thoughts, whims, and delusions of a middle aged mama

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Who's a Mormon?

Okay, this post has nothing to do with the FLDS, or any of the controversies with their community. This is purely to help me in my own quest to understand and learn.

Apparently the series "Big Love" is going to air a segment that has a scene that takes place inside a Mormon Temple, showing an "Endowment Ceremony". This has the LDS Church folks all upset. They say their Temple ceremonies are private, etc. and should not be shown.

But here's my question...all that was just to set the stage, so to speak...
In all of the articles I have seen about this, the LDS Church refers to the fictional family in "Big Love" as "Fundamentalists" but not Mormon.
All through this, as I have been learning, I thought that all of the different Fundamentalist groups, the independent Fundamentalists, and the members of the LDS Church, were all Mormon. Just different sects. Or individual believers without specific affiliation with a sect. But all Mormons. All followers and believers in the faith of Joseph Smith.

Where is my error? How can an enormous group of people who all believe basically the same doctrine not all be Mormons?


Ron in Houston said...

Well, it all depends on how you define "Mormon." For Big Love, I suspect there is a hint of political correctness in the way they depict things.

The big LDS church feels that no one can call themselves "Mormon" unless they belong to their sect.

For me, any group that traces it roots back to Joseph Smith is, in may mind at least, a "Mormon" group.

rericson said...

It's like saying the Shia and Sunni are not both Muslim....

The other piece I'm confused about is the "Who's a Christian" thing..."Christians" say Mormons are not Christian....Mormons say they are a Christian denomination...that they ARE Christian...

Who's on first???????

RIchard Endwright said...

Regina said:
"The other piece I'm confused about is the 'Who's a Christian" thing'..."

There is nothing to be confused about, unless you view the world like a jigsaw puzzle where all the pieces should fit together along common boundaries. Indeed, that expectation will produce life long confusion. And PS: there is no one on first.

TxBluesMan said...


The Mormon Church, of whatever branch, whether LDS, FLDS, AUB, etc, all believe that they are the "one" true church and that everyone else is either a gentile (a non-member) or an apostate (members who have been excommunicated and are no longer believers).

Thus, the FLDS belief that the LDS members are apostates (and vice versa), while a Catholic or Methodist are merely gentiles.

The same has happened in the various Christian sects. The Catholic Church fought for centuries against the Arian Church (who did not believe in the divinity of Jesus), had a Great Schism (the Orthodox Churches refused to recognize the supremacy of the Pope), the various Protestant sects (with each side killing the members of the other), etc.

The Catholics and the Orthodox both claim that they are the only "true" church. So do some Baptists and other sects.

One really needs a scorecard to keep up...

Dale Kemp said...

If you ask me it's kind of like Protestants and Catholics arguing about who is Christian. Well they both are.

Mormon is an all inclusive term.

The LDS just don't want all the other groups being referred to as Mormon because then they are confused by the world as being the same as the LDS.

They are not the same as the LDS but I don't think it is incorrect to refer to anybody that believes in the teachings of Joseph Smith as being Mormon.

We are all just a bunch of Mormons, even those Community of Christ folks (though I'm not sure if they would want to admit it any more).

Dale Kemp said...

cheese said...

There was a time when the LDS Church had a little bit of a problem with people calling them "Mormons" because people were saying that they weren't a "Christian" religion. So they went on a campaign to distance themselves from the term "Mormon". Now they're taking a flip flop on the issue.

Maayan said...

what is this issue with the Big Love show, I mean, we all know its a show........... They should worry more about people thinking there IS A LETTER about plural marriage and that the church has done whatever they could possibly do to dissapear it, than the show showing a ritual...........

LAnon said...

While agreeing with Dale Kemp, I think there might be a need for a little clarification. I have discovered through reading these various blogs over the past year, that there are more differences between the FLDs and the LDS church than just the stance on polygamy and who the prophet is.

