What kind of “Mormon” are you?

AdamFMormon 41 Comments

TBM? NOM? Ex? Post? Orthoprax & Unorthodox? Deist? Liberal? Conservative? Orthodox? Fundamentalist? Faithful?

I’m not sure what category, if any, I fit in. Sometimes I think categories are only useful or good for those who are doing the categorizing.

I suppose this post should be titled, “Tell me what kind of Mormon you think I am.” I can never get enough of the Johari Window.

  1. I believe in God – some sort of being that is bigger, stronger, and wiser than the rest of us. I believe our relation to God is a lot like a parent-child relationship. While I don’t claim any scientific knowledge of God, the existence of God makes sense to me. This belief is probably the strongest of all my spiritual beliefs. Whenever I do any real searching, praying, or pondering, I always come back to belief. I can’t shake it.
  2. I believe in Christ. A Savior who will make up for all the ills of the world, especially fear and shame. I don’t believe in Christ to the extent that I believe in God, but something happened during the course of my mission experience that instilled this belief in me.
  3. I don’t smoke. I don’t drink caffeine. I don’t drink alcohol. I don’t even drink soda very often. I don’t use profanity. I occasionally watch “R-rated” movies. I don’t have any earrings or tattoos. Sometimes I buy ice-cream on Sundays. I don’t flaunt any of these things. I do brag about my refusal to do dishes on Sundays, however.
  4. I attend church almost every week. If I had more time I would attend other churches as well, but I barely have time as it is. I don’t like to fast on Fast Sundays. I LOVE to fast on other days, however. It is so much easier on other days to make it meaningful. I have a calling, which I enjoy.
  5. I served a mission. I loved it, and really didn’t want to come home.
  6. I am sealed to my wife. Sometimes I choose to neglect church service to spend more time with my family. My marriage will always come first.
  7. I enjoy the temple. I am really glad the ordinances have changed over the years. I love the symbolism involved with the actual wearing of the temple garments, and believe that individual members know what is best for how to wear them.
  8. I believe everyone has a responsibility to make the most out of what they have been given in life, whether that is in or out of the church.
  9. I believe the “gospel” is bigger than the “church.” I believe the CoJCoLDS is just one of the many influences that God works through to elevate his children, to help them grow. I do see the church as special, but only in different ways from other sources that also have unique things to offer.
  10. I don’t believe God demands “belief” as a prerequisite to charity.
  11. I believe prophets can make mistakes, even on a church-wide level, just as bishops can make mistakes, as can parents. Most of us are generally doing our best. I try hard not to “canonize” (RT Elder Maxwell) our leaders, and never let anything from their mouths into my heart without my intellect and the spirit doing some filtering, as needed.
  12. I believe Joseph was a prophet, but not necessarily more enlightened than say, the Buddha. Again, we are all doing our best. I believe in the Book of Mormon. Whether or not it is “historically” real, I don’t know, but I believe in it.
  13. I believe in birth control, evolution, and that God is still progressing.
  14. I have been guided at times by an unseen force or influence that I believe is from God… or else the still small voice in my head is just a super-good life-navigator. My relationship with my God, my attempts to grow and face my fears, and to serve my family and others are the most important parts of my spirituality. Everything else pales in comparison, including whether or not this is the “Only True” church. I would rather be happy than “right.”

What kind of Mormon am I? Does it matter? I have sometimes felt cautious about sharing some of my views with other members, but when I have things have turned out fine. People don’t always agree, but I’ve found that when I have a good relationship with the other person, they are not threatened. My point in this post is not necessarily to debate the merits of any of my particular views, but to explore what beliefs make one a Mormon, and if categorizing oneself is even a helpful exercise. I’m not sure it is.

What kind of Mormon are you? What beliefs or values do you hold that make you “Mormon”? At what point (e.g. what views) would you say someone is no longer “Mormon”? Why do you feel the need to draw the line? What are you afraid of?

Comments 41

  1. At what point (e.g. what views) would you say someone is no longer “Mormon”?

    When they say “I’m no longer Mormon” then I say, okay, you’re no longer a Mormon.

    What kind of Mormon are you? What beliefs or values do you hold that make you “Mormon”?

    Good question. This assumes that we wish to differentiate ourselves from other people who believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Because while there are variations in what we all believe about who Jesus Christ was, we’re all believers of Jesus Christ.

