Created by: Bryce Bohlen, Jeff Edwards, Erin Greig, Andrew Isaacson, Robyn Louis, and Brittany Turner
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines culture as the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group. The Mormon way of life fits this definition as it incorporates a group of people who are unified through their beliefs, values and religious traditions.
Values, Beliefs and Norms
The Latter Day Saint Culture holds many beliefs that help to define their culture. These beliefs cover things from marriage, to gender, to happiness, to the reason people are on earth. It is believed in the Mormon culture that same sex marriage is sinful. It is not a part of ‘God’s plan” for life (Evans, Jenny). Also, it is believed that gender holds a very key role in a person’s identity. It defines who a person is, what they will do and eventually who they will become. This belief leads to the idea that males and females are completely different but compatible beings. The purpose of being on Earth is for people to get a body, learn and develop in this body and in the end, gain eternal life. Before a person enters a body they have a “pre-mortal existence” as a spirit with God (Evans, Jenny). This life that one enters into is a gift from God leading to a stance on abortions. No elective abortions should be done. Even when things such as rape, danger to the mother or a non-viable fetus are involved abortion may still not be allowed. However, in regards to birth control it is a couple’s own choice and they must make the decision through prayer. Sex and being a parent are regarded as positive, but only if a person is married. If this is not the case, it is sin to have sexual relations. To gain happiness one must live a life that is in accordance to the bible teachings of, “faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work and wholesome activities” (Evans, Jenny). Along with this, exercise and eating and sleeping right paired with a cheerful outlook can lead to this happiness in life (Church of the Latter Day Saints).
Along with beliefs come traditions that meld a Mormon’s into the culture that they are today. A major tradition that Latter Day Saints participate in is that of missionaries. When youth are in their late teens to early twenties they put everything in their life on pause and go out for 18 to 24 months to spread the gospel. These missions are done throughout the world and can give these youth a new perspective on life that will be the platform to build a healthy marriage on (Mormon Beliefs and Practices). Another tradition is that of fasting. On one Sunday each month no food or drink can be taken in an amount of time that adds up to two meals. During this time prayer is done so the person can become closer to God. The money that would have been spent on this food to eat these two meals is then donated to the church to help the poor and needy.
Furthermore, as tradition notes, at least a tenth of a Mormon’s income must be give to tithing in order to contribute to the church’s growth. Prayer is not only important during fasting, but everyday as well. In the morning and the evening a person will kneel down and pray both with their family and alone. Sunday, the Sabbath, is a holy day. The main purpose of this day is to honor and praise God. Sacrament is taken and there is a rest from all labors. Additionally, there is to be no shopping or other commercial and sporting events. Internet and other technology use is also prohibited on this day. If one participates in things such as this it will have a negative impact on their life and blessings they receive. There is a “Law of Chastity” that is a tradition upheld by Latter Day Saints. This law calls for no sex if not wed, keep one’s thoughts “clean”, dress modestly, avoid pornography and do not be in a homosexual/lesbian relationship. If all of these rules are followed a person will be rewarded with, “peace, self-respect, and strength” (Church of the Latter-Day Saints). A special kind of underwear is to be worn at all times except when it is being washed as well. This underwear will help the person be protected from the temptations of immoral sexual behavior (Church of the Latter-Day Saints).
Picture intended for education purposes of medical professionals.
Dress and Apperance
Mormons believe that the body is a temple and that it encases a person’s spirit. Due to this, they dress in a modest fashion in order to protect this spirit. To dress modestly to them means to show a loyalty to a “Christlike life”. Furthermore, it helps to protect a person from being immoral and its harm. Things that are not supposed to be worn are short shorts, tight pants, off the shoulder, sleeveless, backless, staples or low cut clothing. This means that shorts, skirts and dresses should go down to at least the knee and have no slits above the knee. If one dons an outfit that is too tight fitting that is also deemed inappropriate. To wear clothes that fall into one of these restricted categories is immodest and can cause embarrassment to the wearer. This is because clothing such as this is used to draw attention to one’s self not to serve its purpose of housing a person’s spirit and saving them from immoral behavior (Modesty in Dress).
Along with dressing modestly, Mormon’s believe that being neat and clean is of the utmost importance. This shows respect to others as well as respect to the wearer. Men should have no piercings and women are only allowed to have two ear piercings per ear. There should be no piercings anywhere else on the body either. Tattoos are not allowed anywhere on the body as well. Men should be clean shaven. They should have no beard and if they have a moustache it must be neatly trimmed and not cover the lips or sag around the corners of the mouth. This attention to how one looks is a custom that Mormon’s take seriously (Modesty in Dress).
