Irrational Fear of the Week: Becoming a Post-Mormon
I think that I’ve written before about my perception of the differences between various terms — cultural Mormon vs. ex-Mormon vs post-Mormon vs…and so on. I won’t bother to look for those posts, but I’ll just say that the main difference I personally perceive in a post-Mormon is that the post-Mormon has moved away from the church, culture, etc., The ex-Mormon might be “recovering”; the cultural Mormon might be “remembering” or “reminiscing” or “celebrating”; but the post-Mormon doesn’t have meaningful interaction with Mormonism anymore.
…and it terrifies me that I’ll be at that point some time.
I guess that most people will not understand what my issue is. If I take an inventory, then I must admit that the data doesn’t really paint a clear-cut picture.
I mean…what defines Mormonism (so that we can begin to talk about when someone would no longer have meaningful interaction with it?)
…Maybe it’s believing certain things?
Well…I don’t believe in most, if not all the truth claims of Mormonism…and I even find many of the thought processes from Mormons to be utterly foreign.
…Maybe it’s doing certain things?
Well…I don’t go to church, and I don’t foresee myself doing so in the future (except to engage in my social experiments…as I’ve written about tangentially in other posts). I probably follow things like the Word of Wisdom and Law of Chastity more than most never-mos would, but it’s not really for any theologically Mormon reasons. (I mean, I just don’t like the taste of coffee, tea, or alcohol, and I don’t really see the point in trying to subject myself to these things to try to acquire a taste. And as for the Law of Chastity, I am a horribly repressed shut-in virgin nerd.)
I think that many members would be hard pressed to say that I am a Mormon. And many former members might be baffled as to why I would think I’m connected either.
About the only thing I can say for my connection is that I talk about Mormonism on the internet with other folks on the internet. And another thing — a crucial thing — I think Mormonism is part of my heritage, something that I will take with me wherever I go, as long as I remember it.
Something about that last part is what terrifies me about becoming a post-Mormon. Because in my mind, being a post-Mormon would mean forgetting my past…and forgetting my past would mean forgetting a part of myself.
I originally posted these thoughts on r/exmormon, but what was interesting was how different people took things in different ways, assuming certain things from my post, etc., For example, from a comment by merlion:
Isn’t that the point of leaving the church? You have been brainwashed to act, say, do whatever they tell you to and now is the time to break free. Go get a drink-chat with the people at the bar. Go watch a rated-R movie. Become the person that is interesting because of your hobbies, taste in cool music, funky outfits, knowledge about wine, dance moves! Take the “husk” and turn it into something different. Be different. Be yourself. Fucking be normal! Enjoy it!
I mean, I already watch rated-R movies (but I did that even when I was a member). I already recognize I can at least theoretically get a drink and chat with people at the bar (but because of my dislike of alcohol, that’s not going to be something I practically do.)
When I think about my hobbies…this is part of why I’m fearful. My hobbies drill down, pretty much, to 1) fencing, 2) baking, 3) talking about Mormonism. I understand, yeah, yeah, I can find new hobbies, but…I don’t want to have a vacuum.
In anyway, what I responded to merlion was with my impression that “fucking be[ing] normal” was something that terrified me even more. Here, I recognized that perhaps my sentiments had some elitism behind them — but I don’t really aspire to many things in mainstream culture.
merlion took it like this:
I think I know what you mean. You want something that defines you from the rest of the world. As a TBM, you feel like you are part of something greater and some secret club. But out in the rest of the world, you are just another wandering lost human. Am I on the right page or totally off??!
…but that didn’t seem accurate to me. After all, I can’t say I ever was a TBM. A lot of the things that “define” me from the rest of the world are things that bring misunderstanding, pain, etc., I don’t really always feel that they are something “greater.” I can’t say that I “want” something that defines me from the rest of the world…but now that I have something, I don’t really want to lose it.
Another interesting chain of comments were from folks (like HedonistPhilosopher) who chalked my feelings up to “Mormonism teach[ing me] to fixate in [my] self-image” and then admonished me to get over myself. (Other commenters commented that I should “obsess less” over who I am.)
Although I thought the approach of trying to convince someone that they are a useless sack of shit was interesting, it was a non-starter with me.
That being said, there were several comments that I found to be really helpful. From Mithryn:
One of the terms I love is “exmormon” or “postmormon”. The reason is, that it still includes the name “mormon”.
You’ll never totally leave your heritage. It gets all over you and in you. You can unwind lots of it, but it’s still there. And I like that we recognize it.
Now, take a deep breath and go live. Live a life that is full and complete. And if you ever need this community, we’re here. But there is no shame if moving on, nor need to fear that you will stop being “you”.
And another from CrossEyed Goat:
I prefer to think of post-mormon as being the point where you are no longer motivated by a need to resolve pain, angst, anger, etc. For some people, once that motivation is gone, there is nothing left to draw them to mormonism. However, there are plenty of post-mormons who have made “mormon studies” either a life-long hobby or profession. It might be worthwhile to make an effort to include yourself in their social structures.
which was also mirrored/summarized by postmormongirl:
I don’t think you will ever lose your history – but there will come a time when it isn’t so painful.
I like that idea…moving past pain, angst, anger.
I think I have another milestone, however. Moving past needing to be understood.