Perpetual Deconversion Aid

Deconversion Moving On

Maybe it’s all those talks about 72-hour kits at church , but I’ve been thinking about helping others to be better prepared for the storms that arise as they leave Mormonism. For most, leaving the church doesn’t involve clear sailing. There are lots of turbulent waters to be navigated before life can continue on. My heart goes out to those who still have that ahead of them. What can we do to make it easier?

I am hoping that we can put resources together in one place that will ease the pain of transition, blazing a trail through the wilderness between there and here (if you’ll allow me to switch metaphors). All of us must walk that trail for ourselves, but perhaps we can give those who come after us a little guidance and a few resources to help them arrive safely in the promised land. Has this been done already?

Being an overly bookish person, I immediately think about the books that set me on my course to freedom and helped me to reorient myself in my new world. I think about Rough Stone Rolling, Mormonism in Transition, and David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism which helped to gain a more realistic understanding of the church that I grew up in.

I have been recently introduced to The Way of Transition which gave me a framework to understand the difficulties I faced in letting go of my identity as a Mormon. I wish that I would have read Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most before I had to come out to my parents as an apostate. Parenting Beyond Belief gave me a vision of what raising freethinking children could be and gave me hope that being married to a Mormon could work out.

I could go on, but I won’t for now. Are there books or other reading materials that have significantly helped you?

It was also helpful to find a community that shared my experiences. Outer Blogness helped my journey seem less lonely. Reading other deconversion stories gave me a sense of belonging and prepared me for knowing what lay ahead. There are other communities out there that I’m less familiar with, but may be what someone else needs. What are they?

If you a friend needed your help through the process of deconversion, what would you say or do given your experience?

16 thoughts on “Perpetual Deconversion Aid

  1. (off-the-hip reaction:)
    I think church leaders have lost most of their care-compassion for individuals that earlier leaders may have had, especially for the disaffected. The black-and-white bunker mentality has taken over, and is manifest in such things as requiring employees to have TRs. I think this was culminated in the administration of GBH; no one seems to know if TSM (or any following leader)will have the foresight-fortitude to disavow or even turn away from the trends that GBH started or continued.
    The gap between pure Christianity & Mormonism is so wide I don’t see how it could ever be bridged. A change could begin with members being taught & realizing that obedience is a subset of Love, not the other way around.

  2. O sorry…You’re talking an independent effort to help ppl OUT of MoMism, aren’t you?
    Tough to do that without being labeled as ‘anti’; I doubt if MoCulture would allow or sanction any TBM involvement.
    Something like a ‘Red Cross’ for the disaffected? interesting.
    just my .02

  3. I can think of lots of good books and recommendations, but just for people in general. Those who leave mormonism, those who stay in mormonism – people who aren’t mormon who want to know more about the religion/experience.

    I’m a firm believer in everyone having information and coming to their own conclusions about it – whatever those conclusions might be.

    I think at some point in their lives, almost everyone could use some form of talk therapy. I have a post about it here. whether it’s a loss of a parent, child, close family member, a divorce – or the move from one religion/spiritual belief to another – I think it can be useful. I believe navigating through this world is difficult enough. Sometimes it helps to have a supportive person in your corner, who challenges you to think about yourself and your expectations in new ways.

    I had heard the belief in the past that LDS were not encouraged to go to therapy – and many active LDS actually mistrust professional (non LDS Social Services) therapists. I find this disheartening.

    Most psychotherapists who are any good will accept a person’s beliefs and not challenge them. The conversation may lead it’s way there, but there are many boundaries a good therapist will accept (IMO). with the high rate of depression in Utah (debated, but mentioned in other posts) and in other places, I think talk therapy can help with depression (some agree depression is internalized anger – anger at oneself. Many people, LDS and non LDS have anger and depression issues that if dealt with, can make them happier, better adjusted people).

    And trust me, this is not a soap box I get on just with LDS and former LDS members – I’ve mentioned my own experiences and those of loved ones to many people. I mention my positive experiences as just that, my own positive experience to be taken however one chooses to.

    So – with that said, there are some other books that I think might be interesting for anyone.

    “From Housewife to Heretic” by Sonja Johnson
    -I remember hearing Sonja Johnson mentioned under active LDS’ breath – sharply criticized. This book helped me understand her experience and just how difficult it was for her to be excommunicated for (in her mind) just trying to do the right thing. I believe that some things have changed since the 70s in LDS leadership and culture, but some things have not.

    “No Man Knows My History” by Fawn Brodie
    -As with the Sonja Johnson book, I was fascinated to read this biography. What was even more stunning to me was that Mrs. Brodie was excommunicated for it and this book was branded “anti-mormon”. The only remotely (IMO) anti-mormon thing about the book was the suggestion that Joseph Smith had other wives.

    “The Godmakers” by Ed Decker
    -Unlike the other two books, I haven’t read this one all the way through. I think it’s an important read because it presents a different point of view. Whether or not all the facts are present and accurate is another story. I think it’s another perspective and therefore valid. Again – what a person takes away from the book is up to them. I think it is important to compare some of what Mr. Decker writes to one’s own experience and research within mormonism.

    btw – I think that we can benefit for reading books that are unpopular. For example, reading “The Communist Manifesto” was seen as unpatriotic back in the day – but again, important to understanding political events, social movements and philosphy.

    Reading something and agreeing with it’s premise and facts are two very different things.

