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The top reason why exmormons are pathetic at basic adult functioning

February 1, 2014

Have you ever wondered why disaffected, ex-, post and former Mormons often are such neurotic people with miserable lives? After leaving the church, many of their marriages fall apart. Many lose all sense of morality, but what’s even worse, they aren’t even good at being non-Mormons. They do not have the basic competencies of adult functioning.

In fact, if you look at the skills that post-Mormons often must learn after leaving the church, it may strike you that the adult ex-Mormon actually seems like a child. Most recently, Newsweek had an article discussing what happens When the Saints Go Marching Out. However, this has not been an isolated phenomenon. People have written articles in national publications (such as Nicole Hardy’s Single, Female, Mormon, Alone in the New York Times)…articles that have enough content to be stretched into books reviewed by national publications, even, about their infantile state as a Mormon (or not-quite-so-Mormon-anymore) adult.

What could be the reasons for this debilitation? Although one could theorize many contributing factors, I will analyze the Newsweek article (since it is the most recent documentation of this phenomenon) and offer the top reason.

25 Years Sober...Just had my first beer

The Newsweek article begins by describing a 33-year-old woman who is hungover at yoga class. Already, this sounds like something that should be describing sorority girls in college at best (no offense to sorority girls) and not a 33-year-old grown woman, but this is just the beginning. The article quickly shifts to introduce her 56-year-old boyfriend, who is so tone-deaf as to give someone a business card encouraging them to leave the Mormon church — this is the sort of socially unaware behavior we barely tolerate from 19-year-olds in white shirts and name tags, but we are supposed to believe that a 56-year-old man has never wisened up to the egregiousness of the behavior.

The woman is also in on that, though. She has 10,000 pass-along cards — a technique that even she concedes she learned as a child.

And believe it or not…the cards are an improvement, because:

“Before we got [our own] cards, Timmy would just write, ‘Lies! All Lies!’ in the cover [of The Book of Mormon], with a link to our website,” McKinnon whispered to me in the gym parking lot, trying to remain inconspicuous in a crowd of Mormons with gym bags.

But really, despite these grave breaches of social etiquette, what is really revealing about this article is the extent to which it dives into the interviewed exmormon communities’ ignorance about the nectar of secular adults — alcohol. For when they are not giving out deconversion business cards or pass-along cards, this couple teaches a Liquor 101 class.

If you are not familiar with the extent of ex-Mormon ignorance, read on in the article, for you will learn that exmormon adults do not know something that most people figured out by the time they graduated college — how to pace themselves drinking. However, the article (and even the ex-Mormons within) understands the absurdity. We can sum it all up with the following quote:

“To those in the outside world, a bunch of grown-ass adults learning about whiskey would seem strange,” he says, pointing to an image of an airport store called World of Whiskies. “Outside of Utah, you can buy whiskey at an airport or a mall. There are whiskey magazines. Whiskey is its own cuisine.”

Strange indeed. (Definitely read the article to hear the guy talk about the time he was too paralyzed to actually BUY booze.)

So, again, the question arises: why are these exmormons so utterly incompetent at basic adult living? This article focused on the utter foreignness to alcohol culture, but as I alluded to above, one can find many articles about exmormon incompetence in sex and interpersonal relationships.

There is one reason to explain it all: because they were Mormon.

The dysfunction of many ex-Mormons sources to the underlying dysfunction of their being Mormon. In a religion that emphasizes a stark black-and-white attitude on truth and presses its members to preach for the truthfulness of its claims, it’s no wonder that so many exmormons still maintain that thinking on the other side, and still maintain those annoying habits. In a religion whose moral precepts are a love letter to the word “no” (no alcohol, no sex outside of marriage…), it’s no wonder that exmormons struggle with moderation in practice (knowing how many drinks is enough) or in theory (if the old rules don’t work, can there be morality at all?). In a religion where social relationships are divinized and celestialized at the most fundamental level (people are either Mormons, hopeless apostates, or projects to be converted), it’s not wonder that when one spouse loses faith, the other spouse so often breaks up the relationship. I have heard some Mormons defend this by saying — when two Mormons marry, they bargain for a spouse that shares their values and faith…if one spouse loses faith, they are the ones who failed to hold up their end of the bargain.

That marriages can be predicted on institutional status to a church organization says so much.

I have seen many ex-mormons criticize and lambaste the Newsweek article for only showing the bad side of exmormons and not the good side. I have seen faithful Mormons giggle in their schadenfreude, saying that negative press on ex-mormons is overdue, considering how often Mormons are beat up by the media.

But here’s what I have to say: to the exmormons who are embarrassed by this article having avoided this fate or moved past it, recognize that you have accomplished something great indeed to transition into normal society. And to the Mormons who are pleased or even vindicated that the news is reporting that those who fall away lose their way, recognize that if churches are to be considered hospitals for sinners (and not museums for saints), then if patients leave the hospital worse than they got in, that speaks against the hospital.

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30 Comments
  1. My ex-wife and I both left the church, her by excommunication, me by assertion – I probably should have been excommunicated, as well but, I didn’t bother to wait around. Our marriage fell apart, we both have had problems with substance abuse, our kids are emotionally troubled – and it is all directly linked to the environment that the church imposed into our lives. We were spied upon by members, reported on by home-teachers and other church authorities – I was an elders’ quorum presidency member in different wards for years, my ex-wife was also involved in relief society, and so, we did that sort of spying and reporting on other people, as well – it’s the way the church keeps its members in line.

