Subject: What is Mormon Culture?
Date: Nov 24 16:48 2003
Author: Reggie

Seriously. I asked my wife and she instinctively threw out green Jell-O. But really, how does one define Mormon Culture? Is it the endless meetings? The boring parties? The exclusive weddings? The temple ceremonies? The pioneers?

Is there a Mormon Cultural Center? If so, what does it contain? Are there classes? What are they?

If they are socially transmitted, but keep changing, how can you pin it down?

The American Heritage Dictionary:

cul·ture n. 1.a. The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought. b. These patterns, traits, and products considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population.

Subject: In my opinion
Date: Nov 24 18:19
Author: JUMBO

Mormon culture is:
Keeping up appearances
believing drinking alcohol is more important than being honest.
Believing that anything goes when it comes to business, but not touching a drop of coffee or alcohol.
believing in a sense of religious supremacy.
having an identity wrapped up in pioneer history.
feeling sorry for non-Mormon family members.
Superstitious-getting whacked by God for doing things on the Sabbath.
This is just a little bit of what I believe makes up Mormon Culture. There is so much more but wrap all these up in one personality and you get the idea.

Subject: ...NOT drinking alcohol is more important than being honest...sheesh..nt

Subject: Okay, we'll start with the definition from the dictionary...
Date: Nov 24 18:25
Author: daily bread
Mail Address:

Reggie wrote:
> The American Heritage Dictionary:


> cul·ture n. 1.a. The totality of socially transmitted:

behavior patterns--polite and nice to the point it's nauseous

arts--toll painted lacy stuff made at homemaking meeting, hymns, paintings of Moroni the white native American

beliefs--as written in the articles of faith, Book of Mormon, books by GA's, etc

institutions--the wards, stakes, BYU, genealogy centers

all other products of human work and thought--this is where the green Jell-O comes in. See, Mormons don't actually think, so their brains ooze out of their ears and voila!! Green Jell-O!! :)

b. These patterns, traits, and products considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population:

see list above..

Subject: doing anything the Mormon way, the Mormon influence....
Date: Nov 24 18:25
Author: IMlois

no drinking, no anything out of their "box."

Subject: Re: What is Mormon Culture?
Date: Nov 24 18:34
Author: Lost no more
Mail Address:

If you were to view the religious culture superimposed on any of the world cultures, i.e.: Polynesian, Latin, Asian, African, then what do you get?

The more I learn about the world, the more I feel like the Mormon part is the tiniest little substrata and it really doesn't matter in the great scheme of things.

Ummm, I'm assuming there is a grand scheme??? See, the Mormon part has me seeing and hoping for I don't know what in the future.

There are parts of me that will take years of introspection to purge or reconcile. Thing of it is, I'm nearly 48 years old now. I'm on the downhill part. I guess all that really matters is to live my life the best I can and enjoy the rest of the journey.

In the last two months I've read things or posted things from such an angry, jaded position. The core part of me is generally happy and optimistic. I just want to work through these feelings and get on with my life.

Know what I mean?

Lost no more

Subject: Cute and harmless on the outside, gullible, insecure and defensive on the inside.
Date: Nov 24 18:52
Author: Sir Lurksalot

My definition of Mormon Culture: The organization is so insecure about the ability of the belief system to attract and keep members, that it has had to canonize doctrines of fear, threats and family pressure to stay alive. A group of people that are controlled by a far out belief system and cultural history. The belief system is so precarious that a big part of the culture is built around defense mechanisms that protect members from seeing the beliefs from an alternate point of view.

Children are drilled in the defense mechanisms from the day they are born:

You are right, others (non-members) are wrong.

Satan is behind anything or anyone who tells you otherwise.

Agreeing with others means Satan has won you over.

The world is run by Satan, the church is run by god.

Fear the world, give blind trust to the church.

Only GA's are qualified to discuss the church's history or beliefs.

Living our church commandments brings blessings on earth.

If you are living the commandments and good things happen you are being blessed. If you are sinning and good things happen, just think how much better it could be if you were living right?

An institutionalized twisted logic like the above is used and taught to convince themselves that they are not wasting their lives in the church.

The culture is heavily defined by the things members think, say and do all in an effort to reassure themselves that they are not being duped!

Subject: Just some thoughts on Mormon culture
Date: Nov 24 19:00
Author: billy budd

In Utah, it means eating, bland, fatty foods with lots of cheese, gravy, ice cream, raisin-tapioca pudding, butter cookies and red punch, like those meals they serve at the Lion House

It means being hopelessly lost in a world of circular logic, i.e., feeling that your religious explanations for the various triumphs/tragedies around you fall short, but are not sure how.

