Why are there “Ex” Support Groups?

As long as I’ve had this blog, I’ve had commenters (always believing Mormons) ask me why I can’t just “let go” and “move on.” Why, they ask, would anyone define themselves as “ex” anything instead of who they are in positive terms? It’s “unhealthy” they say, to keep talking about the past, and even if it weren’t, being so “negative” is bad for the soul.

It’s pretty clear to me, and I’m sure to most of my readers, where this advice comes from, and it’s not generally from a concern for the wellbeing of my soul. Most people don’t like other people criticizing things they hold dear, and for good reason. It’s easy to take it personally, especially when you belong to a group that in large part determines your identity and worldview.

But why is there an ex-Mormon “movement,” if you want to call it that? Is Mormonism unique in having “apostates” continue to criticize its teachings and practices, and if not, what’s behind such movements?

I’m told that a thorough Google search yielded only a single former Jew (now Christian) blogger that provided anything comparable to what we see from ex-Mormons. If that were true, it would mean that ex-Mormons are unique. But of course, ex-Mormons are no different than any other such group (and there are a lot of them). Everything you might hear among even the most bitter ex-Mormons you will hear in other such groups. A cursory Google search yielded the following topics of discussion on non-LDS support groups for former believers:

“Psychological Torture in the Southern Baptist Cult.”
A long thread about ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses “unwitnessing” to people trapped in the “Borg.”
“I was born. I grew up. I escaped,” which discussed the author’s journey to freedom outside of Scientology.
Several threads about the fear of coming out as no longer believing in the Church of Christ.

And that was just the first result from a few Google searches. There was a lot more, and a lot of it was pretty angry.

Rather than wonder why these people are so unhealthy and obsessed with their former religions, maybe it’s better to try and understand the common denominators. I could probably spend some time researching and come up with a really good analysis, but this is a blog, and I’m home in bed with strep. So, I’ll give you two common factors, as I see them:

1. The level of commitment demanded and received.
2. The costs of leaving.

First, the religions that spawn “ex” movements require great commitment and devotion. People who aren’t committed simply fade away, like most converts to Mormonism and a considerable number of people raised as Mormons. The people you see in “ex” movements are usually those who believed in their religion and gave the commitment and effort demanded. That’s why they hurt so much. You don’t see movements for, say, ex-Unitarians or ex-Methodists because these are not very demanding religions. They don’t ask much of your time, your devotion, or your commitment to dogma or praxis. Unitarians, for example, don’t ask you to spend 2 years away from home on your own dime recruiting converts. Methodists don’t expect you to spend hours in church every week, volunteer a lot of time supporting the church, and require you to be “worthy” to attend rituals regularly.

Second, leaving these religions involves high social and familial costs. All these groups teach that those who leave are sinful “apostates” with evil intent, so leaving tends to cost you a lot in terms of friendships and family relationships. I have a good friend whose own mother counseled his wife to divorce him because he had lost his faith in the church. I know people who have been kicked out of their homes, lost their marriages, and become pariahs in their communities simply because they walked away from Mormonism.

When I went to a therapist in Texas, he was dumbfounded as to why my exit from Mormonism was so painful. He said, “I’m Methodist, and my wife is Presbyterian, so we attend her church. No big deal.” Later, when I ended up in a psychiatric hospital after the religious issues came to a head in my family, the staff psychiatrist asked me what had triggered the episode. I said I had lost my faith, and it was causing problems in all my relationships. “Which religion?” he asked, and when I told him, he said, “Oh, Mormonism. My business partner was a Mormon bishop who went through the same experience. He lost his wife, his children won’t talk to him anymore, and most of his clients deserted him, as he was one of the only Mormon psychiatrists in Houston. I’m surprised he didn’t try to kill himself.”

Having said that, I think it’s obvious that some people are bitter and resentful, and it can be unhealthy. Most people, however, get it out of their system and move on. But that doesn’t mean you should stop talking about Mormonism or whatever religion you left. It’s part of who you are, and it always will be, especially if your family is still as heavily involved in it as mine is.

Am I bitter and resentful about Mormonism? I don’t think so. But it is part of every day of my life, and it would be crazy to force myself not to talk about a major part of my current life. I post here because it’s a good way for me to get things out in ways that aren’t going to affect my personal relationships; I’d rather vent here than have confrontations at home. But truth be told, I don’t think all that much about Mormonism. I post maybe once a week, with months going by when I don’t post, though you’ll see flurries of activities when Mormonism has reared its unwelcome head in my personal life more than usual.

So, I am not going to apologize for saying what I think when I feel like saying it. What’s the point? I understand that most Mormons, were they aware of this trifling little blog, would tell me to shut up and stop going after the true church. I doubt they would appreciate it if I told them to stop talking about their religion because they should just get over it.

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53 Responses to Why are there “Ex” Support Groups?

  1. Andrew S says:

    Well stated, runtu. Seems like the same guy that’s been at my site has been at yours.

