Aqualungs

03Apr07


For some reason the stories of those who leave the Church are interesting to me. Maybe it is because I minored in psychology and am interested in thinking, especially in religious communities. That said, I have read a few of these, and even frequented the blog of someone who was struggling to resolve his differences with the Church but ultimately left.

There are several key elements to writing a successful exit story. They all seem so formulaic that I have been able to break it down into a sequence of steps that you will find in just about all of them, and you might find useful if you want to write an exit story yourself.

Step 1: Establish credibility

It is important that you gain the sympathy of your audience from the get go and the most effective way of doing this is by presenting yourself as a believing, testimony bearing, home and visiting teaching, tithe and fast offering paying, mission served, enduring to the end Latter-day saint. Just really put yourself in the best possible light. Really play up the callings that you have held as important and if necessary be creative. If you were a Deacons quorum president you can and should say that you held a really important calling in the Church. If you have not, hey, just make it up; it worked for Ed Decker and Dick Baer (Both of them have claimed to have held callings that they never in fact held).

You don’t have to mention things like adultery, or an addiction pornography, or anything else that would cause you to lose face in the eyes of your readers. Just use the same methods you think that Church uses in writing its’ manuals of emphasizing the goodness of past members and leaders and just build yourself up. And why not? It just might improve your self-esteem

Step 2: Introduce a tough issue you never heard at Church

Once you have established your credibility as a “true blue, dyed in the wool Mormon”, say that you were minding your own business when all of a sudden you came across something that you never heard in all of the Priesthood, Sunday school, Sacrament, Relief Society, or Seminary and Institute classes. Talk about how at first you denied the existence of such a claim as merely the ploy of anti-Mormons to cause active believing members of the Church to question their faith. Take your pick of historical issues you never heard in Church, there are supposedly plenty to choose from. You might choose the “truth” about polygamy, or the so called Brigham Young, Danite, Mountain Meadows Massacre connection, or the Mike Wallace interview with President Hinkley, and a litany of others that make the Church look really bad and lead into our next step.

Step 3: Make yourself out to be the victim

Talk about how for so long you struggled with these things and instead of doing things to promote your faith, you delved further into history by D. Michael Quinn, Dan Vogel, and other “scholarly” publications by “experts” in Mormon history who bring up tough issues but do not give people in history the benefit of the doubt, or purposefully choose, considering all historical documents are equal, to take the humanistic approach where everyone is in it for themselves.

Fail to mention that for every historian on the fringe, there are plenty of believing historians such as Arrington, Bitton, Bushman, Givens, and many, many, others who are just as aware of these things and yet have maintained their testimonies and have even gone on to hold “important” callings in the Church.

Talk about how no matter where you went, no one could resolve your issues. Talk about the suffering and pain of this period and that despite your best efforts, you still could not come find rest to your soul.

Step 4: Villainize the leaders

Be sure to say that there were and are many, if not thousands of wonderful members of the Church. Be sure to emphasize that while there are many Leaders with different styles of leadership, personality, and interpretations of doctrine and counsel both past and present, that they are all stern, and be sure to say that they are close minded and not even willing to consider your discoveries. Be sure to convince your audience that leaders of the Church want to have nothing to do with “serious” academic inquiry and that they blew off your concerns.

If at all possible, make them out to be as unchristian and close-minded as possible so that even the most believing Mormon will sympathize with you.

If your leaders are in fact complex humans who are doing their best to lead an organization with no financial remuneration or formal training in such areas as business management, organizational behavior, but do what they do, if for no other reason then they were asked to.

Step 5: The realization

This point will either make or break or your story. It is important that up to this point you have convinced your audience that you have wrestled with both the Church and the “issues” for a sufficient amount of time to get an answer. You should make your realization appear to be an epiphany not unlike what a convert experiences when they have read and prayed in faith about the Book of Mormon. If you want, take the ex-Mormons for Jesus route, talking about how you discovered the real Jesus, the Biblical Jesus, as opposed to the inventions of Joseph Smith you believed before.

Now what you will have to do is categorically deny every spiritual experience that you, or anyone else has had in Mormonism as delusion. You can get technical call these sacred experiences self-fulfilling prophecies, or that people wanted to believe and find meaning in Mormonism, and therefore convinced themselves that they were experiencing something divine when in fact, they were really meeting their own emotional deficiencies.

But anyways be sure to mention that because there seemed to be no solution, that you came to the conclusion that the Church must not be true and that everything, be sure to include everything, is a lie.

Step 6: Martyrdom (Optional)

Now if you want to improve your status in the ex-Mormon community and therefore your credibility, it pays to stick around and wait until the Church excommunicates you for apostasy. Start a blog, and then find a way for your stake president to get a hold of it. This might take months, and may require you to take a more direct approach. But the key is you want them to throw you out only to make the point that the Mormon hierarchy is only interested in thought control and orthodoxy and therefore has no love for dissidents.

It is important that exclude that Armaund Mauss, Leonard Arrington, and others in the Mormon studies community have had their differences over so called difficult issues but were not cast out. If you hint at this, it will severely weaken your case.

Step 7: Move on?

After you have left the Church at this point, talk about how happy you are since extricating yourself from the nonsense you once believed. Talk about the peace you have found in associating with others who now actively seek to tear down the faith of those who don’t have a problem. Be sure to revel in your ex-Mormoness on message boards and blogs. And if you really get ambitious, attend an ExMo conference. These kinds of things will be sure sign that you have left the Church and have moved on with your life because you are still thinking about these things only from a very negative perspective.

If you follow these simple steps and include some flair in your writing style, you too can write a successful and persuasive exit story bound to earn you the compassion of other dissidents and the scorn of those, especially those, who are aware of tough issues but are smart enough to make sense of them and keep their testimonies.

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