I tell people I’m an “ethnic Mormon”. The label confuses almost everyone, and that’s why I do it. It gives me a chance to explain. My experience is that when you’re a Mormon you’re a Mormon whether you believe or not, and whether you belong to the Church or not.
I was excited to see Masaman’s newest YouTube video. I enjoy almost everything he does (although I’ll never live long enough to watch everything). His latest video is Masaman’s Ultimate 2019 Ethno-Racial Map of the World. Quite an accomplishment, so maybe it’s a little self-serving to say my favorite part is where he affirms Mormons are their own ethnicity:
“Now if you’re curious, I did indeed count Mormons as a separate ethno-religious categorization from Anglo-Americans or English, as the majority of the Mormon community of the western states are a tight-knit group that has somewhat become a homogenized, cohesive population with a separate identity, and hence many consider old stock, non-convert Mormons to functionally act as an ethnicity in their own right, as I discussed in the past.“
Okay. Not really a blunt “Mormons are their own ethnic group” but close enough for now.
As a Mormon / Non-Mormon / Ex-Mormon living in Colorado, as soon as someone finds out I’m from Utah the first thing they ask is whether I’m Mormon. I’ve had dozens of different answers to that over the years. Most often, I’ve often described my relationship to Mormonism as similar to the relationship a non-religious Jew has toward Judaism. You’re not ever going to get away, and what would be the point anyway?
This idea of ethnic Mormons is still an emerging idea, I think. That is, the idea is emerging. The reality has been around for a long time, with roots in the “jack Mormons” of my childhood.
The idea that Mormons are not just active church members only became possible over the last few decades as the Church has lost some of its stranglehold on Utah, leaving many ethnic Mormons with lives not oriented to the Church and its members. It’s possible to stay in Utah and not be a Church member anymore.
And the general consciousness of Mormons as a separate group, not just a quirky religion, really only dates back to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. And the cartoon South Park. Let’s not forget South Park. This would be 2012, which also happens to be when the term Ethnic Mormon was added to UrbanDictionary.com.
When I lived in Salt Lake City (1977-1986) some of us used to joke about being ethnic Mormons, and occasionally we’d swear off dating Mormon men (because of the many problems). I think my first encounter with the idea that ethnic Mormonism could really be a “thing” was David G. Pace’s article, “After the (Second) Fall: A Personal Journey Toward Ethnic Mormonism”. (I’m fairly certain he must be a relative, and maybe one of these days I’ll look it up.)
Pace’s idea in short is: “I for one am not interested in changing the corporate church as I am in exploding the notion of what it means to be Mormon. There is a difference between being a Mormon and being a member of the LDS church; the former embraces the latter.“
Since Pace’s article, I’ve heard bits and pieces of chatter here and there, but nothing very weighty. Probably the best has been Mette Ivie Harrison, What is an Ethnic Mormon? but still I want more. My sense is that I’m going to have to wait. More people need to notice that ethnic Mormon is a thing, and more people need to join the conversation.
Update March 22, 2019
I finally checked our relationship to David Pace. He’s Dad’s 3rd cousin.
- Mette Ivie Harrison, What is an Ethnic Mormon?, in Huffpost (Dec. 1, 2015, updated Dec. 6, 2017)
- Masaman, Masaman’s Ultimate 2019 Ethno-Racial Map of the World, at Youtube.com (Feb. 17, 2019) , visited Feb. 18, 2019.
- Masaman, Who are the Mormons?, at Youtube.com (Aug. 17, 2018), visited Mar. 22, 2019.
- David G. Pace, “After the (Second) Fall: A Personal Journey Toward Ethnic Mormonism” in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Volume 31:01 (Spring 1998).