    I personally think that most talk of “cults” is really Christian boundary maintenance, BUT I think it’s interesting to note that the religious groups that have noted ex- groups is are often groups most accused of being cults…I mean, that Mormonism is in association with, say, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientology, and so on, is pretty interesting. I think you capture some of the reasons why (high level of commitment, high cost of exit), but if someone doesn’t realize that all religions aren’t functionally the same, then it’ll seem puzzling why there are vocal ex-Mormons and not vocal ex-Methodists.

    • runtu says:

      Yep, same guy. You’re exactly right: all religions are definitely not functionally the same. That’s why we see “ex” groups for some and not for others. It’s just interesting that anyone would conclude that, because some other religions don’t have vocal former members, that’s a sign that Mormonism is being persecuted and/or the former members are evil.

  2. Camille Biexei says:

    One of the things you did not mention is a sense of betrayal. That sense of having been betrayed by the people you trusted and loved is part of the pain when untruths, etc. are uncovered.
    I was a very earnest, deeply committed Mormon. I was never a “cultural Mormon”, although a 6th generation one. Leaving was terribly traumatic in so many ways. I lost extended family and many friends, but because of my own commitment to the truth I could not stay and pretend to be a believer for the sake of comfort.

  3. shematwater says:

    Personally, I don’t care what you talk about or how. If you do it on a public forum such as this, however, you should expect that people who disagree with voice that disagreement. As long as you are comfortable with that have at it.

    Me, I am a life-long Mormon and have no plans to leave any time soon. I am familiar with the things you mention, though I have found them to be less common than people seem to think. I agree that they are common for those who join the “ex-” communities, as you put it, but those groups represent a very small percentage of the people who leave the church.
    For those who go through this kind of thing it is terrible, but I have found that it is too easy for them to believe that because it was hard for them it has to be hard for everyone else, which is not the case. I have met many people who have dropped out of the church with no problems in their family or social life. I have also met people who dropped out and willingly caused the problems (like shut off communication or purposely started fights over religion).

    Then I have met people that have experienced the same things you describe because they joined the LDS church. I have a friend whose family refused to speak to him for almost a year after he baptized, except to tell him how evil he was making that choice.

    Experiences are going to vary widely and for anyone to generalize them is not going to work.

    • runtu says:

      I have no problem with disagreement, but I do not appreciate the condescending lie about being concerned for my welfare. And no one is saying that leaving is always that painful, but it happens enough to be quite common, and you know as well as I do that is by design.

      • Camille Biexei says:

        Thanks, runtu, for saying that! I suspect that there is little real understanding here. Anyone who can use the phrase “…people who have DROPPED OUT OF the church…” in this context does not get it. “Extracted oneself, after years of struggle and doubt, pain and sorrow…” is more accurate.
        Leaving the Church, for a former true believer, at least, is terribly painful and something I would wish on no one. Recovery from such a loss can be long and arduous.

      • runtu says:

        I completely understand, Camille. It is painful as hell to walk away. You don’t just “drop out” and everyone treats you like they always did. Until these folks lose friends and family because they changed their beliefs, they won’t understand. But you have to remember that they aren’t interested in you or me or anyone else who has left. They don’t care what our lives are like, and they sure as hell don’t want to understand anything we’ve experienced. They are about protecting the institution, plain and simple. So, we must be labeled bitter, resentful losers; to acknowledge that we have any legitimate opinions or experiences is unacceptable. Part of recovering is understanding that people like them don’t give a shit about you if you leave.

  4. Funny how all the things I was ever taught were “anti-mormon lies” have turned out to be completely true. The church is even owning up to some of them. People (believing mormons) don’t understand why this should upset me, but honestly, I believe they have been trained not to think about these things. Example: “When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done” (Improvement Era, June 1945) or “When the prophet speaks, the debate is over” (Ensign, August 1979). Whatever the church puts out, they meekly bow their heads and say “Yes”.

    I have broken free from that way of thinking. This upsets many mormons, in particular my wife and family. When I try to show them PROVEN errors or contradictions, even using official church sources, they don’t want to know about it and accuse me of trying to de-convert them. They call it anti-mormon garbage, but I call it TRUTH. They take the attitude that I am in the wrong, no matter what (they are also taught this), and I live with the consequences.

    If believing mormons want to begin to understand why some people still need to vent from time to time, this is a good starting point.

    • runtu says:

      I think some Mormons do want to understand, but obviously the Mormons posting here don’t. It’s much easier to put us in a nice little box labeled “bitter.”

  5. runtu says:

    Sorry for being a little testy yesterday, as I really haven’t been feeling well (strep throat will do that to you), but I really don’t like the passive-aggressive “we’re concerned about your emotional wellbeing” approach. Just be honest: you wouldn’t care if I were the most emotionally healthy person on the face of the earth; as long as I’m discussing Mormonism in less-than-fawning terms, you’re going to want me to shut up. Just acknowledge that, so we can dispense with the faux-concern that no one is buying.

  6. Camille Biexei says:

    Still laughing about the “dropped out of” comments. Once you get past how nonsensical and insulting the phrase is, there is a lot which could be done with it.