If you define a "mormon" as someone who believes the Book of Mormon as well as the Bible to be scripture than many sects fit this definition. If you then throw in the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price, you then have to parse it a little more based on which edition. Obviously which prophet/leader you follow also muddies the definition.

Our sect also believes in a literal restoration of the basic church structure - including apostles, seventies, patriarchs. Not all of the other sects do. We apparently, live the Word of Wisdom (a health code) more strictly than some of the other sects.

As some one who is LDS and has "proselitized" (sorry Regina, I didn't knock on your door, I served in Japan), I would have loved to have people recognize me as LDS, not mormon because that would have been a much clearer distinction. However, in general people think of the mormons, (somewhere around 8 million members give or take a couple of million, can't remember the latest numbers) as those people with temples all over the earth (120+), the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, missionaries, and lots of humanitarian service. Then they say, and don't they practice polygamy? We don't, and haven't for a very long time.

Because that is a practice, that we left behind a long time ago, and is strictly prohibited by our sect, we try very hard to distinguish ourselves from the other sects. (Pliggy, I have at least two great-great grandfathers who practiced polygamy, and I think very highly of them.)

While I don't want to deny any of the sects from defining themselves as Mormon, I do want my friends, neighbors, etc, to know there is a difference in current belief and practice. If you can think of a better way that you can get people to understand, I would welcome it.

We tried for years to let the world know, we are the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and I think most of us have finally said, yes, we are mormons, believers in the Book of Mormon, Another Witness for Christ - no, we do not practice polygamy. (Yes, in this life, as someone is sure to point out that we can be sealed to more than one spouse, for eternity.)

I know some people felt like the LDS church was vindictive when the suggestion by the Texas courts were that the FLDS children be lead in Sunday services was rejected. I wasn't surprised. I didn't think the FLDS would have accepted that as a good thing. We have some basic differences that neither accepts as true.

I don't post much, but I appreciate Regina's blog, along with Pliggy's, and Kurt's for furthering my education in a mostly non-hostile environment. (I even appreciate's Grandpa Bill's and Brooke's despite the somewhat adversarial tone that Bill's frequently takes, and thoroughly detest the negative tone many of the recent bloggers on Brooke's blog have taken.) I will take exception to Headmistress's definition of Christian while trying to understand where she comes from and really like her blog for many things, not the least of which is her following of the injustices perpetrated on the children of the YFZ ranch.

And TBM, I still say you would have been better named Javier.

rericson said...

cheese, blues, et al...
From the outside, looking religions in general, it seems there are sub-sects within several large groups...all under the umbrella of Christianity....

I just honestly don't understand the fighting and distancing and all that...

Where does the word "Mormon" come from?
I mean if the discussion is about specific doctrine, I can see making Calvinists and Catholics...big difference in some basic doctrine...but if it's an issue of global beliefs, then it's a discussion say with Muslims...

I found this's fairly well laid out...although written by an R.C. priest, it seems balanced...except that the only mention I see of Mormonism is way down toward the end of Western Denominations under "19th-20th century"
Christian Denominations

rericson said...

Thank you for your post! For taking the time to capture and write some very basic thinking...
from inside....

Dale Kemp said...


If only it was so simple but Blues laid out just why it isn't.

Ron in Houston said...


Why are the LDS distancing from the word "Mormon." I've had several LDS folks I know talk about how they prefer being called LDS.

WC said...


The LDS church put out a press release several years ago that they wanted to get away from being called Mormons because of the confusion over whether the LDS were christians. When the raid came down, the LDS then said that the LDS church were the only mormons, so to avoid confusion with the FLDS- that's what the LDS church does, it bounces off of bad public vibes trying to appease the masses.

I think it is a kind of self affirmation thing, because if you ask all offshoots, they all say they are the true church ( or true mormons)- kinda like the Al Franken SNL skit where he stands in front of the mirror and constantly has to affirm that he is doing right.

What confuses the issue even more, are people like me who are LDS, yet believe in parts and pieces of other fundamentalist groups. All one big happy family, though, huh?

LAnon said...


