Who is a Cultural Mormon?

Andrew SAnti-Mormon, apostasy, Culture, diversity, international, Mormon, Mormons, obedience 69 Comments

First, Happy Independence Day (yay)!

…so I was digging through classic Mormon Matters and found Clay’s discussion asking: how much does church activity has to do with being Mormon anyway? He opened with something interesting:

Not so long ago, when I would hear about someone who didn’t go to church at all or have any interest in returning would refer to themselves as Mormon, I would be annoyed that they still identified themselves that way. I used to see being Mormon as a choice, as a religious path, and if you aren’t choosing it then you only make a bad name for the rest of us… or so I felt at that time.

I was excited…a post aimed at me! Yet later (the very next sentence), he writes:

Yet, it seems there is something deeply cultural about being Mormon, especially those raised or at least members from a young age.


So, I thought…Most of us recognize the depth of Mormonism as a culture. (If you don’t, I’ll submit that you’re behind the times and T&S has already jumped aboard). If so, I think Clay’s next question (again, the very next sentence), is good:

How much does your activity in church determine how “Mormon” you really are?

(I promise I’m not just stealing Clay’s post. Seriously.)

The question is…what are the traits that make Mormonism endure as a culture and not simply religion? When people leave certain religions, the break is clean. Many people don’t linger for years and years as an “ex-Baptist,” for example. But with our church, we have that famous phrase about people who “leave the church but can’t leave it alone.” (And I’m under e-indictment for being an anti-Mormon, of all things, because of such a claim.) You may similarly know “lapsed Catholics” or  “secular Jews” (let’s ignore the elephant of actual ethnicity for that one).

With Mormonism in particular, we have a particularly strange phenomenon where ex-members can end up being vehemently opposed to the church, but they simply are not able to move away from their old heritage. Ignoring any possible faith-promoting answers (“ooh, that’s the Holy Ghost~!”), we can at least realize that we have a pervasive culture in our hearts. And it may be a good idea to delve deeper in how or what this culture is, so we can (try to) improve it.

From a comment a long time ago on the unlikeliest of places (Prop 8 day at LDS & Evangelical Conversations blog), Seth R. from Nine Moons remarked [I hope my comment patchwork isn’t a misinterpretation]:

I’d have a much easier time renouncing US citizenship than my faith. I don’t feel that (“American” describes me a whole lot more comprehensively than “Mormon”). I felt more in common with Mormons in Japan than I do with people in my own town right now.

I was impressed with these comments, so I posted about it a while back. As a military kid, I can certainly agree that I don’t feel I have a “home” in any one location or nation, but I most certainly have a lot in common with fellow Mormons. We share a language.

But indeed, I do present a conundrum, as Clay points out. Can a nonbeliever be Mormon just because he was raised that way? Does it have anything to do with being born into the church? Hawkgrrrl wrote a comment to Clay’s post:

I think there is a difference between a convert who leaves the church and one who was BIC and leaves the church. In the former case, there would probably be less “residual Mormanity” than in the latter case. Being raised Mormon (vs. being a previously practicing Mormon).

Is that so? I talked with BHodges at Life on Gold Plates and he made an interesting point for BIC ex-mormons who relinquish their “residual Mormanity.”

Do regionalisms matter? Am I less culturally Mormon because I’ve never lived in Utah? Because I am thankful for rain, not moisture? In the past, BCC has had a Mormon culture tournament…could we make an accurate cultural literacy test from it?

Cultural Mormonism has been viewed as that weird Utah thing, something that degrades true religion. On the other hand…children with Mormon identities, as long as they are happy with this identity, indeed “never depart” from it. (If they are unhappy with it, they also never depart from it, and that produces bad consequences for all.) What say you?

If cultural Mormonism is focused in the Jello Belt, then what does that say about a religion that thrives from converts (especially converts in other nations)? While it seems intuitive to say a Utah Mormon understand culture more than a Japanese Mormon…it seems contradiction.

I have my eye on correlation. With correlation, every ward gets a similar foundation. So, the basic LDS lingo is the same everywhere. This, in combination with the church’s many activities, opportunities, standards, and practices, should “socialize” members who will attend for a critical period. So, perhaps it is that one must be active for some critical period to be socialized, and then they become culturally Mormon, regardless of future activity. This would allow for Seth to identify with the other Japanese saints, while allowing for regionalist distinctions. This will also allow for a culture that one doesn’t easily depart from, even when they want to.

And so, as a new question that has sprung about, what do you think about the pervasiveness of the culture? What does it mean for ex-members who remain? Does it possibly work against the church to create anti-Mormons? And who is anti- anyway? Is it anyone who disbelieves and speaks about it?

Comments 69

  1. Many people don’t linger for years and years as an “ex-Baptist,” for example.

    Actually one of my (non-religious) colleagues explained one cultural trait of his by telling us he was raised Southern Baptist. (I forget the precise details.) It was interesting because he born and raised in Chicago.

    It may have something to do with a religion spreading the culture of its base (geographical) region to other regions.

  2. I find it difficult to continually consider the aspects of “living” 7 “being” a religion separated from the actual points of “labeled” a follower of a religion, but with the possibility of not believing it (NOT really following it’s tenets and principles. In other words, those that “talk the talk” it generally, but do not “walk the walk”.
    Since spirituality is such a diverse, multi-layered portion of each person, with many many levels of devotion, testimony, comprehension, and true ‘fruits’ of discipleship, to me, there are JUST two groups of Mormons. But my two groups are relegated with respect to “with a SURE testimony, one who bears the fruits of Christ and SINCERELY follows our doctrine and principles) as opposed to NON believer……who, from their lack of faith or sincerity….is struggling, but has definitely MADE THE CHOICE of REJECTING the whole of the restored gospel. Christ said, (loose quote) “I would have you be either HOT or COLD, NOT lukeward, lest I spew you out”
    WHY do I read about SO MUCH fence sitting?
    WHY SO MUCH discussion about a “CULTURAL” side to religion.
    Following Christ……and a religion based on restoration of HIS ways (if you have a testimony that indeed Mormonism IS FULL RESTORATION OF SUCH) – WHY is there such leeway for nicky picky asides from the PURE points of the religion?????
    One is either a complete true pure MORMON or NOT>
    The fruits of the presence of the Holy Ghost are either there or NOT. NO fruits = NO Holy Ghost.
    NO fruits of Mormonism = NON believer.
    Not just talk, pedantics, ….let’s get “REAL” here.
    Mushy Mushy gets you vomit.
    Clear concise requirements get you definite proof.
    Remember the “mists of darkness” in Lehi’s vision?????
    All this confused talk, definitions, “jello” descriptions about culture does really SHOW……related to a MIST. Is it not?
    From most of the posts on the LDS sites, it seems the majority of bloggers are concerned with the side bars of religious practice…Mormonism and every other form of doctrine. Might I say….every “wind” of doctrine blowing here and there.
    Might I call for a rally of the troops?
    Could we heed a warning call to all out there that there are MORE important issues of THIS day than cultural practices and mid-lane driving practices. Your eternal souls are at stake here guys, NOT your “somebodies using the wrong lingo in this blog” issue.
    Let’s GET REAL, and DISCUSS the REAL things at the HEART of
    eternal progression…….eternal results of really LIVING
    the doctrines, in our hearts, minds, with all our might and strength.
    It’s very possible that we all are REALLY going to need the
    MEAT very soon, since MILK sours quickly and won’t sustain us.
    A day may come very soon when CULTURAL things or leanings will NOT keep us alive…..or together….or able to withstand the persecutions to come…the opposition that’s breaking up families and the sanctity of our whole beings.
    Save our SOULS, not our soles !!!

