Best Places to Raise an LDS Family (Poll)

by: hawkgrrrl

October 29, 2010

There was an interesting article in Mormon Times about the best places to raise an LDS family.  Their top 10 picks included places with similar values and lifestyles.  The entire list started with 4 Utah cites (in this order):  Provo-Orem, St. George, Logan, and Ogden-Clearfield.  The non-Utah cities listed (in this order) were:  State College PA, Idaho Falls ID, Corvallis OR, Bend OR, Ames IA, Ithaca NY, Iowa City IA, Boise ID, Lynchburg VA, and Harrisonburg VA.

While I’m sure many of these are fine choices, the underlying premise seems faulty.  If anything, families (and children especially) stand to gain more from exposure to diversity of thought and experience than they do from being surrounded by like-minded people.  Here are some of the benefits to living in areas of the world where Mormons are in the minority and where Mormon values are not necessarily the norm:

  1. Responsibility.  I grew up mostly in a growing but still somewhat small branch in rural PA.  At age 13, I was the Sunday School teacher of my own peer class most weeks due to the shortage of substitutes.  At age 15, I sometimes substituted as ward chorister in Sacrament Meeting.  And of course, I was always either the president or first counselor of my YW classes (since we never had even enough girls to fill all the callings).  These types of leadership experiences and teaching opportunities gave me confidence and skill I would never have achieved in a ward where less was required of me.
  2. Testimony.  When you are the only Mormon in your high school, you are forced to examine your commitment to the church in a much more direct way.  You will be asked to explain why you are Mormon (especially after the local churches all get together for a community showing of the Godmakers), basic beliefs, and to articulate where you stand on it.  Kids outside the Mormon Corridor are going to be confronted with their own beliefs in a way that encourages them to gain their own individual testimony, whereas in more “Mormon” areas, a teen will not be challenged in the same ways by peers about their strange beliefs.
  3. Being Unique.  Teens want two things:  1) to fit in, and 2) to stand out.  While children may have a tendency to conform to peer norms at times, they also want to be viewed as unique.  For teens to distinguish themselves in an LDS community usually involves some form of rebellion, for example, a breaking with the church standards.  But teens who are surrounded by non-LDS values are already unique.  Studies show that teens who make chastity pledges who are surrounded by other teens who make chastity pledges are more likely to become promiscuous than teens who commit to chastity who are unique among their peers for doing so.
  4. Missionary Focus.  Families living in Utah are generally not as pressured to share the gospel as in outlying areas.  Even if a family is not inclined to start a gospel discussion, merely attending church will put people in your path who are investigators or less-actives in need of friendship.  Your kids will grow up comfortable with making others comfortable at church.
  5. Open-mindedness.  There’s nothing like being exposed to different values to give you perspective on what really matters most.  Questioning your assumptions, learning to love people different from yourself, and finding common ground are all things that lead to much better social skills and more thoughtful perspective on your faith.
  6. Cultural Diversity.  LDS kids who grow up in Utah really only have exposure to Utah culture (right wing politics, green jello, being scandalized by alcohol or tobacco, funeral potatoes, etc.).  Similarly, kids who grew up in rural PA really only had exposure to PA culture (tandy cakes, Amish horse & buggies on the road, going to a dairy for ice cream, eating chicken corn soup bought at a firehall, etc.).  But LDS kids raised outside of Utah are exposed to at least 2 cultures:  the local culture, and the “Mormon” culture that creeps in through visiting missionaries, relocated members, etc.

So, which environment do you think has the most benefits for families?  Or does it matter?  Do other factors weigh more heavily for you?  And, where are you raising your kids (if you have kids)?

What's the best place to raise an LDS family? (pick the answer you agree with most)

  • It doesn't matter where you live, just how you raise your kids. (43%, 75 Votes)
  • Outside of Utah where they will be exposed to different ideas & values. (30%, 53 Votes)
  • Wherever we can have a job that will support the family. (13%, 23 Votes)
  • Wherever they have a strong support of extended family. (9%, 15 Votes)
  • Inside of Utah where LDS values are the norm. (6%, 10 Votes)

Total Voters: 176

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Where were you raised?

