Ex-Mormons: Conformity and Healing

June 30, 2011

I’ve noticed this weird phenomenon among some ex-Mormons, and that is an insistence that there is a “right” way for ex-Mormons to think and behave. Since we were all raised to believe that Mormons were supposed to be and act a certain way, it’s natural that we would think that ex-Mormons also should be the same. So, we see a lot of people insisting on conformity.

Part of healing is getting to the point where you’re comfortable in your own skin, where you are happy being the person you want to be. Oddly enough, most people post on places like Recovery from Mormonism or Post-Mormon for a short time, get the anger and hurt out, and then live happy and productive lives. (And let’s face it, there is a lot of anger among the newly apostate, which shouldn’t surprise anyone.) The need for conformity is just one small step in the process for some.

It’s been almost 6 years for me, and I occasionally post on the ex-Mormon message boards when I think I have something that might help people who are where I was about 5 years ago. These days, I’m living an authentic life, and I’m more or less happy–definitely happier than I was as a Mormon. People who expect me to live a certain way have no effect on me.

Of course, getting to the point at which I could feel I was “myself” took a long time, with a lot of soul-searching, prayer, therapy, and medication (and 3 days in a psych hospital).

For me, the hardest thing about leaving the LDS church was figuring out who I really was inside. For 40 years I had been living my life according to a script someone else had written. I was living a good Mormon life, and I was so good at it I really didn’t know what I wanted, what I thought, what I felt anymore. What parts of my life would I have chosen had I not been a Mormon? Should I reject everything because it came from Mormonism?

In the end, I figured out that it didn’t matter what I had done in the past or why. What I needed to figure out was the kind of life I wanted to have from here out. Yes, I’ve had to compromise and work around people and situations, but that’s part of life anyway.

A wise man once said, You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you just might find you get what you need. I have what I need, and it’s good.

Why You Leave the LDS Church Is No One’s Business but Yours

June 29, 2011

A friend of mine realized that he did not believe in the LDS church about the same time I did (summer 2005 or so), so we connected over similar experiences. He was serving in a bishopric, and I was in the high priests group leadership. Both of us ended up serving in our callings for a while because we couldn’t get released. So, being dutiful church members, we kept on serving in our callings, even though we did not believe. He served in the bishopric for over a year as an unbeliever, finally calling it quits when he realized that they had no intention of releasing him. As for me, they just put me in the nursery.

One way that we are different is that I had an intense need for people I cared about to understand where I was coming from, so when people asked me why I had lost my faith, I told them. My friend, on the other hand, just says, “I don’t believe in the church anymore, and I have good reasons. If you want to know about it, you’ll have to do your own homework.”

On the one hand, this has been much better for him than it has been for me, as there’s been less arguing, fewer attempts to drag him back to church, than there has been for me. Every time I ever brought up a church issue with friends or family, it ended badly. So, in that respect, he’s chosen the better path. Of course, he’s been told that one consequence of his silence has been rampant rumor-mongering, such as that he was involved in “swinging” or polygamy, or that he started his own cult. He thinks that’s funny, as do I, but I admit I’d probably be a little perturbed if that kind of stuff were said about me.

And let’s face it: in Mormonism, there are few private boundaries that people don’t feel the right to cross. If you’re having problems and someone in the ward knows about it, you can rest assured that your problems are being discussed in meetings, and you may get asked about those things. So, it’s no surprise that church members feel that it’s their business to know exactly why you left; maybe they feel they can bring you back, or at least dust their feet off on you.

But in the end, my friend is right. What he believes or doesn’t believe is his business and no one else’s. I can’t speak for the rest of you, but I was raised to be keenly aware of what other people thought of me and how well I was living the gospel. Sometimes I hear about other people struggling with their loss of faith, and I’m reminded of that terrible angst from feeling like other people disapprove of things I’ve done, but for the most part, the angst is gone.

I know why I don’t believe in Mormonism, but it’s no one else’s business but mine.

An Olive Branch for “Dr” Todd Coontz

June 28, 2011

I’ve been kind of hard on Todd Coontz, the ersatz “evangelist, businessman, entrepreneur, television host, financial teacher, philanthropist, best selling [sic] author”; at least “these are the words others use to describe DR. TODD COONTZ.”

As far as I can tell, “Dr” Todd has no doctorate; rather, he has an MS in Agriculture from Texas A&M University (maybe that’s the Aggie equivalent of a doctorate). But no matter. For almost twenty years, our friend Todd has “carefully embraced his lifetime assignment and passion to teach people how to Qualify, Receive, and Manage Wealth according to Deuteronomy 8:18.” I’m left wondering if words mean something different when they are capitalized, but then given the semi-illiterate content on Todd’s web site, I doubt it.

