What Kind of Mormon Are You Anyway?

I once read an interview where someone was referred to as a Widtsoe/Talmage/Roberts Mormon. At the time, I had no idea what was meant by that. Since then I have read ‘Rational Theology’ by Widtsoe, the ‘Vitality of Mormonism’ by Talmage, ‘The Immortality of Man’ by Roberts, and I am just starting ‘The Truth, The Way and The Life’ also by B. H. Roberts. I have enjoyed this reading very much, and wonder if I am a Widtsoe/Talmage/Roberts Mormon. For me this is mostly a matter of liking the personality and style of these late church leaders. They have a practical, pragmatic, commonsense approach to explaining gospel topics that appeals to me.

It is very common for Latter-Day Saints to have their favorite prophets and apostles. Which church leaders are you most looking forward to hearing from in conference? Who are your favorites? What do your favorites say about they kind of Mormon you are?

I am still trying to sort out my current favorites. I always miss Elder Maxwell when conference comes around. Many of his talks were so poetic, profound, and pleasing. (I learned alliteration from him).

Do certain church leaders belong in a group similar to Widtsoe/Talmage/Roberts? What other groups might there be?

Joseph Smith seems to belong in a group by himself. He had a bold style all his own. I am not sure anyone holds a candle to him.

Brigham Young probably stands alone to. He had his own bold style, and had a big impact on church culture.

It seems like Joseph F. Smith/Joseph Fielding Smith/Bruce R. McKonkie kind of go together. They all took a strong stand on such a wide range of doctrinal matters. ‘Mormon Doctrine’, ‘Gospel Doctrine’, and ‘Answers to Gospel Questions’ all seemed to have a similar purpose – declaring a clear answer to everything under the sun. I admire their contributions very much.

I am beginning to think that Gordon B. Hinkley/David O. McKay sort of go together. They seem to have similar style and personality. Neither seemed to take strong stands on things doctrinal, but focussed on the type of people we should be. Both were very nice men who were very good with public relations.

I might also suggest that maybe Boyd K. Packer/Spencer W. Kimball seem very similar to me. Neither were afraid to call a sin a sin.

So, do these groupings make sense? What others might exist? Is there some danger in playing favorites, or is it just a harmless matter of personal preference?

What kind of Mormon are you?

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31 Responses to “What Kind of Mormon Are You Anyway?”


  1. 1 Connor March 19, 2007 at 5:49 pm

    Which church leaders are you most looking forward to hearing from in conference?

    Elder Bednar is a new favorite of mine. His February CES fireside was amazing!

    Who are your favorites?

    Elder Holland. And I’m his favorite, too. 🙂

    And anybody who’s read my blog knows that I’m a huge fan of President Benson. That guy was the man!

    I agree that nobody holds a candle to Joseph. Brigham said that to enter the Celestial Kingdom we will all have to answer to him since he holds the keys of the dispensation. I can’t wait to meet him!

    What kind of Mormon are you?

    I’m an everything Mormon. While I enjoy some leaders’ speaking styles over others, I enjoy it all, try to live it all, and accept it all as truth. Isn’t it awesome that we have such wise, inspired men among us?

    Two more weeks until conference!

  2. 2 Janet March 19, 2007 at 8:54 pm

    Elder Holland’s graceful composition and penchant for literary allusion, plus his reliable emphasis on mercy and compassion, make him a fave for me. He pairs well with Howard W. Hunter (the “prophet peacemaker” as Gene England called him) and Elder Monson (who has all by himself formed the rhetorical school of GC passive voice in such a way that it makes me smile rather than cringe–tears were shed! Prayers were offered! Joy was shared!).

    Elder Bednar reminds me in some ways of Elder Maxwell–not so cerebral, but substantially deep.

    Elder Oaks’ combination of incisively direct commentary and humor? Love it. Can’t really pull it off myself, but wish I could.

  3. 3 Earl March 20, 2007 at 12:29 pm

    I’m more of a J. Golden Kimball/Orrin Porter Rockwell Mormon.

  4. 4 Eric Nielson March 20, 2007 at 12:33 pm

    Connor:

    That’s a great way to be, man. I’m looking forward to conference as well.

    Janet:

    I like your explanations of these guys. I am going to have to listen close to Bednar.

    Earl:

    Lol. That’s one type I left out. They don’t make many like them anymore.

  5. 5 Matt W. March 20, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    I find this interesting because I am not sure Widtsoe and Talmage were necassarily in the same camp with Roberts in their day.

    I think Kimball is more like Hinckley and McKay than he is like Packer.

    If Packer ever becomes prophet maybe I will change my mind.

  6. 6 J. Stapley March 20, 2007 at 2:09 pm

    Yes, Kimball and Hinkley are definitely more similar. I also wouldn’t put Joseph F. Smith in with Joseph Fielding or BRM.

