Exiting Mormonism

Are You Experiencing Ex-Mormon Stereotype Threat?

Recently the concept of stereotype threat has made it onto my radar.  I think this particular concept might possibly explain some of the source of the anxieties I’ve been experiencing in relation to the church lately (e.g. I’ve been having panic attacks every time I have to interact with a ward member or discuss church-related issues with family members). Read on if you think you might relate… More

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

What’s Wrong With The Mormon Church?

Martin Luther hanging the Ninety-Five Theses

Martin Luther hanging the Ninety-Five Theses

Introduction:
Today is October 31st, “Reformation Day”.  It was on this day 494 years ago that Martin Luther nailed “The Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” (commonly known as “The Ninety-Five Theses”) unto the door of The Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. “The Ninety-Five Theses” is widely regarded as the primary catalyst for the Protestant Reformation.

And while readily acknowledging that I’m no Martin Luther, it is with a hopeful spirit for reformation in our lifetime that I offer these Ninety-Five Theses to a modern church that, in my opinion (as well as in the opinion of many others) is badly in need of it. 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: The Basics

I have always found Luna Flesher’s work on Mind Control to be particularly good. She has written many fine articles on the subject but I thought that one in particular might be a good preface for the next installment of “My Life As A Mind Control Cultist” series.  It has been only slightly edited for this context. Bon appetit!

Mind Control - ur doing it rong

Mind catrol – ur doing it rong akshully

Mind Control 101: The Basics
by Luna Flesher

Cult Conversion Walkthrough (Storytime!)
No one is immune from mind control. And contrariwise, mind control doesn’t always work. It takes the right combination of factors; specifically trust, common ideals, and receptivity.

Cults are a good place to study mind control because the changes they effect on people’s lives are extremely obvious.

Pretend for a moment you are having a difficult time in your life: a recent tragedy or major transition. Maybe you’ve just gone through divorce, lost a loved one, you’ve moved to a new town, or have recently been fired. You’re feeling alone, scared, depressed, ashamed, or desperate. More

My Life as a Mind Control Cultist Part 1

My Life as a Mind Control Cultist Part 1

Since none of you have never been in a Mind Control Cult, and I have been, I thought it might be instructive to help you all understand what it’s like.

Now I know what some of you may be thinking so let me set the record straight right now:
Contrary to popular rumor, I am not now, nor have I ever been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 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

I’m Leaving the Church (Glenn Beck Said To…)

Every once in awhile, I come across a link in a totally pro-LDS publication that really blows my mind.  This morning, the stunning article came from none other than Meridian Magazine.  Usually, I get links from people I know from said magazine that talk about supporting traditional marriage, or about Joseph Smith’s great-granddaughter joining the LDS Church.  I read most of whatever comes my way, but I am well aware that Meridian Magazine is probably just as conservative as Sean Hannity or the Ensign on pretty much any matter you can think of.

However, today’s article was by Grant Hardy, and it was about The Book of Mormon and Social Justice.  Other than the fact that it came packaged with various scriptural reference from The Book of Mormon, this thing read like it came from the commentary section of the New York Times, or The Huffington Post. More

Scientology-Lite

I’ve joked several times about Mormonism being “Scientology-lite” but until recently I never had the chance or much interest to do a compare/contrast. But I suppose you can’t make that joke without backing it up, so here goes.

I probably have as much knowledge or interest in Scientology as the general population has regarding Mormonism.  I’m familiar with several buildings in my local area; I know some of the absurd parts of the doctrine and I’ve heard rumors.  Of course, I know about the celebrity members and I’ve also witnessed several  “Anti-Scientology” street protesters (former members I presume) holding placards declaring it to be a cult. 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