    When I was 12, just before receiving my first priesthood office, I, like every other boy, was called into the stake president’s office – and asked how often I masturbated, among other things. At that time, I didn’t – the thought hadn’t even crossed my mind, yet. I was also asked about smoking, drinking, pills, porn, thoughts of suicide, murder, anger, betrayal – it was about a 45-minute interview where I was asked how often I thought, did, or felt any and every “mean and nasty” think you could think of, and how often I read or viewed “inappropriate” media.

    That church destroys the normal development of people, especially if it gets hold of children – my children were never indoctrinated into the church, by the time they started growing old enough to go, to be baptized, etc., we were on our way out – I truly believe I helped save them from an awful fate.

    It’s no wonder, at all, that, when I escaped from that horrid, toxic cult, that I had (and still have) problems but, it definitely beats the alternative!

  2. I suppose it is not a total surprise that just as some people cannot take personal responsibility for their actions, behaviors and thoughts IN the Church that they cannot take personal responsibility for their actions, behaviors and thoughts OUT of the Church.

  3. Jeff,

    I guess the underlying question is — how do those people arise who “cannot take personal responsibility for their actions, behaviors and thoughts” (whether in the church or out of the church?

    I’m just saying that a lot of this is a good ole mormon tradition. Since you eschew Mormon tradition, it all seems like personal immaturity to you.

  4. “There is one reason to explain it all: because they were Mormon.” – This definitely, adequately explains the struggles of post mormons. Mormonism and its sociological environment breeds inept adults. Mormons rarely know how to love, how to practice compassion, assert and understand boundaries, communication skills, a firm grasp on empathy, a solid sense of self-identity and so forth. So, yes, you are correct. It is because mormonism left them woefully inadequate to deal with real life. This is because Mormonism isn’t about real life. Its about a delusional concept of reality that lacks factual and empirical evidence.

  5. Valerie permalink

    To be fair, the writer and editor over emphasized drinking and it isn’t an accurate view of what this group does. Knowing Becky and Timmy well as dear friends, I think her portrayal of them was unfair. I get that they need to sell articles that people will read but this group has many many activities that have NOTHING to do with partying. Lectures, family friendly events, service projects, coffees, museum trips. I help run and was there when we started. We do not run a fraternity party central group. We have complied a therapist list of vetted therapists to help people get their lives in order. I made that list. The therapist who was quoted in the article I know and talked to personally on that list. I understand journalist will do the “if it bleeds it leads ” but it isn’t the whole story not by a long shot.

  6. John W permalink

    “But men may construe things after their fashion,
    Clean from the purpose of the things themselves.”

    Some folks describe their experiences in the church with descriptions and adjectives of being treated with unpleasantness. But other folks (like me) understand that any unpleasantness between two individuals is just that–personal. It takes some maturity to take a complex view of your community, especially when multiple unpleasantries affect you within it. People will impute all sorts of things to their communities, neighbors, and congregations from experiences that seem just part of human existence to others (see Shakespeare above). Religion exercises the interactive abilities of neighbors in uncommon (but perhaps in critical and important) ways. One’s maturation into taking a broader, less self-focused, and mature view of humanity is ultimately a personal process, not to be outsourced to other humans who happen to be in your community. If all the learning one takes is only from official religious functions, then one’s intellectual and emotional world is spartan indeed.

  7. Angela C permalink

    Andrew S: really good article. One thing that stood out to me is the statement about Mormons’ devotion to saying “no.” We don’t teach moderation. We teach that one look at porn is addiction. Our apostles’ wives write a book called “The Not Even Once Club.” People in Utah county think a lingerie ad is porn (this one floored me). Wearing a skirt an inch above the knee makes you walking porn. And of course, drinking a tea or coffee is “going off the rails” (it does signal one’s non Mormonness, to be sure). At the extreme, we create kids afraid of experience with so many hedges about the law that they don’t know how to behave without being wrapped in bubble wrap. Not to sound like a crotchety old person, but it really wasn’t like this when I was a teen. It’s gotten so much worse. The hedges are getting higher, the discourse more shrill and fearful. Maybe the 80s were a golden era of parachute pants and enlightenment, but I think part of it was because there was no FSOY in the 1980s (although there was in the 60s, 70s, 90s and now). I wore tennis shorts and tank tops and nobody cared (for example).

    • ChemistryIsMyGame permalink

      They have quite become the Pharisees that Jesus hated so much in the bible.

  8. Angela C permalink

    Oh, and I realize E. Nelson only has one living wife. That was a typo.

  9. Are you going to post this at W&T?

  10. Porter permalink

    Andrew, one characterization that I disliked in this post is the blanked assumption that people become dysfunctional after leaving the church. You ask, “why are these exmormons so utterly incompetent at basic adult living?” That’s frankly pretty insulting. I have many many friends here in SLC who, like me, have left the church with their marriages and social graces intact. You know better than that. By making these kinds of generalized statements you make the perception problem worse.

