Ken Learns a Lesson About Repairing Rifts Which Emerge in Cyberspace
By Ken K. Gourdin
Warning to Those of Tender Eyes, of Tender Ears, and/or of Tender Years: Here Be Strong Language – A few years ago, there was a thread at Mormon Dialogue and Discussion which seemed to me to devolve into criticism about how cliquish, and clannish, and stand-offish those awful Utah Mormons are. I have ancestors who crossed the plains during the Mormon Migration, and I have little patience for such things. (Before the thread was closed permanently [it was probably archived], I couldn’t access it because I got banned from it for the incivility in some of the exchanges I excerpt below). I happened to run across it again and found that I could access it now that it’s been closed.
When the thread’s originator wrote that Utah Mormons are “standoffish about others,” I responded, “Those damn Utah Mormons! Please! They may be less common elsewhere, I’ll admit, people like that can be found practically anywhere in the Church.”
Another poster responded, “They can; here, at least [that is, outside the so-called “Mormon Corridor” of Utah, Idaho, and Arizona], they have a harder time justifying their attitudes since they are a much smaller minority.” I responded, “Utah born and bred, and I’ve never encountered that attitude. If you all want to point the finger at Utah or a segment of it instead of cleansing your own inner vessels, go ahead.”
That poster responded:
Odd that you claim to have never encountered it. I wonder who all those talks in General Conference were directed at that addressed this exact issue – specifically among members of the church in Utah.
Having lived in Utah for quite a while, and seeing how living in a more diverse environment in the east influences cultural Mormonism, there is no doubt that there is a difference in attitude among LDS in the two areas. We just happen to be ahead of the curve in this respect; not that we don’t have problems, but in this area they are nowhere near as pronounced as in the Intermountain West.
Another poster, seeing at least some merit in my position, responded:
Patience and charity by an individual can make any ward a wonderful one to be part of. Not saying people can’t be stand offish, they certainly can, but its not a trait shared by any geographic area, a little charity towards people who are in the wrong might help. I have seen stand offishness on a number of different scales and not limited to the church.
I responded, “No, see, that’s where you’re wrong. Not only is it limited to the Church, it’s limited to a certain geographical subset of the Church. No problem. Glad I could set you straight! You’re welcome. ”
My original interlocutor wrote, “If President Hinckley saw the need to tell the members there to repent and be more inclusive of non-members both in their neighborhoods and in their schools, then it’s just an indication to that it is a problem in Utah.”
You’ve asserted twice now that President Hinckley has delivered some sort of message specially tailored to those Damn Utah Mormons without backing it up. My CFR [Call for References] still stands. Perhaps my Special XFR-700 Brain Chip hasn’t been tuned to the correct frequency to allow me to receive the message correctly. And I think it’s interesting how you and others have said, essentially, “I know how Utah Mormons are; I used to live there, but of course I was never that way.” It smacks of, “Lord, I thank Thee that I am not as other men and women, especially those Damn Utah Mormons … [among whom I used to live, but Thank Thee That It Never Rubbed Off!]”
My original interlocutor wrote, “I watch enough General Conference to know that this theme continues to come up from time to time, and that it’s directed to areas where the Latter-day Saints have a significant presence.” And I responded, “So you just turn your TV down/off for the next 15-20 minutes whenever somebody starts delivering ‘that message’ to ‘those people.’ Gotcha.”
My original interlocutor continued, “It’s tough to be a religious snob in your neighborhood or school where your LDS minority status is measured in fractions of a single digit, percentage-wise.” I responded, “The only religious snobbery I’ve seen in this thread has come from you and those of your ilk whose position is, essentially, ‘Lord, I thank Thee that I am not as those Damn Utah Mormons.'”
My original interlocutor continued:
No one has actually said this or even intimated this. All that was stated is that some people (not all, as you have misrepresented it) in Utah have a particular problem with not being inclusive, and the brethren are aware of it and address it in General Conference (see Elder Ballard’s October 2001 talk for an example). It’s directed at Utah, because the problem is amplified due to the concentration of Latter-day Saints there. It doesn’t occur at the same level anywhere else.
I figured it out! I listened to Elder Ballard’s [October 2001 General Conference address], and all I was hearing was this general message about inclusiveness. What I was taking from it was, “If you’re not reaching out to other people who are different from yourself as you might, wherever you are (and regardless whether the difference is political, racial, socioeconomic, or what have you), you should reach out more.” Then I realized what my problem was, and the talk finally started making more sense. I just needed mentally to add the phrase “If You’re A Mormon In Utah” after every sentence Elder Ballard spoke. You have given me the key of understanding! Thank you, [screen name redacted]! Thank you!!
My original interlocutor continued, “. . . Here’s a clue for you since your meter basically reads zero.” I responded, “Well, that’s gotta go down as one of the cleverest putdowns in the history of Cyberspace interaction.” My original interlocutor continued, “[I]t never happened. [That is, no one ever singled out Utah Mormons for criticism as being unusually or especially cliquish or standoffish.]” I responded, “That seems to me to be the equivalent of peeing on my leg and telling me it’s raining, but since you’re muuuuuch smarter than I am, I’ll defer to you. “
My original interlocutor continued:
Your knee-jerk, inane sarcasms, along with your shallow denials about what’s really going on, do more damage to the perception of Utahns than anything I could say. You’re correct in one thing. There are Damn Utah Mormons, and you are clearly one of them. That you seem to be unaware of not only this problem in Utah, but of the fact that it is mentioned from time to time in General Conference is not particularly impressive.”
And I responded:
Well … I beg your humble pardon for absolutely, utterly, and completely failing to impress you. Having failed to do so, I must say that I’ve almost completely lost my will to live! I’ll have to be sure to add “Thoroughly Lick [Screen name redacted]’s (Whoever The Hell You Are) Boots” to my To-Do List so that I might possibly regain it … You will, of course, have to provide me with some IRL [in real life] information to facilitate my licking of your boots, but I won’t hold my breath!
