Out of Mormonism

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The term “Out of Mormonism” is a term often used by former Mormons, usually called ex-Mormons, to describe the transition from being an active Mormon to something else. However, beyond this, there is a very heterogeneous community of ex-Mormons ranging from secular humanists who have rejected a religious belief as superstitious and anti-rationalist, to evangelical Christians who have refuted Mormon claims about Christian belief and have turned to a Bible-only Christianity.

Not all ex-Mormons turn against the Mormon Church. Some leave quietly and move to other religions or secular traditions. Some, however, troubled by the immense loss that such a momentous cultural and ideological shift can bring, feel that they have been duped or lied to and so devote much of their efforts to attacking Mormonism.

The phrase “Out of Mormonism” is most often associated with Ed Decker’s antimormon Ex-Mormons for Jesus or Saints Alive movement and productions, which are on the fringe of the antimormon and counter-Mormon society. Many other ex-Mormon and antimormon writers reject Decker’s exaggerations and sensationalist tactics. The Anti-Defamation League has actually issued a statement against Decker’s works, something that rarely happens with literature directed against Mormonism.

“Out of Mormonism” also refers to a book published by Bethany House, a Christian publishing firm. The book was written by Judy Robertson whose family converted to the Mormon Church in Arizona and later grew disillusioned with the faith and left. The book has been criticized by Mormons and even by some non-Mormons for its overly simplistic and ultimately unreal characterization of Mormons as all hypocritical and disingenuous. The tone of the book is further criticized as whining and attempting to shift all blame for her troubles to the Mormons with whom she associated.

Unlike many Christian churches, Mormonism teaches a strong sense of community within the Church, both on the local and church-wide levels. Whereas in most protestant denominations, members select for themselves which church in their area they will attend, in Mormonism, the community is envisioned as the entire, world-wide body of the Church, and Mormons attend the congregation within whose boundaries they reside. Because of the importance that Mormonism places on this sense of community, loyalty, and unity, as well as the importance of family relationships, many who leave the Mormon Church find the transition very difficult, since they are breaking not only intellectual and religious ties, but also social ones and sometimes familial ties, though the Mormon Church encourages families to stay close regardless of whether all family members are Mormons.

This has led to charges that Mormonism is a cult or that it is brainwashing children and converts. However, any cultural transition is difficult. Converts to the Mormon Church face the same difficulty, since Mormonism forms a distinct subculture with different terminology, traditions, world-views, and so forth. Any person attempting to shift from Protestantism to Catholicism, or from rural to urban settings, would find many of the same cognitive and cultural difficulties. Furthermore, all cultures and traditions teach their beliefs to their children, and hence Mormons do not brainwash their children, but rather seek to instill those beliefs and traditions held sacred by the community. Also, the idea that a Church with thirteen million members in nearly 160 different countries, and members in prominent positions in governments, universities, businesses, and so forth could be compared to a cult is ridiculous.

With the growth of the internet, the ex-Mormon community has grown through online communities and blogs. These sites range from humanist to fundamental religious communities similar to the spectrum found within the larger ex-Mormon community. Some Mormons, unwilling to break family or cultural ties, remain nominally Mormon, but participate in the online communities of ex-Mormons. The tone of discussion in these forums is often vindictive and bitter as the participants relate instances of perceived hypocrisy or insult. Many bloggers stoop to ad hominem arguments and emotive language that characterize Mormons as irrational, weird, or even dangerous. This is not unlike the orientalizing used against Muslims, which portrays them as the prototypical “other” to perceived Western normality by overemphasizing or distorting differences, portraying them as exotic, overly-sexualized, or effeminate. In this area, ex-Mormons often overlap with Antimormons.