    • emmanotsmith permalink

      Porter, I agree. I found myself wondering if I’m living some crazy lifestyle and have no recollection of it, like Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. Maybe I am avoiding that because I am a non-Utah, former convert ex-Mormon. I think it helps ALOT to have sites like this where we can discuss the situation. I was feeling so alone until I found 2 friends who were also questioning. I have found no one else who understands what leaving the church is like except for those who’ve left, and we didn’t used to have a “Bat Signal” to connect us with others.

    • ChemistryIsMyGame permalink

      While I agree, with you on some level, it still took me 10 years to be able to approach women and engage them properly after I left the church. There’s always something from the programming that nags and bites a little in the background.

  11. CoraJudd permalink

    Thank you for your article. The Newsweek piece was a bit malicious all ’round and probably a more accurate reflection on the nature of its author than that of Mormons or Ex-mormons. But overall, it was a clown car of negative apostate stereotypes — validating for true blue Mormons.

    The truth is, Mormons aren’t strong enough in their religion to contemplate that Ex-mormons are as likely to be as loving and humane as anyone else, including their own righteous selves. Accepting this would open the door to the terrifying thought that maybe Mormonism, in turn, is no better or worse than the next religion.

    • emmanotsmith permalink

      Right on, CoraJudd!!! The idea that you could leave the church (gasp) and have a rich, successful life is as appalling as criticizing our leaders. No one at church wants to hear that your children are not in jail, not on drugs, not an unwed mother – doing just fine without the church, thank you very much. If the youth knew they could actually fine happiness not serving a mission or getting temple sealed, there would be chaos.

  12. I think there is more to it. It is not that they were Mormon, it is that they are ex-Mormon. For many in the Ex-Mormon movement, bring Ex- is as defining a characteristic as being Mormon. This is not everyone, I know many people who leave the Church who simply walk away, but for the Ex- there is a need to define themselves as Ex-.

    The other problem is that this is encouraged by many within the Ex-Mormon movement. I was into apologetics when younger, in the late 90’s, early 2000’s. I became so tired of it, in part because some of the Mormons were so terrible, that I walked away (from apologetics). One of the Mormons who was the most offensive and negative is now an ex-/anti-Mormon, and just as offensive and terrible a personality, but now opposing the LDS Church instead of “supporting it.”

    Nevertheless, many of the ex-Mormons who were aggressively attacking the LDS Church then are still there, attacking the LDS Church. These are people who left decades ago, but still cannot escape the identity of being ex-Mormon. For many of these, it is important to do everything that the LDS Church opposes, simply because the Church opposes it. If Thomas S. Monson said that oxygen was healthy and good, I think a disturbingly large segment of the Ex-Mormon population would pass out, holding their breath.

    But the real problem is that this is encouraged. Who really plans having a drinking course that involves sacrament meeting cups? If someone suggested that Ex-Jews celebrate their Ex- status by having a mock Passover Seder where they served bacon cheeseburgers, no one would think this is acceptable. It would be wildly prejudiced and bigoted, but for Ex-Mormons, this is totally ok.

    Being Mormon is not for everyone, and I think that people who are not happy, should not stay, but moving on is as important as deciding to leave. Being trapped in the hate loop that is much of Ex-Mormonism is a problem.

  13. Joseph Abraham,

    I want to point out one thing that you said that I think really coincides with what I was trying to say.

    One of the Mormons who was the most offensive and negative is now an ex-/anti-Mormon, and just as offensive and terrible a personality, but now opposing the LDS Church instead of “supporting it.”

    There is a particular personality of offensive/obnoxious Mormon (especially in apologetics arena)…this personality carries over after a faith crisis. So, even if you say there’s “more to it,” that it’s “not that they were Mormon, but that they were ex-Mormon”, then I’m saying, “But the reason they are ex-Mormon is BECAUSE they were Mormon.

    I mean, I’ll state right here…a lot of this article is meant to be hyperbole. OBVIOUSLY, there are many ex-Mormons (whether they identify so OR NOT) who are not like what I’ve described here. But the basic statement is that a lot of bad behavior from the exmos who are poorly behaving source from their Mormon behavior and personality.

    But, back to your comment, so maybe I can help you see what I’m getting at. You say:

    Nevertheless, many of the ex-Mormons who were aggressively attacking the LDS Church then are still there, attacking the LDS Church. These are people who left decades ago, but still cannot escape the identity of being ex-Mormon.</blockquote

    I think the question is: why? Why does this keep happening? Why "can not" people escape the identity?

    I think that the answer is because of how Mormonism is. Mormonism is a total religion. It prescribes behavior and beliefs across all spectrum of life. Depending on where you live, it can be a substantial part of your community of friends, families, employers, etc.,

    Someone who leaves functionally can't "leave it alone," when 1) they still have family and friends in, 2) their family/friends are still doing objectionable things to them or to others based on their Mormon beliefs, and 3) even if their family and friends aren't doing those things, the institutional church as a whole is.

    In the end, you say,

    Being Mormon is not for everyone, and I think that people who are not happy, should not stay, but moving on is as important as deciding to leave. Being trapped in the hate loop that is much of Ex-Mormonism is a problem.

