Notes from the UVU Mormon Studies Conference, Day 1, part 1

By November 6, 2009

I’ll have some thoughts and reflections at the end. Armand Mauss’ presentation was definitely the best as it was basically the only one that actually sought to analyze the data presented.  Wesley Johnson also makes an effort in that direction, but I think that Mauss’ criticisms will bear out a lot of the same issues I took with his presentation. I’ll have Mauss’ stuff in the next part.

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Wesley Johnson

20 Questions and Main Concepts Raised by Outmigration Studies: For “Mormons Move to the Mainstream”

Shaped from isolation to assimilation…may be the title of the book we’re working on…during the 20th century there was a reverse migration in Mormon society, in 19th century, BY beckoned faithful Mormons to migrate and live in Utah in isolation, however, after 1900, many left. Their goal was to move to large urban locations in search of a better life, higher degrees and improved cultural amenities…as a result, by 2000 ¾ of the 6 million Mormons in the US are in large urban areas around the country, a white collar outmigration, few sought land, few became blue-collar, was white collar. Like the similar sized Jewish community, Mormons believed that education was the passport to success and prestige. At the same time, candidates for assimilation, on other hand, brought their peculiar religion. One unique characteristic, they were able to replicate Mormon wards and stakes around the country. This has baffled many, it was one thing to have a paid clergy but we didn’t have that. So, in other words, traveling Mormons clung to their own world and culture while embracing a larger American society and values. Cultural capital, what happened, these out-migrants took their cultural capital, traveled with it. Out-migrants left the 19th century notion that the promised land was only in Utah but all over the country. The personal stories of outmigrants are often like Horatio Alger stories. Most left with little except ambition and a solid work ethic. Collective story of how they overcame prejudice…in the case of Mormons, outmigrants became business, govt., and local leaders. They were in national corporations, professors in prominent institutions, businesses. This study seeks to briefly tell these stories, and place them in the context of American history. Mormon migration can be divided into different periods: 1900-1930, especially the roaring 20s, left seeking better jobs and education, 1930-1945, first during the depression left for jobs and during WWII to take defense jobs in CA or in DC, then 1946 to 1970, Utah Universities began to pour out 10s of 1000s of university graduates and many became outmigrants. 1970-2000 and on, mass migration, City of Phoenix had 1 stake in 1950, now 50+. They didn’t have that many children, but due to the influx, of outmigrants. Began to Texas, Oregon, AZ, Washington, California. Smaller migrations helped create significant Mormon enclaves in other large cities. These enclaves come in the last 1/3 of the 20th century, Bloomfield Hills, MI, a host of places where Mormons have come and become affluent enough to buy in the same areas.

Early out migrants often struggled, NY and Washington DC favorite locations, work during the day and take night classes. NYU-Business School, George Washington U law. Typical is someone like William Edwards, 1924, was traveling to attend BYU, had never seen a city, so stopped in SLC on the way. He wrote, I spent the night at the hotel Utah. Rented a room on the top floor. I stayed up well after midnight watching the street cars and traffic, such an experience in such a big city was such a thrill. Edward set out to enroll in NYU and got a degree in Finance and a senior commission in Goldman Sachs.

Many Mormons had greater means, sought more prestigious universities. Popular for business and law at Harvard. Another phase of Mormon outmigration in DC to join fed gov. Started in WWII with James Moyle, J R Clark as undersecretary of state. Marriner Eccles chief of FDR’s Fed Reserve. Creating important presence in Wash. Took jobs at FBI, IRS, intelligence agencies. Benson sec of Agriculture. Many jobs provided for Mormon outmigrants.

In the private sector, J. Willard Marriott, in DC in 24, to start an A&W Rootbeer franchise, ultimately created Marriott International, the world’s largest hotel chain and a major LDS employer.

