Monday, November 12, 2007

Mormon Diaspora

My parents were born and grew up in Salt Lake City. My father did his best to remedy that fact, taking a job, and my mother, away from Utah. He seldom visits, and when he does, it is for two days at the most. They raised 5 children away from Deseret. But in the end all five of us attended a university in Utah. None of us live there, but we feel the pull. Pride in our heritage? The longing for extended family?
A religion professor of mine, Jospeh Fielding McKonkie, described it as another scattering of Israel. "Get out of Utah" he would say leaving no doubt of his feelings on the matter. I didn't choose the military like my father did, but I didn't stay where my parents ended up either. I lived in Maryland for 14 years after I met my wife. But I still consider myself a part of the scattered.
The Chinese expression for it is 原籍 yuán jí, ancestral home. You don't have to have lived there, but you are from there nontheless. Taiwanese passports until the 1990s would list your ancestral home even if you were not born there and could never visit.
I just moved to Tennessee. When I meet someone new, the question is always the same. Where are you from? What they really want to know is who I am. Sometimes I say Maryland. Other times California. Sometimes I even admit to being born in Wisconsin, with the caveat that I have never been back. The most curious, or perhaps just those who really need me to fit into their preconceived notion of the world, arn't satisfied until I explain that my parents were born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. And with a silent nod, they change the subject.

Judy Harper
Oh, yes! I thought I was the only one the experience this. It's nice that it has a name. :)
Monday November 12, 2007 - 10:22pm (PST)

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