Mar 9, 2007

Typing Religions, Teachings, and Movements: Mormonism

Mormonism, formally called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is one of the religions I am closely acquainted with. Here I will analyze the socionic content and development of the church and its teachings, whose integral type is ESI.

As has been the case with many other religious teachings, the early days of Mormonism had a different information emphasis than the church we know today. The founder, Joseph Smith, was an ethical extravert of some kind - possibly EIE or SEE (or maybe even SLE??) - and a very dominant, charismatic, and action-oriented individual. The early days of the church were tumultuous and involved moving from state to state, rapid expansion and extensive missionary efforts, and continual conflicts with local residents as they tried to establish their new society. There were also experiments with communal property, a banking fiasco, and armed conflicts with locals. The general spirit of the movement was one of overcoming tribulation necessary to achieve the young church's lofty mission - establishing the "restored gospel of Jesus Christ" and preparing the Earth for the Second Coming.

As I discussed in a previous post, numerous charismatic and ambitious people were drawn to the new movement who later "apostatized" and left the faith after making great contributions to it. Many of them, as well as occasional charismatic individuals after them, went on to create churches of their own (here's a list of all the Latter-day Saint splinter groups). A handful have been reasonably successful.

The dramatic and exalted atmosphere of early Mormonism also carried over to the area of spirituality. Powerful spiritual experiences such as visions, speaking in tongues, and other dramatic external expressions of spirituality were not uncommon. During this period, missionaries converted thousands of new members overseas, who left their homes to travel to the new Zion. This was a very extraverted time.

The extraverted period of Mormonism culminated in the conquering of the American West after Joseph Smith was killed and the Mormons were essentially driven out of the country. They made a grand exodus across the Great Plains and settled in Utah, where they built a new society and established new settlements across the Great Basin region.

Now, with external threats mostly out of the way, the church gradually metamorphosized into an introverted structure. The church's focus shifted to keeping traditions, maintaining a stable and growing society, and developing personal moral qualities in a family and community setting. Ultimately, the conservative, kind-hearted and soft-spoken, family-oriented Mormonism that we know today was born. The most-emphasized mission of the movement switched from external expansion and conquering to perfecting one's home, community, and personal life.

Naturally, these changes were reflected in the spiritual practice of Mormonism as well. Much of the initial dramatism of the faith was lost, and spiritual experiences became "tamer" and more internal. In modern Mormonism, spiritual experience centers around "the still, small voice" or "the warm fuzzy feeling." External spiritual manifestations are extremely rare and are generally treated with suspicion. The "Holy Spirit" as understood by contemporary Mormonism expresses itself through introverted ethics feelings.

Introverted ethics is also the common language of the religion. You will feel it in almost any Mormon congregation all over the world. People speak in a soft, sentimental tone and move around gently and thoughtfully, and there is a lot of tenderness and meekness, good will towards newcomers, and soft crying during frequent emotional moments. Compared to the importance of cultivating and sharing this introverted ethics feeling, all other considerations such as studying holy writ, developing a meditative state, or balancing one's physical sensations (which correspond to introverted logic, introverted intuition, and introverted sensing) clearly take a distant back seat. Of course, there are pockets of these information aspects wherever there are charismatic church members of these types, but these aspects do not become the common language of the congregation.

This information focus is generated at the very earliest stages of missionary work. Missionaries try to create a introverted ethics atmosphere at lessons, deemphasize the importance of gaining a logical understanding of how the pieces of the theology fit together, and constantly share personal experiences and feelings in a introverted ethics spirit that often bring tears to people's eyes. "This," say the missionaries, "is the Holy Spirit." New members are taught to make this feeling the basis of their personal religious practice and to let it guide their lives.

Collectively, Mormons cultivate the image of nice, concerned, faithful, strong-principled, morally upright people who can be trusted and counted on, and who uphold family values and honor their communities and government. Going back to my descriptions of the information aspects as they apply to religions and teachings, we see that this is a introverted ethics centered spiritual teaching.

Now let's see what weight the other information aspects are given in Mormonism, going back to my descriptions of different spiritual emphases.

extraverted intuition: The idea that spirituality involves an external, open-ended search is given little if any emphasis. In fact, it is essentially discouraged, except for people who are investigating the religion and whose search leads them to Mormonism. After a person has joined the church, however, additional searching is frowned upon. Also, it is institutionally made very difficult, as members are given duties and responsibilities and are encouraged to cultivate stable family, work, and community relationships and to take part in frequent church activities. All of this makes concerted external searching - which might involve travel, trying out random things, and letting oneself get carried away - extremely difficult as long as one is involved in the Mormon lifestyle and community.

extraverted sensing: The idea that spirituality involves overcoming hardships and tribulation is given considerable emphasis. Great attention is given to the themes of resisting temptation and combatting one's weaknesses. Spiritual development is perceived as being a long, thorny road with many obstacles. Church members frequently discuss their hardships with one another. However, this is not the main theme of the religious practice.