    This would be nice, if it were how things worked. but Mormonism is NOT billed as a religion that is “not for everyone.” Mormonism is described as a religion that is the one true church on the face of the earth. It’s plan of salvation is THE plan of happiness, not “a” plan of happiness (where your mileage may vary). So, theologically, Mormons can’t accept that people move on. It follows that ex-Mormons, who are very steeped in Mormon thinking, also would many times have a problem with that.

    • Andrew, I think you are being somewhat disingenuous. Many faiths are “total” faiths, and to claim that they are the Truth. Catholicism for example, requires a LOT of their strict adherents. Likewise Jews are literally the chosen people of God, and they were almost massacred for their ethnicity, including their religion (it is hard to separate the two). Yet there are not similarities between ex-Catholics and ex-Jews, and ex-Mormons. To claim that the Catholics or Jews are/were somehow less devout is certainly questionable.

      I do not think the problem is related to the devotion by Mormons at all, but rather in the clearly unhealthy nature of a large segment of the ex-Mormon movement. For many, deep seated hatred of the Mormon Church is not just encouraged, it is fed and groomed.

      Imagine you get into a bad breakup with a girlfriend or a spouse. These can be incredibly painful and there can be a LOT of hurt feelings. But what should happen? In most cases, the people move on, but what happens if one party does not? What if one party obsesses over what the other is doing? Watches them constantly. Starts a blog about them? Points out every little foible? Is this healthy? Is it moving on? No.

      No one would call this healthy, but in the ex-Mormon movement, there is a lot of encouragement of doing this, over and over and over and over and over and over…. It is almost like some WANT you to obsess over your ex, call her a whore as much as possible, etc… This is the opposite of a healthy transition, but it has become ingrained into the mores of a large segment of the Ex-Mormon movement.

      Consider that the ex-Mormons I saw while dabbling into apologetics in 1999 are STILL ex-Mormons trying to best Mormon apologists. 15 years later, and in some of these cases, the individuals walked away from the Church in the 1970’s. There is no way this is healthy, but for some reason no one will call out this as clearly negative psychological behavior.

      If Thomas Monson were diagnosed with a mental disorder (I actually saw this on one recovery board, a discussion of this) there would be glee, and this is just a little sick.

      I do not think the problem is that people cannot walk away, people do it all of the time, but once invested in the Ex-Mormon movement, there is active discouragement to NOT walk away and move on, and this is the problem. If you want to drink, then you can drink, but there is no reason to use sacrament cups, unless you are more than a little unhealthy in your transition.

      • Joseph Abraham,

        Many faiths are “total” faiths, and to claim that they are the Truth. Catholicism for example, requires a LOT of their strict adherents. Likewise Jews are literally the chosen people of God, and they were almost massacred for their ethnicity, including their religion (it is hard to separate the two). Yet there are not similarities between ex-Catholics and ex-Jews, and ex-Mormons. To claim that the Catholics or Jews are/were somehow less devout is certainly questionable.

        Let me point out a few differences first…

        1) In Catholicism, it is entirely socially acceptable to be a cafeteria Catholic. It is entirely socially acceptable to be a cultural Catholic who only attends on Easter and Christmas. There is not going to be social pressure from friends or family in any real concerted way on these fronts.

        2) I’d have to re-look up the numbers for non-US (esp. Israel), but in the US, the most popular denomination of Judaism is Reform. I think that your pointing out of Judaism as an ethnicity is important, in the sense that even if you’re not an Orthodox Jew (because most American Jews aren’t), you are still a Jew.

        In contrast, in Mormonism, while I would LOVE if we moved in a direction like either Catholics or jews, where you can be “culturally Mormon” and take a cafeteria approach, there is severe opposition to this both at local ward levels and from the institution.

        I will note that to the extent that you do have very orthodox communities (such as, for example, orthodox Judaism), then you ALSO do see vocal ex-Jews as well speaking out against what they feel are the problems of orthodox Judaism. However, I think that the existence of Reform Judaism as a viable, serious, respected, and culturally connected alternative means that you don’t see *as many* as in Mormonism.

        But I think you’re kinda missing what I’m meaning by “total” religion. I’m not making a position on how devout the adherents of a faith are. Rather, “total” is a reference to a sociological term: “Total institution”, describing the extent an institution can encompass so many aspects of one’s life as to create enclosure.

        I do not think the problem is related to the devotion by Mormons at all, but rather in the clearly unhealthy nature of a large segment of the ex-Mormon movement. For many, deep seated hatred of the Mormon Church is not just encouraged, it is fed and groomed.

        OK, here’s where we are at. Both of us is noting: there is a large segment of the ex-Mormon movement that is unhealthy. But the question is: how did it get unhealthy?

        What I am saying is that unhealthiness a carryover of Mormonism. You’re saying the unhealthiness just comes out of nowhere once someone leaves.

        I’m saying that the “feeding and grooming” is pretty much the same as what happens in Mormonism for missionary work — so the Mormon missionary zeal is pretty much the same as the ex-Mormon missionary zeal.

        Imagine you get into a bad breakup with a girlfriend or a spouse. These can be incredibly painful and there can be a LOT of hurt feelings. But what should happen? In most cases, the people move on, but what happens if one party does not? What if one party obsesses over what the other is doing? Watches them constantly. Starts a blog about them? Points out every little foible? Is this healthy? Is it moving on? No.

