A friend pointed me to an interesting article in Newsweek about ex-Mormons.
I thought I’d share my initial reaction.
The article speaks of an organized community of ex-Mormons who actively “recruit” people away from the LDS church with such things as pass-along cards and billboards. I know a few people who do things like that, and Jeff Ricks is a good friend of mine, so I’m well aware of what he does. I’ve never been part of that active effort, but I will say that I don’t think Jeff and people like him are trying to pull people out of the LDS church so much as letting them know, as Jeff’s billboards put it, they “are not alone.”
This is, I think, the important thing to take from that article: as Mormons we lived a highly scripted (for want of a better word) life within a defined context and community. After leaving the church, I realized just how much my life had been built around the church: all day Sunday, seminary, YM/YW, Scouts, cleaning the chapel, firesides, conferences, temple attendance, scripture study, and so on. Leaving the church necessarily creates a huge void in a person’s life, so these support groups are helpful in that, as the therapist in the article mentions, they “parallel the church in the sense that they meet every day … so they can transition out of one community and into another.”
That’s the key for me. Whether I’ve wanted to admit it or not, I had that big void in my life, and I filled it by becoming part of the ex-Mormon community. And I thank God they were there to understand and support me when I needed it. I’ve met some of the greatest people I know in that community, and as different as they are, the one thing they have in common is integrity. I have never met a group of people with as much integrity in my life. I think their integrity is part of what led them to leave the LDS church in the first place: they couldn’t just go along to get along or pretend or quietly sit in the pews. They did what they thought was right.
I laughed at the meetings devoted to learning how to drink alcohol or purchase underwear, but these silly things illustrate just how jarring the experience is and how much of your life you have to figure out, even to the level of what kind of underwear you’re going to wear (boxer-briefs, in case you were wondering).
I’ll always be part of that community, I suppose, simply because I share a common experience with that community, and of course, I have many friends who are active in that community. But I’m never going to be an active participant or organizer or leader because I just don’t care that much anymore. I don’t define myself by the label of “ex-Mormon,” though I may have at one time. Two summers ago I participated in a Sunstone panel about ex-Mormons, along with Jeff Ricks, Carol Hamer, and a couple of other people. It became apparent to me quickly that, for Carol and me, Mormonism no longer generated the emotion or passion that it did in the others. Carol still writes about her Mormon experience, though she’s been out far longer than I have. So, like I hope I am, she’s part of our community but not defined by it.
The other day someone asked me why I have never finished my sarcastic “Concise Dictionary of Mormonism,” and I realized that I wrote those posts during a time when the LDS church was causing a lot of tension in my home, and when I’m annoyed or angry, I tend to react with extremely sarcastic humor. I got to the letter “N” and then stopped. Why? Because the stress had passed, so the motivation passed. Sometimes I think I’ll just finish it off just for some closure, but it’s a good metaphor for my existence after the church. I just don’t have the passion to be angry or hurt or sarcastic anymore. The most I can do these days is to write about specific things that interest me.
I’m glad people like Jeff Ricks are out there to help people who are struggling. Me, I’ll just write what I think, no matter how many people tell me to shut up.