etc. All of these things are strongly discouraged by the church.

    Luckily my mother, most of my sisters, and wife are not not on SSRI’s. These women are frugal, thrifty, aren’t afraid to shop at 2nd-hand stores and actually wear clothes purchased from there, don’t wear much makeup if any, have small diamonds on their wedding rings, live in modest houses, havn’t had any plastic surgery, and don’t care that they aren’t a part of the inner-circle of leadership wives’ club. And they are happy. The one sister on SSRI’s is the opposite.

    Responsibility rests on the husbands too. And, I hope what I have said isn’t offensive. Do you think it is fare to make such conclusions?

  22. Steve Evans says:

    Sam, I found this article online about Montana, but nothing on Utah.

  23. Anonymous for this one says:

    In my Utah County ward, in a recent young women’s class on “The Priesthood,” a Laurel advisor told of a situation where her daughter was very stressed over an important paper she needed to write for a university class. For some reason, the student just couldn’t get going on the paper, and the deadline was approaching. Finally, a couple of days before the paper was due, when she was practically nonfunctioning, she came home for help. Her father gave her a priesthood blessing, her mother pressed some sleeping pills in her hand.
    She took the pills, slept well that night, and spent the next day writing a great paper!
    (and I’m moving my daughters out of the ward—really)

  24. Yeechang Lee says:

    Finally, what does the persistence of what appears to be an urban myth signify? . . . Is it anger at the teetotalling Mormons who smile more than they ought to?

    As one who grew up in the Big Apple I’ve had plenty of experience with fellow Nu Yawkers who apply their life experiences, whether correctly or not, to the country as a whole. I see no reason to think that Utahns–whether LDS or not–act any differently.

    Two examples:
    * The few times I’ve happened to have read letters to the editor at the Daily Utah Chronicle, the student newspaper at the University of Utah, there’s invariably been one complaining about LDS Church-related events being overrepresented in articles. By contrast, during my undergraduate years at Columbia I never once read any complaints in the Spec about the frequency of Jewish-related events being mentioned in front-page articles (I’d say about once a week), although Columbia is “only” 15% Jewish.
    * Look at the omnipresent complaints by some non-Mormons in Utah about laws restricting drinks being sold by the glass and the existence of a state-owned liquor retail-store system. These people have no idea that a) unlike many Southern and midwestern states’ dry counties, nowhere in Utah is it illegal to obtain alcohol, and b) many states have similar government-run liquor stores or monopolies. These provincials think that since “Utah is run by the Mormons, these things we dislike must be solely because of them.” Naiv yokels, they are.

  25. Steve Evans says:

    BRoz, I do not think it is ‘fare’ to make such conclusions. You’re exceedingly sloppy about who, why and in what manner people take SSRIs, and chalking it all up to materialism is sloppy and repugnant to those who suffer from depression. You say your source is “the Psychiatrists.” I’d like to see your citation, please, because I doubt your source very much.

  26. My mother has been on “sleeping pills” for almost fifty years. She has a form of schizophrenia that manifests whenever she worries about something too much. In that state, her brain simply refuses to dismiss the worry and she can’t sleep – much like a CPU that won’t shut down without performing a manual override. The pills she took functioned as that override; they allowed her to sleep and, therefore, continue to function the next day.

    I understand how destructive unregulated or indiscriminate or illegal use (or simple over-medication) of any drug can be, but SSRI’s that empower people to address their needs in such a way that they can function at their best level (whatever that is) are wonderful. My mother is a saint in the truest sense of the word when she takes her medication; without it, she is not. Please keep that distinction in mind, BRoz, as you look around you.

    As others have stated, I would love to see research that classifies use of all substances that are used as “medication” to help people cope – but that would be extremely difficult, since even food can serve that purpose. Finally, depression is perhaps the hardest to research in this light, since it goes undiagnosed more than many other issues and, therefore, is self-medicated much more frequently.

  27. Way back when I was at BYU I did a sixty page paper on Prozac and while researching it I found a national demographic study that did find that the highest per capita rate of users of Prozac was in the Utah County area at that time. However, that was years and years ago, I honestly doubt if it is so now. I wish I still had that study (I didn’t include it in my paper, this was BYU after all) but it had all kinds of interesting facts nationwide (IE: white women with children were most likely to take it, etc).

    Also Alpine did make the highest bankruptcy rates a few years ago. It is not so now. But I remember reading about it.