        Suppose you get in a really bad breakup with a girlfriend or spouse, where they perpetuated massive abusive or fraud against you. Suppose that the abuse and fraud leaves lasting conditions (e.g., PTSD). In this case, it would NOT be unreasonable that you wouldn’t just “move on.”

        And in fact, if you saw that said ex-girlfriend or ex-spouse was getting into relationships with other people, perpetuating the same behavior, you MIGHT just let them get away with it. But it would not be unreasonable if you wanted to protect the innocent from being abused or defrauded in the way you were.

        Let’s make a different example.

        Suppose you get in a really bad breakup with a girlfriend or spouse, and there is a custody battle over children? Would it be reasonable to “move on”? Most people would say you are heartless and or a deadbeat if you “moved on” from your kids. And yet, the ensuing custody concerns would surely put you in a sour mood.

        I would say that these variations in your example better capture what’s going through many exmos’ heads.

        • I agree there are cafeteria Catholics. And Cafeteria Jews. And Cafeteria Mormons. But can you find an ex-Catholic or ex-Jewish website that matches the ex-Mormon websites?

          I know plenty of cafeteria Mormons…?

          Have you really studied Catholicism or Judaism? They are TOTAL religions, to the tee. All aspects of life are wrapped up in faith. I think you are being too dismissive of the fact that others are just as involved in their faiths as Mormons are.

          I think you would have a ways to go to argue that Mormons are unhealthy and then when they become ex-Mormon they carry their unhealthiness with them. That is a bit of an extreme position. This assumes that Mormon devoutness is itself unhealthy from the start, but I think this is the mental mindset that justifies the excessiveness post Mormon. It is a justification. Someone does not smoke or drink, abstains from some sexual activity…this is mentally unhealthy? In fact, if you classify Mormons as mentally unhealthy for practicing their faith, then you make a blanket statement about all devout religious members. I am not sure you have a case here.

          I know many soldiers with PTSD, and I cannot describe their condition as similar to a bad breakup, I think that is too easy on people who cannot get over bad breakups, and disrespectful to those with PTSD.

          Also, I am not sure your analogy about the ex-girlfriend makes sense. You feel your ex- wronged you, so you follow her around and warn her potential partners about her negative traits, and this does not sound insanely stalker-ish and twisted to you? There are actually laws against this, if it is an ex-partner, but it is ok if it is Mormon? That is a really far stretch.

          And if there are kids involved and they decide to go with the spouse, then constantly harassing them and maligning the spouse…again, if this is the example, I think you have made the point for me. This is not healthy.

          Imagine being told that it was a good thing to tell the kids when you have them for the weekend…”Children, your mother is a lying whore…” How is this acceptable in any circumstance?

          • Jim permalink

            I think Andrew’s explanation is right on. Joseph, aspects of your arguments are logical, but you’re choosing the wrong premises to begin from. I’m an ex-Catholic and exiting Mormon, and it a very different experience.

    • ChemistryIsMyGame permalink

      Nailed it.

  14. Joseph,

    Here’s the exjew subreddit: http://www.reddit.com/r/exjew
    One link they point out is a link specifically about navigating an exit from Orthodox Judaism: http://footstepsorg.org/
    Failed Messiah as a blog critical of Orthodox Judaism: http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/

    And exCatholic subreddit: http://www.reddit.com/r/excatholic
    Note how the browser title says “Sheep no more.” It’s literally like you could replace catholic with mormon and it would be the same.

    I know plenty of cafeteria Mormons…?

    I also know plenty of cafeteria Mormons and am a member of many cafeteria Mormon FB groups. You know what most of the groups’ discussions focus on? It’s the fact that week in and week out, they have negative interactions with ward members and/or family on their activity, or level of belief, etc.,

    Have you really studied Catholicism or Judaism? They are TOTAL religions, to the tee. All aspects of life are wrapped up in faith. I think you are being too dismissive of the fact that others are just as involved in their faiths as Mormons are.

    Let me put one example out here.

    Alcohol is a substantial part of culture in basically every society in the world.

    Mormons are instantly identifiable as being separated from any mainstream society by complete abstinence from alcohol, as well as ignorance about alcohol culture.

    Then you add in coffee and tea, which are also staples.

    This is something that simply does not apply to Jews or Catholics.

    Even if we consider the dietary restrictions of Catholics or Jews, these do not strike at the heart of the mainstream surrounding culture.

    Let me put another example out here.

    Mormon men are expected to put down 2 years of their life in total service to the religion via a mission. You simply don’t have anything similar for Jews and Catholics where *every* man is expected to spend 100% of 2 years (or similar time frame) on religion.

    I’ll totally grant you that the extreme behavior requirements of, say, ultra-orthodox Jews, also put them in a total institution sort of territory. But I think that if you want to put Catholics and most American Jews (who are not Orthodox) as belonging to total religions, then we’re not on the same page as to what a total religion is.

    I think that if you want to look at other religions that are total, you’d look at, say, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Scientologists.

    Again, I’m not saying that people cannot be just involved in their faiths as Mormons are in theirs. But Mormonism demands more across more areas than most religions do. Your use of Catholicism and Judaism are not good examples of really demanding religions, is all.

