There is an interesting Wikipedia page called “Who is a Jew?“. The entry tries to explain what a “Jew” is, which is complicated because as the article says, it can have cultural, ethnic, religious, political, genealogical and personal dimensions. It is an interesting article, and I recommend reading it.
There are no such pages in Wikipedia for “who is a Catholic/Baptist/Mormon” etc. There are pages for the Mormon church, the Catholic church, and so forth, but there does not seem to be the confusion about “who is”. But looking at the list of dimensions of who can be a Jew, it seems most can be used to determine who is a Mormon. Lets look at each and see if they apply
Culture: Yes on this one. There are culture Mormons. I’m a culture Mormon. I was born in Logan Utah, and then lived in Rexburg ID and Laie Hi, both extremely Mormon towns. My mother baked bread, and we had scones regularly on the days she baked. It was quite a culture shock when I moved to a secular city after leaving Laie. I went from a public school that was 99% LDS, to being one of two members in my new school. To this day I still do “Mormon ” stuff. Even if I was to resign my membership, I would still be a Mormon.
Ethnic: No on this one. This is where we part ways with our Jewish friends. Unless you count the “linage” pronounced in a patriarchal blessing, there is no “ethic” Mormon
Religious: Yes. This is the mechanism where one can become a Mormon by conversion/baptism. This is the most obvious, and the one most people think about when they declare themselves Mormon.
Genealogical: Kind of. While we don’t have rules like in the Jewish faith where you are a Mormon if your mother was a Mormon, there is something to the case that coming from a long line of Mormons give you some Mormonhood. I’m a 5th generation Mormon, with polygamy on my fathers side. Both side came across the plains to migrate to SLC. It’s in my blood
Personal: If I identify as a Mormon, regardless of my official status with the records in SLC, I’m a Mormon. I would say yes, even more so with the Nelson Church disavowing the name Mormon. I could say I’m not LDS, or not a member of TCJCOLDS, but I could still be a Mormon if personally that’s what I feel like
I could write a whole other post of all the different Mormon sects, that all spring from Joseph Smith, and have used the Book of Mormon in one way of another, but that is not this post. They are all Mormons also. This is more about being part of the Brighamite church at one time or another, and using the moniker “Mormon” even if you are not a member of record or don’t attend anymore.
So dear readers, are you a Mormon?
Image by Aline Dassel from Pixabay
Growing up in the 1970’s, less than 10 miles away from the COB, I never considered myself ‘Mormon”. I was LDS!, and active and developing into a TBM: True believing member, not Mormon..
On school forms and all paperwork I always marked the box that said LDS. There was not a Mormon box. Not until ETB sang his Mormon boy song, had I even considered the term.
Sure, the home front commercial series finished with the line from “The Mormons”, but I was LDS. They just used the term to explain to outsiders, but not a term we called ourselves. Maybe, I missed the memo.
On my mission, saying Mormon was almost like an insult people used and close to a vulgar word in Spanish. When I left the jello belt for good and tried to be a missionary, I tried to use the term LDS,, but that sounded to them like LSD. Alas, I started to use the term Mormon church, but still for some reason I never called myself Mormon. Just replaced LDS church for Mormon church. I never participated in the I am a Mormon campaign, and shortly thereafter woke up and was no longer Mormon or LDS.
If more of us had that experience, RMN would have had 1 less revelation.
Personally cheering for Heather from “Housewives” and her “Bad Mormon” lawsuit with The Church. BTW I’m 2/3 of the way finished with her book which is fascinating.
I will occasionally identify as Mormon to create a bit of social distance between myself & peers: I won’t drink or smoke dope w/ you and no, the wife & I aren’t swingers. On the other hand, I am reluctant to propose a lifetime of interminable sacrament meetings where they will hear exactly the same thing week after week after week … Thus my Mormonism remains a private affair and is best described as a dear old hound I just can’t put down.
I’m culturally a Mormon and that’s permanent. I was born and raised within the shadow of the everlasting hills (love that phrase), went on a pioneer trek as a teen, and the Church history museum had a display devoted to my gg-grandma because she kept such an excellent journal. I bake bread from scratch (just like mom taught me) and only quit canning fruit a few years ago. Regardless of my religious beliefs, I’ll never get the culture out of my life and I’m okay with that. I didn’t used to be – I used to want distance, but I’ve reconciled with it.
Genealogically, I’m definitely a Mormon. Pioneer heritage on both sides, and … this one is huge folks (joking), my ancestor got mentioned by name in a footnote in the Work and the Glory series! Remember those books by Gerald Lund? Wow, I owned every single one and read them multiple times. The Steeds were the best. My taste in historical novels has changed since then, but I sure loved those books back in the day.