    • runtu says:

      Someone once told me I had “failed” at Mormonism. I prefer saying that I received an “Incomplete.”

      Using words like “dropped out of” and “failed” are intended to cast our decision to leave as a moral failing instead of a considered and principled decision. As I’m sure you have experienced, it’s a lot easier for people to tell us that our decision was “our fault” and a result of moral weakness than it is to make even a tiny effort to find out why we left and how we feel.

      • Camille Biexei says:

        Or, that we are just plain ‘ol evil. More than one of us has been told that we are now “a son of perdition”. When I was told that, by a Harvard educated PhD, I might add, I said that was impossible because as a female I could not rise high enough to fall that far, based on the doctrines of the Church. And, in any case, I would have to be a “daughter of perdition”. He was not amused.
        But, this is great stuff. I am not perdition anymore, (worse off than satan), I am a dropout.

      • runtu says:

        I’m pure evil, or so I’ve been told. One guy has told me over and over that I am the most dangerous kind of “anti-Mormon” because I pretend to be fair and sincere.

  7. Camille Biexei says:

    PS I withdrew membership about 15 years ago and things were hard for a long time. But, now that the worst of it is over, I don’t hate the Church anymore. And, I have realized that Mormonism and Mormon culture is comic gold. You just gotta’ develop a taste for dark humor, is all. And not take the craziness personally.

    • runtu says:

      It’s been 8 years for me, and things were bad for about 4 years for me. Things really didn’t start improving until after my stay in the psych ward, though. I don’t hate the church at all, and generally speaking, I like Mormons. Most of the Mormons I know are great people–at least until you say anything critical of their religion. Finding a sense of humor about the whole thing was essential for me. Better to laugh than to cry or to rage.

  8. I think when people leave the LDS church they often leave behind the social groups that once supported them – family, friends, and employment. Humans tend to be very tribal. Leaving the church creates a tribal vacuum making the already difficult personal journey that much more difficult.

    Finding and socializing with others leaving or others who have left help us feel like we belong to something, that others know where we are at and what we are experiencing.

    I have an Ex-Mormon girlfriend. It helps. She instinctively understands my journey, my sometimes hurt, my humor etc.
    Finding new groups who understand us may be a necessity.

    The internet hasn’t only made troubling information regarding Mormonism more available, it has helped create new tribal connections easing the transition out of Mormonism.

  9. shematwater says:

    Runtu and Camille

    You know, when you belittle and mock a person for a polite comment you tend to color yourselves as bitter. You don’t need others to do it for you.

    I used the phrase “dropped out” because it lacks any emotional charge and I was trying to avoid that. I have spoken to many former members who would describe their experience in just this way (maybe saying left, or some similar word or phrase) and would find your portrayal as very foreign to them. If you choose to be insulted because of my choice of words what does that say about you?

    As to the caring about you, I find it sad that you want to generalize everyone. You seem to find it “much easier to put us in a nice little box labeled “fake” rather than even consider that some people actually do care.
    I made my comment in honest exchange with no intention of hurting or belittling in any way. I know there are honest reasons for leaving the church and doing so can be a “principled decision” that has nothing to do with moral failing. I also know that some people in the church can be jerks to those who do leave. But this does not excuse you being jerks to others who just happen to be members.

    • runtu says:

      I’m not belittling you or mocking you. You do have a history with me, you know, and yes, my comments to you reflect that history. I am not “generalizing” about anyone. As I said, I know and love a lot of Mormons, and I suspect most of them would be kinder than some of the commenters on my blog.

      If you sincerely are concerned about my emotional welfare (my comments were about a different commenter, not you, btw), I appreciate that. My issue with your comments is simple: you minimized the pain people experience when they leave the church and acted as if people like Camille and I are just making things up to score points off the LDS church. That’s not the case.

      As I said, I know a few people who have walked away without a lot of hassle, but they are definitely a small minority. It hurts to leave, and I responded the way I did because you seemed to casually dismiss the notion that it could be anything but an easy transition.

      I know what I experienced, and I also know the church intentionally makes it difficult to leave; I don’t blame them. They have a lot invested in the participation of their members, so they try to make it as painful as possible to leave, perhaps partly because they want other members to see how awful it is so that they aren’t tempted to walk away.

      So, I apologize if I misread you. All I have is words and personal history, and you’ve said hurtful things in the past, so I wasn’t expecting anything else this time around.

      • shematwater says:

        Runtu

        I know I have commented to you before, though I admit I don’t remember any particulars and I am sorry for any hurt caused.

        However, my first comment was in no way intended to minimize any pain or accuse anyone of making anything up for any reason. I acknowledged everything as I know that it does happen.
        But it is not a majority. Those who leave without hassle, as you say, are, at least in my experience, the vast majority of former members. We both speak from personal experience, and obviously our experiences are quite different.
        I have spoken to others who have gone through what you describe, and about 85% of them come from Utah, with another 10-12% coming from the surrounding states that share much of that culture. Almost every former member that I have met outside the culture has had no problems, and most of them willingly choose to cut contact with those who are still active in the church.

