|The prophet Mormon
For purposes of brevity, use of the terms “the Church” and “LDS” are respectively in reference to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and as a descriptor for its general membership, established doctrine, and/or official policies—unless otherwise stated.
While the author does their best to follow the counsel of Church leaders and adhere to the criteria provided by the official style guide when referencing the complete and correct name of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and appropriate descriptors of its membership, within the context of the articles presented on this website, a consequential distinction is made between “Members of the Church…” and “Mormons.”
In LDS-adjacent communities—and among former Church members in particular—there exists a spectrum of descriptors used to identify those associated with the Church and the varying degrees of that association. These include “True Believing Mormon” (typically used pejoratively), “Nuanced Mormon,” “Progressive Mormon,” “Liberal Mormon,” “Post Mormon,” “Ex-Mormon,” etc.
As far as this website is concerned, “Mormon” is principally used as an identifier for “Mormon culture,” which is not only distinct from the Gospel of Jesus Christ but, at times, can be antithetical to it.
It's also important to note that “Mormon culture” is not necessarily contained within the geographical boundaries of the state of Utah. Still, it does appear—at least from the author's perspective—to be centered there. Thus, “Flippin’ Utah Mormons” is just a title and is not used as a blanket description for all Church members who live in Utah.
The word “Mormon(s)” is used by the author in reference to those who identify with “Mormon culture.” This devotion is viewed within the culture as “living the Gospel” and may even be proselytized—albeit unintentionally—at the expense of Gospel principles because they are generally unaware of any distinction between their “Mormon culture” and Christ's Gospel—as they understand it.
In the study of sociology, the term “culture” has a broad definition encompassing concepts that include—but are not limited to—the arts, laws, customs, behaviors, and institutions. Culture is so multifaceted that it has been described as “...the beliefs that people hold about reality...” So, it's understandable that when a cultural norm, tradition, or notion that conflicts with Gospel principles is brought to the attention of enculturated Mormons, it often results in cognitive dissonance. This is also true for devout followers of any faith who embrace beliefs and practices that conflict with their stated religious values.
Being presented with such conflicts can result in a crisis of faith for an individual. To alleviate that cognitive stress, the simplest solution is to ignore those conflicts—which is probably the most common response that I've observed. There are also those who will attempt to reconcile the conflict without having to change their worldview—which can lead to the perception that anyone that points out even the smallest of inconsistencies is innately hostile to their faith. Perceived hostility is often taken personally. Such internalization can lead to taking defensive and/or offensive actions, resulting in heated arguments in person or online or even physical violence—between individuals, communities, or nation-states.
The author's intent is not to foment conflict of any kind, nor is it to provoke a faith crisis for anyone—quite the opposite, in fact. Regardless of whether or not the reader is a person with or without spiritual beliefs of any kind, familiar or not with the LDS Church, are active, inactive, or former members, they are invited to empathize and understand why many “Mormons” think and behave the way that they do.
The impossibility of offering a truly objective viewpoint is acknowledged, but it is hoped that the perspective being offered is one that will invite at least some clarity on the matters discussed. Especially for those who struggle to reconcile what they understand and feel are true principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with concepts that may appear to be in conflict but can be resolved through deeper understanding and, especially, recognizing the difference between doctrinal Church teachings and flawed interpretations, incorrect ideas, and untrue beliefs that—unfortunately—are often “taught at Church.”
Joseph L. PuenteSalt Lake City, Utah