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What Is a Jack Mormon?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Jack Mormon is a descriptive term that many view as slang. It can be a confusing term to define or understand because its definition has evolved since it was first used. Initially, Thomas Coke Sharp wrote it as Jack-Mormon. Sharp was the editor of the Warsaw Signal newspaper, and he was strongly opposed to Mormon ideology. He first used this description in 1846, and meant it as a pejorative term for those who were not Mormon but were friendly to Mormons. There is some alternative explanation for the origin of the phrase offered by those who study the Latter Day Saints (LDS) from a historical perspective.

For a long time, Sharp’s definition stood, and a Jack Mormon could be defined as a non-Mormon sympathetic to the views of the LDS or friendly with members of LDS congregations. It wasn’t always pejorative, and often expressed political similarities. Many Democrats especially in the early 20th century, felt treatment of Mormons was unfair and the LDS church was made up of numerous members who would have identified as Democrat in ideology. Thus, this person would be one who shared sympathies with Mormons and similar political views. Interestingly, party association in the US now leans toward Republicanism and a person defined this way today would likely be a Republican.

However, definition of the Jack Mormon began to change and did not stick to Sharp’s initial description. Instead, in the middle 20th century and later, the term became used to describe people who were nominal members of the LDS church but participated in it very little. These people tend to like the Mormon Church and stayed friendly to its members. They usually do not attend services and they may be similar to those people in other Christian sects that only practice their religion at significant holidays like Christmas and Easter.

Yet another definition may be used by LDS members to discuss those Mormons who stray from the traditional behavioral prescriptions of the church. Baptized Mormons who engage in premarital sex, or drink alcohol might be considered Jack Mormons. This is similar to the idea of the Cafeteria Catholic, where those baptized in the Catholic Church tend to pick and choose the ideas of Catholicism that they like and abandon those they don’t. Cafeteria Catholics, like Jack Mormons, might engage in premarital sex, attend church rarely, and ignore other church teachings.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon277523 — On Jun 30, 2012

I am a Jack-Mormon. I live by the principles of the church, am baptized, and attend. However, I drink tea, coffee, and drink alcohol now and then. I don't curse, I dress modestly, and I have a strong testimony of many church teachings. I don't aspire to be a perfect Mormon and be considered "worthy". I aspire to be a perfect Christian and I believe the only one of authority to deem me and my family "worthy" is Christ and Heavenly Father.

I believe that too many established religions make faith and following far more complicated than Christ taught. There are so many restrictions on what we consume that it detours souls away from the other beautiful elements of our faith. Mormons are highly blessed but far too judgmental and controlled by the all-male leaders of the church.

By tolleranza — On Oct 18, 2011

I am a Non-Denominational Christian. I do not go to church often and I do not follow all the rules of the faith. I have found that this religion is the one most closely related to what I believe though.

Is there a term for Non-Denominational Christians who do not follow all the rules? If so, I am sure I am thought to be this term.

I associate with all different people from all different religions, especially the many different Christian religions. I am sure I get stereo-typed for loving everyone, but I honestly do not care.

Call me what you will, but I know I am here to love everyone, not just the people I have the most in common with. I am sure some people call me a Jack Mormon and Cafeteria Catholic because I associate with people who believe in these religions, and many others as well.

By Speechie — On Oct 18, 2011

I was baptized a Latter Day Saint, also know as a Mormon, in my early twenties. I never was a strict Mormon, so I guess I would have been called a Jack Mormon. I had friends and associated with other Mormon's, but I did not practice what they preached, for the most part.

I did not know there was such a term as Jack Mormon, but now that I know, I am pretty sure many people thought of me as a Jack Mormon. I did a lot of things that were against the religion, and I also did not believe all of their teachings, so I guess this would make me a Jack Mormon.

I feel like I have lived under a rock, because I had never heard the term Cafeteria Catholic either. I grew up Catholic, so I would probably have been considered a Cafeteria Catholic growing up. I did go to church every Sunday, but other than that, I did not abide by many of the Catholic rules.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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