I realize that he is “in tremendous demand as one of the most knowledgeable & dynamic financial teachers of his generation,” so I won’t waste his valuable time by inviting him here for an interview. No, what I propose is much simpler: Given that Todd believes that sowing a faith seed (read: sending him money) will result in blessings untold, I would invite him to put his money where his mouth is, as it were. If he will send me $1000 post-haste, I promise him the following blessings:

1) Divine Protection. I promise that Todd will receive divine protection against his own conscience and will never be troubled by guilt or shame over his greed.
2) Triple Favor. The next time Todd decides to purchase an ice cream cone at Baskin-Robbins, he can order a single scoop, and I’ll pay for two extra scoops. That’s a much more concrete promise than any that Todd makes.
3) Supernatural Increase. I promise Todd that, with every $1000 he sends, God will give him supernatural increase. I’d tell him what that means, but then it wouldn’t be supernatural, would it?
4) Uncommon Health. Seems to me that an overweight guy Todd’s age probably has some health issues (diabetes, perhaps?). I promise him health that is uncommon to non-obese people his age. After all, he will reap what he sows.

So, Todd, if you’re out there, get in touch with me. I promise I’ll put that money to work doing as much of God’s work as you do. What have you got to lose, except $1000?

Mormon Boards and Me

June 28, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to participated in a Mormonexpressions.com podcast about the history of online Mormon-related message boards. The podcast has been posted here. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to participate, but I’m going to post my thoughts anyway.

For the record, I started posting on alt.religion.mormon on listserv about 1995, six months or so after I discovered the Internet. I stayed there for a while and then lost interest around 1998 or so. I wasn’t all that involved in Mormon online discussions until 2000, when I started posting on the FAIR board, which evolved into the MAD board. In early 2005, I quit posting on MAD, and then in August of that year I had my crisis of faith during which I went from being a believing LDS high priest to an evil apostate in short order. A few months later I began posting again on the MAD board (and on exmormon.org), and by the end of the year I had sunk into a major depression and then had been banned from MAD. For whatever reason, I begged them to let me come back, and they did, though I was under severe restrictions. I discovered mormondiscussions.com, which satisfied my board needs after I was banned a second time from MAD.

Probably the most important thing I’ve learned on the boards is that the important thing is personality, not the topic of discussion. Most of the drama over the years has come from personality conflicts, not necessarily doctrinal or historical issues. As Jason and Chris mentioned in the podcast, the major events that led to new boards and realignments resulted from personality issues, the need for control, and the shame of being exposed for dishonesty. I think that’s why being banned from MAD hurt so deeply for so long. I felt like I was being rejected by a community I had thought I was a part of, and it took a while to let the anger and hurt go. These days, you couldn’t pay me to go back to the MAD board, and my posts to mormondiscussions are getting fewer and farther between.

Mention was made that the “More Good Foundation,” a program designed to generate a positive Internet presence for the LDS church, had acknowledged regularly monitoring over 15,000 “anti-Mormon web sites.” A few years ago I was getting regular hits on my blog from that foundation, as well as from its sponsoring organization (the LDS church), so I guess I was one of those anti-Mormon sites. I wonder what it says that I no longer get hits from them on my blog. I suppose that means I’m either not anti-Mormon enough or not significant enough a threat. I’m working on it, though.

John Larsen said something that really hit me in the podcast: we need to be better about doing positive things, instead of just sitting around bitching about Mormonism. I am trying to do that, and I appreciate the support I’ve received from a lot of people.

A Noninvasive Modality

June 10, 2011

Normally, I don’t comment on alternative “healing arts,” but sometimes their practitioners present a perfect combination of absurdity and pretentiousness that begs for a response.

In what amounts to a free advertisement, today’s Provo Daily Herald gives us this article:

Highland Woman Practices Ancient Healing Art

Apparently, one Linda Millington of Highland, Utah, has decided that, of all the “ancient Asian healing arts … the of [sic] art of Jin Shin Jyutsu … works best for her.”

I know some people believe they find relief for their infirmities in Asian healing arts, but I would not go to a healer who described her practice thus:

“It is a noninvasive modality which clears the emotional blockages that may present themselves physically in the body. … It harmonizes the energies throughout the body with the universal pulse.”

Well, that makes sense, doesn’t it?

Then comes this gem:

“She listens to the pulse but not the sound of the blood flowing.”

To clarify, we’re told:

“I listen or feel through my hands for the depth, organ function and texture. … You can tell if the pulse is opened or closed, cold or hot.”

