Thursday, April 26, 2007

ex-Mormon vs. post-Mormon vs. DAMU

What's in a name? ;)

Back when I wrote my handy guide to different types of Mormons I claimed that ex-Mormon and post-Mormon are just two words for the same thing. Since then, many people have told me that there's a real difference between the two, namely that an ex-Mormon is someone who is angry and/or recovering whereas a post-Mormon is someone who has moved on.

That makes a lot of sense as a distinction, and I suppose that's the idea of this one new forum I found the other day: I guess if that's it, I'd qualify more as post-Mormon than ex-Mormon myself. My novel qualifies more as ex-Mormon since the focus is on being Mormon and experiences shortly after leaving the church. (Yay, I don't have to change the title!) Maybe the sequel should be called post-Mormon...

However, it's important to keep in mind that a lot of people's choice of labels depends more on which they encountered online first, so people who started out on RfM are more likely to adopt the label "exmo" whereas those who came in through the foyer are more likely to go with DAMU (DisAffected Mormon Underground).

It is becoming increasingly clear that Recovery from Mormonism (the main bulletin board of has a bad reputation -- not only with believing Mormons but within the post-Mormon community -- as being full of angry rants, and I think that may be why a number of former Mormons take offense at being called exmos.

It's unfortunate if this is causing a division of the variety "I don't believe in the church anymore, but I'm not one of them." I'm not terribly interested in posting (or even reading) a bunch of angry rants myself, but I think most of us have gone through some anger over this, and can understand what people go through when it sinks in how very much they and their families have sacrificed for something that ultimately they've found to be false. So I hesitate to say "Hey, just buck up and stop complaining" or even "Whew! I'm glad I'm not like that!" since who knows if any given "angry apostate" will still be "like that" a year or two from now.

So I guess I'm saying that while I'm interested in building bridges of common interest with the faithful Mormons, I don't want to do it by trying to draw a line around the "good guys" that includes me and leaves people who aren't all that far from me out in the cold...

Cross-posted here.


Rebecca said...

I had an "interesting" email discussion with a friend that was pretty close to this topic. She's a believer, but went through a real crisis of faith last year. She basically said that a lot of my exmo blog friends were really angry and needed to just get over it, and kind of (in a way) congratulated me on NOT being that way. Trying to explain to her WHY they were angry was like trying to eat my way through the core of the Earth. Not good, and pretty much futile. I guess I feel like: 1) "You don't know because you haven't been there" does, in fact, have some validity (who knew that one person doesn't know everything? Huh!), and 2) People react differently to the same things. Chill, and let them feel how they feel.

So much of the time we have trouble letting people change. People can be angry, sad, whatever - and not feel that way later. It's kind of like actors - if someone is a BAD actor we never want to let them get good. They have to fight tooth and nail from "The Next Karate Kid" to "Boys Don't Cry."

Is this making sense? I just mean that we can't make people change, but we're idiots if we think they never will.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Rebecca!!!

Yes, you're making a lot of sense -- that's how I feel too.

Catherine said...

I hear ya. I think there's a real need for an anger outlet when someone first leaves the church. I never participated in RfM beyond reading a few archived threads, but I can completely understand the purpose of the board 100%. It's sad that people going through that phase are viewed as the sole representatives of the no-longer-a-mormon-believer crowd, but watcha gonna do?

I used to wonder if a board like that could cause someone to dwell on mo issues for longer than is healthy, but in the end it's not really my place to determine when enough is enough for someone else. Plus, it took me over a year to wean from the foyer and I'm still here reading postmo blogs.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Catherine!!!

It's possible that the Internet encourages people to dwell on Mormon issues. My trajectory was kind of opposite of a lot of Internet apostates in that I was completely over it and had had moved on, and for around ten years I hardly gave a second thought to having been Mormon. Then blogging and forums pulled me back into the community and got me interested in the subject of Mormonism again.

One funny thing about it is that I feel like my participation in the exmo Internet community has actually increased my positive feelings towards Mormonism. I already wasn't bitter, and I've had such fun connecting with people and swapping stories about the old days when I was Mormon, it makes it hard for me to hate it... ;^)

Anonymous said...

Before I joined the LDS church I didn't go around calling myself exCatholic or postCatholic. I wasn't a Catholic anymore. Period.

I have now resigned from the church and therefore I am no longer a Mormon. Period.

I am part of the billions of others that are "non-mormon"

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Yolanda!!!

There are a whole lot of people who've been Mormon and -- like you -- prefer to move on completely. So you're in good company. :D

Bull said...

Unfortunately, I think RfM has really deteriorated. It was very helpful for me when I was on the way out, but it seems very hostile now.

For example, the other day someone claimed that there was no way someway in Lehi's time could have crossed the Pacific. I merely pointed out that we don't know if he was supposed to have crossed the Pacific or Atlantic and that Thor Heyerdahl had shown that it was at least feasible to do so using technology available in that day and time. I explicitly stated that I didn't believe the BoM, but was just pointing out that it was possible, even though unlikely.

Man, the response was profanity and accusatory and a real slap in the face followed by a lot of dumping on Thor's work. I was accused of being an apologist and a Mormon troll, etc. Lost in all of that was the fact that Thor did what he claimed he did which basically answered the primary intent of the original question.

Maybe that is what some people need. But it is sad to see people get polemical and irrational in the opposite direction.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Bull!!!

I was wondering if that board hadn't perhaps taken a turn for the worse or if it was just my imagination. Years ago (when I was reading/posting there regularly), I disagreed with people who viewed RfM as a bunch of angry rants, but now I'm less sure. It may be that I've moved on (not that I was ever much into the angry rants in the first place), but it may also be that the proliferation of post-Mormon interest sites has caused each one to gravitate towards a niche.

