The Four Types of Mormons

So my very bright friend in Wisconsin has come up with something that should get us light years beyond the tired old Liahona-Iron Rod business. Here it is, in his words, not mine.

Four Types of Mormons: Preliminary Notes

We are all familiar with the iron rod-liahona dichotomy suggesting that people approach Mormonism either through exacting obedience—holding fast to the iron rod—or through open-ended spiritual inquiry—holding a liahona in your hand. While this analogy was clearly compelling, it does not take into account how people experience church culture and therefore cannot adequately describe the experiences of those who are not seriously engaged with the church but who are still part of it. Furthermore, it only gives a one-dimensional account of the lived experiences of engaged Mormons.

We can diagram two binaries in relation to each other, however. We can break up the Mormon experience into two dimensions—the spiritual and the cultural—and then chart the tensions that these commitments create. The chart below is an attempt to do this, but before I attempt to explain it in words, I think it would be best to take a look at it:

The words and phrases that run vertically are the binary pairs: spiritual commitment vs. no spiritual commitment on the y axis and social commitment vs. no social commitment on the x axis. This dual dichotomy indicates that perceived commitment to Mormonism is more complex than being either an iron rodder or liahonaite. Instead, there are at least four positions one can take. On the chart, the words that run diagonally are the types of Mormons these intersecting commitments create. But before I explain they types, let me first explain the binaries that generate them.

By spiritual commitment I mean level of belief in the core doctrines of Mormonism. E. g., does a person really believe that the Book of Mormon is ancient scripture? Does a person really believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet? That temple sealings really create eternal marriages? Someone has a high level of spiritual commitment if she emphatically believes everything covered in the missionary discussions, and those without that spiritual commitment either disbelieve or have not seriously attempted to determine the truthfulness of the Church’s claims.

By social commitment I mean the level of commitment to social mores. This can be thought of in two ways. First, does a person regularly engage in behavior seen as stereotypically Mormon, e.g., eating funeral potatoes and Jello? But it can also mean the degree to which a person uses the mores of his or her ward or branch to make important life commitments. For example, even though the Church goes out of its way to present itself as nonpartisan, even trotting out Elder Jensen to say that yes, he is a Democrat, many are under the impression that Mormons are somehow supposed to be Republicans. This is not to say that there are not many sincere Republicans in the Church, merely that some in the Church join the party because they think they are supposed to. Social commitment can also be seen as the degree to which an individual lets the writings of Mormon cultural critics and motivational speakers and non-doctrinal statements of general authorities impact behavior. Someone with a high degree of social commitment would not drink caffeinated soda because they read Mormon Doctrine even though many temple recommend holders are Coke or Pepsi fans. Other examples of this would include an adult male who decides not to grow a beard because the general authorities do not (now) wear them or a married adult woman who would never purchase a two-piece swimsuit because she has heard over and over that bikinis are little better than stripper costumes.

Let us now turn our attention to the four types of Mormon indicated at the corners of the chart. We should think of these corner positions as extremes that few real people reach; most of us are somewhere within the chart itself. Consequently, the names chosen for the position are deliberate caricatures.

Paper Mormons have no social or spiritual attachment to the Church. Their names could be on the rolls because they were born in the covenant and then fell away or because they were hastily baptized and then rethought their decision, but they no longer think like Mormons. In fact, the only commonality this group shares is a lack of Mormon-ness.

Pretty Mormons have a high degree of social commitment but no spiritual commitment. They are outwardly very orthodox and appear as Ensign-cover ideals. But while these people may be Coke-scorning Republican stalwarts with large families, they have never seriously attempted to spiritually connect with the doctrines of the Church. These people hate living in “the mission field� because their conformity to a belief that in Wisconsin or Texas is seen as a bizarre cult does not have any social advantages.

Obediac Mormons are spiritually and socially committed to the Church. In some ways, they are Pretty Mormons with powerful testimonies. Indeed, in areas where there are large numbers of Mormons it is hard to tell the difference between Pretty and Obediac Mormons, but in “the mission field� it is simple: the Obediacs are the ones in church. Because of their intense commitment to the Church, however, they easily loose patience with members of the other groups.

Caffeinated Mormons are believers, but they scorn the nondoctrinal culture that has grown up around the Church. They do not look to this culture for guidance on most lifestyle issues, even though they are just as likely to be at sacrament meeting as Obediacs. All bets are off, however, when it comes to social mores. While they may be Republicans, they may also have facial hair, belly rings, an open container of Pepsi in their hands, a piece of rum cake on their plate, naughty underwear in their bedroom drawers, etc. Obediacs love to call Caffeinated Mormons worldly, and Caffeinated Mormons usually respond by saying “and your point was?�

The lines connecting the various positions indicate relative levels of hostility. Blue lines imply a cold war; a lack of understanding on key points, but some shared perspective. Obediacs and Caffeinated Mormons sit next to each other in leadership meetings agreeing on the overall mission but differing sharply on tactics. Pretty Mormons wish Obediacs wouldn’t be so churchy while the Obediacs wish the Pretty Mormons would just read their scriptures a little more. Red lines indicate a hot war between those who simply do not think alike. When the Obediac home teacher finally gets a hold of the Paper Mormon on his list, the result is brief and awkward meeting where raised tempers are barely held in check. Pretty Mormons and Caffeinated Mormons go to church for very different reasons and so often drive each other crazy.