The family body is an integral part of the Mormon culture. To achieve this family unit marriage is needed. Marriage is the basis of the family and where it all starts. In a family there is the dad, the mom and the children. The father’s job is to provide, protect and be in charge of the rest of the family. The mother on the other hand is the nurturer. She should be a stay at home mom and devote herself to raising her children. Despite their different roles, the parents are equal partners who support each other. The children are there to be provided for both spiritually and physically by their parents. It is the parents’ duty according to God to take care of their children. Sealing ordinances are even done that bind a family to each other both on this earth and in the next stage after life. According to Mormon beliefs the, “family unit is an indispensable part of God’s plan for human kind” (Evans, Jenny).
When it comes to relationships Mormon’s take things with great commitment. Children are not allowed to date until they are 16 years old. Then they can date and meet the person that they are going to marry. One needs marriage in order to achieve his/her greatest potential spiritually. Upon embarking on the marriage journey the couple is in for an eternal time together. They get married in a sacred Latter-Day Saints temple and are bound in their marriage spiritually. The vows that the couple takes are to be honored with fidelity at the core. Once a married couple dies, the marriage does not end but continues on past death into the next life (Mormon Beliefs and Practices).
Food and Drink
When it comes to food Mormon’s have some customs that are unique to them. According to their “Word of Wisdom”, there is to be no smoking or tobacco use of any kind. Illegal drug use is prohibited and along with the use of alcohol. Coffee and black tea should also be avoided (Church of the Latter Day Saints). A food store that can sustain a family for up to a year at least should be amassed. To do this, first a 3 month store is gathered by just buying a little more than needed with each grocery trip. After this is achieved then a year supply is gathered. There are a basic four foods that are needed. These are salt (1-12lbs), honey/sugar (35-100lbs), powdered milk (60-100lbs), and wheat (200-365 lbs). There should also be efforts to save water in PETE bottles as well (Mormon Food Storage).
When it comes to work Latter-Day Saints regard it as an important part of life. It is a Mormon trademark and there are four main principles that are upheld by this culture regarding work. These are that, “work is a universal obligation, enhances the quality of life on earth, daily work has eternal consequences, and work will continue in the eternities (Modesty in Dress)” It is believed that everyone who is capable of working should work and there is no excuse why they wouldn’t work. To be able to work is a blessing and an opportunity that all people should participate in (Modesty in Dress). It is imperative to be able to provide for one’s family and by working this is something that is able to be done. To help with this a family should live frugally and waste nothing of substance because it does not honor the work done to provide for the family (Ross, Anderson).
There are over 12 million Mormons worldwide with around 5.7 million living in the United States as of 2004. Of those 5.7 million, 57% are in Utah, 14% Idaho, 9% Nevada, 6% Arizona, 4% Oregon, 3% Washington, 3% Maryland, 3% Montana and 3% in New Mexico. All of the rest of the states have 2% of less of the Mormon population in them. With the exception of Maryland all of the states listed that have 3% or more of the Latter Day Saint population in the western portion of the United States. The population is not a huge one but since 1945 the membership has doubled every 15 years (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints).
The Meaning of Childbirth Experience to the Mormon Women
Increasing research has found religious faith or spiritual beliefs affect the health of individuals as well as the entire family. The fulfillment of a spouse, marriage, and new family are qualities all cultures deem as self-fulfilling and maturity, but in the Mormon faith the completion of these hallmarks have deeper meaning and are unique to their faith.
In a study conducted by Callister, and a team of researchers, she set forward to determine the meaning of the childbirth experience of the Mormon women. Participants of the study included 26 mothers, mean maternal age 23.65 years, who had uncomplicated vaginal births with healthy, term infants. All the women were literate, middle-class, married, and Caucasian with a stated religious preference of Mormonism. The interview guide consisted of 38 non-directed, open-ended, subject-oriented questions, which were completed within two weeks of childbirth in the homes of those who agreed to be subjects in the study. Data was then analyzed using descriptive statistics. Critical interpretive analysis was also done, where the transcripts were read line-by-line to find codes or words that captured meaning and were compared with one another. The data was then categorized to explain the meaning of the childbirth experience.
The results of the study found the majority of the couples to be college students or graduate students. All of the husbands were the wives support system during the childbirth, with only one couple having no childbirth education. Two births were unmedicated, 22 women had an epidural analgesia, and two adopted other pain medications. There were eight main themes that reoccurred in the interviews: pregnancy and childbirth as a developmental task, the value of family and children, medical management of the childbirth, husband support, role of the nurse, sense of mastery, spiritual dimensions and the meaning of childbirth.
- Pregnancy and Childbirth as a Developmental Task:
Within the Mormon traditions an expected pattern is to be followed. A Mormon family emerges with the pattern of a spouse, marriage, and then childbearing with the idea of a fulfillment of long-term life goals. In this study, women related childbirth and motherhood to their definitive fate or reason for being.