My original interlocutor continued, It certainly isn’t worth my while to respond any further to a CFR [Call for References] that is based on that kind of ignorance.”
“You’re so ignorant that I’m not going to bother responding to your CFR [Call for References]!” Hi-freaking-larious!! You’re right. I’ve never seen a General Conference message directed specifically toward us Damn Utah Mormons (“they” and “them” rather than “we” and “us.”) But you just go right on turning your TV down or off when you begin to hear one of those “they” and “them” messages, intended for us Damn Utah Mormons!
Another poster wrote:
Raised in the church in Arizona. Lived in the west. Cliques in all but great folks everywhere. Mormons seem snobby because we do so much together. But we try to love and include all, if they let us. I now live in Utah and there are only 4 members on my street. Still have lots of friends, just can’t talk as much until I learn more of their language. I could be snooty but I really like friends.
I responded, “You’re an outlier. You need an XML-700 [Mind] Chip Adjustment. You’ve forgotten the Fourteenth Article of Faith: ‘We Damn Utah Mormons believe in being snooty, snobby, and standoffish.’”
Another poster wrote:
I’ve been in a lot of churches (recently) and have to say, as far as being “welcoming”, my Ward members were some of the most welcoming people I have ever experienced in a church. That might have had something to do with the smallness of the congregation, more than with the fact that they were LDS, because my second best experience was in a small Reformed Christian Church..very nice and very welcoming people there, as well. Bad experiences (as far as feeling lost and left out) were in the big mega Christian Churches. It was kind of like living in a big city. Everyone keeps to themselves or has their own little cliques. There are so many people coming and going, with like five or six different services over a weekend, that no one even knows (or seems to care) if you are new or not. Very hard to break in and feel “at home” in those places, IMHO [in my humble opinion]. My Ward was extremely friendly, by comparison.
I responded, “You’re an outlier. You, too, need an XML-700 [Mind] Chip Adjustment, and you, too, have forgotten the 14th Article of Faith.” Both my original interlocutor and I eventually were banned from the thread by moderators, which probably was a good thing. Afterward, I felt bad about the way I treated him, and I began subtly offering my support in threads on areas where we were in agreement by giving him reputation points and occasionally chipping in with brief expressions of agreement. I don’t know where we crossed the threshold back into Cyber-friendship. It was probably a subtle, gradual thing.
In a subsequent thread a few years later, after another poster cut off dialogue with me on the issue under discussion, accusing me of bombast (whereupon I changed the “moniker”/tag line below my screen name to “Master of Bombast”) the poster with whom I’d had the a serious disagreement detailed above before we managed to patch things up between us wrote:
As an aside to all of this, Ken is a pretty decent fellow, so if possible, I’d hold out the olive branch and see if you can patch things up. He can be pretty scathing if you press one of his hot buttons, as I did at one point (he was actually rather restrained with you, from my viewpoint), but we’ve gotten over it. And no, I’m not going to tell you what that hot button is that I pressed. He’s a good guy to be on the same side with, especially if you know how to dialogue with him.
I deflected, tongue-in-cheek, his attempts to defend me. I wrote:
I have The Devil Himself on speed dial!
Women, children, and small animals everywhere flee in abject terror at the mere mention of my name!
Even mere weeds refuse to grow within a five-mile radius of my home!
I had a pet maggot once, but even he found my company distasteful after a remarkably short period of time!
I’m “worthy” of mention only with history’s most infamous figures: Mao, Stalin, Hitler … me!
When I was born, the doctor slapped the wrong end!
Shall I go on?
The Deseret News’/Church News‘ Scott Lloyd, whom I’d selected as my Vice-President of Damn Utah Mormons, then asked, “Ken went after you at one point? I don’t even remember that. Did you rag on Utahns or something?”
Whereupon Scott Lloyd replied:
So curiosity got the better of me, and I looked it up. Holy regionalism, Batman! I do remember that now, very well. I had just forgotten it was [screen name redacted] who was involved. What a difference nearly four years makes! Thank God for “water under the bridge,” right, guys?
I should clarify that even as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, occasionally, I have felt more included by my fellow Latter-day Saints than at other times. Most of the time, I’ve been able to realize that my failure to feel included is less a matter of reality than it is a matter of perception. In any event, there have been times when I’ve told myself, “Well, if a bridge is going to be built here, I’m going to have to be the one to build it,” and/or, “Well, if any reaching out is going to occur here, I’m going to have to be the one to do it.” In any case, it’s not exactly fair to expect human beings (even though we, as Latter-day Saints, share the same faith), who have their own challenges, priorities, needs, prejudices, and so on, to be able to guess accurately what’s in my mind and in my heart.
As part of the Latter-day Saint Student Association, the Church’s organization for college students, formerly, the Church of Jesus Christ sponsored fraternity chapters of Sigma Gamma Chi (which stood for “Service to God and Country”) and sorority chapters of Lambda Delta Sigma (which stood for another appellation frequently applied to the Church and to its members, Latter-day Saints). I had an outstanding experience in Sigma Gamma Chi while studying for my Associate Degree at Dixie College (now Dixie State University) in St. George, Utah, and I was looking forward to replicating that experience when I continued my studies at Ogden, Utah’s Weber State University.
While, again, this was less a matter of reality than it was a matter of perception, when I went to a meeting of Sigma Gamma Chi at Weber State, I felt that it was already a well-established clique into which I would have trouble integrating. I probably should have given its “powers-that-were” another shot (or two or three), but I never went back. For more on my Sigma Gamma Chi experience, see here (last accessed September 19, 2017):