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Inactives and Exmormons

June 2, 2011

I was reading a post at A Latter-day Voice that touched upon the question of reactivating inactive members. From a conceptual standpoint, I like the idea of reactivating people. I like the idea of bringing them back to the community, of trying to understand their perspective and trying to serve them if they have certain difficulties that have separated them in the first place or that continue to separate them.

I mean, at the same time, I know that sometimes, in practice, things don’t seem to work out so well. After all, people are imperfect. It might seem like someone is trying to get on one’s good side only to get them back in church. Like someone is taking the inactive person on as a “project.” I’m not as much a fan of this, I admit.

Anyway, I’ve always enjoyed reading posts like this and others about reactivating people (or posts that ask about why people become inactive in the first place), and sometimes I think about throwing in my own suggestions.

It just struck me recently how odd this may look.

For example, in such situations, I’m doing it with an awareness that when people are talking about “inactive members,” they are talking about a qualitatively different kind of person than I am. So, I’m not providing advice about how someone might try to “reactivate” me, and in fact, many of the solutions wouldn’t be all that effective.

And isn’t that the strange thing? Of exmormons being qualitatively different from inactives? I’ve written about it indirectly before.

I’m not sure what people refer to when they are talking about people who “have fallen away from the church.” Does it refer to the same thing as people who “have left the church”? Do either or both of these two things refer to “inactives” or “less active” members…and do any of these refer to the same thing as “exmormons”?

I think that maybe, these things don’t align in the minds of everyone, and so that makes discussion confusing. For example, what if when people say that “People who leave the church do so because they were offended”, the subject of this (“people who leave the church”) refers to a different category than the kind of people, say, who write blogs in Outer Blogness? Maybe people who write blogs think of themselves as having “left the church” but wouldn’t consider someone who does not attend because she actually was personally offended or marginalized or alienated or whatever…as having “left the church.” (This is actually somewhere closer to my dichotomization. “Inactives” might leave for a number of the “stereotypes” often attributed to ex-mos, but “Exmormons” are a different sort. [The MSP post pointed out another alternative: instead of talking about “offense” or “wanting to sin” or “being lazy,” maybe there is a group of people who is bored and disengaged, no more and no less, and this describes their motivations for “leaving.”])

It seems to me that it would be a very organizationally problematic sort of thing to attempt “reactivate” someone whom you think left because he was offended when really, he left because he stopped believing the church’s truth claims were true.  It’s going to be ineffective to try to “reactivate” someone whom you think left because she was lazy when really, she left because she was bored.

Perhaps there is a market segment who does feel alienated, and if that alienation is defeated they may return. Perhaps there is a market segment of those who need motivation.

But this is not the entire market of “The One,” to whom the shepherd attends, leaving the ninety and nine. And if members are really serious about the enterprise, then even if it hurts a bit, maybe they should do more analysis.

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3 Comments
  1. Goldarn permalink

    I think the prime problem is that church leadership tends to conflate ex-mormons with inactive mormons in virtually every speech. That leads to conflating the reasons for leaving, which leads to ineffective methods of reactivation.

    For example, when I was part of the ward council, the bishop instructed us to attempt to visit several “less actives” in the ward, including at least one family that had no members that had been to church in decades, and wanted no contact. How effective would reactivation efforts be in that case?

    On my mission we were temporarily assigned to help in reactivation efforts. More than a few of the people we contacted were surprised to hear they were Mormon church members. Reactivation? Scoff.

    If an organization wants to get former members to come back, they need to offer whatever the member wants. It seems to me, as an ex-mormon, that the LDS church is more intent upon removing reasons to consider not attending than it is finding out reasons why non-attenders stopped attending. That’s my opinion, anyway.

  2. Diane permalink

    Excellent article. First of all, The problem that we are speaking about here is respect and acknowledgement. I was a member for well over twenty years. I could never understand why other members who left had bad things to say. Now, However, I do. I left because six years ago I became very sick, I received no help from my branch. I was never able to receive blessing, And I couldn’t work. I didn’t receive any financial, help from the storehouse ANYTHING. So, when members stand there and tell me how great the church is when it comes to helping me support the sick, the homeless, etc. It makes me want to vomit.

    I have people who I was friends with who are no longer my friends because they don’t want to recognize or even acknowledge just how hurtful this was, particularly when I have to come in a raise and support my hand for leadership. Where was my leadership? Not one person in leadership has ever talked to me about this. Not one person can tell me why when I came back to church after being homeless I had to put up with being verbally, spiritually and emotionally abused while leadership stood and looked the other way. There is no reconciling what took place and I thought that I could be friends with these people even after I left but, I realize I can’t because they continually say to me I should just get over it, or I was offended.

  3. “reactivating” mormons? I didn’t know they’re all zombies, but now that you mention it…

    masterymistery at cosmic rapture

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