Professional Isolationism

Most people know there are many personal ‘matchmaker’ sites devoted to LDS singles. Why such sites would develop is obvious: there are a multitude of reasons why marrying within the faith is preferable, even from just a ‘getting along together’ standpoint, let alone adding in the prospect of eternal marriage. Such websites serve a valuable purpose by allowing members in different areas of the country (or world) a chance to meet and chat with each other.

What about professional ‘matchmaker’ sites, though?

Take, for example, LDSAgents.com–a site designed to match up prospective house buyers with LDS real estate agents. Similarly, the site LDSPro.com, run by Meridian Magazine, has directories of LDS people in several dozen different professions. In my mind, the ‘valuable purpose’ behind these sites is not so clear…

In theory, there are professions where it would probably be helpful to be assisted by fellow Church members–marriage counselors or psychiatrists, for example, where shared knowledge and respect for religious beliefs might be more conducive to understanding and solving personal issues.

Is there an advantage to finding an LDS real estate agent, though? Or an LDS dentist? Or an LDS architect? The LDSAgents.com website says it wants to help you find an agent who “shares your interests”. Is it just for people who want to be able to chat with their lawyer or dentist afterwards about home teaching or Elder Holland’s latest conference talk without confusion? Or is the implication that, no matter what the job, having a Latter-Day Saint do it is simply…you know, better?

Church doctrine encourages Mormons to be honest and trustworthy in everything they do, of course, but it’s fairly naive to think that just because someone is LDS then they automatically have strong integrity and ethics. Some do, some do not (coincidently, this is the same as non-member professionals). Furthermore, even if you do find an LDS professional who’s honest and has high morals, that still doesn’t imply they’re actually better at what they do (in terms of skill and effectiveness) than someone else you could have used.

The problem here is that without a specific professional benefit to having a Church member perform a service, this simply leads to a form of ‘social isolationism’–where Church members think to themselves: “I’ve already made sure all my friends are members, and now I’ll be able to find LDS professionals for everything I need. Then I’ll never have to associate with non-members at all! (Except for missionary work, of course)”

What other purpose would there be to providing listings of LDS professionals, if not to allow church members to isolate themselves further in a closed circle of other Church members? No one has said, of course, that Church members should only go to other Church members for any needed service, but obviously sites like the ones listed above wouldn’t exist unless they knew that there were a large number of Church members out there who wanted to use it for this purpose.

I, for one, after all the progress the Church has made integrating the membership into ‘normal’ society, would hate to see a backwards trend where Church members now have the means and desire to stop associating themselves with non-members in every situation they possibly can, either with the attitude of “I’m going to hire a Church member instead of you, because they’re obviously BETTER”–or, alternately–“I’m going to PUNISH you for not being a Church member by not giving you my business…”) Can a better justification be made for sites like these? Discuss…

20 thoughts on “Professional Isolationism

  1. If people belong to the same social networks as you, there are probably higher costs to them defrauding you. With a wider variety of shared referents and assumptions, communication may be easier. Its possible that on average LDS professionals are more honest than professionals at large, though I wouldn’t be surprised if that weren’t the case. LDS professionals may be more likely to share your goals, e.g., as in the case of doctors or psychologists. To the extent that you believe that consumer decisions are an appropriate venue for expressing your preferences (like buying “green” power, for instance) its probably true that LDS professionals are more likely to tithe, keep sabbath, not drink, and so on.

    None of these are extremely important reasons, in my mind, but they’re good enough that I don’t get angry at people like you do.

  2. There are higher costs to yourself from working within the same social networks, too–namely the fact that should there be a bad experience, you’re still stuck seeing them every week at church. One member of our ward recommended his company hire another member of our ward, and after the second member’s work habits conflicted with the first one, you can imagine how the Sunday relationship deteriorated as well.

    (‘angry’?)

  3. A motive I would have for consulting an LDS directory would be to build up Zion by throwing some business the way of Latter-day Saints.

    I think Brother Greenwood’s social network idea has something to it. One concept from the Millionaire Next Door book was that millionaires use referrals a lot; the risk of disappointing not only you, but also the referrer, gives added incentive for good performance.

    Many say that family and business shouldn’t be mixed, but I think something is missing in our family relations or business dealings if they can’t be. Nothing should be more natural than brothers working together.

  4. Adam is right, but that benefit may be outweighed by the disadvantages of lost opportunities for missionary work. While we can’t claim a baptism, we did have several gospel-oriented discussions with our real estate agent when we moved recently.

  5. Kenneth Woodward’s NYTimes piece points out that Mormons are clannish. Restricting ourselves largely to dealing with Mormon professionals feeds into that perception.

    As alluded to, it is more difficult to disengage the services of a fellow church member than others. We may fear their becoming less active because we no longer use their services. On the flip side, as a professional, it is harder to send bills to Church members, some of whom may expect services to be provided either free or at a large discount.

