A few years ago, I had my little blog, and I got an email from a guy from California who went by the name of Simeon. He told me that he, like me, had experienced an epiphany regarding Mormonism. He was really distraught, especially considering the reaction of his believing wife and family. He had stumbled across my blog, and he told me that it had helped him navigate some difficult waters, which of course was extremely gratifying.
Shortly after that, he shared his feelings with his believing brother, who, to his surprise, told him that he had been struggling with the same issues. They both left the church together, and they were both very angry, feeling that they had been lied to and betrayed by their religion and its leaders. At one point, Simeon wrote a brief post on his blog that said “Fuck the morg!” Morg, of course, is a derogatory nickname some former members use to describe the church (it’s sort of a contraction of “Mormon organization” with a hint of the “resistance is futile” Borg collective from Star Trek). Simeon said he was a little worried that he was too angry, and several commenters roundly criticized him for his anger. But I understood. Anger is part of the grieving process when you lose someone or something important in your life, and we had lost perhaps the center of our lives. I told him it was OK to be angry, and I added a “Fuck the Morg!” of my own just to humorously emphasize my point.
That was the post some of my family members discovered, and it caused me no end of grief, but a couple of years later, I’m not sorry I posted it. To quote two of my favorite punk poets, “Anger is an energy” (Johnny Rotten) and “Anger can be power” (Joe Strummer). Anger can be a good thing if it is used properly. Unfocused, uncontrolled anger is almost always destructive and harmful, but even Jesus got mad once or twice. In Mormon-speak, Jesus’ clearing of the temple was an example of “righteous indignation,” which we are told is a firmness bordering on anger used for righteous purposes.
We ex-Mormons ought to own righteous indignation. We have every right to be angry at a manipulative and deceptive religion that focused our energies away from ourselves and our families and instead pushed us to grow and maintain the organization, whatever the cost. Daniel Peterson once told me that it was irrational to be angry at Joseph Smith simply because we didn’t know the man, and he’s been dead a long time. Of course, that would be like saying I shouldn’t have any feelings toward the truck driver whose negligence killed my two younger brothers just because I never met him face to face. Joseph Smith did what he did, and just as believing LDS have strong feelings of admiration and even love for him, we ex-Mormons have a range of emotions toward him, and that’s as it should be.
But if we are to be angry at all (and I have to say that the anger has pretty much dissipated for me, though it occasionally surfaces), we ought to channel that anger into something worthwhile. It does no good to stand outside Temple Square waving signs and screaming, and it does no good to try and force our families to understand where we’re coming from.
For me, the best use of the anger is to turn it into resolve. I have decided that I will not let the past ruin the present. I won’t allow the hurt and the destructiveness of the past dictate what I do. I think there’s a tendency for some people to react to their history in the church by acting exactly opposite of the way they were raised. Thus, some people end up indulging in drugs, sex, and alcohol and harder things like Sunday waterskiing. But doing that in some ways is still letting the LDS church dictate how you will live your life.
I’ve decided to keep the good and discard the bad, and then to the best of my ability stand up for truth and honesty. I do get angry sometimes when I see people behaving dishonestly regarding Mormonism. And this cuts both ways. I’ve seen critics distort the facts, and I’ve seen Mormons do the same. I figure if I stand up for truth, I’ll always be on the right side of things. And there’s no need to be angry when you have the truth.