One of the first people interviewed for this project was J. Willard Marriott. He asked, What are you doing, really? We’re looking at Mormon elites. I’m not an elite. I don’t like that. I’m a leader. OK, we got rid of that title. Host of issues confronted out-migrants. Often confused with the Amish, prejudiced against in workplace since they did not smoke or drink, didn’t venture into the community, but as they developed a critical mass, more self confidence and began to relate to Jewish and Catholic neighbors. Some Protestant groups more suspicious. Outmigrants began running for office, developed rep for hard workers and trusted. Multiple stories of climbing the ladder of achievement. Roy Ostrason, managing director of a shoe company. Why chosen him? Others had seniority. Well, we chose you cuz you’re hard worker, high standards, man we can trust and the public can trust. Many Mormons came into affluence, Bellmont near Boston, New Haven, Connecticut, Palo Alto, Newport Beach, Scottsdale, but another side that media often missed. Mormons were very generous to charities. Having striking resemblance often to their Jewish friends. Microcredit, disaster relief, scholarships to ethnic groups. Already tithing, but these high rollers have set aside significant resources to help their fellow men.

It was a Mormon bank that first began financing serious gambling operations in LV, freed them from dependence of the mob and made a cleaner atmosphere. That’s the story they’ll tell you in LV. Of course if you don’t like gambling, you won’t go for that story.

The ¾ still pay tithing, new temples, chapel cross the country. Almost guaranteed to have a new building if split. Mormons worship in the most modern facilities in America.   Reason for growth less from missionaries but in reality most congregations grown from out-migrants. With less than 2 million in Utah, that leaves 4 million in the other states.

First half of 20th cen, many outmigrants planned to retire in Utah. Has changed. First, there are now dozens of temples in major cities. In the past, had to go to SL or LA or Mesa to attend. 2nd reason, many out migrants now feel their adopted city is home not Utah. They consider themselves New Yorkers and Washingtonians.

Today many retire basically where their children live. In talking to one Boston temple worker, he said, Unfortunately, we were depending on a large retired population but they leave to go live with their children.

Interviewed people in 21 cities. There are 5 magnate cities in the outmigration. NY, DC, Chicago, San Francisco, and LA. Boston important too, but only so after the War. Well, we felt we needed a bigger sample, Austin, Portland, Phoenix, Atlanta, to get a fuller picture of what’s going on. As oral historians, felt obligation to provide solid primary information. Interpretive book for an university press and a larger volume which Jack Welch has shown interest in producing, 60 larger narratives to get a better feel for the experience of out migrants, that’s farther down the road.

We hope that these studies and our project will stimulate interest in the Mormon 20th century. This has been absent from the agenda of almost all studies which have been transfixed on the heroic period of JS and BY. Not a criticism, but with a roughly 90%-10% ratio on 19th Century and 20th Century Mormon, something is rotten in Denmark. [laughter] There’s a wider world and the reshaping of Mormon society in the 20th century cries out for attention.

One of the things that is very important to make is the question of leadership. The out migration was not possible without leaders. Time and time again we’ll hear in our interviews, “yea, back in my home in Nephi I was a nobody, but I come to a new city, I come as a bishop, I never would have had that back home.” These outmigrants were not prepared but rose to the challenge to help out.

These people went out there get jobs, settled, met challenges and became leaders. How many of the GAs have been outmigrants?  A great number of them. I would argue that out migration has been a training school for many who have become Stake presidents or members of the General Authority.

Armand Mauss, was one of the first to analyze the movement toward assimilation and indentify the retrenchment. Allowing for interpretation for these policies, that correlation, etc. was designed to not become too assimilated. This was no leg down on the migrants march toward integration, though.

The outmigrants tend to be tolerant, they have to. Cosmopolitan. Great percentage, more than half interviewed, went on missions before the outmigration.

One last thing, Although we’ve become affluent, the sensitivities of outmigrants has been to give back, and suggests that the Mormons’ drive to succeed has its limits, leads to altruistic endeavors.

20 Questions and Main Concepts Raised by Outmigration Studies, just a sampling of questions. My argument, we know so little, but so many questions. We’re on the verge of going into a virgin field of study.

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The Unsung Role of Women in the Outmigration

Marian A. Johnson

Women moved into branches and wards with Mormon cultural memory, innovative, creative, and flexible. We know the Church couldn’t have grown without support for the home by women…Experience has been a growing one. If they had stayed in the Mormon Corridor, many of them might never have been called as RS pres, etc.

