Purposeful Strangers: A Study of the Ex-Mormon Narrative

Seth R. Payne

Yale University; New York University - Stern School of Business

October 15, 2007

The modern LDS Church is simultaneously lauded as an all-American, pro-democratic beacon of religious conservatism and as a generous source of positive social capital; suspected of being merely a large corporate shell interested only in the growth not only of its membership roles but also its balance sheet; and held in contempt, largely by Evangelicals and other conservative Christians, who find both the doctrines and practices of Mormonism cultish at best and nefarious at worst. Nowhere is Mormonism’s schizophrenic social position more evident than in the narratives of those who where once Mormon but have since left the LDS Church (either officially or substantively).

This paper will examine the ex-Mormon narrative as narrative and will attempt to glean from this very specific literary form, insights into the culture of ex-Mormonism. This paper is not an attempt to explain the specific reasons why individuals leave (or have left) the LDS Church. As will be discussed below, after-the-fact narratives are inherently unreliable in establishing the authenticity of actual occurrence. Rather, this paper seeks to explore the complex culture and mood of said narratives and identify areas and issues in need of further research and study.

This paper will rely heavily on sociological literature dealing with the nature of religious apostasy. Accordingly, I will begin by presenting relevant sociological theory and will attempt to place Mormonism, and particularly the modern LDS Church, within this larger conceptual framework. In a sense, this paper has two purposes; first, to properly identify modern Mormonism’s societal positioning and second, to explore how this unique positioning leads to the creation of exit narratives with all their implications.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 38

Keywords: mormonism, apostasy, exit narratives, ex-Mormon

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Date posted: November 15, 2011 ; Last revised: May 19, 2012

Suggested Citation

Payne, Seth R., Purposeful Strangers: A Study of the Ex-Mormon Narrative (October 15, 2007). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1959555 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1959555

Contact Information

Seth R. Payne (Contact Author)
Yale University ( email )
New Haven, CT 06520
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.sethpayne.com
New York University - Stern School of Business ( email )
Bobst Library, E-resource Acquisitions
20 Cooper Square 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10003-711
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.sethpayne.com
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