extraverted logic: The idea that spirituality involves service and being "actively engaged in a good cause" is also prominent in Mormonism. It is commonly believed that righteous living leads to prosperity, and members are not shy about their professional achievements and prosperity, but proudly consider them "blessings" or rewards for proper living. Church members are kept busy with numerous meetings, activities, and service. However, achieving goals in a rational and effective way is not the primary goal of these activities. Instead, their purpose is mostly to provide a setting to feel more introverted ethics, and they are not very externally productive nor carried out in the most rational way.

extraverted ethics: The idea that spirituality involves emotional coalescence with other worshipers and with God is not given much emphasis. Mormons are widely known for their restraint and for not getting involved in "loud fun." However, they don't necessarily view external emotions as a bad thing; they're simply not emphasized.

introverted intuition: The idea that spirituality involves giving up worldly cares, a meditative state, and visions and similar experiences receives some emphasis. In fact, the concept of "soul searching" in a introverted intuition way replaces the idea of a extraverted intuition related external search. Soul-searching and thoughtful reflection about one's life and mission is recognized to be a part of Mormons' spiritual journey. However, sophisticated introverted intuition related practices have not been developed.

introverted sensing: The idea that spirituality involves perfecting the bodily experience receives very little emphasis in Mormonism except for a simplistic eating and drinking code called the "Word of Wisdom" that forbids alcohol and tea and coffee. Ways of improving health and balancing one's internal sensations are almost never discussed; these areas are considered to be members' personal prerogative.

introverted logic: The idea that spirituality involves a concerted study of holy writ and mastering the religion's theology is given little emphasis. Scripture study classes are held, but the focus is almost on subjective aspects (i.e. personal application) rather than mastering teachings themselves. Generally, doctrinal instruction is undemanding and unsupervised. There is almost no definitive doctrinal statements in Mormonism from which to build a set-in-stone theology.

introverted ethics: As we have seen, the idea that spirituality involves perfecting one's behavior and stable relationships and cultivating a sense of duty and gratitude towards others permeates all areas of Mormonism.


Anonymous said...

this comment focuses on what the religion does to a person much preferred to this.
__it is a box, and it traps people psychologically,
but what can be said of development without it, what better aid is there to train people*,
but afterward it should be left out

*esp. people with logic or intuitive bases... but that means we master by offense, can in moving away.

is there any other way to this path
(i am serious __i.e. what would develop)

there is more utility to the world in an individual which goes there own path, and developes something more,
i can see they trap there members in a spat of non-productivity,
as does many other Western and Christian based religions

which is why i find the East more satisfying, except there baseline person is less developed...
or rather, such an 'Intuitive' religion, or the religion as a whole, does not serve the Ethics or Sensing based personalities particularily.

perhaps the utility of religion is found in the historical sense..
what kind of peoples develop..
are enough individualized and educated etc.
which is why for me, my personal reading regime has moved away from religion, into History, and perhaps these 'mystics' __ also show promise
-fred__who else

Rick said...

It's hard to say whether the world would be a "better place" with or without religion. Religion is just one category of belief system or ideology that people acquire. Regardless of the specific teachings involved, ideologies seem to be important elements of group competition. You can't really get rid of them, but just try to neutralize the negative side-effects as much as possible.

Historical experiments (in the USSR and other countries) have shown that when religion is forbidden and atheism is established as the official ideology, many people come to treat atheism as a matter of faith. A non-thinking atheist seems to be little different from a non-thinking believer.

>> which is why i find the East more satisfying, except there baseline person is less developed...

I agree. I wonder if they would be as satisfying if you went to an eastern country to live and practice the religion, or is it merely satisfying when you are in the West and have the eastern religion to compensate for your left-brain lifestyle?

Anonymous said...

left-brain lifestyle?

never seen this phrase...? _is it taken to say 'language style' as in the left brain, is it a joke, or
__just curious

Rick said...

I'm referring to our achievement-oriented, structured, rational lifestyle that is based more on the left hemisphere of the brain.

iAnnAu said...

I found this post very informative & well-written, Rick - thank you! I have had a few Mormon friends through the years, and it's always been kinda mystifying to me how they got "into" it. I tried reading the book of Mormon, but found it so ridiculous that I had to start laughing, and then I got bored because it's so repetitively self-iterative ... so that just deepened the mystery.
But talking about how they focus on stability of family rings true to what I've seen from my friends, and so now I can connect that with their religious sensibilities - and I see no need to ask which came first, that the family focus helped them identify with the religion, or that the religion's focus helped them realize its importance to them.
Also the soft-spoken, emotional tones about the feelings that their religion invokes - totally not part of my experiences, but in hindsight I can remember both of them trying to describe it to me.
Ultimately, each of those friends has moved on from Mormonism by now, and for different reasons, but it was obviously very important to them at one time, and now I feel like I understand better why.

Old friend said...

