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Prematurity

December 14, 2011

I just realized that I really don’t know how to describe myself these days. I’m pretty sure the Mormon part fits, no matter what others think or feel. And I think some combination of “atheist” and/or “agnostic” fits as well. And don’t forget “apatheist.” I almost forgot about that one but a comment to Kiley’s latest post brought it back to the forefront of my mind.

But does the “Mormon” part need a modifier? I mean, for clarity’s sake?

It’s certainly not “true believing.” I can eliminate that one.

I don’t think it’s “new order.” I don’t think it’s “liberal.” These imply a complexity to my belief structure or my social web that I don’t think exists. (It seems simple for me to say that I don’t believe — even in a nuanced way — in some of the fundamental, foundational claims of Mormonism. Likewise, I don’t have an obligation to “make church work” because of a nuance in testimony, or because of family or friends.)

It’s not “open,” “stayLDS,” “middle way,” or “uncorrelated.” Because despite the seemingly open source ideals behind these  names, I recognize that these modifiers are extremely proprietary to groups with which I don’t interact. I’m not really a part of the “Mormon Stories” stuff or StayLDS, or the uncorrelated “communities of support” or whatever they are called. I’m not a part of the ironically closed open Mormon clandestine whatever it is. (Does it even exist [anymore]? I don’t even know!)

It’s not “former.” That implies a clean break that doesn’t exist. I mean, and even that implies a clean idea of what a “former Mormon” is. For example, is an excommunicated Mormon a former Mormon? (I would say no. Your status in the LDS church does not change your status as Mormon, because, regardless of what the LDS church thinks, they don’t own “Mormon.”)

I’m not really “ex-“. Again, that implies a break that I don’t know if I’m at, all the time, usually, some of the time, or ever. Does an ex-Mormon have to resign? What is the difference between an ex-Mormon who hasn’t resigned and an inactive Mormon?

Yet, I am not an inactive or less active Mormon. While yeah, my activity in the LDS church would probably fit those statistical criteria…I’d have to “buy” the institution’s methods of defining, which I have already rejected above in the paragraph on “former”.

I like the sound of Mormon Alumni. I think alumni is more of a permeable membrane than the rest. You can be an alumnus of a school or an organization on bad terms with that school/organization *or* you can be an alumnus on good terms, and with positive feelings. Even more, an alumnus can return to that school or organization for an advanced degree and there isn’t really a problem with that.

With “post,” another term I have liked in the past, I wonder if you can do that. I think “post” has a lot of baggage (a least to me). Like, when you become “post”modern, can you ever become modern? When you become ironic, can you become ‘post’ ironic, and if so, can you become post-post-ironic? What did I just say? I don’t really know what “post-Christian” means other than this vague Nietzschean, “God is dead and we have killed him sense,” and I don’t know if that’s how “post-Mormon” works. And that’s avoiding the fact that there is a postmormon site, so maybe that’s just as proprietary a term as stayLDS, exMormon, etc.,

Basically, here’s what I have to go by, and here’s why I’m uncertain about any label.

1) I don’t believe.

2) I don’t attend.

3) I don’t plan on attending in the future.

4) I have not resigned or been excommunicated, and don’t plan on resigning or excommunicating in the future.

But there’s one thing that makes me uncertain above all else…I have a lot of life to live (unless something bad happens and I don’t have that much life to live after all.) I read comments and posts from people who say they “fell into inactivity” before coming back to the church, and I automatically assume they are qualitatively different than me because they came back.

But…is that really something I am “immune” from?

If someone left the church for 11 years and came back, then I really have to consider that they were out of the church for a full half of my entire life, and yet that wasn’t “enough” to guarantee that they were out forever. Things really can change.

It is always premature to say one is an ex-/former Mormon in a finalized sense…

I’m still not holding my breath.

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8 Comments
  1. How about “secular Mormon”?

  2. I’ll take it!

  3. I liked your notion of “cultural Mormon” that was under discussion a while back. I think I may be a cultural Mormon. Although I usually call myself a former Mormon, because I am as sure as I am of anything in life that I will never embrace the unqualified title “I’m a Mormon” again.

    Your post also made me think about parallels to being divorced (something I also am). I tend to refer to the man I was married to, with whom I’m still fairly good friends and whom I talk to often, and with whom I have a daughter, either as “my daughter’s dad” or “my former husband,” because “ex-husband” or “ex” just sounds too negative too me, and seems to convey a break in our relationship that (luckily, in my mind), didn’t actually occur since we’re still friends. But yet I can certainly say I’m divorced from him, regardless of the theoretical (though unlikely) possibility we could end up married again at some point. I don’t know if there’s a point to that comparison; you post, as I said, just made me think about the parallels between Church (dis)association and marriage/divorce.

  4. Seth R. permalink

    Welcome to responsible adulthood Andrew.

    Not that I’m implying you haven’t been there for a while…

  5. Therese,

    I also still like the idea of “cultural Mormonism” even though I think there are flaws in the concept that make it a weaker idea than I once thought.

    I have always like the relationship analogy (especially the marriage one), but I think there are some issues there. At least, to an extent.

    For example, when you say “ex” with respect to a relationship, then that implies an end to one stage of the relationship (e.g., ex-…husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/fiance/e.) But it doesn’t imply an end to the relationship as a whole. (And then again, maybe that’s because we use relationship in two senses…one as the sum total, and one as a particular state.)

    So, I think it’s interesting that you say:

    “ex-husband” or “ex” just sounds too negative too me, and seems to convey a break in our relationship that (luckily, in my mind), didn’t actually occur since we’re still friends.

    Because it’s clear (to you and to me) that you can still have other aspects of the relationship (e.g., “my daughter’s dad” “good friend”) even when other aspects end (e.g., “former husband.”)

    If ex-Mormon meant something like “ex-LDS” then maybe it would make sense — but it would still refer to that narrow sense (I think) of being formally removed from the institution, either through excommunication or resignation or something.

    That being said, I think that ex-Mormon doesn’t always convey the sense of “ex-LDS”. I mean, there are many people who don’t even recognize a difference…but even if they do, well, “exMORMON” has Mormon in it, not LDS.

    Seth,

    Ever so cryptic. “Responsible adulthood.” What about this is “responsible adulthood”?

  6. Seth R. permalink

    The more experience you get in life (hopefully) the more you realize how limited labels are.

  7. I like Kuri’s suggestion of secular Mormon even culture Mormon. Both go pretty far to describe the things that you listed about your belief and activity levels.

    I’ve long used ex-Mormon, but am actually thinking of going back to plain old Mormon…

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