I was surprised that many of these women were single when they left. A number married and lived as outmigrants with their families but first left single. [A few stories of women who began businesses and other prominent achievements].

My last example is an exciting woman, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, started in Sugar City ID, U of U, followed husband to MIT. Became interested in History, this happened to so many women, got stop checked, went where husband went, flexible, had to go make names for themselves in their fields. In the library she found a diary of a midwife, wrote a book, won the Pulitzer prize. She won a MacArthur Fellowship, Harvard came to recruit her, put them off for a year. Maybe she thought she could help them hire more women. Newly elected pres of the American Historical Association, a position most frequently given to men. All these women made careers overcoming significant challenges, were the  backbones of the church, doubtful their husband could not have made it with such success without them.

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“From West to East and Back and Back”

Grethe Peterson

This is a very personal statement I’m giving today, to talk of outmigration is to talk about myself and my family. The rhythm of west to east started when I was young. Family was very close, two aunts on the E. coast, every other year my mother and father piled 4 kids in a car, drove across the country. We loved it. We’d visit Washington, Boston, and finally Vermont where aunts and uncles and cousins gathered. There were years when my aunts and uncles came to Utah, which was very exciting. They came every other year. West and east and back again. The E. Coast was a familiar and happy place for me. After a BA at BYU, I made the decision to go to grad school. Radcliff was the women’s school at Harvard before they became integrated. I was happy there. At the same time LDS church was not important to me. I had friends at BYU worried cuz I didn’t get married when I left, calling me constantly cuz they thought I was falling away. I was mostly not interested until I met Chase Peterson. I met him cuz I agreed to go on a blind date. Was with someone else. Chase and I met at a party after a roadshow. We had roadshows back then. It was really unusual cuz Chase was told about me by my uncle who taught at the medical school and I’d been told about him, my Uncle kept saying I needed to meet Chase Peterson. I said, I didn’t come out here to meet a Mormon boy from Utah. I was bad like that back then. I sensed with him a diff kind of man than the ones at BYU. Educated in New England since 14, spent summers in Logan, Harvard Med. Most of his close friends were non Mormons, was a nondrinker at an elite club at Harvard which was hugely unusual. Teaching gospel doctrine, SS Presidency, more important, my activity didn’t seem to matter, our relationship wasn’t dependent on complete agreement on religious issues. Courted in a remarkable spring in Cambridge. Intelligence, good humor sophistication. I liked all that very much. Married a year later in the SL temple by Pres. McKay good friend of Chase’s parents. This was a big decision to me, began my commitment to the Church. I don’t remember having strong testimonial conversations with my family. It was a big decision for me. I really started my spiritual path and here I married a man who as I indicated really tolerated my question and encouraged me to find my own way in the journey. Wonderful wedding, etc. We were packing up our first car, a used Pontiac. Put everything we owned in it and we were off to New Haven where Chase’s residency was beginning at Yale. We would establish our first home. Not the best neighborhood. To go in the door, you had to bow cuz we were taller than the door. Kind of like playing house but for real and we loved it. Branch in New Haven small, and they needed us. I was asked to teach RS which I never dreamed I’d do and I loved. Very generous, kept us connected and needed. Our 3 years interrupted by 2 year army obligation that took us to Germany. New friends, humble Frankfurt Stake. We loved the Church in Frankfurt, the songs and services in German. Ericka, first child born, named there. Important for us for people to see that blessing and naming. She was our greatest blessing in Germany.

