The Mormon Divisions

A few years ago a new family came into my ward. They moved from Texas and the wife had a strong accent from that region. Most Mormons from Texas I knew, mostly over the Internet, were as equally proud of that state as any born and raised there. Stereotypes flooded my mind of the typical Texas Mormon, and then of the Utah, California, and Mission field members. It didn’t take long for me to think of other Mormon groupings such as liberal and orthodox. Here is a list of those I can think of and short definitions:

True Blue Mormons – Orthodox members who don’t question authority or divinity of the LDS Church, go to Church on a weekly basis, are mostly married with children, and have or will go through the Temple.

Liberal Mormons – There are several subgroups of these. Each of them have their own defining reason for existence as a label. Most common are pro-gay marriage advocates, Feminists, Democrats, and Evolutionists. Many of them are believers in the divine authority of the LDS Church, but uncomfortable at times with that acknowledgment.

New Wave Mormons – Another name for them might be cultural Mormons, but that is a vague term that can cover any participant in Mormon life. The prominent feature is someone who doesn’t believe in the religion’s divine nature, but still actively defines themselves as members of the LDS Church. They are secularists in religious garb.

Utah Mormons – Are predominately religious and conservative, leaning heavily Republican. They are seen as having a myopic understanding of the world outside their own population. They are not very good drivers.

Idaho Mormons – Survivalists who like to think they are taking care of themselves without outside interference. They are seen as fiercely orthodox and loyal to the LDS Church when active, perhaps more than Utah Mormons at times.

Texas Mormons – The only difference between them and their non-Mormon counterparts is the religious belief system. Otherwise, they are proud of and have egos the size of the state they live in.

California Mormons – Proud they are not Utah and Idaho Mormons, and yet don’t consider themselves outside the general sphere of LDS influence. They are as diverse as the people in the sate they come from.

Mission Mormons – Generally they live in Canada and the United States and are considered of diverse characterizations. Many of them are transplants from the Mormon corridor because of jobs and education, but conversions over 100 years has changed that fact significantly.

South and Central American Mormons – Little is actually known of this group despite the high number of Intermountain and U.S. missionaries who served there. They are just as likely to join the LDS Church as no longer attend.

European Mormons – To some this is a rumored group as lost to history as the Tribes of Israel. Their faith, population, and political identity is contested if mentioned at all. It is rumored the European converts are liberal socialists who don’t hold much in common with the general membership. If you have seen one of these people, please call . . .

Obviously, the above doesn’t represent actual persons so much as perceived group identities. These are, I feel, common descriptions as expressed over the years by each other. Are there any labeled groups besides polygamist or non-LDS Mormons that are missing from this list? Is there better ways to describe the ones that have been included?

While pondering the above classifications, I am reminded of the Scriptures that continually call for a unity among the faithful. One example would be in Doctrine and Convenants 38:25-27 that reads:

25And again I say unto you, let every man esteem his brother as himself.

26For what man among you having twelve sons, and is no respecter of them, and they serve him obediently, and he saith unto the one: Be thou clothed in robes and sit thou here; and to the other: Be thou clothed in rags and sit thou there—and looketh upon his sons and saith I am just?

27Behold, this I have given unto you as a parable, and it is even as I am. I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.

Paul is characteristically blunt in his call for unity, as found in 1 Corinthians 1:10 where he writes:

10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

Recognizing the enormous amount of differences in today’s Mormon population, is it at all possible to become a Zion people? What kind of faith and actions would be necessary to achieve a unity as demanded by Jesus Christ and the Apostles and Prophets? How much of a blessing or a distraction is diversity to the religious calls to a Zion community? For a people of faith who, like Israel before, are looking for a spiritual homeland, these questions are not easily dismissed. Perhaps there is too much diversity and cultural differences in today’s world for us to come together. In Scriptural history there was only two groups of people who ever succeeded. One was taken up to heaven and the other lasted for a relatively long time only after Jesus Christ came down, to be disbanded by a return to sin. Zion might remain elusive until the Second Coming unless there is a drastic change in faith and togetherness.

33 thoughts on “The Mormon Divisions

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention » The Mormon Divisions The Millennial Star -- Topsy.com

  2. Interesting points. I remember Bob Kirby wrote a similar piece a few years ago. As I recall, he called your “True Blues” he “Nazi Mo’s”.

    The problem I see with regarding the Saints is the division politically. Not enough of them are interested in liberty and accountability(what I see as the underlying message of the Book of Mormon. There are too many Kingmen Saints; and it’s hard to want to do anything with them, much less be “of one mind”.

    If more Saints got back to the basics, and investigated the words of the prophets regarding socialism/communism and our duty to resist it, and were a little less busybody, we’d all n little closer to Enoch.

  3. As I recall, he called your “True Blues” he “Nazi Mo’s”.

    If he really did that, he would have questionable claim to be a Mormon at all. But that is not what he said, he called “True Blues” “Conservative Mormons” and claimed that they were “71.6 percent” of Church membership, which seems about right to me.

