To the editor:
A “Jack Mormon” is a slang term for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who say that they believe in the truth claims of the religion, yet maintain a lifestyle contrary to the church’s teachings. A common characteristic of a jack Mormon is the clear lack of remorse they show toward their own dissident behavior. From a purely secular point of view, I really liked many jack Mormons when I came to Utah. I thought they were more relaxed and less judgmental than their orthodox counterparts. I still have many friends who identify as jack Mormons, but my perspective on the concept of a jack Mormon has changed.
Anyone who claims to believe in the LDS church is making a bold claim. They are claiming that a 14-year-old boy spoke with God directly and restored His only true church on earth. Most members claim not merely a belief, but a knowledge of this. A claim this bold is not something that can be half-lived. If someone is going to claim something so extreme, they had better reflect it in their behavior.
There are clearly members of other faiths who deviate from the tenets of their religion. Because of the nature of many LDS commandments however, the form of hypocrisy jack Mormons exhibit is much more blatant than other faiths. Compared to other major religions, the LDS church is very legalistic. There are specific commandments in the LDS church which are very black and white: a person is either following them or they are not. If someone is a mainstream Christian, It’s hard to know how well they are loving their neighbors as themselves. If someone is LDS however, it is very easy for them to know whether they are drinking coffee or not.
There is room for nuance within the church. There are some devout members who interpret commandments such as the Word of Wisdom to be general guidelines and not commandments. If the jack Mormons were making claims like this, it would be more acceptable. Yet in my experience, this is not the case. Most jack Mormons I know support the literalist interpretation of the church yet continue to persist in their behavior, seemingly free of guilt.
To be a Jack Mormon is to be someone in a state of limbo. To me it represents someone who wants the social benefits of being a member of the church while maintaining a lifestyle more aligned with their own self-interest. They say one thing yet do another. These individuals need to admit that they do not believe the things which they espouse or they need to own up to the behavioral implications of their religion.