Probably, because as it has been pointed out on this blog and other blogs, there are many groups that call themselves Mormon, and we would like to differentiate ourselves. As I stated earlier, there are significant differences in belief between the various sects, even if they all have the Bible and Book of Mormon as scripture.

Athough other Christian denominations may not view us as Christians, we do, and that is more easily understood when you hear the full name, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or when you hear the full title, the Book of Mormon - Another Witness for Christ.

Our society tends to like to shorten names, use nicknames, or use acronyms. Within our sect (and it is probably the same for other denominations) we refer to "the church" meaning our sect. Others refer to us as Mormons or LDS. LDS, at least, distinguishes us from other sects, even if it is not very descriptive.

It was only a few years ago, that the RLDS (Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) renamed themselves the Community of Christ, presumably to better distinguish themselves from the "LDS" and the "FLDS".

Does that help?

LAnon said...

By the way, sometimes we refer to the "little c church" meaning the cultural expectations we tend to have and the "big C Church" meaning actual doctrine.

Examples of the first might be sabbath observance - Sunday for most of the world, Saturday in Israel, Friday, in the Muslim world, or something as cultural as shaking hands (AmericaA) when greeting as opposed to bowing (Japan).

Examples of the second would be baptism by immersion, not sprinking; paying tithes (10% is standard but 10% of what is a frequent debate - gross income or net income, payable today or at the end of the year, etc).

cheese said...

Regina maybe Heber C. Kimball can shed some light on the subject.

"Some quietly listen to those who speak against the Lord's servants, against his anointed, against the plurality of wives, and against almost every principle that God has revealed. Such persons have half-a-dozen devils with them all the time. You might as well deny "Mormonism", and turn away from it , as to oppose the plurality of wives. Let the Presidency of this Church, and the Twelve Apostles, and all the authorities unite and say with one voice(vote on the manifesto?) that they will oppose that doctrine, and the whole of them would be damned. What are you opposing it for? It is a principle that God has revealed for the salvation of the human family. He revealed it to Joseph the Prophet in this our dispenation; and that which he revealed he designs to have carried out by his people."

Heber C. Kimball, Oct. 12, 1856

cheese said...

Notice how he refered to "them". He knew where he stood on the doctrine and so did the people for he talked about it often. He was a Prophet and was talking to all the "Mormons" who were living and would come thereafter!

Pliggy said...

Cheese, remember the term "damned" has a different definition to us. Most who read that quote think he is saying everyone who doesn't live it will be enslaved in fire and brimstone and a red horned guy with a pitchfork making them shovel coal. FOREVER.

"Damned" means to not reach the highest heaven. It also means to be "sorry" because you knew better. Joseph Smith wrote that the "fire and brimstone" is regret in the heart for not doing what you knew you should.

To get your mind around it the definition of Mormon, you have to realize that there is a subtle prejudice that is ALLOWED, or actually REQUIRED, because polygamy is "bad", and "everyone" agrees. It is a "crime" ya know. In every news article about the FLDS, the media has to end it with:

"but they aint the LDS Mormon church, the LDS Mormon church aint bad "anymore"

With such constant referring to the more populous and popular church, in almost every single article about a different religion, they are actually engaging in reverse psychology with the ignorant masses. Of course they are going to associate the two.

Regarding "Mormon" the term was actually invented by the antagonists against the church in Joseph Smiths day. He translated a book that he was given by an angel, and people were (and are) insulted that he would "dare" say that it was true. Anyone was a (pejorative) "Mormon" who "enslaved" themselves to this "man".