It means momentarily feeling triumph by doing some silly task, like completing your home teaching for the month, or attending the temple, quickly followed by the dread of the next meaningless task, and then shame for not completing it.

It means living in a passive-aggressive world, where everything is nice, fine, pleasant, then suddenly violent and bitterly emotional as flame-outs occur over something as trivial as an obscure doctrinal issue or a bad call in church basketball

It means thinking you know the answers to the great mysteries of existence without every reading Dostoevsky or Kant.

It means thinking you belong in your local ward, that you are faithful and follow the rules, but suddenly discover the rules changed or you were interpreting them incorrectly. Then you are firmly put in your place by some authority. You are told its not due to lack of clarity in the rules, you simply were not paying attention. This will happen many times.

It means your view of art, music, literature, drama, architecture - basically all creative human endeavors - has been politicized. You often misunderstand/misinterpret and censure art when it does not contain the political-religious message you've grown accustomed to.

You crave to somehow display your individuality, to spice up a church musical performance, or say something daring or provocative during a sacrament talk. These efforts, however, nearly always end in disaster, and you are once again put back into your place.

It means feeling shame and guilt over not following the commandments carefully enough. There are many short periods of trying harder followed by longer periods of failure, like waking up early for a week to read the scriptures. This pattern may go on for years.

Mormon culture is essentially codified human misery.

Subject: well, well Mr. Budd
Date: Nov 24 20:55
Author: et in Utah ego

you summed it all up beautifully. That post is a classic. I'm copying it and keeping it on file for when I'm next asked to describe "Mormon culture" or "the church" or what its like inside the Zion curtain....

Subject: Mormon Culture is an oxymormon. nt

Subject: Try extending this, define any culture... seems tough huh? Really, what makes a culture?
Date: Nov 25 05:48
Author: juxtaposed

Its a collection of shared ideas, understandings, ways of going about thought... its something that only someone who is part of that culture will understand. Its something that people of the same culture can identify in each other through little hints and catch phrases like "Green Jell-O" or "Boyd KKK Packer" Neither does a culture have an absolute ending. People can belong to many cultures in many different degrees. Just from having the briefest encounter with another culture you have already begun to entrench yourself in that culture, while simultaneously forming a parallel culture. So really, what defines a culture? Tricky question...

So what defines Mormon Culture? Just that, Mormon Culture is what Mormon Culture is, its just a tautology really... If you're in it, you know it...

As for the specifics, Mormon Culture is one of those transient spreading cultures... since its so tied to the religion bits and pieces spread all over the country where the religion spreads in isolated pockets. You have the Zion Culture, and hundreds of small separate cultures which form via "cultural transmissions" through the church... they're all kind of different, and all kind of the same... you can't really define it as any one larger culture... So to answer your questions:

The endless meetings? Yes.

The boring parties? Yes.

The exclusive weddings? Yes.

The temple ceremonies? Yes.

The pioneers? Hell yes.

Really, these are all the things which define that special culture that you just have to intuitively understand. These are those "hints and keywords" I mentioned earlier.

Is there a center? I would certainly suggest Utah. That's really where the whole thing started chronologically... all the pockets, subcultures, and side cultures which have formed as a result ultimately form around things which all originated in Utah... its not quite a "Center" so to speak... that is its not the point at which the Culture is most strong, just the point of original and the larger set of culture.

What does it contain? Why, a bunch of people socially interacting... they make up "the Cultural Center"...

Classes? Meh, sort of kind of I think... but just an off-hand opinion. I would suggest SPs, Bishops, et cetera... if you look at the larger culture you see a lot of more interesting classes. For example in the New England Mormon circles you run into "Visiting Zionites" (the lowest class), "Socioeconomically Low~Middle Classers" (the middle class), and finally "The Enlightened" (Mid~upper Classeres who are 'aware' that Zionites are a bunch of nitwits). Hmmm could go on and on about all the classes you see in Mormon side cultures, but I won't...

How do you pin it down? You don't really, you just have to participate in the culture to some degree and eventually you see trends... just like any observation.. you can never really pin down a culture precisely....

And that's my drawn-out babblings on the mystery of Culture and Mormon Culture... eat what you like.

Subject: I have been giving this some thought of late
Date: Nov 25 06:52
Author: YukonCornelius
Mail Address:

I would consider myself a product of the culture of Mormonism and to SOME degree maybe a cultural Mormon.