  3. Sorry I was not precise in previous post….in a nutshell to respond to the author today…….I believe a CULTURAL mormon is an internal reflection of their testimony…..and it would literally mean, “I don’t really believe”…..thus using a term CULTURAL to soften the possibility of any negative connotation with the fear of being really HONEST about your base inner
    belief and commitment. IN or OUT…..REAL or FALSE….TRUE BLUE through and through or NOT. “Cultural Mormon” title is a “cop-out” not caused by country, neighborhood, up-bringing or career choice….YES, there are cultural aspects to being a member…..(believing or not believing). BUT the sides of living in Utah or any ward, anywhere are NOT what MAKES US in our soul. We never gave a sure testimony because we ate Jello for lunch!!!!! or rice in Japan, or rissoles in Australia.
    You ALL KNOW it’s because the Holy Ghost…all over the world, give us the conviction spirit to spirit. Undeniable proof.
    Hope that clears up my intent!
    Happy FOURTH of July. God Bless America.

  4. Post

    re 1:

    chanson, interesting account and hypothesis. I know a lot of southern baptists, but wouldn’t be able to test anything about the “spreading beyond geographical base” because some would say I live in the “base” (although I like to think Texas and OK are more southwest than South). I don’t think it’s strange that he would say he was raised Southern Baptist rather than regular Baptist though…because Southern Baptism (is that the noun form?) is indeed the specific denomination, even if you, say, grow up in Chicago. The SBC just happens to be the largest Protestant denomination.

    re 2, 3:

    Thanks for the comments, Sharon. I’d just have a question…so you view cultural Mormonism as a bad thing, because it keeps people “lukewarm,” “on the fence,” etc., Would you rather have people on the fence or force people in and out (where many people could certainly, by your own words, be forced out for nonbelief, and maybe become resentful of the church and hostile to it, instead of being “lukewarm” cultural members)? And what would you do to change the fact that there is such a strong cultural component to the church?

  5. Dear Andrew S: No, I don’t view cultural Mormonism as a BAD thing. The term itself, or the practice of just living mormonism culturally is sad and regressive, in that a person is basing their life on almost invisible standards that fluxuate and change according to whim, time period in a decade, generational standards, media demands or visions..like TV or movies….culture is such a mediocre part of a human experience. It is in our hearts and minds where the true person lives, not what they eat or do as an Saturday hobby.
    All lukewarm members are not cultural members. The term cultural could be pure celestialism as well. You are very right about there being a strong cultural component to the church. I am trying to separate the condition of the soul from the cultural part. Prophets can be very culturally attuned. Apostates can be very culturally attuned. I NEVER would feel or think anyone should ever be forced out and am sorry that it sounded in that direction. We in and of ourselves are making our own decision every moment who and what we worship and how we act thereto accordinly. So when I say there is a diving line, the part that is cultural…in being a Mormon is a multi-applicable term to any spiritual state / and any level of understanding of doctrine. My emphasis is on grading ourselves on true Mormonism, not by a cultural standard, but by a pure spiritual standard – against diligence, faithfulness, hope, love, and putting into ACTION all the principles of Godliness ……to the BEST of our understanding and commitments we have made (baptismal covenant) (temple covenants)…….Ordinance of the SAcrament each Sunday. Non of the covenants are cultural. They are spiritual. Even the internet has it’s own culture. Yes?
    I love it because I can voice my testimony and share feelings with diverse brothers and sisters across the globe, members and non-members alike. I am responsible to share once I KNOW.
    And I have a love for all mankind that is deep and driven to
    lift all whom I come in contact with. I sincerely hope I am
    more clear this time about how I view the subject of “CULTURE”
    and how I feel it affects being a Mormon!
    Thanks AndrewS. I DO understand there are a lot of members who are “lukewarm” and “on the fence”. We ALL CAN and DO determine for ourselves, and are empowered to do so, WHERE we are at this moment……AND are promised by heaven to obtain HELP from heaven, even if by legions of angels or God himself, help to turn the lukewarm self into complete understanding and peace….receiving revelation to do so, get answers, even miracles to change things around.
    We NEVER have a burden or question too dumb, or too hard, that Christ himself did not experience, or that he could not succor us……..HE DID SUFFER ALL things that he might KNOW how we feel and why we feel it.
    WE HAVE TO CHOOSE TO trust him and RECEIVE the Atonement.
    That gets everyone, IF THEY SO CHOOSE, to get OFF the fence.
    WE CAN CHOOSE. It’s our decision and power.
    Part of the process of dividing the “sheep” from the “wolves” is who listens to the true VOICE, (my sheep shall know my voice), and follow, ……..off the fence……jumping off because they asked for help, answers, heard the voice, knew it was truth, knew it was more important than the “fashion of the day – (tattoos) – felt His love, His calling to them – and came running to Him, or RETURNED to Him after being away (participation in anti-mormon sentiments)……had truth RING in their hearts and then that word mean’t more than ANY CULTURAL thing.
    Lastly, I don’t want to change any strong cultural component to the church. It is a wonderful mortal adjunct and necessary thing to living a full ‘mormon’ life. I just would advise selecting the BEST and FINEST quality of all cultural things so that they would enhance and support a celestial oriented mortal life.

  6. PS: If a person is chosing, no matter for what reason, to be JUST a ‘cultural’ Mormon and not ‘jump into’ FULL testimony with it’s predictable fruits…..ie., remain ‘lukewarm’ or ‘on the fence’, it is not mine to judge. They alone are determining their own path, happiness, results, energy patterns, interactions with others and life. I definitely am not judging that. I just believe that a ‘cultural’ mormon does not truly and accurately describe any culturally oriented person’s spiritual state. That is a separate issue.
    We each have our own journey with it’s hills and valleys, jello or not !!! LOL

  7. Post

    re 5 and 6:

    Sharon, lemme see if I get you.

    So what if a person lives the commandments, reads the scriptures, seeks and prays with a sincere heart for faith, testimony, answers, but does not get any answers? What is he?

    I’m thinking he’s most certainly a cultural Mormon, because he lives the commandments and does all of the “Mormon” things…but I’m thinking that without spiritual witness, you might not want to call him a believer. So, forgetting the jello (because you may not have jello anywhere else but Utah, but you *will* have commandments everywhere in the church), what is it that makes the distinction?

  8. Culture exists in every human interaction, but it functions in different places at extremely different levels of sophistication. The rise of corporate Mormonism since the 1960s has been inimical to the development and flowering of Mormon culture. Correlation and increasing insistence that obedience to central authority creates is the sine qua non of Mormonism creates a kind of culture: monoculture.

    McDonalds has a culture: a corporate culture. It functions very well to make sure that the Bic Mac I buy here in Toronto provides a measurably identical experience to the one Chanson buys in Zurich. There is certainly value to that result. However, this kind of corporate culture does not necessarily promote either the flowering of ideas or personal fulfillment on the employees of McDonalds. Neither of which are presumably the major goals of McDonalds’ leadership or shareholders.

