Poll: Types of Mormons

Date Posted: 06/26/2001 11:21 AM
Posted By: CurtP
…just to see what thoughts/discussions this brings up.

There are at least three types of “Mormons.” I refer to these three types as anti-Mormons, social Mormons, and ultra-Mormons.

Everybody is familiar with anti-Mormons. These are people who claim to know more about Mormonism than most others. They tend to pride themselves on knowing the “deep dark secrets” of LDS history and doctrine. Yet, for whatever reason, they have come to view it all from a rather negative perspective. Seldom do anti-Mormons say anything positive about the LDS church or its doctrine. They tend to view the whole of it as negative, hypocritical, and false. They often believe that no good thing could ever come from any part of Mormonism. They have the uncanny ability to find something wrong with even the most innocent and positive remarks made by leaders of the church. Anti-Mormons generally claim that both social Mormons and ultra-Mormons are misled, naive, and uninformed. Yet, for some reason, many anti-Mormons find it difficult to leave Mormonism alone. They often refuse to leave quietly or let well enough alone. It is not enough for anti-Mormons to simply reject Mormonism and leave it behind. For some reason, they feel they must attack it. They often seem to feel somewhat “duty bound” to correct others or justify their own views and conclusions regarding Mormonism.

The social Mormons, on the other hand, are those who are basically the rank and file members of the church. They are, in some ways, the opposite of the anti-Mormons. These are the devout church goers who tend to doubt no portion of the restored gospel, whether they understand it or not. In word, social Mormons accept literally all of the leaders of the church, both past and present, without question or debate. Yet, in common study, conversation, and practice, social Mormons tend to appreciate the modern leaders of the church more than the early leaders, especially Brigham Young. Social Mormons are generally unable to successfully combat anti-Mormons. For the most part, social Mormons don’t have the knowledge, or even the interest, to do so. They all but ignore the anti-Mormons and are usually content to remain active in the church without ever really gaining an understanding of the higher doctrines or difficult issues involved with Mormonism. Social Mormons usually have testimonies of the restored gospel, but may not fully understand or appreciate the source or content of their testimonies. Often, social Mormons can be accurately described as having “zeal without knowledge” or as accepting without question or understanding. Social Mormons may also include those who are simply inactive in the church – not because they know something, but more often because they don’t.

Ultra-Mormons are a unique group of people whose numbers seem to have grown dramatically in recent years. Because of their diversity, they are a little more difficult to define. In general, ultra-Mormons are those who have spent a good deal of time thinking about the hard questions of Mormonism but who continue to have a strong testimony of Joseph Smith and the restored gospel. They’ve dealt with most of the difficult issues and are generally aware of the arguments of the anti-Mormons, both historical and doctrinal. In fact, ultra-Mormons even view some of the anti-Mormon arguments as further evidence that the restored gospel is true. Much of what is considered to be a negative by both the antis and the socials, such as plural marriage, Adam-God, or the united order, is often sweet to the taste of an ultra-Mormon. Ultra-Mormons also tend to have more appreciation for the early leaders of the church, especially Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, than they do for the modern leaders. Often frustrated by “modern Mormonism” in general, ultra-Mormons are not always active members of the LDS church. Some are even members of various LDS fundamentalist groups, while others have either been excommunicated for “apostasy” or have drifted away from the church on their own accord. Yet, there are numerous, active, church-going ultra-Mormons, many of whom are unknown to the general population of the church. This is often by design because of fear that they will be kicked out if their views are ever discovered. Some of these active ultra-Mormons are viewed as trouble-makers by the social Mormons because they continually bring up difficult issues or “off the wall” comments in Sunday School, Relief Society, and/or Priesthood meeting. Due to their love for and knowledge of the restored gospel, they are often a little too adamant in their approach, making people uncomfortable and causing themselves to look and sound like fanatics. Perhaps the main difference between anti-Mormons and ultra-Mormons is that antis hope the JS story is false while ultras hope it is true. Personal desire plays a large role in determining which is which. Hence, one tends to spend their time finding potential problems that will destroy the story while the other tends to spend time finding potential solutions that will support the story.

These three general categories are not rigid in their definition. There are many shades of gray between them. However, most Latter-day Saints start out as social Mormons. As time passes, some of these social Mormons end up migrating into one of the other camps, a difficult and often painful transition indeed. Unfortunately, many of those on the path of becoming ultra-Mormons never finish the process and end up as anti-Mormons. This is often the result of having a bad experience with the LDS church or its leadership. When one is on the path of becoming an ultra-Mormon, there are many questions to be answered. The LDS church generally provides few good responses to these questions. In fact, often it provides incorrect answers or no answers at all. This leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the learning ultra-Mormon. In some cases it causes them to stop the learning process altogether and leave the whole issue behind them. Other people tend to only focus on the negative parts of the restored church, without giving equal time to the positive issues so clearly present. Still others are able to overcome these difficulties and continue the process of objectively and honestly searching for answers to their difficult questions. This last group generally becomes the ultra-Mormons.