Religiously, I’m wandering further and further afield. I disagree with most of the Church’s truth claims, though I still believe in personal revelation and the existence of God. I don’t believe in the same sort of God who Pres Nelson is talking to, but I do believe in a higher power.
Personally is a little more dicey. I’ve done some things to make my appearance less Mormon. I’ve got double-pierced ears, a butch haircut, and I wear sleeveless tops in the summer sometimes. My sons self-identify as agnostics. I’m polite when ward members come visit.
I’m a Mormon and will always be by virtue of my cultural upbringing. This is in no way equivalent to being a Jew, which is determined in large part by genetics and biology. However, my Mormon ancestors go back generations. I can’t explain myself and my background without Mormonism and its deep and distinct culture. Mormonism continues to play a huge part in my larger family life. I attend sacrament meeting almost weekly and interact on a daily basis with Mormons, many of whom see me as Mormon by virtue of my historical experience. Do I believe what Mormonism teaches? Mostly no. Would I try to encourage others to be Mormon? No. The way I see it, Mormonism simply is a phenomenon that just is. It is an organization and culture that will persist well into the future well beyond my lifetime. My criticisms of Mormonism will do nothing to harm the organization. At most I could persuade a person or two in my life to stop believing. However, efforts to openly criticize Mormonism mostly come with social cost to me and I don’t find it to be worth my time. Oddly enough, I find that I have more of an impact with my anonymous comments online than I would openly. But oh yes, I’m Mormon. No doubt about it. I could have my membership records removed from the church (which I haven’t and won’t) and I would still be Mormon. I can’t speak for other non-believers. Perhaps a part of them has evolved to the point where you reasonably argue them to be Mormon. But I speak for myself here.
Makes me think of two of my mom’s siblings who left the Church 50+years ago after growing up near Fillmore, Utah and now live in the states of Montana and Washington…wondering how they would respond…
Another question that might be controversial is: who *isn’t* a Mormon? Or rather, when is someone allowed to use the term for someone else? Someone with pioneer ancestors, an LDS religious upbringing, and a continuing Mormon culture might reject the term when they stop coming to church. Likewise, a TBM might have rejected the term ever since Nelson’s announcement. But bloggers and reporters and anthropologists might still use the term to apply to both of these people, even though self-identification is probably the most important factor.
Personally, I like the term, and will probably identify as Mormon regardless of which church I go to.
Being “Mormon” in my youth was fine. But I never consistently described myself as “Mormon” in my adult life until President Nelson’s campaign. Makes me wonder if “Mormons” are now just contrarian free-thinkers in the LDS movement (which I define rather broadly).
The funny part of all of this is that “anti-Mormon” could now be applied to church leaders!
Yes, I still call myself Mormon, although sometimes I clarify with nonbelieving Mormon. My name will remain on the records because of my believing husband. So, I am still considered and counted by the church as a member. My genealogy is solid Mormon. My ancestors 6 generations back all crossed the plains. Two great aunts married Joseph Smith. So, yeah, I am tangled up from the beginnings of Mormonism. One ancestor shows up in church history books and another is quoted on Trek and TV shows about the handcarts. A sister in law who knows my maiden name came to me and was a Trek support missionary, ask if I was related to the guy whose journal they read every night. Yeah great grandpa. There is polygamy in all of those genealogy lines. But, I talk about them reluctantly and never in person and I feel something akin to shame about them that I don’t understand. Culturally, I speak Mormoneese and act and dress very Mormon. I come across as strict Mormon, even though I never never was. I was sort of born on the fringes by two parents who secretly didn’t believe but forced church down our throats to keep the grandmas (both battle axes) happy. I have always been gay accepting and my best friend in the late 60 was a gay guy. So, why strangers peg me as strong TBM, in spite of two set of earrings and no garmies, I don’t know, but I guess I as SO culturally Mormon that I smell of it. Shudder.
According to RMN there are no Mormons. Kind of like there are no homosexuals in the Church (DAB). In both cases, there’s a 1984-like effort to write them out of history.
Anna, for what it’s worth, I absolve you for any responsibility of who and how people you’ve never known married. You are, hereby, free to separate that from any and all portions of Mormon culture you care to own.
When it comes up in conversation, the way I summarize my relationship to this Church is, “I was raised Mormon but I stopped attending a few years ago.” That’s usually enough to signal that I understand the culture but I’m not all-in anymore. Mostly, it doesn’t come up in conversation.
