I Take My Happy Jack Mormon Roll Too Seriously

May 4, 2007

by Alice

A couple of weeks ago my oldest brother mentioned that if I am to write for this blog, then I should be attending the Mormon church more regularly. He noted that in no way did he think this increase in attendance would make me believe in the gospel of the Church. That is, he has no “hidden agenda” in his request. After all he recognizes that the members of my family are a stubborn lot. However, he feels it is important for me to know more about the topics that I write about, and considering that it has been over a decade since I last attended church on a regular basis, it is clear that more knowledge would be beneficial. Who wants someone discussing a topic they know nearly nothing about? (I hope all of you).

On the one hand, Christian makes a fair point. On the other so does my mom, “It seems odd to attend a place of worship on a regular basis merely as research for a blog.”

Because my mother’s comment falls more in line with my own selfish desire, I tend to lean towards her point. Still, Christian has a valid argument, an argument that has made me think that I shouldn’t be writing for this blog. And really, why am I writing for this blog? I’ve been looking at writing for VSoM in the same way I would in hiring a personal trainer. I like it when I write well. I like it when I’m in shape. I don’t write unless I have a deadline. I don’t work out unless I have a personal trainer. This blog is my writing trainer.

But why VSoM? That part is easy: because they asked me. Still, I think there is more to it, and I think that the “more to it” is me believing that there is a need in the Mormon Community for someone to say, “People can leave the Church, still love the Church, still have strong relationships with their family, and still lead happy, successful lives.” And for whatever insane reason I appointed myself, Alice, as that person.

After watching Monday and Tuesday’s PBS special, ” The Mormons” (research, of course), and after reviewing the posts I’ve written for VSoM, I think I’m taking my self-appointed calling too seriously. I’ve been only positive in an effort to gain acceptance and trust, I’ve expressed that which I love about the Church, and not mentioned anything about why I’m no longer part of the Church. I haven’t approached the topics where I think the Church falls short.

Let’s take last week’s topic as an example, courtesy. Last week I started writing about the things that bother me, but I moved on to the aspects of the Church which I really respect, the aspects of the Church that show incredible love and devotion and courtesy to its community. Maybe I wrote about what I did because I find myself defending the Church more often than I do having to disagree with its teachings and beliefs. But maybe if I were not so caught up in making sure that I was being kind in all I said, I might have talked about the areas in which I find Mormon’s less than courteous. I should have discussed the fact that every single one of my siblings is married, yet I haven’t seen one of them actually get married. I understand that the Church can’t change their sacred marriage traditions and deepest beliefs to accommodate outsiders’ needs for comfort, but possibly they could more properly address the alienation an individual feels when they, as non-believers, are clearly set apart from the Mormon community. Laugh as you may, but when I watched MTV’s “Engaged and Underage” I cried with the non-Mormon mother whose son was getting married in the Temple and who couldn’t attend. She didn’t understand. She wanted to see her only son married, and he choose not to have her there . . . . That is all
she understood. This policy does not express courtesy. It is the necessary rudeness which Ronanhead so eloquently discusses, but of course HE’s eloquent. He’s British.

It would, however, be courteous of the Church to address these issues of exclusion and consider alternatives for individuals, especially those not in the Church. Perhaps they could more clearly explain the necessity of the exclusion and offer something more welcoming than a quiet temple waiting room . . . . Maybe massages for everyone who can’t attend the wedding—just off the top of my head.

On a more serious note, I am going to try and take my calling a little less seriously and I’m going to try and be a bit more honest about the issues in the Church that bother me. I can hardly wait to write on topics like divorce and gay marriage.

But will I be able to pull off the Emeritus Mormon label I so long to have? Or will you think of me as just another complaining Jack Mormon (a term I absolutely loath)? There is such a fine line.

I guess I’ll just have to wait and see. Or I could cut my losses and stop writing about topics I don’t know enough about.


  1. Hi, usually I singed on with the user name Tacitus. I don’t think that you should feel weird about blogging about Mormonism because you grew up Mormon and your family is Mormon. You’re not intruding at all. You didn’t really have much of a choice growing up Mormon, now did you? I think you can write about anything you wish.

  2. Is a “Jack Mormon roll” like a Pepper Jack cheese roll served at a ward potluck, or do you mean “role?”

    BTW, I think Jack Mormon indicates someone who believes, but rejects the doctrinal practices of the church (wants to smoke drink, etc). You seem to be in a different position than that, so take the title of Emeritus Mormon if you want. Although I wouldn’t think church attendance would be requisite for that title. You are in a pickle.

  3. It is more like a spicy tuna roll

  4. Alice,

    You can’t be a Jack Mormon, because you’re a girl. Girls have to be Jill Mormons. Being a Jack Mormon is like holding the Priesthood — it’s for men only. Nyah, nyah.

    Other than your apparent gender confusion, I think it’s a fine post. You seem to be the kind of Jill Mormon who anyone would love to have in their ward. You could not-show-up for church every Sunday, but you’d be nice to the poor home teachers told to reactivate you, who dropped by once every two years. You might even go to the occasional ward activity, to be nice, or join the RS book club, and not make obnoxious suggestions.

