Friday, January 5, 2007

Every stake in zion

One of the things I've learned as I've gotten older is that not everyone experiences the same experience the same way.

For example, I had a great time in my women studies class in college. We journaled, we read lyrics from Liz Phair. Yet one of my classmates was so offended by our discussions that she logged an official complaint with the dean.

We were in the same course, same semester, same professor, yet had a completely different reaction.

I've found the same is true for mormonism and people who leave mormonism.

As a mormon, I was told that every "stake in zion" was the same. A person should be able to go to any ward throughout the world and experience the same worship. They would hear the same leadership and the same doctrines.

This was simply not true. I was raised outside the mormon corridor (Utah) - and I believe my experience was radically different than people who were raised in Utah. And my observations in the US seem to be different than others I've talked with raised mormon in other countries (like Canada).

One example of the differences would be the "evil spirit". I remember that I was not supposed to play with Ouija boards and obviously remembered that I was supposed to only engage in activities in which I would be open to the spirit.

But I never remember anyone being accused of having an evil spirit in classes. I don't recall hearing an active member describe feeling an evil spirit somewhere (Don't go there, that house has an evil spirit).

I do remember people saying that they couldn't feel the spirit in a particular place, but that is different than accusing someone of being under the influence of satan.

In the remarkably diverse exmo community, I have heard many people from the western states talk about ward members feeling evil spirits or even accusing surly teenagers of having evil spirits.

My only explanation for this is that the LDS church is actually quite different depending on where you live. The notion that every stake in zion is the same is simply false.

Another example is the bishopric. Every bishop or counselor (outside the corridor) I grew up with was wealthy and well educated. I remember two bishops who were wealthy doctors. One was a well connected businessman in a high position in a local company. There seemed to be a direct correlation between wealth and being called to the bishopric.

Yet in talking with the greater former mo community, many people had bishops who might not have college educations and/or "white collar" type jobs. While most bishoprics in power had wealth and prestige, it wasn't always a given. My stereotype or assumption about wealthy bishops was really only related to my own local observations.

More than anything, I find people are vastly different. And after having been a part of the exmo community for over 6 years now, I think that the only constant I have found is that everyone reacts differently to having been mormon and no longer being mormon.

There isn't one right way to leave mormonism. Some choose to be new order mormons. Some people find other faiths. Others become agnostic or atheist. Still others remove their name through the LDS process. Others refuse to jump through the hoops that the LDS church requires to have your name removed.

Some people participate on bulletin boards or e-mail lists. Some former mormons never join these lists and never want or need to. Others maintain websites and write books and novels about the LDS experience. Some former mormons suffered abuse or had abuse covered up by LDS leaders. Some still live in heavily mormon populated areas and deal with that religion on a daily basis.

I grew wary of being repeatedly told as an active mormon that there was one way to live, one way to be happy.

It seems to me that there is no one right way for people to respond to mormonism and leaving. Just as there were vastly different mormon wards and mormon experiences. I embrace that notion and support the diversity of the former mo community.


C.L. Hanson said...

It's so true!!!

When I first left the church, from looking at my own extended family I assumed the following: That people raised Mormon essentially always end up atheist/agnostic after leaving the church whereas those who were converts from another religion (such as mainstream Christianity) go back to it.

Since I've spent a bunch of time in the Internet exmo community, I've learned that it's much more complex than that. Not everyone has the same reaction to Mormon teachings and Mormon values; not everyone questions and leaves for the same reasons.

So while I still think that BIC exmos are more likely to end up atheist/agnostic and converts from Christianity are more likely to go back to it, I've found plenty of exceptions in terms of people's paths going in all different directions. I can't just assume that because someone left the LDS church s/he went through the same thought processes as I did...

Sideon said...

Thank you for the follow-up comment on Chanson's site.

You were much more controlled and eloquent than I was, obviously.

Be well.

Freckle Face Girl said...

I completely agree. We all have different experiences, thought processes, and bizarre concepts of reality. Diversity makes life so interesting.

Sister Mary Lisa said...

Great post. I agree. It's fascinating reading the different experiences of Mo and Exmos alike.