Friday, October 9, 2009

Ex-Mormon Foundation Conference Themed "No Price Too High" To Be Held In Salt Lake City October 9-11; Utah Media Blackout In Place

For entirely understandable reasons, the recent LDS General Conference received broad media coverage in Utah, and saturation coverage in the LDS-owned Deseret News and KSL Channel 5. No sensible person would complain about that; after all, the state remains two-thirds LDS, making the LDS Conference, which attracts international visitors, a uniquely newsworthy event.

Yet there's another related conference being held in Salt Lake City on October 9-11, 2009 which is receiving absolutely NO media coverage as of this post. The Ex-Mormon Foundation is holding their annual conference. Themed "No Price Too High", it begins late on Friday October 9th with a social hour and a welcoming speech, then continues through October 10th and 11th with a series of speeches by other notables in the ex-Mormon world. In reviewing the agenda and the bios of the speakers, it appears this conference is designed to promote responsible discourse and dialogue rather than to be a "bashfest".

The conference is taking place in the Embassy Suites Hotel located at 110 West 600 South in Salt Lake City. One of the speakers, Peter Danzig, has previously been discussed on this blog. Peter and his wife Mary are former LDS members who resigned from the Church after Peter allegedly was threatened repeatedly with excommunication for his views on homosexuality and the lack of protections against ecclesiastical abuse within the LDS church. Prior to their resignation from the LDS Church they both served full time proselytizing missions and were founding members of the Orchestra at Temple Square, performing in that calling for seven years.

Another speaker of note is Charles M. Larson, a former LDS member for approximately 10 years who attended BYU and married his wife in a temple. Larson will be talking about “Challenging the Anti-Mormon Label...". Many LDS automatically equivocate Ex-Mormon with Anti-Mormon, but the two labels are not necessarily synonymous. Hopefully Larson will put forth ideas on how ex-Mormons can avoid becoming anti-Mormon; both sides incur an equal obligation to keep the lines of communication open.

Perhaps what is needed is an operational definition of "anti-Mormon" that is fair and flexible. A person who legitimately criticizes the Church, its doctrines, and its practices, without resorting to inflammatory name-calling and relying disproportionately on hate sources such as Ed Decker, should not be considered anti-Mormon. But when a critic crosses the line and starts using terms like "the Morg" and "cult" and "un-Christian", it's at this point where they can be considered anti-Mormon.

Many of us who are Latter-day Saints ask "Why can't these people simply go their way and leave the Church alone?". There are three reasons why this can be difficult for ex-Mormons. First, many experience a sense of personal betrayal. They over-react when they read unsanctioned literature which questions the actions of Joseph Smith or the origins of the Book of Mormon or the Pearl of Great Price. Instead of accepting such "imperfections" as part of the mortal process, they allow them to re-define their perspective. To better understand how these people think, visit and read the posts on their forums. The moderators strive to keep the criticism within reasonable bounds.

Second, ex-Mormons who come from families who are mostly Mormon feel a sense of isolation at family gatherings. Since Mormon families tend to talk extensively about Mormon experiences, the ex-Mormon can feel left out. And sometimes well-intentioned Mormon relatives will nag the ex-Mormon about leaving the Church. This supplements isolation with anger and resentment.

Third, being an active Mormon consumes a disproportionate amount of time. Consequently, when one leaves the LDS Church, that frees up a considerable amount of time. The ex-Mormon's social life may suddenly contract catastrophically. This can mean a painful adjustment for an ex-Mormon until he or she finds a new social network.

Ex-Mormons need to better respect the right of their loved ones and friends to remain in the Church. In return, we as Latter-day Saints must respect the right of ex-Mormons to go their separate ways and find a different form of religious expression, while at the same time NOT accepting abusive behavior by anti-Mormons. Let the Spirit be our guide.

2 comments: said...

Perhaps the best strategy for former members of the Church is to just get on with life. It must be understood that it is they who rejected the Church, it's teachings, authority, and conventions. They bear a burden of their own choosing.

They are certainly welcome in a free country to adopt another religion or to fill their lives with enriching secular pursuits. For most of them, the emptiness they feel is the loss of the companionship of the Holy Ghost. There is a clearly defined path to regain that companionship, but they have turned their back on it.

As the months and years go by, they discover that this spiritual vacuum can't be filled, despite their best efforts. That emptiness turns to bitterness and anti-Mormonism when they begin to place the blame on others.

Attending anti-Mormon conferences, joining anti-Mormon web sites, or commiserating with those who are more deeply entrenched in bitterness is hardly productive or healing.

Only repentance can restore what was lost. The door is always open for them to come back. All the sweetness, joy, and light they once knew can return again.

Rebecca said...

Nice article. Thanks for not attacking exmormons. As for the comment made by "" I have this to respond: You clearly do not know many exmormons, if you know any at all. Of course I cannot speak for everyone, but as someone who knows LOTS of exmormons, I can safely say that most of us do NOT feel a spiritual void. And, for those who do, they felt it long before they ever left the LDS church.

Of course most of us have "gotten on with our lives." That is not the point of exmormon forums and social groups. For most exmormons, the church was a big part of our lives and we feel the need to share our experiences, sometimes even for years and years, just like any other recovery group. It's a common denominator that brings us together. I don't expect you to understand. You've never been in our shoes. It is extremely productive and healing for us exmormons to "commiserate" on so-called "anti-mormon" websites. Why would you say otherwise? You have NO CLUE.

If you have never been an exmormon there is no way you can begin to guess what it feels like. It is a journey that can best be described as painful (at first) but extremely liberating. Such freedom as you have never felt before in your life. It's like the fog clearing to reveal a whole new beautiful world. You have no idea what "sweetness, joy, and light" is like until you escape the clutches of the mormon chokehold. I have been both a believing mormon AND an exmormon. Until you've experienced both like I have, you have no right to judge. I get along with mormons- most of my family are still mormons and we all get along great. But they don't know freedom and happiness like I do. And neither do you! I hope you find out the truth one day like I have. Only then will you begin to understand the exmormon journey.