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The Current State of the Mormon Culture Region

By: Christopher - August 06, 2008

Yesterday over at Religion in U.S. History, Paul Harvey posted a map of “Leading Church Bodies, 2000,” taken from  Mark Silk and Andrew Walsh’s fantastic Religion by Region series, and rhetorically asks, “Is the South still a cultural region?”

Based on the dominance of the Baptists in the southern states (evidenced by the map), the answer is clearly, “yes.” It also appears that the Mormon Culture Region of the intermountain West is demographically alive and well, too. Utah, much of Idaho, and northern Arizona are all still predominantly Latter-day Saint in religious makeup.

None of that is too surprising. I was surprised, however, to see that some counties in relatively far-away states are also predominantly Mormon. Curry County, Oregon and Adams County, Washington, for instance, both apparently have more Mormons than any other one religion.

I’ve met a few Mormons (including an old roommate) from Othello (a small farming community in Adams County) here at BYU, but have no clue why these areas are heavily populated by Latter-day Saints. Anybody have any insight into this? Does anyone see anything else especially noteworthy on the map?

(click on map to enlarge)



12 Comments

  1. Interesting is Decatur County, Iowa, a heavily Community of Christ area (with the aptly named city of Lamoni, Iowa).

    If this map were updated for this year, I wonder if Schleicher County, Texas would be majority Latter Day Saint?

    Comment by NJensen — August 6, 2008 @ 8:27 am

  2. No JW’s?

    Comment by TrevorM — August 6, 2008 @ 9:58 am

  3. I think just as interesting are those counties with the black dot – representing a majority of Churches. We see that in regions where there are a lot of Mormons or Lutherans, they tend to be in the majority. Southern/Southwester Catholics and Southern/Southwestern Baptists as well.

    Comment by J. Stapley — August 6, 2008 @ 10:18 am

  4. NJensen, good catch on Decatur County. I missed that in my browsing of the map last night. Interesting (and appropriate) that “Latter-Day Saint” refers to the collective body of Latter Day Saints. You might very well be right about Schleicher County, too. Thanks for your input.

    TrevorM, I can’t think of anywhere in the U.S. where the JWs would outnumber any other religion. (though it is interesting that they are not even explicitly included in the “other” category).

    J, I was very interested in those counties where any one religion outnumbers all others combined, too. Thanks for bringing that into the discussion.

    Comment by Christopher — August 6, 2008 @ 10:55 am

  5. ARDA, sponsered by catholics, has a similar set of data. It is based on the county in which the congregation meets, not where people live. This makes a difference in rural areas. I live in one county and attend in another. Outside the Mormon corridor, sometimes 3 wards (covering 9 counties) all meet in the same building. That inflates the mormon population in one county at the expense of the other 8 counties. Check the Mormon population in the surrounding counties to see if it is zero.

    I’ve played with the data to see what would happen if you removed all the catholics, for example. Out west, LDS and Baptist compete for the number 2 spot.

    Comment by BruceC — August 6, 2008 @ 12:05 pm

  6. Here is the ARDA Website. Fun stuff.

    Comment by BruceC — August 6, 2008 @ 12:12 pm

  7. That’s a great resource. Thanks, Bruce.

    Comment by Christopher — August 6, 2008 @ 12:41 pm

  8. I’m having a hard time not being amused that Lincoln County, Nevada is Mormon country, considering the 1866 Utah/Nevada boundary shift and all.

    In the 2000 census the Mormon town of Panaca made up about 20% of the county population (or 800 people out of a total of 4,165 for the entire county–7th largest geographically in the US) which must have been enough to give the county to the Saints.

    I’m lighting a candle tonight in honor of William Hamblin, Moroni, and Lincoln County as Mormon country.

    Comment by Paul Reeve — August 6, 2008 @ 10:49 pm

  9. I was wrong. I went to Bruce’s ARDA website and Mormons make up 47% of Lincoln County. Evangelicals are a distant 2nd at 13%. The irony is killing me.

    I’m lighting two candles.

    Comment by Paul Reeve — August 6, 2008 @ 11:05 pm

  10. One thing the map doesn’t take into account, and this may be more of a factor in 2008 than it was in 2000, is that many people are active churchgoers but don’t belong to any of the denominations listed. My county shows up as Catholic, and I’m sure that it is indeed the plurality religion. But if you were to add the various evangelical/fundamentalist Protestants together, they would easily outnumber the Catholics.

    Comment by Eric — August 12, 2008 @ 9:25 am

  11. […] Instructor had up an interesting chart of where the Mormons are in America. It lists counties where Mormons are the #1 religion. There are some surprising […]

    Pingback by Best of the Week 5: Academic LDS : Mormon Metaphysics — August 12, 2008 @ 12:55 pm

  12. This map is a good reminder that despite significant growth in areas outside of the intermountain west in the past 50 years, the Corridor remains the capital and stronghold of Mormondom. If anything, Mormon population dominance in the corridor seems to have decreased, as areas like southern Arizona are no longer shown as being predominantly Mormon. Do you guys forsee this area expanding or decreasing over time?

    Comment by Brett D. — August 14, 2008 @ 10:47 pm