    The major belief that makes me Mormon as opposed to, say, Evangelical, is my belief that the best explanation for the events of this world, the purpose of this world and the future of this world reside within Mormon theology. Leaving aside whether or not I even have a testimony or revelation from God, this church has the best explanations, and is flexible enough to allow for new understanding. I happened to have prayed to God about whether Joseph Smith was his prophet and the answer was yes. Thus I am a Mormon because I received an answer from God that Joseph Smith was his prophet.

    Culturally I don’t celebrate Pioneer Day. I don’t have any legacy ties to that generation and have an intense dislike of Utah and Utah Mormon culture. However, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is fantastic. We have some excellent hymns (mostly borrowed from Presbyterians and other Protestants), but our hymnal is not large enough. We need far more inclusive music.

    I’m highly disappointed with American conservative Mormonism. I find it highly distasteful, unappealing and unwelcoming. It weighs on the other positives of Mormon culture and church leaders should be aware of this and keep pushing away from the ugliness introduced by the likes of J Reuben Clark and Ezra Taft Benson.

  2. From what you’ve said, I’d tend to put you in the TBM camp. You’re just a bit wicked, that’s all.

    Just kidding. I’m right there with you on almost all of it, and I consider myself a TBM. One place we might differ a bit is that I do believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to be the one true church, even though it isn’t perfect — I just don’t feel everyone needs to join right now, or even that it’s necessarily the best thing for them to do. God seems to have given us a lot of space to circle around and grow. I do believe that everybody will need to make the covenants God has prescribed at some point, but it’s clear that it’s appropriate for many to do that after they die.

  3. cantiflas,

    Yes, I lived in Utah from December 1994 through April 2001 with various times away for a mission and summers in Alaska. I graduated from BYU.

  4. I only know what some of those acronyms and prefixes at the beginning of your post mean.

    And I find myself agreeing with just about everything you’ve listed, so I guess that makes us the same “kind” of Mormon, huh? I do have to disagree about the dishes, though. If I need to do them on Sunday and I don’t then I will be Punished From On High (read: wife). 😉

  5. J Reuben Clark is the one who thought that the arms race and the U.S. invasion of the Soviet Union (google Archangel if you didn’t know about it) were foolishness. He may have had his mistakes, but you unfairly demean the man if you think to shoe horn him as a conservative in the classic mold. He served a long time, at great sacrifice, far more than most of us would consider.

  6. I believe in God, in Jesus Christ, and that Divinity specifically called forth the Restoration for a purpose within history. That’s enough for me to consider myself Mormon and to dintinguish myself from fellow Christians given other missions.

  7. Interesting, I would like to add my flavor to the post.

    I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior, Joseph Smith is a prophet and the BOM are true because I prayed for an answer and received an answer.

    I consider myself “orthodox” (rather than fundamentalist) but do not practice anything but modern Mormonism though believing in the principles the founders taught.

    I don’t believe the word of wisdom is a commandment but I do my best to keep them because it is wisdom from God.

    I believe in the literal gathering of Israel and the formation of Zion on the American continent before the second coming.

    I believe the Church from top to bottom has ignored the warnings of prosperity and pride layed out in the BOM, beware the coming fall from grace.

    I believe that the Church is dependent on the Priesthood but that the Priesthood is not dependent on the Church.

    I believe we will all see many things in our lifetimes that will test our faith to its limits.

    I believe I am part of the problem and seek forgiveness and humility from God.

    I sit next to you on Sunday and you would never know I believe this way because it is anathema to talk of these things in Church. ( at least from my experience)

    I believe what is promoted as Zion is Babylon complete with money changers in the Temple.

    I believe God will has much greater things in store for us.

  8. I sit next to you on Sunday and you would never know I believe this way because it is anathema to talk of these things in Church

    That’s most unfortunate. May we arrive at a point in the future as a group of saints where this is different.

  9. Adam F –“I believe in the Book of Mormon. Whether or not it is “historically” real, I don’t know, but I believe in it.”

    What do you mean you believe in the Book of Mormon? You believe is it historical instead of know, or does believe in the book mean something else? This question isn’t leading anywhere. I am always looking for different ways to somehow make my connection with Mormonism less anxiety-filled.

  10. Thanks for all the comments!

    RE: “we’re less alone than it seems” – that’s what I’ve been thinking as well, but I’ve been wondering how “safe” it is to be a little more open in church. I don’t feel any of my views are that controversial, but I don’t want to lose credibility (well, influence, actually) among the rest of the faithful. It’s good to know that many here would still consider me a “TBM.” 😉 It seems many comments here suggest the same thing – there are a lot of members with similar beliefs.

