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