Out of Mormonism

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The term “Out of Mormonism” is a term often used by former Mormons (or former members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), usually called ex-Mormons, to describe the transition from being an active and believing member of the Church of Jesus Christ 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 Latter-day Saint claims about Christian belief and have turned to a Bible-only Christianity. Some have stopped attending church or removed their records from the Church because of personal reasons.

Not all ex-Mormons turn against the Church of Jesus Christ. 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 the Church of Jesus Christ and the restored gospel.

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 anti-mormon and counter-Mormon society. Many other ex-Mormon and anti-mormon 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 Church of Jesus Christ in Arizona and later grew disillusioned with the faith and left. The book has been criticized by Latter-day Saints and even by some non-Mormons for its overly simplistic and ultimately unreal characterization of Latter-day Saints 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 members of the Church of Jesus Christ with whom she associated.

Unlike many Christian churches, the Church of Jesus Christ 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 the Church of Jesus Christ, the community is envisioned as the entire, world-wide body of the Church, and Latter-day Saints attend the congregation within whose boundaries they reside. Because of the importance that the Church of Jesus Christ places on this sense of community, loyalty, and unity, as well as the importance of family relationships, many who leave the Church of Jesus Christ 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 Church encourages families to stay close regardless of whether all family members are Latter-day Saints.

This has led to charges that the Church of Jesus Christ is a cult or that it is brainwashing children and converts. However, any cultural transition is difficult. Converts to the Church of Jesus Christ face the same difficulty, since the Church 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 Latter-day Saints 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 sixteen million members in 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 Latter-day Saints, unwilling to break family or cultural ties, remain nominally members of the Church, 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 Latter-day Saints 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.