    My current favorites are Elder Eyring and Elder Oaks.

  7. 7 Ryan March 20, 2007 at 2:49 pm

    Elder Eyring you say? Why, he’s the president of the club of “Crying G.A.’s”.

    Elder Eyring spoke at the MTC when I was there and remarked something to the effect of:

    “I have heard it said that people call me the crying apostle. Well, I suppose that’s true but I just can’t help it, the gospel just touches my heart so forcefully… *his voice began to falter* you see?! There I go again”

    It was so hilarious and touching at the same time it made your heart want to burst.

    Good times.

    /btw, Elder Holland has made a couple good runs at joining the crying apostle club.

  8. 8 Eric Nielson March 20, 2007 at 3:17 pm

    Matt:

    I am not sure yet about their agreement on some doctrinal speculations, I was mostly comparing their personality and style which I find similar. In the book I bought (The Truth, The Way, and The Life) there was a letter shown from BH Roberts to Talmage asking him to review some chapters, it also showed Talmages reply. The two obviously had a great amount of respect for each other.

    Also, perhaps I am misreading Kimball. I was thinking ‘Miracle of Forgiveness’, and that film on chastity we were shown over and again in my youth. This seems very similar to ‘For Young Men Only’, and the like from Packer. But perhaps there are other matches that are better with Hinkley.

    J:

    I am a little surprised at your separation of Joseph F. Smith. I thought that things like ‘The Origins of Man’ and much of ‘Gospel Doctrine’ was sort of McKonkie like. But, I do agree if one of the group were to be left out it would be him.

    Everybody seems to like Eyring/Oaks/Holland. Might this be a ‘group’ that we remember in the church for decades to come?

  9. 9 Jacob March 20, 2007 at 3:57 pm

    I am with J. I wouldn’t have grouped Joseph F. in with JFS and BRM.

    The apostle I miss hearing from the most is Elder Haight, I just loved the way his talks always seemed extemporaneous and prone to tangents. I am a big fan of Eyring.

    It is amazing that Heber J. Grant was prophet for so long (1918-1945, second only to Brigham for years in office) and yet the average Mormon knows so little about him.

  10. 10 Doc March 20, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    Jacob,
    Haight and LeGrand Richards, now there’s some serious spontaneity.

  11. 11 Matt W. March 20, 2007 at 9:02 pm

    Matthew Cowley was he king of spontanaity. Just list to his “Miracles” talk at byu speeches.

    Jacob, Heber J. Grant is a lot of fun. Truman G. Madsen is his Grandson and tells some great stories on him in his presidents of the church lecture series. One of the best investments I ever made was to get that.

    Eric, I group Hinckley,Mckay and Kimball because of their style of presidency. I really recommend the Kimball biography. I don’t think anyone would think him stern after reading about him wondering about kissing everyone he meets on the cheek. It’s down right cute and cuddly…

    As for Roberts, Talmage and Widtsoe, I am sure they respected one another, I just think they had differenet doctrinal perspectives on some thing. They do make a rather nice set though, all together.

  12. 12 J. Stapley March 20, 2007 at 9:22 pm

    I think we often read things like The Origin of Man through a McConkie lens, because that is how it is most often presented. But it needn’t be that way. JFS is somewhat enigmatic, and I am finding that his private writings and lesser known sermons are not always what one might have expected.

  13. 13 Michelle March 21, 2007 at 12:12 am

    Elder Holland, Elder Bednar, Pres. Packer, Elder Oaks. I’ve always felt a connection with what Elder Holland says. I love Elder Bednar’s depth, power and directness. I love Pres. Packer’s doctrinal directness as well and his repeated mention of difficult topics. Elder Oaks is so very bright and intellectually grounded in his speaking, yet also personable. Oh, yes, and Elder Eyring, too. Definitely. But I could go on…..

  14. 14 Bill March 21, 2007 at 2:19 am

    How about Hugh B. Brown? I’m too young to remember him, but I liked his book.

    The most memorable speakers from my youth were LeGrand Richards and Spencer Kimball. I also enjoyed hearing from F. Enzio Busche, Hartman Rector Jr., and Sterling W. Sill. Finally, I remember having a certain fondness for Elder Joseph Anderson.

  15. 15 Eric Nielson March 21, 2007 at 6:41 am

    Jacob:

    Alright, alright, ALRIGHT! Maybe Joseph F. Smith should be kicked out of the McKonkie club. So does he go with anyone else. Maybe poor neglected Heber and he could get along. And with you and Doc, I miss the spontonaity of the past. Sometimes when these great men come and speak at a local level you can still get some of that. Probably why transcripts are often not available for those meetings.

