Since the subject of this blog is Mormons in baseball, we should clarify what we mean by “Mormon,” a much more ambiguous term than “baseball.” [Although, that too, can be a bit ambiguous, at least when you look at baseball's beginnings.]
If you haven’t thought about it, or tried to determine whether or not someone is Mormon, the word Mormon might seem quite clear—a Mormon is simply someone who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, aka the Mormon Church or the LDS Church.
And for many situations that definition works fine. But in other situations that definition isn’t enough. What if the individual in question is “inactive” (i.e., doesn’t go to Church), are such individuals still Mormon? What if they attend, but still don’t follow key teachings, such as the dietary requirements of the Word ofWisdom or the teaching to keep the sabbath day holy (something of an issue for professional baseball players). Are these individuals still Mormon? What about those who were once members, but who now actively reject the Church and have asked for their names to be stricken from Church records—are they still Mormon? And what about those who come from a Mormon family, but whose parents stopped going to Church before the individual was baptized—Mormon or not?
Behind these questions lie a basic philosophical issue about Mormonism: is Mormonism a Church or an ethnicity? Have life-long Mormons joined a group? or were they born into the group? Does the individual chose Mormonism? Or does Mormonism choose the individual?
The answer likely depends on why you need the answer; on the purpose you are trying to realize. For some questions, like who to invite to a Mormon party, one answer is best. For other questions, like deciding on who to include in a list of Mormon baseball players, another answer is probably better.
So, in terms of this site, what is the answer?
Those on the lists we compile and the individuals we call Mormon are included because we use an inclusive definition—we try to include everyone with a significant connection to Mormonism. Basically, if the individual was baptized into a “Mormon” church (i.e., those who trace their roots to the efforts of Joseph Smith, Jr.) we include them. We also include them if their heritage (i.e., if one of their parents came from a Mormon family). Inactivity doesn’t matter — we generally don’t know and have no way of accurately telling if someone goes to Church or not. Likewise, how well the individual follows Mormon teachings isn’t relevant, and generally isn’t something we can find out about anyway. All this site can do is make connections, raise affiliations Mormons might have and, hopefully, build fans for the players mentioned. We try to make sure that the connection is real, but can’t go beyond that.
Having said this, we must acknowledge (and hope our readers and all fans of baseball recognize) that determining someone’s ethnicity, and even more difficult, their religion, is almost impossible. Player lists and information provided by the professional baseball leagues never formally list this information, and rarely even mention it. The information from statistical services likewise usually fail to mention these personal facts—and rightly so, they are irrelevant to how well players perform on the field. Nor do Churches release membership information like this; Church membership information is private—I can’t just ask the LDS Church if a baseball player was ever baptized.
As a result, our information must come from news reports, sometimes from the players themselves, and especially from those who know the players personally. As a result, we are indebted to our readers for information. If you know someone is a professional baseball player, please let us know. And, most of all, tell us HOW you know!! We don’t want to rely on what someone we don’t know thinks might be the case. We need more than that—an indication that what you know is probably true. We need to be able to say, when someone asks, “we know this player is Mormon because our reader told us that he home taught the player”—or whatever the connection you have is.
Please help us expand the list of past, current and potential future professional baseball players who are Mormon. We’d like to include everyone, as long as there is a minimal, demonstrable connection to Mormonism.