Regarding Thor Heyerdahl, that's weird that they would attack you for claiming his work demonstrates that Lehi's journey is not a priori impossible. (I wrote about how his work affected my exit here). But to put things in perspective, I'd like to quote a passage I just happened to be re-reading the other day from an excellent book on using different types of evidence to trace human migrations: Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza's Genes, Peoples, and Languages:

"As I said earlier, other innovations over the last 100,000 years, such as improvements in toolmaking techniques, have been dominant factors in the most recent human expansion out of Africa. But advancements in navigation were possibly even more important. We do not have the remains of any boats or rafts more than 8000 years old, since wood cannot survive that long, but we know that no fewer than seventy kilometers of water separated Australia from Southeast Asia, in four or five places. If modern humans could reach Australia, which was certainly occupied more than 40,000, and probably between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago, it seems likely that navigation techniques were available earlier."

Bull said...

Interesting. My point over on RfM was precisely that. There is good evidence that transoceanic navigation was possible and has occurred. That's not an apologetic for Mormonism, just what the evidence shows. I don't think it helps ex-mormons' credibility when they seem to be dogmatically opposed to any evidence that could be used in a pro-mormon argument.

My parents made sure that we were aware of things like Thor H. and other "evidences" of the Book of Mormon. I also liked your account of what you used to think about Bering migrations. If only they believed in the BoM then they'd realize that they had it all wrong. My father used to regular criticize the anthropologists and archaeologists who were too proud to accept the Book of Mormon and as a result couldn't read the evidence correctly.

One positive thing about being Mormon is that it created a curiosity in ancient american civilizations. I never did find anything that corroborated the BoM. In fact, nothing seemed to line up at all and the more that they learn the more unlikely the BoM becomes.

But, it is fascinating to realize the level of civilization and technology that those stone age civilations achieved. In some areas they seem to have surpassed what we are capable of today. It's also fascinating to realize how radically the discovery of America influenced just about everything in western civilization.

Anonymous said...

I agree with C. L. Hanson and yolanda.

To me, seaking out a community *based* on being exmo or postmo or DaMu is sort of weird. If you're not into it, fine. But banding together with other ex, post, disaffected, or otherwise Mormons strikes me as unproductive. What does everyone talk about? Why you left? What's wrong with the Church? Over and over? It seems like a security blanket. Move on, already. Or don't. But the constant navel gazing about being ex, post, or disaffected seems silly at best and self-righteous at worst.

It's not AA, for christ sake.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Anonymous!!!

I wouldn't say that seeking out an exmo or damu based community is weird. It's true there are cases where it ends up encouraging people to dwell on negative aspects longer than is productive, but in my experience with lots of Internet exmo groups, that's not the typical situation. It's not all griping or even support (although the support is obviously helpful for those people who are going through related problems and can swap solutions).

But there's another facet of it, which is that the culture and worldview you're raised in affects your outlook for your entire life. It's natural for exmormons to be interested in socializing with each other -- in an entirely positive manner ;^) -- because they have a whole lot in common. It's natural to want to swap notes and stories.

It's a little like my situation moving to France. Even if I decide to become a French citizen (which I might, but I haven't decided yet), I would still be very American in outlook and culture, etc., and that will never go away. Almost everyone I talk to in real life is French, but on the Internet I socialize mostly with Americans. I don't want to just move on and forget about my youth. And naturally I'm interested in comparing notes with other expats... ;^)

Anonymous said...

To those who find RfM to be full of "angry rants" and don't understand why we don't just move on, I'd like to point out that some of us had very traumatic experiences with or related to Mormonism that will probably affect us for our entire lives, including things that occurred when we were young and vulnerable. That's not a matter of choice- it's just the way our experiences affected us. We're trying to make the best of that.

Many of us are also trying to make the best of a "mixed marriage" or family situation that has been under tension due to our deconversion. That brings its own set of frustrations.

RfM serves as an outlet where I can share my frustrations with a supportive and understanding group. I've posted a few angry rants and will continue to do so as I feel the need.

Some people have had less traumatic departures and don't feel the need for such extensive processing. Everyone is different, and I try hard to respect that.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Anonymous!!!

Exactly, and that's a point I've made elsewhere if I didn't express it here: whatever my personal experience with Mormonism, there are plenty of people whose anger is completely justified.

That said, please feel welcome to graduate to Main Street Plaza. We're kind of post the angry rant stage, and on to casual conversation. Also, our community includes people in mixed-faith marriages, so supporting such families is one of our favorite topics.

Anonymous said...

I think RfM is a great place for those that use it. However, I do think that like every other internet discussion board, there will always be those that don't contribute much to the discussion and chose to instead argue and curse out those that don't agree with them.

RfM is the reason I left; finding the evidences posted there by many people and realizing I wasn't alone was very helpful. It's been an important part of my recovery phase. That being said, it won't work for everyone. There is no blanket way to respond nor a blanket way to recover. Different things will be beneficial for different people.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Anonymous!!!

Very true, and I'm glad RfM helped you out.

Actually, regarding people who argue and don't make a positive contribution, I don't think that's just an RfM thing. I think forums tend to have more fighting in general than blogs because people who don't like each other end up constantly in each other's faces. I talked about this a bit in my friend, the Internet.

C. L. Hanson said...

p.s. to all: For an excellent alternate view of what it means to be "post-Mormon", please see this post: Mormon Alumni Association.