Given that the pulse is the expanding and contracting of the blood vessels, one would expect anyone could tell if the vessels are open or closed, but how is a pulse open or closed? or hot or cold?

Thus far, she hasn’t instilled a lot of confidence in her abilities to do much more than a garden-variety nurse’s assistant. But she presses on. After putting her clients in a relaxing, reclined position, she “places her hands under key points or meridians such as the back of the neck, waist or the shoulder. By listening with her hands she can tell is there is disharmony and seeks to bring it back into harmony. ‘My hands are acting as jumper cables to help the body energies realign,’ she said.”

We’re then treated to a history of this ancient healing art and told of Ms. Millington’s training as a massage therapist and her studies of Jin Shin Jyutsu in Japan and Thailand. “It was like learning a whole new language.” Indeed, one who speaks of noninvasive modalities and realigning the body energies is probably speaking a new language, at least one different from mine.

Up to this point, this woman comes across as merely pretentious and a little silly, but when she veers into dangerous irresponsibility, I figure I should say something:

“If I were to fall and hurt my back the first thing I would do is get to a Jin Shin Jitsu practitioner. … The sooner the better. It can’t hurt and it can get the spinal fluids moving again. Of course you have to use common sense.”

Um, yes, it can hurt to take an injured person to an ancient healing arts practitioner instead of the emergency room. I know, she said, “Of course you have to use common sense.” Given that she believes that she can clear emotional blockages by listening to the universal pulse with her hands, we have some idea of what she considers “common sense.”

The Herald is every bit as irresponsible as she is for printing this stuff. Would they advise their readers to head to a Benny Hinn or Todd Coontz revival–or even to get an LDS priesthood blessing–instead of the ER? Most likely not, but here they are telling people with back injuries(!) to go to someone who can get their spinal fluids moving.

To quote Tim Minchin:

“You know what they call ‘alternative medicine’ that’s been proved to work? Medicine.”

Vengeance Is Mine

June 10, 2011

This is all I’m going to say about this, but there has been a disturbing number of vicious attacks going back and forth between members of two Mormon-related message boards. I’ve tried to stay out of it, as I don’t want to add to the rancor, but things have become so nasty that I felt I should say something on record.

I learned a long time ago that once you write something down online, it’s there forever. You can apologize and try to mend fences, but the next time someone gets upset with you, the old resentments return, and someone inevitably brings up your past behavior. Several times people have dredged up things I hadn’t thought of in years to show what a terrible person I am. And I admit that I have said some mean-spirited, nasty, and terrible things on occasion. I’d like to think that’s in the past, but I am not perfect. My misdeeds will always be out there, so my only choice is to own up to my failings whenever they rear their ugly heads. What else can I do?

I’ve also held grudges much longer than I should have. One former friend hurt me deeply, and I like to tell myself that I’ve gotten over that hurt. I think I have for the most part, but then I bring it up for some reason or other, usually to make a point. I always regret it. So, once again, I apologize to the poster who goes by MorningStar by unnecessarily bringing up the past. I have long since forgiven you, and I hope you can forgive me.

But the worst thing one can do with resentment and past hurts is try to get revenge. It does no one any good. Revenge just motivates the other person to seek revenge in an escalating cycle. That’s what we’ve seen lately, with mocking and derision (and I’m ashamed to say I engaged in a bit of it) turning into obscene, misogynistic, and very hateful images and words posted on several places. There’s no excuse for that, and what has happened has sickened me.

I appreciate those who not only have called for peace but who have also gone out of their way to remove the offensive images and words. At this point, there’s no point in trying to fix blame for those who “started it,” but at least we can be grateful for those who have tried to end it.

Not Going on a Mission Ruined My Life …

June 8, 2011

This story is pretty amazing:

Defendant: Losing chance to serve LDS mission ruined my life

So, this guy embezzles $ 1.3 million, and what does he blame it on? Not being able to go on a mission. His logic:

1. While still in his teens, he got his girlfriend pregnant.
2. He and his family were devastated, and he was unable to forgive himself.
3. He embezzled money “trying to make up for that mistake [the pregnancy] since the day it happened. That has caused me to sacrifice my values.”

My favorite part of the article:

“Kapp wrote he plans to go to law school following prison because he likely won’t be able to find a job in the financial industry.”

I’m sure he’ll make an awesome attorney.

Osama’s Diary, March 11, 2010

June 6, 2011

Best. Birthday. Present. Ever.

