If you weren’t Mormon would you take a job in (and relocate to) Provo?

August 10, 2005    By: Geoff J @ 9:24 pm   Category: Mormon Culture/Practices

I talked with an old friend today. He called because he knew I went to BYU and wanted to get my opinion on the Provo/Orem area. He is living in Southern California but a company out in BYU Land is courting him for a position they have open and he wanted to know what I thought.

I told him (among other things) to really consider what he would want in the offer in order to make it worth his while financially and career-wise. But assuming this company eventually does meet his requirements (salary, title, severance, etc.) what do you think of the idea? How would a non-Mormon, non-religious SoCal guy survive in the shadow of Mt. Timpanogas? He does have a family with three small children so he would basically fit in that way, but what about the rest? Would the culture shock be too much? Would the slopes and snowboarding sufficiently supplant the sea and surfing? Can a non-Mormon move out there and be accepted and treated like a normal human being (instead of the “non-member friend”) or is it too much to hope for? What do you recommend I tell him?


  1. Personally I would advise against the move. “Happy Valley” is so instensly Mormon that it would be difficult at best to be a non-member there.

    The assistant manager for my theater in Orem is a less active member and the way he is treated by those who are active is disgraceful. He moved to Orem with a very good friend who was a non-member. His friend lasted less than a year. He couldn’t take the way he was treated.

    I know this isn’t a very good commentary on members of the church, but that’s they way it seems to be.

    Comment by don — August 10, 2005 @ 10:46 pm

  2. I’m a life-long member of the church, and I wouldn’t move back to Utah county myself. It’s extremely culturally homogeneous. The problem isn’t culture shock so much as the fact that, after the shock wears off, there’s still no other culture–or even subcultures–that you can feel at home in.

    The social and emotional costs to a non-Mormon who hasn’t lived in Utah for life may well be very high.

    Comment by RoastedTomatoes — August 11, 2005 @ 5:58 am

  3. I know it happens. There’s a non-member couple who moved from Albuquerque last year. They instead live in Salt Lake City and commute to their job at UVRMC. That seems to have solved the problem of actually living in Happy Valley and its ‘intensely Mormon’ surrounds. They seem to be happy where they are. It also puts them closer to the ski resorts they so love. You don’t have to live in Happy Valley to work there.

    Comment by Vanessa — August 11, 2005 @ 7:09 am

  4. I can answer this as a non-member: it better be a really high salary.

    Comment by Pris — August 11, 2005 @ 7:25 am

  5. Private schools.

    Comment by J. Stapley — August 11, 2005 @ 7:50 am

  6. Wow. I thought I might at least get a few Happy Valley defenders. None so far.

    I do think Vanessa’s idea about living in SLC and commuting might be a good one. That is against traffic right? I’m not sure I understand J’s Private school comment — is there a problem with the quality of the schools or is that problem just that everyone is Mormon?

    It sounds like there is enough on the table to tempt this buddy of mine so if he goes for it I want to help him out as much as possible. His salary would bump significantly, cost of living would drop significantly, he could buy a nicer house at probably half the cost of the one he is selling, it looks like a good career opportunity, etc, etc. But some things are not worth all of that… Y’all are making me nervous to recommend it at all.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 11, 2005 @ 8:22 am

  7. Interestingly our neighbor did just that. She’s the librarian at one of the medical centers.

    Comment by Clark — August 11, 2005 @ 8:55 am

  8. BTW – I think the complaints about Provo are overstated.

    Comment by Clark — August 11, 2005 @ 8:57 am

  9. Live in Draper. There are a bunch of new homes going in and the commute wouldn’t be that bad.

    That said, Lon’s BBQ in Provo is pretty good, and there is a good Indian place on Main St or whatever it is…

    Comment by a random John — August 11, 2005 @ 9:18 am

  10. Really, I agree with Clark. The complaints are overstated. That said, I do think private schools are the way to go in Provo. I would, if we lived there and I think it is probably going to be best for non-mormons as well.

    Comment by J. Stapley — August 11, 2005 @ 9:54 am

  11. C’mon, did you really need to ask? Provo can only lead to insanity for a non-member. Of course, if he actually is converted after he goes out there, he might really like it.