  6. Last time I chose a dentist, I deliberately sought out an LDS dentist in order to support fellow saints. And I did not expect a discount. I’ve moved since then, and will probably seek out another LDS dentist closer to my new home.

  7. My belief is that the customer always has an absolute right to make choices based on whatever criteria he/she wants. The customer always has a right to take his/her business elsewhere, and do so for whatever reasons they deem worthy.

    A friend of mine blasted Mormons because her grandfather or great-grandfather was a doctor who moved to a small Utah town that had no doctor. Because he was a non-member, the church members continued to travel to the next town over for their doctorin’. Her ancestor even repeated that the saints told him that if he joined the church, they’d come to him. He took that as an insult and got very angry, and my friend continued to carry that anger for him.

    I thought it was the height of arrogance on his part to expect or demand people to do business with him.

  8. All things being equal, people will hire people who are like them.

    I agree with this, Seth, but I am much more “like” many of my non-member co-workers than many in my ward. I bristle at the thought of choosing to use someone because they’re LDS rather than the fact that they are the best (or good) at what they do.

  9. I think we need to calm down the rhetoric and simply recognize that we.are a much more mobile society than we used to be. This means you have a lot of people moving to new jobs in new areas where they may not know anybody. When you move, you have issues to face: who to use as a dentist, who to use as a Realtor, who to use as a doctor. If you are LDS, it would be natural to ask people in your social circle, ie the people at church, “who do you use as a dentist – I’ve got a toothache.”. Well, some people are shy, some people like using the internet, some people don’t like to pester people at Church with questions. So LDSpro is simply filling a market niche for those people. I simply don’t see anything wrong and/or sinister about it.

    Now, if people were being delibereately clannish and refusing to do business with a “gentile,” Kevin would certainly have a point. But that’s not the motivation of LDSPro.

  10. If charges of clannishness are a cost of oneness among the Latter-day Saints, I’m willing to pay. Zion always has its detractors. Section 45 predicted that “it shall be said among the wicked: Let us not go up to battle against Zion, for the inhabitants of Zion are terrible; wherefore we cannot stand.” In our context, there are plenty of people who cannot stand it when we act so terribly Mormony as to have a special relationship with other Mormons.

  11. That Mormon clannishness is just about the only thing propping up Mitt Romney’s faltering campaign. Maybe President Giuliani will be able to use him in his cabinet somewhere.

  12. In my experience, people that go out of their way to let people know they are LDS (real-estate agent, a dentist, a grocery store owner and a lawyer)in business are doing it because they are crappier than other people in the profession and hope you’ll give them work out of loyalty to the faith. Of course it’s easier living in Davis County because so many business are owned by members. It doesn’t matter which lawyer I choose, most of them are probably LDS.

  13. Perhaps the “comment is invalid” error message can be expounded upon so commenters can have an idea of what was wrong with their message. I didn’t use any links or swear words, so I wonder what the offense was.

  14. I’m conflicted by this argument. I know some wonderful LDS professionals, and I know some real jerks and cheats.

    My philosophy has evolved into that I’ll give an LDS professional a first look. But I never make a decision based on a first look alone. After I get to know them, I then decide if I would hire them if they *weren’t* Mormon.

    On my mission, we commonly rented rooms (and the accompanying meal and laundry services) from non-members and eschewed LDS families wherever possible — and not for proselyting reasons. We found that LDS families tended to try to provide lesser services under the guise of “well, we’re all members” and would try to use their caregiver relationship as a social plank in the ward.

  15. Bookslinger, the comment invalid thing is very annoying. We’ve been trying to fix that for months, but no success so far. The only solution is to cut and paste your comment onto Word and then trying posting individual paragraphs of it, sometimes in multiple comments. You will find the offending paragraph this way. That’s how I handle it. But you’re right, it’s a real pain.

  16. I think this is a grey area. I am usually not so wishy washy in my opinions.

    I have had both good and bad exp dealing with LDS Professionals and am real wary of mising my personal professional business dealings with fellow ward members due to the potential for complications and hard feelings.

  17. Never sell/buy a used car to/from a friend. And a corollary that I learned the hard way, never rent/lease from/to a friend. I have a personal policy of being very picky who and how I give computer help to ward members. Otherwise, they’ll pester you forever on the phone for “just one quick question.”

  18. I have found that an open and honest dialog with non-members about my values and beliefs, particularly when relevant to a business relationship, is better at accomplishing my goal of having those values honored in the business relationship, if for no other reason that everyone, despite their background, will appreciate that honesty and candor. Most will respond accordingly. It also often results in the non-member asking other questions which puts myths to rest and affirms factual information. I frequently learn a few things too. That is the seed of missionary work that has, in my experience, sometimes grown into mighty trees.

    In other words, it’s always better to talk things through. Websites that direct us to other members for business relationships are implicitly discouraging discussion by promoting the assumption that another member will share and understand your values. That is just a setup for disappointment. So use them if you like, but don’t use them in place of the “values discussion” that may be important for the business relationship.

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