Is Jon Huntsman a Jack Mormon?

I wondered back in March whether or not the fact that we had two Mormons running for President would create an “LDSapalooza” in the news coverage. It hasn’t quite worked out that way, in part because Jon Huntsman is polling just above Pat Paulsen. Even though Romney is the nominal frontrunner in the GOP primary his faith was quite heavily covered in 2008, and this time around the media seems far more interested in covering — or ginning up — the controversies surrounding Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann. I bet Romney’s pretty happy about that.

So I’m kind of surprised it’s taken this long to see an article, “GOP rivals have different takes on Mormon faith,” where the raison d’etre is explicitly comparing Romney and Huntsman’s approach to their Mormonism. (If there are any other articles that do this I missed, let me know in the comments.) It’s in Romney’s local paper the Boston Globe, but the focus is mostly on Huntsman.

Despite Huntsman’s failure to spark interest among actual voters, if the GOP primary were decided by East Coast magazine and newspaper editors the former Utah governor would win in a walk. Huntsman has been quite favorably covered by a number of news organs that are usually either hostile or GOP politicians, see for example this this Esquire profile. And Huntsman recently got a large and glowing feature in Vogue(!) of all places, replete with Annie Liebowitz photos. It was even written by Slate’s Jacob Weisberg, a journalist who wears his liberal credentials on his sleeve.

So then, what accounts for all of this media gushing over Huntsman, even though he’s been irrelevant to the actual election? It could be that the media is attracted to the fact that on a number of issues Huntsman has rather heterodox, even liberal, views for a Republican. And part of that same appeal is that, while other Republicans are eager to emphasize how fervently religious they are, Huntsman seems lukewarm about many of the cultural and doctrinaire aspects of Mormonism.

This is what the Globe piece focuses on:

But in public remarks they have drawn strikingly different religious self-portraits. Romney is highly active and orthodox – he was a top local lay leader in Massachusetts for years, and he has embraced his church unequivocally: “I believe in my Mormon faith and endeavor to live by it,’’ he said in a major speech in 2007.

Huntsman has called his adherence to Mormon practices “tough to define.’’ He has described himself as more spiritual than religious and as someone who gets “satisfaction from many different types of religions and philosophies.’’

As someone who was raised Mormon, I have to say that a self-professed Mormon saying they get satisfaction from other religions and philosophies is striking coming from a church body whose adherents routinely profess the belief they belong to “the one true church.” And this is just the tip of the iceberg — Huntsman’s sons didn’t go on missions (which isn’t a requirement of the church, but strongly encouraged), his wife plays up her Episcopalian background and they’re raising their foreign-born adopted daughters in their “native faiths, Hinduism and Buddhism.”

Now the Mormon church is very hierarchical and specific about many of its beliefs. While there is room for personal interpretation, there are limits to this as well. I’ve personally talked to several Mormons who are, at a minimum, less-than-enamored with how Huntsman is publicly representing his commitment to his faith.

But oddly, the Globe article by Lisa Wangsness, seems heavily weighted toward those that are very bullish on Huntsman’s heterodoxy:

“Normally it’s either all in or all out – that’s both how Mormons view themselves, and that’s how people view Mormons,’’ said John Dehlin, a Mormon from Logan, Utah, whose “Mormon Stories’’ podcast ( has drawn a growing audience of nontraditional and ambivalent Mormons. “Liberals and progressive [Mormons] were elated at Huntsman’s characterizing himself that way, at least the ones I know, because it helps contribute to opening up the discourse about unorthodox Mormonism.’’

I also found it a bit strange the way Wangsness treats Huntsman’s at-times ambivalent relationship with the church as some sort of new or emerging movement within Mormonism:

Some of the questions gripping Dehlin’s audience are unremarkable in older faiths but still provocative in Mormon circles. In a strict church that asks much of its members, is it possible to be selectively observant, yet still a part of the community? Is there such a thing as a “cafeteria Mormon’’ – as some engaged in the debate have described a person who embraces some church teachings, but rejects others? Do some Mormons, like secular Jews, share cultural and genealogical bonds that remain intact even when religious beliefs fray?