Still to this day I am a teetotaler. I don't find that exclusively Mormon, as the church I attend now has mostly teetotalers in it. However, I CHOOSE to not drink alcohol rather than being TOLD to abstain or else suffer the lack of blessings in my life. One of my best friends is a beer fanatic makes his own and all)...and a solid church man. I do not think in a million years that God would deny him a blessing one.

I hate gelatin things. So, maybe that kicks me out of the Mormon culture right there. However, I have many of the same ideals that my Mormon friends have. I still cheer for BYU sports...but that's where I went to school.

I have definite views of God, the Trinity thing, and how the Father, Son, and HS relate to one another. Those ideas seem to be more a product of my Mormon life. Yet, I love where I go to church now because I can have a divergent view and not get a nasty look come my way. There is room to experience God for myself. It's all about God and Me rather than Church, Me, God, Bishop, Stake President, Prophet, Temple, Genealogy, and Joseph Smith now.


Subject: Your theories on why people become so attached to pathetic Mormon culture?
Date: Nov 24 20:51
Author: 2 lazy 2 log in
Mail Address:

First off, do we all (or most of us) agree that it's pretty pathetic? Mormons have extremely lame taste in the arts, for example. Of course, part of that is arises from being told what you should and shouldn't listen to. I mean, you know it's bad when some of the books from Oprah's Book Club are considered too racy for you to read. (You know it's even worse when you're a grown adult who needs other adults to screen books, films and music to make sure its fit for your consumption.) And anyone remember when Mormons were jumping on the Christian Right bandwagon to protest an exhibition of Rodin's "The Kiss"?

They have almost zip interest in high art. I'm not saying this to be a snob. I am a pop culture junky, but I think it's nice to have a balance in your appreciation of the high and low arts.

People here routinely remark on the fact that the Morg has never produced any great writers, artists or musicians (nor does it attract these types of people). Most of the artsy people it does produce were smart enough to leave, even if they're not especially talented.

And what about stereotypical Mormon food? Yeah, I liked it as a kid (except for the lime Jell-O/cottage cheese abomination), but it wasn't healthy or nutritious or even very nutritious. It was more like an exercise in how many different ways you can use Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup and Jell-O (only hopefully not together). I remember at church potlucks, the one kind of hippy lady in the ward would always bring something unique -- maybe an ethnic dish -- and it would never get eaten.

Finally, Mormon kitsch. How I hate thee. Seriously. My mom and every suburban Mormon homemaker I ever knew as a kid decorated their house as they envisioned housewives in the country did. That meant spending copious amounts of time and money at JoAnn's buying craft supplies or even worse, perusing the knick knacks at country-themed boutiques. (Why does every suburban Mormon woman dream of living in the country? Most of them wouldn't survive out in the boonies. After all, who would they gossip with?) And it meant even more time spent on ridiculous art projects or what I like to call DUST CATCHERS. It seriously offended my aesthetic sensibilities even then.

So what are all of your least favorite parts of Mormon culture? And why do a lot of Mormons actually seem to like it?

Subject: What you describe seems more regional than religious.
Date: Nov 24 21:04
Author: speculator
Mail Address:

In any case, I'll bet you could find the same prudish, kitschy, & dietary habits widespread among non-Mormon middle-Americans--and among very few Mormons outside of the U.S.

Subject: I thought about that, but well, it's pervasive throughout the United States.
Date: Nov 24 21:48
Author: 2 lazy 2 log in
Mail Address:

Maybe it's confined to within U.S. borders, but looking back on it now, it's strange that the Mormon side of the family (my mom's) bought into it so completely. We aren't from Utah. My grandma -- the first to convert -- is from Southern California. My grandpa converted for her, but he was raised Roman Catholic in Iowa. So yeah, there's the Midwestern influence there, but he moved out west when he was still a teenager. They raised their family in So Cal, and that's where I still live today. To my knowledge, both of them lived pretty different lives before having converted, at least culturally speaking.

Of more interest to me is my mother. She was a bit of a free spirit for a Mormon, at least in her younger days. She liked rock music. She wore the cute, figure-hugging fashions of the sixties and seventies. She made some of her own clothes, but that was more to save money than because she was into crafts at the time. When she married my dad in the early eighties, she was still like that. But all of a sudden, she became super TBM after I was born and started in with the Mormon kitsch and the AM easy listening stations (I mean, when she wasn't now listening to family friendly show tunes and Tabernacle Choir recordings).

