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An irony of the furious displays of hatred by SWPLs toward Mormons over the last ten days — in the demonology of the conventional wisdom, “outside agitators” from mighty Utah hijacked the democratic process in tiny, impoverished, defenseless California and brainwashed white Californians into voting against gay marriage — is that the Democrats had had a chance to make inroads with Mormons, which they’ve now blown. Indeed, the GOP share of the Presidential vote in Utah fell by something like 9 points from 2004 to 2008. I suspect, perhaps without much evidence, that the rude handling of the Mormon paladin Mitt Romney in the GOP primaries last winter had something to do with Utah’s decline in enthusiasm for the GOP.

But, the possibility of sizable long-term Mormon defections to the Democrats, which seemed plausible on the morning of November 5th, is likely now gone for decades, now that Mormons have taken on the Emmanuel Goldstein role for SWPLs.

On GNXP, Razib has a thought-provoking post on more fundamental issues about Mormons. The comments are excellent, too. In general, Mormonism functions as a sort of Swedish welfare state without the state for church members.

Mormon America is a representative of the New England Puritan cultural tradition in “Red America.” …

When I say Mormons are “Puritan,” I’m not saying this as a figure of speech; Mormon America is to a great extent both a direct cultural and genetic descendant of New England Puritanism! The proportion of “English” ancestry in Mormon America is somewhat exaggerated by the fact that missions were sent to England and so you had direct migrants from Europe to Utah. But this can’t explain the whole of the phenomenon, American Mormonism began as a religion of Greater New England. First in upstate New York, and later in northern Ohio. Its relocation to the Midwest was problematic for a host of reasons, but the fact that they were often neighbors of people whose origins were in the South and they were quite clearly Yankees probably exacerbated tensions.

Mormonism is a very communitarian religion, not unexpected from a faith with Puritan origins. Mormon settlements in Utah were laid out like New England towns, as opposed to isolated yeoman farmsteads. Brigham Young socialized water usage to optimally allocate resources for irrigation. A tendency toward campaigns for temperance and high fertility were features of New England society. Mormons are famously fertile (relatively) and do not drink. Â In Wisconsin administrators preferred Yankee settlers because they were more likely to be willing to raise money for pubic goods such as schools than migrants from the South. Mormons may be low-tax Republicans, but those in good standing tithe a very large proportion of their income obligately in their private life (10% from what I recall), while the church runs itself like a corporation which has economies of scale.

Unlike evangelical Christians in the South, Mormons do not acceptwith resignation that many youth may “raise hell” before settling down. Mormons do not accept the Protestant contention that salvation is through faith alone. Behavior matters. Social pathologies and the personal disorder which has been a feature of Southern cultural life since its inception are not features of Mormon America, which reflects Puritan fixation on public order as a check on private liberty.

Over the past generation Mormons and Southern Protestants have entered into a de facto alliance because of their social traditionalism. The recent controversy over Proposition 8 in California will likely result in even more esteem for the Mormon church from structurally suspicious evangelicals (they do not believe Mormons are Christian, and resent that they claim that they are Christian). In other ways Mormons have come to identify themselves with conservative Protestant America, which to a great extent means Southern America. There are data which show that while 70% of Brigham Young University students rejected Creationism in 1930, 70% now accept it. I believe this is due to cultural influence from evangelical Protestantism, with whom Mormons are now politically allied.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Mormons 
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If the polygamist Fundamentalist Church of the Latter Day Saints is more or a less a pyramid scam, in which the guys at the top hog the wives, how did the mainstream Church of the Latter Days Saints evolve into something quite different? I don’t know anything about Mormon history, so please help me out here.

The mainstream Mormon organization in Utah today seem more like a mutual self-help society, sort of a private enterprise Sweden. If you agree to play by their rules, follow their cultural norms, and pay a lot of taxes, excuse me, donations, they’ll round down some of the sharp, competitive corners of modern life for you. The intense and expensive efforts modern Americans make to “insulate, insulate, insulate” their families (as Sherman McCoy’s best friend tells him people who want to raise children in Manhattan must do) are sort of taken care of for you by the Mormon church.

Of course, that’s why Mormons are so Republican — they’ve built themselves a private welfare state, without most of the moral hazard that goes with government welfare states.

For example, consider the admissions process to college, which is pretty maniacal for a lot of families these days.

Yet, the statistics on Brigham Young University don’t look much at all like other universities. These days, colleges are extremely stratified by SAT score, but BYU isn’t like that. The last time I checked (about five years ago), it’s 25th and 75th percentiles of SAT scores were farther apart than just about any other prominent college in the country, meaning that a wide range of kids go there: both the smart Mormon kids and the average Mormon kids. The students at BYU just don’t really care all that much about going to the school with the highest USNWR ranking.

Nowadays, most kids across the country apply to a lot of colleges and so acceptance rates are very low compared to just a decade ago, but then most colleges’ “yields” (i.e., their admitted applicants’ acceptance of them) have become pretty low, too. In other words, on April 1st the typical brand name college sends out, say, 5,000 acceptances and 20,000 rejection letters, and on May 1 it gets back 2000 acceptances of acceptances and 3000 rejections of acceptances. It’s nerve wracking for all concerned.

But at BYU, it’s pretty easy to get in. Non-Mormons don’t want to go there, so it’s not that competitive. And yet it’s not a “safety school” — most of the kids who get accepted choose to go there. It’s yield is up there with Annapolis and Columbia and the like.

And the tuition is cheap. There’s no real magic — they have big class sizes. They just don’t see the need to compete in the USNWR rankings by having smaller classes.

What BYU sounds like is the old State U. in 1950s Heinlein juvenile novels, where the hero (who is a math genius but nobody has noticed) has just graduated from high school and is working at the malt shop, and when customers ask him what his plans are, he says he really hasn’t made any so he figures he’ll just go to old State U. in September. Pretty low key …

That’s what UCLA was like when Heinlein went there for a few weeks.

Of course, nowadays, there are people in Seoul who have been grooming their prodigy child for acceptance at old State U. since birth, so old State U. isn’t at all like old State U. anymore. In 2008, UCLA got 55,000 applications for the freshman class, the most of any college in America, with 45% coming from students with a 4.0 or higher GPA.

But BYU apparently still is kind of like Heinlein-era UCLA.

Anyway, my question is: how did the mainstream Mormons get from being kind of a pyramid scheme back in the polygamous 19th Century to the set-up they have today where life is more egalitarian than in the rest of America?

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Mormons 
Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

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