For those of you that don’t live out West, let me explain the problem with this. Wangsness is writing an entire article about “Jack Mormons” without using the word Jack Mormon. It’s a pretty common term in the church, and Wikipedia tells me it dates all the way back to 1846. Basically, Jack Mormons are people that have cultural or family ties to the church, or maybe are even lapsed or half-hearted members who attend sporadically who maintain some positive feelings toward the church. So when Wangsness asks “Is there such a thing as a “cafeteria Mormon”? The answer is yes, and this has been a part of the church’s culture for a great while. And there are lots of people that could talk about this in a historical and cultural context. I will say that perhaps this oversight is not entirely her fault, as Wangsness quotes Joanna Brooks to this end:

Huntsman “may be living a brand of Mormonism that doesn’t have a name for itself yet – the equivalent of reform Mormonism,’’ said Joanna Brooks, a literature professor at San Diego State University and a Mormon who blogs on religion and culture at That is, she said, “someone who is culturally Mormon, who identifies with the tradition, who has been shaped by Mormon thought in his upbringing, but doesn’t necessarily maintain orthodoxy on doctrinal beliefs.’’

As a source, Brooks gets brought into a lot of stories on Mormonism in a cultural context. I doubt I share her politics or many of her views on religion, but I’ve always found Brooks particularly insightful on Mormonism in a cultural context. So I would like to know more specifically about how she thinks Huntsman is “living a brand of Mormonism that doesn’t have a name for itself yet.” It’s true Huntsman is more high profile than most and perhaps a little more eclectic in his dabbling of other faiths, but broadly speaking Huntsman is hardly a new phenomenon.

So why does someone like Brooks specifically avoid the term Jack Mormon? It’s not a pejorative term, but in some select contexts Jack Mormon is not exactly a compliment. It’s often shorthand for “Mormon who drinks alcohol.” Jack Mormon may refer to fully lapsed or inactive members more often than not, though the definition is highly fungible. Given that Brooks seems to have a similar Mormon identity as Huntsman, I wonder if there’s not some overt attempt at rebranding going on. For what it’s worth, here’s how Weisberg handled the same issue in the Vogue profile:

People tend to see Mormonism as a binary, you-are-or-you-aren’t question, but Jon Huntsman is something more like a Reform Jew, who honors the spirit rather than the letter of his faith. He describes his family on his father’s side as “saloon keepers and rabble rousers,” and his mother’s side as “ministers and proselytizers.” The Huntsman side ran a hotel in Fillmore, Utah’s first capital, where they arrived with the wagon trains in the 1850s. They were mostly what Utahans call “Jack Mormons”—people with positive feelings about the Latter-Day Saints church who don’t follow all of its strictures. “We blend a couple of different cultures in this family,” he says.

Well, Weisberg did get the Jack Mormon thing. But I also think the comparisons to Reform Judaism are curious — barring a really, really radical change in the culture of the laity and Mormonism’s governing structure, a similar movement would a) probably not emerge and b) if it did, it would be unlikely to remain in the LDS church. But it is an attractive concept to a lot of liberal Mormon intellectuals (yes, they do exist).

So long as the media are very excited about the Huntsman candidacy, it might be helpful to get a few more orthodox Mormon voices and perspectives commenting on Huntsman’s religious approach.

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  • Willard C. Smith

    Moderate to Liberal Mormons have been able to attract votes from the Mormon and non-Mormon factions in Utah. Huntsman is following the same path as Mathewson and Rampton. Only they ran as Democrats and Huntsman as a Republican. Mathewson and Rampton were not practicing Mormons, their children married outside the Temple. Everyone knew it. Of Course everyone was also polite enough to not say “Jack Mormon” in a public setting.

  • melxiopp

    b) if it did, it would be unlikely to remain in the LDS church.

    In fact, Reformed Judaism is separate from older or more traditional forms of Judaism, forms better representative of the united, more “binary” Judaism of the past. A prime difference is, of course, that Judaism is an ethnicity in addition to being a religion, so one can be a Jew according to matriarchal descent without actually practicing Judaism as a religion. However, there are core practices accepted by Reformed Judaism that are not accepted by Conservative and Orthodox Judaism, and the State of Israel, even.

    I don’t think the analogy with Reformed Judaism so “curious” for the average American, even if there are differences that don’t line up. That’s in the nature of an ‘analogy’.

  • Jeffrey

    Jack Mormon, like cafeteria Catholic, is a perforative.

  • Hector_St_Clare

    I hate to say this, but if they used the term ‘Jack Mormon’ outside the Western states, I doubt most people would know what they meant.