I joined the Church when I was 16. I was not raised in any particular church or religion. My much older sister used to take me to her Baptist church on occasion when I was a child. That is the only reason I knew Bible stories. Yet, from the time I was a young child I sought out God. In my early teens I began visiting every Church I could because I wanted answers to my many questions. A couple of years prior to me joining the Church, my much older brother joined the Church with his wife. Because of him I was introduced to the missionaries. To my amazement at the time, the missionaries had answers to all of my questions. It did not take long for me to join too. After baptism, I immediately got to work learning how to be the very best Mormon I could be. And yes, I referred to myself as a Mormon because that is the only thing my friends in the mid west understood. It took me months to finally learn the tongue twister actual name of the Church. I went on to do the Mormon things of going to Ricks College, serving a mission, marrying in the temple, and raised our kids in a strict Mormon home. I married a man that has a rich history of pioneers on both sides of his family. It’s in his blood. I always felt like I didn’t measure up because I was a convert. I always wondered if his family was disappointed he married me. They have always been very loving, but I wonder if they blame me now for influencing him to become “inactive” as we are. The funny thing is I was always the more strict one when it came to the letter of the law. About the time the Pandemic hit I was wore out and so frustrated that I came from Church crying every Sunday. I desperately needed a break, and to step back and reevaluate how I felt about my relationship with God and this Church. Because it’s just me and my husband at home now, during the Pandemic I was able to spend many hours reading and studying about the history of the Church. Also at this time I found W&T. I have been on quite the educational journey! Both me and my husband have not returned to our local ward, and do not intend to go back. I no longer consider myself a Mormon. I am no longer all-in like I used to be. I am figuring out for myself who I am and what I personally believe now. Me, nor my husband, intend to go to any other Church. I think he will always say he is a Mormon because that is his heritage. It is not mine, even though I gave 35 years of hard work and dedication to the Church. I am done! I tell people that I do not “Mormon” anymore. One of my dearest friends is Jewish and I am having a wonderful time learning about Jewish history, and culture. I don’t think I have ever felt more free and sure of who I am as an individual than I am now. I agree with when people say once you know you can’t go back. It is true for me. I don’t think I will ever be a Mormon again. I still have friends that are Mormon and they accept me for who I am. In other words, you do you and I will do me. I do have to say , though, I am grateful for dear Mormon friends over the years that have taught me so much. Relief Society taught me to serve others. I was never taught that growing up. I was also taught how to public speak. There are many more things I am grateful for, but I have gone on too long.
Like others who have commented, I’m 100% a Mormon culturally and genealogically, whether I want to be or not. Belief-wise I’d say I’m about 50% Mormon, and I still attend church. Personally, when people ask me, I tell them I’m Christian, but I find truth in all religions, Only when pressed will I admit to being Mormon. (I live overseas, so it’s generally non-members asking. If a member asks, I’ll readily state that I’m a member).
Interestingly, my wife was also raised in the church, but she is not culturally Mormon at all (and has a distaste for Mormon culture in general), but she believes quite a bit of LDS doctrine, and her connection with God came from growing up in the LDS church, so she still attends church too. I don’t think she considers herself Mormon, I don’t consider her Mormon, and the Mormons at church are generally sort of perplexed by her.
I think I’m still a cultural Mormon but the more I drink coffee, watch R-rated movies, and use swear words, I have to wonder what kind of cultural Mormon I am. Too young to remember road shows, too old to know what replaced EFY. Still no tats or alcohol for me but other than that I’m not sure how obvious to other people my Mormonism might be. I’m a millennial Mormon with a subconscious that’s deeply awash in Princess Bride quotes, Mormonads, Homestar Runner, and a subtle undercurrent of Hinckley optimism bubbling under the crust of my post-2016 cynicism. Shout out to my fellow 80s baby Mormons!
It’s interesting reading the comments because most commentators are from pioneer stock or at least multi-generational Mormon. My spouse and I were both raised in convert families in different countries from each other. We’re also boomers. My spouse would consider themself fully believing, yet I see a fair bit of nuanced there – abhors a lot of the cultural nonsense. I would describe myself as PIMO but also probably atheist. I believe Christ existed but possibly a very noble charismatic mystic. Joseph Smith likewise shared some of those traits but then went down some very wrong and damaging roads. I’m only really fully out to a handful of people because at my age I no longer have much of a life outside of the church. And why I still check in with places like W&T and a couple of other blogs or groups. I’m not interested in being in negative ExMo groups. We’re lucky to live in a region that still broadcasts sacrament meeting online. I think leadership has recognized that it’s a very good option for people with health or mobility issues. For that reason we don’t attend in person every week which I’m really glad of. We went this morning and honestly it was pretty boring and my spouse said they felt restless too. The pandemic made it easier to step away a fair bit. I haven’t paid tithing for several years and I’ve experimented a little with the WofW – nothing major. I don’t consider it a moral lapse to try things but I’d never developed a taste for the 4 banned things.
