Yesterday I had my long-awaited interview with Kacey from The Cult Vault. The episode isn't slated to go live until late next month, so it's a little weird writing about it before it's actually come out, but here I go anyways. I'll try not to spoil anything. Despite the fact that the interview was over two hours long, I still find myself looking back on it thinking about the things I didn't say. If only there were a forum where I could express my thoughts on the subject... I was due for a blog post anyways.
First off, if you've found this blog through the podcast, welcome. As highly as Kacey talked about me, I'm not really an authority on any of this stuff. I'm just a guy who's sharing his experiences. Others will have had differing experiences. That's one of the things I really like about the podcast: I get to hear people's stories. Some points are different, others are eerily similar. It's important to listen to a story from all sides.
Secondly, neither this blog, nor any of the other content that I put out has any particular theme. Sometimes I talk about Mormonism. Sometimes I talk about tech. Sometimes I talk about what I had for dinner (though I tend to reserve this blog for the meatier subjects that I feel warrant a more long-form discussion). If you've come here looking for some kind of cult expert, I regret to inform you that you need to continue searching. That said, I think that everyone offers a unique perspective, and I hope that I can add to the conversation.
For a very long time, my experience within Mormonism was actually a positive one. My faith helped me to get through some particularly hard times in my life, and I don't want to discount that. Many members of the church may feel that I have been unfair towards the faith. I talked (rather irreverently at some points) about things that most devout Mormons would consider sacred. Some would undoubtedly be upset at the mere fact that I've used the word "Mormon" rather than typing "member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints". To this I can only say: my tithing dollars went towards the "I'm a Mormon" ad campaign. I paid for the right to use that word.
To any devout member who may be reading this, please consider the following: I know what it's like to have a testimony that the church is "true". The leaders of the church have gone to great pains to cast ex-members as terrible apostates who were lazy, wanted to sin, and so on and so forth. Know this: I wanted it to be true. I needed it to be true. I tried to find faithful answers to the questions I had. In my search, I found more new questions than answers. I respect your right to your beliefs, and I would never want to tell anyone what they should believe, but I also believe that the leaders of the church need to be held accountable for some of the things that they have said and done. Their words carry great weight for many. Those words can quite literally mean the difference between life and death. I'm not being hyperbolic here. This is something that needs to be talked about, and the church leaders certainly aren't willing to have that discussion.
One thing I never really considered when I was a believer was what it must be like for someone to leave the church. I honestly believed that if anyone had had the spiritual experiences that I had, nobody would ever leave. Why would they? It's funny what happens when the shoe is on the other foot. For this reason, I don't even really get mad when someone just assumes that I haven't prayed enough, or haven't researched enough, or any other such thing. Trust me, I get it. If you feel that there's something I'm missing, my mailbox is open. Seriously. I'm happy to have that discussion. If you just want to tell me that I'm a filthy apostate who's destined for outer darkness though... well, you're free to express this, but don't expect a response.
If on the other hand, you're a member of a high control group, or suspect that you might be, and need someone to talk to, again hit me up. In case it's not obvious already, I'm not a therapist or anything like that. I could probably benefit from therapy myself; I just keep putting it off for some reason. What I am is a guy who's been through some stuff and understands how helpful it can be to have someone to talk to. Just know that I'm still figuring this stuff out myself. I firmly believe that the more voices we have in this conversation, the more ideas get shared, and the more likely people are to find solutions. There's a programming philosophy that I try to live by that I think applies well here: "with enough eyes, all bugs are shallow."
I also mentioned about trying to create a safe space for people who have been affected by high demand control groups to have discussions about their experiences. Many such spaces exist, many on-line, but most of those spaces are centralized, and as such can potentially disappear with something as simple as a policy change. I'm trying to find a way of creating such a space in a decentralized manner, but this idea is still (as I mentioned) in a very early stage. I feel like the Fediverse might be an ideal place for this to happen. Again, contact me if you're interested in more details.
One last thought: during this interview, I plugged Radio Free Mormon as being a fantastic resource. RFM's podcast was instrumental helping me to maintain my sanity as I was deconstructing my former faith. He has forgotten more about Mormonism than I will ever know. That said, it's a very deep rabbit hole, so I thought it might be helpful to list a few episodes that I found particularly informative.
Maybe this is helpful for some. Maybe you think I'm full of crap. Maybe I'm talking (typing?) into the void. I don't know, but it feels good to talk about it.
Have a good one.