    I’ve only ever lived in New England and the Midwest, where there are not a lot of LDS people, and I have never heard the term ‘Jack Mormon’.

  • Frank Lockwood

    I’ve heard the term Jack Mormon plenty of times, but I grew up in Oregon and spent most of my 20s in Idaho.

  • Justin

    Agree with the above. Jack Mormon is both pejorative and totally unknown outside of Mormon circles.

    As for the possibility of a “reformed Mormon” denomination, it is not remote at all. In fact, few religious movements have been more prone to schism than Mormonism, due to its elevation of “Holy Spirit communication” and “confirmation by personal prayer” (i.e. subjectivism) as the governing authority.

    The main thing that keeps jack Mormons in the community is the negatives associated with being an outcast, which can include loss of friends, business, and even family.

    I say this as someone who lives in the heart of Mormon Country. Active membership has large real-world advantages in terms of business and social contacts, as Mormons actively favor fellow members. The University of Phoenix, for example, had to settle a lawsuit brough by non-Mormons because the discriminatory promotion practices by their (largely Mormon) management ranks.

    Many Mormon leaders are familiar with the phrase “pious fraud”, which is a very similar phenomenon.

  • Jettboy

    Your use of “pious fraud” is coming from the wrong direction. Its a pejorative against Joseph Smith by some anti-Mormon historians who want to call him a liar without completely dismissing his value as a religious leader. To a believing Mormon its still insulting. The term “Jack Mormon” might not be used much, but the media has been pretty good at bringing descriptive words into popular use.

    As to Huntsman and the media, they like him because he is more Democrat than Republican. On top of that, his faith is mushy, just like the liberals like. We will have to see how much this holds, but many Republicans don’t want another McCain where the media and Republican elite picked the candidate. That is why Huntsman is at the near bottom of polls. That doesn’t explain Romney’s numbers that has been a big question mark with how many Republicans don’t like him. On the other hand, Perry (questionable though he is on some fronts) hit it big right out of the gate. An endorsement by the media is a huge red flag. Criticisms by the media are seen as reasons for endorsement.

  • Stephen A.

    Since “Jack Mormon” is what was defined in the article (though not named) the reporter should have, and could have easily, noted the term and mentioned that it has been used for decades. It’s the reporter’s job to educate.

    BTW, as a non-Mormon in New England, I knew of the term. But I also have had an interest in Mormons and have read up on them, so I’m far from typical!

  • mark

    Again, I’m not necessarily faulting the author because she doesn’t know the term “Jack Mormon.” I’m simply saying that the fact the work Jack Mormon exists and has been around forever shows that the church has always had people in it’s orbit that were heterodox on a number of issues.

    Joanna Brooks and some other Mormons quoted in the story certainly know the term and I think it’s valid to wonder why it didn’t come up in favor presenting Huntsman’s approach to the church as breaking new ground. (Note that Jacob Weisberg did use the term “Jack Mormon” and I doubt he was heretofore all that familiar with the ins and outs of Mormon culture.)

    Also, again, I already acknowledged that Jack Mormon can be pejorative, though I think it’s wrong to say it is strictly so.

    Final note — I’ve had to delete some comments about Mormons that were way out of line. Take your bigotry elsewhere, please.

  • R.S.Newark

    To me it would be accurate to use the term “Jack” as applied to Roman Catholics as well as Mormons. It seems there are plenty of Jack Catholics….don’cha think?

  • Jerry

    So then, what accounts for all of this media gushing over Huntsman, even though he’s been irrelevant to the actual election?

    I hope you’ll forgive a small political aside. But intradegives him better odds than Bachmann based on actual cash bets. Also, he’s already suggested he’s running for VP.

  • Martha

    So is this the Mormon equivalent of a “devout Catholic”? (Seeing as every time I see someone described as a “devout Catholic” in a newspaper story, the next line then tells us why Mr or Ms Devout Catholic is all for gay rights/women’s ordination/personally opposed to abortion but… and so forth).

  • Jacob

    I very much disagree with your assessment that Mormons do not generally derive insights from other faiths. I’m as orthodox a Mormon as it gets, but I have visited various other religions and found beauty in all of them. Of the theologically conservative denominations, Mormonism is, in fact, arguably the most universalist. Consider this quote from an official church declaration: “The great religious leaders of the world such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God’s light. Moral truths were given to them by God to enlighten whole nations and to bring a higher level of understanding to individuals.”