Returned to Yale, completed residency, another child. We thought we’d be in the E. forever. It turned out that a SL Clinic in SLC had a promising position, so we were off. Living in SL in the Federal Heights ward was diff than living in the Mission Field. Congregation large, no longer in the minority. Our forever after in SL lasted for 5 years. We’d just remodeled our kitchen when Harvard called, they said they were interested in Chase being dean of admissions. There we were, we thought forever. We prayed, thought, soon we were off to Cambridge. Well, we thought it would be a few years, but turned to 11 wonderful years. Returning at that time with three children now. The romantic memories of Cambridge faded as we looked for a house. By now my church commitment was strong. The ward helped us guide the our children, the only Mormon kids in their schools. Their education was rich and challenging. Their church experience remarkable. Many teachers were graduate students. Mitt Romney, etc. taught our children. Wonderful bishoprics, Gale and Laurel Ulrich and Claudia and Richard Bushman. Made huge contributions. Could talk about creating of Exponent II or Rev. on Blacks, impact of antiwar movement. That will be for another time. Lessons we learned. As a woman, LDS and out-migrant I learned there is no reason to circle the wagons, being LDS in Harvard was seen as interesting and unique but not belittling. Our ward strengthened our spiritual life and a base, but did not tonally define us socially and in the community. The non Mormon community reached out to us and we were quickly integrated. I learned that living in such a diverse community, we all thought about things a little differently. We started to enlarge on what our parents had taught us about dealing with difference and remembering who you are. I was confused by that as a youth, as I’ve matured and moved along, I realize that remembering who you are is not an exclusive statement. Helped me be out and about in an inclusive away. We lived in a minority community. It helped our children find themselves at an early age. I’ve learned about collaboration. There were women like Ulrich and Bushman and even though the women’s movement was building up steam and getting contentious. We were all thinking of ourselves as Mormon women and how this was impacting our lives. We found there were ways of exploring our identity and did it through the Exponent. They’d written in the 1800s about how important it was for women to be strong and independent. It was time to reach out to other Mormon women and give them strength. Women’s Exponent II. W did it from our Kitchen tables. That was our life then and we have many additional chapters to write since returning to Utah in 1978. The effect of outmigration in our lives has been huge.

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Chase Peterson.

You’re seeing a mosaic. Different points of view. You’re job is to put them together and see what they mean to you. All migration derives from two places, the home of origin and the reality discovered in the place of migration. Keep that in mind as we explore some stories of home and migration. I am fond of stories. [Tells stories from their time at Harvard, etc.].

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Traces of Harvard and Berkeley in a Career of BYU Religious Research”

Richard Anderson

While we’re honoring educational institutions in this conference, tangentially maybe, I’d like to start with one that’s made most impact in my life, the institution of marriage. Grad school possible with the help of Carma. Outmigration an interesting phenomenon in the church . Missionary work starts it out. Oliver Cowdery going west, church reaching out bringing cultural insights back. In WWII especially true, my outmigration of course dictated by the draft act. In my generation, many had tremendous experience in their war years that helped them in school, the GI Bill.

I’m an example of someone who has positively reacted to education and embraced it, but never failed to embrace the gospel. I hope you’ll realize in telling this story that it’s more than about myself. Historians shouldn’t be talking too much about themselves anyway. They hold other people’s feet to the fire and are in an uncomfortable position when turning the target the other way. My goal entering law school was unrealistically broad. Boy d talks about my humility, it’s not a virtue it’s a necessity. The interchange of ideas in graduate school, my law school had a tradition of the Socratic methods, I don’t think all law schools try to live up to it like Harvard does. I had a class from one Prof. Seeby, was a true gentleman. Here’s an episode in class, he called on a student, the student gave him an excellent answer, his reaction was a every pointed, prosecutorial question. Where did you get that information? The student struggled with an answer. You’ve been reading a class book? Yes. I won’t say that’s dishonest, but at this stage in the endeavor it’s premature. He felt to be intuitive in building the field. By the end of my 2nd year, decided to start in History. Got permission to take Greek History class. The field of evidence intrigued me in law school. I also proved the post apostolic writings showed a crisis of Christianity after the apostles died. Past events are reconstructed by the witness of those that were there. A course in evidence is what rules the judge will follow to allow facts to come before the jury…my interest in the BoM witnesses started with my mission but was rekindled in law school. The BoM carries the statement of 8 witnesses that says they saw the plates from which the BoM was translated. The scriptures do account for angelic instruction. I belong to a generation with unique abilities to study a unique religion, so much has been collected. In older days you would have been closer to JS, but without the means to duplicate and study the sources. There’s such a consistency in these witness accounts and reports. Each account involves a contact and an exchange of information and I’ve evaluated the reliability of those transmitters.

