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Tramp the Dirt Down — from Runtu’s Rincon

October 1, 2009

I wrote yesterday about the loss of community that a person experiences when he or she leaves the LDS church. But the loss is much greater than that. Mormonism isn’t just a religion or a community; it is reality. By that I mean that when one is immersed in Mormonism, it explains everything about how the universe operates, so one sees the universe always through a Mormon interpretation. That may seem like an overstatement, and maybe it is for some people, but it wasn’t for me.

Excellent start to yet another excellent post from Runtu. Check it out.

I think another Runtu brings up another good point later on:

Just like a schoolboy, whose head’s like a tin can
filled up with dreams then poured down the drain

That’s how many feel when they lose the church and the gospel. The dreams and goals and hopes of a life (mortal and eternal) within Mormonism are gone, poured down the drain. A friend told her husband that she was angry at him for “finding out the truth,” as it had changed everything in their lives: their dreams, their goals, their family, their marriage. It’s a devastating loss, no matter how loath some are to acknowledge that loss.

Reactions to one’s apostasy are pretty predictable. As some have said here, most people believe their [sic] is no valid reason for leaving the church, and by extension, there’s no valid reason for feeling hurt or loss or anger. And oddly enough, few people actually try to help the wayward soul regain his or her spiritual footing. When I went through this experience, the only person who really reached out to help me resolve my issues was Dan Peterson, and I appreciate that; unfortunately, by the time he offered I was too far into the anger stage. Maybe now that I’m out of that stage it would be a good time to talk.

But it’s natural that people who are hurting and angry and looking for support and, yes, validation, gravitate toward other people in the same situation who are often angry and hurt, too. And it’s natural to feel that anger after a loss; it’s part of the grieving process. But, like all stages of the grieving process, it must pass for people to heal. It does no one any good to wallow in anger. As I said yesterday, it’s never healthy to define yourself by what you are not. It’s important to be a person, not just an “ex-Mormon.” But it’s also not fair to hold up the angry and hurting as exemplifying the sum total of people’s experience after leaving the church. Most people move on, eventually, and even on the most virulent cesspools of hatred, most people post for a month or two, get over the anger, and move on with their lives.

So, no, this is not an attempt to justify anger. Anger is not a positive energy, contrary to John Lydon. It is what it is, and it is understandable. And if we understand why people are hurt and angry, we might actually be able to help them. As staccato mentioned, there is a lot of compassion and kindness around, and it’s not totally absent from any community.

In the end, you have to move on and walk away. I would imagine that Elvis Costello isn’t still seething with hatred for Margaret Thatcher 23 years later, and I doubt very much that he’ll visit her grave when she dies, much less tramp the dirt down. It takes some time, but you eventually walk way. You don’t forget what you’ve experienced, but you don’t stew in it. It would be nice to say as Elvis did.

It’s like I don’t even need to elaborate, because Runtu already captures it so well.

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  1. I wonder if it would be possible for Mormonism to adopt a more inclusive identity – like Judaism.

    In Judaism, even people who don’t really believe the Exodus ever really happened (for instance) are still considered “Jewish” and they’ll unite in common cause all the time when they feel their own people are being threatened.

    For instance, at events trying to raise support for Israel, you’ll have a liberal female rabbi rubbing shoulders comfortably with an ultra-orthodox Hasidic Jew. Neither has a particular problem with it.

    I always envied that kind of group unity and wish it were possible with Mormonism as well.

  2. Seth, I’ll tell you that of the vast majority of DAMU/nonbelieving/cultural Mormon/post/ex-Mormon sites I’ve visited — even some of the ones which are pretty critical, most of the bloggers wish that Mormonism could be like Judaism in this regard.

    The problem is…how do we get to that point? I don’t even know if we’re at a point where we even recognize Mormonism as a culture or heritage…more often than not, people think of “cultural Mormonism” as that icky thing that infects the church as it exists in Utah (especially around BYU) or in Idaho. Or, they don’t realize how this identity is long-term…hence the phrase, “they leave the church but can’t leave it alone.” (I think it’s obvious why, when you consider that Mormonism *is* the culture…you don’t just “leave” culture alone.)

  3. I really liked that post, Andrew, and it helped me understand my husband a lot better (he is a life-long Idaho Mormon). Thanks for sharing it.

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