    I think you would have a ways to go to argue that Mormons are unhealthy and then when they become ex-Mormon they carry their unhealthiness with them. That is a bit of an extreme position. This assumes that Mormon devoutness is itself unhealthy from the start, but I think this is the mental mindset that justifies the excessiveness post Mormon. It is a justification. Someone does not smoke or drink, abstains from some sexual activity…this is mentally unhealthy? In fact, if you classify Mormons as mentally unhealthy for practicing their faith, then you make a blanket statement about all devout religious members. I am not sure you have a case here.

    Well, qua Mormonism, all the behavior and personality is perceived to be healthy and desirable. A young man who is gungho about sharing the Gospel and wants to spend 2 years of his life on a mission where sharing the Gospel is going to be the majority of what he’s doing…that is seen as healthy and desirable in Mormonism.

    But this sort of gungho attitude is going to DIRECTLY lead to someone wanting to preach against the church if they find out the church is false. If someone spent 2 years preaching something they thought to be true but which they now think isn’t, they are going to want to spend time to “fix the damage.”

    It’s up to you whether you think it’s unhealthy. What I am saying is that if you look at it from a non-Mormon perspective, missionary zeal is obnoxious no matter which direction…

    Now, let’s move on to not smoking or drinking, abstaining from sex, etc., What’s unhealthy about the Mormon approach to this is that Mormonism doesn’t teach moderation, but complete abstinence, Mormons aren’t responsible with alcohol by not drinking any of it — the failure to engage is as irresponsible as overuse.

    So, when ex-Mormons drink to excess, this is directly caused by their Mormonism. While the rest of society got rid of all of their binging in college, the ex-Mormon (who was completely abstinent then) doesn’t know how to pace himself until years later.

    I know many soldiers with PTSD, and I cannot describe their condition as similar to a bad breakup, I think that is too easy on people who cannot get over bad breakups, and disrespectful to those with PTSD.

    I think it’s pretty disrespectful to survivors of abusive relationships to say that they cannot possibly have PTSD. It’s pretty easy to sympathize with someone who’s been shot at…but if you can’t sympathize with someone with less visible damage, then your sympathy really doesn’t go far.

    Also, I am not sure your analogy about the ex-girlfriend makes sense. You feel your ex- wronged you, so you follow her around and warn her potential partners about her negative traits, and this does not sound insanely stalker-ish and twisted to you? There are actually laws against this, if it is an ex-partner, but it is ok if it is Mormon? That is a really far stretch.

    The analogy isn’t making sense because you misunderstood the roles, w/r/t the church and the disaffected member. The disaffected member isn’t “following” the church, because the church isn’t going anywhere. The issue is that the church is ever-present in the disaffected members’ daily dealings (e.g., because friends, family still belong to the church), and so the disaffected member has to deal with the church regardless of whether he wants to or not.

    It’s not like the girlfriend moved, or that you moved. You might still go to the same high school, college, or still work at the same company, and whenever you hang out with friends, you see the other because hey, they have the same friends.

    Maybe you could say, “Well, it’s possible to put the ex-girlfriend out of your life once and for all by putting out a restraining order.” Unfortunately, you can’t do that with the church.

    And if there are kids involved and they decide to go with the spouse, then constantly harassing them and maligning the spouse…again, if this is the example, I think you have made the point for me. This is not healthy.

    custody battles aren’t so simple as the kids “deciding” to go to the spouse.

    But let’s go with this:

    Suppose that the children want to go with the spouse because the spouse has convinced them that you are a horrible, no-good, terrible person?

    Should you then be a deadbeat and say, “Well, have fun with the ex-spouse! I’m out of here!”?

    or would you really do your best to mend the relationship and try to present your side of the story as a counter-example?

    Imagine being told that it was a good thing to tell the kids when you have them for the weekend…”Children, your mother is a lying whore…” How is this acceptable in any circumstance?

    This is what the church says to members ABOUT ex-members. So, I guess you do have to answer how this is acceptable in any circumstance, then.

    • I think it is interesting how you see Mormonism and Judaism. You have the footsteps website which describes itself as helping people “struggle to redefine their lives despite punitive reactions from family and friends, little if any secular education, a lack of experience with modern gender roles, and, in some cases, a limited command of English.”

      Do you really think this is similar to Mormons? Most Mormons I know have a secular education. Most speak the local language. Do Mormons not understand gender roles? There may be punitive actions from family and friends, but this is the only comparison that I see having any real comparison.

      But you see comparison?

      The two reddit channels have 25 posts, spanning a month. In the Mormon world, similar forums usually have 25 posts from the past day or so. There is a huge quantitative difference. If Mormonism was as lackluster in terms of participation, I might not consider it that abnormal, but it is like you are trying to justify the ex-Mormonism by comparing it to something seemingly inconsequential.

      But let’s talk about examples…

      “Alcohol is a substantial part of culture in basically every society in the world.”

      Having spent a lot of time in the Middle East, I would disagree, but…

      “Mormons are instantly identifiable as being separated from any mainstream society by complete abstinence from alcohol, as well as ignorance about alcohol culture.”

      I’ve never lived anywhere where there were a lot of Mormons. Ever. Nevertheless my lack of alcohol awareness has never caused me issues. If I left the Church, I honestly would not pursue it, I have a number of alcoholics in my family, so my genetics are suspect as it is.