But Joseph Smith completely accepted the term. In a letter to the editor of the early church newspaper he wrote:

"To the Editor of the Times & Seasons:

Sir:--Through the medium of your paper, I wish to correct an error among men that profess to be learned, liberal and wise; and I do it the more cheerfully, because I hope sober-thinking and sound-reasoning people will sooner listen to the voice of truth, than be led astray by the vain pretensions of the self-wise. the error I speak of, is the definition of the word "Mormon." I has been stated that this word was derived from the Greek word "mormo." This is not the case. There was no Greek or Latin upon the plates from which I, through the grace of God, translated the Book of Mormon. Let the language of that book speak for itself. On the 523rd page, of the fourth edition, it reads: "And now behold we have written this record according to our knowledge in the characters, which are called among us the "Reformed Egyptian," being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech; and if our plates had been sufficiently large, we should have written in Hebrew: but the Hebrew hath been altered by us, also; and if we could have written in Hebrew, behold ye would have had no imperfection in our record, but the Lord knoweth the things which we have written, and also, that none other people knoweth our language; therefore he hath prepared means for the interpretation thereof."

Here then the subject is put to silence, for "none other people knoweth our language," therefore the Lord, and not man, had to interpret, after the people were all dead. And as Paul said, "the world by wisdom know not God," so the world by speculation are destitute of revelation; and as God in his superior wisdom, has always given his Saints, wherever he had any on the earth, the same spirit, and that spirit, as John says, is the true spirit of prophecy, which is the testimony of Jesus. I may safely say that the word Mormon stands independent of the learning and wisdom of this generation.--Before I give a definition, however, to the word, let me say that the Bible in its widest sense, means good; for the Savior says according to the gospel of John, "I am the good shepherd;" and it will not be beyond the common use of terms, to say that good is among the most important in use, and though known by various names in different languages, still its meaning is the same, and is ever in opposition to "bad." We say from the Saxon, "good"; the Dane, "god"; the Goth, "goda"; the German, "gut"; the Dutch, "goed"; the Latin, "bonus"; the Greek, "kalos"; the Hebrew, "tob"; and the "Egyptian, "mon." Hence, with the addition of "more," or the contraction, "mor," we have the word "mormon"; which means, literally, "more good."



(TPJS pg 299-300)

Pliggy said...

Oops, I didn't finish fixing the third paragraph. The first sentence should read:

To get your mind around the desire for the LDS Church to claim exclusivity to the label "Mormon".

Chino Blanco said...

Tom Hanks puts this brouhaha into perspective (and waxes prophetic) at the 3rd season premiere of Big Love:

"There's gonna be lies, and secrets, and discoveries, and problems. Television!"

Anonymous said...

The question has been well addrssed for me by LAnon (basicly, "It Depends"), but wanted to throw in my two cents, as a matter of introduction of myself and appreciation to the owner for hosting and maintaining this site.

My appreciation stems at least partly from the tone and attitude of compassion towards the FLDS in Texas who were victims of CPS. As a Protestant\ Pentecostal\ Apostolic\ independent believer, I'm sad that more Protestant christian groups and/or individuals did not rise to support those people during this event.

As for my two cents, I heard sometime back (6-10 years), in passing somewhere, that "Mormon" was a tag used by people outside the CoJCoLDS to refer to CoJCoLDS, but that members did not refer to themselves that way. I never researched the meaning of the word "Mormon" until I saw this post. Wikipedia (not that they are an authority) says "the term is often used more broadly to describe any individual or group that believes in the Book of Mormon, which was originally published in 1830 by Joseph Smith, Jr. as The Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi. According to the Book of Mormon, Mormon is the name of the prophet who compiled the book of scripture known as the Book of Mormon."

If I were defining Mormon (not that I'm an authority either), I would define it as people who accept the Book of Mormon as Holy Scripture and try to follow it. I guess that would be inclusive towards all the different sub-groups mentioned above. However, based on that one comment I heard many years back, Mormon isn't a word I often use (not that I have many opportunities).

About Me

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First I am a mother, and grandmother....that is probably the single most important aspect of my life. Then I am a family advocate for a large, national advocacy organization. I work primarily in "systems advocay", helping to identify needs and change policies in children's behavioral health. And I love my dogs, my garden, my pond and fish, and trashy murder mysteries and the occasional shot of good scotch.... Fell free to post a note in whatever the most recent entry is...I love meeting new people!

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