Stop Hitting Me!

Seth said:

Every religion has it’s martyr stories. Mormonism does too. Part of that tradition is the story of converts to the LDS faith who made very big and difficult sacrifices to join.

As a boy, I was raised on stories of young girls joining the Church and being disinherited by embittered fathers. Of people who lost all their friends when they converted. People losing their livelihoods. Not too mention the stories of horrific persecution and hardship that followed the early Church everywhere.

Mormons, as a people, have a bit of a chip on their shoulder. I think it’s a bit more pronounced in Utah. But we keep our history of persecution very much alive today in our consciousness. This makes us very sensitive to criticism. Not quite so sensitive as, say, Jews – whose history has been quite a bit more horrid than ours. But we’re still rather touchy when we feel we are being picked-on.

And many Mormons are highly aware that there are plenty of neighborhoods in the US where a general knowledge that you are Mormon will mean your children have no one to play with.

The atrocities we’ve lived through aren’t that distant in the past. We’re still a little jumpy, and tend to overdramatize the scope of the persecutions that still remain.

I thought this comment was really interesting. I was raised on stories of courageous people who broke out of the cult of Mormonism, losing their family, their job and everything they’ve known to be true. Terrible persecution and the desire to stand up for the truth were always the theme. There was even a story of a woman who mysteriously died a couple of years after leaving and how it must have been her Mormon family enacting a blood atonement to save her soul.

I’ve also directly heard from people in Arizona how their Mormon neighbors wouldn’t let their children play with their kids once it was discovered that they were Evangelicals. A friend in Utah had to confront his daughter’s school after his daughter was mocked and tormented by Mormon kids because she wore a cross her Grandfather had given to her.

I think there are some basic and general truths in the human experience we need to acknowledge.

  • When anyone leaves one faith tradition for another they risk their relationships with family and friends
  • Sincere believers who love their faith will desperately attempt to keep loved ones from de-converting
  • Converts nearly always have something negative to say about their previous faith
  • When “our tribe” is the dominant culture, children can act cruelly to “others”, adults can act even worse
  • “Our tribe” is always persecuted when it goes outside of “our borders”.

6 thoughts on “Stop Hitting Me!

  1. Interesting that you mention those stories you heard growing up. Growing up LDS I heard almost the exact stories except it was the Mormon that was teased or whose “Christian” friends wouldn’t play with them. There must be some psychological explanation for these types of stories.

    The fact that they are so eerily similar suggests that there is probably a common motive behind them. Perhaps they are meant to vilify anyone outside of our own belief system, making it less likely that we will leave the faith or feel comfortable entertaining other beliefs that produce such adherents.

  2. I think this is one of the most important observations to make about Mormonism as a social movement. The ability and desire to keep alive a persecution mentality is a key factor in Mormonism’s historical success.

    Humans must, by nature, set boundaries within the perceived social world. Our brains would likely explode if we saw the world as it truly is, in all its incomprehensible senselessness and disorder. So we build stories around everything. One very important story is the one that defines the groups we belong to. People who have a strong feeling of identity with a group tend to be happier, lead more structured lives and are more cooperative members of society.

    Of course this all comes with a cost. Identifying strongly with a group must invariably lead to conflict with groups outside the given circle. Mormonism’s success has come through rigidly defining the boundary between good members and everyone else… but at the cost of alienating most Mormons from the broader community.

  3. I think these reasons are why it is exceptionally hard for Mormons to leave the faith. If they have generations of lineage that were Mormon, then it feels like a betrayal of heritage – which is why Jesus’ words to love him more than father or mother can mean so much.

  4. It’s hard to explain to family members that I have to do what’s right, even if it does mean leaving what I was raised with and brought up to believe.

    It is particularly frustrating since Mormon missionaries ask people of other faiths to do this all the time.

  5. “I think these reasons are why it is exceptionally hard for Mormons to leave the faith.”

    The same thing could be said of non-LDS Christians. I knew several people, as an LDS missionary, that flat out told me they wanted to be baptized but they were afraid of what their family might do (i.e. disown them). It reminded me of the very words of Christ that joel alludes to.

    I think it is hard for anyone of any religion to leave a faith that their family and past generations subscribed to. The fact is that there are millions of LDS members that have no such lineage as joel suggests. I’m one of them; my parents are converts to the Church. My grandparents on one side are Episcopalian and on the other Baptist. There are even some Catholics in my family.

    To imply that somehow LDS families alone pressure their members into staying in the Church is disingenuous. Any family with strong beliefs and equally strong love for a doubting member would do all they can to help them stay, but ultimately the choice is theirs.

  6. While watching the PBS documentary The Mormons, I got the distinct impression that the Mormon church was not gaining much traction in the early days and that if Christians who came into contact with the sect had merely “spoken the truth in love” rather than violently persecute and drive them into isolation, Mormonism would have died on the vine.

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