Thoughts on the Constantly Splintering ExMormon Movement

I’ve been watching what I’d call an “exmormon movement” happening on the Internet for the last few years, and just wanted to jot down my thoughts and opinions as to what is going on and why it’s happening.

In my opinion the transition from Mormon to Exmormon is one of moving rapidly from one absolute position to a position opposite to the position held when Mormon.  Here are a few examples: group think to passionate individuality, theist to atheist, teetotaler to alcohol consumer etc. What I want to focus on the most though is the issue of moving from group thinking toward individual thinking.  It appears to me that exmormons are passionate about defending their individual space and rights and newly found code of ethics because of offenses to their individuality suffered as Mormons [such as having to wear white shirts to LDS services or temple garments].   What I want to focus on is the issue of individuality and how it effects exmormons as they leave the LDS Church.

A swing can be noticed from group think to passionate individualism.  Mormonism [I think most would agree] is a culture which strives for conformity [see temple garments if you think otherwise].  What I’ve noticed about exmormons is that they are passionate about expressing their individuality.  This phenomenon [particularly on the Internet] can best be seen by the splintering exmormon movement.  For every exmormon you can just about find a unique set of beliefs and each will define themselves differently.  Exmormon, Antimormon, New Order Mormon, Cafeteria Mormon, Post Mormon, etc etc etc.   Groups of people who have something in common, leaving the Mormon church, but who upon leaving find themselves disagreeing with exmormons about how to proceed after leaving the Church.  Exmormons find themselves out and about, untethered to any moral system and thus go about finding something new or creating a new life view.

Mormon culture is best marked by conformity and following the status quo, and in my opinion exmormons first and foremost want to break out of following Mormon cultural mores and rules.  For example look at how many exmormons [on large boards such as Recovery from Mormonism] revel in alcohol consumption [to the point of weekly threads celebrating the fact.] I think this behavior is as much about offending things they formerly held sacred [perhaps in an attempt to break out of the group think they had previously participated in] as much as it is about knocking back a few cold ones.

Beyond that look at exmormon activity on the Internet.  It is all about staking out individual space and protecting turf.  Take a look at message boards alone.  Boards for debate, boards for recovery from Mormonism, boards for post mormons, boards for new order mormons who want to  find some new way within the Church.  And the exmormons who appear on these boards argue with each other over how to define the newly ex-church members, how to treat the church, etc etc etc.  Members who are passionately anti everything Mormon.  People who want to build bridges.  People who want to convert Mormons.  People who want to rant about Mormons.  People who want to talk about everything except Mormonism, but with people who are exmormons.  On and on and on and on.  Once again splintering off from each other as they split themselves away from the Mormon Church.  Not everyone is unique, and people will find people like themselves  who hold roughly the same believes and feelings toward the Mormon church.

Just a thought~

Edit from feedback: I think exmormons want to protect and stake out their individuality doubly because mormons refuse to recognize their individuality.  Mormons are more likely to lump exmormons together simply as people who want to attack the church [or people who left the Church in order to sin].  They don’t want to recognize that exmormons are not a homogenous group who think and feel the same but are individuals who leave the church for different reasons and define themselves differently from other exmormons.  Thus exmormons are doubly moved to stake out their little patch of individuality due to the stigma they feel as exmormons from mormons


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5 Responses to Thoughts on the Constantly Splintering ExMormon Movement

  1. I think this is a pretty fair summary, Zack. In my experience over the years with LDS-related Mormonism/ex-Mormonism, differences of opinion within both communities are wide, though Mormons seem to have much more cohesion. Outspoken exmos, like Samuel the Utahite, can be as unmerciful to other exmos like Steve Benson, as they are to Mormons, and this is only one example. I don’t think the divisions among Mormons are this wide, but it follows your point about the fierce individuality of Exmos. They have no “creed” or doctrinal boundaries, and they vary in their approaches to Mormonism. I don’t feel “at home” in either community, though I often comment in and about both.

    You’re right too about the new found freedoms. “What are we drinking tonight?” threads make little sense to non-Mormons. I post on an Australian political forum as well, and a thread like this would seem totally weird! Something like asking, “what are we eating tonight?” Duh, meat pies?