  • California or Arizona (23%, 39 Votes)
  • Utah (20%, 34 Votes)
  • Northeastern US (12%, 20 Votes)
  • Western US (but not UT, ID, NV, CA or AZ) (10%, 17 Votes)
  • Multiple places (more than one category above) (8%, 14 Votes)
  • Southern US (8%, 14 Votes)
  • Outside of US / Canada (7%, 11 Votes)
  • Idaho or Nevada (6%, 10 Votes)
  • Midwestern US or None of the Above (5%, 9 Votes)
  • Canada (1%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 169

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35 Responses to Best Places to Raise an LDS Family (Poll)

  1. That Gal on October 29, 2010 at 2:57 PM

    In the second survey question, you forgot the Midwest! I’m from Minnesota. Almost Canada, but not quite.

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  2. Paul on October 29, 2010 at 3:26 PM

    HG, another home run! I also grew up in PA (though near Pittsburgh, not rural). I saw the benefits you outline.

    I was also amused that in some of those “top-10” cities church members might be battered for not being Christian enough, “Mormon values” aside.

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  3. Jeff Spector on October 29, 2010 at 3:31 PM

    Hawk, Do you post every other day now?

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  4. Coffinberry on October 29, 2010 at 4:16 PM

    Definitely can’t find my part of the US on the second question… where’s the Midwest? (Not to mention all of the part between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains.)

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  5. Thomas on October 29, 2010 at 4:31 PM

    For those who’ve lived in Utah or Corridor areas (by which I mean, states in which you can reasonably expect to have an LDS chapel within a few miles), as well as places where Church members are farther between — is there a point where your chapel is so far away that it stops feeling like part of your community?

    I mean, I think if I had to drive an hour to get to church, that would feel odd. (My ward in California met a mile from my house — not quite around the block, like in Utah Valley, but it still felt like part of the neighborhood. At what point, if any, does that stop being true?)

    And on a related point — what kind of Church presence is there in New Hampshire? Are we talking treks to Church?

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  6. Justin Tungate on October 29, 2010 at 4:36 PM

    I reject the notion that most people don’t share the values of the LDS church. Sure, people drink and smoke, but for the most part people are good. I had friends who helped me be successful in school, kind to others, and generally involved in worthwhile activities (I grew up outside of Utah). Even though they didn’t help me stay clear of drugs they certainly maintained the most noble commitments to our fellow man.

    As far as I can tell, Utah can be a rough place for someone to grow up LDS (just like other places). When half the friends you know go to parties on saturday and bless the sacrament on sundays it might be a lot easier to be flippant about priesthood responsibilities.

    I think that a strong and open LDS community is integral to success in the LDS church, and as far as I can tell (having lived both inside and outside of Utah at this point) Utah isn’t the best place for that (although some wards outside of Utah aren’t any better).

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  7. diane on October 29, 2010 at 5:32 PM

    I think a while back we were told by leading church authorities that people should stop looking at utah as the Zion for all people LDS.
    I believe they felt that people can/ and should be able to maintain LDS values in cities, and towns outside of Intermoutain west.

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  8. diane on October 29, 2010 at 5:36 PM


    My best friend happens to live in New Hampshire and loves the ward there. Her building has two wards in it. So, its’ just like the rest us. Depending on how many families are there, you will have to share the resources and or until your branch becomes a ward you rent out space.

    I remember when I first joined the choice, my ward met at the national press club. Margaret Thatcher stood at the very podium I spoke at. You wouldn’t be able to say anything like that if you were in Utah

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  9. diane on October 29, 2010 at 5:37 PM

    And yes, when I thought of Margaret Thatcher speaking at the podium I flubbed up.

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  10. Dan on October 29, 2010 at 5:38 PM

    New York City should be on that list. A very family friendly city. Some of the best schools in the nation. Great parks and playgrounds. Museums and other important sites all around you. A temple right in the city.