        To put it simply, while these things do happen, and when they do it is heart wrenching; your ratios of how often they happen seem to reflect only geographically localized area, and not the church as a whole. My only comment was that I think your generalizations should be made more cautiously because other do not share the same experiences you do.

      • runtu says:

        Again, if I misread you, I apologize. I acknowledge I’ve been a little cranky and defensive the last couple of days. I don’t think you’re a bad person, and I have no problem with disagreement.

        We will have to disagree as to how painful it is to leave. I am not from Utah (I grew up in Los Angeles), and I was living in Texas at the time I went through my faith crisis. One of my best friends was going through the same awful experience at the same time in Oklahoma (he is also not from anywhere close the Intermountain West). I went to a support group for the disaffected in Houston, and there I ran into an old friend from Scotland whose wife had threatened to take the children back to the UK and divorce him if he didn’t get a temple recommend. His bishop agreed with her, and she left him and took the kids with her. He has never lived in Utah except for his time in the MTC, and he has no ties to Utah, either. It’s damn painful for a lot of people to leave, no matter where you live or where you’re from.

        So, no, I am not basing anything on geographical location. The only generalization I can offer is one based on observation: leaving is most painful for those who invested a lot in the church. People who never took it seriously walk away fairly unscathed. But how many of us were taught to avoid taking it seriously? Not me.

      • Andrew S says:

        the comment I would make about shematwater’s comments is this:

        Clearly, in a church of 15 million members where, at best, 30-40% are active, then the paths of the remaining 60-70% are going to be very different.

        I totally buy that most of the 60-70% “leaves” with little difficulty. But I also think that most of the 60-70% were not heavily integrated into the church to begin with. I think that the disaffected Mormon online as it exists today exists for the population of folks (not just in Utah/Idaho/etc.,) who were REALLY involved, REALLY active, REALLY faithful, and who had a faith transition from that.

      • runtu says:

        You would say something like that. Just shows you’re bitter. 🙂

      • Andrew S says:

        as bitter as black coffee, which I totally left the church just for the opportunity to drink.

      • shematwater says:

        You probably right that it is more painful the more involved you are. I never once disputed that and have no desire to. That is common for anything that one is heavily invested in and than leave.
        I merely wished to make it clear that it is not the common experience. Your original post, at least to me, implied that this was how everyone who ever left the church felt and the experience was the same for all former members.
        As long as we are clear on the distinction I am fine.

        Just so you know, I have a brother-in-law who dropped out only a few months before he left on his mission. He had a bad experience, but it had nothing to do with the members of the church. He cut off communication with his family and the church not the other way around.

  10. The problem with this whole line of reasoning is that ex- groups are supposed to support someone. They are supposed to be ways to repair damaged psyche. It is a support group.

    But do Ex-Mormon groups do this? What support do they provide? If you look at many of the ex-Mormon forums online, some of the members have been involved for decades.

    If the point is recovery, and people sit around and talk about how bad the LDS Church is, mock it endlessly, and never leave…

    …it seems that this has nothing to do with recovery. It seems that the solution has become the problem in itself, and this is NOT healthy. It is not moving on.

    Consider Runtu. He is involved online in mocking the LDS Church, mocking his former beliefs, mocking these things.

    But his family, children, and associated in some cases are all still Mormon.

    How can someone mock the sacred beliefs of others, particularly those who he claims to love. If my daughter became Catholic, I may not agree, but I would never actively mock her beliefs, since this is who she is.

    Runtu is in the position of someone who has a gay child, but then goes out and condemns homosexuality, creates a blog about how terrible homosexuality is, and does not stop.

    Is this healthy?

    Someone goes through a very rough divorce. They feel betrayed, lied to, misused. They go the therapy, and are even encouraged to vent some anger about their situation. Fast forward for 15 years, and they are still venting, everything the ex spouse does is criticized, still commented on. What may be healthy in transition is NOT healthy if no progress is made.

    The simple fact is that the ex-Mormon community has a problem in the aspect of mental health. The movement has become stuck and fixated on their anger to the point that it is encouraged and fed.

    I’ve had to deal with divorces, psychological trauma, and PTSD, and I have never seen any therapy that would make the ex-Mormon movement healthy in any way. This also has nothing to do with truth claims, or anything of the sort, I think that is a dodge.

    Just to cut through everything, could anyone show a peer reviewed psychological journal that would support some form of recovery that says obsessing over old hurts and angers 20 years after the defining incident would be healthy?

    • runtu says:

      Here’s the thing. If you look even at the support groups you most love to hate, such as RfM, probably 99% of posters show up, vent their feelings, and move on in a matter of months. Yes, there are a very few people stewing over old wounds, and there are also people who stick around to help people get through the pain and hurt. Hell, Eric Kettunen, who started the board, hasn’t been a regular poster in years. Why is that, do you think?

      Frankly, I think you see only what you want to see. You look at me and Andrew S as bitter people rehashing old wounds. I’ve known Andrew for quite a while, and we met at Sunstone a while back. He’s a great guy and not bitter at all, but according to you, he and I both have a deep-seated animosity toward the LDS church.

