The top reason why exmormons are pathetic at basic adult functioning
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.
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.