    As for meth, I grew up under the impression that Meth was a bigger problem in Utah than anywhere else, I blame a couple of TV news “special” that one of the Utah stations did. So when it comes to all three it seems that there is at least a reason other than “Those darn mormons” for such thinking.

    As for why? You could say, and I sorta do, that it’s because that whole “Romeo and Juliet” syndrome. Both Romeo and Juliet could’ve fallen for anyone else, they had ample time and opportunity to leave and fall for someone else. But in a way the forbiddenness of their love fueled it. A recent study showed that in Saudi Arabia, a place where women wear viels by law and modesty is taken to extremes in culture and entertainment and media 70% of all wireless cell downloads are pornography. Putting focus on not being allowed to do something makes it that much more desired, as Voltaire said, “Ice cream is delicious. Too bad it’s not illegal.”

    Having grown up in Utah county I can also say that there is a big wanting to not fit in. You go to church everyone looks the same, white shirt, either blue or red tie, slacks or khakis. Everyone does the same thing, church basketball watch sports. Everyone reads the same books. Everything is very homogenous. A lot of teens take this and think that it will be cool to rebel and start on paths they are not fit to take and end up in bad, bad places.

    These of course wont make someone just get up and take meth. But it might make someone go and smoke pot, then snort cocaine and so on and so forth. Just like great things are done a little at a time, so are bad things

  28. I think that part of the meth problem in Utah and other rural areas comes from the fact that the ingredients are accessible there. I’m no expert, but I do know that the folks in my little home town in Utah have taken to locking up certain kinds of fertilizer that can be used in meth. I hear that it’s going to have some kind of dye in it too. I should have paid more attention to the last conversation I heard about this when I was home. I’d list the relative lack of law enforcement in rural areas, lack of decent jobs, plenty of open space and old buildings to set up shop in, and accessibility of ingredients. My parents, and their neighbors, are fairly sure there’s a meth lab in their little town in northern Cache Valley. The guy who’s running it has the old barn all line with plastic sheeting (visible through some of the cracks) and does no actual visible farming. He just lives on land he inherited from his grandfather, and rents out the ground to others. There are lights on late at night in the barn,and people coming and going at odd hours of the night, but generally not the day time. Seems to me that he’s either growing pot, or making meth. But no one there wants to turn him into the cops, since it would break his elderly mother’s heart– and they’re also afraid of retaliation from his friends or clients.

  29. A couple of years ago some of the major tv stations in Utah all did big stories on the Utah Meth problem within weeks of each other. Soon after there were newspaper Special Reports!!!!. I wonder if all that press at once made people think the problem was worse than it is. I have no doubt it’s a large problem (my HR guy said 80% of applicants at our company fail because of meth), but I don’t see it being a larger problem than anywhere else in the west.

  30. As for anti-depressants, every LDS woman I am close to over the age of 30 is on some sort of depression medication. Is that normal everywhere? Of course maybe it’s not a LDS thing, maybe it’s a Davis County thing. Or a bad gene pool thing.

  31. MikeInWeho says:

    re: 16 Very well put. I agree completely. The meth epidemic is terrifying in so many ways, heroin seems almost quaint by comparison.

    The Wiki entry on the topic is quite comprehensive:

    re: 23 Did anyone mention that it’s technically a crime to transfer prescription meds like that?

  32. MikeInWeho says:

    re: 28 The neighbors are allowing him to run a meth lab in the barn undisturbed because they’re afraid of breaking his mother’s heart????!! Methinks that might be a bit short-sighted. She won’t be so thrilled when the whole thing blows sky high with him in it someday, either.

  33. Who cares about him. It’s the kids buying the stuff I’d be worried about…

  34. re: 30

    I also sometimes wonder if it is a bad gene pool thing. Good point.

    I also know that for me depression hit especially hard after I gave birth. Isn’t there maybe also a correlation between mormons having a lot of kids (or really even the pressure to have kids) with depression?

  35. Hi Mike– yes that’s true that it is nutty, and it’s a conversation I’ve had with my mother– that they could be endangering the people near by. But his mother is one of my mom’s best friends, (and an enabler in my opinion). She’s also a sweet kind naive lady. This guy went off to Vietnam and came back with addicted to a bunch of stuff, and has basically squandered the family farm, and the thinking among the neighbors is that if he went to prison it would be more than his mom could take. And remember this is a small rural town, so the “neighborhood” is about 15 houses in a mile long stretch. They feel they don’t really have evidence. (Hmmmm, who else do they know that has visitors coming and going in the barn in the middle of the night?) Also remember that they’ve known each other for years, and their parents and grandparents were friends. I’ve also pointed out that the guy just may get violent too, but so far they won’t call the cops. And the cops in Cache Valley might not be capable of handling this either.