  9. Dear AndrewS:
    I will try to share my experience. Law (eternal) dictates boundries, eventual judgements / outcomes / results, and is very predictable for our following and understanding how things work, why, when, how, if we approach it, learn it and adhere to it with all the parts that make it work. Then you add in the NATURE of God, our father, with his attibutes…(He MUST obey and use Eternal law or cease to be God) And finally add in the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
    That sounds like a lot.
    Let’s keep it simple.
    WHEN we are doing ALL we can, the BEST we CAN, with HUMILITY, Sincerity and even just a dot of DESIRE to have faith and hope, seeking God, and understanding, ……it is promised, (and God CANNOT LIE or cease to be God)…He has given his word that he WILL give us what we need to know. A major part of this arrangement is our willingness to hear Him, listen to him, pray for comprehension and understanding. In one word alone RECEIVE. Like in the thing about “Receive Ye the Holy Ghost” when we are confirmed and get that gift. LIGHT and TRUTH from above.
    It’s a two way street.
    Receiving light is sometimes hard when we doubt or fear.
    I used to fear having a relationship with God the Father because I KNEW He KNEW me and my capabilities and feared he might demand too much of me IF I got to know Him better and had a ‘two way session’….beyond my just talking TO Him.
    I thought it would be more of a burden than a blessing.
    More of a problem than just obeying the thing about praying.
    So I avoided that deep personal listening or waiting UPON Him to better KNOW Him and “hear His voice”.
    One day I got desperate and very lonely, fully burdened down and finally was WILLING to reach out, seek His face, not just pray to that ‘far away diety’. I fully opened up my heart.
    I took the risk. I put ALL of me into reaching out, up, into his arms….visuallizing Him as a real Father I never had, forgiving me for my stupidity and stubborness, WELCOMING me back as the Prodigal daughter, facing UP to not only MY needs, but with a willingness to humble myself and FACE him completely.
    POW. Just pure love. Relaxing, peace, giant WELCOME.
    First came the relatioship and new bonding.
    Little by little came the clear answers. Line upon Line.
    Precept upon precept.
    HERE a little, there a LITTLE !!! Little by little as I continued to seek him, it was SOOOOOOOO warm and fuzzy. So UNCONDITIONAL. He just wanted my HEART. My sincere HEART.
    It was so much easier to LOVE him and trust Him and go to Him and talk everything over. The MORE I did it….frequency, humility, with love and trust, THE MORE I found answers.
    Sometimes in just ONE word/ or two….”TRUST ME”.
    Sometimes in simple sentences, flashes of pictures in my mind.
    Sometimes in details like a drawing. It grew as I grew.
    As I was diligent and faithful in seeking Him, He was ALWAYS THERE. One day I heard Him laugh. Honestly. One day I knew he was SMILING REALLY BIG at me. REally!.
    Please try again, Don’t give up. Ask for help in praying and getting answers. Please remember humility and repentance before the seeking is a BIG key. Try sending up your request for ‘interview’ with LOVE filling your heart. TRUST yourself and Him. YOU ARE qualified to talk with Him because of the Atonement, the Price has already been paid for YOU.
    I will be praying for you too. There is No distinction between me here in Tennessee (surrounded by southern Baptists and every other Baptist, ‘cultural’ mormon, ad naseum.) and you wherever and whatever.
    You are a believer on a journey. I believe you WILL get your MAP soon!
    Your sister in the south……..Sharon

  10. Post

    re 8:

    John, so about the monoculture and the corporatism of the church since the 60s…should this be changed? I mean, yes, McDonalds or other chain fast food places go a great deal to have the same experience wherever you go (which is appreciable), but in some ways, certain franchises have local distinctions (e.g., different cuisinal options in India or China). Should McDonald’s (or the church) do this more at the risk of having different national franchises be “different” from the US experience?

    re 9:

    Sharon, so would it be safe to say that if someone did not have such spiritual witnesses, then it shows that they are 1) not trying hard enough, 2) not being completely honest, or 3) in some way, it is their fault?

  11. “And who is anti- anyway? Is it anyone who disbelieves and speaks about it?”

    I keep losing my comments when I submit them so I will try one more time. To me, an anti is someone who intentionally seeks to destroy another person’s faith. I think it is one thing to disbelieve and go about your life and something completely different to disbelieve and intentionally try to destroy the faith of others. In my experience with anti’s, they are angry and do not care about people and their lives, but about themselves and their agenda. I don’t have a problem with people believing as they wish, but I have a really big problem when people try to destroy the faith of others intentionally. I firmly believe those who are trying to do this will be held accountable before God and they will deeply regret what they have done someday.

  12. Forgot…..MMMMMmmmmmLOVE lemon jello with pear halves in it squirted with ribbons of Miracle Whip. Or mix cream whipped, miracle Whip, melted cream cheese with the lemon jello, chill, serve with fresh strawberries (sweetened if necessary) all over the top. Better quit, this is NOT a recipe blog !!!!

  13. Fwiw, I have good reason to believe that “the Brethren” want “cultural Mormons” (or “cafeteria Mormons”) to remain in the Church (I am absolutely convinced of it.) – but that they struggle to balance an allowance of cultural and spiritual differences with not letting local congregations spiral out of control and end up at odds with “the Church” (or having the Church become just another UU religion). I think very few members realize how narrow the gap is between homogeneity and chaos (neither of which is good) – and I think very few members appreciate the struggle that goes on in an apostle’s / Prophet’s soul over how to serve both the 99 and the 1. It is a constant tightrope to keep the Church between the two extremes (especially since rigidity tends to grow the further down the row the water flows), and I think very few members appreciate the tightrope our top leadership walks.

    I don’t care what label we might devise, since I generally hate labels in the first place. I just want every person who has a desire to be a part of my community to be able to be a part of my community, and I think it is the responsibility of each and every member to find ways to make that happen – with the ONLY disclaimer being not sacrificing core principles of the Gospel.

    I also happen to think we naturally define many things as core principles that are merely cultural or personal biases.

  14. Post

    re 11:

    Jen, I don’t know what’s happening comment-wise…I’m not seeing anything from the MMatters side…

    so, regarding your distinctions…is it possible for someone not to be angry but try to destroy others’ faith (if so, are they anti?) Or is it possible for someone to be angry but not try to destroy others’ faith (and if so, are these guys anti?) And what if these people aren’t trying to “destroy faith,” but are trying — because they care about other people — to get people to “see truth” (see: the missionaries…are the missionaries “Anti-other religions” even if some of the people of other religions might THINK that missionaries are trying to “destroy faith”?)

    Just a few hypotheticals…

  15. AndrewS-

    The problem was on my end in relation to losing comments…

    For me an anti is one who seeks, with intent, to destroy a person’s faith. I am sure that they can be someone who is not angry, but that is not my experience. I have yet to meet a person who cares about me personally who is also trying to destroy my faith in my religion, but I am not going to say they aren’t out there just because I haven’t met them. I can only talk from my experience with anti’s and it has never been pleasant or something I walked away from feeling uplifted. As far as missionaries being anti-other religions, I look at it as adding more to the foundation they already have and it is always a choice if they want to stay with their religion or choose another. It is not an act of destroying faith in God or religion, but adding to it. Anti’s, to me, are trying to destroy faith in God and religion. Big difference.

  16. Post

    re 13:

    excellent comment, as always, Ray. But do you think that, poorness of labels aside, that the phenomenon we describe as “cultural Mormonism” can fully align with “every person who has a desire to be a part of my community” vs. not? So, someone who does not want to be a part of your community, by analysis, would therefore be unable to be culturally Mormon. Is that so?

    I agree that the term gets to be rather poor and labeling in general tends to be poor (but the overarcing idea behind it is not completely worthless). I agree too that we naturally define some things as core principles that may simply be cultural or personal biases…but let’s say this happens, and let’s say it is widespread. Then wouldn’t that make it a part of what it means to be Mormon (even though, just from looking at true core principles, it shouldn’t be)?

