Repost: Simian Anger

Some more thoughts on anger and how it relates to leaving the LDS church:

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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5 Responses to Repost: Simian Anger

  1. Nice post. Anger is a useful emotion if we don’t let it control us. I like your point that people who leave the Church and react by adopting all the habits condemned bythe Church are still being controlled by the Church.

    It takes maturity and self-knowledge to find the balance that allows us to appreciate positive aspects of the Church without allowing it to dominate our lives.

  2. If I may. I do not necessarily understand ex-Mormon anger. I do not understand how people feel lied to, since I do not think the people being accused of lying are actually guilty, at least in a knowing sense. It is not as if Pres. Monson knows everything he is saying is a lie, but says it anyway. I have no doubt that Monson believes everything that the LDS Church says it is, is true.

    Now, please do not get me wrong, I am not arguing with your position, WRT the truth claims of the LDS Church. Believe as you like, but I am asking, partly because you seem far more reasonable than many ex-Mormons I know, about the experience.

    I have read a bit here and there about the ex-believers of various faith systems, be it Mormon, Muslim, Christian, Jewish (though Jews tend to be less angry as a group), and even Buddhists (from “Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist”), and most of the stories are the same. The stories told explain disappointment that the belief system is not as it was told to be. End the end, the same pattern of grief and anger emerges, but since it all seems to be the same, it begs the question. I am sure there is a good scientific research paper hiding in the observation, but I am not the one to write it.

    The claim of whitewashing, from ex-adherents, is a common criticism of belief systems. Nevertheless the fact that a belief system whitewashes their personal history, should be as shocking as realizing that nations, politicians, companies, and just about everyone else whitewashes their histories. But given the commonality, it seems odd that the emotional resentment continuously emerges.

    That is one problem I have, the anger at what should be blatantly obvious. Faith promotion is a constant in faith, why be surprised about the existence in a chosen belief system?

    The second involves the completely negative, in sense of a reversal of experience, reaction to the previous faith. Where faith once existed, now anti-faith exists, which is likely as flawed an experience as the faith was.

    Consider your comment…

    “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.”

    Joseph was an incredibly complex individual. I am frequently irritated by LDS hero-worship, since I think Joseph was a colossal ass. But, in reverse, once no longer a believer, it seems that Joseph never did anything right either.

    From a Mormon believer perspective, the Church and its officers are the epitome of good in the world. From the ex-believer perspective, it is the bane of all existence, hence the song “@#$% the Morg”.

    It seems even in post Mormonism, there is hardly any middle ground to truth. Again this is usually a common theme, but hardly seems correct. I would think that actual truth is almost always some sort of happy medium between the good and bad.

    As Obi Wan told Luke, “Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our point of view”, and I see religion as no different. Nevertheless it seems that many trade one dogmatic belief system for the antithesis, complete with new dogma, of that belief system.

    I have to cut this short, please understand, I am not accusing you of any of this, just taking the opportunity to voice an opinion about the nature of belief and lost belief. Please consider or disregard as you see fit.

    • runtu says:

      It’s pretty simple. When you discover that the belief system you built your life around is not, in fact, true, it’s a real loss, and the natural response to loss is grief. According to the Kubler-Ross model, anger is one of the stages of grief, and we all go through it, whether we want to or not. I think most people move past the anger and eventually deal with the grief. I did, and most of my friends have, too. But there’s nothing wrong with feeling angry. As you note, it’s common among those who have lost their faith.

      But we were taught that anger was wrong, that contention is of the devil. We were to control our thoughts and not allow negative feelings, especially not about the church. So, suppressed anger, when it comes out, tends to be pretty angry. I don’t blame people for that, as I was once there, too. Hence my support of those who, at some point, feel the need to say “fuck the morg.” Getting the anger out is important, and it’s counterproductive to hold it in.

      Do I feel lied to? That’s a difficult question. I am confident that every person who taught me the LDS gospel did so in all sincerity and honesty–because they believed it. I also think that, for the most part, the leadership of the LDS church believes in its teachings. So, if it’s not true, who lied? I guess I would have to pin that on Joseph Smith, and I probably was angry with him for a while. I think I was angrier with myself because, for at least ten years, I knew the “troubling” things and excused and rationalized them. It was when I realized what I had done that everything came crashing down. I was angry that I had sacrificed my conscience for Joseph Smith.

      It obviously isn’t true that I think there is nothing redeeming about the church. I have said many times that it works for a lot of people, and I’m happy for them. It didn’t work for me, and I think it’s demonstrably untrue, but I don’t hate the church or think it’s all bad. I just could not in good conscience maintain belief in it.