    It is nevertheless an interesting phenomenon. Some “scruples” factors still remain. Believe it or not, I still feel self-conscious about buying alcohol in front of my Mormon friends, and I’ll frankly admit that if I saw one outside a bottle shop, I’ll avoid going in so as not to offend them. I only drank beer in front of the missionaries once, and felt very awkward. When I returned in one of my “activity bouts” a lady member who held me in the highest regard was totally shocked to discover that I drank. Even when you leave, there’s an enormous stigma attached to this. That could in part explain the “what are we drinking tonight?” threads. They don’t feel comfortable discussing this with their LDS friends and relatives, so they relish the opportunity to do so with other exmos. Hell knows what some of them (members) would think to learn that I sometimes downed a six-pack on Saturday night before teaching Gospel Doctrine on Sunday (during my last return, towards the end of that return). What was interesting is that many still commented about how “spiritual and uplifting” the lessons were, but it wasn’t the Holy Spirit, it was Victoria Bitter. I think Joseph Smith, for one, might agree.

  2. Yeah I didn’t want to mention specific disagreements but exmormons argue with each other as much as they do with Mormons. Check out the arguments about Recovery from Mormonism [] website. People argue about it having a protected posting class, that it doesn’t allow any dissent. That it coddles Steve Benson etc.

    And look at how exmormons argue with each other [particularly over turf such as websites or webposts] An excellent example is Samuel the Utahnite vs Infymus, or Infymus vs RfM.

    Yeah the “what are we drinking threads” are an excellent example of this sort of behavior. I even mentioned this specifially in an early version of this essay.

    Frankly this splintering effect is one of the reasons I don’t think the LDS Church really stands any harm from exmormons. Until exmormons get on the same page they can’t provide a united front like LDS people can. And from what I’ve seen exmormons can’t get on the same page. Look at the exmormon foundation, people can’t even agree on that! Some want to have a postmormon foundation instead, and focus on getting past exmormonism. Others break off and form Christian ministries to convert Mormons and exmormons to Jesus [well another version of Jesus] and these Christians send quite a bit of time arguing with exmormon atheists. On and on and on.

  3. Seven

    All mainstream LDS are Cafateria Mormons (even though they don’t realize it) so NOMs/critics/exMos are not really any less of a believer than 99% of active Chapel Mormons when it comes down to it.

    It all depends on which foods you pick from the buffet table that determine where you find your place in the exMormon community or for the believers, the apologetic one. I don’t eat the meat.

    Great post! 🙂

  4. zackc

    I agree Seven. THanks for the reply.


  5. Cinepro

    I think your post explains one of the reasons people find so much comfort in the Church.

    Even to this day, I find comfort in all the decisions I don’t have to make because I already made them growing up LDS. Even though I believe fewer of the Church’s claims than I once did, I find many of those commitments I made to still provide comfort (or perhaps it appeals to my inherent laziness; I’m on Mormon autopilot).

    I wonder how many people continue to stay in the Church if only because they don’t want to have to reexamine every little or big thing about how they live their life.

    I do admit that I may become a new brand of weird to be someone who lives as a Mormon and keeps the commandments even though I doubt the origin of those commandments to begin with. I still obey the Word Of Wisdom (version 2008), but I believe the D&C 89 was a result of Joseph Smith’s cultural influences. Am I making a rational, logical choice to continue living a lifestyle which has brought me great happiness, or have I been brainwashed to find happiness in a lifestyle that is founded on superstition?

    And I totally agree with the idea that everyone is a Cafeteria Mormon. Once you get beyond the very basic beliefs in Jesus, Joseph and the BoM, there is no uniformity among members as to what they “buy” and what they ignore. There is a huge variation of belief about even seemingly simple things, and once you get outside the core issues, the sky’s the limit.

    For example, on any LDS themed message board, there is a wide variety of interpretations among active, believing members regarding something as simple and clear as the Noah’s ark story. Many of these beliefs are in direct contradiction to the Church’s officially doctrinal teaching that it was literal, catastrophic and worldwide. (Yes, I mention Noah’s ark all the time.)

    As you pointed out, some LDS disparagingly refer to some members as “cafeteria Mormons” if they are perceived to be ignoring or overemphasizing certain aspects of Mormon doctrine or practice, but the sad truth is, we’re all cafeteria Mormons. Some just have more on their tray than others.

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