    RE: the “one true church” – I think I’m agnostic on that (although you need to check with Andrew S to see if my use of the term is correct). I don’t “know” if the church is the one true church. It actually doesn’t concern me, I guess. If it is, great, I’m in the right place. If it’s somewhere else on the spectrum, then great, I’m in a good place.

    RE: dishes on Sunday – When I was a newlywed I declared (with perhaps some unrighteous use of patriarchal stubbornness) that I wasn’t going to do dishes anymore on Sunday, that the Sabbath was to be a day of rest. Now I actually do the dishes some weeks, and feel happy about it. Go figure.

    RE: J Reuben Clark – I haven’t read it yet, but D Michael Quinn has a bio of Clark that I have at home–I’ve heard it’s really good. My father, who is more liberal than I am in the political department, LOVES Clark (but not Benson). Go figure again.

    RE: Arnster – I love me some cherry 7up on the rocks.

    RE: Andrew S #16: “Give Jen Niblets. Now”
    *Sending letter to Those Other Blogs Who Took Back Niblets, to Give Jen Niblets. Now.”

    RE: Hebron 17 – Thanks for sharing! I love that this can be a safe(r?) testimony pulpit. As Vin said, I hope to that we can be more open AND accepting, as a group. I know many individuals are.

    Re: Holden & BoM historicity – good question. Like the “one true church” issue, I think I’m agnostic on the historicity of the BoM. I know it’s cliché, but “I can’t deny” my positive subjective experiences with the Book of Mormon. After a lot of thought I realized none of those experiences confirmed the historicity of the book for me, which does leave the door open for “inspired fiction,” but I don’t necessarily believe that either. I totally believe it’s “True” in terms of its force of goodness and inspiration in my life, and ability to help me experience what I would call “the sacred” but I’m not reasonably “sure” if it’s historical. Part of me thinks it probably is, but part of me doubts. Either answer (it’s real, or it’s not) doesn’t have THAT much bearing on my life. If it came to be that it was objectively confirmed to be historical fact, I wouldn’t change my way of life, nor would my beliefs change much. Some people certainly claim they “know” this or that and I’ve tried to learn to be fine with that, and look at where they are coming from, just as I would hope they would do the same.

  11. And now for something completely different:

    I’m in the metaphorical, comparative religion camp that acknowledges cultural and historical influences on the type of religious metaphor that can move me.

    1. I don’t believe in a God with flesh and bones as tangible as humans, unless of course it is a metaphor for the God-like qualities of all humans. We did create God in our own likeness after all. All my praying, fasting and contemplation has lead me to believe that whole heartedly, it is a conviction I cannot shake.
    2. Jesus the historical figure is believable as a radical reformist. We are all saviors and it is up to us not to act like The Savior, but to be Saviors for those around us. Empathy and compassion, not blood are the only elements of the atonement that make sense to my belief.
    3. I’ve smoked — don’t like it, except for an occasional cigar. I drink lots and lots of caffeine in all forms. I imbibe in alcohol on occasion. I don’t drink soda often. I use language to communicate in the most truthful way I know how and if that includes dropping an occasional f-bomb when appropriate, I have no trouble letting it fly. I occasionally watch porn and like it. R-rated movies can be dreck or the best. I don’t have any earrings or tattoos. Sunday is a social construct.
    4. I attend church for special family events — marriages, funerals, the not named “farewells and homecomings”, baptism.
    5. I served a mission. I loved part of it, hated part of it, and was really glad that wasn’t the best two years of my life.
    6. I am sealed to my ex-wife, who is married to someone else. I’m madly in love with my wife and have an eternal bond with her that no religion can convey, even metaphorically.
    7. I enjoyed the idea of the temple, but in practice it was lacking. I resent the self-righteous use of religious wear.
    8. I don’t believe that there is a duty to fulfill some abstract moral obligation. Moral thought and action are a creation of mature, civilized, non-tribal thinking.
    9. I believe art, science and literature are the best forms of finding out the true gospel of humanity.
    10. Charity suffereth long and is not puffed up and isn’t tied in any way to belief in the supernatural.
    11. I believe humans, regardless of their title, make mistakes. I believe Joseph Smith and the admonition to figure things out for yourself and be OK with the result that they are all wrong.
    12. I believe Joseph had more hair than Buddaha (at least in his jovial configurations). The Book of Mormon is an intriguing work from mid-19th Century America that illuminates the religious themes of the “burned over districts” of northern New England. It is also an interesting mythologizing of much of Americana.
    13. I have been guided at times by what I thought was an unseen force or influence. I have come to believe that since that force continued regardless of my behavior and adherence to so-called commandments. The guidance persists despite the behavior, then the guidance is from within, not without. I would rather be happy than “right” and even more importantly, I’d rather my fellow humans be happy than “right.”