- The Value of Family and Children:
The arrival of their first child, for Mormon women, marked a time of immense joy for the beginning of their young family, because there was a sense of accomplishment in childbearing. Childbearing and family are perceived as highly valued.
- Medical Management of Childbirth:
With all but one of the groups having been educated about childbirth the Mormon families tended to take a passive compliance versus active participation in the decision making in regard to medical interventions. They were not assertive in developing or discussing a birth plan rather they placed themselves totally in the hands of the trusted OB-GYN.
- Husband Support During Childbirth:
Their husbands supported all of the women in the study during the childbirth, and the women expressed positive feelings towards their husbands in regards to the whole experience.
- The Role of the Nurse During Childbirth:
High satisfaction was expressed in regard to the care the nurses provided for the birthing women. Themes described by these women about their nurses were emotional support including encouragement, reassurance, and physical presence; informative support such as instructions, explanations, and advice; and tangible support such as physical comfort measures. The individuals reported not being aware of how much nurses really do, and spoke of their competence and broad rang of skills as highly responsible.
- Sense of Mastery:
Mastery is defined as the sense of control in life situations. The process and outcome of childbirth brought mastery and satisfaction to many of the women’s self-esteem.
- Spiritual Dimensions of Childbirth:
From their religious beliefs, the Mormon women drew inner strength and awarded childbirth with a spiritual dimension. The experience was viewed with an everlasting perspective. As one of the individuals of the experiment asked her mom how she was able to have so many children, her mother responded she didn’t really remember the painful part of birth but just remembered the joy that she felt when her baby was born. Difficult to explain or convey, the dimension of spirituality was an essential part of their childbirth experience.
- Meaning of Childbirth:
“It’s the most unique and wonderful experience…Unique in the sense that it’s hard yet best. I think it’s the greatest paradox of an experience that you can have…I never experienced that kind of pain in a twenty-four-hour period in my whole life, but I never experienced that kind of joy either so it’s definitely pain and joy together in the same circle.”
This research described the relationship between cultural/religious beliefs and the meaning of the childbirth experience. These women described such joy in experiencing childbirth. This information could be used to develop childbirth education programs to increase positive outcomes from the childbirth experience and promote self-actualization and the successful adjustment to motherhood. The Mormon culture credits so much attention and happiness to their family traditions and the upbringing of their children dissecting their beliefs and making them culturally specific to other societies could help increase positive outcomes in families.
Mormon Women and Depression
There is a perception, even within the Mormon culture itself, that Mormon women have a higher prevalence of depression. This perception is because some see a Mormon woman’s worth is that of a homemaker, mother, and wife, they are less educated, and they have less influence within their church and community. Despite this perception and the research that has been done to prove this, it has been determined that Mormon women do not have a higher rate of depression.
The Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Utah, School of Medicine, conducted a cross-sectional study in 2002 researching depression in Mormon women. It was conducted in the Utah metropolitan area with a random sample of white, married, Mormon and non-Mormon women with children under age 14. Phone interviews were conducted to determine information on risk factors for and depression. The Beck Depression Inventory was used to measure this. The Mormon women had a very high percentage of career homemakers and the non-Mormon women have a high percentage of women working outside the home. What the study found was that there was no difference in prevalence of depression. However, Mormon women have higher risk factors for depression, including: less education, little perceived caring from spouse, perception of having less than good health and having a low income. It was interesting that despite these risk factors, the Mormon women do not have a higher percentage of depression. It would have been interesting to see what factors contribute to not having high depression rates. Furthermore it would have been fascinating to account for the reasons depressed women are depressed and why women with the risks are not suffering from depression.
USA Today analyzed research done by Johnson, a Brigham Young University sociologist, for the Association of Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists on the perception of depression within the women of the Mormon church. The study used national data and showed that Mormon women are less likely to be depressed than American women in general. Johnson compared three studies that tested depression and self-esteem that were all comparable; one was of women who served missionary time, one of women that did not do missions work but that were still Mormon, and one of general American women. Johnson explained that the assumption that Mormon women are more depressed is based on conflicting information that they have a higher usage of anti-depressant medication and the higher suicide rates. Despite these conflicting statistics, Mormons actually have a lower rate of depression than the general population. National women were three to four times more unhappy with their job or relationship despite the misconception that Mormon women are depressed because their job is that of a homemaker. The study also found that there was less depression found among those with above-average church attendance, possibly because of the extra support they received from church members. According to this research almost twice as many Mormon women answered they were “very happy” compared to others. There were three times as many national women that said that they were “unhappy.”
These two research studies disprove the conception that Mormon women have a higher rate of depression. In fact, they show that despite risk for depression, they are less depressed than American women nationally.
Mormon Culture and its Effects on Life Expectancy and Patient Care.