55 comments for “The Four Types of Mormons

  1. Gilgamesh
    November 21, 2005 at 10:40 pm

    Julie, I really like this diagram. I wonder, however, if the pretty mormons also go to church due to not wanting to look bad to family members. In other words, all of their motives are for ulterior motives, not internal spiritual desire for growth.

  2. Paul B
    November 21, 2005 at 10:51 pm

    This is insightful and hits on a number of common-sense accuracies. However, I would take exception with the idea that every member who goes to church outside of the Utah/Idaho(/Arizona?) womb of Mormonism is by definition highly committed both socially and spiritually. There are varying levels of commitment all throughout the church all over the world. Other people have spoken about the “church within a church” concept, with the core of truly active members taking on the bulk of the responsibilities, with the less-active-but-still-active members on the periphery.

    I also think the “cold war/hot war” has accuracy limitations. It rings true on some levels, but wouldn’t you say that the truly committed person (socially and spiritually) would be the one most likely to reach out to the other “corners of the ring,” so to speak? In other words, I would expect the person who lives the gospel most fully–i.e. who is the most “Christlike” (which I would think includes both deep spiritual commitment and deep commitment to Zion in the “community of believers” sense of the word)–to be interested in reaching out to those with weaker testimonies (“pretty” Mormons), those who have left the path (“paper” Mormons), and those who feel less of a connection to their fellow saints (“caffeinated” Mormons). In fact, if anything, I would expect the most Christlike people to be most interested in the “lost sheep” of the upper right hand corner.

    Perhaps the biggest drawback to this model is that it is so rooted in worldly behaviors (all four corners) that I don’t really see a place to put Christ at all. Would you call Christ an “obediac?” He was obedient, after all. Would you say that His willingness to go against the grain of the common conventions of the day puts him in the “caffeinated” category? His mission was to preach to the Jews, not the Gentiles. Does his involvement in his religious community make him a “pretty” Mormon? None of us would call him a “paper” Mormon.

    Obviously there’s a negative connotation to every single one of the categories. Maybe the categories could be reframed in terminology that gives more dignity to each. I realize that part of the fun was in coming up with clever names that we can laughingly identify with, but that’s a built-in limitation to their usefulness.

    One thought might be to put Christlike people in the center of the box, with all other abberations around the outside, but I’m not convinced this works entirely either, because I wouldn’t think Christ’s category would be equidistant from the paper and obediac types.

    Just some thoughts.

  3. Carolyn
    November 21, 2005 at 11:04 pm

    Great chart. But where do you put the “lost sheep”? Those who once had a spiritual commitment but for one reason or another have become disaffected. I’m thinking this is a sizable group.

  4. November 21, 2005 at 11:24 pm


    But a close reading of your post shows you (or perhaps your friend) seem to favor Caffeinated Mormons over the other types (much in the way the false Liahona/Iron Rodder binary usually winds up making Liahona types look better than the Rodders).

    Is there a way to do this breakdown without making some faithful members (the “pretty” ones, for example) sound like sort of losers?

    (and I have facial hair, vote libertarian and never wear a suit jacket to church – I’d likely be halfway between Caffeinated and Pretty)

  5. Julie M. Smith
    November 21, 2005 at 11:36 pm

    Hm, I’m not sure if my friend will be responding in the comments or not . . .

    Gilgamesh, I would think that the ‘social commitments’ of pretty mormons may well include the desire to appear active to their families.

    Carolyn, I would think that the Lost Sheep are paper mormons.

    Ivan, I, too, with all respect to my friend–who I think would acknowledge that he is a caffeinated Mormon–think that his *descriptions* favor that group. However, I don’t think the *graphic* favors any group. He has told me that he has shown this to various people and some have happily said, “Yup, I’m an obediac.” I have no problem saying that I’m 3/4 obediac and 1/4 caffeinated, with little to no tolerance for paper or pretty mormons. So I’m not the one to ask about making the pretty mormons look like losers–I’m not too keen on people with a social but no spiritual commitment to the gospel. In fact, I probably would have called them ‘hypocrites.’

  6. meems
    November 21, 2005 at 11:52 pm

    Heh – I guess I’m caffeinated, but not too caffeinated. Sort of like dark chocolate or watery Coke – ’cause I don’t “scorn” the nondoctrinal culture that has grown up around the church. In fact, I’m kind of not even clued in about it. (But no, I don’t have piercings and eat rum cake)!

