Why I don’t use the term “TBM”
What the heck is a TBM?
In progressive Mormon circles, TBM is shorthand often used to describe members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) who attend church regularly, follow church standards and have orthodox views about gospel doctrine. No one seems to know for sure what it abbreviated originally but most people say it stands for either “True Blue Mormon” or “True Believing Mormon.”
Why I don’t say TBM
- It is a pejorative; most often used by progressive and post Mormons to describe people they see as less enlightened, less open-minded and more judgmental than themselves.
- No one self-identifies as TBM (at least, not in the present tense). I have met many, many active church members, and not a single one of them has described themselves to me as TBM. I do occasionally hear people describe themselves as former TBMs, but did any of them ever call themselves that when they were in that mental space? I don’t think so.
- It “others” people and stereotypes them. Contrary to the assumptions of some, many of the people who participate in progressive Mormon circles, including myself, do participate in the church organization in a way that could cause others to describe us as TBM. Not every progressive Mormon you meet on the internet is the same; nor is everyone who inhabits a brick and mortar church building.
Why I don’t stop others from saying it
- Most people who say it don’t mean to be offensive. I anticipate that several comments on this post will come from people explaining that they say TBM and don’t mean anything bad by it. I believe you.
- Conversations about orthodoxy are hard; even harder if someone is policing you and derailing the conversation to scold you for using inelegant terminology.
- The term provides a shorthand way to convey a lot of meaning quickly. And I get it, a three-letter term is much easier to type (and read) than a more nuanced but much longer essay.
- Many of the terms that active church members do use to describe themselves would not work. Faithful? Like other people aren’t faithful? Saints? Yeah, right. And now we can’t even say Mormon anymore!
So if the term TBM falls off your lips (or your keyboard) in my presence, don’t expect any objection on my part. But I would invite you, right now, to take a moment and consider some questions.
- If you usually grant people the respect of calling them by the self-identifiers they choose for themselves, why wouldn’t you in this case?
- If you don’t intend to be offensive, is it wise to use a term that is most often applied in rants or complaints and virtually never to say something complimentary?
- Don’t you think you’re being a bit judgmental, when you label all of those other people as judgmental?
- Is there any other way to express your meaning that doesn’t lump so many passive bystanders, perhaps even some of the people you are talking to, into one big stereotype?