    -My dad would want me to insert some books published by Desert Industries/SLC here – again for perspective. I will say, most any active (or former) mormon should be familiar with the contents of these types of books. Think one of the books written by Gordon B. Hinckley, or “Truth Restored”.

    I may think of others here and post additional comments – this is getting long.

    Again – what’s important is that I think that anyone might benefit for reading these books and coming to their own conclusions.

  4. The idea is still just formulating in my head, so perhaps I haven’t communicated it well (even to myself). I envision identifying the various stages and situations that are commonly experienced at various points along the way when leaving the church. Then I see identifying resources that would help people at those stages or in those situations.

    Do you think this would be helpful?

  5. sort of like AA / NA, etc.?
    I could see that for Morland that professional therapists would benefit from identifying the commonalities (and hopefully share productive treatments)of MoWithdrawl… Do those thoughts ‘help’?

  6. The NOM board is probably the best resource for people who have been blind-sighted by the sudden discovery that Mormonism is not all it claims to be.

    We need to be careful with advice. How can we know that our advice is sound?

    I am not an expert in Mormonism, much less in leaving one’s faith behind. The only resource that is at my disposal are your stories and my experience.

    I am sure that does not apply to all cases. The worst thing that could happen is that someone acts uncritically on unqualified advice.

    The best outcome is that people exercise their own judgement. Experiences of others can provide perspective.

  7. I think Hellmut’s point is valid, but what about this:

    Would anyone be interested in a book of peoples’ stories of exiting the religion? The stories would be narratives of why people left (minimal emphasis), how they left, what it was like, and where they are now. Advice dropping would be kept out or to a minimum. Also, the tone would not be to get people to leave but simply to illustrate what it’s like to leave.

    I think a book like this would serve the exact purpose Jonathan described. It wouldn’t necessarily be an advice book, but it would help people realize there are others out there and hopefully help them think carefully about what they are planning. I think the key would be to get as many varied experiences as possible.

    Anyone interested?

  8. We had a thread here that featured exit stories.

    I like the Idea of featuring those instead of advice. No one can really know what the “best” direction is.

  9. Absolutely!!!

    I know of a lot of people who’ve written fascinating exit stories on their blogs who might be persuaded to contribute. Also, Post Mormon has a collection of exit stories — that might be another source since it’s probably possible to ask people via P.M. if they’d like their story included.

  10. It’s cultural and psychological Totalinarism in it’s finest hour.
    The more population concentration, , the more Totalitarian.

    The thinking has been done.
    Your apostate questions are not welcome.

    Now go sit down in your zip-it pews and be happily marginalized.
    (‘Invalidated’ is a good one, too)
    Will everyone shun this person please?

    “You idolize the Truth. The Truth is damaging.” – B. Packer
    He is a follower of Mormon leader Brigham Young.

  11. Sorry for not responding earlier.

    I completely agree with you, Hellmut, that advice is, erm—inadvisable. That’s not really what I had in mind. Instead I was pondering on how we could help others benefit from our experiences. Right now, that experience is rather diffuse, spread out as it is across the internet.

    So I think a book (or other similar collection) is an excellent idea. I think it might be helpful to categorize the stories. For example, I think it would be helpful to a reader to have stories focused on “Discovering the Truth”, “Dark Night of the Soul”, “Finding a Reason to Hope Again”, “Telling Family and Friends”, etc.

    Books like those that have already been suggested could be cited in end of chapter bibliographies for those who are interested in more.

  12. Intriguing…

    I think that’s a good approach, Jonathan. A question for you, though: If someone told just the “discovering (their) truth” section of their exit narrative, wouldn’t that leave readers wondering what happened next? Would you continue the narratives later?

    My thinking on this was a little different – have people tell their entire exit narrative, from when they realized Mormonism wasn’t for them until they left and “adjusted” (to their current position) but arrange it based on the individual and their situation (e.g., mother with kids; grandparents; young single person, etc.). This way you get the entire narrative (sans advice) that highlights the entire process for different people.

    What do others think? Do you think one approach would be better than the other? Any other thoughts for a book structure?

    I’m toying with this idea and think it is worth pursuing, but I’d like to get a clear idea of what it might/could/should look like.

  13. If someone told just the “discovering (their) truth” section of their exit narrative, wouldn’t that leave readers wondering what happened next? Would you continue the narratives later?

    That was the picture in my mind: each complete narrative could be split up into appropriate sections. I think that could create some nice narrative tension since you don’t get to hear the ends of the stories until the end of the book. Delayed gratification. 🙂

  14. I believe one of the most important things anybody can have in this kind of situation is to have at least one person with whom they can speak or communicate freely.

    As someone who is caught in the middle of this whole process (i think i am) and is new to the blogging community I am just excited that there are others who have experienced these things.

    What is the hardest for me having grown up in a Mormon community is that I have some non-Mormon friends but they don’t understand what the heck I am talking about when I start telling them things about the church. Then I have my mormon friends who either ignore what I am saying or begin to wonder if I have been seduced by the “dark side.”

    I guess what I am saying is that it is hard to find ppl who are publicly exmo; however the internet has helped a lot in creating some identity. I am not sure if what I said is even relevent but those were my initial thoughts.

  15. MormonZero, you are exactly right – it is hard. Non-Mormons don’t understand that leaving Mormonism is about the equivalent of telling your straight parents you are gay. It’s very hard. And Mormons, of course, just see you as a deceived sinner. It’s a lose, lose. I, personally (and professionally), think the internet is one major cause for the recent spike in people leaving Mormonism. There are now people who can talk about it and show support and understanding. It makes a huge difference.

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