  7. November 22, 2005 at 12:00 am

    Julie 0-

    okay. I wasn’t sure if some of the wording was coming from you or your friend.

    I also should correct my comment above – I am likely halfway between Caffeinated and Obediac.

  8. ed
    November 22, 2005 at 12:14 am

    It seems you (or your friend) are using the term “social commitment” to refer only to superficial aspects of “mormon culture.”

    Where do you put someone who has serious doubts or even disbelief about core doctrines, but still is an actively contributing participant in the church as a social and service organization?

  9. November 22, 2005 at 12:18 am

    Also – the deal with “pretty” mormons (which I think would cover those ed is talking about):

    Well, it is somewhat hypocritical, but at the same time, no one’s perfect. Some people just need more time and exposure in order to finally get at the truth of the gospel. Some “pretty” mormons are hypocritical, but others might just be still struggling and trying to find a place to belong. I’d rather be sympathetic than judgemental in those cases.

  10. Wilfried Decoo
    November 22, 2005 at 12:20 am

    Fun and interesting, Julie. I am of course looking to what extent this would apply to members in the international realm. I guess basically most of the same general profiles and criteria could apply. But your description of social commitment and social mores seems pretty much (Wasatch front) American, from funeral potatoes to Republican preference. We would have to transculturalize and I am not sure we could identify a stereotypical French, Nigerian, Korean, or Chilean Mormon to match social profiles.

  11. annegb
    November 22, 2005 at 12:21 am

    Yeah, I think this is too generalizing. Everybody is an exception to a rule at one time or another.

  12. Julie M. Smith
    November 22, 2005 at 12:22 am

    OK, just to clarify: all of the post except the first two sentences is his, not mine. That said, I think his graphic is useful and helpful–way more than the Iron Rod/Liahona.

    ed, I think your doubter/contributor is a pretty mormon (low spiritual commitment but high social commitment), but I admit that that label and my friend’s description doesn’t quite fit that type of person. It may be that two types inhabit that little corner of the world.

    And Ivan, you are right. I was too harsh on the pretty ones. I guess because I was thinking of them as people who aren’t even trying, whereas you are thinking of them as strugglers. There’s probably some of both.

  13. Ann
    November 22, 2005 at 12:23 am

    Yup, Carolyn, the “Lost Sheep” are paper mormons. Unless and until they resign, at which point they become…something else. Methodists, or buddhists, or hedonists.

    Lack of spiritual commitment to Mormonism doesn’t equal lack of spiritual engagement of any kind – but spiritual engagement outside of the church doesn’t have much to do with what kind of Mormon you are.

    Julie, I like this very much. I even like the distances “between” on the social sides. When you’re on either end of the social scale, it’s probably not too easy to determine on which end of the spiritual scale your social opposites fall. Pretty Mormons and Obediacs look the same to me.

    My former bishop was caffeinated. The new one is probably an obediac. I’m not optimistic about the relationship – and now I have a graphic that explains why.

  14. Julie M. Smith
    November 22, 2005 at 12:26 am

    Wilfried, I’m so glad that you are here to always remind us of the >50% of the Saints who aren’t in the US! So–does the lack of LDS social commitment/social culture outside the US (is it even fair to describe it that way? I don’t know.) mean that international Saints _do_ fit the Iron Rod/Liahona dichotomy better? Or are we yet to find the words to describe the experience of non-US Saints?

  15. Ann
    November 22, 2005 at 12:32 am

    I don’t think the lack of social Mormons outside the US has much impact on the diagram at all. I don’t think there’s anything indicating that the distribution has to be equal. Maybe there just aren’t any.

  16. Wilfried Decoo
    November 22, 2005 at 12:34 am

    A word of thanks to Paul B (2), whose contribution appeared somewhat later because of moderation queue waiting (welcome, Paul). It now got placed on top because of the original timing. I want you to know we read it! New commenters: it may take a little while for your words to appear. Don’t think they are lost in hyperspace.

  17. November 22, 2005 at 12:44 am

    I applaud your friend’s effort. It’s an interesting graph. You say that you don’t think the graphic favors any group, but it seems that common sense favors the caffeinated and obediac Mormons. We don’t bear our testimony of the truthfulness of the culture. The Church proclaims the gospel as the eternal importance in our lives. We applaud those members who live the gospel in locations with virtually no Mormon culture. Essentially, our culture without the gospel is just another culture bound together by stories and legends.

  18. Wilfried
    November 22, 2005 at 12:56 am

    Julie: “does the lack of LDS social commitment/social culture outside the US … mean that international Saints _do_ fit the Iron Rod/Liahona dichotomy better? Or are we yet to find the words to describe the experience of non-US Saints?