    The term “Nazi Mormons” was reserved for an extremist subcategory of true believers. Read the article.

  4. I was told by one of my LDS in-laws (living in the Midwest) that Mormons in Utah are just like non-Mormons everywhere else – regarding strictness of behavior and belief. Ever heard that one before?

    I’d also love your thoughts on this: http://lifeofcarla.blogspot.com/2011/01/iron-rods-and-liahonas-byu-professor-on.html

    It is funny how non-Mormons see all Mormons as this blob of sameness, while the reality is so different (at least from the perspective of a Mormon).

  5. I’ve been to church all over the United States, in Asia and throughout Latin America, all the way from Mexico to southern Chile and across to Brazil. The thing I find so interesting is the spirit of the Lord is present with people everywhere, and I have felt that same spirit everywhere I go. These divisions may seem humorous to us, and I hope we see the humor intended by Jettboy, but as a convert I am struck by the unity that the Lord’s church has been able to foster across the globe.

  6. I think the ability of the vast majority of the saints to get along with each other, despite political differences, is larger than the first comment would indicate.

    I had a couple of those European saints in my BYU wards. Perhaps they could be classified together with Asian saints, as those are also fairly rare. And there definitely needs to be a Pacific Island category, although I’m not sure Samoans and Tongans would appreciate being placed in the same group.

  7. I’m a former California Mormon now a Utah Mormon I guess.

    Thought provoking post, Jettboy.

    I was talking with the Elder’s Quorum President about how Mormons do seem to be quite diverse these days compared to, say, a generation ago.

    I always have to laugh at people on the Bloggernacle that try to claim that Mormons are monolithic.

  8. I forgot about African Mormons. They are generally faithful and very happy to be converts. Temples are wonderful gifts to them, even if they don’t go. That the Priesthood wasn’t granted to blacks at one time is of almost no concern. That the Priesthood is now extended to them is of far more importance. On a personal note, I find them worthy of respect as spiritual examples.

  9. Don’t forget Bloggernacle Mormons, a category (and often universe) all their own. Anyone care to open a can of worms and define them? :)

  10. Love the Robert Kirby article! Thanks Teelea.

    Usually, but not always, it is irritating for members who live outside of the Intermountain west to have the area in which they reside called “the mission field”.

    Carla- I live in the southeastern US, and I cannot tell the difference between LDS and non-LDS people.

  11. The differences in the places I’ve been around the U.S. are most noticeable during election season, otherwise Geoff hits the nail on the head. Election season can become really annoying around here unless you vocally support voting straight party Republican.

  12. “Anyone care to open a can of worms and define them?”

    Okay, I will.

    I believe “Bloggernacle Mormons” are the same as “Sunstone Mormons.” Except when they aren’t.

  13. It seems to me that our tendency to suppose that our particular cross-section of Mormonism has a monopoly on the gospel is more illusion than reality. Though orthodox and fairly conservative myself, I have learned so much about how to love others from my more liberal friends. I think it’s in the amalgamation of all our strengths that we’ll be able to build Zion, in spite of our differences.

  14. I was told by one of my LDS in-laws (living in the Midwest) that Mormons in Utah are just like non-Mormons everywhere else – regarding strictness of behavior and belief. Ever heard that one before?

    Idle slander, if you ask me. As in your in-laws don’t have a clue. I could come up with any number of anecdotes and second hand stories to make the reverse argument, and probably be equally wrong.

    My only suggestion is that inactive and less active Mormons are a lot easier to find in areas where there are a substantial percentage of the population. As for the rest, they generally have the reputation of erring more on the conservative side than the reverse. On the whole though, I don’t think there is much of a difference between and active member in Utah than an active member anywhere else in the country.

  15. @ Mark D – thanks for replying! I was thinking that, in a place where there aren’t many Mormons, it’s probably easier for someone who is inactive/doesn’t believe to simply leave, or conversely in a place where there are a lot of believers people are more likely to still claim the faith on a cultural grounds rather than actual belief (and therefore adherence to codes of behavior). I know that’s true in the Republic of Ireland for instance, in regards to Catholicism. People tend to still claim Catholicism even though they don’t really believe, because as I was told by one man, for instance, “to convert to Protestantism still smacks of being a traitor.”

  16. I might add though, that anyone in Utah who doesn’t attempt to follow visible codes of Mormon practice – no smoking/drinking, no living together before marriage, no (excessive) swearing and dirty jokes, a modicum of modesty in dress, etc. – either won’t admit to being a Mormon or will readily confess that he/she was only “raised” one.

    Relatively few inactive or less active Mormons in Utah, however have outward behavior that would openly and automatically raise suspicions that they aren’t Mormon at all. They just don’t go to church for whatever reason. Whether they are better or worse than non-church-attenders in other places is a judgment call.

