Belonging

Sojourner in the Lone and Dreary World: Two Years Among the Apostates

My first foray into the online Mormon world occurred when I was 18 years old.  As a young clean-cut Mormon getting ready to go on a mission, I was looking for anything about Mormons my own age, and people who could understand not only why I was choosing to live the way I did, but why I was choosing to go to Korea for two years. Mormons from highly-populated Mormon areas seemed to be living in the “promised land,” the land of “milk and honey.” I never thought my initial journey on that now-defunct message board would lead me here.
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Hi, I’m Zelph and I’m a Modernist

Hi, I’m Zelph and I’m a Modernist

Introduction
With the “I’m A Mormon” ad campaign recently hitting the shores of Australia, frequent Mormon Expression board commenter Martin Jacobs was prompted to consider it’s message in light of trends he sees emerging in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I found his analysis intriguing enough to merit stepping aside and letting him mount my soap box as a guest blogger.  I hope that you find his insights as  fresh, challenging, and thought provoking as I did when I heard them for the first time.

Hi, I’m Zelph and I’m a Modernist
by Martin Jacobs
The tag line “I’m [insert name here], and I’m a Mormon” superbly clinches the current advertising campaign by the Mormons. However, I suggest that the message that it projects is not the gospel of Jesus Christ, it’s not even the gospel of Mormonism’s founder, Joseph Smith; it’s modernism. More

Can A Mind Control Cult Reform Itself?

Q: Can a Mind Control Cult reform itself?
It seems that just below the surface of every discussion of Mind Control Cults this question burns, simmers, and smokes like the proverbial ember seeking to spark into flame.

But can they?
Will they?

Thankfully, the answer (at least occasionally) is yes. Here are two case studies for your consideration.

THE SHEPHERDING MOVEMENT
The Shepherding Movement (the mind control cult that I was in) is one such group. Ron Enroth described how this happened in his classic book, “Churches that Abuse”:

"Churches That Abuse" by Ronald M. Enroth

"Churches That Abuse" by Ronald M. Enroth

“It is possible for authoritarian churches to change direction? There several fairly recent examples of leaders who have announced changes and confessed to error. One of the leaders of the discipleship/shepherding movement officially known as Christian Growth Ministries, Bob Mumford, made a dramatic about-face after issuing a public statement of repentance in November of 1989. Mumford, one of the “Ft. Lauderdale Five” (so named because of the five founders of Christian Growth Ministries of Ft. Lauderdale Don Basham, Ern Baxter, Bob Mumford, and Charles Simpson), acknowledged abuses that had occurred because of his teaching on submission. This emphasis resulted in ‘perverse and unbiblical odedience’ to leaders. He publicly repented with ‘with sorrow’ and asked for forgiveness. He also admitted that families had been severely disrupted and lives turned upside down. More

Mind Control 101: Myths of Brainwashing

Mind Control 101: Myths of Brainwashing

Life happens!  And in my case life’s happenings have necessitated the need to borrow another superb Luna Flesher article for your enjoyment, edification, and enlightenment while I’m still slowly chipping away at Part Two of “My Life As A Mind Control Cultist”.

Mind Control 101: Myths of Brainwashing
by Luna Flesher
I’ve studied a lot about mind control over the years. My interest piqued shortly after I left a rigorous and restrictive religion. I wanted to better understand how I had willingly allowed myself to be controlled, all the while believing and protesting loudly that I was free. More

The Problem of The Mormon Tank (Revisited)

A funny thing happened on the way to this blog. I was actually planning to publish – and was working on – brand new, original material when several of the Mormon Expression Podcast and Blog discussion boards “lit up” with interesting dialog. I feel that that the content of this previously published article is relevant to several of them. So with no further adieu – and with a nod, a wink, and a grin to Eric’s last blog – I offer for your consideration, “The Problem of The Mormon Tank (Revisited)”.

Artist's depiction of the crew in a Sherman Tank.

Artist's depiction of the crew in a Sherman Tank.