    Comment by Speaking Up — August 11, 2005 @ 10:39 am

  12. J — Why would private schools be better there?

    SU — I’m more worried that moving there could inoculate the family against ever seriously investigating the church…

    Comment by Geoff J — August 11, 2005 @ 10:55 am

  13. Yeah, what Clark said. It all depends on how tolerant you think your friend is of Mormon culture. How well would any of you live in the Bible belt (does anyone live there?) Maybe that comparison isn’t that good but you get my point.

    Comment by Bret — August 11, 2005 @ 1:04 pm

  14. Becasue of the type of people that send their children to private schools.

    Comment by J. Stapley — August 11, 2005 @ 3:03 pm

  15. Ha! I must be dense or something because I’m not understanding what you mean J. What kind of people send their kids to private schools in Provo? Nice ones? Non-Mormon ones? Rich ones? Open-minded folks? I’m still confused why sending his kids to private school would be helpful out there…

    Comment by Geoff J — August 11, 2005 @ 3:21 pm

  16. I am Mormon, a former BYU student, and I wouldn’t move there for any amount of money. DH has contemplated it in his job search, and I’ve insisted that — in the hypothetical realm wherein he got a job in Utah County — we must live on the other side of the point of the Mountain.

    I like Utah, but Provo/Orem is entirely too Stepford for me. I guess it suits some people, but I’m not one of them and I can’t imagine that a cultural outsider (not only not Mormon, but not particularly religious) would be either.

    Comment by RCH — August 11, 2005 @ 4:43 pm

  17. Hmm. One of my posts isn’t in the above but it almost sounds like Bret was replying to it. I mentioned how when I was growing up nearly everyone was Anglican, went to Anglican Sunday School, talked about it, talked about how bad Mormons were and the like. In school they had a class where the Anglicans left for the equivalent of Seminary. I never felt particularly bad about it.

    I think a lot of people blame Mormons and our tendency to socialize through church on how they feel lonely or not socialized. The fact is that after you reach your late 20’s, it’s just hard to socialize. You have to be proactive. Even within a ward it isn’t necessarily easy. Many wards, especially transient wards, aren’t that social. I know my wife is starting to sell Mary Kay as much to meet people as anything. The non-Mormon neighbor I mentioned is having a Tupperware (or some other product) party tonight, and I suspect that is partially to meet people. We really wanted to socialize more with her, but it is sometimes hard with all the things going on. And frankly I can see how church callings compete with our time.

    Overall though, for every member who isn’t friendly there will be three or four who will go out of their way to be friendly. But some proactiveness is necessary. I think most people get out of the habit of being actively social. Shyness creeps in.

    But saying Provo is worse than other places is simply wrong in my opinion. The worst part about Provo is just that it is such a transient area with all the students and related people.

    Comment by Clark — August 11, 2005 @ 6:47 pm

  18. I like Provo, I think their Molly Mormons are nice. If you really want to move to a religiously conflicted town, move to Cedar City, our Molly Mormons are Nazis.

    Comment by annegb — August 12, 2005 @ 7:45 am

  19. I think the key sentence is “He is living in Southern California.” If I were living there and I had an opportunity to get out, I’d take it… even if it involved shaving my head and moving to a methane refinery on Uranus.

    Comment by V the K — August 12, 2005 @ 12:41 pm

  20. Nice… Provo makes a minor comeback with Clark and then a couple of other places take a beating from Anne and V the K. Is the tide turning or something? (SoCal worse than a methane refinery on Uranus? Oh my…)

    Comment by Geoff J — August 12, 2005 @ 3:03 pm

  21. Provo is a great place. If I was non-mormon, I would want to live in the salt lake valley. Purely for cultural differences. But Provo is a great place to raise kids. I was raised in a military family and moved 7 times before high school, and I must say that Provo was my favorite. And it had nothing to do with church because all throughout high school I was seconds away from saying that I was never going back. I guess I can’t really give specifics here, but I found the people in Provo to be nice and caring, as long as they weren’t in my church circle. (I mean I had friends, but none of them were in my ward. The ones in my ward, for the most part, were nice, but it didn’t seem sincere. But that was probably because we had different interests. And also I was really shy so that made it hard for me to get to know people, now that I am older and less shy, I go home and just love seeing the other girls in my ward.) Anyway, just based on pure emotion and no facts, I would recommend taking a job in Provo.

    Comment by Jules — August 12, 2005 @ 3:25 pm

  22. Geoff,

    I just got back from Provo (an hour and 20 minutes ago). I live in SoCal. Yesterday we drove to SoSalt Lake to visit a few places. Between 5 and 6 the traffic on the freeway heading back to Provo was just like SoCal. We were stop and go for a good thrity minutes from just before point of the mountain into Orem. Yuck. I mentioned that it had to be SoCalers who’d moved and STILL didn’t live where they worked!

