Sunday, July 12, 2009

Types of Mormons and Non-Mormons

* These terms are not set in stone and other people on the Internet and elsewhere may define these terms slightly differently. Let me begin by saying I think all labels are problematic in that they don't fully cover all of a person's opinions and their unique personality. I personally reject all identity labels and prefer to think of everyone as one humanity; so I prefer to just be called a human being. However, some labels can be useful in that they can show that not all self-labled Christians, Jews, Muslims, Atheists, etc. are the same. For example, there are different types of atheists (e.g. weak and strong, etc) and different types of Christians (progressive and fundamentalist, etc). So I present these labels as my opinion to show that not all Mormons are the same and each believing-Mormon and former-Mormon should be understood individually and we should avoid lumping everyone into one narrow category; and also to help us understand the differences and similarities between the many types of Mormons and Non-Mormons.

Iron Rod Mormon or TBM (True Believing Mormon): these Mormons obey all the rules of conduct as prescribed by LDS leaders and tow the doctrinal line. They pray, pay, and obey and honor their leaders holding to the metaphorical rod of perceived LDS righteousness. They swear allegiance to the LDS articles of faith, and maintain LDS standards of moral purity. They hold to the central claims of Mormonism: the Standard Works, the Articles of Faith, and official LDS dogma.

TBMs come in two main varieties: McConkie style Mormons (or Packer-Mormons) and David O McKay style Mormons. A third type are various types of Mormon apologists who tend to know more than the rank and file Mormon. There appears to be two main types of apologists as well: like Daniel C. Peterson and Blake Ostler for example.

Mormon aologists often hold radical views that to the rank and file Mormon may seem heretical. For example, while many Mormons have the book Mormon Doctrine by McConkie in their home, I have heard several Mormon apologists from the Maxwell Institute disparage McConkie’s book Mormon Doctrine and some also don’t agree with Boyd K. Packer on several issues.

Cultural Mormons (New Order Mormons and/or Sunstone Mormons). An LDS member in good standing, who culturally identifies as Mormon, and who behaves like a Mormon following the rules of conduct and are active at church but doubt all or most of LDS doctrines.

Inactive Mormon: a Mormon who believes in all or some of LDS claims but for a variety of reasons doesn’t attend church or LDS activities. Many Inactive Mormons are Jack Mormons and/or Boomerang Mormons, see below.

Jack Mormons: Inactive Mormons who socialize with all types of Mormons regularly but are lax when it comes to following all the rules, especially the Word of Wisdom or the Law of Chastity, etc.

Boomerang Mormon: this is a Jack Mormon who instead of staying inactive their whole life, as many Jack Mormons do, are like a wild horse let loose from the corral to sow its oats but has been mentally conditioned to return back home. For example, many Jack Mormon girls will date other Jack Mormon guys and even Non-Mormons for a time but eventually boomerang back to being “good girls” and seeking a Return Missionary and/or an active true believing Mormon to take them to the temple.

Former Mormon: someone who was once a member of the LDS church but has left because they no longer believe the Mormon Church is what it claims to be. There are two types of former Mormons:

Exmormons: Those who are intellectually convinced the church is not what it claims to be; is often bitter and angry with the church hierarchy for lying to them. Some exmormons resign while others leave their names on the roles simply because they haven’t bothered to have them removed. Although some exmormons carry no ill feelings and brush off their experience in Mormonism as a learning experience and move on nearly unaffected at all. Usually the level of emotional, intellectually, and physical commitment, time, and money the person devoted to Mormonism will determine their feelings toward the church when they leave.

Post-Mormon: same as Exmormon in that they are intellectually convinced the church is not what it claims to be. Some people define the post-mormon as someone who has gone through the recovery process most ex-mormons are still traveling through, and are ready to move on with their life. Since they no longer define themselves as ex-LDS and are now post-LDS they tend to be friendlier and more accepting of the LDS church as a whole.

Note: many people use the terms exmormon and postmormon interchangeably as synonymous resulting in no clear distinction between either term.


Some Mormon apologists have specific people they have in mind when using the term anti-Mormon. LDS apologist John A. Tvedtnes explains that:

A non-Mormon who writes about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not necessarily an anti-Mormon, even if he gets some of his facts wrong. To me, an anti-Mormon is one who deliberately misrepresents the facts about the LDS Church and its scriptures, either by outright falsehood or by faulty logic or by innuendo. (Source)

I am a post-Mormon but not an anti-Mormon as Tvedtnes chooses to define the term. I do not deliberately misrepresent the facts about the LDS Church and its scriptures. In fact, I take great pains to verify all my sources and welcome correction from any "friendly editor." Then again, I don’t know any former Mormons (Christian or non-Christian) who fit that definition either.

I do occasionally find myself correcting some fellow Mormon critics when they sometimes get a few facts wrong here and there, but I don’t know of anyone deliberately and intentionally misrepresenting the facts, with the exception of maybe Ed Decker and his film The God Makers 2; which was critiqued by the Tanners themselves. However, even though many former Mormons like the Tanners, and myself for that matter, object to some of Ed Decker’s work, I wouldn’t call him an anti-Mormon because he doesn’t try and physically harm Mormons individually and is not against Mormons as persons; he just objects to Mormon theology and gets some things wrong.

I personally think the word anti-Mormon is a term that should be reserved for those who are prejudiced against Mormons just because they are "Mormon" and/or actually attack and cause physical harm to Mormons individually (or intend to) as in the early days of the LDS church. I don’t know of any such persons nowadays. The term anti-Mormon sounds a lot like anti-Semite and carries the same pejorative meaning in the minds of many LDS. Thus, I consider it a form of slander when someone calls another person or group anti-Mormon just because they oppose LDS theology and critique Mormon doctrines.

Would Jesus endorse the Mormon Corporation?

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