So to answer the main question – I guess I still identify as Mormon though I’m embarrassed by it.
I consider myself a dyed-in-the-wool Moron and try on a daily basic to exemplify those characteristics which would make other morons proud to call me one of their own.
Oh, a “Mormon”, you say? Ah,,,never mind.
I’ve aways assumed that the Church leadership pandered to its conservative base. However, with many conservatives showing troubling anti-science feelings—anti-vax, anti-mask, anti-evolution, disbelieving in global warming, etc—I wonder if the leadership is starting to realize that it needs a wider base. That maybe it’s Christ-based theology is too narrow. That more needs to be done to encourage progressive to stay in the Church. Hopefully, in the future, Big Tent will be taken more seriously.
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints also known as the Mormons. I have enthusiastically said so to anyone who wants to know all my life. The RMN emphasis on using the church’s name is no new thing. Previous leaders have encouraged it. Shaming for using the terms LDS or Mormon is new, and unfortunate, as people who struggle with speaking and writing now have no short socially acceptable way to communicate about the church. The shaming creates a problem and excludes people who struggle with this. Members need to loosen up on this point. Membership shouldn’t be about how fast you can salute to the current prophet. Prophets, leaders and their directions and writings are fallible and should be subject to personal revelation, just as Joseph sought personal revelation when his Methodist preacher directed him.
My ancestors came across the plains with the Martin company. I have polygamy on both sides of the family. I served a mission. I married a man of similar background. For us, there is no escaping who we are. It’s cultural and in the blood.
I have deep convictions that the main point is to follow Jesus’ example in how we treat others, and to develop a spiritual connection with God so that we can follow personal revelation in better following Christ. I do not believe that ANY class of people should be marked out as less than and placed under the male presiding hierarchy of the church. I believe if we accepted the full records correctly translated including the gospel of Mary women would be full partners in the church, if we could get past our culture. I think prejudice and exclusion of LGBTQ and past exclusion of different races is not based on anything but culture.
We are very active in the church, however we have often been very uncomfortable. The book “All Things New” by Fiona and Terryl Givens really broke things open for my husband and I. We feel much freer to follow our own personal spiritual authority. It is a great relief for us both. My husband feels somewhat adrift but I feel much more my real self than ever before.
I love reading the various experiences of other people with the church in wheat and tares and other forums. I thirst to read these things and to study all the various history of the church, and different understandings of the records. It widens my view. I love the opportunity to speak up honestly and clearly about my own experiences.
Thank you for offering this forum.
Similar to Janey, I share with people that I was raised Mormon but am no longer practicing. I am disappointed with enough aspects of the institutional church that I don’t want to be associated with it currently.
Mormonism is inside my bones. Even for my youngest child, who will probably barely remember Mormonism as he now grows up without being an active participant, will probably find Mormonism showing up in his life in unexpected ways. It’s our tribe for better or for worse.
I’m Mormon and LDS. I’ve always used both terms. I have pioneer heritage and I’m active in my ward. I’m a (sometimes cranky/contrarian) believer who agrees with almost everything lws329 writes. Mostly commenting just to tell her that – I always enjoy her comments and love how she consistently celebrates the good without ignoring the not-good-needs-improvement aspects of Mormonism.
Cultural Mormon: Yes. Born and raised in an active Utah family.
Religious Mormon: Yes. I still attend weekly.
Genealogical Mormon: Yes. I believe every line in my family tree goes back to someone who made the trip from Winter Quarters to Utah, so I guess that counts, even if the last of them did it by car in 1972.
The question of cultural Mormons is an interesting one, particularly in the case of Chadwick’s kids (for example). Are there cases of people who consider themselves cultural Mormons who never participated in church much past primary? If Chadwick feeds his kids enough fry sauce and funeral potatoes, makes sure they all play the piano, learn to can food, hoard cans of wheat, and say “flip” and “heck”, will they feel Mormon? Is this more possible inside the Jello Belt, or with extended family that is still active LDS? (Chadwick: do you think your older kids feel ‘Mormon’? Would they describe themselves that way?) I have a sister that hasn’t been an active member since before her teenage kids were born. I can’t imagine they would ever describe themselves as Mormon, despite the clear evidences of Mormonism in their mother. (Their father has some distant Mormon ancestry, but was never a member himself.)