    Also I had lunch at Gurus (on Center st) in Provo the day before. There was a family with the most adorable little boys ever. They were enjoying their lunch and began with a hand holding prayer vefore beginning their meal. It was obvious they were not Mormons because of other factors. They did not seem uncomfortable being there and very few people seemed to notice any difference between them and other patrons.

    I would certainly recommend they visit for a week at least to see if they can find a decent place/neighborhood to suit them with school and other important factors before accepting an offer. I also had breakfast (HC and scone) at Starbucks in Orem on Tuesday. There are benefits of living in Happy Valley. Not all bad things, just that there really needs to be a discussion of what is expected in a choice of where to live.

    Needless to say I would rather live anywhere without more traffic, thus, I would not accept the offer unless I lived where I worked.

    Comment by chronicler — August 12, 2005 @ 8:03 pm

  23. Oh, I was misleading, I love my town. I just have noticed that the people in Provo are sort of sweet and friendly. Here the people are more onery and friendly. Just a different feel. I would recommend my town to anybody.

    It’s sort of Provo is an “Oh, my heck” town and Cedar City is an “Oh, my hell” town.

    Comment by annegb — August 13, 2005 @ 7:32 am

  24. Geoff J and J Stapley:

    We sent our daughter to a private school in Provo (Ivy Hall Academy) in ’02-’03 and ’03-’04. It’s a non-denominational Christian school, but I would estimate around 70% of its student population is still LDS. We are LDS and didn’t happen to be concerned with escaping the homogeneity; we chose it for other reasons.

    That said, I did think there were a lot of interesting, seemingly open-minded parents who chose to send their children there. The atmosphere at Meridian school is probably similar; I think Waterford school in Sandy also would have a high LDS pop. If your idea, J, was to filter out the narrow-minded LDS, you may be right. Although I also knew a lot of similarly open-minded, interesting people who are deeply committed to public education.

    Comment by Ashley — August 13, 2005 @ 11:08 pm

  25. Ashley — Thanks for the advice on that. If this progresses further for my buddy I’ll pas that info on to him.

    chronicler — You had me pretty worried about the commute thing, but now that I think of it he would be going the opposite direction in the evening if he worked in Provo and lived in SLC. That way shouldn’t have traffic problems right? (Sort of against the flow of traffic I would think)

    Jules — Good defense of Provo. It is sort of in line with what I told him in our first conversation. As long as he is prepared it could be a good move for them…

    Comment by Geoff J — August 14, 2005 @ 8:54 pm

  26. It wasn’t as bad on the opposite side of the freeway as I remember, but it still had quite the build-up. Although, Alpine is pretty nice if he decided to stay on the south side of the mountain.

    Comment by chronicler — August 15, 2005 @ 1:41 pm

  27. I grew up as an LDS kid in the bible belt and I liked having friends of different religions. It just deepened my respect of religion and judging people for who they are and not insignificant factors like religion. I think that P-town could be that for someone else.. if they have the right mentality. Provo might be too young for me to recommend it to a growing family, so maybe somewhere between SLC and here. But I’ll have you know that SLC ranks high on Google trends for cultural word searches like art, humanity, etc. There is a lot to say for this area. Just make sure they are tolerant of the fact that some mormons will be snots, and some won’t and they’ll have to be patient and judge on an individual basis and just live and let live.

    I love it here… and I didn’t want to come because even though I’m mormon I thought I’d hate the homogenous culture. I’ve found a lot of unique people, and actually quite a lot of unique opportunities.

    Comment by conishia — June 8, 2006 @ 1:31 pm

  28. I live in SLC and am considering a job in Orem. I dread that drive but won’t live in Utah County. If the pay and benefits make up for the commute and the judgement of the type of people that are in the area, I will take it. (Sorry people, but it is a fact!) I am from Utah and know what to expect and have dealt with the situations I will face in Orem my whole life. By the way, recent stats put the Utah state Mormon population at 60% with Salt Lake City at less than 50% now. The highest concentration of Mormons is in Utah County and the state legislature!!

    Comment by DJ Lee — February 29, 2008 @ 1:47 pm

  29. Actually, the highest concentration of mormons in Utah is in the top right corner in a little county by bear lake. It’s about 98%… but what ever.

