Jack Mormons and Apostates

Poor Wayfaring Man

There are basically two kinds of people who leave the LDS Church. I will call them “Jack Mormons” and “Apostates”. Apostates are people who leave (or are excommunicated) because they have stopped believing in some or all of the religious tenets of the LDS faith. Jack Mormons are people who leave (or are excommunicated) for reasons other than non-belief, like being unable or unwilling to follow the rules, or because of interpersonal conflicts with other community members.

Jack Mormons, despite having left the Church, continue to view the world essentially through the lens of Mormonism, and maintain the essential beliefs of the mainstream LDS Church. They are basically orthodox (i.e., correct in their religious beliefs), but they are not orthoprax (i.e., correct in their religious practices). Jack Mormons and mainstream members of the LDS Church get along pretty well, because Jack Mormons confirm and support LDS religious beliefs; their only problem is failing to obey the rules. They agree that they aren’t doing what they are “supposed” to do, and they can often be coaxed back into participation.

Apostates are a different story. Apostates and mainstream members of the LDS Church generally have a much harder time getting along, because Apostates are often neither orthodox nor orthoprax–they have knowingly discarded the essential LDS paradigm and beliefs, and that is why they do not obey the rules. The dynamic of the relationship is different from the relationship with Jack Mormons–it’s not merely about participating (“active”) vs. non-participating (“inactive”) Mormons, it’s about believing vs. non-believing Mormons. When believing Mormons engage Apostates, they come dangerously close to questioning their own beliefs, and becoming Apostates themselves. Not surprisingly, the LDS Church openly demonizes and belittles people it considers to be Apostates, and teaches that they are covenant-breaking servants of Satan (see, for example, this 2007 adult Sunday school lesson, titled “Beware the Bitter Fruits of Apostasy”, which was recently presented in LDS congregations worldwide).

Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland recently publicly belittled people who don’t believe in the literal historicity of the Book of Mormon. He called them “foolish”, “misled”, and “deceived”, and derided their attempts to explain the origins of the Book of Mormon in naturalistic terms as “pathetic”. He likened people who leave the Church for intellectual reasons to insects or vermin of some sort who have to “crawl over, or under, or around the Book of Mormon to make that exit.” Jeffrey R. Holland apparently likes to pontificate about the awful fates and consequences that await intellectual dissenters from the Church (and their children). I wrote more about that here.

Obviously, if you want to leave, but still maintain relatively positive contact and open relationships with members of LDS communities, it is easier to be a Jack Mormon than to be an Apostate.


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