    A friendly, low-maintenance Jill Mormon. Every ward could use a few more of those, to balance out some of the weirdos who sit in the pews on Sundays.

  5. Tacitus / Civicus: Of course you can write about anything you wish but just because you want to write about something doesn’t make that writing worthwhile. My point to Rebecca is that it is easier to make good arguments, informed arguments, if you’ve done your research.

  6. Rebecca,

    Great post. Your research has paid off 🙂

    I like the article that you linked to and I’m glad that you think of yourself as an Emeritus Mormon — I choose to take it as a compliment to our family that you don’t hate your heritage. I also like that you blog at this site and I hope you don’t quit because I’ve been pressuring you to become more familiar with your topic.


  7. Alice, I am in a similar stage of Mormonism as you, and I appreciate your efforts on behalf of the Mormon Emeritus community. I do feel that if you are going to represent the Mormon Emeritus viewpoint properly, it is important to *refrain* from LDS church attendance. 🙂 When you attend, you become more like a Third Way or New Order Mormon. They are great, and I support them, but they are not in the same stage of Mormonism as I am.

    I think everyone who has had an experience with Mormonism is entitled to write about their personal experience, including their current thoughts on their past experience…even if they aren’t an expert on Mormonism itself.

  8. Beijing: I agree with you completely. Alice should be able to write about her personal experience. The issue really is whether or not she knows enough to comment on current LDS Church policies, how the people are now, what they do now, etc.

    I used this example with Alice when we were talking about it before. I recognize that it isn’t a great example, but it’s the best I’ve come up with so far:

    I recently sold a small company that I co-founded. During the time that I was involved with the company, I was very involved. My financial future was on the line every day and though I am no longer involved in the company, I feel very connected to it. It is part of who I am now, who I have become. As connected as I feel to that company, it is going to change and my recollection of company policies and procedures is going to fade over time. It has only been a few months since I left and already enough has changed that it would be strange to comment on current practices because I just don’t know enough about what’s going on and I don’t understand all of the factors that are going into decisions that are made. Imagine how out of touch I will be in ten years.

    At the same time, I should always be able to comment intelligently on how I felt while I was there, how that experience changed me, and so on. But as soon as I move into a discussion that is more about the company and less about me I think I’ve crossed a line that requires that I do a little research. That is not to say that I can’t comment on it, but too many of those comments are ill-informed and I was cautioning Alice not to make that mistake. Comment all you want, but that doesn’t mean it will be worthwhile.

    That’s the point I was trying to make to Alice, who I unintentionally outed in my earlier comment. Sorry Alice. Your status as an Emeritus Mormon will always be honored by me even if your digital identity is not.

  9. Beijing — I guess I don’t agree with you completely since you are asking Alice to refrain from attendance. I should say that I agree with you mostly.

  10. You put the “various” in Various Stages of Mormondom, I guess I do, too, but isn’t that the point? Keep on keeping on…

  11. Re #9, my advice to refrain from attendance was a joke. That’s why there was a smiley face. I don’t actually think it’s my business to advise other people on their religious practices.

  12. We all know that church attendance doesn’t equal worship. Attendance for curiosity? Why not? I am sure you can find a way to be honest about your beliefs and respectful of others’.

    Also, I believe that Mormonism, for many of us, is hereditary in a way similar to Judaism. So why can Jews claim their heritage without explaining endlessly the exact nature of their “activity” in the Jewish faith? I would love for Mormons to be able to claim their religion/heritage without such high stakes (i.e. claiming you’re a Mormon doesn’t necessarily mean you go every week and pay tithing).

  13. Thank you all for your comments … I love a good discussion.

    Civicus / Tacitus: agree it is silly to feel wierd about blogging.

    Cantinflas: I’ve never understood the definition of Jack Mormon, I’m grateful for the clarification.

    Kaimi: Thank goodness that after 32 years my gender issues have finally been cleared up!

    Christian: Thank you for your insight and continued interest in discussing my blogs with me every single week at leangth. It is very helpful.

    Beijing: It is nice to bump into other Emeritus Mormons . . . THIS is one of the many reasons I love blogging.

    RQE: I agree with your statement regarding the Jewish faith, and it is true that you can’t take my history and that which has made me who I am away from me.

  14. Oops … and CA I love that you lay down the gospel every Monday.

  15. Christian: I’m sorry that I wasn’t more tactful in my tone of voice. I meant that I think Alice is certainly in her element when she’s blogging about Mormonism as she has spent a great deal of her life as a Latter-day Saint. Even if she hasn’t been attending or immersing herself in social activities she’s still in my opinion up to speed in all things LDS.

  16. how ironic that I’m a Jill Mormon… 😉

    Great post, Bec…I love your perspective, as always. I also find it interesting that you often know much more about the current “goings-on” of the church than I do…and I will go to church with the family about 4-5 times per year for special “occasions”.

    I just find that funny…

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