    Huntsman is perhaps not an orthodox Mormon, but it is not his respect for other religions that distinguishes him from his fellow church members.

  • mark

    Jacob — there’s appreciating other faiths — then there’s deliberately raising your children in them. That’s pretty odd for a Mormon, no?

  • Marie

    Should the Globe article have used the term “Jack Mormon”? Maybe. It is true that the term has been around but is most used in the Western states, particularly Utah and Idaho and in some circles it can have a negative connotation. What about terms used within Mormonism all over the country: “inactive” or “less active.” If you are not really “in” but haven’t do anything to be actually excommunicated you would probably end up in one of these camps. Inactive – you never come to church. Less active – you sometimes come. People in both groups usually still identify themselves in some way (either by belief – full or partial – or culture) with Mormonism. If they wish to actually separate themselves that’s easy. They just right a letter saying they want their name removed and it is done. That people in these categories exist is old news. To non Mormons this may be a news flash. To Mormons it is easy to describe Huntsman: He is Mormon, but he is not active. Done.

  • Hector

    Re: Of the theologically conservative denominations, Mormonism is, in fact, arguably the most universalist.


    I don’t think that’s true….as far as I know, the RC church says more or less the same thing about many non-Christian faiths ‘receiving a portion of God’s light’, and of course it was a Serbian Orthodox monk who wrote that book ‘Christ, the Eternal Tao’.

    I do find that line about Muhammed intriguing- I’m not sure that either Catholic or Orthodox (or, for that matter, most other Christian churches) would say the same Muhammed, considering that his religion included (fairly importantly) explicit denial of Christian claims about the Trinity and the Incarnation.

  • bbell

    The Huntsmans fit the classic “Jack Mormon” description to a T. I am an 8th generation Mormon. Jack Mormons or the more PC term “less actives” maintain loose cultural or religious ties with the faith while not living most of its more strict precepts. As an active LDS member I can identify multiple things from published reports that indicate that the Huntsmans are “Jack Mormons”. About 40% of both mine and my wifes relatives would be considered “Jack Mormons”. This has been the case in our families since the 1850′s or so with varying degrees of church activity. Based on the clothing that Sister Huntsman was wearing for her Vougue photo’s I doubt she has a temple rec. for example. Or the lack of missions, the occasional wine drinking etc.

    I am not sure where Brooks and Dehlin are getting this idea that there is a new strain of Mormonism developing that is typified by folks like the Huntsmans. All they are doing is describing “Jack Mormons” a cultural phenom. that has existed in Mormonism for 150 plus years. I would put both Dehlin and Brooks (although Brooks appears more active then Dehlin) somewhere on the “Jack Mormon” spectrum themselves.

  • MC

    Another generally unexplored angle here is that, while Jon Huntsman Jr. tries to make it sound like his family has always been on the fringe of Mormonism, the fact is that his father is a high-ranking figure in the Church leadership. Any drifting away by Huntsman Jr. is his alone, not some time-honored family tradition.

    I was at law school in Utah when Huntsman was governor, and we strangely never heard about his tenuous commitment to the Church. Most Mormons would just assume, without really examining it, that Jon Jr. was just as active in the faith as his father. The fact that this is only coming out now makes me wonder whether the “Jack Mormon” angle is being deliberately overplayed by Huntsman to get in good with the media. Heaven knows we can’t have anyone who takes religion too seriously in the White House.

  • TomW

    As a lifetime practicing Mormon, I thought mark’s take on the whole story was spot-on. At the same time, just as I don’t have a religious test for anyone running for public office, this would include people of my own faith who are decidedly not devout. At the end of the day, we are electing a politician rather than a bishop, pastor, or priest, and it’s the issues that matter.

  • DR King

    Unless one thinks mindless identity voting is a good thing (I don’t), I don’t understand the preoccupation some people have with the faith of Presidential candidates.

    Look at the four most prominent Mormons in politics: Beck, Huntsman, Reid, and Romney. It seems to me they fall on all sides of the political spectrum, with Reid at the left, Beck at the far right, and Huntsman and Romney somewhere in-between. What does that say about how membership in the Mormon church informs political views? If anything, it says Mormons are apt to think individually about political issues.

    Do the same exercise for the Catholics on the Supreme Court, and a thinking person will reach the same conclusion: Membership in the Catholic church does not politically define Catholics. Ditto for Jews. Ditto for evangelicals. Etc.