      I’ve been clear as to why I post here:

      1. I write about things I find interesting, and Mormonism is fascinating. Honestly, I think it’s more interesting looking from the outside than it ever was on the inside.

      2. I post occasionally when I’m reminded of the pain people experience, and I try to help them see that it gets better.

      3. On very rare occasions, I post something to vent my own frustrations with the LDS church. Invariably, these posts happen when the church is involving itself in my personal and family life in ways I don’t like. As I said, I am glad I can vent here rather than cause contention at home.

      Either way, I don’t feel bound by your judgments about who and what I am. I don’t feel bitter, I don’t hate the LDS church, and “old wounds” rarely come up because I’ve healed. I’m in a better place. Go ahead and continue the passive aggression. I can handle it.

      Do you ever ask yourself why you can’t let go of the perceived hurts you’ve received from people like us? Why continue to dredge up bad feelings because you want us to shut up?

      • I think you underestimate the number of people “stewing over old wounds”. The problem with the Ex-Mormon movement is that actually moving on is not really encouraged. Anger is part of the grieving process, but in Ex-Mormonism anger is not a stepping stone to move on to something else, it is a destination in and of itself. You participate in Mormondiscussions.com, how many people there have been out of Mormonism for decades, but if Thomas S. Monson does something tomorrow, the anger comes back again, and again, and again, and so on… This is part of the problem. This is not moving on, and it is not healthy.

        Both you and Andrew are invested in the negative aspects of the LDS Church. What unites you is the disbelief of something, not belief in something. This is the inverse of most relationships, which is probably why it is so odd.

        I also write about religions that are not my own, but always about things I like about the religions, never about the negative aspects of the religions. In fact, I can think of no serious Mormon scholar who frequents ex-Mormon boards, why do you think this is a legitimate method of religious examination. I am studying Sikhism at the moment, and I am not studying people who do not like Sikhs, ex- or otherwise.

        I would ask again, can you cite some peer reviewed journal or article in a major psychological publication dealing with PTSD therapy, divorce recovery, or anything similar to the stories about being not-Mormon that would show how ex-Mormon communities are healthy? I am perfectly happy to be wrong, but there is nothing that I can find that points to this as being healthy in any way, other than ex-Mormons, who have been ex-Mormon for decades, to say it is healthy that they get angry about something that the Church has done this past week.

        GC will be in a few weeks, and the talks and events will be dissected ad nauseum by the ex-Mormon community by people who are no longer LDS and who left the Church years/decades ago, and then claiming that this is healthy activity. This fails every test of logic that I can think of.

      • runtu says:

        But you do think it’s healthy to go around and angrily attack people like Andrew and me.

      • I think you are projecting.

        If you have noticed I have not really made any statements about caring about you personally. I could pretend that I care, but while I certainly do not wish you any ill will at all, I also cannot claim that I feel any great outward emotion for someone I hardly know. Any empathy is related to your status as a person, not necessarily you in particular.

        I say this because I am hardly angry. My main emotion is curiosity. Most of what you say is a personal mantra that has little basis in reality. It is an emotional construct that is clearly necessary, but I do not see why.

        Ex-Mormons who continually dwell on Mormonism are always the excessively devout. This is a fiction, I’ve been around the world a few times and to claim that anyone is particularly devout has not spent time with Muslims (who have never slept in, in their lives) or the Monks at Mt Sinai (or monks anywhere for that matter).

        There is the betrayal, which I am certainly sure is felt, if oddly. For good or ill, the Church believes what it teaches, but the person MUST feel betrayed. And this is a unique betrayal. Catholics who decide the Catholic Church is not the “true” church are somehow less betrayed, as are Jews, or Muslims, or Buddhists (not that they care, Buddhists are balanced like that).

        And then there is the longevity. It is a long term commitment to being ex-Mormon, there is nothing necessary in it, but being ex-Mormon is as defining as being Mormon, despite what appear to be clearly negative psychological health benefits. Even the idea that the continually dwelling on negativity in Mormonism could hurt familial relationships does not seem to bother you. That is particularly interesting, since it puts your prejudices against family, and prejudices win.

        There is a lot here that does not make sense. I am sure you will disagree, however.

      • runtu says:

        Joseph, I am not angry at the church. I am not bitter. I do not resent the church. I was not “excessively devout” (I don’t even know what that means). I am not committed to being an ex-Mormon. And so on.

        As for my family, please don’t pretend to have any concern about my family or insist that I choose “prejudice” over family. My wife and I were talking about your comments Friday evening, and she said what she always says to me: she understands and respects my opinions and knows they are sincere and not motivated by hostility. But, she said, “You have to stop letting these people get to you. They obviously wish you ill, and they want to hurt and anger you just so they can say, ‘See, I told you he was bitter.'” She’s a very perceptive woman.