    Wilfried: Stuff for as many doctoral dissertations as there are countries with Mormons, Julie!. One of the main issues would be to what extent the traditional social commitmentS (yes, very varied already) of non-US saints are competing or not, merging or not, with a (possibly) newly developing “typical” Mormon social commitment. Add to that the tensions with many non-Mormon family members and friends. We’re going to need a very complex chart. No, the Iron Rod/Liahona dichotomy would definitely be too simplistic if you add the social dimension.

  19. November 22, 2005 at 1:06 am

    Does anyone have activity rate (as in sacrament attendance) figures for various parts of the world?
    My gut feel for activity rate in the US outside of Utah is in the 35% to 50% range. And for outside the US is 25% to 35%. And what is the range in Utah?

  20. November 22, 2005 at 2:00 am

    “Ivan, I, too, with all respect to my friend–who I think would acknowledge that he is a caffeinated Mormon–think that his *descriptions* favor that group. However, I don’t think the *graphic* favors any group.”

    It depends on what value you put on being spiritually committed and socially committed. As Rusty points out, from the viewpoint of anyone who’s spiritually committed, the caffeinated/obediac quadrants are going to be better than the paper/pretty quadrants.

    There’s also something going on with the social commitment continuum. By acknowledging conflict between caffeinated and obediacs mormons, you’re practically implying that obediacs are unable to distinguish social commitment from spiritual commitment — because if they were, what particular bone would they have to pick with caffeinateds? And presumably, since caffeinateds do distinguish between social and spiritual commitment, they wouldn’t be the ones picking the fight.

    I suppose you could keep this balanced by saying that a caffeinated mormon’s problem is that they’re unable to distinguish between motivations for displays of social commitment. This seems weaker, though.

  21. El Jefe
    November 22, 2005 at 2:07 am

    Where would tithepayers fit into the graph? Many years of experience has indicated to me that this may be the watershed principle…not totally, and not in every case..but a fairly strong correlation with commitment.

    There may well be social pressures about tithing…particularly in the West. But the worldwide tithepaying percentage is probably considerably south of 25%.

  22. November 22, 2005 at 3:12 am

    Now all you need is somethink like this. Call it something like the world’s smallest Mormon Quiz.

  23. November 22, 2005 at 8:51 am

    Cool graph, Julie; give your friend our thanks.

    I’d have to confess that I take “pretty Mormons” more seriously than either you or your friend apparently do, probably because I have a hard time seeing the social and cultural aspects of church life as restricted to the sort of outward elements captured by the “Ensign-cover ideal.” Orienting one’s life around a socially or culturally conveyed set of standards and norms is by no means without substantive importance; I have tons of problems with our (often difficult to define, especially when the international factor is added in) “church culture,” but I’m open to the possibility that it is a meaningful and even morally profound one. In contrast to Rusty (#17), I’m not sure one can even have “the gospel” without some sort of culture of stories and legends to convey it.

  24. annegb
    November 22, 2005 at 10:46 am

    I have a recommend, I pay tithing, attend church, have two callings, plus visiting teacher. I do my visiting teaching 100% every month. I probably take in two or three meals a month, usually unasked. I don’t drink or smoke. I’ve read the Book of Mormon many times. But I am still considered a semi-active member of my ward.

    Especially now that I’m in the nursery. A lot figure I’ve finally gone inactive. I guess they think I’m on a precipice. However you spell it. I am so hoping somebody will ask so I can say I’ve been court ordered into AA meetings at that time of day.

    I think it’s because I cuss regularly and complain about the boredom of sacrament meeting and the hypocrisy of “pretty” Mormons and talk back loudly to my bishop. I take John Grisham novels to church covered with my Marian D. Hanks book cover (the only one which covers regular size hard backs). I used to have a key to the Presbyterian Church and bragged about it because I think they are so cool to give their keys to just about anybody. I had it for AA and Al-Anon meetings.

    Feminists think I’m a feminist. Men in the church think I want their job (as if). I’m not Molly Mormon enough for Molly Mormons, not liberal enough for Jack Mormons. It’s lonely sometimes.

    Which category am I in?

  25. Adam S.
    November 22, 2005 at 11:33 am

    Personally, I’m not a fan of catagorizing church members. Even well-intentioned, thoughtful catagorizations miss too much, as annegb’s comment shows. Mormons are as complex as everyone else. I sincerely think mormon archtypes do real harm. Nobody is really a perfect obediac, and too many eat themselves up inside for not measuring up. The classic paper, caffeinated mormon holds common ground with the rest of the church and could make a significant contribution if people could get past the carcaricature.

    I can see how projecting a multi-dimensional landscape on two axes can help us gain insight into the people we spend a lot of time with. It just can’t replace individual communication.

  26. WillF
    November 22, 2005 at 1:24 pm

    Where do ward choir members fit in this model? (Disclaimer: I am a ward choir director)

  27. Matt Evans
    November 22, 2005 at 1:42 pm

    I like the topography but think the analysis is soft.