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  11. diane on October 29, 2010 at 5:39 PM

    Sorry, Comment #8 should have read

    When I first joined the church, my ward met at the National Press Club in Washington D.C.

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  12. Thomas on October 29, 2010 at 5:40 PM

    Diane, that was no time to go wobbly!

    (joke — that was what Lady Thatcher said to George Bush Sr. on the eve of the first Gulf War.)

    Where in New Hampshire does your friend live, btw?

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  13. diane on October 29, 2010 at 6:01 PM


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  14. Goldarn on October 29, 2010 at 6:30 PM

    It used to amaze me when I was going to BYU and had these kinds of “where you grew up” discussions. There is really a strong attitude in Mormonism/Mormon-culture that wants to not have to explain and defend your testimony. I used to wonder why not, but now I’ve become cynical.

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  15. hawkgrrrl on October 29, 2010 at 6:34 PM

    What an oversight! I’ve added Midwest & Other now.

    Jeff – just a Tuesday AM post and Friday PM poll. But once we get more guests going, this will be a thing of the past.

    Those who mention the long distance drive to church, that is a drawback, but you make it work. We drove 26 miles each way. Visiting and home teaching was also a pretty big time commitment.

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  16. el oso on October 29, 2010 at 8:45 PM

    I have lived in many parts of the US and know that being far away from church especially if you have kids is a negative. I have lived in several locations where a significant driver for where I lived was the distance to church. Nice neighborhoods that were far from a LDS meetinghouse are less inviting for several reasons.
    Not only is church further away, but so are the friends you make at church. This reduces your support system when you are transient due to job changes. The locals where I work maybe knew a single LDS kid growing up. The HS where we live has dozens of LDS with many high achievers. This is one of the advantages of the Corridor: there are many LDS everywhere you might live.

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  17. SUNNofaB.C.Rich on October 30, 2010 at 12:11 AM

    I wonder how Detroit ranked.

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  18. Jb on October 30, 2010 at 10:18 AM

    I grew up in the northeast and I am so glad I did. Both my parents grew up in west valley slc and they are glad that they didn’t have to raise their kids in slc. The point made about being different is right on. I attended school at the u of u and met plenty of kids who made some bad choices in high school because they wanted to be different. I moved back to the northeast with my family and we now meet a lot of graduate students who don’t know how to talk or associate with non lds people. It is pretty sad.
    Btw, there are some wards and branches in the northern part of nh that you have to drive 1 hour to get to church. You learn how to live and grow strong together as a branch when you live that far apart.

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  19. chanson on October 30, 2010 at 12:08 PM

    Like @1, I’m also from Minnesota.

    IMHO, learning it’s OK to be different is way better than learning that it’s important to conform — I’ve written about how that question fit into my Mormon upbringing here.

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  20. Joe on October 30, 2010 at 3:09 PM

    The problem with generic questions like this is that every family is different and each child has their own unique personality.

    I was raised in the northeast. Given my combination of personality traits, attitudes, family dynamics and church dynamics*, I would have been better off raised in some place like Gilbert, Arizona where there is a heavy mix both LDS and non-LDS.

    *I went through my teens at a period when the church was EXTREMELY vocal about not dating non-Mormons. In my ward and stake, the pressure was immense to stay “within the fold”. The only escape clause was to make the non-Mormon an investigator. This us-vs-them attitude really harmed me learning many social skills with women.

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  21. Paul on October 30, 2010 at 3:44 PM

    #17 Re: Detroit — I wonder, too. I live in one of the four stakes in the Detroit Metro area (where we also have a temple). In my suburban neighborhood, most of my neighbors attend church, either at the local catholic church or one of many protestant ones; they all share many similar values to our family.

    Even within the city of Detroit there are five branches, spread between two different stakes. The church owns buildings for all of them, and two of them have LDS Chapels built within the last few years.