    As an active, believing Mormon myself, my vote (for or against) will not be based on Romney’s “orthodoxy” or Huntsman’s eclecticism. I care foremost about jobs, our economic future, and preserving our freedom as Americans.

    How come I hear more about Huntsman’s “casual Mormonism” than his plan for fixing the economy? If forced to choose, I’d rather have a good job and a secure future than being able to boast about having a Mormon in the Whitehouse.

    This preoccupation with presidential religion is a red herring. And when I hear candidates pushing identity politics (be it race or religion) I get turned off.

  • Kadee

    What should be so surprising about not seeing an article about ‘GOP Rivals Have Different Takes on Mormon Faith?’   Perhaps I have missed articles about Lutheran, Catholic, Jewish or other candidates who have different takes on their professed faith.  Perhaps if there have been iany they will be noted in the comments.  But, nevertheless, it is nice to know that Esquire, Vogue, The Boston Globe, Annie Liebowitz, Jacob Weismann and the ex-Mormon author of this article are able to enlighten us so much. We are at least informed that Weismann wears his liberal credentials on his sleeve but that must be the opposite sleeve from the one where he proudly wears his bigoted anti-Mormon credentials. 

    To try to make some kind of story relevant to anything out of this, especially quoting Mormons such as Joanna Brooks or John Dehlin is fine with me, as long as other more creditable sources that also speak for the church (say, such as a LDS General Authority or LDS church spokesman) is quoted as well.  A little such broadening of views might help to bring more accurate enlightenment to other points of the article as well. For instance, it would have been appropriate and interesting to note that within the highest leadership of the LDS church, the current Prophet and his two counselors who were all raised in the church, none fulfilled a mission while in their youth.  Young men are encouraged to go on missions as are young women and senior citizens but not choosing to go does not necessarily status to your status in the church as is alluded to by raising the issue if the Huntsman’s sons who are preparing for Naval service.  Serving your country is something else highly encouraged for young men and young women by the LDS church.  

    In general while the summation of this article may be quite accurate, it also seems a bit of a way to turn the whole issue into something not only irrelevant to the campaign but also unnecessary speculation, attributed only to liberal thought, on the status of the LDS church, and it’s membership in this day and age.  

  • Kadee

    Regarding the previous post. This was accidentally sent before I could correct my improperly referring to Jacb Weisberg as Jacob Weismann

  • David

    I think that the issue of Huntsman’s faith can be more accurately described with the term “practicing Mormon.” Huntsman is a Mormon, but if the observations of some non-Mormons who were in China during his time as Ambassador are accurate, it seems that neither he nor his immediate family are practicing Mormons. I would define a practicing Mormon as someone who holds a temple recommend, or does not hold a recommend, but is actively striving to prepare for temple worthiness.

    Unless they have had their names removed from the records of the church or are actively practicing another religion, the millions of Mormons who are not practicing would still be considered Mormons. Non-practicing Mormons seem to come in many forms and often self identify as Mormon. For example, there are those who attend church but are content to pick and choose which commandments they follow, those who no longer attend church or keep the commandments out of a sense of commitment to their faith and those who were raised Mormon or have Mormon ancestors, but no longer adhere to the tenets of Mormonism. Huntsman would seem to fall into the latter category. My sense is that many Americans can easily relate to the concept of someone who does not strive to fully practice their religion and Huntsman’s efforts to portray himself as something other than a practicing Mormon were likely intended to distance himself from negative Mormon stereotypes and appeal to a broader and politically moderate American audience.

    It’s not clear if Ms. Brooks is a practicing Mormon as defined above, or if she is trying to define her own particular brand Mormonism based on something other than the standard of the temple recommend. If she is a practicing Mormon, her comments would seem to be designed to distance herself from some of the same negative stereotypes that Huntsman is trying to avoid. If she’s one of the millions of Mormons who are not practicing, then I’m sure we would all love to have someone of her caliber as a practicing member of the church.

  • Aloysius

    Mormonism is non-creedal and while it has a lot of doctrine there is a huge freedom of interpretation in how doctrine is to be taken. Culturally there is a lot of emphasis on literality but I have trouble discerning a rigidity on that dimension of the faith among leaders. The measure of faith is how its lived not how its believed The Huntsman problem is common and well known. Someone conjures up a dogma and then rejects it frequently because they don’t want to live it not because they don’t believe it. We do have a low tolerance of those who decide that they must be vocal about their exceptionalism.

