Hold tight. This is raw and this is real. I am going to call it like I see it: Mormons have a bullying problem. Maybe it is just a war among us and not outside of us but having been on both sides of Mormonism, I am appalled and deeply saddened by what I see.
Here’s how it goes:
- If you are a member, you are bullied by other members if you don’t fit the mold. If you don’t act right, dress right, believe right, look right, think right, worship right, talk right, parent right, gender right, associate right, say the name of the Church right, smell right, marry right, live right—anything right—you are subject to bullying. This is often manifested through various means such as gossiping, ostracizing, power-posturing, group-thinking (which can quickly turn into mob mentality), silencing, etc.
I know. I’m a survivor. I’ve walked that hell, that hurt, that deep wrong.
- If you have left Mormonism, it’s not much different, though the rules change a little. If you are still in by any degree that puts you out. You have to not only denounce the Church but also be a bit careful about any beliefs that reflect orthodox Mormonism. You have to think twice about what you say and how you say it if you are sitting on the fence in any way or still trying to honor a few traditions of your fathers. It isn’t very often that your path will be completely respected if you still hold onto Joseph Smith and even Jesus Christ. Just like Mormonism, there’s only one true and accepted way to ex-Mormon. Some are working to loosen this rigidity but it’s still very much there.
I know. I walked the line of not fitting in anywhere for many, many years. No one wanted me. My ward and many other members strongly disapproved of me because I was defiant to many beliefs, practices, and traditions; but at the time, I still held to the foundational beliefs of the Church. The ex-mos didn’t want me because I was seen as an invader to their groups (to which I only initially joined so I could conduct some church trauma surveys though my testimony was hanging by a thread.) I was told to “get out” by two groups and treated with much hostility. (I’ve also been threatened, bullied, silenced, and even removed from Mormon groups because I posed the problem of church trauma. They said that such a thing is complete nonsense! The Church is perfect!) The attacks and abuse have been real and brutal on both sides.
I also know there is a serious bullying problem because I run a Facebook group for church trauma victims—some fully believing and some not—the ones believing have a hard time speaking their truth and too often quickly find themselves silenced if they do defend the Church in any degree. There are also a few church-believing bullies in there as well. It seems right is right and there is no yielding on perceptions of what the one and only “right” is.
What is going on here, Mormons? Can we drop any defenses we might be feeling and look at ourselves for just a moment?
What I see here is that we have a black and white problem. Yes. Even many Post Mormons who fight the black-and-white have this problem. Despite what is claimed, most who leave Mormonism still struggle here. In or out. Make your choice. Hate it all or love it all. Left or right. That’s it. Everything is binary. It’s all good or all bad. Heaven or hell—even the Church teaches there’s several degrees of glory (expect for those who leave—then it gets binary again—they go straight to hell.)
This is sooo not healthy, folks! It’s so judgmental! We have to work on how we see each other! We’ve got to address these labels, these harmful expectations, these cognitive inflexibilities that separate, divide, and self-elevate! Your way is NOT the only way and it is NOT superior to another person’s chosen path.
It is critically important for us to see and remember (or realize if we have not) that good people are found on all sides of Mormonism. We must be willing to put aside our assumptions and prejudices and LISTEN to each other. People are smart! Every person is their own expert of their lives in their own right. Do we all still not hold to the belief that we should seek to love each other, to help each other, to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort? Are we all not still neighbors on this earth? Mormonism affirms the innate worth of every person and holds love and justice to be the fundamental values through which we are to be understood and treated. We need to recognize that ALL HUMAN BEINGS are WHOLE PEOPLE who have the right to experience dignity and self-worth, no matter how they choose to walk, talk, think, live, believe, and see.
Do you think it might be possible for us to develop cultural humility as a people, where we can become more cognizant of our own individual biases and positions? Cultural humility means that one is willing to grapple with the complexity of issues within the Mormon faith while seeking to develop a deeper understanding of why people may choose to do the things they do, even if their choice is different than ours. Can we do that without assuming they are missing brain cells or being “misled” or “misguided?” Can we remember that our job is simply and always to LOVE? Testimony shouldn’t trump; love should! Our job is not to hold the standard stick over each other’s heads but to put it down! Holding the standard stick, no matter what side you stand, is oppressive and an unrighteous use of power and privilege. Can we not more diligently seek to rid the –ites, Mormons?
This is raw and this is real. Mormons have a bullying problem and it needs to stop.