The friendliness of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a strong influence on how well newcomers like Utah.
A survey of 251 newcomers by Dan Jones & Associates showed that those who are unhappy in Utah are most likely to see the LDS people as unfriendly."Those who are less happy in Utah cited cliquish LDS people far more than those who are happy here," said Pat Jones, a market research analyst with Dan Jones and Associates. "In other words, the LDS people tended to make the difference between whether people are happy or unhappy here."
The LDS Church is very conscious of the impact LDS people have on newcomers. Elder Glen L. Rudd, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, commemorated July 24 by urging Utah's LDS to remember that this state belongs to those of other beliefs, too. Rudd spoke in the tabernacle during the church's commemorative celebrations.
"As most of you know, about 50 percent of the people who live here today are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This doesn't mean that they are not welcome or that they do not have a place here. They certainly do belong here. It is their city, too. They have come to live with us," he said. "No one should come here and be given the feeling of not being welcome."
A large number of the newcomers surveyed did not believe Utahns were open or friendly: 59 percent said people in Utah were not open-minded; 33 percent said Utahns did not make newcomers feel welcome.
Responding to heightened awareness over Utah's image, LDS leaders are reminding members to be friendly and warm to all newcomers. The presidencies of the Utah North and Utah South areas sent a letter on the subject to all regional representatives, stake presidents and bishops. The letter was read over the pulpit at worship services through-out the state this summer.
"Sad accounts have been conveyed to us by non-LDS newcomers to the state," the letter said. "This includes children and youth being shunned, joys being denied and a seeming coldness and lack of friendliness when people indicated they were not interested in knowing about our religious doctrines. However, in fairness, we have other reports which mention the warmth and love felt in many neighborhoods."
The letter went on to remind members that "of all people, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should reach out in love and brotherhood to all within our midst. . . . We would hope all who move to this state feel welcomed and loved by church members as they are extended a true hand of brotherly love and, when needed, Christian service. If people are not interested in our religious activities, we still need to be friends and genuine neighbors to them."
Talks such as Rudd's have stressed the need to be friendly. "No one should come here and be given the feeling of not being welcome," he said. "Our neighbors who do not believe as we do have every right to be here and to enjoy the blessings that are here for them."
He also cautioned against holding those of other beliefs to LDS standards.
"The commandments we, as members of the church, live by do not apply to them," Rudd said. "They have their own leaders. They have their own church leaders, and they have other leaders who aid and assist them in their way of life. I can think of nothing more improper than for them to feel that they have to live just as we do, or for us to feel that they are not good, faithful, wonderful people if they don't conform to the standards by which we live."
Elder Russell C. Taylor, First Quorum of the Seventy, welcomed the dialogue about how friendly Utah is.
"We hope through this discussion that all this labeling - `Mormon' and `Non-Mormon,' `Utah Native' and `Utah Transplant' - discontinues," he said. "Let's stop being apologists or separatists."