  17. 14. I see that anti-s are anyone that leads away from Christ.
    It is hard to really read anyone’s intent, unless they clearly and consisely describe their reason…..and it IS possible Andrew, like you said they might care about people from their view point and are trying to get people to see the truth.
    I had a Baptist cousin, when first converted, was taught that all Mormons were of the devil (no good at all) and in his sincere desire to save me from Hell just knew it was in my best interst to get me to accept the true Christ. My boss to this day calls me an un-authentic Christian, regardless of my fruits and example. Because it’s what her minister said. She did not even study it out.
    The devil is sincere in his efforts and dillusion as well.
    Truth always has it’s out, rises like cream to the top.
    Ray is so right about labels being misused and unfair.
    There are just too many variables. Thank Goodness ONLY God and Christ can judge in the end. Hopefully we all can stay away from that activity, of placing labels.
    I also believe the Church/ leaders / DO WANT ALL who wish to come and learn and grow, to stay and try and learn and grow.
    I’ve always had that experience in my 45 years of converted membership.
    There is only one label I think that should be active…..Pro-Christ! Does anything else matter?

  18. Post

    re 15:

    Jen, fair enough, but I just think that someone from any other side would try to phrase what they were doing in as charitable a way as we do when we say we are “adding to”. I would say that most of our traditional antis do not want to destroy “faith in God and religion.” Rather, just faith in the *Mormon* religion, which they see as incorrect, incomplete, adding blasphemy, etc., in the same way we may see other doctrines as incorrect, incomplete, without the fullness of Gospel or priesthood, apostasized, etc.,

    re 17:

    Sharon, so, does that mean that, by default, certain evangelical “counter-cult” ministries cannot be anti? Because indeed, they aren’t leading people away from Christ. But they most certainly try to lead people away from the church. For example, your cousin and boss…they are genuinely interested in “saving you” from what they think is “blasphemy.” They most certainly think they are being Pro-Christ in their attempts, and yet there still is great enmity.

  19. “anti” can only exist in opposition to something specific and current. An “anti-Mormon” in theory is anyone who is opposed to the LDS Church; and “anti-Mormon” in practice is anyone who actually fights the LDS Church – who tries to destroy it. There are FAR more theoretical anti-Mormons than there are practical anti-Mormons.

    The tricky part, as Andrew points out, is that Mormonism is, at its core, a theoretical anti-others-religion – since it’s missionary work theoretically attempts to destroy other churches by conversion of their members, and since its Millenial vision ends in the elimination of other churches. However, that doesn’t translate into it being a practical anti-others-religion, since the LDS Church doesn’t really fight other churches in the same way some anti-Mormon ministries and denominations like the SBC fight the LDS Church.

    If we look at the early history of the LDS Church, however, it absolutely was more miltant and practical-anti than it is now – since the anti- attacks then were direct, physical and harsh. Again, this points to “anti” being only definable in opposition to something specific and “current”.

  20. Re: 18 – Moi:
    I like to call this kind of enmity / sincere, yes.
    What I understand is ….if it comes from “the best of their understanding and sincerity…the best of their comprehension at that moment” I find No fault. I feel no enmity. I actually feel love. I know that in their way, their limited testimony…..that at this very moment..they truly don’t know better in their experience….they love me in a form and fashion and I love them for trying. I don’t consider it great enmity even, just their version of “PRO-Christ” !

  21. In relation to Mormon culture in Utah, I think it can be very painful for people who don’t desire to live in the way they have been raised to live yet still have to deal with their surrounding Mormon culture. I think it would be much different outside of Utah and much easier to live in a not-so-Mormon culture. I am sure there are aspects of Mormon culture that are desirable for those who are not necessarily living a Mormon lifestyle, but I think if you want to really separate yourself from the Mormon culture that you have grown up in, you have to physically leave and separate yourself from it, in other words, make an intentional move away from places saturated with Mormons. I do believe that you can move to many places and find it much easier to separate yourself from the culture, even to the point where it does not affect you much anymore at all. I have seen people do this and the separation works for them. Of course, they tend to separate from their families in many ways as well, but it is what they need to do this and so they do it.

  22. “So, someone who does not want to be a part of your community, by analysis, would therefore be unable to be culturally Mormon. Is that so?”

    #16 – I have no problem with someone outside the LDS Church (or Mormonism in its broadest sense) calling himself a “cultural Mormon” and meaning someone who lives the outward lifestyle of a Mormon without being an active or baptized member. My only real problem is when the term “cultural Mormon” or “cafeteria Mormon” or some other similar term is used as a pejorative – as an insult – as a term of derision by a member. I don’t like it when those who are supposed to love and not judge classify others in a way that draws distinctions and does NOTHING except elevate the one using the label to diminish someone else’s rigtheousness.

    Now, to address your actual post and not just a comment or two, I do believe there is a deeply ingrained cultural aspect to the Restoration that is hard to discard when many BIC members leave – especially those who don’t “rebel” when they leave. The more interesting question to me, however, is how many who leave do so as a rejection of the culture and how many leave as a rejection of the Gospel.

    I think those who reject the restrictions they feel generally are rejecting the culture, which means that they are less inclined to identify as “cultural Mormons”. I think those who reject certain teachings (like many gay members or those who can’t reconcile polygamy or the Priesthood ban or the temple) often hold onto much of the rest of the theology and/or the culture – meaning they remember the “good parts version” and teach it to their children (or granchildren, if you only know the movie). 🙂 These people absolutely can be classified as “cultural Mormons” – although, as the resident parser, I would point out that the noun in a phrase like that is primary, with the adjective being secondary. I think a more accurate term might be something like “culturally-Mormon atheist/Catholic/Protestant/agnostic/whatever”.

  23. Post

    re 20:

    Sharon…so they are *not* anti-Mormon? Just a “limited” or different version of Pro-Christ?

    re 21:

    So then, are Mormons who grow outside of Utah not culturally Mormon or less culturally Mormon (see Seth R’s comments about identifying more “comprehensively” with a Mormon from Japan than as an American [wow, this makes for an awkward Independence Day conversation…]), because they are not “surrounded”? What does this say, then, for a church that very much thrives on converts in outside areas? How can Mormon culture be defined by a small part (Utah) of it?

  24. AndrewS……it’s kind of a “trick” bag or level of semantics about what is a true anti-Mormon person or doctrine acting in the form of “anti”-mormon/Christ.
    They are in a way just a limited version or different version of the progression “plan” – YES, since all things under the Eternal law have boundries set……the anti part always has it’s limitations and power permission.
    You know there is a divine purpose for opposition and all forms of creation and spiritual being are seeking their own level and kingdom..adjusting to where they are most comfortable, where they want to be, dwell, now and eventually will be for all eternity.
    Also, even sincere anti-Christ people and doctrines serve in their own level..as OPPOSITION in one way or another..since there needs be an opposition of ALL things, in some level or manner anything that is not purely Christ centered..on Christ’s definition and requirements, is a means of weeding out, testing tool, endurance calculator, refining means, educational tool, whatever God has ordained / planned is appropriate and permissable….in His plan for us….and with our agreement to proceed.
    Essentially all Mormon’s seek their own individual comfort level, identifying with a “banquet / smorgasbord” action of picking and choosing whatever they like / love / accept.
    I have traveled the world, attended wards in over 6 different countries. The ONLY mormon ‘culture’ I ever really experienced as obviously ‘worn’ on their sleeves was in California and Utah. Larger wards, older wards, generationally born members of the Church. Regarding their attitudes and levels of spirituality, I would surmise that where numbers of member poplulation decrease, emphasis and connection to ‘culture’ touches of mormonism diminishes, basic attendance and calling activity increases.

  25. Post

    re 22:

    Ray, I also see that there seems to be a distinction between “good” uses of the term and “bad.” I’m curious about your equation (or at least, consistent following of cultural with “or cafeteria”) of “cultural” with “cafeteria,” (even if you already think the terms are inadequate).

    Interesting analysis on the post though. for example, as you say, those who leave because they reject the “culture” but not the Gospel are less inclined to refer to themselves as cultural Mormons…but if these people still believe in the LDS Gospel basics (but are just turned off by local culture or ward politics), what would these people call themselves?

