Exceptional Utah

DSC01343The following post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations:

As I mentioned last week, this week Sutherland Institute will release two new publications: a booklet titled The Sutherland Idea: The Cause of Freedom and a book titled Exceptional Utah: Leading America in Faith, Family and Freedom. Last week I spoke briefly about the booklet. This week I’d like to share a few thoughts from our new book, Exceptional Utah.

It is commonplace to ridicule Utah and its Mormon population. But Utah is exceptional in several ways precisely because of the Mormons. I am a Mormon convert. I am neither a native Utahn nor a natural Mormon, so if anyone has room to judge them, I do. While I did graduate from Brigham Young University a million years ago, my wife and I were a little bit hesitant to return to Utah to assume the helm at Sutherland 12 years ago. Frankly, I am too much of an idealist about a predominantly Latter-day Saint community – I expect way too much from us and that expectation constantly leaves me open for disappointment.

But Utah is exceptional in several important ways – in ways that matter for the future health and prosperity of this state. In Sutherland’s new book, Exceptional Utah: Leading America in Faith, Family and Freedom, we explain just how great Utah really is.

The introduction of the book states,

Utah exceptionalism is not found in its economic opportunities – most of which come and go with market processes and political decisions. Neither am I describing what Utah has physically: its landscapes and vistas, as beautiful as they are. Frankly, all of America has beautiful scenery and healthy recreational areas. The exceptionalism I write about – our most precious asset – will never be seen in a promotional brochure from our state Office of Tourism.

Utah exceptionalism is not about what Utah has. It’s about what Utahns give. It’s not about what Utahns acquire. It’s about what we sacrifice (and why). Sacrifice is the basis of Utah exceptionalism. And it is exceptional not only in modern America, but throughout the modern world.

This unique culture of sacrifice does not magically appear, nor is it universal. There is a reason Utah is exceptional: its predominance of faithful Latter-day Saints. Faithful Latter-day Saints work at it. They dedicate their lives to making personal sacrifices. It is a sacred covenant for many. This same level of attention and commitment to personal sacrifice, attested to by educated and objective voices, isn’t found to this extent elsewhere in America – and, as we’ll see, the numbers prove it. Take away our Latter-day Saint institutions, and its population, and Utah becomes a very mediocre state and its quality of life diminishes rapidly.

This is not to denigrate or diminish the positive influences of so many other people of faith, or not, who inspire our individual lives. Neither am I saying that all sorts of people haven’t helped to found and form this great state. They have. … Likewise, imperfect people (all of us) do not diminish exceptionalism. …

It would be foolish for us to run from a heritage that has served us so well – or even apologize for it. The quality of life in Utah is arguably the best in the nation and, much less arguably, due in large part to the predominant community of faithful Latter-day Saints who call Utah home. A fact not arguable in the slightest is the benefits Utah derives from the Mormon culture of sacrifice.

As this new book describes in detail Utah’s deep culture of sacrifice makes us exceptional in matters of faith, family and freedom. I hope you have a chance to read about it.

For Sutherland Institute, I’m Paul Mero. Thanks for listening.

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