We are angry...
...And with good reason. We gave our "heart, might, minds, and strength" for years (in my case 8 years, in many cases 20, 30, 40+ years). We gave 10% of our income (even when we couldn't afford it). We gave our freedom to determine for ourselves right from wrong. We gave hours upon hours each week. We gave our all, only to discover it was for an organization built on secrets, untruths, and deceptions. And almost all of us then experienced the pain of learning the true feelings of some of our friends and family members (an experience I am still in the midst of). It can take a long time to recover from things like this, years even. And it's even harder for those whose church experience included abuse of some sort (yes, it does happen...the Catholic church is not alone in that scandal).* Add to this the frustration of dealing with TBMs constantly trying to bring us back into the fold. It's hard to recover and move on when people won't leave you alone.**
I'd like to take just a moment to point out that being angry does not mean being miserable. Yes I'm angry. No I am not in a constant state of anger. In fact, I'm enjoying a lot of peace, relief, hope, joy, and fun! My feelings about the church do not define me.
TBMs have a bit of a victim mentality. Most have a hard time telling the difference between being PERSecuted and being PROSecuted in the court of public opinion. Because there are ex-Mormons out telling the truth about the church and it's history, because there are people sharing why they left, the TBMs feel that they're being picked on. They like to lump ex-Mormons who publish the facts with anti-Mormons who stand outside the conference center and yell about how Mormons are going to burn in hell (a completely ridiculous association in my opinion). Believe me, I will never hold up a sign, or hand out pamphlets outside conference, or the Hill Cummorah Pageant. But I will write my thoughts and feelings on this blog. And I will speak up about the truth when it is relevant to current conversation.
TBMs also can't grasp why they aren't afforded the same respect as other, more mainstream, Churches. Well, first off, some people do view Mormonism on the same level as other religions (but it's usually people who find organized religion as a whole repugnant). Secondly, there are good answers to why people take issue with the LDS Church vs. most other churches. It's just that many TBMs can't accept the answers. The LDS church demands FAR more than other churches. The LDS church claims much (such as the authority to speak for God) but a thorough study of the history of the church and the life of Joseph Smith Jr. reveals that those claims have no basis in fact. The LDS church is too much like a cult to pretend otherwise (who wants to bet I'll get a nasty comment on this post for pointing that out?). The LDS church is far more controlling of its members. The LDS church likes to meddle in the lives of non-members. The LDS church frankly does more damage than most mainstream churches.
And the fact of the matter is that Mormons are not alone. But they'd rather not be associated with their bedfellows in the "persecuted religion club" such as radical Islam, Scientology, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc. (before you get your panties in a bunch let me make it clear that I do not think the LDS church is on the same level as jihadists, or Scientologists just the same category).
Another consideration as to why ex-Mormons "attack" just the LDS church and not others is that the LDS church is what we have personal experience with and intimate knowledge of. A quick spin on Google will reveal plenty of similar groups for other religions run, not by ex-Mormons of course, but by the disaffected of those religions (though you might have a hard time finding anti-Scientology and Islam groups since that kind of thing can get one killed). I don't have a blog about the Jehovah's Witnesses because I'm not qualified to critique their religion in depth.
Another reason ex-Mormons "can't leave the church alone" after leaving is because while one is deprogramming it is awfully hard to not be reminded of the church at every turn. We were trained to think about the "Gospel" all day, every day. We can't even sit down to a meal without feeling a compulsion to bless the food. To be constantly reminded of the Church is to be constantly reminded that we've been had. You're a very strong individual indeed if you can withstand such frequent reminders of the betrayal you've experienced, and your own feelings of stupidity at having believed the nonsense without getting angry, or at least somewhat annoyed.
My personal humiliation, as a convert, of having been sucked into all this, of having been duped into believing every word that was fed to me without ever giving the other side a chance to have their say is sometimes infuriating; infuriating enough to make anyone angry (with, perhaps, the exception of the Dalai Lama - I hear he's a pretty level-headed guy).
Also, ex-Mormons are sometimes quite vocal because we're looking for support, looking for others who understand us, to counter all the negativity we face upon announcing our decision to leave the church. And some are vocal because they simply want to protect others from the same fate.
Then there's the issue of the "apostate" label. Dictionary.com defines an apostate simply as "one who forsakes his religion, cause, party, etc." But within Mormon culture the word is associated with much more. Here's a sampling of the attitudes with which "apostates" are viewed:
If there is a despicable character on the face of the earth, it is an apostate from this Church. He is a traitor who has deceived his best friends, betrayed his trust, and forfeited every principle of honor that God placed within him. They are disgraced in their own eyes. There is not much honesty [within] them. They have forfeited their heaven, sold their birthright, and betrayed their friends. [Even Satan despises apostates] That is all I wish to say on that point. Let apostates go. (Brigham Young JOD 12:94)
I would say, let [apostates] alone severely. The man who will apostatize from the truth, forsake his God and his religion, is a traitor to everything there is in heaven, earth, and hell. There is no soundness, goodness, truth, or virtue in him; nothing but darkness and corruption, and down to hell he will go. This may grate on the delicate ears of some, and they may think it is a pretty hard sentence, still it is true. (Brigham Young JOD 12:58)There you have it. Apostates are hardened, treacherous, dishonest, despised, corrupt, and completely lacking goodness and virtue. I for one, feel all kinds of warm fuzzies to know how highly I am thought of.
And thus we can plainly discern, that after a people have been once enlightened by the Spirit of God, and have had great knowledge of things pertaining to righteousness, and then have fallen away into sin and transgression, they become more hardened, and thus their state becomes worse than though they had never known these things. (Alma 24:30)
What it comes down to is this, TBMs can't understand why ex-Mormons are angry because they can't see their beloved church as a cult, a fraud, or anything but the "One True Church." If you believe your church is God's one established church and that all others are an abomination, if you believe that wickedness and misery await anyone outside your church, if you believe that only someone under the influence of Satan would fight against or even dare to question or critique your church then of course you won't, can't understand ex-Mormons. Of course you won't, can't sympathize with our hurt and anger. To admit that you understand our frustration is to admit you understand the reason for it. And if that's the case then it may be that you too doubt; a road of thought most are too frightened to travel.
Yes, too frightened. It's not about smarts. There are plenty of extremely intelligent TBMs (and we ex-Mormons have our share of dunces, make no mistakes). It's about fear. Quite a few TBMs fall into two categories:
- Those who are not blind to the problems in the history and doctrines of the church but who continue to "fake faith" for fear of losing friends, family, their support circle, etc.
- Those who are too afraid that they won't like they find if they really study church history, ask tough questions, etc. and so choose to remain ignorant.
Of course, in the end I suppose I don't really need Mormons to understand me. There are plenty of caring and wonderful people out here in reality who feel for me, who "get it" so to speak. I am not alone. And I suppose, even if I were, that it still wouldn't matter. I'm done worrying about what others think of me. I approve of who I am and that is enough.
*Fortunately this is not the case for me.
**Why is that anyway? According to church doctrine we "apostates" are destined for outer darkness so why waste your time (more on this in a post to come)?