        To the extent I “dwell” on Mormonism it is that I find it interesting, as I always have. When I do get emotional at all about it is when smug people insist that those who leave are defective or evil, and your comments here do not reflect curiosity but that insistence. I’m grateful that most Mormons I know don’t suffer from that particular form of curiosity. And I’m sorry that you goaded me into that emotional place again. I don’t need that in my life. I will stop accommodating your desire to sow anger and contention.

      • Well we have a number of contradictions. You have a theological belief system that you do not believe in that dwarfs, in terms of time and energy, the theological system that you do believe in (whatever that is, you have said that you believe in a God, but oddly you seem uninterested in exploring that and instead focus on what you do NOT believe in). In all honesty I could be accused of the same, that I study other faiths more than Mormonism, but I do so out of interest in the positives of the faith systems, not their perceived flaws and shortcomings. I would posit it is different.

        Joanna Brooks is a respected scholar, interested in the Church, certainly critical of the Church, though still a believer, and I have never seen her frequenting anti-Mormon or ex-Mormon message boards. Jan Shipps would fall into the same category. I cannot think of any significant religious scholar or even amateur who would fit into your category of interested but interested is disproportionately based on negativity. The claim ” I am not angry at the church. I am not bitter. I do not resent the church.” is clearly negated by online activity that testifies to the opposite.

        How would you characterize your online interactions with all things Mormon? Is the majority of the time spent on negativity or negative themed communities? I browse a lot of more, let’s just call them respectable websites since I abhor apologetics, such as Times and Seasons, which are usually very accomplished members (academically) with a more intellectual bent, and I have never seen you commenting, though you may have from time to time, but on Mormon Critical forums, you pop up a lot.

        Are you aware that this is the electronic footprint? This would point to a preoccupation with the negative.

        As for your family, it is odd that my simple question about health is so disturbing. I think the gay child analogy fits rather well, and if it disturbs you I wonder if you gave it serious thought?

        I am curious if you really discussed with your wife, anecdotal stories are impossible to verify, but it would be interesting. She very well may be content to let you vent elsewhere and be calm at home, but I am still curious about the overall impact on children.

        I still hold that the gay child analogy holds true. If a child is gay and a parent holds deep seated animosity towards all things related to the gay community and engages in negativity online but attempts to avoid negativity at home, is there inevitable overflow?

        I have asked for major journals or peer reviewed papers several times, I thought this would avoid excessive emotion, but nothing is there that I can find supporting your practice, and it does not seem healthy to me.

        Again, I am not asking out of care for your family, I certainly care in a general way, but it would be impossible to claim I deeply care in some sort of interventionist way since I am totally emotionally divorced from the situation. I am not asking you to do one thing or another, I think you are creating a strawman in that regards. This is a theoretical discussion for all practical purposes, and therein lies my curiosity. Any anger or contention is entirely on your side, I am almost Vulcan in my emotionless on the subject.

        The way I see it, you claim to not be bitter, not be angry, not hold animosity, but then there is a significant amount of online evidence to the contrary from a simply Google search. This contradicts your statements. Asking why the contradiction exists is hardly sowing anger or contention. It should be a legitimate line of questioning, particularly since this is how you characterize your own disagreements with Mormonism.

      • runtu says:

        What a bizarre situation I find myself in. A total stranger (hiding behind a screen name, no less) calls me psychologically damaged, accuses me of making up stories about my wife, and thinks he’s caught me in “contradictions.” It’s like being trapped in a rejected script for Matlock. I feel a little silly that I actually let this get to me to the point at which I felt I needed to defend myself. Of course, today I’ve also been called ignorant and self-righteous for my political beliefs, so it’s all in a good day, I suppose.

      • Are you not hiding behind a screen name? That is an odd comment.

        Anecdotal stories are often fabricated. I could say that my wife said the opposite, but since it is impossible to verify, what is the overall utility?

        This is why I have asked for respected or peer reviewed journals, since it is difficult to argue with something like that, but it was never provided.

        You say you are interested in Mormonism, which explains the continued posting on ex-Mormon boards (most of which are all negative) and writing on Mormonism here.

        I’ve studied a lot academically, and religion is one of those subjects. Never when studying Islam academically did we ever spend time on ex-Muslim message boards. I cannot think of a single serious scholar who would do this. No Mormons, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Orthodox, Buddhists, or in recent studies, Sikhs.

        Could you produce a college syllabus that studies a faith where almost all effort is based on the negative views of the people who have left the faith? This would be the opposite approach of every religious academic course I have ever taken.

        All of these are contradictions. If you do not believe me, please see if you can find an academic journal that supports obsessing over an ex spouse a decade after a breakup, or a college syllabus that studies a faith by focusing on ex-faith negative forums.

        It is not that you have a point, it is that your points are really kind of terrible and you still want to make them. This does not make sense to me, in part because it goes against everything I have ever studied in secular education (never went to BYU, or Utah for that matter).

    • runtu says:

      The only “mocking” I’ve done in a while has been to poke fun at a homophobic woman, and I wouldn’t even have known her religion had she not posted it.