Have you moved on from it, too, then? I'm assuming, based on your analysis and (filled-in triangle) searching, that's a "yes." A big one, really. What caused the shift?

Rick said...

Yes, but please write to me in private :)

Anonymous said...

This thread has not seen much action for a while, but I have just read it and I find it very interesting. I am a 25-year-old single Mormon male, educated at BYU, who has served a mission in Germany. I am also an IEE. I find this entire thing extremely accurate, and I have quite a few thoughts about it, but I'll just say good job. The author must have been Mormon, or something.

Anonymous said...

from Eliza Thomason:

This is a very interesting article. Mormonism is particularly interesting. As an Evangelical non-denom Christian (what I used to be; now I am Catholic because of logic and faith) I could not understand how anyone could adhere to the gobbledygook words of Smith. Later when I irrefutable facts about the life of Joe Smith I coudl not believe how anyone found this man credible. When I read further irrefutable acounts (like a website on the wives of Smith, all info documented from approved Mormon sources) I am sickened by this narcisistic immoral man, whom God would never use as a prophet.

Then I had a long friendship with a Mormon. Our sons were friends, we were both single moms and we spent a lot of time together and that included time in her church, and family fun nights (whatever you call them, where the Book of Mormon is dragged out and skits are done, etc.) and visits from people at her church where they keep tabs on each others adherence to Mormonism. This experience helped me see why people would stay Mormon.

Like a cult, you are extremely indcotrinated, constantly, in order to be a member in good standing. You don't have time to be much else than Mormon. If you leave, you'd lose your entire very close-knit community and social identity in life. That's why you don't leave, and you would be frowned on across the board if you did things that threatened your leaving, like question any teachings or investigate another religions's teachings as possibly true. The standard replies you would get from EVERYONE if you did all these things is the same, because the Mormon system has covered these bases. Anyone who was Mormon and left, for example, is completely discounted as a bitter person who cannot be trusted to say ANYTHING true about their religion. So all ex-Mormons are bitter people who spread falsehoods; they have nothign to offer worth listening to. And anyone who is not or had never been Mormon just just get it. And thats what everyone says, everyone, so, it must be true. And its the same answers across the board for anything that questions Joseph Smith about whom it is constantly taught that he is a great hero of the faith. It must be bitter people saying these false things. That a reasonable logical case against Mormonism or Smith can be made from their own approved resources is also ignored, because there must be something wrong with YOU if you would try to make such a case.

Its group think. Its like a trap. A bad trap. Except all the people int he trap with you are super nice and soft-spoken and want to help you clean your house or bring you a meal if you don't feel well...

Anonymous said...

[rest of above comment]:

I have heard of higher ups in Mormonism who agree the religion is all a crock but its a happy place, so why leave? Well I say, if you believe something false you are entrapped. The truth sets you free and lies enslave. And while its a happy and contented place for many, for others its a snare and a trap, and those who are misfits in the fake religion are deeply discouraged from seeking truths that will set them free.

Well that's my rant. I'd like to communicate more on it if you want.

I also want to say that labeling the religion ISFJ is a good call. And you are so right: they "deemphasize the importance of gaining a logical understanding of how the pieces of the theology fit together." To seek logical understandign is highly frowned upon, and you are downright suspicious if you have any conclusions that differ from the ones that a drilled into you many times weekly.

But I think Joseph Smith is in no way an EIE. You might think so because he generated that mess of theology, however, he didn't write that stuff. He just plagiarized it, pieced together various works of others - an mostly he did not even do that himself, he had helpers (who left testimony they wrote it for him, but since they left Mormonism, everything they say is a lie). There is no "N" there in Smith, just a pretense of it.

SEE and SLE, either one could be right I think. What a manipulative, lying disgustign man he was. It is such an offense to me, the very idea that God would use such a man as a prophet. In no way. God's prophets were moral men who got no worldy reward, at all, for being God's voice, and died as true martyrs. Not any pretend-martyr like Smith, who died in a gunfight with angry local men because of his claiming the right to command every man's wife and teen daughter that God said they were to be his celestial wife therefore had to secretly marry him and secretly have sex with him in some back-room hovel, or else face God's wrath and eternal disapproval...

Rick said...

Eliza, due to mailbox issues I only now got your message. My typing of Smith is SEE. I'll need to specify that on this page.

What you say is correct, but it is not the whole picture. You haven't pointed out or recognized many of the positive aspects of the Mormon faith (and all or most faiths). It's not just about groupthink and fear of ostracism. Just like in most or all religions, practitioners seek out meaningful spiritual experiences that theology along with a welcoming and accepting community is able to provide (for most people). That, and social rewards, are the main reason most people are active in the church.

In my opinion, it is a great paradox and one of the typical challenges in understanding religions, that a charismatic, energetic adulterer and entrepreneur could create a spiritual practice that actually works for millions of people, and that such a person would create a church that strongly enforces chastity (!) and promotes character traits such as humility and obedience, which were scarcely innate to the founder himself.