  36. MikeInWeho says:

    Hey Paula–

    Personally, if my mom were living anywhere near something like that, I’d blow the whistle on him (anonymously) myself. My sense is these people tend to disappear very quickly once the light shines on them. It’s not exactly the Corleone family at that local level. Besides, the guy needs help. If your suspicions are correct, the path he’s on will only lead to destruction. A bust and a little penal justice would be a much better option for him.

    We should have a bloggernacle vote:

    Should Paula’s mom and her friends narc out the meth barn ??

  37. Mark S says:

    Call the cops Paula. Give Cache Valley’s finest a chance to do their job.

  38. Dear Paula:

    Methamphetamine labs can give off noxious fumes, such as phosphine gas, methylamine gas, solvent fumes; such as acetone or chloroform, iodine vapors, white phosphorus, anhydrous ammonia, hydrogen chloride/muriatic acid, hydrogen iodide, lithium/sodium metal, ether, or methamphetamine vapors. If performed by amateurs, manufacturing methamphetamine can be extremely dangerous. If the red phosphorus overheats, because of a lack of ventilation, phosphine gas can be produced. This gas, if present in large quantities, is likely to explode upon autoignition from diphosphine, which is formed by overheating phosphorus.[from wikipedia]

  39. Cops 2, Meth Lab guy 0

  40. Paula,

    But his mother is one of my mom’s best friends, (and an enabler in my opinion)… And remember this is a small rural town, so the “neighborhood” is about 15 houses in a mile long stretch. They feel they don’t really have evidence… Also remember that they’ve known each other for years, and their parents and grandparents were friends. I’ve also pointed out that the guy just may get violent too, but so far they won’t call the cops. And the cops in Cache Valley might not be capable of handling this either.

  41. Sorry I got cut off..

    Sounds like the meth-head’s mom isnt’ the only enabler around.

    Do you really think a community that small can not suffer the effects of a meth lab?

  42. I vote to ask the cops to investigate. Duh.

  43. So y’all think that the myths about Mormons (high rate of SSRI usage, bankruptcy, meth labs etc) are spread by non-Mormons? I don’t think non-Mormons think about us as much as we think about us. Which is to say, we perpetuate urban myths about our high drug use or bad money habits. I’m not sure why, though two things come to mind: it either helps us feel better about our craziness or ineptitude at living the gospel, if clearly lots of people are bad at it or we spread those rumors because it makes us feel good that other people are struggling with that but we’re not.

    Humans are gossipy little things and we’re more likely to gossip about our community than anyone else’s community.
    I heart BF.

  44. Ugly Mahana says:

    I’m with Amri.

  45. Sam MB says:

    amri, i hear this mostly from non-mormon or former mormons in my actual life. can’t comment on blog conversations.

  46. “I don’t think non-Mormons think about us as much as we think about us.”

    That’s true about nearly any group. Except maybe actors. But narcissists that they are it might even be true there.

  47. woodboy says:

    Looks like Utah is near but not at the top in bankruptcy filings.

  48. Umm, Amri? How much have you lived in the corridor? Your observation is probably true other places where non-mormons have little reason to take any notice of Mormons, but it’s not true here in Zion. Non-mos have plenty of good reasons to be resentful of Mormon cultural, political and religious hegemony and they aren’t that shy about talking about it. If these statistical stories that are making the rounds about the Utah Mormon population are false, I highly doubt they are coming from members.

  49. The reason why Utah Bankrupcy is high according to my Bro-in-law who represents the State of Utah in bankrupcy cases is because of the the inefficent system. The paperwork takes so long that the same people are forced to refile and refile for bankrupcy to include the bills and morgage payments that have not been paid since the bankrupcy was first filed for and doesnt cover.

    Also, several of my neighbors are in real-estate and filing for bankrupcy is part of their business. They have files many times.

    #25 I don’t know of any studys, but during my psych rotation at the University of Utah the question of SSRIs and Utah County came up and that is what a panel of psychiatrists said.

    Yes, what I said #21 was very sloppy. Thanks for pointing that out.