Here’s the problem
If you’re in an Army Tank and pull out a compass the needle will point toward magnetic north. However, the compass is only validated if when you get outside that Tank and it’s still pointing in the exact same direction.Then, it’s only truly validated if it’s compared to yet another “known good” compass while outside the tank and they both point in the same direction. That is, the one point of internal reference and two points of external reference are all calibrated. The reason for this is simple: The magnetic field created by the iron armor of the Tank interferes with the compass’s operating integrity. You could consult a thousand compasses inside the Tank, and still get the same compromised and errant result every time. More

The Parable of The Box

I was first exposed to this parable via Chad Spjut’s Exmormon Foundation 2010 Conference Presidential Greeting.  I offer it to you now  in the hope that this powerful, articulate, and poignant expression of the life experience of so many resonates as deeply for you as it did for me.

"Inside the box was security and safety. Inside the box was reality."

"Inside the box was security and safety. Inside the box was reality."

The Parable of The Box
by Anonymous Utahan
There once was a boy who lived all his life with a cardboard box over his head. His parents taught him that he should never take the box off, for doing so was dangerous and foolish. The box protected him from the scary world outside of it.

On the inside of the box, he could make out some letters, and he could see the outlines of the box around him. His world was brown cardboard. His parents taught him to study the inside of the box carefully, for in it was all the wisdom he needed to navigate life. Inside the box was security and safety. Inside the box was reality.

Some of his friends told him that they had taken off the box and life was much better, but he didn’t believe them. His parents made sure he stayed away from these people, who clearly wanted only to hurt their boy. More

The Quotes That Haunt Me

I openly confess that I am by nature somewhat of a contrarian.  I like to argue just for sport.  Therefore, in a forum such as Mormon Expression, I feel a very strong pull toward playing the apologist role, since my impression is that the majority of followers of ME are non-believers in the LDS Church.  I realize that this attitude is dangerous, as people will call my motives and sincerity into question.  But I hope what I say here will come across in a sincere way.

At times, I have been accused of lacking integrity because my beliefs in the church are nuanced, and I have not just thrown up my hands and said, “it’s all a lie.”  Yet I still want to be understanding, and try my honest best to have an open dialogue with those who do not share my beliefs, whether Mormon, ex-Mormon, or never-Mormon.  While I have many doubts and questions myself, I find value in maintaining as healthy a relationship as possible with the church of my upbringing.  I have done my best to be honest with my family and leaders, and they still consider me a faithful, temple-recommend-worthy, member of the church. More

Do You Feel You Don’t Fit In?

Do you ever look around yourself and feel like no matter what you do, you are not a part of “the group?”  For me sometimes it feels like pretty much the only group I feel like I have ever been a part of is the LDS church.  There are really no other groups that have been a part of my entire life.  While I have maintained my tentative relationship with the church, it seems like I have been symbolically/psychologically jumping ship on a lot of smaller matters.

Naturally, this breaking away from what I consider the core orthodoxy of the church has left me uncomfortable and feeling like I don’t belong in the only real social group I’ve ever really known.  Yet when I look around me, I have trouble finding a direction in which to travel where I will feel more accepted or comfortable. More

Belonging

One evening, while I was playing prelude at the piano for a stake priesthood leadership meeting, I looked down at all the brethren arriving in their suits, white shirt and ties, greeting one another and I felt something distinct and powerful. It was a whispering of the spirit of sorts. I’d felt it before many times, but I’d never been able to define it or recognize it for what it was.  Perhaps I was too afraid, but for some reason on this occasion I felt ready to acknowledge it and accept it.

“I don’t belong here,” I thought.

At first I told myself, “Of course I don’t belong; I don’t have a leadership calling.”

I was no stranger to the priesthood leadership meeting. I’d been the bishop’s executive secretary for several bishops, but due to boundary changes I didn’t have a calling in the new ward yet.

But it was more than that.

Perhaps having no calling for several weeks gave me a freedom to see things from a new perspective.

The feeling wasn’t a negative emotion targeted to any individual.  I knew most of them.  I’d served in some capacity in the priesthood with many of them.  I liked them.  They were friendly men and good people, but I had very little in common with any of them outside the LDS church. The next thought went something like this:

“I’m an adult.  But here I am feeling obligated to spend my free time with people I’d rather not.” It’s as if I were a young child whose parents had forced me to invite the weird kid at school to my birthday party to be nice.  Yet, I wasn’t a kid.  I was an adult who already knew how to play nice in the sandbox.  I think there comes a point when the privilege of being a grown-up is that you get to choose your own playmates and your own free time activities.