  • Blake

    Jon Huntsman: Jack Mormon or Not? Practicing Mormon or not? Temple Recommend Holding Mormon or not?

    I Frankly do not know –him personally or the answer to these questions. But, from what I do know, supported by what I have heard (which, granted, is tenuious), and tempered by what ‘fits together’, I would conclude that he is as active and practicing a Mormon, in his own way and capacity, as any other.

    What I know (peppered with what I have heard and/or extrapolated):

    1. He is the Son of Jon Huntsman Sr., a current acting general authority of the Church.
    2. He is the grandson of David B. Haight (on Mother’s side) a recent, but deceased, apostle (one of 15 men who comprise the leading governing body of the church worldwide).
    3. He served as a full-time missionary for the church in China.
    4. Professionally he has helped direct a world-wide corporation and has served terms abroad as an ambassador (making it difficult for he and his family to be involved, leadership wise, in the local church congregations –the way a Mitt Romney may have been able as he lived many years in one area and did business, primarily, from that location).
    5. His international experience has informed his faith –and he is able to see things differently than many members of the Chuch –from a gloal perspective, rather than from a strictly US perspective or worse, as provincial (Utah –Wasatch Front perspective). He has been able to seperate the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ from Mormon Culture.

    The real question, of commitment to the Church or not, can and will be determined by two more basic things –how does he committ his money and spare time.

    I have heard that Jon Huntsman has recently served as a teacher of children (11 year olds –Primary). Harry Reid, by the way, also teaches Sunday School –that he is a “Jack Mormon” as described here, will come as a big surpise to his Sunday School Class. People who are not committed to the gospel or the church do not prepare for, attend meetings, and teach others the gospel.

    Finally, at some point, if not already (just like Romney), Huntsman will be required to share his financials with America. Not only does he come from a wealthy father, he, himself is a wealthy man. If he is committed to the church and to the gospel, it will be shown that his charitable contributions will be significant, and most significant to the Church (in the form of tithing). People who are not committed to the Church or the gospel do not pay tithing (at that full 10% of your increase, annually level).

    I suspect, than when all is said and done, Jon Huntsman Jr. will be shown to be as committed to his faith as anyone –perhaps even more, in his own way.

  • JackMormon

    I think the term “Jack Mormon” is probably the best term we’ve got. I am one and I prefer this to other labels simply because it is at least not a disqualifier. I used to think it was an incredible insult, but the only other terms to describe my status are things like: “non-member”, “inactive”, “non-Mormon”. It does not describe what I am, it focuses on what I am not. It’s not just the words though. They really reflect an underlying attitude that is hard to deal with for outsiders. When some people ask “Are you LDS?”, what they are really asking is “Do I want to bother to get to know you?” It is hard when you like someone, and you want their friendship, but you know they will never really feel comfortable around you unless you match a certain set of beliefs (or fake like you believe them) regardless of your actions/ethics/morals. I have had my fair share of snubbing through the years despite the fact that I stay out of trouble! I am talking multi-state, multi-ward snubbing! Is it any wonder that inactive Mormons might not appreciate being categorized as a “non”? It sets the whole tone for the unraveling of potential friendships…

    As for politics, I say give Huntsman a break. He has a lot of values in common with strict LDS followers in a political sense, and he is probably mostly distancing himself out of respect for you. I’m too lazy and too connected by family to bother getting off of the roll, so if I was running for office, the first thing I would want to do, out of respect for the LDS community is to declare my stance openly so that I would not be held up as a pinnacle of LDS behavior. I realize that y’all don’t want people to think that your average Mormon is like me, and Huntsman is at least as smart as I (and more devout). He is certainly smart enough to know that he is being scrutinized right now. I think he’s considerate to qualify himself as an individual instead of lying and saying he is the very essence of what LDS perfection should look like. I think it is the respectful thing to do, and given how obsessed the community is with uniformity, and the media is with hypocrisy, what other option does he realistically have other than to sneak around and be two-faced? He would displease everyone, and fool noone.