    I can see what you mean as per using the more primary noun along with secondary adjectives, but at the same time, I think in different companies, that gets tedious. For example, in a group of Mormons, the cultural Mormon part is more “primary” than the “catholic” or “atheist” or whatever part (unless the individual wants to speak as Catholic or atheist or something else, instead of from common Mormon ground)

  26. Post

    re 24:

    Sharon, I’m afraid I don’t understand what you mean about the “trick” bag or level of semantics. It seems that anyone could point the finger back at a Mormon and say the semantics about “building upon what is common” is a “trick” bag.

    I don’t think we can necessarily say that culture is something that is in older, established places (e.g., Utah, Cali, Idaho), and “true spirituality” is elsewhere…See the link from my post that is linked as “weird Utah thing.” Rather, I think Mormon culture arises from the correlation of doctrine, so it is everywhere. You can understand what it is like to be “Mormon” everywhere because you’ll get similar experiences all across the world.

  27. “So then, are Mormons who grow outside of Utah not culturally Mormon or less culturally Mormon (see Seth R’s comments about identifying more “comprehensively” with a Mormon from Japan than as an American [wow, this makes for an awkward Independence Day conversation…]), because they are not “surrounded”?”

    I think there is a mini culture that occurs when you attend church, VT or HT, go to activities, etc. outside of Utah, but it is not present when you go to work, school or even the grocery store like it is when you live in Utah. In other words, the “Mormon” culture is much less prevelant in your life except when you are actually doing “Mormon” things (HT, VT, attending church, etc.)

    So yes, I think you are less culturally Mormon when you live outside of Utah just because you can go to work and not have someone ask you if you’ve got your VT done yet, or go to your child’s school and have them plan activities on Tuesday instead of Monday because it is Family Night. I think Utah defines Mormon culture because it is the closest thing to living in a society of just Mormons. I think the way Mormons live when they are all together and living what they believe (which is obviously not happening) is what ultimately defines its culture.

  28. Post

    re 27:

    interesting Jen.

    I think that the incompleteness of Mormon influence outside of Utah and other areas actually highlights Mormonism even more. So, if you don’t drink in Utah, say, well, you don’t have to think about that, because that’s what most people follow. You don’t have to self-analyze because everything just is. Whereas, outside of Utah, things about the church don’t necessarily encompass everything, so you become acutely aware of what it is like to be Mormon. You can never be a part of everyone else, and you are always alienated. And you can identify very strongly with any other Mormon who has had that feeling (which ironically would apply LESS to Utah Mormons, not more). You can identify more strongly to, “In the world but not of it.”

    And considering that more Mormons are outside of Utah than in, I would think that this would be something more representative.

  29. AndrewS-

    What you are saying is exactly the point I am trying to make. What is your definition of Mormon culture? I don’t think those outside of Utah have the Mormon culture surrounding them so they gain more experience in what “worldy culture” (for lack of a better name) is like, rather than what Mormon culture is like. I think you are saying that Mormon culture is what most Mormon’s live with (i.e. your example above) and I am saying it is Mormon’s living with Mormons. I think in this conversation it comes down to how you are defining Mormon culture.

  30. Post

    re 29:

    Jen, I think in the end I think Mormon culture is that which is correlated through scripture, the words of the Prophets and leaders, etc., It is, as John said re: 8, the corporate brand of the church. The experience of a “Mormon big mac” being the same anywhere. So it is just as present everywhere in the world, as long as there is a ward. As long as you’ve been “raised” in it, you cannot escape it, because it will persistently and consistently affect the way you look and contrast things. The fact that we can have a discussion about “Mormon culture” vs. “worldly culture” and understand what these words mean — because they are internalized, they are a primary language — is church culture. So having more Mormons or less in an area is irrelevant — as long as you know the language, the customs, the way of thinking — which is taught in any ward anywhere in the world.

    So, it doesn’t seem like you can just leave Mormon culture by going to an area with less Mormons…because even when you do this, if you are a cultural Mormon, your thought process, your “language,” etc., will be distinct from that of non-Mormons. You can learn to cover your “cultural accent” and fit in, but this is always distinctly different from a non-Mormon who doesn’t learn to cover anything, because he doesn’t have any Mormonism to cover.

  31. AndrewS-

    I understand what you are saying, but I disagree that you cannot leave Mormon culture behind, only because we can change our thought processes, our language and we can choose to not focus on things from our past and create a new way of thinking, a new focus, etc. I don’t think you can only learn to cover your “cultural accent” but I do believe you can change it altogether if that is what you TRULY desire.

    Anyway, I am headed to 4th of July festivities so Happy 4th. One of these days, Andrew, I am going to write something and you are going to say “I couldn’t agree with you more!” OK, so I can dream. 🙂

  32. Post

    re 31:

    I agree with you when you say you disagree that we cannot leave Mormon culture behind. However, it is EXACTLY as you say in your latest post — to leave Mormon culture behind is not to leave an area with Mormons. Rather, it is to change our thought processes, our language, and reject things from our past. When we do this, we are choosing to annihilate ourselves and we commit a kind of suicide.

    So, the question is…why should we annihilate ourselves? I actually do believe more people cover their cultural accents. It isn’t that newscasters lose their old accents…it’s that they become very good at speaking with a “neutral” accent. But people slip, and that’s how you know they haven’t forgotten where they slip. It’s funny to hear Stephen Colbert, for example, slip up in a routine and expose some South Carolinian drawl. But it’s also the quickest way to hear him at most authentic.

    So, even as you go to your 4th of July festivities, I guess you get a partial “I couldn’t agree with you more.” But we’ve still got a few places to work on 🙂

  33. Recently my wife and I travelled to Europe on a three week cruise hitting ports in Spain, Italy, Turkey, Croatia, Tunisia, and Greece. (You may have noticed my absence from the broad.)Our intent was to do our best to not only see the sights, but meet the people as well. It was a marvelous experience as we interacted with the “natives” as well as the 2,000 or so mostly Americans on the ship.

    As I read through these posts, I was struck by the “culture” aspect of being LDS. As we interacted with these good people, invariably we would get asked what part of the America we were from. When I answered Utah, the very next statement out of their mouth was “oh, so you’re Mormon then”. I would instinctively answer yes but then feel a need to qualify the answer with a follow-up of “but I don’t practice”. (That may actually have been good because several folks said, “oh, so you don’t have more than one wife then?”) Now why would I feel the need to qualify my answer to complete strangers that I would never see again? Am I ashamed of being LDS and want people to know that I’m not drinking the Kool-aid anymore? Or, am I afraid that someone might judge the church incorrectly by me as a non-believing Mormon? Even more to the point, why would I care how these people judge Mormons?

    In truth, just as many Jewish people are Jewish by heritage, but not in belief. So I am Mormon by heritage and therefore a cultural Mormon whether I want to be or not. To make matters even more confusing for the ship passengers, my wife and I played the marriage game and won. The prize was a bottle of Champaign and some ship logo clothing. At the beginning of the game, we were asked where we were from, to which we responded Utah. During the game, some of the questions revealed that I wasn’t really a practicing Mormon so the cruise director felt like I would appreciate the nice bottle of Champaign, but to his surprise, I told him we didn’t drink. He gave me a puzzled look and gave the bottle to another couple.

    Here’s my point. I’m a sixth generation Mormon from Utah and that label will follow me the rest of my life. I shouldn’t feel ashamed to tell people I’m Mormon just as my Jewish friends don’t need to explain the fact that they can be Jewish and Christian at the same time. Mormonism most certainly is a culture, perhaps as much as it is a religion. My level of belief shouldn’t be a factor in the way I’m esteemed by fellow Mormons or those of other faiths in faraway lands. (If only that were so…)

    P.S. It’s good to be back in America and here at MM!