    I agree with Ivan and Weston that it was easy to know when the writer was describing his own quadrant. As Weston pointed out, according the analysis only caffeinated mormons know what really matters. I suppose the obediacs would respond to caffeinateds, who apparently don’t follow counsel like that against caffeine unless its presented as a commandmnet, by reminding them of the scripture, “For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant.” I’d be interested to know where the writer (or anyone else applying this topography) places the quorum of the twelve and the first quorum of seventy.

    And from what I can tell, cultural stereotypes like jello and funeral potatoes are irrelevant to the analysis (no Mormon eats Jello in order to be “seen of men”), except that the writer presumably does not like them.

    And with Ed, I think the social component should be about social acts rather than culture. On my taxonomy the two axes would be personal spiritual commitment (testimony and personal beliefs) and social commitment (things that require doing, like church attendance, home teaching, service projects, missionary splits).

  28. Frank McIntyre
    November 22, 2005 at 1:53 pm

    I would doubt that anyone could have perfect commitment to both the spiritual gospel and all social and cultural Mormon mores. I would also reject that someone could be perfectly in tune spiritually and yet not do any of the social things that accompany such belief. Thus, I would expect that the lower two corners, in this way of framing things, are vacant. If social mores are restricted to those that are silly, then there could be people in the bottom left corner, but then one is spending all one’s time deciding what is an important more and what is not. And, naturally, one is favoring one corner as better than all others. This might not be a problem, depending on the authorial intent.

  29. WillF
    November 22, 2005 at 2:06 pm

    I am going to try to answer my question about Ward choir members by placing each type in the choir.
    Paper – There are no paper ward choir members. If a paper member attends a rehearsal it is because he or she missed the yearly ward time change and meant to attend Sacrament meeting.
    Pretty – will never attend any rehearsals, only performances. However, this behavior cannot be used to label someone as “Pretty” — sometimes musical obediacs behave the same way because they cannot attend choir practice because of Sunday correlation meetings.
    Obediacs – Obediac couples attend, but only one spouse at a time – the other is taking care of the children. (I’m one of these)
    Caffeine – Attends choir, but mocks the music selection made by the choir director and sings harmonies not indicated in the score.

  30. Seth Rogers
    November 22, 2005 at 2:47 pm

    “When the Obediac home teacher finally gets a hold of the Paper Mormon on his list, the result is brief and awkward meeting where raised tempers are barely held in check.”

    This only occasionally describes the dynamic I’ve seen.

  31. Boris Max
    November 22, 2005 at 2:49 pm


    Wouldn’t a caffienated Mormon interpret the scripture you cite in comment #27 as strong validation for their worldview?

  32. Ben S.
    November 22, 2005 at 2:57 pm

    “Caffeine – Attends choir, but mocks the music selection made by the choir director and sings harmonies not indicated in the score. ”

    Hey, is it my fault we choose crappy music for the Christmas program? I’ve been pigeonholed…

  33. Matt
    November 22, 2005 at 3:02 pm

    I’m with Adam S. I’m not sure that such general descriptions can account for things as complex as personal faith, culture, etc. Although, I think it can be an entertaining exercise in self examination and cultural stereotypes. I laughed as I realized that I have been somewhere in each of the camps at different times in my life, sometimes just for a moment.
    Annegb, I certainly do relate to much of what you said and didn’t find my own experience adequately described by any of the groups. I one had to attend AA meetings for a judge. I also went to LDS 12-step meetings. Have you ever been to any? Perhaps it would be more appropriate to discuss this privately, as it is somewhat off topic. If you want to respond, send it to [email protected].

  34. Mike Parker
    November 22, 2005 at 3:40 pm

    FWIW, I can’t see the diagram when I view this page using Firefox (1.0.6), but I can see it when I view the page using Internet Explorer (6.0). You might want to fix that.

  35. Mike Parker
    November 22, 2005 at 3:41 pm

    Okay, weird. After I posted that last comment I could see the image.

    We now return you to your regularly-scheduled blog.

  36. Jack
    November 22, 2005 at 4:46 pm

    There are four kinds of Mormons–

    1. Those who do their HT/VT the first sunday of the month–the overzealous ones who place their concern for duty above their concern for people.

    2. Those who do their HT/VT the second sunday of the month–the organized ones who place their commitment to their Franklin Planner above their commitment to people.

    3. Those who do their HT/VT the third sunday of the month–the grudge-carrying ones who get it done to get the monkey off their backs.

    4. Those who do their HT/VT the fourth sunday of the month–the christian ones who will go the extra and make an “official” visit in order to keep their superiors in good graces.

  37. November 22, 2005 at 4:51 pm

    What? I can’t have naughty underwear for my facial-hair wearing, temple-reommend holding husband?

    Man, us converts are out in the cold on this one!

  38. CS Eric
    November 22, 2005 at 4:54 pm


    Growing up, we knew when our Home Teachers were coming–the last Sunday of the month during 60 Minutes.