  12. Post

    Thanks for the comment. Interesting that your “testimony” here was so similar in format to mine. 😉 I actually don’t think you’re all that different. In some ways sure, but in other ways not at all.

  13. Actually Adam, I think our similarities was at least part of what I wanted to illustrate. (I also noticed that your original post had at least a passing nod to that whole 13 Articles of Faith format.) Insert annoying emoticon here.

  14. Post
  15. AdamF–

    Interesting post and comments.

    My point of view is that all who have faith sufficient to call themselves a Mormon are on the path to salvation. Inherent in that statement is that wherever one is on the path they can, if they will, advance in “righteousness”. The Lord will work with us until we either accept or reject His invitation to be a joint-heir.

  16. I believe in God, in Jesus Christ, and that Divinity specifically called forth the Restoration for a purpose within history. That’s enough for me to consider myself Mormon and to dintinguish myself from fellow Christians given other missions.

    I believe I am part of the problem and seek forgiveness and humility from God.

    I sit next to you on Sunday and you would know exactly what I believe because I bring it up and talk about it every week

  17. I wrote up a list of beliefs in response to a similar question when I joined some Mormon mail list a long time ago (maybe Scripture-L?) I prefaced it with “Labels are for cans — GHWB,”

    I don’t believe in orthodox Mormonism. Mormonism is inherently and inevitably heretical, so there can be no orthodoxy.

    I don’t believe in fundamentalist anything. As described in the Virtual Church of the Blind Chihuahua (which I highly recommend), fundamentalism is “the idolatrous worship of one’s belief.” I don’t believe in worshiping anything but God.

    I’m a Mormon who makes Mormons (and non-Mormons) uncomfortable because I like talking about things they don’t like to hear or think about.

    I’m with you on most of your statements (didn’t go on a mission, planning my divorce when I have the money for it, some other minor differences), particularly in not knowing what the BoM is, but believing in it anyhow.

  18. I’m not always sure what kind of Mormon I am. This is the kind of Mormon I would like to be . . . “I would like to be known as one who loves (my) brothers and sisters.” President Spencer W. Kimball

    That’s the kind of Mormon I have the most respect for. Thankfully, I know many of them. Nothing else really matters to me (or to most people) in the end.

  19. Post

    Jon – that’s one thing I love about blogs – I have met so many people who “have left the church, but can’t leave it alone” who are also very kind, intelligent people. I have quite a few “Ex” friends, including one who was in the MTC with me (he left the church after his mission). Anyway, people like you and Andrew S and others I think bring a kind yet challenging viewpoint that has been influential for me and my thoughts on religion and spirituality.

  20. I would like to raise a different question that is implicit in the post but which has not been explored fully so far, I think.

    Your post seems to interrogate the use of categories and then to resist being categorised? Why then does it matter what kind of Mormon you are, if it is not important if you are Mormon or not? If this is not important to you then why raise the questions in the post?

    I should add that I can agree with much of your faith and have no problem with your expressions of your faith I only am not sure how you resolve the implications of your questions and your post. I am not sure I can agree with what you say about categories, I think it is futile to resist them. Thus there is, for me, a sense in which deciding whether we are Mormon or not is important.

  21. I don’t think it’s the categorization itself that is problematic, but that the systems of categorization we use which are problematic.

    For example, “Mormon” or “non-Mormon” or “ex-” or whatever categorizations…are they really as important as categorizing “charitable” people from “noncharitable” people (for example)?

  22. Re categories:
    I think the biggest problem with categories is simply the inadequate number of them, and the poor boundaries and definitions we use to describe each one. If there were infinite categories, and each was well defined with proper borders, I would have no problem inserting myself into a category. This then begs the question of why not have each person be his/her own category? And that’s exactly what I try to do.

    Re Adam
    Thank you very much for the post. Very well said. I think I lie somewhere between you and Ulysseus. I prefer not to carve out my beliefs/views in list form, mostly because I prefer to be viewed as my own unique category rather than trying to fit my views into a category or be fitted into a category by others.