An example from James H. Moyle. Biography entitled Mormon Democrat. He circled down to Richmond cuz he heard that David Whitmer was still alive. Had a distinguished political and law career. But Moyle said that when he first went to see David Whitmer. Was 80. David Whitmer ought to have my capacity, may be stumbling. Moyle said his mind was clear. I told him I was going to commence my life’s work as he was to put his down. Was his testimony true? Any possibility of being deceived? Answer unequivocal, no question of its truthfulness.  Interesting that this young lawyer had a witness on his side of the case and also what we used to call an adverse witness, and tried to lean in, and the way he tried to lead him was in the direction of a physical experience of seeing an angel… after Harvard law, I did pass the bar, but I decided to be a history teacher for access to sources and information. Should I get a PhD? I asked a professor. He said, In a more self-conscious institution than Harvard, you need a PhD, but we hired young Schlessinger without it. [laughter] I went to BYU in three years of teaching, got MA in Greek, started on that on my mission, when people would ask if that’s really what it said in the Bible’s original language. I picked NT Studies, because it had sources. The Roman world was well known. You have all kinds of writings, ways to build up history.  Well, my point about that is that after studying all that literature, I felt the NT had an equal pedigree. The NT in a given school may be more philosophical. I wanted to compare the best Greek and Roman historians. When I went to Prof. Schaffer at Berkeley, checked my credentials, cautiously, he asked, Do you know Hugh Nibley up there? Yes, He said, What kinds of clothes does he wear? This cautious questioning about Nibley proceeded. He said with some conviction, finally: Hugh Nibley is a genius! I’m going to pass by Berkeley with this observation, that I saw the extreme rise of the pendulum on one end. I was told by all my professors, outside your required classes, go out in the library and learn. I was pushed into the library and told to stay there until I had learned something. I would just like to say that there is one more story and a conclusion I want to make. The story sounds a little self serving but has the point of where I stood and where I stand now. Three years ago this November, my brother Karl was given the Junius F. Wells award at the Mormon Historic Sites Association for his work in reconstructing Kirtland. Didn’t do it all himself ofcourse, but involved in raising money and dealing with things on the scene, the city officials didn’t’ want it done until they saw Sports Illustrated and Steve Young wearing a Kirtland shirt and then they were on board [laughter]. I trailed Karl on an award and was given a lifetime history award. Brother Ballard the featured speaker, generous enough to take a detour on the so-called Anderson Clan…My education has reinforced my conviction. We’d say in WWII, that you’d come out of the service as a Mormon as you came in but more so. That’s my experience, Harvard, Berkley, BYU, all that experience has failed to erode my testimony, it’s increased it. I know this isn’t a testimony meeting, I’m an older person and I appreciate you letting me say that. Thank you.

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Comments

  1. Thank you for doing this! I was dying to get to the conference this year but was tied up.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — November 6, 2009 @ 1:41 pm

  2. Hurrah once again, Jared. This is good stuff. Thanks for making it available.

    Comment by Hunter — November 6, 2009 @ 2:45 pm

  3. As a member of the outmigration, I find myself 2000 miles away from discussions like this, so I do appreciate your notes from the conference.

    I have a little too much to say on the topic to narrow it down to a short comment, so I’ll just thank you again for the notes, and will look forward to reading the rest.

    Comment by Researcher — November 6, 2009 @ 3:36 pm

  4. Thanks, J.

    Comment by David G. — November 6, 2009 @ 4:12 pm

  5. Thanks for this Jared.

    Comment by Christopher — November 6, 2009 @ 4:50 pm

  6. Prof. Anderson’s wife was Carma deJong–you heard and spelled it right, so you can delete the [?] from that part of your notes.

    Thanks for these notes. I look forward to future installments. I’m anxious to see Mauss’s take on the data.

    I think there’s a lot more to the picture than Wesley Johnson has painted (in this presentation or in his article in BYU Studies a few years back). The church in the one eastern city I’m most familiar with consists largely of a mix of outmigrants from the Mormon corridor and inmigrants from abroad, converted either before immigrating or after arrival. The numbers of “natives” who convert, or children of migrants who remain, are a very small percentage of the whole.

    Comment by Mark B. — November 6, 2009 @ 4:51 pm


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