    It occurs to me that another way to describe the difference between the Caffeinateds and Obediacs is the idea that Caffeinateds would believe that everything that is not forbidden is permitted, while Obediacs would believe that everything that is not permitted is forbidden. Or, more cynically, they ask the question “how good do I have to be?” or “how good can I be?”

    Of course, I wear a beard and am writing this while I am drinking a Dr Pepper.

  39. Jack
    November 22, 2005 at 5:09 pm

    CS Eric,

    I used to joke with one of my home teachers who had a hard time making regular visits–that he should come by at 11:55PM on the last day of the month and stay until 12:05AM. That way he could knock out two months in one visit. Of course, this little joke is nothing new, but in the case of this particular home teacher it was truely laughable as he’d be over at our place 3,4, or 5 times month for one reason or another–whether it was fixing an appliance or delivering a christmas tree (which he paid for himself when I was broke and out of a job) or lending me thousands of dollars worth of tools for a temporary job, etc.

  40. lyle
    November 22, 2005 at 5:24 pm


    I dont’ think your answer really addresses what Carolyn mentions. I can think of several folks who are (at least partially) disaffected, yet still attend church. That doesn’t seem to fit the paper category, and their respective motivations aren’t based trying to please others/being pretty.

  41. Matt Evans
    November 22, 2005 at 5:34 pm


    I don’t see how you’re interpresting D&C 58:26 that would confirm the caffeinated’s world view. I thought the reason they (and sometimes me) drank caffeine, for example, was because we haven’t been commandend to avoid caffeine, it’s only a counsel, and caffeinateds intend to drink caffeine until they’re commanded not to. I see the taxonomies the same way CS Eric does — that caffeinateds think everything not forbidden is permitted — and see D&C 58:26 refuting that idea.

  42. November 22, 2005 at 6:07 pm

    “Caffeine – Attends choir, but mocks the music selection made by the choir director and sings harmonies not indicated in the score.”

    Whoa. My number has been thoroughly gotten. :)

    “I’d be interested to know where the writer (or anyone else applying this topography) places the quorum of the twelve and the first quorum of seventy.”

    On some further reflection, I think most people would probably place them (as a few people have placed themselves) somewhere between caffeinated and obediac. It seems like the ideal place to be. :)

    The General Authorities present a unified appearance and generally seem to observe social mores, but most of them are probably aware of the difference (see Dallin Oaks comments about beards back in the day at BYU) and able to distinctions about relative importance of social and spiritual displays. Perhaps some of them really believe the social mores are important in and of themselves, perhaps some of them simply follow in order to avoid presenting their brothers and sisters with a stumbling block. Although if the rumors are true, some drink cola, and some of them went to see Passion of the Christ despite its R-rating.

    “I would doubt that anyone could have perfect commitment to both the spiritual gospel and all social and cultural Mormon mores. I would also reject that someone could be perfectly in tune spiritually and yet not do any of the social things that accompany such belief. Thus, I would expect that the lower two corners, in this way of framing things, are vacant.”

    Frank, this makes sense, and it also relieves some of the theorized tension between the lower two corners.

  43. arc
    November 22, 2005 at 7:11 pm

    You guys are funny.

    I like the way Paul B thinks, in #2.

    Where do I fall? It depends on the day – but generally, in the Obediac hemisphere.

  44. Carolyn
    November 22, 2005 at 10:16 pm


    When I mentioned “lost sheep” I was thinking particularly of those who may have been highly committed in their church activity at one time but who no longer attend. (A former Relief Society president springs to mind.)

    I was also thinking of those who struggle with keeping the commandments — those who are unwilling or unable to live the gospel but who still have testimonies. (A couple of family members spring to mind.) Those with hurt feelings, those who succumb to temptation or those who just burn out.

    I guess what I’m driving at is that just because someone is inactive it does not necessarily follow that they do not have a spiritual attachment to the church. Therefore it is hard to classify them as paper Mormons. These are perhaps those who are in the most pain. It is the conflict between their lifestyle and their beliefs that creates the pain. I suppose that is why we are commanded to reach out to them.

  45. November 23, 2005 at 12:17 am

    While I think the vectors in this diagram are valid to a point, the character of a Mormon is also described, fundementally, by why he believes what he believes. I would recomend a third vector: foundementalism. I know plenty of “obediac” members that are fundementalist in their views on science, culture and scripture. I also know plenty of obediacs that are not at all fundementallist in their views. Black and white or shades of grey. This same tendancy is replicated in all places in the two dimensional map that Julie presents. How many paper mormons just went from black to white? I know just as many that see things in grey.

  46. November 23, 2005 at 1:35 am

    It just dawned on me what I was trying to get at. The difference between obediac that believes in the hemispheric model of the BoM and the one that believes in Limited Geography.

