The BBC’s recent documentary on Mormonism highlighted the powerful feelings of ostracism that are frequently felt by those who leave the Church. These feelings are not unique to those who leave a religion but are often felt by those who join a tradition as well. In fact, large identity transitions of any kind can have similar consequences. Yet, with that caveat, I want to offer some reflections on this phenomenon as it applies to leaving Mormonism and why I believe exclusion is felt at times by those who leave and by those who stay. In particular I would like think about how and why this occurs within families.
Based solely on anecdotal data I assume that this is not an uncommon experience. Yet, my experience also suggests that members of the Church are actively encouraged to love and care for those who are left the faith. This is especially true of those within the family.
Why then do families which had previously been close, or at least not antagonistic, slip all too easily into practices that feel exclusionary? Because these families have once experienced rewarding emotional ties I believe that this is rarely intentional. In most cases this gradual alienation is quite unconscious although surely there are times when those who remain and those who leave are both guilty of unkindness toward the other. These shifts highlight both the fragility of our relationships and also the way in which we rely on a shared language to communicate in the context of this fragility. [Read more...]