    If being raised in any church doesn’t make you a better person in some visible sense for the rest of your life, that church is a failure, in my opinion.

  17. I agree with Carla and Mark D. that often less-actives, especially those who were raised in the church, do not follow “the visible clues of Mormon practice. It has been my experience in the area of the country where I live ( south eastern US), most people are indistinguishable ( in lifestyle and appearance) from Latter-day Saints. Carla, perhaps the mid-westerners have the same values. I have found, most people are Christians who take spirituality seriously. Many of them are more Christ-like than many LDS peoples. What separates us, from the rest of spirituality minded individuals, is the truths of the restored gospel and the saving ordinances.

  18. Bill, I can’t do all the work. Like I said, if I missed a division you can always add your own. Besides, I married an Arizona woman. My definition will be a bit biased or I don’t want to get into trouble; take your pick ;)

  19. There is probably something to be said for the theory that the commitments of being an active Mormon are sufficiently substantial, and the encouragement to become active sufficiently unrelenting (relatively speaking), that some nominal Mormons may actually have less contact with the church than a similar cohort of nominal members of other denominations, simply because the pressure is higher and some nominal members would simply rather avoid it altogether.

    In other words, being less active is a difficult state to maintain in Mormonism. Being inactive is easy. Being active isn’t easy, but you don’t raise red flags either. In between is hard.

    The problem about being inactive is that it may not affect a person raised in the church to a great degree, but the next generation will be almost entirely unchurched and often set apart from those that are – due to the relatively sharp boundaries of church activity and the social relations that are most closely associated with full activity.

    Of course the church would like to reduce that as much as possible, but it is a hard problem. The idea in Mormonism (following John) is that if you do you will understand, so everyone should be strongly encouraged to do, and find out for themselves.

    But a lot of people will slack off without significant ecclesiastical pressure (after a kind), so if that pressure is reduced, visible indicators of church activity will drop. The irony though is that drop in activity among some lessens and blurs the boundary between the “inactive” and the “less active”, by making lesser activity a much more viable state to remain in. So even if total activity goes down, the activity of some that are practically inactive might actually go up somewhat, and that probably will have some salutatory effect, especially on the next generation.

    On the other hand, relaxing the pressure to maintain strict standards has the awful tendency of secularizing a denomination to the point where the difference in belief and behavior between the churched and the well meaning unchurched becomes increasingly blurry. Something that has been said to have occurred with most of the mainline denominations in the country, apparently causing them to decline in membership and influence.

    So if you meet a nominal Mormon who actually seems to follow lower standards than is typical for the population at large, I would be willing to guess that he hasn’t been to church since he or she was young and is actively avoiding it to escape the pressure to hold a calling, be a home or visiting teacher, pay a full tithing, attend the full three hour block, and so on – or is a child of someone in that situation, perhaps even less “churched” than some in those apparently declining liberal (and easygoing) denominations. That’s my theory.

  20. I think we need to define African’s being mormon, because we have those who are actually from Africa and bring along their culture from each respective country. In addition, we have African Americans who while there may be some who are born and raised in the church, and then again we have the African Americans who were raised in Baptist church and even though claim to read the BOM still practice Baptist beliefs

  21. One of my post got lost somehow.

    I don’t believe being “in active,” it’s not easy at all. It’s a slow process. For me its’ because I can no longer sustain my local leadership with a clear conscience. I was verbally and emotionally abused by my hometeacher and another woman at church. Leadership saw and witnessed this behavior and they looked the other way. Still, I came to church and I raised my hand whenever I was asked to do so. I did it until I was asked to sustain someone and I absolutely could not do it and raised my hand in opposition.

    When someone like myself asked for guidance and receives none, and is not supported in any real way and is not allowed to confront the person in an effort to gain acknowledgment. Then the only answer there is, is to go ‘inactive” in my case I have tried with a sincere heart and the only process that is left is to have y name officially removed from the records of the church because at this point in time, I know with a full heart that my leadership with never support no sustain me with the respect that I deserve.

    Trust me when I tell you this is not easy. I’m angry that after three years no one has ever really made an attempt to ever really talk to me about the issue, the only thing that I received was stonewalling and at this point I refuse to participate in my own abuse and by staying that’s exactly what I’d be doing.

  22. Most Texas Mormons come from out of state, and are thus Republicans (instead of native conservative Democrats) and do not meet the stereotype which in my experience would have been true only of Houston Mormons in the 1970s who were not part of the mainstream in Texas. Otherwise, not a bad slander on the entire state now (which is basically yankee import dominated and no longer a southern state or old fashioned Texan) no longer connected to the stereotype.

  23. dblock- please contact me Joanna Benson at comcast dot net. I understand where you are coming from and want to help you navigate these turbulent waters. Whatever you do, do not remove your name from the church records. Remember the gospel is true, but sometime the church members are morons. The gospel is too precious to be lost in your life, and in the lives of those you have stewardship over.
    Joanna

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