On the provincial Mormon

The provincial Mormon is the antithesis of the rounded Mormon.  The latter seeks for a universal perspective; the former, like most narrow perspectives, is utilitarian.

I encounter provincial Mormons regularly; interviews for Temple recommends are one of the settings in which it happens.  Before the questions there’s the small talk.  “What do you do for a living?” has always been, without fail, the catalyst for the provincial.  See, I am not a doctor.  Not an engineer. Not a lawyer.  Not in business.  Not a consultant.  Nothing computer related.  Not an administrator.  Don’t own/work/farm land.  I work in a humanities-type field; my degrees are in the same type of field.  Super not practical.  Soon as I share this with the interviewer, who invariably occupies one of the above career fields (like most in positions of leadership within Mormonism) the tone of the interview changes.  Long story short, it’s disapproval.

As the provincial Mormon is utilitarian, any career path that does not yield 6 figures is derided, seen as a waste.  “Well, what are you gonna’ do with that?” is the catchphrase.  I am interested in wide reading and original languages.  This is an outgrowth of my religion.  It helps me to see the Gods (we have Heavenly Parents, already).  Ironically, the provincial’s money-minded career is most likely an outgrowth of faith as well.  Families, communities, religious institutions–you name it–all have fiscal requirements in civilized society in order to survive.  It is noble and godly to provide.  I can acknowledge that, even though it is not how I have chosen to interpret what a fruitful expression of the faith is in terms of proper employment.  The provincial, however, refuses to consider the approach of others.  Sees anything different as irresponsible and/or heretical.  It’s frustrating to deal with and makes me want to respond in kind.  I could ask the interviewer why money matters so much.  Could point out that, as per Mormon Temple Liturgy, over-reliance on money is essentially satanic.  The interviewer would then misdiagnose me as a threat and withhold access to the Temple.  So I don’t.  I quietly receive criticism of my life’s work that secures an honest living for me and my family.

There are a lot of directions in which this post could go.  We could discuss the inordinate power of local leaders; Mormon culture’s disdain for the humanities; the cultural insularity of certain (geographical) echelons of Mormons; the loathesomeness of good ole boy systems; the recent (and growing) concern over closed-door interviews; jerks; the practically-fatal pitfalls before any society sufficiently disinterested in the humanities, etc.

What needs to understood is that the provincial Mormon sees things in term of “us vs. them” which is uniquely antithetical to the best parts of Mormonism.  The rounded Mormon strives to embrace and embody the universalism promulgated by Joseph Smith.



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