  50. The reason why Utah Bankrupcy is high according to my Bro-in-law who represents the State of Utah in bankrupcy cases is because of the the inefficent system. The paperwork takes so long that the same people are forced to refile and refile for bankrupcy to include the bills and morgage payments that have not been paid since the bankrupcy was first filed for and doesnt cover.

    That doesn’t really make any sense.

    Also, several of my neighbors are in real-estate and filing for bankrupcy is part of their business.

    Must be a really bad real estate business.

  51. MikeInWeho says:

    So that’s it: Mormon realtors are a bunch of bankrupt meth users!

  52. StillConfused says:

    I have lived in Utah for about 20 years now and before that I was in the south. I am astonished at the acceptance of drug abuse in the Utah LDS culture. I am also astonished at the lack of respect that the youth have for their parents and more importantly the lack of respect that the parents require of their youth. My children don’t do drugs because they know that if they did, they would answer to me. I have had other LDS folks say that I am being unChristian for having zero tolerance for drug abuse. I guess I just have a different Jesus.

  53. Steve Evans says:

    StillConfused, Jesus has a zero-tolerance drug policy?

  54. Ardis Parshall says:

    StillConfused, I would be astonished by any level of acceptance of drug abuse in the Utah LDS culture, too. Almost as astonished as I am that anybody who lives here could possibly make that assertion.

  55. MikeInWeho says:

    I hear so many disparaging things about “Utah Mormons.” That would make an interesting thread: How is Mormonism different when it represents the dominant culture, rather than existing as a maligned religious minority?

  56. Ugly Mahana says:

    Having grown up outside of Utah, attended school at BYU, and since moved away, I found the difference to be slightly overblown. While living in Utah, I concluded that some people were more inclined to blame bad behavior and funky traditions on the Church, and to ignore church teachings that contradicted local culture. In short, people were still people, they just had another label they applied to themselves.

    By the way, a friend told me (in his estimation, the only) nonmember in his high school said to him “there are real mormons and there are utah mormons. Not all real mormons live outside of Utah, and not all utah mormons live inside the state.” I thought that was a pretty good call to make sure that my behavior is actually christlike, and not just in appearances.

  57. Mike: That would indeed be an awesome post, and a complex one. As an example, let me correct you by suggesting that Mormons are much more maligned when in the majority than in the minority. Even other Mormons malign Utah Mormons, as you have seen.

    I think it’s hard to understand the full extent of the issues related to this subject if you didn’t grow up here. From my perspective, growing up as a Mormon in SL Valley, but living in SoCal (OC) and the Seattle area as an adult, I think the criticisms of Utah Mormons are based in some truth, but are exaggerated and somewhat unfair.

    Growing up Mormon in Utah means that to engage in any normal rebellion you have to rebel against the dominant culture, i.e., the church. Elsewhere, you get to assert some individuality just by being Mormon. Of course, it’s much more complex than that.

    Mahana I love the idea that “Utah Mormon” is not really a geographical term. I think that has some validity.

    My favorite joke a non-mormon once told me about “Utah Mormons” is this: Why do you always invite two Mormons fishing? Answer: because if you only invite one he’ll drink all the beer.

  58. I had assumed that meth problems were largely a problem in rural areas. Upward mobility is limited, times are hard, there’s nothing to do, an abundance of fertilizer (a component of meth) to be stolen from nearby farms. I guess the components of the urban legends are based on where you live.

  59. StillConfused: I grew up in Utah; I served a mission in Japan; I attended college in Utah; I taught school in Alabama; I live now in Ohio. I have sold into the school systems of the entire eastern United States. I have a first-hand understanding of drug abuse and its acceptance across the country. I you think Mormons in Utah have a high tolerance of drug abuse compared to other believers in other states, I have one question:

    What are you smoking that is not classified as a drug?

    That’s all I have to say about that.

  60. Sorry; important typo. I attended college in the Boston area, not in Utah.

  61. having grown up in Utah and later left the state I know what you talk about when people say “Utah Mormons”

    My first year in Colorado we had an investigator come in to church and he told us about he had tried to join the church in Utah but the people kept him away, now that he was in Colorado he found the people much nicer and better to get along with. I’ll never forget what the Elder’s Quorum president jokingly said, “The church is true everywhere….except Utah.”

    Thing is Utah is sorta disconnected from reality, or better said Utah county is (or was when I was a kid). With it’s high concentration of mormons it shows in its politics and laws and what is expected. Every friend that I’ve had that has moved out of Utah into another state has commented that it’s like an entirely other world.