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  22. Heather on October 31, 2010 at 2:14 AM

    I live in Salt Lake City. I’ve been trying to talk my sister and brother-in-law to move here. They refuse because they don’t want to raise their children in the Utah LDS culture. She’s raising her children LDS. She just doesn’t want them to turn out to be elitist and closed minded like our cousins who grew up in Utah County. That attitude might not be entirely fair… but it does fly in the face of this poll and I think you might find a lot of LDS people who would consider Provo to be the WORST place to raise children.

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  23. James in Houston on October 31, 2010 at 9:40 AM

    I grew up in the suburbs of Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas. I didn’t really know better, but I always thought we had a pretty strong LDS presence there. When we’d travel to Utah every other summer to see extended family I would gape in awe at how many chapels there were (one on every corner!). I would also be amazed at the thought that a large percentage of the people I saw at the mall, on the street, or in the grocery store were members of the Church! I guess I still have those feelings when I visit Utah.

    I’m raising my family in Houston now. I’ve never lived anywhere but Texas except during my mission (Brazil). I like it here and plan on staying. There are definitely challenges to being a young LDS teenager in Texas, but I really enjoyed, and still enjoy, being unique.

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  24. hawkgrrrl on October 31, 2010 at 11:46 AM

    Joe 20 – I don’t recall any strong admonition to avoid dating non-LDS (which would have been utterly impossible without avoiding dating entirely), but there was a strong encouragement to marry someone who was LDS. I still think that’s helpful advice because it can be hard for a non-LDS spouse to “get” Mormonism. There was very little understanding of my religion in my high school, for example, and I had some classmates in prayer bonnets! I think the issues that arose with dating were: 1) the non-LDS assumed that sex was always on the negotiating table, 2) dating LDS boys, even in the stake, was like dating your brother; the community was too closeknit even though we all went to different high schools.

    Heather 22 – Count me as someone who would not want to raise kids in Provo (or to live there). Aside from the elitism you describe, there was a cadre of very rebellious teens there, into drugs and very dangerous thrill seeking behaviors. Not an issue if your kids choose to conform, but if they want to stand out, that’s their option. I found the pressure to conform among those raised in Utah County to be unhealthily high.

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  25. Joe on October 31, 2010 at 1:21 PM

    hawkgrrl 24 – The phenomenon may have been principally regional, though Spencer Kimball preached it from the pulpit, but it most definitely existed in the 70s where I grew up.

    “which would have been utterly impossible without avoiding dating entirely”

    That’s exactly what was preached and I’m not kidding. I knew several missionaries while on my mission (in the early 80s) who had the same experience.

    The entire church attitude toward dating and sex while I was a teenager still makes me rather bitter.

    (Whatever weird crap you hear preached today to the youth has nothing on the weird crap being preached to the youth from about 1974-1984. I’m not talking just local leaders, but stuff from the apostles and conference and BYU devotionals.)

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  26. ClaudiaHen on October 31, 2010 at 1:24 PM

    I’ve lived all over the US. I loved each place I lived for different reasons.

    I have to say though that I find that non-Utah Mormons have a much worse attitude toward Utah Mormons than the other way around, and I don’t think that is quite fair. There probably are just as many non-active or non-conforming Mormon youth outside of Utah, they just aren’t as noticeable, because they aren’t all in one spot, or they don’t feel as much pressure to show up to church if they aren’t “worthy” to bless the sacrament. That isn’t always healthy, but isn’t all bad either.

    One advantage I found to be very nice in my Utah high school was that the most popular kids were the smart, Student Council and Seminary President kids. That was a refreshing change from my previous three high schools. There are things that we could do better, but every culture has its bad points.

    All places have different advantages and disadvantages. I find that list of places a bit ridiculous, but please don’t don’t lump all Utah Mormons together either.

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  27. Corktree on October 31, 2010 at 1:53 PM

    We’ve got a 5 year plan to get back to the northeast from Idaho because of this. I’ve never met a stronger group of youth than I did in New Hampshire and I find it too much of a struggle to expose my kids to differences in beliefs and culture and appearances where we are now. I’d rather live somewhere where opportunities occur more organically, among other positive features.