    Matt:

    So, the presidents of the church lecture series by Madsen, and the Kimball biography. Anything more for my reading list Matt? I am going to have to give up reading other blogs for a while I guess.

    Michelle:

    There are some of the same names again. I think the popularity contest is beginning to take shape. Maybe we ought to put this up on a poll.

    Bill:

    F. Enzio Busche? Nice pull man.

  16. 16 Matt W. March 21, 2007 at 6:57 am

    Elder Busche’s last act as an active 70 was to come speak in the MTC while I was there. It was really wonderful.

  17. 17 C Jones March 21, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    I would aspire to be an Elder Wirthlin Mormon. He may not have the most riveting speaking style, but everything he says is well worth listening to. And…. I also may be a bit partial to him because something he said triggered my journey back to activity.

  18. 18 Bookslinger March 21, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    I joined the church in early 1982, and that April General conference was my first one. We listened to the audio broadcast of it in the chapel. I remember hearing Spencer Kimball and LeGrand Richards. That, or either the October conference 1982, was the last conference they spoke at.

    I heard Paul H. Dunn speak at the MTC in 1984. I liked hearing some humor after having to put up with mostly pompous talks by the MTC branch presidents. But at the time, I thought he went a little too far and was a bit buffoonish in his humor. Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the 12, also spoke when I was at the MTC and he told a couple jokes.

    If I were to group the current apostles…

    I’d say that Oaks is the new McConkie, Holland is the new Maxwell, and that Bednar is the new Packer.

    Monson is my favorite story-teller.

  19. 19 Bookslinger March 21, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    Are there any recordings of Heber J. Grant speaking at General Conferences?

  20. 20 Eric Nielson March 21, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    CJones:

    Well long live Elder Wirthlin then. How great shall be your joy….
    You were inactive?! A little hard for me to imagine, I guess.

    Bookslinger:

    It is interesting what we remember about these guys. I’m not sure I quite see your groupings of the ‘new’ group. I’ll have to look for some parallels during conference.

  21. 21 Matt W. March 21, 2007 at 12:32 pm

    The Farthest President back BYU speeches has is a devotional of George Albert Smith, sorry BS, no luck..

  22. 22 Bill March 21, 2007 at 12:59 pm

    Don’t think it was at conference, but you can find Heber J. Grant’s recorded voice here:

    http://hbllmedia2.lib.byu.edu/multimedia/

  23. 23 David March 21, 2007 at 5:55 pm

    I love Elder Monson, his memory, his stories, his cheerful attitude, and his caring for the one. Amazing.

    I also love that we again have an Apostle from another country besides the U.S. I hope we see many more (and I’m from Utah and a few other places in the U.S.). I have really been uplifted by Elder Uchtdorf’s testimony and his talks. Plus, it’s cool that he was such a great pilot. 🙂

  24. 24 Eric Nielson March 21, 2007 at 7:33 pm

    Yes, and Uchtdorf has that big, booming, German voice! The first time I heard him (I think the volume was up to high to boot) it was like:

    ‘YOU VILL OBEY ZE COMMANDMENTS, OR ZER VILL BE CONSEQUVENCES!’

    He does seem to be a great guy, and may wake a few people up on a Sunday afternoon session.

  25. 25 Eric Nielson March 21, 2007 at 7:34 pm

    Sorry, that may have been a bit irreverent. (But you will probably think about that next time you hear him!)

  26. 26 Jacob March 21, 2007 at 11:39 pm

    Bill, thanks for the link, I had never heard two of those recordings. Very cool to hear their voices.

  27. 27 Janet March 23, 2007 at 12:01 pm

    Elder Uchdorf makes me smile. I always imagine him wearing a pilot’s uniform–that would break up the suit-and-tie monotony!

    Best reason to actually watch rather than just listen to GC (which I usually do on Saturdays while cleaning house): David B. Haight–or was it President Hunter? It was when I was an adolescent–falling over backwards in the middle of a sentence and all the men on the stand leaping forward to help while he emulates a Jack-in-the-box by seeminly hitting a spring, resuming the upright position, and finishing his sentence!!! Now that’s poise!!!

  28. 28 Eric Nielson March 23, 2007 at 12:27 pm

    I remember that too. Classic!

  29. 29 Connor March 23, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    I remember that too. Classic!

    I don’t… somebody needs to upload it to Youtube. 🙂

  30. 30 Matt W. March 23, 2007 at 2:03 pm

    It was President Hunter. He Broke his ribs in that fall, per Truman Madsen…

  31. 31 Michelle March 23, 2007 at 9:27 pm

    I was driving to SLC to sing in the choir that day. Soooo weird to listen on the radio, hear suddenly nothing for a moment, and then Pres. Hunter picking up where he left off. We couldn’t figure out what on earth could have happened!


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