  47. November 23, 2005 at 3:14 am

    J. Stapley,

    I totally agree with comment #45. I told an obediac that its most likely that the Cumorah of the Nephites was probably in Latin America and they nearly accused me of being an apostate.

  48. Jack
    November 23, 2005 at 11:29 am

    I you’re going to add a third vector of ‘fundamentalism’ it needs to be balanced on one end with ‘mysticism’ thus creating a broad spectrum between the two. You wanna see a nice firework show? Watch the sparks fly between a “fundamentalist mormon” and a “mystic mormon.”

  49. queuno
    November 23, 2005 at 4:18 pm

    I guess it works for a 2-element model, but I think there must be a line drawn between “social” and “doctrinal”.

    Working from Julie’s characterizations, how would I fall:

    – Lives in “mission field” (I DESPISE that term, to be honest), in Texas
    – Has facial hair
    – Active in the Church, spiritually-connected
    – Current temple recommend holder
    – Thinks Pepsi, Coke, and Dr. Pepper taste bad
    – If a President of the Church said it, I’ll obey it
    – If an apostle (but not president of the church) wrote it in a book, I’ll consider it (e.g., McConkie, pre-Prophetic Benson era)
    – Draws a hard line when it comes to things like gay marriage (bad)
    – Doesn’t attend all of the Church social events (not going to Christmas party, for example, b/c it conflicts with work party )

    I see myself, possibly, as being obediac, BUT on many levels, I eschew much of the artificial Mormon social convention (would we say that an obediac is one who is not annoyed by Utah Mormon “culture”)?

  50. queuno
    November 23, 2005 at 4:22 pm

    (sorry, hit Submit too quickly)

    I should also point out, I am NOT a card-carrying member of the Republican Party, think that both Republicans and Democrats are largely ninnies, think that the Savior is probably a little closer to Harry Reid than to Tom DeLay, think the Sunstone/Dialogue crowd need to spend more time volunteering at the regional welfare/employment center and doing their home teaching, think intelligent design belongs in a philosophy class and not in a science class, support the 2nd amendment, support the 1st amendment, and think my bishop is inspired.

    So where do I fit?

  51. November 23, 2005 at 6:59 pm

    Ok, now someone needs to write up a quiz and put this up on Seriously.

    I’m somewhere on the Obadiec/Caffeinated spectrum myself. In everyone’s search for identity, things like this are fun, but we need to remember that it’s just a fun tag to put on ourselves, or a fun new little box to put ourselves into. All the questions of “what about this variable” (tithing, lost sheep, etc) are irrelevnat to this particular graphic. That is not to say that another one could not be made, but you can only show so much information effectively in two dimensions.

    This one, for what it covered, I found to be both humorous and true (all the best humor is). Thanks. Excuse me while I co crack a can of Monster and read my scriptures. ;)

  52. November 24, 2005 at 11:58 am

    Years ago one of my counselors in the EQ Presidency and I came up with three levels of membership: Active, Psuedo-active, and not active.

    Active are those who attend their meetings, accept callings, do their home and visiting teaching with some regularity, bring food to potlucks, AND study their scriptures regularly, have morning and evening personal and family prayer, try and hold reasonable family home evenings (those with children appreciate the “try” and “reasonable” part), give talks that are doctrinally based as opposed to travelogues, attend the temple regularly where proximity allows, are good to each other and generous with their fast offerings, humble, and so on.

    Psuedo-active members are concerned with appearances. The appear in Church, they appear at ward potlucks, they appear to be doing their callings, etc. In the privacy of their own homes, however, they appear to be disengaged.

    In reality, we don’t know who is who, because we are not with either 24/7.

    Then we have the inactive (I have always cringed at the word “less-active”, seems too PC) who simply choose not to participate. My father fell into this category. He grew up in central Utah, but left home to join the Navy during WWII. Never went back to church accept to be the cub scout leader. One day I over-heard him speaking with a non-member friend just before I left on my mission. The friend mentioned how impressed he was that dad would pay to have his son live for 2 years on the other side of the world doing volunteer work. Dad’s response was “I believe it- I don’t live it or preach it, but I believe it”.

    As for the coke and pepsi members, I remember hearing Elder Dunn in a regional PH meeting make the comment that until the temple recommend interview asks the question “do you drink coke?”, bishops should not, inferring that there are bishops who will withhold a recommend because one drinks coke.

    We all fit somewhere in one of these groups, or are an admixture of two of them.

    Oh, there is one more group- the snobbishly judgemental, better than thou, intellectually elite group that believes they are better than the rest. What is the saying? Pride goeth before the fall?

  53. November 24, 2005 at 2:55 pm

    I haven’t read Times and Seasons much lately- but this discussion sparked my interest.

    I have three things I would want to bring up:
    1. Why are so many people saying “ok, so I do x, but I also do y; so what category am I in?’
    Isn’t the whole point that it both an x and y axis? It isn’t just that there are 4 categories, but that there are 4 extremes within 2 dimensions. So, where we fall in each particular quadrant would be influenced by the things we do that seem to conflict.