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  28. Stephen Marsh on October 31, 2010 at 2:24 PM

    I’ve lived all over the US. I loved each place I lived for different reasons

    Same here. Most places I don’t recall any attitude about Utah Mormons. They just were, if that makes any sense.

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  29. hawkgrrrl on October 31, 2010 at 9:42 PM

    Joe 25 – I must be just a little younger than you, but I also lived in a pretty liberal ward, so perhaps there was some local interpretation going on.

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  30. Rigel Hawthorne on November 1, 2010 at 6:30 PM

    “These types of leadership experiences and teaching opportunities gave me confidence and skill I would never have achieved in a ward where less was required of me.”

    Well, that’s reassuring, because our kids our getting their early church experience in a ward that is short on substitutes and schools where there are one or two LDS per grade. I can now rest comfortably thinking that hawkgrrl did it, so they can too.

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  31. Jon on November 1, 2010 at 10:41 PM

    Great pic of the Amish. We were just out in PA and got to eat Amish food. Totally worth it just for that to fly across the whole US!

    The Amish do seem to do a good job raising their families. I like my PC too much though.

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  32. hawkgrrrl on November 1, 2010 at 11:01 PM

    Yes, I do miss those Amish faves like shoo-fly pie, chow-chow and chicken corn soup from a Firehall! They do well at raising great kids, but 95% retention is easy when you are shunned if you decide to leave.

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  33. Doug on November 2, 2010 at 2:50 AM

    I grew up in Central Florida, but as I joined the Church at 20 (and by then, moved back to Fresno, CA when my Dad retired from the Air Force), I don’t have any experience “growing up” LDS or around them (save for tormenting LDS and other Church-sponsored scouts during Jamborees on the Deseret Ranch).
    My career keeps me tied in the Sacramento area for at least the next five years (until retirement). However, if I had to do it over again, I’d pick one of two places: (1) Austin, TX, or (2) Suburban Philly (at least ten miles outside I-276, preferably Bucks County). Three elements: (1) Just enough LDS and a temple within two hours drive (2) reasonable balance of basic conservatism with pragmatic educated types, and (3) cultural diversity w/o too much weirdness.
    Yes, I know Austin’s slogan, but what Texans consider “weird” barely would draw attention in the “granola” state (fruits, nuts, and flakes).

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  34. Allen on November 24, 2010 at 9:48 PM

    I was raised in a small town in SW Utah but have lived outside of Utah for most of my adult life. My kids were all born in Phoenix and raised in Massachusetts (we were members of the Nashua NH Stake).

    In Utah there are three types of Mormons: active, inactive, and active but cynical and negative. Peer pressure comes from the active but cynical group.

    In New England, we only had two types of Mormons. active and inactive. Most of the inactive LDS were unknown to us, so my kids only knew other active kids. I was Scoutmaster for 11 or 12 years and had all three Aaronic PH quorums in the Troop, as well as the Blazer scouts. I don’t remember one LDS who was active but cynical.

    I’m now retired and in Utah (close to extended family), and I think that anywhere is a good place to raise a family, as long as the kids are taught to be non-judgmental, broad minded, and to look for the good in others. Our ward in Massachusetts covered an area as large geographically as the Salt Lake valley, so all of the friends of my kids were non-Mormon. They were all great kids. They even defended my kids when others used bad language around them. “You don’t use those words around —, she is a Mormon”.

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  35. Fay on March 17, 2012 at 5:38 PM

    I’d just like to mention that I was kind of sad to see that on your poll you didn’t include “Where you feel prompted to raise your family after prayer, fasting, and meditation.”

    –I joined the church after marrying my husband, and seeing the difference being raised outside of the church, and with a *very* different set of values, helping my children to develop strong individual testimonies of the Gospel and a genuine love for following the commandments is one of the most important goals in my life right now. We’re in the Colorado now (Fort Collins area), but are really looking eastward for somewhere quieter to raise our family. It will be very difficult to leave the new temple that is coming if that is what we have to do, but trust that Heavenly Father will help us to find the place that will be best suited to raising our children.

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