      The only reason alcohol is an issue is if you make it an issue. That is part of the inherent flaw. Mormons do not drink, so alcohol is an issue for the ex-Mormon automatically. Does the ex-Mormon need to suddenly understand the difference in cold brewed coffee and the pros and cons of the French press?

      It is unthinkable that alcohol would not be an issue for the ex-Mormon. It is unthinkable that the ex-Mormon would not be expected to drink.

      If you think this is not an issue for others you have never lived in the deep South where pork is a staple in almost EVERYTHING. There is even bacon in ice cream now in the South, but I do not see Jews who stop practicing Judaism being asked to participate in prosciutto tastings.

      Some drugs are a huge part of modern culture, almost everyone I know has smoked marijuana. I could not care less, and Mormon or not, it would never bother me.

      You say, “What I am saying is that if you look at it from a non-Mormon perspective, missionary zeal is obnoxious no matter which direction…” That is unfortunately untrue, as well. The missionary efforts of the Church have been praised by a number of non-Mormons, including Princeton Theological Professor Kendra Deen in “almost Christian” where she discusses the benefits of missionary efforts in developing the Mormon youth. She is Methodist, but praises the idea that Mormons would invest themselves in something. I attended a US Service Academy, and I was told by one of the senior leaders of the administration that they loved LDS returned missionaries, since they were far more mature and responsible after their time as a missionary, though completely indifferent to the religious aspects. I could name more….

      “Now, let’s move on to not smoking or drinking, abstaining from sex, etc., What’s unhealthy about the Mormon approach to this is that Mormonism doesn’t teach moderation, but complete abstinence, Mormons aren’t responsible with alcohol by not drinking any of it — the failure to engage is as irresponsible as overuse.”

      But Mormonism DOES teach moderation in all things. It is taught all of the time….???

      “I think it’s pretty disrespectful to survivors of abusive relationships to say that they cannot possibly have PTSD. It’s pretty easy to sympathize with someone who’s been shot at…but if you can’t sympathize with someone with less visible damage, then your sympathy really doesn’t go far.”

      Where do you live? I could send you to some VA hospitals where people who have lost limbs, been in explosions, been shot multiple times, etc… are and you could see for yourself? I have known a few abusive relationships where the abuse was particularly bad, but nothing compared to some of the problems I have seen in soldiers. Rape would come closest to battlefield trauma. But you are comparing these people’s PTSD to ex-Mormons leaving Mormonism, which is a gross mischaracterization.

      With regards to children and divorce, I think something might clear things up. Using a peer reviewed journal or even major psychological publication, how do they advise raising children after a traumatic divorce that would support your case?

      • Joseph,

        Do you really think this is similar to Mormons? Most Mormons I know have a secular education. Most speak the local language. Do Mormons not understand gender roles? There may be punitive actions from family and friends, but this is the only comparison that I see having any real comparison.

        The basic point of my post is that many exmormons display embarrassing ignorance about major aspects of secular culture including alcohol, relationships, and appropriate social behavior. And my further point is that this is because Mormons also have social gaps in just these areas.

        Of course Mormons don’t understand modern gender roles. Because the Mormon church claims to teach eternal, traditional gender roles.

        I’m glad you can see the punitive actions part (because in many ways, that is the more relevant and embarrassing comparison point), but absolutely, Mormons are outsiders to modern secular culture. After all, “in the world but not of it.”

        Having spent a lot of time in the Middle East, I would disagree, but…

        Would you say the middle east also fits your image of modern secular culture, or would you say that it also represents countries and cultures out of step with modern secular cultures?

        But Mormonism DOES teach moderation in all things. It is taught all of the time….???

        At this time, I feel like you’re selectively pulling whatever sounds good to you. The phrase “moderation in all things” sounds good to you, so you turn it into something you think is Mormon. But Mormons clearly don’t teach moderation on sexual issues, word of wisdom, etc. Instead, you have books like the “Not Even Once Club”, which capture the idea that for Mormons, if something is too be considered a sin… You don’t even do it once.

        I mean, Mormons even have a mistranslation of Scripture “avoid even the appearance of evil” to capture the Mormon idea that even if something looks sinful, one should stay away.

        A moderation approach would simply look very different.

        • Again, there is a lot here that does not make sense. I’ve lived and worked with Mormons from around the world, and they seem to fit into their respective societies. They may not drink alcohol, but neither do some sects of Christians, Sikhs, Muslims, and any other group of people. My family comes from a long line of alcoholics, including a brother, so I would probably not drink anyway, but I suppose I can never fit in with secular society now because I should not drink, Mormon or not?

          This is the problem here, and you have elucidated it perfectly, the problem with the Ex-Mormon mindset is that it MUST oppose Mormonism. There is no choice here. If Mormons do not drink, the ex-Mormon MUST drink, there is no way to fit into society unless one drinks, this is a requirement. You have clearly defined it, ex-Mormons have a hard time fitting into “major aspects of secular culture” except the definition of “secular culture” you use is a fabrication in and of itself.

          Let me let you in on a little secret. No reasonable person cares if you do not drink. No reasonable person cares if you are a virgin at the age of 40. No reasonable person really cares one way or another.

          The only people who really care about drinking and sex are the stereotypical high school special teenagers. You’re fighting against an illusion.