I just think it's interesting how the Mormon "Midwestern" culture has become the norm for Mormons all around the country, even in places like L.A. (I'm from a suburb of L.A.)

Subject: You know, 2 lazy...
Date: Nov 24 21:06
Author: et in Utah ego

you give me a lot of hope. There sure weren't many 20 yr. olds like you when I was a 20 yr. old in Utah. I LOVE your posts, I LOVE your pissed-off attitude, and I LOVE that you take it all personally! The morg IS an affront to everyone's personal dignity!

As for my own personal background: I never took "the church" seriously at any point. I only went on and off as a kid (up to about age 15) because my parents (who didn't go at all) made my brothers and I attend. This was more out of middle-class obsession with fitting in and what "looks right" than anything religious. But the one thing that always turned me off about "the church" was that it offended my aesthetic sensibility. Seriously. I think even more than the lame-o explanations of dinosaurs, or maybe even the sick and virulent misogyny. I just could not take seriously any organization that thought Avard Fairbanks's oil paintings of Bible scenes was Great Art, or that polyester quilts drawn on with "embroidery paint" were authentic pioneer crafts.

Subject: Thank you. It means a lot to be appreciated here.
Date: Nov 24 21:40
Author: 2 lazy 2 log in
Mail Address:

It ain't easy being an ex-Mormon. No one really has a lot of patience with you. Everyone -- Mormons and non-Mormons alike -- tell you to just get over it. But it's like you said, above and beyond having to accept its pack of lies, being Mormon means -- for most people -- facing a life with no culture. For many Mormons, particularly women, it means never getting to see the world, never getting to see what else is out there. So you know, even if the church is true (which it isn't as well we know), it wouldn't be worth it to me to be a Mormon and deprive myself of the beautiful things this world has to offer. After all, if the church is true, won't we have an eternity to spend in "loser" heaven at bible study and making birdhouses out of Popsicle sticks?

In any case, I'm glad someone else's sense of good taste was offended while in the Morg. I feel like less of a snob now! I'm not trying to say I had exceptionally good taste while I was in the Morg. I didn't know what I liked because all I'd ever been exposed to was Morg culture. All I knew was I didn't like it (except for the desserts that didn't have Jell-O in them *hangs head in shame*). It's so nice to be free and able to find things out for myself and choose the things I want to surround myself with.

Oh and the dinosaur thing bugged me too!

Thank you again for the compliment and don't you worry! I do everything in my power to keep other impressionable youngsters away from the Morg. (In fact, my interest in being a militant ex-Mo was rekindled when my younger brother's [now ex] girlfriend was thinking of converting. My brother quit the church soon after I did but it was more because he found church boring than anything else. So he came to me for ammo he could use to keep her away. It worked!)

Subject: Re: Your theories on why people become so attached to pathetic Mormon culture?
Date: Nov 24 21:18
Author: Claire
Mail Address:

"Mormon culture" is a contradiction in terms. Moreover, once you get past the fake happy facade, life in most Mormon families resembles paintings by Hieronymous Bosch - a freaking nightmare.

Subject: From whence came Mormon cultural roots.
Date: Nov 24 22:15
Author: activejackmormon
Mail Address:

Mormonism as a culture is very much influenced by the puritan attitudes of New England, the area most early Mormons were from. Their Calvinist sternness didn't exactly translate into artistic achievement. This isn't strictly a Mormon phenomenon. Try looking for Congregationalist or Presbyterian artists.

Even in Germany during the 1700's, spreading Calvinist philosophies clashed with artistic invention. J.S. Bach and his son C.P.E. Bach both had periods where they did not compose religious works because of their prudish masters, Prince Leopold of Cothen and Frederick the Great of Prussia respectively.

This being said, don't discount the artistic achievement of Mormons. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is certainly an excellent choir, though their repertoire is more limited than their talents could be used for. Many Mormon communities have traditions of putting on plays and pageants, that though many are campy because of their Mormonness, they do have value and allow Mormons to express their culture through the arts.

The existence of the Utah Symphony, Ballet West, the Utah Opera Company, Pioneer Memorial Theatre, the Utah Shakesperean Festival and other artistic institutions show that there is culture here in "the corridor."

Is there a Mormon Bach or Mozart? Not even close. Is there any Mormon artists who approach Van Gogh or Picasso? No, not really. But frankly there aren't that many Americans in general who qualify. Mormonism is a very American religion steeped in the culture of Yankee Puritanism. Their tastes and prowess relative to the arts reflects that.


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