  34. AndrewS-

    *Waiting for teenager to get ready*

    I have a few more minutes so I wanted to write something. Let’s say you think Mormonism is not your cup of tea and go as far as thinking it damages a person. Let’s compare it to drug culture. If I live with a bunch of people who do drugs everday, then would it not benefit me to get away from them physically if I ever wanted to stop using drugs completely? I would not only need to get away from them, but ALSO change my thinking about drugs, and reject the things from my past. If I think drugs are bad then why is that annihilating myself?

    If you do not feel Mormonism is good then it makes the most sense to get away from it both physcially AND mentally. If your thought process is that it is inherently bad, then you are not annihilating yourself but freeing yourself. So, even though you may understand Mormon culture(or drug culture) and have experience in it, doesn’t mean you have to be a part of it anymore and you can free yourself from it.

    I, personally, don’t feel Mormonism is bad and don’t feel I need to separate myself from it, but for those who do, I believe it is possible in the same way you free yourself of other things in life.

    BTW, I’ll take your partial “I couldn’t agree with you more.” My goal is to get that on the first comment I make and you respond to…..maybe someday. 🙂

  35. Doug:

    When my wife and I cruise we tell people we are from Virginia. It saves a bunch of funny follow up questions. Since we did live in Virginia at one point we are technically ‘from’ there. Or I tell them I was raised Mormon and let them figure that out.

    Someday a Utahn will simply be seen as a Utahn. I hope I live to see it.

  36. Hey Everyone, I just had to throw in a wrench, or a popcicle or box of koolaide here at the end of the 4th……just realizing something….I think the whole culture thing about any generation – anywhere is most closely tied to how we are connected and interact in the ‘social’ circle of each ward.
    Since I have always been austrasized and ‘locked out’ due to my othodox testimony, I’ve never been part of a clic. Maybe THAT’s why I don’t ‘get’ this thing about the ‘cultural’ part of membership. Not that I didn’t want to be a part of the ‘accepted, popular’ group, I did feel ALWAYS left out.
    I did want to be ‘in’ with everyone. It was lonely. POint being, if you aren’t part of the MAIN social group, you are ‘out’ of the cultural loop as well. On the fringes, you tend to miss the usual language / games / talk / gossip / networking thing!
    My question is……adding to the ‘fray’……….is there a separate subject here that applies to being MORMON….or
    a ‘normal – active’ socially VERY active/popular…THEREFORE
    and thereby INTO the culture MORE member?
    If so, then, that would explain why my husband, daughter and I never were exposed to or participated in what you all are talking about in the (mormon) CULTURE !

  37. Post

    re 33 (and 35):

    Thanks for the post Doug G, that’s something I was thinking of. I find myself having to say some of the same things, and I didn’t even grow up in Utah. It usually doesn’t come up from, “Where are you from?” (because for me, that would involve a lot of military bases) but from a, “will you have tea/beer/coffee?” and “Why not?”

    So unfortunately, Imperfection, different locations don’t quite work out. There are other tell-tale signs. 🙂

    re 34:

    Jen, on the other hand, even with this comparison (which is threatening to burst the seams of plausibility)…the problem with the drug world is not being near drug users or not being drug users. It’s that you are physically dependent. Your brain is wired toward the drug.

    In fact, to recover, you’d actually become more intimately involved with drug users — because many rehabitation programs are group efforts and who would be recovering from drug use but other drug addicts? So, it doesn’t follow that you simply escape from the drug community and you’re rehab’d. Being around drug users is irrelevant. What matters is changing the physiological dependency. You might argue that this is easier to do if you aren’t surrounded by drug users, but that’s not a red herring.

    Next, just because you think drugs are bad doesn’t mean you think YOU are bad. It doesn’t mean you think your EXPERIENCES were bad, and the things you LEARNED from your experiences were bad. You may want to cherish these experiences IF ONLY TO SAY to young people, “hey guys, don’t do this drug. The effects might seem cool for a while, but that crash SUCKS!” So, you may find that by ADDING to your experiences, instead of annihilating them, you become more well-rounded and more effective a speaker or person. However, this also alienates you intrinsically, because even if you hang out around clean-cut, always-sober, never-touched-a-drug people, you will always be different from these people. Because you are an ex-drug user. They have never tried. They do not speak the language you speak of knowing what it is like to suffer and break free…so this difference is something that you would have to annihilate to be like a nondrug user. But you can’t, because those are your experiences. Those are YOU. To annihilate that would be to annihilate YOU. And I don’t see why anyone, an ex-drug addict, an ex-convict, an ex-(insert religion or nonreligion follower here) should do that.

  38. Post

    re 36:

    Sharon, I think that this highlights a different culture for you. In fact, ostracism becomes part of your identity. I think feeling left out is intrinsically part of Mormonism. “To be in the world but not of it,” after all, is basically a message of what it is to be an ORTHODOX member…it’s just rather unfortunate that instead of ostracism coming from “the world,” it may come from other less orthodox Mormons.

    But still, is it not still a language you can relate to and speak and understand when others speak it? I think that is what makes it cultural. I think that the difference between people is where they are left “out” of. So, I wouldn’t say that being socially popular “normal – active” makes you more into the culture. It takes something else.

  39. This examination about the whole culture thing has made me definitely more aware of the feelings and methods of inter-action between others and myself. Not that I might be more loving or friendly, but that after reading everyones ideas and experiences, expecially Doug G., I have shared a similar experience / being in the entertainment industry and having been interviewed frequently with odd personal religious questions. I now understand a whole lot more about the specific ‘cultural’ outlook and label. As well as how various members have dealt with it in differing situation. Good overview and thoughtful insights. My husband just finished a 2 hour major film / lead role / and will be interviewed a lot soon as it is released / promos. So I will be READY for ’em.
    Thinking ahead for the ‘crazy’ questions!!!! Yes, I am the one, main wife. LOL ! Thanks everyone for the wide range of thoughts and feelings.

  40. Doug G – “Recently my wife and I travelled to Europe on a three week cruise hitting ports in Spain, Italy, Turkey, Croatia, Tunisia, and Greece. (You may have noticed my absence from the broad.)” Hey, was this a Costa cruise? We have done a very similar itinerary Med cruise.

    As to the discussion, I am with Ray. I would accept anyone on whichever grounds they want to be. I would also say that when “culture” supercedes all else, then it’s time to move past culture. As a non-Utah Mormon, I met many from Utah who seemed incapable of separating the actual church from the culture of Utah. That can be maddening.

  41. Hawkgrrrl,-“Hey, was this a Costa cruise? We have done a very similar itinerary Med cruise.”

    We were actually on a Holland America Ship.

    That trip will go down as one of the best vacations my wife and I have taken. I hope your experience was as rewarding…

  42. The idea of missionaries as anti-other religions is interesting. Mormons might not view them that way, but I’m sure members of other religions do. When I was in Israel in the 1990’s all proselyting, baptizing, or even discussion of the LDS religion was banned by the government for that reason. “To convert a Jew is the same thing as to kill a Jew, because there is one less Jew in the world.”

  43. Post

    re 42:

    Mytha, yikes, I wonder what someone like Jeff Spector here would think about that (not to make him only be our Jewish guy ^_^).

    Seriously, that’s strange too…because I would think that Israel would think that Judaism has a cultural/ethnic dimension too. I mean, that’s kinda something we all (or at least I) take for granted when talking about certain religions.

  44. Very interesting conversation – Just a couple of things.

    As a missionary in Seattle I saw some interesting things. During slow times we would visit people who never came to church and invite them to come back. Most people would say “we’ll try to make it…” I always felt this meant they still believe on some level but the effort of being a full time Mormon can be exhausting so they are on some kind of sabbatical from religion and when they have grown tired of fishing or something really bad happens in their life we will see them again.