      Reading your nasty comments about me being like a father of a gay child going out gay-bashing just reinforces to me that you are here to condemn, and you don’t give a damn about understanding anything or anyone. You see only what you want to see, and what you see apparently is a mirror image of what you’re giving: hate and anger.

      You don’t know me, you obviously choose to read everything I say in the worst possible light, and you project your own anger on me. Let it go.

      • My comments about being the parent of a gay child is hardly nasty. If you have a gay child, and you spend time online criticizing homosexuality and being negative about gay people….how can this be good?

        If you have a Catholic child, and you spend a lot of time online criticizing Catholicism and the Catholic Church…how can this be good?

        Apply this to Buddhism, Islam, or anything else.

        If your kid was 20, and a believing member of the LDS Church, would they understand the comments you make online about Mormonism, or would they be hurt and upset that you secretly condemn the religion on cyberspace? If they would be upset, this is not good. It is your choice, but if I had a Catholic child, I would not spend all of my time on anti-Catholic forums and start a blog that condemns Catholicism. That’s me though.

  11. Camille Biexei says:

    There is no universe of discourse here, contrary to what you believing Mormons seem to think. The main problem with this entire conversation is that those who are still true believers are incapable of understanding what those of us who no longer are experience. Unfortunately, the TBMs seem to believe that there is, that they perfectly understand, and that we are just angry, mocking, bitter, unhealthy, evil, etc., etc.
    I’d love it if any of you had the grace and humility to acknowledge that you really don’t get it. What you do instead is mouth platitudes and make insulting comparisons that reveal more about yourself than anyone else:
    “Runtu is in the position of someone who has a gay child, but then goes out and condemns homosexuality, creates a blog about how terrible homosexuality is, and does not stop.”
    Seriously?!?

    • runtu says:

      Well said. I don’t know about you, but I’m in a good place where I am totally happy for other people to believe what they wish about the LDS church. If people honestly believe and are interested in talking about what they believe, that is absolutely fine with me, and I have no interest in making unkind judgments about their faith or their sincerity, let alone their emotional or psychological wellbeing. People like some of the commenters here, on the other hand, are not in that good of a place and cannot abide the idea that someone still finds Mormonism of interest and yet doesn’t feel the need to be relentlessly positive about it. It is really true that some people will not be satisfied until people like you and me start pretending we’ve never heard of Mormonism and have no opinions about it.

  12. runtu says:

    For what it’s worth, the last time I posted anything mocking Mormonism was December 13, 2012, and even then I was poking fun at the “I’m a Mormon” PR campaign, not the beliefs of the church. So, who is bitter? Me, or the guy who sees everything I write as mockery equivalent to gay bashing?

    • Camille Biexei says:

      Speaking of “mocking”, have you considered writing about the role the Church played in the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment? An absolutely astonishing example of how the Church organizes its members to work against their own interests. I remember–I was one of those RS women the Church attempted to recruit to fight it. I met Sonia Johnson and she was so not the monster we had been taught to believe she was.

      • runtu says:

        I don’t know much about that time period, as I was 12 or so when all that happened. All I remember is how much she was reviled and demonized simply for disagreeing publicly with the Brethren. As a boy, I accepted that she was an evil apostate and the “monster” she was portrayed to be. Looking back, I can’t see what the big fuss was about. So she disagreed with the church. Who cares? What happened speaks more to the need for control in the church than it does about her position.

        Interestingly enough, Sonia Johnson was a member of my current ward: the Sterling Park Ward here in Virginia, and I’m pretty sure she was excommunicated in our chapel here.

  13. Camille Biexei says:

    QUESTION: Why are you pro-Mormons on an ex-Mormon site? Isn’t that a little disingenuous? If you consider this a “support group” for ex-Mormons, isn’t your showing up here a bit like attending AA meetings and pretending to be an alcoholic?

    • shematwater says:

      If we are to take your comments seriously it would be more like attending an AA meeting and telling the people they were idiots for ever giving up the drink and that they were just bitter towards those of us who still drink.

      In general I come here for two reasons. First, I enjoy it, most of the time, and I find the entire situation fascinating. Second, I come to help correct the false information that is frequently put out on sites.
      Most former Mormons make claims that they are giving the truth, but in my experience they are wrong at least 75% of the time. So I am here to help give both sides of the issue to those honestly looking.

      “The main problem with this entire conversation is that those who are still true believers are incapable of understanding what those of us who no longer are experience.”

      You know, another problem is that you former members make the assumption that we believers have never once had a crisis of faith or struggled in any way in the church. Your comments seem to assume that anyone with a crisis of faith must eventually leave the church rather than being able to settle the difficulties in the church.
      Honestly, your comments to and about me have been arrogant and condescending. I don’t know if you are bitter but based solely on your comments here it is not hard to see why people might be led to believe that you are.

      • runtu says:

        Shem, a couple of things:

        1. I do not think Mormons are idiots for believing in Mormonism.
        2. I do not put out false information. Ever.
        3. I know plenty of people who have had a crisis of faith and resolved it in favor of Mormonism. I respect their decisions and their faith. It’s annoying that you guys don’t seem to respect our beliefs or our choices, but I am not going to reciprocate.