It’s not tough to spot other members who feel similarly.  They hang out in the foyer. When they pray they say something you’ve never heard anyone else say. If and when they bear their testimony it is concise, interesting and lacking the requisite “I know”.  They laugh loudly. They say “no” to callings that are terrible mismatches.

As I began to eventually distance myself from my obligatory life, one of the first things I did was sign on for a long distance charity sporting event.  It was the kind of event where you train as a team for several months while raising money from friends and colleagues.  The team training was intense and fun as I made several wonderful friends.  The fundraising was very far outside my element and yet it was an enriching and rewarding experience too. On the day of the 100 mile bike ride as I was riding next to a fellow teammate riding with one leg, I contemplated what a fun, once-in-a-lifetime experience I was in the midst of.  The sense of belonging was powerful … and it dawned on me that I was probably the only Mormon there. The event took place on a Sunday. In fact, when I told my sister about the event, she shared her desire to do something meaningful like that but couldn’t because they were usually held on the Sabbath Day.

My experience in Mormonism was that my time and my social circle were determined by the ward I lived in and the callings I held. Even when I lived abroad, I made local friendships but again my time and energies were mostly directed towards the fellow Mormons in the wards I attended.

On one hand, it is a really nice feeling to be able to go just about anywhere in the world and find an LDS ward where you will immediately be welcomed warmly and find that one “spiritual” connection that can abate the homesickness or cultural confusion. On the other hand, once I found my geographic and cultural bearings I would have been far better off using my free time and energy outside the ward. In the same fashion, once you get your moral and individual bearings, life is richer on the outside.  Mormons miss a lot of good stuff because of the insularity that is very inherent in the LDS Culture.

After coming out, I had a straight friend tell me that he had always thought I seemed uncomfortable in my heterosexual skin, like I didn’t belong. Indeed I was uncomfortable and it was exhausting pretending to own my straight LDS Priesthood skin. I didn’t belong. I not only felt like an intruder in others’ experiences but also in my own life. I had a decent job, a beautiful wife.  I was temple-worthy, home teaching regularly and fulfilling whatever calling that came along. But I felt like a visitor in someone else’s life.  That other life was Mr. Should because my life was in every way what any LDS man SHOULD do.

I believed it all, but I never felt quite fully inducted in the tribe of Mormonism.  Small things were hard to swallow….things that Mormons would say are part of the church, not part of the gospel.  All I know is that they weren’t ME. Even the bigger concepts and “answers” that Mormonism provided were answers to someone else’s questions, not mine.

Personally, I don’t feel like I need saving.

I don’t wonder where I came from, why I am here or where I am going.

I know my body well enough to know what I should and shouldn’t eat or what to wear.

I’m ok with what we know scientifically about the origin of man.

I know how to set up and create peaceful and enlightening experiences for myself.

All of the main “answers” of Mormonism seem irrelevant to me.  In essence, the people who do find answers and meaning there don’t belong with me and I don’t belong with them.

Like many others, I initially searched for a replacement church after I left Mormonism.  The only place I found that was even a remote possibility for me was the local UU congregation. Unlike Mormonism, their message isn’t that EVERYONE belongs there.  Instead, I was actually told by the UU minister, “If you feel at home here you are welcome to join us, but if this doesn’t feel like home certainly don’t try to force yourself to come here.” So I didn’t and I don’t.

I go where I belong.  As a gay father who likes to think and question, that place is not in Mormonism and it seems rather juvenile to think that there would be one best place for everyone.  If you are at a place in life where you don’t feel like you belong, get out.  I’m certain that there’s a place, a group, a congregation, an activity, a career, a family, a lover, or a friend for you.

One man’s home is another man’s wilderness

I like how Jim Croce expresses this in his song, “New York’s Not my Home”. I have lived in New York City.  I loved it and I’d return in a heartbeat, but I certainly understand Jim Croce’s reaction to a place not being for him.

NEW YORK’S NOT MY HOME

Well things were spinnin’ round me
And all my thoughts were cloudy
And I had begun to doubt
all the things that were me

Been in so many places
You know I’ve run so many races
And looked into the empty faces
of the people of the night
And something is just not right

‘Cause I know that
I gotta get out of here
I’m so alone
Don’t you know that
I gotta get out of here
‘Cause New York’s not my home