    Occasionally we would run into somebody who would curse us up and down and declare how much they hated the church and didn’t want to have anything to do with it. I would always invited them to have their names removed from the church records and I would try to hand them an envelope with the bishops name and address already filled out so they could write the letter. I must have done that 50+ times and nobody ever took the letter. In fact most of them would respond with “I am not getting myself excommunicated!” (or something similar)

    I also ran into a number of people who hadn’t been to church in 20 years but they would still wear their garments.

    One more story – I used to drive an old VW and when I would see other VW drivers on the road we would smile and wave. We had this unique subculture bond that drew us together. Now I drive a Mazda but I still notice all VW’s Love them and wish I had one again so I could wave at the other VW guys.

    I don’t have any answers for the question I am not that smart but I did think it was fascinating the bond that exists for whatever reason. I think that cultural uniqueness combine with the emotion that you experience with religion has a very powerful impact on people.

  45. Josh,

    I’m wondering how long ago you served as a missionary? Thirty years ago when I served, I ran into much of what you describe with inactive members and their beliefs. Interestingly enough, some of our best contacts and successes came from inactive members turning on to some of their friends.

    The 1970’s and 80’s were kind of a golden time for the church. Most of us back then thought that a spiritual witness was important, but we also thought that the Book of Mormon had been proven true beyond any reasonable doubt. We told people back in my mission that archeologists were using the BoM to uncover literally tons of evidence proving that the Nephi’s and Lamanites had lived and that Christ had spent time in America. (Ferguson’s book was especially helpful.) Most people in the church believed it was true, they just waivered in their amount of commitment.

    I would not say the same applies today. Thanks to the advent of the internet, proof of the historicity of the BoM people is only seen by true believing members. I don’t know if any evidence that is generally accepted by both non- LDS scientist and LDS ones that even hints at the book being historical. (I don’t want to start an argument over this point. I’m sure to believing member’s things like Nahom and Egyptian words seem like proof.) There are now many people in the church that have doubts about the authenticity of the Book of Abraham and wonder if the BoM may actually be just inspired fiction. Gone is the bravado of twenty years ago when we were sure that any day undeniable proof would spill from the ground and Christ would be on his way to earth. Members are now more worried about what scientist will learn next and more and more are turning to apologetic sources for answers.

    I don’t see the same attitudes at all among many of my inactive friends. I realize that my experience isn’t indicative of the whole, but there seems to be a new group of inactive members who realize that activity in the church probably won’t have a big impact on their eternal reward. They feel that God will judge much more on how we treat each other and our integrity instead of which church you decide to walk into. Even among active members, there are now many who doubt that the early church was very favorable to God. They disapprove of polygamy, Government controlled by religion, isolationism and a host of other early church norms. Of course there are still the group of believing inactive members, but in this day and age, the membership is also becoming much more educated then they were years ago…

  46. “I have yet to meet a person who cares about me personally who is also trying to destroy my faith in my religion, but I am not going to say they aren’t out there just because I haven’t met them. As far as missionaries being anti-other religions, I look at it as adding more to the foundation they already have and it is always a choice if they want to stay with their religion or choose another. It is not an act of destroying faith in God or religion, but adding to it. Anti’s, to me, are trying to destroy faith in God and religion.”

    Many anti-Mormons are members of other religions trying to “add to the foundation” that Mormons have of their belief in Christ. Go into any Christian bookstore and you will find the anti-Mormon section.

    Using the idea that Mormons are simply trying to add on to the truth of others, the only distinction I see is what side of the fence you are on and what you feel you know. Every Mormon missionary’s goal is to change the faith of those of other religions or stated another way “destroy their faith in their religion”. Mormons may couch it in other terms, but that seems the reality to me.

  47. #44’s post (good points BTW) makes me want to point something out about removing name/wearing garments as a non member. I’m in the middle of a tight knit Mormon commmunity in AZ. My wife and I had been non LDS for 8 years now and have not removed our names from the church. Why?

    To be honest it would break her parents hearts. She saw what another siblings church departure had done to them and doesn’t want to put them through that again. They found she(the sister) had left through the list of your kids they give you at Tithing settlement.

    Garments? Well I wear underpants and an undershirt that look like garments when I’m about town. For a stretch my wife and I went without garments but the visible reaction of shock that always accompanied interaction with many friends and devout members just made things awkward. So rather than move, I just put these on. They are quite comfortable and I’m used to them anyway.

    It’s a bit like if I was in an islamic country and just decided we would shed the traditional Beard or Burka and Hijab. The reaction we would get would be much the same as we do here.

    We even call them that. “Honey, throw me a burka top, will you?”

  48. Post

    re 44 re 47:

    Of course, I guess Seattle is somewhat different than AZ.

    I do agree though that there is a lot of stigma to stay in for parents’ sake. Additionally, what some people I know feel is that there is a lot more credibility to speak “about the church” when you’re in than when you’re out…so if someone wanted (even hypothetically) to try to create a grassroots movement to change the church, it would be more effective if they were on the rosters (even if they didn’t attend regularly) than if they were not.

    These are all extra-special cases though, and I don’t think they match the experiences of most.

    Really, I would think that people act in paths of least resistance. Excommunication, in particular, has a particularly negative bite to it, so with someone so steeped in the culture (even if they are inactive), I can understand how they would react to a suggestion to essentially be excommunicated (of course, things have changed so that resignation doesn’t carry the same “social weight” or connotation as excommunication). It isn’t necessarily that these people still believe or that they are acting irrationally since they appear to be so angry at the church, but once again, to resign would represent an annihilation of their past and annihilation of themselves.

  49. #46-

    “Many anti-Mormons are members of other religions trying to “add to the foundation” that Mormons have of their belief in Christ. Go into any Christian bookstore and you will find the anti-Mormon section.”

    If they are trying to add to the foundation of the Mormons belief in Christ then why do they call themselves anti-Mormons? We do not call ourselves anti-Catholics, or anti-Protestants, etc. The church we belong to is clearly named The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. If you write a book and it is in an anti-Mormon section then you really aren’t a part of another religion, you are trying to tear apart the Mormon religion and that is your focus. That is not adding to any foundation IMO.

    We will have to agree to disagree on this one.

  50. AndrewS-

    #37- I don’t agree with what you have said, but I am out of time to respond right now. I guess we will have to agree to disagree as well. 🙂

  51. Post

    re 49:

    the problem is that anti-Mormons do not call themselves anti-Mormon. They may, at worst, call themselves “countercult ministries,” but anti-Mormon is a name that Mormons have given to these people. If you do a quick search for anti-Mormon, you will find that the vast majority of results are from Mormon groups who are giving the adjective as descriptor to other groups. There is a website antimormon.com which indeed seems to be an anti- group that gives themselves the title, but this is only one group of many.

    The “anti-Mormon” section of libraries distinctly highlights this point. It’s not like anti-Mormon writers group together saying, “heh heh, let’s make our own section of the library.” They speak in a way they think is candid without saying they are anti- and then the library/bookstore determines after the fact that they are anti-Mormon or whatever.

    For example, the Tanners, a veritable anti-Mormon couple, run the “Utah Lighthouse Ministry.” There’s nothing about “anti-Mormonism” in that title, but anyone who’s familiar with their work and tactics would say they are hostile. See also: Walter Martin and “Christian Research Institute.”

    Many of these groups or individuals claim to be innocent enough — just trying to show the “differences” between “Christianity” and “Mormonism” (which they feel should show that Mormonism is somehow not Christian or not Christian enough). Similarly, Mormons try at the same time to just show the “differences” between Christianity and Mormonism, showing how the restored Gospel is more correct than the apostasy of other churches. It’s all wordplay.