    2. Yes, the graph does seem to favor people south of the x axis- and Julie even seemed to label those in the northeast quadrant as hypocrites rather than just “pretty.� But, I think unfortunately we are still missing a crucial third dimension. There needs to be an axis for “why� people are the way they are. You have “obediac� Mormons that don’t judge the “caffeinated� (I for a while was one of them- somehow in the last few years I turned into a caffeinated Mormon) and you also have “pretty� Mormons that aren’t hypocrites.

    3. I think the part about hating to live in the mission field for “pretty� Mormons is flawed and not finding any of them there. There are a whole lot of people who live outside of Utah that appear as Ensign cover ideals who “have never seriously attempted to spiritually connect with the doctrines of the Church.� In the extreme, “pretty� Mormons seem to be those who are active in the Church solely because of the social advantages. There are people like this outside of Utah. There are people like this in places that could pretty legitimately be called “the mission field�
    Lots of people are in the Church for social reasons. At times as a teenager I’ve been one, I’ve met a lot of them while I was teenager, I met them on my mission, and I still meet them frequently. There are many social advantages, even in Wisconsin and Texas, to “conformity to a belief that in Wisconsin or Texas is seen as a bizarre cult� (how else would most cults recruit members?) but they are different than the social advantages of conformity in Utah. The Church culture may be slightly different in these places- but we certainly have social Mormons everywhere.

  54. sam b
    November 27, 2005 at 5:56 pm

    I think people have given short shrift to liahona and iron rod distinction. Remember that this was meant to be a description of people actively committed to the Gospel. If the schemata were superimposed, liahona would be caffeinated and iron rod would be obediac. The original dichotomy was not meant to address “cultural” Mormons. So the actual contribution of this new schema is that we include as “Mormon” people who are not at core committed to the spiritual basis of the faith. While I think that’s reasonable to do, I don’t know that it’s a huge leap in our understanding of approaches to being Mormon.
    I do think the antagonisms are a fascinating idea, but I don’t know how well they hold up. At some level, I think the obediac would like the caffeinated to abjure any claim to spiritual commitment. The problem is that for the “obediac” (or equivalent Mormon archetype) the belief is that the spirit, true spiritual commitment will yield a uniformity of belief, and when someone says “I believe deeply in the Church, and I think George Bush is the anti-Christ,” it’s harder for the obediac to believe that his social beliefs spring directly from his religious faith. the thought of compromise over this topic as a milder form of conflict does not seem to me to be philosophically sound.

    Another group not yet carefully considered by either schema is the deeply spiritual group who feel a profound attachment to the faith community of Mormonism, to key aspects of its teachings, to the religious experience of being Mormon, but who have not found adequate evidence to support a “testimony” in, for example, the Book of Mormon. This group, something like Unamuno’s San Miguel, Buen Martyr, are not really “caffeinated.” Their distinction from traditional believers is relevant, as is their distinction from the stereotypical “signaturi” (I know and like many people who work for or publish with Signature and mean no disrespect–I think it’s a useful emblem even if it’s not actually true of the publishing house represented) who are eager to reform their cultural faith tradition but at some important level are not committed at all to the spiritual essence of Mormonism. I think of Marquardt and Metcalf as poster-children of this extreme.

    Finally, I think a useful schema will need to include more explicitly the interface between Mormon and non-Mormon society or between dominant and minority society. Posts have talked about it, as did the accompanying paragraph, but perhaps it could be more explicit. The conciliation with secular society (or academic or whatever), the attempt to hammer away at the “kosher” walls that separate some from others is an important impulse within Mormonism, and it’s no accident that “caffeine” as the shibboleth of ultra-kosher Mormonism should come up.

    I wonder whether a reasonable spectrum might have something to do with the distinction between family and community of the blessed. Some could see the church as family and have an attachment to Mormonism as instinctive and non-religious as to one’s own cousins and grandparents. It denotes associations without ideology.
    On the other hand the community of the blessed is hand-picked and can easily leave out wicked family members. There are tests of membership other than simple genealogy, and the commitment required is much higher. There is also more a sense of a patriarchal system in which God, via priestly messengers, directs the criteria of membership in important and taxing ways, whereas in the family view membership is forever independent of behavior or belief. The “ecclesial” Mormon might then be in favor of excommunication, while the “domestic” Mormon would be more likely to favor counseling with at most disfellowshipment. An ecclesial Mormon might care more about state restrictions on marriage or reproduction, while the domestic Mormon might focus more on nourishing ties of any description. an ecclesial Mormon might cherish caffeine/R-movie anathemata as signs of blessedness to be cherished, while the domestic Mormon might not.

  55. Adam Greenwood
    November 27, 2005 at 6:52 pm

    Great diagram, but its got social commitment all wrong. See Russell Fox for clarification.

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