    I know that people, especially those in Utah, complain that the myths and generalizations are untrue. But I tend to find that most myths and generalization tend to have at least some for of truth in them, otherwise they wouldn’t take.

  62. A generalization grounded in reality: Power corrupts. Well, homogeneity breeds tunnel vision and uniformity, which in turn corrupts – by making the powerful those who can articulate the uniform vision most clearly and convincingly.

    PLEASE, do not interpret that statement as a slam in any way against church leadership or membership in Utah. I do not mean it to be at all. I mean it simply as a reason why the church in Utah often functions differently than the church outside of the Mountain West.

    I was raised in small-town Utah County, and I wouldn’t trade my upbringing there for anything. It included a peace, stability and relative tranquility that is desperately needed in most areas where I since have been educated, worked and now am raising my children. Living as a Mormon inside and outside of Utah have positives and negatives, but the spread of the Church worldwide has done wonders, IMO, to influence how SLC sees the Church and its practical policies (and the aspects of the church that truly are merely cultural or due to the narrow perspective of homogeneity) – and provide the environment in which revelation can occur to combat the corruption that inevitably arises in isolation. The fact that ongoing revelation can address that corruption is a major part of my testimony of the structural inspiration of the church.

  63. Just to clarify: By corruption, I simply mean impurity – not manipulation or other sinister connotations.

  64. I agree Ray, the experience of being a “Utah Mormon” is much better now that the weight of church population has shifted geographically to outside of Utah and even outside the US. The perspectives that brings to the church membership and leadership are, IMO, all good.

  65. Very true MCQ. But that then poses an interesting question. How much of the church leadership is outside of the “MCR”? We have a very large latino population in the church. Yet we have a handful of latinos in the Seventy (I think three or five possibly?) no representation of latinos in the twelve at all. I know it’s a completely different conversation, but still it is interesting to note that much of the leadership has not shifted to reflect the new face of membership.

  66. StillConfused says:

    Sorry, I am not smoking anything. I am so out of touch I wouldn’t even know what to smoke. My main issue is with the lack of respect and tradition. But then again, I am from the south and that tradition thing has gotten us in trouble once or twice. By the way, there is a huge difference between being LDS in Utah and elsewhere. The term “LDS” for instance. If I had used that in Virginia, people would have thought I was a dyslexic drug addict. Not to mention words like “Relief Society” and “ward”.

  67. ronito: Let’s start a “Draft a Latino Apostle” campaign. We’ll get some good nominations then picket the COB with big photos and latin music. Nominations are now open!

  68. Thomas Parkin says:


    Look at the years at which the current Q12 became General Authorities. And look at the face of the church during those years. We’ll have many more than one Hispanic Apostle, I’m sure – but there is a generational thing that is going on. Hispanic leadership will have to grow through the church.

    Did you listen in the first session of conference while they were reading out the names of the new seventies. Latin after Latin after Latin after Latin.

    A quick count:

    released as Area Seventies: European 20, Latin 8, Asian 1.

    called to First Q of 70: European 1, Latin 4.

    called as Area Seventies: Latin 22, European 20, Asian 3

    Net gains: Latin 18, Asian 2, European 1.


  69. That’s awesome Thomas. Soon Cinqo de Mayo will pass July 24 in popularity–or has it already?

  70. Well Thomas I guess time will tell. But it has been a long time overdue. But I still think that there will never be a latino in the 12. I just don’t see it happen.

    I do like to think how different the church would be if a latino was in charge though.

  71. We now have a European convert in the 12 and more Latinos in the 70 than any other group. We now have almost as many members in Central and South America as in North America. Our stake here in Cincinnati has 8 family units (and a YSA branch) – 7 English speaking and 1 Spanish speaking, with one more Spanish speaking branch that will be organized in the near future and another one that is in the earliest formation stages.

    Never be a Latino in the 12? We disagree on this one, but I think we all hope I’m right. :-)

    BTW, what does this have to do with meth? (and please don’t even try to joke about an ethnic connection – simply not funny and very poor taste)

  72. Thomas Parkin says:


    Bueno. Y Gracias. Pero, no se cuantos son Mexicanos o si ellos beben la cervesa.


  73. it has nothing to do with meth. I just go where the digital winds from the tubes of the internet take me.

  74. Ronito, I meant the last 50 comments or so. I looked back and found the curves that brought us to the latest discussion. Kind of like following my wife’s train of thought when she’s pregnant, so I have plenty of practice.