In this series of posts, I’ve been reflecting on some of the reasons why people find it difficult to make the transition from Mormonism into a new church community. One set of obstacles has to do with shedding one religious and cultural identity and replacing it with another. The second type of obstacle involves various negative personal experiences in the transition process. (Be sure to read both series of posts to understand this issue.)
Unfortunately, transitioning Latter-day Saints often find that a given local church they attend creates a negative environment toward Mormonism. This is expressed in three ways.
First, church members may assert things about Mormonism that are patently false. I hear all kinds of misinformation floating about, such as rumors about the LDS church owning a cola company or a liquor distillery. This makes a church lose credibility to former Mormons when its members don’t have their facts straight.
Second, church members may exhibit a derogatory attitude toward Mormonism. Transitioning Latter-day Saints are often still sensitive for some time. Mormonism is their cultural identity, even if they don’t believe its tenets any longer. They are often looking for a church home that is a safe place for their family members and friends to attend. When church members mock LDS beliefs or joke about LDS practices, this creates a very difficult barrier. As one respondent put it, “If this is how they think about Mormons, what will they think of me when they discover I was one?”
Third, church members may understand LDS doctrine, but can’t relate to LDS culture or experience. One person told me:
“The church I went to that I never joined had an ‘investigator’s class’ that lasted six weeks. I subconsciously equated that class with the six missionary lessons, and refused to attend! Since attendance in that class was required for membership, I never joined that church. If someone in that congregation had taken the time to explain that class to me, I would have rushed to attend, but because all I knew was that I had to attend six classes in order to join the church, I wouldn’t go.”