For much of human existence identity was ascribed based on the group one was born into. In such cultures all aspects of social life were fused into one incontrovertible identity: group identity. However as modern mindsets took root individuals began to shift the foundation of meaning and identity away from the fixed focal point of the group to one of personal preference. In response to this modern trend many groups began to intensify the maintenance of group identity as paramount in the lives of group members. Hammond and Warner (1993) assert that a powerful mechanism for sustaining group identity is a pattern known as ethnic fusion, where the boundaries of the religion and the ethnicity are essentially nonexistent. Mormonism was identified as a prime example of ethnic fusion. This study seeks to understand the role that religion and ethnicity play in identity creation for individuals raised within an ethnic fusion pattern but who, at some point, experience a break with the culture. In addition to being a case study, the current study seeks to understand the historical development of ethnic identity from early conceptualization to contemporary use. To accomplish this, this study draws on a wide range of literature and approaches that have been undertaken in different fields. Specifically, this is a case study that examines the lives of individuals raised in Utah as participating members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly known as “LDS” or “Mormons”) who at some point opted to remain in Utah and no longer participate with the dominant religious aspect of the culture. Such individuals are commonly referred to as “Jack Mormons,” a term which, in the contemporary usage, is a derogatory label for those who are perceived as lax in their practices of Mormonism. This study will show that religious and ethnic identity exist along a spectrum that can be described as thick – indicating high adherence to the orthodox beliefs and practices – and thin – indicating low levels of orthodoxy, and “Jack Mormons” will help to illustrate specific points along this spectrum.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Sociology



Date Submitted


Document Type





identity, ethnicity, culture change



Included in

Sociology Commons