- Mormon Demographics and Lifestyle
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is recognized to be among the fastest growing church in the United States and is the fourth largest. Since Joseph Smith, the founder and original prophet, organized the church in 1830, its ranks of followers are estimated at 12 million worldwide with 6 million residing in the United States. Although the term “Mormon” is widely used to refer to church followers, most members prefer being called Latter -Day Saints or “LDS”. After years of violence and oppression, the Mormons established their Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah and are widely recognized for their extensive missionary work throughout the world, highly acclaimed Mormon Tabernacle Choir, commitment to religious rituals, and strict adherence to a dietary and lifestyle code that advises against consuming tea, coffee, alcohol, tobacco, and drugs while emphasizing whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and minimal meat intake. Research has shown that male and female Mormons have a 9.8 year and 5.6 year longer life expectancy, respectively, than non-Mormons. Likewise, Mormons have been shown to have a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease and cancer compared to non-Mormons. These results have all been attributed to the fact that most Mormons adopt the strict dietary and lifestyle mandates of the Church during childhood and continue them throughout their lives.
Most of the Mormon lifestyle preferences are outlined in a health code referred to as the “Word of Wisdom”, which includes teachings about abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, tea, coffee, and caffeine. Most practicing Mormons will not consume a warm drink at all because of concerns over caffeine, nor will they indulge in soft drinks for the same reason. Mormons are also taught that the misuse of illegal, legal, or prescription drugs is an overt violation of the church health code.
- Caring for the Mormon Patient
Mormons are avid supporters of good health and, therefore, are encouraged to seek medical care when necessary. If prescribed and used as directed, Mormons are allowed to use medications, including narcotics, and blood products.
Mormons fast at least once per month to demonstrate self-control and increased spirituality. However, Church members who are weak or in poor health are not expected to participate in fasting. As a healthcare provider, it is important to properly counsel the Mormon patient regarding the efficacy of fasting in light of the medical situation. Consequently, healthcare providers must understand and respect the key tenets followed by the Mormon Church when caring for its members.
When death is expected, the family will typically make the requisite arrangements. Mormons are encouraged to have advanced directives and are taught that death should not be prolonged beyond the body’s natural capacity. In times of illness and death, the goals of the Mormon Church are to provide dignity and comfort as the patient proceeds through the last stages of life. Church doctrine does not forbid organ donation for transplantation and leaves such decisions up to the family.
When caring for Mormons, it is important to realize that members look to local church leaders for support and comfort. Even if the Mormon patient is not in his/her home city, contacting a local Mormon leader is greatly appreciated. The Mormon Church also has an organized group of women called the “Relief Society” that provides help to families when dealing with difficult situations like illness. Interestingly, most Mormon men are ordained into the Church priesthood and, therefore, are able to provide blessings to fellow Church members. The blessings frequently include a drop of consecrated oil on the head of the patient. The Mormon Church has arranged for many hospitals to have this special oil available and it is usually carefully labeled and used only for blessings. It is not necessary for non-Mormons to leave the patient’s side when blessings are being given.
- Sacred Undergarments
Mormons who have gone through special ceremonies and considered to be in good standing with the Church wear sacred undergarments that replace regular underwear. Women will wear their bras over the sacred undergarment. These undergarments are usually only removed for personal hygiene and laundering. The undergarments may be removed during medical care and should be given to the patient or the family. In emergencies, the undergarments may be cut off as needed, but should be returned to the family for disposal. Mormon patients will feel most comfortable when their body is kept modestly covered in front of healthcare personnel and family. Regardless of the circumstances, the undergarments are to be treated as spiritual symbols and treated with unwavering respect. Because Mormons place high value on family relationships, the healthcare provider can expect requests for the family to be present, even in urgent situations.
- Mormonism as a Culture
When reviewing Church history and doctrine, it is apparent that Mormonism is not just a religion, but also a growing, thriving culture of people with a litany of unique rituals and outlooks. Regardless of where you might be in the world, Mormons follow and promote the same commitment to health, morality, family, and diet. Members tend to live near each other and most activities are centered around the Church. Although Mormons will always welcome you into their Church and receive spiritual accolades for being your sponsor, the cultural context of the Church clearly creates an “us versus them” mentality. Thus, you are either in the Mormon Church or not and there does not seem to be much flexibility with your status. The Mormon culture is rigid, closely knit, and not easily penetrated from perceived outsiders. This rigid cultural context is exemplified by Marshall (2003) who describes the experience of having a disabled child as one in which parents develop a perspective of a particular sense of unique knowledge through which they acquire insights beyond others who are not of their faith. Therefore, healthcare providers must be aware that the Mormon culture effectively perceives themselves as having something more…..clearer insight; or, perhaps, a generally superior understanding than non-Mormons.
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