As a general rule of thumb, you can tell which type of Mormon you’re dealing with by the comments they make about the church and the restoration of the gospel. In most cases, over 90% of the comments made by social Mormons will be positive as far as the church, it’s leadership, or the restoration in general is concerned. On the other hand, you can usually identify an anti-Mormon because over 90% of their comments on similar topics will be negative. Both socials and antis generally only find and speak about those things they’re looking for to defend their own perspectives on Mormonism. They sometimes have a tendency to put the whole truth aside in lieu of their personal agendas of either defending or attacking the church. Unfortunately, they are often more concerned with who’s right than they are with what’s right. Ultra-Mormons, however, tend to see and speak about both the positive and the negative aspects of Mormonism. They may not always be 50-50 in their views and comments, but they will seldom be as extreme as either the socials or the antis. A true ultra-Mormon will usually be more interested in what is right or wrong than he is in who is right or wrong. Because of this, they will tend to find and comment about both the positive and the negative within Mormonism.

Date Posted: 06/28/2001 11:55 PM
Posted By: Alumnus
Reply to:CurtP

Interesting poll, Curt. Are you active? I am basically not, but I show up now and then to rattle cages. I don’t know why.

I hope to read more of your thoughts.


Date Posted: 06/29/2001 7:01 PM
Posted By: FreedomOfMind
Reply to:CurtP

…just to see what thoughts/discussions this brings up.There are at least three types of “Mormons.” I refer to these three types as anti-Mormons, social Mormons, and ultra-Mormons.

I think there are probably more categories of Mormons. There are some Mormons who are categorized in “The Paradox of the Faithful Unbeliever” paper which could be the majority of folks who would frequent this forum. I would describe myself as a cultural-Mormon or a social-Mormon in the sense that I participate in Church more from a cultural or traditional perspective rather than strict adherence to doctrine or dogma. However, the concept of an ultra-Mormon is quite interesting and thought provoking. Thanks for your manuscript regarding the Apostacy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Very well researched and prepared – much food for thought.

Date Posted: 06/29/2001 7:36 PM
Posted By: Dathon
Rank: sum, ergo cogito?Curt,

I think of myself as an ultra anti-social mormon. I am often disappointed at the general lack of depth or research (let alone common sense!) evidenced in the comments and questions I hear in both SS and PH classes. OTOH at least people are willing to comment and ask questions so I really shouldn’t disparage their remarks which may be honest, and well intentioned.

I think I tend to be more of a splitter, in taxonomic terms, than you are in your take on categories of believers (& unbelievers). Your ideas are interesting. Thanks.

It takes all sorts to make a church and I see no sense in pretending to be the mormon norm when one is not.
“The most erroneous stories are those we think we know best — and therefore never scrutinize or question.” -Stephen Jay Gould
“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” – Martin Luther King, Jr., Speech at Civil Rights March on Washington, August 28, 1963

Message edited by: Dathon on 07/22/2001 18:04:56

Date Posted: 06/30/2001 11:41 AM
Posted By: sweetpea
Where does the Mormon who spent alot of time studying the darker side of the church history, but came away in awe and still loving the church, but not neccessarily active fit in? I am still trying to figure it out. I don’t live the word of wisdom, but want to go back (but with a grain of salt, mind you- back, with a calling here and there, but not really back and fully believing, but respectful of those that do)

hope this posts ok.

Date Posted: 06/30/2001 3:33 PM
Posted By: John*

Message edited by: John* on 07/13/2001 21:40:01

Date Posted: 07/02/2001 12:21 PM
Posted By: CurtP
Hi All,

Sorry I’ve been so unrespondant to your posts of late. I’m afraid I was struggling with a bout of the flu during the latter half of last week and into the weekend.

Just a few comments and answers to questions…

Yes, I am “active” in the LDS church, although there are probably a few people who wish I weren’t (not the least of which is my current bishop). I try to do as much good as I think I can get away with, both in the areas of teaching and service. Sometimes I win and sometimes I lose. Such is life I guess.

How can I get a copy of “The Parodox of the Faithful Unbeliever?” It sounds like something I’d like to read. Since most of you said you were another type of Mormon altogether, it would be interesting to clarify that definition a little more. Maybe there are several more types that need to be labeled and defined. (I’m afriad this is a backlash from my philosophy days – nothing is valuable until it is labeled and especailly defined. Sorry.)

Thanx, BTW, for the comments on my writings. Much appreciated. It’s always good to hear that they are well received and considered. As you can imagine with stuff like that, a lot of people take the TBM approach and read it with a fairly closed mind. A couple of my friends (ultra Mormons) are encouraging me to start my own web site and BB similar to NOM that would cater especially to the ultra-Mormon community and provide all of my writings to download from one location. I’m not sure. I’ll need to give that more thought.