This week I’m thinking about the obstacles people face when transitioning into a new church after choosing to make a break with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As I surveyed people making that journey, one set of obstacles had to do with the difficulty of moving from one religious and cultural identity to another.
Several respondents spoke of a loss of personal equilibrium. This transition requires a re-ordering of one’s world view. People reported that everything they believed, along with their personal sense of identity, was all turned upside down. In that situation, its natural that a person would feel vulnerable and personally disoriented. This general confusion makes it hard to develop a solid relationship with a new faith community.
One respondent said:
“I’ve been out of Mormonism for a year now and only the last few months have I truly been able to start letting go permanently of some of the stuff I got from them. I was a basket case the first few months. There is so much information I’m still learning about it.”
Related to this general disorientation, many transitioning LDS seem to go through the unsettling experience of being confused about which ideas and experiences come from Mormonism and which ones don’t. People reported to me that they would find themselves sitting in church thinking: “Did that point the pastor just made come from Mormonism? Is this hymn a Mormon hymn?” As one respondent said, “I still struggle to relearn things that were taught wrong to me in the Mormon church.”
Another related issue has to do with emotional “triggers”. People report becoming unsettled when something in their new church experience reminds them too strongly of Mormonism.
This is not to say that a person’s beliefs and experiences as a Mormon were all negative. The person making a transition is simply trying to sort out the features of his or her new faith landscape. Because many of them felt deceived by the LDS Church, it can be difficult to sort out who to trust or what to believe. The transition involves a time of testing and weighing ideas and experiences against new norms.