    My response to most questions about belief would be “I don’t know.” But there is one thing I do know, and that’s that I try to learn about, understand, empathize with, and otherwise walk in the moccasins of my fellows. I feel good when I do what I think is right!

    Re Ulysseus
    You’re awesome!

  23. I find myself drawn to AdamF’s list on the whole and find it an apt description of myself as well, with the caveat that Ulysseus’s 9-11 fit me particularly well, and the historical Jesus is perhaps even trickier to pin down than the historicity the BOM. I think professions of faith (testimonies in LDS vernacular) should focus on beliefs, not on what we don’t believe or doubt. And you never get into trouble with your fellow members for things you don’t say. 🙂

  24. Aaron – Sorry, I’m feeling a bit dense, but I don’t understand what you mean. Perhaps that’s because I don’t understand what my post is apparently saying, ha! I think one point I wanted to make that probably didn’t come through in the post is a tendency that I have seen for some to exclude others as not being “real” Mormons. An obvious example would be the stuff at BCC and elsewhere apparently (I say apparently because I’m not really involved in it) shunning Mormon Matters as not part of the bloggernaccle or etc. I have seen the same pattern among members – e.g. “he’s not a real member” or etc. At times I have even felt this way myself about people more to the “left” (for lack of a better term) on the spectrum, which I am ashamed to admit. I have worked to understand this reaction and why someone with much less “orthodoxy” than myself may be a threat to me if they call themselves “Mormon.” That was my intent by “where do you draw the line” and “what are you afraid of.”

  25. Stephen M
    I think that it is good that you speak your mind and ask questions in church. I do this as well but I guess my point was that I keep to myself the points of doctrine that go against the spoken word of the current leadership.

    Blain expresses his disbelief in orthodoxy but I know of no other place to list myself. Take for instance the Adam/God doctrine. From all I have studied and fasted and prayed about I find that the journal of Mosiah Hancock, the King Follet discourse and Brigham’s 1852 general conference talk to be clear and unmistakable.
    So we have a church that can bring new revelation, thats fine. I find though that the nature of God is not something that can be changed. One of the teachings has to be incorrect. The meat of that is for another post though.

    Point is all that will be accomplished by me talking about it is trouble since it is against the current teachings.
    It feels nice to be able to talk of these things, thank you all for being so kind and I find all of the opinions fascinating.
    When you boil all religion down I feel that if it is not shaping you to be a better person, what is the point?

  26. 37 — You see no place for yourself other than Orthodox Mormonism, and then you illustrate that by means of your belief in Adam/God?


    Perhaps you are defining “orthodox” to mean “correct doctrine to the best of your understanding,” but, if Mormonism had such a thing as heresy, Adam/God would be heretical in a way that very few doctrines can be. Orthodoxy, as I understand it, is about stating beliefs in agreement with what has been defined as correct by TPTB, and that’s not what you’re displaying. FWIW, when Orson Scott Card told me he was “Ultra-orthodox Mormon,” I didn’t agree with him either, but I think you’re working from similar definitions.

  27. re 38

    I use the term “orthodox” for lack of a better term. Generally speaking, I believe in the doctrine taught mostly in the Joseph Smith to Journal of Discourses era. I don’t have to list the doctrines for you to understand that this doesn’t fly in the 8th ward Sunday school discussions but Adam/God is the tip of the iceberg.

    I have read a number of your posts and perhaps you can relate to my position in that I don’t believe these doctrines because they are comfortable or because I want to be controversial. It is merely the impressions of God that has caused me to believe this way. After all I am a person who first studied the BofM so I could intelligently articulate the falsehoods of it to all the Mormons I grew up with. I tell you it was a big crow to eat when God sent a message to me telling me it was true.

  28. 39 — I can relate to your position, although I don’t share it, and I’m not sure what a better label would be. And I’m not sure I have a suggestion where to go when you’ve rejected, effectively, the principle of continued revelation by rejecting the product of it. In no way am I questioning your sincerity here — I’ve seen no sign that you’re doing other than trying to live consistently with the light you’ve been given.

    For me, I find few doctrines that matter much — and Adam/God doesn’t matter to me either way — so I find those ideas interesting, and great for spawning more thinking about things, but not something I need to pick a fight about.

    I’m afraid I’m no help to you at all. Sorry.

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