  3. The lord created feelings foe r all of us to have. the emotions in our soul that we have from joy, peace,happiness to sad, to mad to angry are perfectly normal emtions for us to have. our soul consists of our mind emotions and will. If e werent angry at all then we wouldnt be human but instead we would be products of a modern tenthieth century mechanic robot with no feelings.anger is a part of the normal process of not only grieveing on something that we have lost that was dear to us but angry is also a natural emotion that we have that is their to help us and grow through our stages of growwth. I myself have been angry over church leaders or missionaries being very exclusive and judgmental over not understanding gay mormons who love the lord and are have natural desires and feelings like everyone else.I only had one experience negative with a bishop of my ward who i felt was homophobic and made me feel like i idint fir in because i didnt pray the way he anteangelized mormons and went to d me to and i could sense that he knew i was gay. actions speak louider then words.I am a gay mormon inactive and i no longer go to the mormon church. I do not harbor any resentments to the church at all. i choose to take the good from the bad as i realize that no organization on this earth is perfect regardless rather its a church denomination a employer or union or any other organization no group is infalliable free from error.Theres truth and error in everything in life/ as a born again christian gay inactuive mormon ive never lost my personal testimony of the lord. ive alays feel the inner subjective prescence of the lord and the burning of the bosom. i know that the bible,book of mormnon,doctrine and covenants,and pearl of great price is true and i dont deny anything that i know is true from the church. I now realize not all mormons are homophobic. the last ward i belonged to was very loving uncondtionally christlike charity love. everyone in the ward including the missionarires and bishop knew that i as gay and they knew my lover and the local ard as not at all judgmnental cat5 all. my bishop was understanding and when my partner died my bishop gave a very good testinmony of my lovers life spiritually. The members of the church,my partners immediate family, our co workers and other gay christian friends were all their at my lovers funeral. it was the most heart warming transforming healing experience i had expperiencedd which help me to go forward and gpo on loeaving my annger behind.

  4. James Burton says:

    I stumbled on your blog I’m a mormon who has lived a live full of experiences I basically stopped being active at 18 and I never stopped identifying myself as a mormon. I was never invested in the church as you have been.I never went to Byu although I’m still a huge fan of BYU Athletics it brings back great memories of spending time with my Father and Mother cheering them on enjoying each others company My father wasn’t as strict into the church as my mother was .However my own research and common sense made it very difficult to accept everything I’m 60 yrs old I’m so thankful for Heavenly Father that I was given the opportunity to have been truly loved by them (I’m adopted though related to my mother because of her Niece had me and my brother out of Wedlock) I can certainly understand and sympathize with all you have gone through However what bothers me about all these. Ex mormons is that they can’t let it go if you the church isn’t true bully for you why go and preach negativity about someone religion when it’s a clear insult to people who loved you unconditionally I have decided long ago not to publicly denounce any religion in public who cares if it was true or not. Let it go and move I with your life as you have mention look at all the pain it had caused you emoitionally etc. Is it really worth it . no you aren’t helping others to see the light that begins if only they decide it’s not for them I have lived both sides of the fence and can honestly say people who are LDS are different from everyone else they have manners they are more sensitive generally more educated then the norm Why the hell waste your time cutting down and take deeper than it needs to be accept it as any religion it’s not perfect neither are the people but it just a religion cut your losses and move on the church does some good and some harm. It makes me very suspicious of all these people who declare they are ex mormons and want to save their brothers and sisters from this terrible cult you aren’t going to change their minds nor is the church going away it’s as if your writings are more therapy for you and the others constantly throw doctrine and insult people who loved them by denouncing a religion on the internet ( a lot of those who make it their life’s work informing others that the church is untrue I bet at least 70 % have had their feelings hurt by a mormon or could not live their religion) So they go Ina life long journey to discredit a church my lord who cares let it go stop writing about it live your life Know that by doing so your respecting all the people who loved you unconditionally pay them back with respect they deserve I’m speaking of the ones who have passed away. people who protest this much is actually in my opinion a missionary program for the church people will get the idea that well maybe there is something about the LDS church they should look into it more with all these disgruntled unhappy people it must be one hell of a powerful force for someone to bitch about it everyday but again I was never invested like you but even in my teens being active I knew some of it was baloney like any organized religion. sometimes you can over think it it’s history there are good people and Bad I just don’t get it people why tread on other people beliefs it’s a waste of time and it’s not helping you with your progress as a person if it’s untrue and you don’t like it give others the respect to worship no matter how stupid the world thinks it is at least I can say to you is that your honest. I have relatives who are (ex mormons) and it’s all they talk about until they’re older brother or sister are in their company then they shut up that’s a hypcrosity that drives me crazy sacrifice your intellect out of respect for the people in the church that loved you and let it go. In closing I know your a talented and English Major so please save us time by not telling abou my sentence struture grammer or spelling I’m not attacking it’s just my pet peeve is anyone who goes out of their way to knock someone’s belief system no matter how ridiculous it is to the rest of the world. I have had a long life and lot of life experience I sometimes wonder if my life may have been happier had I stayed in the church. what I couldn’t handle is your not allowed to say no, and you aren’t allowed.to be a individual.however can you honestly tell me your are really as happy as you before u left? I just didn’t let myself become to invovled in it I have always thought for myself James

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