  • Bryant

    This article is quite interesting. With regard to feeling some uncertainty about one’s faith, Hugh B. Brown said: “Some say that the open-minded leave room for doubt. But I believe we should doubt some of the things we hear. Doubt has a place if it can stir in one an interest to go out and find the truth for one’s self.” He also said, “The church is not so much concerned with whether the thoughts of its members are orthodox or heterodox as it is that they shall have thoughts.” Along these same lines, Marlin K. Jensen said: “I’ve tried to test my belief against other philosophies and other theories of life….I think that’s part of life. I think it’s in that questioning, if you’re honest and if you’re really a true seeker — if you’re not just a skeptic sitting back and taking potshots at everything and everybody and their philosophy of life — I think it tends to bring one to a deeper seeking, and I hope that’s what my doubts have done.” I don’t know the reasons behind Huntsman’s ambivalence, but I believe that being conflicted can be a powerful means by which to ultimately forge a greater appreciation for one’s faith—often leading to comforting answers to vexing questions. We all have different life experiences and we all have a different story to tell. There are probably as many reasons for being orthodox (or heterodox) in any faith as there are members of that faith. My view is that the continued use of pejorative labels (i.e. “Jack Mormon”) fails to provide insight into the nuances of one’s individual journey.

  • Chuck Call

    The term “Jack Mormon” was coined by the editor of the Warsaw Signal newspaper, back in 1844, and referred to any non-Mormons who didn’t agree with his mob tactics of burning the farms and looting the houses of the Mormons in Hancock county, Illinois.

    “Sharp was once an anti-Masonic editor of western New York. He invented the name “Jack-Mason,” for all such persons as refused to take part in the anti-Masonic movement of that day and neighborhood, according to a correspondent to the Illinois State Register, writing under date of November 1st, 1844. He it was, also, according to this same authority, who coined the phrase “Jack-Mormon,” an opprobrious epithet applied to such non-”Mormons” of Illinois who did not favor the illegal procedure and mob violence of Sharp and his associates against the “Mormons.” He is also described as having made himself the “organ of a gang of town lot speculators at Warsaw, who are afraid that Nauvoo is about to kill off their town and render speculations abortive.” (The State register article is copied into the Nauvoo Neighbor of Nov. 13th, 1844.)” [Roberts, B. H. Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 6 vols. 1930. Reprint. Orem, Utah: Sonos Publishing Inc., 1991.]

  • Bryant

    Chuck, thank you for providing this information about the origins of the term “Jack Mormon”. This is very insightful and speaks to the importance of not using terms in an effort to describe such a broad range of individuals. I was happy to hear that its origins are much more precise and actually refer to those who are not members of the Church—albeit LDS sympathizers.

    Here is a link to a great article that describes two general types of members of the Church. Some of you may be familiar with this—it is the analogy that draws on a Liahona perspective versus an Iron-Rod perspective. Perhaps Romney relates more with the Iron-Rod perspective and Huntsman relates more with the Liahona perspective? I think this article is excellent and I believe it provides useful insights regarding the vast spectrum of beliefs with the LDS Church—ranging from very heterodox (Liahona) to very orthodox (Iron-Rod) and everything in between. It is also useful in highlighting the fact that an individual with an Iron-Rod perspective may have a difficult time communicating with an individual with a Liahona perspective (and vice versa)—also noting that one perspective is not better than the other; rather, they are just different points of view.

  • Lance

    What is meant by “liberal Mormon intellectuals (yes, they do exist).”?  If one is truly intellectual about the Gospel & doctrines of Christ’s teachings, than the fundamental idea of “liberal” takes on a whole new meaning.  The worldly view of “liberal” or “left-winged” ideology has some components that do not seem very intelligent.

  • Mr. Jack Mormon

    Jeffrey, what is a ‘perforative?’
    I guess you mean ‘pejorative.’

    Jettboy, Huntsman governed as a conservative in Utah. Just because the media paints him in a positive light does not mean you have to have this knee-jerk reaction and call the man a RINO.

  • Matt

    Obviously, the meaning of “Jack Mormon” is subjective. My experience is that it generally refers to people who identify with the church but choose not follow core commandments, such as abstaining from alcohol. Or, they identify with the church out of social/professional necessity because they live in the Mormon Corridor. The connotation is that they are unprincipled or dishonest but still fundamentally Mormon.

    Brooks, Dehlin and Huntsman — who I think could all be lumped into the same general category — are not Jack Mormons. They are thoughtful people with Mormon backgrounds who to greater or lesser extent distance themselves from Mormon orthodoxy for carefully worked out intellectual reasons. This does not describe Jack Mormons, in my opinion.