108488727252292011

Former Mormons Gather to Share

Why do former Mormons need to get together with others who share their views and history? This question is asked often by faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, particularly when they learn that ex-Mormons have become vocal in the last few years, forming foundations, bulletin boards, having conferences, and scheduling retreats.

In all of this, there is a factor of fear for believing members of the Church. They believe that anyone who has voluntarily left the religion is an anti-Mormon.
When I first began writing about issues related to Mormonism, patriarchy, polygamy, and other aspects of LDS life, I heard one refrain over and over: “If you don’t believe in the Church anymore, why don’t you just leave it alone?”

The answer is not a simple one.

I was born and raised a member of the LDS Church, and I have lived in Utah all of my life. This is my home, my family still lives here, and my own children were born here. My ancestors crossed the plains with the other pioneers who settled Utah.

My parents and most of my brothers and sisters are still active members of the Mormon Church, and to them I am an enigma. Oddly enough, they do not realize that I see them the same way. I don’t understand how someone could look at the facts, simply disregard them, and go on a feeling akin to heartburn that tells them what is truth and what is not.

In this respect, we are strangers to each other. And while I love them dearly, I often feel like a pariah in my own family. Several years ago, in early October, an historic conference was held in Salt Lake City, at the same time the LDS Church held its own semi-annual General Conference. A group of former Mormons met and spent time together, laughing, crying, and telling their stories. It was a huge relief to stand among others like myself, who have found themselves the odd-man-out at family functions, at weddings, and in neighborhoods dominated by the LDS religion. That conference has since become a yearly event, allowing like-minded people to gather together and share ways that we can function as Ex-Mormons in our very Mormon culture. (For more information on this conference, visit http://www.exmormonfoundation.org.)

When I was interviewed on the Tom Barberi radio show before that conference, he asked me a question something like this: “Well, why do you form a group that is about what you AREN’T. I mean, I don’t like zucchini, but I have not joined an anti-zucchini group.” I responded, “Yes, well zucchini doesn’t show up on your doorstep trying to bring you back into the fold, or call you, or love-bomb you trying to get you back to Church.” We both conceded that during the summer growing season, zucchini does get pretty aggressive, showing up unannounced on people’s doorsteps and forcing church-going Mormons to lock their cars during Sacrament Meeting, in order to avoid a car full of squash that the neighbor can’t get rid of without stealth maneuvers. However, I think I made my point. I cannot leave Mormonism alone, because it cannot leave me alone.

The bottom line is, we ex-Mormons still love our families. We want to share in their weddings, instead of standing on the outside. We want to feel comfortable at family functions where nothing but religion is discussed. We want to be accepted, loved, and tolerated for our choices, as they expect us to be of theirs.

Unfortunately, especially in the past, this has rarely been possible. We are warned of the “eternal consequences” of giving up our Church memberships; family members and well-meaning friends send missionaries and Church leaders to our doors; we are “fellowshipped” by ward members, until it becomes apparent that we have no intention of returning.

Then we are ignored. We are the ones they wish to forget.

For this reason, we meet with other former Mormons.

I do not picket at Temple Square. I do not hand out anti-Mormon literature to innocent passersby. I am, however, vocal about the problems I see arising out of a system built around patriarchy and a cloudy past. I am not a fan of revisionist history and hiding the truth. Only in addressing these issues and seeking change can things be made better.

The year our historic Salt Lake City conference was held, in 2002, we saw history in the making. I listened as Elder Russell Ballard, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, told LDS faithful “I have heard about narrow-minded parents who tell children that they cannot play with a particular child in the neighborhood simply because his or her family does not belong to our church. This kind of behavior is not in keeping with the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Elder Ballard also suggested that Church members delete the words “non-member” and “non-Mormon” from their vocabulary.

Maxine Hanks, who was excommunicated from the LDS Church for her feminist writings, hopes to see the LDS Church also reach out to ex-Mormons in the way it is now embracing a more respectful view of other peoples and their religions.

“We’re seeing the Church sincerely doing more interfaith work, and it is only a small step after that,” she said.

I was born a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was raised within the confines of the religion, and it will forever be a part of me. I spent many, many years trying to destroy that part of me, feeling tainted and ugly, ignored by the faithful, and ostracized by those who have never been Mormon.

Why do former Mormons feel the need to get together? Because as long as we stay apart, things will never change, and we will never have a voice. We will always be sitting on the outside.
There are far too many of us to let that happen.

