Simian Anger

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.

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8 Responses to Simian Anger

  1. What an incredibly fantastic post. Your words are those of a wise sage.

    I love your claim that those who binge in all of the areas where the church previously forbade them are still allowing the church to dictate how to live their lives. That is so true. Doing things we don’t actually want to do is even worse than being repressed and not doing the things we actually want to do. That said, I don’t see anything wrong with drinking or whatever, if that’s what you really want. But doing it simply because you couldn’t before is silly.

    Lastly, I really wanted to thank you for your blog. I do not know you personally, but I have been actively following your blog for months. I always get excited when I see a post from Runtu show up in my Google Reader. I have largely left the RfM behind, but I don’t see myself leaving your blog for a long time. Thank you.

  2. Lamanite says:

    First, I was in the Hospital for a bit and never got to a read a response, if any, to my family being directed to your site. I’m interested in your thoughts. I hope they were light and affable.

    Second, I just want to say that I have 3 brothers in Prison for homicide and aggravated robbery. ANGER=Good. Never. However, anger is normal. But own your own shit and let go man.

    FUCK YOU! FUCK ME! FUCK EVERYONE! deep breath and let it go. Life can be so wonderful if we don’t harbor resentments.

    Big UP!

    Lamanite

  3. runtu says:

    Sione,

    Dude, you sound angry. 🙂

    No, anger isn’t a good thing, but it’s OK to get angry sometimes, and what I was trying to say was that the best thing to do is to channel the anger into something positive and worthwhile. Being angry for the rest of your life is not a positive thing.

    As for your family, I’m happy they’re here. Hopefully they don’t hate me too much. I can be blunt, but hopefully not mean. They can’t help but be good people if they raised someone as cool as you.

  4. Lamanite says:

    I’ve spent 20k in therapy trying to turn my anger into something positive. 🙂 Perhaps its my Tongan genetics? lol. In reality the Gospel has allowed me to keep anger in check most of the time. I honestly feel like my conversion to the Gospel is the difference between me and 3 institutionalized brothers.

    As for the fam stopping by…I think it’s a good thing for them to read alternate opinions; real life problems within the institution of the Church; problems created within families because of differing beliefs.

    The great thing about any idea’s is that they can strengthen our own idea’s or we can exchange for better one’s. The problem with Mormon’s is that our idea’s are always right, and if you don’t agree– you’re defective and are in need of conversion.

    Big UP

    Lamanite

  5. runtu says:

    I think I’d be defective, church or not. The “church-caused” problems have really been less of an issue lately, which is a good thing.

    I’ve always said that if the LDS church works for you, why wouldn’t you stick with it? Of course, that doesn’t mean that the church is true, though.

    • Robin Bishop says:

      Well, in a real sense it does mean that it’s true in that it’s true for me. When Christ walked the Earth, His church was the True Church excluding the Gentile. Jesus refused to teach the Gentile. In not teaching the Gentile, it made it true.

  6. Jesse says:

    Way to quote both PIL and the Clash in one post! I think anger is anathema in the COJCOLDS. Unregulated emotion is dangerous because the whole organization is based on feelings.

  7. Fr. J. says:

    Runtu,

    I dont know why I keep reading your blog (backwards), but I just realized through this post that you aren’t a Mormon anymore. I grew up very close to a Mormon family. I could the different dynamics, the good and the bad. Yes, there was manipulation, but I think a lot of Mormons really are happy being Mormon. But, it is hell on kids who dont fit the mold. I did see that in this family. They had 4 children. 3 were good Mormons and then the youngest was willful and stubborn by nature which led to his being gradually more and more marginalized by the rest of the family. God bless them. They tried everything. They were almost desperate to be the good Mormon family. And, for the most part they were, at least to my eyes.

    I have lost track of them since I went off to college. But I still have a place in my heart for them.

    It is crazy for me to say, perhaps, as a Catholic priest, but while you have to deal with your anger, it is important to also see the good, too. I am sure your parents and church were doing the best they can. We all have to come to terms with our upbringing and the real flaws in our families/parents.

    I wish you well as you continue to move on.

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