I guess what I’m getting at, is are there cultural Mormons who have never in their lives (adult lives? teen/adult lives?) identified as religious Mormons who do identify as cultural Mormons?
I grew up in a TBM (but not stiflingly strict) family, with a long Mormon genealogy on both sides, in Mormon Utah County, with Mormon friends and classmates, served a mission, and was an active, believing participant in the faith until at least my mid-thirties. Somewhat oddly, I guess, I was never a cultural Mormon. I had what seems like an instinctive distaste for the culture. I never wanted to tell people I was a Mormon. Even, or especially, on my mission I was embarrassed about the culture. We would go to breakfast and the waitress would ask if we want coffee, and another missionary would respond with some smug-ness “we don’t drink coffee” and I just wanted to crawl under the table and die even though I really believed every word of it. I was always uncomfortable at church and in particular found the music to be uninspired and boring. I knew at a young age that I had no intention or desire to go to any of the BYUs. I never told anyone I work with that I was a Mormon, though I’m sure they assumed, as I still live in Mormon Utah. Imagine my surprise as I left and learned that many people who leave note the music as being something that they miss! Not criticizing, just interesting to me how people value different things.
This all made it very easy for me to leave. As I deconstructed my faith, I found that not much had to change. I didn’t lose any friends, because my friendships – even the few that I have with fellow Mormons – weren’t based on Mormonism. My marriage wasn’t really _based_ on Mormonism, even though my wife still actively participates in the church. I hadn’t shoved the church down my children’s throats, so I didn’t have to eat my words when I stopped practicing. I haven’t missed it at all, in part or in whole, even once.
How common is it for someone to my Mormon in every way but cultural? More common outside the Mormon belt, perhaps?
Cultural Mormon: Sorta? Maybe? I did the 90’s Youth Stuff and served a mission. I did the marry in the temple thing. I don’t stray from the Word of Wisdom (except in trying to limit sugar intake and take my caffeine outside of from coffee/tea/carbonated soda).
Religious Mormon: Sorta? I don’t attend anymore – but I do “speak the language” and can hold my own in conversation. There are philosophical points in how I view the universe that are distinctly “Mormon”.
Handcart relatives settled down in Idaho – 2 generations of “black sheep” transition from Idaho to California and make it so that my father never attends the LDS church as a kid even though he has active great-aunts/great-uncles and respectfully active aunts and uncles in Utah (at least that is what I have been told).
He discovers the church through a high school friend and serves a mission. He meets his wife at a church function while she is investigating the church.
In other words, I do have “pioneer blood” street cred… and the experiences of being raised by converts.
Personal: Sometimes. Not socially as a default though.
Thank you Athena. Nice to know 😊
How about cultural Catholics? I know lots of Catholics who while largely indifferent to Catholic teachings and not attending church weekly (maybe Christmas or Easter) still wish to have their children baptized, and their first communion and confirmation celebrated (which to them are as much or more cultural milestones as religious rites). Later they may hope their children marry in a Catholic church and when they die, they will have a funeral mass. I would guess there are as many Cultural Catholics as religious Catholics and soon there will be more cultural Catholics.
Cultural: Not really. I very seldom throughout my life have been discovered as a Mormon until I claimed it. I don’t drink coffee or alcohol which should make me easy to spot, yet somehow it hasn’t.
Religious: I’ve done all the things, if that’s what this means: baptism, mission, temple, callings, etc.
Genealogical: Not really. My parents were converts. I mean, I’m connected to a bunch of people in ancestry.com because of family members’ efforts to do geneaology, but I haven’t got one drop of pioneer pedigree blood in me.
Personal: I do totally use the term “Mormon,” which I agree suits me just fine now that Nelson has made it easier to distinguish oneself from the leader-worshipping obedience zombies with such a simple word.
“…the leader-worshipping obedience zombies…”
Nevermo, but I don’t drink alcohol or coffee. I’m a jack gentile.
‘;There are pages for the Mormon church, the Catholic church, and so forth, but there does not seem to be the confusion about “who is”. ‘
Well, if we want to count the number of Catholics, this might mean the number of people who were baptized Catholic, the number who call themselves Catholic, the number who attend mass once in awhile, or the number who agree with the church’s teachings. All are useful.
“Who Is A Mormon”
What is a Catholic
How is Chinese!