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About Natalie R. Collins

Natalie has more than 30 years writing, editing, proofreading and design experience. She has written 20 books (and counting), has worked for the Sundance Film Festival, and as an investigative journalist, editor, and proofreader. She embraces her gypsy-heart and is following her new free-thinking journey through life. Follow her as she starts over and learns a bunch of life's lessons--some the hard way.
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12 Responses to 108488727252292011

  1. Lynn says:

    You said, “They believe that anyone who has voluntarily left the religion is an anti-Mormon.” This is for sure not true. I dont’ know one LDS member that believes this!!!

    Like

  2. Ryan says:

    Lynn,

    Repectfully I point out, being a former Morman myself, that I have seen this beahvior fist hand. Many in the LDS church who act this way do not do so in front of fellow members.

    To blindly declare “This is for sure not true. ” is spoken in true ignorance. Just because you have not experienced this behavior first hand does not mean it does not widely exist.

    Just as Natalie has highlighted, “former morman” support groups exist as a direct response to this behavior. As long as there are LDS memebers that refuse to aknowlege the behavior that leads to such feelings of unacceptance, there will always be a rift between those who see themselves as Mormans, and those who once did, but now do not.

    Again I make this comment with the upmost respect for you, but I also do so to bear witness as someone who has been on both sides of the issue.

    Like

  3. Rocco says:

    I agree with Ryan – I am a former member and my wife currently attends- I am a fervent brewer and my wife maintains that I merely suffer from a
    WOW issues- I also have a mixed family (w+B) and we all have a healthy sense of humor when the color issue gets abused.
    It seems healthy to acknowledge that the world may not be the sum of my experiences. This is relative to unconditional love in the sense of compromise.

    Like

  4. INTJ_Mom says:

    Natalie, I’m glad I found your blog. I am in almost exactly the same situation as yourself. I’m not as good at putting my thoughts into words as you are, but this post was pretty much word for word exactly how I think and feel. Now I have something to refer people to when they want to know why I don’t go to church anymore. Thanks!

    Like

  5. Lilian says:

    I am truly sorry for you.

    Like

  6. I found your post very intriguing and revealing. But I am confused by the last paragraph. It is clear, you’ve left the religion, you have problems with the beliefs. Okay. I understand that. You say that you will never have a voice and will always be on the outside (if you do not unite with other former members). What is it that you want to have a voice for, and why? Why do you care to have a voice in something you don’t believe in? I’m asking this purely out of curiosity and not in a confrontational manner.

    If you’re feeling on the outside, I would suggest that’s the fault of your familiy, and perhaps jointly yourself, not the church as an entity. I’m sure their reason for not including you is not intentional. It’s hard to know how to act and what to say. You’ve not only left a religion, you’ve left a culture. It can make interaction difficult at best. Best wishes.

    Like

  7. Leslie says:

    Hurray! To be free from all the propaganda and mind control…it’s a wonderful new life isn’t it? After reading your ex-mormon blog, I was compelled to write. No longer an abused, bread making, bread-winning, downtrodden wife, I also rose from the ashes. I make 125K a year as an automotive trainer, travel the world with my new, handsome, sexy, pagan husband and enjoy family and friends with out the lie of the LDS Church.

    Your Sister in freedom,
    L.

    Like

  8. Carl says:

    Leslie,

    I was with you all the way until you felt the need to state your salary. Glad you are happy. The need to include your slary indicates that you still aren’t comfortable enough with who you are.

    Like

  9. Kent says:

    Actually Carl, I think she was just trying to say that she is saving $12,500 a year in tithing.

    Like

  10. Yahoouj says:

    Really good work about this website was done. Keep trying more – thanks!

    Like

  11. Lori says:

    I wonder if you read all of these comments. My family had our names removed last month. My daughter put up a blog to help herself process everything. My heart goes out to you if you do read all of these comments. The comments my daughter got were so upsetting. The ignorance of Mormons as members leave causes some intense discussion. Common statements of sadness and constant comments stating that everything one feels and believes is just not true ……. according to members. Constantly having to take the “high road” so as to not cause friction. It is exhausting.

    I have heard so many stories since I have left of the pain and hurt of members leaving. So often it all goes without notice to active members. The “face” that is shown to the members and than the “face” that is shown to those that have left in private just doesn’t match up.

    Often times the “love bomb” is raised up while the real words they have for those that have left are felt as an undercurrent that goes on being denied. It’s felt ….. just like gossip …… but they think they can mask it.

    Thank you so much for posting. Thank you. People need this.

    Like

  12. Hi Lori,

    Yes, I do read all these comments. Well, this one time I posted about Gordon B. Hinckley dying, and I got SLAMMED with hundreds of hatemail comments because I never much cared for him, so I just scanned a lot of those, but for the most part, I pay attention to every comment. Except the penis enlargement scam comment. I get too many of those.

    Good luck on your journey. The high road IS exhausting. But it will pay off, I promise.

    Like

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