        I like Camille, and I understand why she gets frustrated with the kinds of stuff that is thrown at people like her and me. I don’t see any attempt to be arrogant or disrespectful, but I do see some frustration. I know I’ve been feeling some.

      • shematwater says:

        Runtu

        1. I never said you did. I implied that Camille accuses current members of saying such things about you, which she has, and you have agreed with that accusation.

        2. I was speaking in generallities, not in specifics, and I clearly said that most ex-members are frequently wrong. I don’t remember anything you have said in the past, and I have no desire to go back through it, so I don’t know if you have said anything that was wrong or not.

        3. I was speaking more directly to Camille on this one, but it has been my expereince that almost every ex-member that starts or posts on these kind of blogs has this assumption. I have been told directly that no one who stays in the church can possibly have had a crisis of faith, and Camille has suggested that in her comments. I have known people who went through the exact same thign you describe, and then years later rejoin the church and are very strong in it.
        Now, I have respect to your dicission, and to everyone esle who makes the choice to leave the church. What I don’t have respect for is when those people make assumptions about current members and mock and belittle them, which is the common attitude I have seen in blogs of this nature, and has been displayed by Camille towards me.
        The arrogance is in the assumption that because I still believe I can’t possible understand the crisis of faith and the difficulty in leaving the church. She has no clue what I have experienced and what I understand, or what others have experienced. Her assumption is arrogant and her mocking comments are disrespectful.

  14. Ray Agostini says:

    Hi, John. You’re blogging, every week, about your “horrific” exit from Mormonism. Seriously, when will you let it go?

    Is there a rose in your garden that you can smell to replace the anger and bitterness?

    Take care. Oh, I forgot, I must not show that I actually care, because that would be an “ulterior motive”, wouldn’t it? Which makes me a hypocrite.

    Ah well. You win some, an you lose some.

    Nevertheless, God bless.

  15. Ray Agostini says:

    John, do you realise what a bore you are by continually posting about your “horrible” “Mormon experience”. Week after week , we can all count on “Runtu’s weekly whine” about Mormonism. See it here.

    Seriously, mate, do yourself, and all of us, a favour and – let it go.

    Tell us more about what Runtu finds inspiring in the world, instead of a depressing weekly account about Mormonism and how it wrecked your life.

    You’re not Robinson Crusoe, Runtu. Many of us have been where you are, and we’ve eliminated the negatives, and focused on the positives.

    It’s really very simple.

    • runtu says:

      No offense, Ray, but you haven’t exactly let go of your grudges and resentments, either.

    • Camille Biexei says:

      You write as if you are somehow forced to read runtu’s blog. It is his blog and he gets to write what he wants and how he sees it. Have you considered “letting it go”?
      It’s really very simple.

  16. andersonddj says:

    Oh, for the love of Pete!! Although I read this blog often, I never comment, but I am to the point that I want to start pulling my hair out. I am not LDS and would absolutely NEVER even consider it because of the petty, self-righteous behavior of people like shematwater (whose comments I have read on other blogs – I saw his name and the hackles on my neck went up), Joseph Abraham, and Ray Agostini. (Plus, I know it’s all a fraud.) This is runtu’s blog. He can say whatever floats his boat. I have never read one thing he has written that made me think, “wow, he sure is bitter”.

    Growing up and living in Utah my entire 47 years, I have witnessed so many Mormons who have felt betrayed, lied to, and pressured to be perfect. The feelings of ex-Mormons are real! Yes, for some it takes a lifetime to move on. Remember that free agency you have? Stop coming here. And Shem, you don’t need to make sure that runtu isn’t feeding people crap. People are pretty smart and can do the research themselves.

    Oh, and Joseph please stop with the “peer review journal/college syllabus” crap. Runtu doesn’t need to prove anything to you. His experience is real. He knows of other people who had similar experiences. It’s just so difficult for LDS to believe that anyone could have a negative experience or find out the truth in their so-called “One True Church.”

    • Camille Biexei says:

      Thanks.

    • shematwater says:

      First, I never said anything about what runtu was saying or posting. Actually I quite clearly said that I don’t know as I have not been on his blog in some time.
      As to people’s intelligence and ability to do research, have I ever claimed otherwise? I don’t recall ever saying that anyone was not intelligence or that they lacked the ability to research things for themselves.
      What I did say is that there are enough people out there posting and blogging false information that I feel it is a good thing that there are some who are also posting and blogging the correct information. I also said this was one of my reasons for doing this myself. I made this statement because I was asked why I do this, and I gave an honest answer.

      Maybe you should take some of your own advice and let us say what we want. If runtu doesn’t like it he has the right and ability to ban us from his blogs. That is his agency. Until he does he is giving us permission to say what “floats our boat.” So why don’t you stop judging us?

  17. andersonddj says:

    I am feeling guilty about using the word “fraud”. I apologize. I know this word is probably very offensive to many. Let me rephrase and say that mormonism is based on many unsubstantiated claims.

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