          You’re also fighting a figment with regards to Mormons. My wife has a minor in women’s studies. She, Joanna Brooks, and many others would disagree with your view of Mormon gender roles. These are not static phenomenon.

          It is almost like to need a figure to fight against, and if the figure does not exist, you’re going to try to create it.

  15. Nathan permalink

    This thread is everything that is wrong with Mormonism. There are no redeeming qualities whatsoever in this “Religion”. “Give us 10% of your money and when you die you will keep on living” Think about that for second and let it sink in.

  16. Dusty permalink

    Andrew, I just want to start by saying that I really enjoy the way you express things, and the way you write. Your invitation to discourse, disagreement, and presenting and listening to views is something I wholeheartedly enjoy as it seems to always be done with a genuine desire to expand understanding, and with respect.

    This topic is one that hits me pretty close to home. I hate to label myself as anything, but I was raised as a mormon. I put all of my effort into being everything I was taught to be, and everything I thought I was supposed to be as a good mormon boy. I would say I now no longer relate to that belief system (though I am not anti-anything.) I realize this is just my own personal experience with things, but it does have elements that are very common with being a former mormon in Utah County. (Too long of a story to tell as it crosses 20 years of experiences.)

    I hate to admit it, but in many ways as an adult (34 years of age), I am woefully incapable. I put the responsibility of this completely on myself, but as vulnerable as it may make me I would like to let people into my psyche. Now, I don’t drink, or go out and do everything now that was considered sinful to me before. The only honest reason for this is there is just no desire to there. Curiosity phase is long gone on what alcohol tastes like, or what being drunk is just isn’t there for me. I have managed to mature normally in some areas, but not so much in other areas. The biggest area being feelings of self worth.

    In the church, I felt a desire to try to live up to every standard set. While I understand the whole idea of repentance, and the atonement, that didn’t alleviate that feeling of failure and shame any time I didn’t live up to one of the many standards, and it was very much taught as an all or nothing thing. “No unclean thing can be in the presence of God.” When I looked at a girl and had a sexual thought about her, even for a moment. If I was slothful, and slept in just a little too late. The person I saw in need, but didn’t stop to help because I was in a hurry. The reading of the scriptures, and the praying to feel and know the validity… and not ever having that confirming feeling after multiple readings, and countless prayers. I just always felt like a failure (at best, it felt like a roller coaster of failure, repent, feel better for a little while till you inevitably fail again), or defective or doing something wrong and therefor unworthy after all of these things, regardless of how worthy I actually was.

    I had many questions I was always afraid to ask, because I didn’t want to be seen as apostate. When I did ask just a little bit, I was directed to church organization approved answers that didn’t address the questions I had. I finally sought out all the information I could, from every side possible to try and weight truth, evidence, and all these things so I could stop having to do mental gymnastics to defend things I deep down felt were wrong (primarily, the inequality of women in the church, and the church’s stance on homosexuality. A stance which without any question felt, and feels wholeheartedly wrong to me.)

    Ultimately this lead me to where I am today in not believing, and in the area I live admitting I don’t believe anymore was essentially social suicide. Dating suddenly became incredibly difficult. What mormon girl wants to date a guy that can’t take them through the temple after all, and one that is divorced with a child (and in the Provo area, the vast majority of people are mormon)? Constantly being invited back to church. Constantly being treated with this sense of sadness, and hearing the comments about how I am just being mislead. And, to be honest and fair, constantly doubting and questioning whether even still if I was doing the right thing for me, or the right thing period. That fear of failing, or that feeling of failure has stayed with me. Now I am not sure if it is a correlation to my upbringing, and having been mormon, or just my own personality flaw (though I suspect, it is a bit of both. Nature vs. nurture, in my humble opinion is more of a Nature and nurture thing.) Granted, that constant feeling and fear is much less consuming of me since leaving, and since gaining more understanding of many things, but I can feel it in there. Creeping its way up at times, overwhelming me on rare occasions.

    I know this has been long, and probably pretty jumbled. All these emotions in me are hard to express, and get out there, but it is all in an effort to promote understanding. For those believing members that wonder why it is hard for ex mormons to just move on and leave it alone. Well, I can’t really speak for them, but I know that for some there are a lot of the same sentiments and feelings. In many ways you feel lied to, abused, and betrayed by the church, and sometimes by the people in the church. There then becomes this desire to do the same thing you were doing as a mormon, as Andrew stated in one of his responses, and that is to do “the right thing” as they see it and try to help others get out so they aren’t subjected to what they view as an abusive situation. Some are deeply hurt by these things, and as people we often start to translate our hurt or pain into anger.

    I’m not saying any of this is healthy or right, I am just saying that I have been through many of these emotions myself. It is a difficult mental, and emotional transition to make. Especially when much of your life, and the people in your life are still surrounded by and heavily influenced by mormon culture. You really feel like you are doing the right thing trying to get people out of the gospel, trying to help them… just as you felt you were doing the right thing trying to bring the gospel to them when you were mormon. I personally don’t feel the need to do this, but I have felt the desire to at times, and have felt anger at times. It has taken me years to get to a place of peace, and that place of peace for me is a live and let live, love and let love mentality. Acceptance of difference of belief, rather than agreement with, and a strong desire to just make life better for all.

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