This story is part of The Salt Lake Tribune‘s ongoing commitment to finding solutions to Utah’s biggest challenges through the work of the Innovation Lab.
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Latter-day Saints, get off your high horses.
And nonmembers, would you stop “Mormon bashing” on the internet and making assumptions about those who practice the faith?
These were common themes in comments submitted to the Salt Lake Tribune as part of a Dec. 29 poll in History: “Give us your thoughts: Is Utah one happy family or two warring states separated by faith?”
The survey aimed to examine the amount of “social capital” — which takes the form of implicit trust within or between groups — in Utah neighborhoods.
Here’s a closer look at what church members and non-members had to say about those who are different from them.
Do Latter-day Saints trust other members more than non-believers?
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints overwhelmingly answered “no” when asked if they felt they trusted other church members more than others.
Holly Francis of Lehi said that just because someone is a member of the Church does not make them more or less trustworthy. Rather, she said, trust is earned.
And Doug DeVore, who lives in Layton, said that both “good” and “bad” people are just as likely to be Latter-day Saints as they are not.
TC Erkelens, a Hooper resident, said he has good relationships with his non-member neighbors, but that managing those interactions can become difficult.
For example, he said he’s surprised by the assumptions and inaccurate stereotypes people sometimes believe about members.
“People like that can be very angry and condescending towards me and my faith,” Erkelens said. “And when it comes to connecting with someone outside of my faith, there’s always a fear of how I’ll be perceived or judged.”
Others said they felt greater trust in members of their faith, not because of religious differences, but because church membership and activities simply create greater bonds of trust within the flock. Bountiful’s Eden Gillespie said church functions mean she naturally spends more time with other members.
“That beats what I have with other neighbors,” she said, “a wave when we walk by or a chat while weeding our flower beds.”
Do nonmembers trust other nonmembers more than their Latter-day Saint neighbors?
According to the survey, trust issues tend to be more complicated among those who do not identify as Latter-day Saints.
Jeff Marrott of Millcreek said he learned that Latter-day Saints are generally honest and trustworthy, and as such deserve equal trust.
Ray Andrus, a resident of Draper, said for him that trusting or distrusting neighbors is not based on religion.
And Sandy’s Adam Smith said he trusts his church-going neighbors until they give him a reason not to, although “it is difficult to trust a believer fully when he expects unbelievers to be eternally short of.” faith and suffering from a supposedly sinful life.”
Smith’s response was one of many that contained reservations.
Sugar House’s Jo Semon said there are different types of trust. She’s not concerned about her Latter-day Saint neighbors breaking laws or otherwise disrupting social order, but “emotional trust is a different matter.”
Stephanie Tino, who lives in southern Jordan, said she chooses to believe in people as a whole, but “it feels like an uphill battle,” she said, “against a very large group that insists on going to.” determine how I live my life. ”
Orem resident Scott Stringham wrote that he would lend a tool or give a cup of sugar to any neighbor who asked him, “but I would not trust the average LDS neighbor to come by without judging me and/ or turn it into a missionary opportunity. ”
However, other survey participants indicated that they have little to no trust in their Latter-day Saint acquaintances.
“It’s difficult to trust people who think I’m evil,” Stephen Atkin said in Salt Lake City. “I’m attracted to non-members because they treat me like a person.”
perceptions of trust
Perceptions of trust by others also differed between nonmembers and Latter-day Saints.
Kristen Pearson, a Millcreek resident, said her non-members and friends trust her because she trusts them.
“Also, I have no ulterior motive (like trying to convert her) to be her friend,” she wrote.
However, benevolence is not universal.
Neil E. West, who lives in southern Jordan, said his home has been excluded from Latter-day Saint maps of the neighborhood; while Eva Cornish of North Salt Lake said many Latter-day Saints would not wave at her as they passed and would even cross the street to avoid her.
Respondents in both groups acknowledged that relationship dynamics between members and non-members can become complicated.
Steve Hepworth, a Syracuse resident and Latter-day Saint, said, “Assumptions about myself, my political ideology and religious leanings, and how I feel about them make trust difficult.”
John McKell, a Latter-day Saint in Logan, wrote that many members have an idealized view of their relationships with nonmembers.
He feels that in reality there is a “distinct lack of trust” between the groups, resulting in “two separate, closed societies”.
What would build trust between members and non-members?
According to Eboo Patel, founder of the Chicago-based Interfaith Youth Core, for people of different faiths to trust one another they must interact in settings where religion is present but conversion is not the goal.
In his organization, trust-building between faiths often takes the form of service projects: for example, a Muslim student association could work with a Catholic student association to prepare meals for people affected by homelessness. Each group learns how to adapt to each other and what they are comfortable doing together.
Then, when the crisis hits, those interfaith relationships are already in place, Patel said.
He referred to the recent hostage situation at the Beth Israel Jewish synagogue community in Colleyville, Texas. During the 11-hour break, Patel said a local Muslim brought samosas to law enforcement’s command center because they were the favorite food of the hostage rabbi.
“You know the favorite food of the people from the house of worship down the road? And in a crisis situation, could you bring it with you?” said Patel. “It’s just a nice little token of friendship and trust.”
He also said that as societal polarization increases, trust for those outside of a person’s immediate identity group tends to decrease.
That’s why it’s so important to build trust outside of your own group.
“There aren’t many places left in America where you can hide from diversity,” Patel said. “Isn’t it better if you know something positive? [people who are different from you]?”
What locals think
The survey responses to building trust reflected Patel’s opinion.
Ken Parkinson, a Springville Latter-day Saint, said he believes some of his nonmember neighbors are afraid that members are only trying to convert them.
“Honestly, I would like to share my faith with my neighbors. At the same time, I am very happy to share my friendship,” he wrote.
Murray resident Melodee Lambert said she was a former Latter-day Saint turned Quaker. She generally feels there is trust between her and her church members’ neighbors, but said she is upset with some Latter-day Saints for not accepting the LGBTQ+ community.
She believes that trust would be built between the two groups if Latter-day Saints showed more sincere love for people who are different from them.
“LDS people need to recognize that Christ has called us to love one another as He loved us,” she wrote. “He didn’t say, ‘Love one another as I have loved you — except black people, LGBTQ+ people, and others who don’t like you.'”
Terese Pratt, a resident of North Salt Lake, said that all Latter-day Saint contacts take place in churches or congregations, leaving them little inclination to interact with those outside the fold.
This could be overcome with events designed for the whole community; “However, a concerted effort must be made to ensure that these activities are not just LDS events in disguise,” Pratt said.
Merri Lee Zaba, a Presbyterian in Holladay, said the problem isn’t trust; it’s respect.
“As long as we can trust [Latter-day Saints’] Motives that they don’t try to change us, everything is fine,” Zaba said. “[Utah] is a great place to live as long as we live and let live.”