Ayman’s been wracking his brains for months trying to figure out how to ruin Biden’s trip to Israel. God knows he’s done enough damage to himself, what with those pictures of him shirtless washing his car and that embarrassing Hennessy ad campaign. It’s a good thing I saw that mess because I was so close to signing that deal to be the “spokesmodel” for Dr. Scholl’s gel inserts. But I did think their slogan was pretty catchy: “Are you gellin’ like a mass-murdering terrorist?”

So anyhoo, Biden like goes to Israel because, you know, they’re so bad-ass and he wants to look cool, but he got like totally served. 1600 new homes in the occupied territories. The look on the dude’s face was priceless.

Was pretty bummed that we were out of toaster strudels, so I settled for a couple of cinnamon pop-tarts and some Sunny D. Read the paper (Family Circus never gets old, does it?) while Adam kept trying to give me a back rub. I just freaking woke up. Duh. Maybe we’ll watch Twilight: New Moon again later. I don’t know, made me cry last time, so I’m not sure I’m up for that again, but Adam totally wants to watch it again. He even sent me a little note the other day that said, “You give me everything by breathing!”

Had to do one of those PR visits to a madrassa down in the suburbs. Those kids are so obnoxious and immature, but you gotta go what you gotta do. I told them we were going to have an art contest, and the winner would get to go to Chuck E. Cheese and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” with me. I told them they had 5 minutes to draw a picture of the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Once they all had their crayons and paper, I shouted, “Go!” Six kids started drawing furiously. Totally Punk’d. Kids love shit like that. Took them out and had them shot.

Ate a whole box of Sour Punch Straws and half a carton of Whoppers on the way home and felt a little guilty. But I promised myself I’m done purging. I’ll just work harder in my spinning class this week. Ayman tells me it’s bad for my teeth, too. Speaking of Ayman, I’m starting to get tired of him. Such a buzz-kill. All he ever wants to talk about is killing and maiming. It’s like he’s obsessed with all this jihad shit. I told him he needs a hobby, like tole painting or scrapbooking. Adam says I’m his hobby. Slightly awkward.

Spent the afternoon working on a video. I never know what to say on these things. I mean, it’s always about infidels and crusaders. Can’t we mix things up? Maybe do a musical (Adam says he’s up for it)? So, I got to the bit about the Crusader-Jewish alliance, and I just started giggling. Couldn’t stop. You know how that is, when you just can’t stop laughing. Almost peed my robes. At first Ayman was pissed, but he started laughing too, so we gave up. Ayman started doing his famous Hank Hill impression, though I don’t think Adam liked him pointing and saying, “That boy ain’t right.”

After dinner (Dino Bites and grape Kool-Aid) watched some Drake & Josh and then Iron Chef (the secret ingredient was cranberries). The trazodone was starting to kick in, so we had a group hug and I headed off to bed. Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.

Joseph Smith and the Big Lower Loop

June 3, 2011

My middle son is reading a book about handwriting analysis called, appropriately enough, “Sex, Lies, and Handwriting,” which you can preview from Simon and Schuster:


He showed me the section “From the Erogenous Zone to the Twilight Zone,” which included the following:

What does it mean if a guy’s large down there?

Huge lower loops signify a huge appetite–for physical, sexual, or material gratification. But a huge lower zone does not necessarily mean someone is a good lover. Large loops are about quantity, not quality.

Here’s the handwriting of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Latter Day Saints (Mormon Church). Notice the enormous lower loop in the J in his name “Joseph,” as a sign of his oversized libido. In fact, Mr. Smith did like the ladies. He married thirty-three of them.


Smith married Emma Hale in 1827. Six years later, he married his second wife, 16-year-old Fanny Alger, who was working in the Smith household as a maid. Smith later claimed that an angel with a mighty sword came to him and told him to take another wife, or die. So he took another, and then another, and another.

The angel would return many times. Smith’s brides ranged in age from fourteen to fifty-eight and included five pairs of sisters, a mother and daughter, and eleven women who were already married. Outside of a small circle of family and church elders, only a few in the Mormon community knew of Smith’s polygamous marriages.

That was to change in June 1844, when a group of disenchanted followers, claiming that Smith had attempted to steal their wives, published a newspaper critical of Smith. When Smith tried to squash his critics by smashing their printing press and encircling them with Mormon militiamen, his heavy-handed tactics backfired. The governor of Illinois had Smith arrested and jailed. A few days later, an armed mob rushed the jail. Shots were fired. As Smith fell from a second-floor window, he cried out, “Oh Lord, My God!” Joseph Smith was dead at the age of thirty-nine.

My son thought it was kind of funny to see JS used as an example of someone with an enormous libido, but I suppose it fits.