  52. “Many of these groups or individuals claim to be innocent enough — just trying to show the “differences” between “Christianity” and “Mormonism” (which they feel should show that Mormonism is somehow not Christian or not Christian enough). Similarly, Mormons try at the same time to just show the “differences” between Christianity and Mormonism, showing how the restored Gospel is more correct than the apostasy of other churches. It’s all wordplay.”

    That would be my response as well. A childhood friend of mine came to my home unannounced one day. I had not seen him in 20 years. He had been saved and came to my home when he had heard I was Mormon. He was decidedly anti-Mormon. He was there however to save me as well. He disliked Mormonism because it was (in his mind) very wrong. His Christianity was very right. Same thing the missionaries do. Semantics as to who is anti-whatever.

  53. Oh and one more thing the very fact that eight years on I check in with Mormon blogs is a testament of the cultural pull of the church. I am surrounded by LDS culture. I really would participate if I felt I could be honest about what i believe and what I don’t, but I can’t. I won’t send my kids to a chapel where it’s drilled into their heads that their parents are bad people either. So I’m a bit stuck.

    Culturally I will always be a Mormon. I’m Ok with that. Like a poster above I regularly find myself defending the church to people who need to understand the LDS point of view or have a blaring misunderstanding of church doctrine. It seems, however that this understanding is not returned by members of the church to my family. My nine year old was told by his “friends” that satan has control of my family. I hear the same rhetoric from my Southern Baptist cousins. Everybody seems all to eagar to vote us into hell.

  54. Hawk brings up a good point. Many times, I have been guilty of referring to something as part of Mormon culture, when it was actually part of Utah culture. I know for a fact there are many faithful LDS who can’t stand green Jello, BYU football, ward basketball, or EFY camps. I’m as guilty as the next guy of thinking these are part of Mormon culture.

    While I’m guilty of the above, I like to think that Mormon culture encapsulates more than just language, but I’m hesitant to include the Word of Wisdom as a uniquely Mormon cultural aspect. Although there aren’t many religions that make temperance a central part of their theology, there are some smaller ones that do. And there are many religions that discourage drunkenness, although they don’t have as strong an enforcement mechanism as denying temple recommends.

    I think a bigger part of our culture than many realize are the related practices of genealogy work and honoring our pioneer ancestors on the 24th of July. I’ve worked for a lot of out-of-state companies who don’t give their employees time off for the 24th and are confused when a bunch of people ask for it off. I’ve also been able to witness many pioneer reenactments and pioneer celebrations in wards outside of Utah. While some pioneer day celebrations are indistinguishable from other ward parties, the fact that many of the kids and adults dress up like pioneers and tell stories about their ancestors crossing the plains is a very important part of our heritage.

    I think another key part of our culture is how we plan get-togethers. We compensate for the lack of alcohol by assigning people to bring refreshments. It’s practically unheard of to have ward gatherings without fattening snacks of some kind. There’s a reason we have lower rates of heart disease in Utah, but higher rates of diabetes.

  55. ““To convert a Jew is the same thing as to kill a Jew, because there is one less Jew in the world.”

    I would not be surprised if there are some Jews that think this way. The Jewish population, as a whole is shrinking due to intermarriage, secularization and low birth rate. They have only themselves to blame if they think that folks are susceptible to conversion.

    I fully understand the cultural Mormon idea. I am still culturally Jewish in many, many ways. Oy Vey!

  56. Doug G – “That trip will go down as one of the best vacations my wife and I have taken. I hope your experience was as rewarding…” My DH and I liked it so much we booked another one six months later with our kids along this time to Italy, Greece, Turkey, Croatia. Costa’s specifically an Italian cruise line, so there aren’t that many English speakers. We occasionally were getting lumped in with Germans and French speakers at meals. It was a good experience for the kids.

  57. Jeff, I think being culturally Jewish would be way cooler. Not the bitter herbs business, nor the unleavened bread, but yiddish beats “flip and fetch” any day of the week and twice on Shabbot.

  58. #8:
    Correlation and increasing insistence that obedience to central authority creates is the sine qua non of Mormonism creates a kind of culture: monoculture.

    I would agree, except that I’d differentiate here between “Mormonism” and “LDS-ism.” The demon known as Correlation originated long after Joseph Smith established Mormonism, and it (mercifully) pertains to only one “brand” thereof.

  59. #11:
    To me, an anti is someone who intentionally seeks to destroy another person’s faith.

    Jen, in my experience, there are a number of active LDS who view any criticism of their church, whatsoever, as “intentionally seeking to destroy another person’s faith.” Using that as the definition of an “anti” seems incredibly subjective and over-broad.

  60. #19:
    “anti” can only exist in opposition to something specific and current. An “anti-Mormon” in theory is anyone who is opposed to the LDS Church; and “anti-Mormon” in practice is anyone who actually fights the LDS Church – who tries to destroy it. There are FAR more theoretical anti-Mormons than there are practical anti-Mormons.

    Ray, there are many who consider themselves “Mormons,” in that their faith derives from the teachings of Joseph Smith. Many of those individuals are “opposed to the LDS church.” Are they really to be considered “anti-Mormons?”

  61. #59-


    I don’t feel that someone criticizing the church is necessarily the same as someone who is intentionally trying to destroy another person’s faith. People can criticize aspects of the church and not be seeking to destroy another person’s faith. I have had personal experience with a person actively seeking to destroy a person’s faith in the LDS church and it is NOT the same as someone saying “I don’t agree with Prop 8, etc.”

  62. Post

    re 58:

    That’s actually a good point, Nick (especially for the position John is in). We say “cultural Mormon,” and then pin it down on the majority denomination (CoJCoL-dS)…would that mean, for example, that Community of Christ members do not count as Cultural Mormons (or do they only count if they grew up for a critical period in the CoJCoL-dS even if they moved out)? Or does that mean that people who don’t practice the correlated modern LDS deal do not count as cultural Mormons? Or is cultural Mormonism uniquely based off of that correlated modern LDS church, and the way to escape it IS to abandon (or never experience in the first place) the correlation?

  63. Pingback: Cultural Mormonism, an account « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

  64. So to summarize… setting aside doctrine, “cultural mormons” have:
    1) Common heritage or history
    2) Similar clothes–down to the underwear
    3) Feel attached to the Church even if they no longer practice

    A while back there was a sidebar link titled something like “could these guys be any more mormon?” that alluded to the family links only mormons have.

    Here’s my definition: You’re a “cultural Mormon” if two of the following three criteria apply:
    a) You have a trampoline
    b) You have a minivan
    c) You have cousins in Utah.
    Yeah, I’m a (more than) cultural mormon!

  65. Oh man… No trampoline, no minivan, I must not be a cultural mormon after all. Does owning a mormon assault vehicle count? (Ford Excursion, 4 wheel drive of course.)

  66. “but yiddish beats “flip and fetch” any day of the week and twice on Shabbot.”

    You are right about that. I have to get off my tookus and schlep around the room to get the schmata to clean my computer screen. It only gets better! Keine Hore!

  67. Post
  68. I disagree that Utah is the only place for cultural Mormons. When I lived in Texas, our bishop (originally from Arkansas) asked if I ever heard of the term cultural Mormon, which I acknowledged. He kept visiting a Member of Record every few months. She asked that he stop visiting her, because she didn’t believe in the church or have anything to do with the church. He told her that as long as she was on the church records, he was obligated to visit her. Since she didn’t believe and didn’t want anything to do with the church, he asked if she wanted her name removed from membership rolls. She said she was a cultural Mormon and her birthright as a decedent of Parley P Pratt and that being a church member was her cultural heritage. She was insistent that her church record was not to be touched.

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