    Comment by Matt W. — February 29, 2008 @ 2:27 pm

  30. John D. Lee,

    Don’t think you can switch around your first two initials and fool us. Admit it, you are just still bitter about your 1870 excommunication.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 29, 2008 @ 2:31 pm

  31. Slow Friday Jacob?

    Comment by Kent — February 29, 2008 @ 4:15 pm

  32. DON’T DO IT!!! I lived in Southern California for almost 20 years (most of my adult life). I moved there from Utah and I am not mormon. I hated growing up in Utah, but I recently moved back in order to raise my children near their non-mormon grandparents, aunts, uncles, since I was told by so many that things had changed here. It hasn’t and I regret it!!! I LOVE being near family, but I should have held out for some to move my way. This was a big mistake. I don’t live in Provo. I live in Sandy (20 minutes from Provo) and it’s far too Mormon for me. No southern Cali guy would like it here. No pay is high enough!!!

    Comment by Toni — April 29, 2008 @ 9:32 pm

  33. P.S. Most of the art, humanity, and culture you get in Utah is all Mormon “stuff”. Your kids get to visit mormon museums and mormon farms on field trips.
    Fun fun fun. Agh!

    Comment by Toni — April 29, 2008 @ 9:35 pm

  34. Toni: I live in Sandy. Too bad that it is too Mormon for you. We could have been friends if you hadn’t decided that Mormons were beneath you. You don’t even know me; but based on your comments I already feel rejected and judged by you. And you are complaining about Mormon? I may even run into you. If you do, say hi. But I wonder if you aren’t depriving yourself of a real opportunity to be a friend.

    Comment by Blake — April 29, 2008 @ 10:06 pm

  35. Mormons are not beneath me. You should not put words into people’s mouths. I just don’t want to raise my children here. They are experiencing what I experienced as a child & I always promised I would never do that to them. I did and I regret it. I discovered tonight that two women, I adore, are moving because they feel ostracized from their community. I understand! I wish I was moving with them. Some of my best friends are mormon and I’ll miss them, but I will not miss this community.
    I would advise all people not to move to Utah unless they are mormon. I hope they do, because it allows for more diversity, but if asked, I would strongly advise against it. It’s very hard to raise non-mormon children here who don’t feel weird about it.

    Comment by Toni — April 29, 2008 @ 10:46 pm

  36. P.S. Blake, It’s not mormonism specifically that I take issue with. No no. I think it’s one of the least weird of all religions and I think the people are very nice! I only wish people of all majority groups would be more sensitive to the minority.

    Comment by Toni — April 29, 2008 @ 11:29 pm

  37. Toni: I know that you didn’t say that Mormons are beneath you. It was your tone and attitude. The way you spoke of Mormons and not what you said. There is much more to a communication than the words used.

    I appreciate that you acknowledge that Mormons are nice people. But you suggest that when a person “feels ostracized” that there really is some kind of ostracism rather than a perception that may be inaccurate or a judgment that is from a particular perspective. Are you open to the possibility that your judgments and feelings are your issue?

    My 13 year old daughter’s best friends are virtually all non-Mormon. As I interact with them and their parents, I often hear that they love it here (yep, folks who aren’t Mormon love it right here in Sandy, Utah). I acknowledge that we have accountability to include those not of our own faith community to be in our community. I’m still open to be your friend.

    However, I’ll relate a parable that my mom told me. There was a man who stopped in a town and asked some folks, “we’re looking to move, and I just wondered, is this a good place to live?” The townswoman responded: “What was it like where you are coming from?” The man said, “it was terrible. The people were cliquish and hickish and ignorant.” The townswoman responded: “You’ll find it much the same here.” About an hour later another passer-by stopped and asked the same woman: “We were just wondering what this town is like because we thought maybe we would find a place to live. What is it like here?” The townswoman asked: “What was it like where you come from?” The passer-by responded: “it was wonderful. The people were warm and fun-loving and interesting.” The townswoman then responded: “You’ll find it to be much the same here.”

    Where ever you go, there you are!

    Comment by Blake — April 30, 2008 @ 7:00 am

  38. You know, it’s often said that eccentrics are happiest in towns where they have an opportunity to stand out from the rest of the population.

    So if you’re a non-Mormon eccentric, maybe Utah would fit the bill for you.

    Comment by Seth R. — May 3, 2008 @ 6:25 am