The Importance of Anger in a Mormon Transition
One of the most predictable ways that believing Mormons attempt to invalidate that path of transitioning and post-Mormons is to dismiss them as being “angry.”
Put aside for a second the fact that both God and Jesus experienced anger (e.g., “And the Lord was angry with Solomon…” 1 Kings, 11:9; “And [Jesus] looked around at them with anger…” Mark 3:5) — as if it is “on us” to find scriptures (that we may not even believe in) in order to justify our emotions to orthodox believers. What’s up with that?
More importantly, do believing Mormons even think to dismiss God and Jesus for their anger?
Regardless, allow me to state very plainly, and very emphatically, that anger serves several very important purposes for a transitioning or post-Mormon. Allow me to name four:
1. Anger is a reasonable and healthy reaction to being deceived and⁄or damaged by a church claiming to be led by God. First and foremost, anger is a perfectly natural, reasonable, and healthy emotional response to discovering that one has been deliberately deceived, abused, and⁄or damaged for decades by an institution that claims to be led directly by God — especially when many of us who feel deceived also feel as though we have been manipulated into giving 10% of our income and thousands of hours of time to a church that was intentionally deceiving us. Of COURSE we are angry! How else should we feel under these circumstances??!?!? Consequently, anger is a way of saying very clearly, “You hurt me, and it’s not ok!”
2.Anger is a motivating emotion. Anger can serve another very important function — which is to motivate us to action. The “gravity” (i.e., social pressure) to remain active LDS after one no longer believes the LDS church is true can be debilitating. When one considers all that s⁄he will likely sacrifice to speak out against and openly disengage from the LDS church (e.g., family relationships, close friendships, identity, community….to name a few), it is easy to understand how so many no-longer-believing-Mormons continue to remain active in the LDS church purely out of fear. The truth is….it can be terribly difficult and at times excruciating to extract one’s self from the LDS church after a lifetime of engagement. Consequently, anger can serve as an important motivating force which moves us to say, “Enough. I don’t care how painful this will be. The church is not what it claims to be, and it is hurting too many people. I am taking action now!”
3. Anger is an act of self-empowerment. When a trusting individual voluntarily gives away her⁄his power⁄trust⁄time⁄money to an organization for decades — and then feels deceived, abused, and⁄or victimized in exchange for this trust — it is absolutely healthy to reclaim one’s personal power. On the flip side, when LDS believers shame us for our anger — such shame (intentional or not)…if heeded….can serve to take away from us an important (I would say essential) fuel for personal empowerment. Anger can serve as an essential starting point to helping us feel powerful and “in control” again. Anger is a way of saying, “I reclaim my personal power. You have no more power over me!”
4. Anger leads to creative works of constructive activism. Pick any human or civil rights activist you respect (e.g., Gandhi, Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez, Mother Teresa, Malcom X). I can guarantee you that anger (i.e., feeling outraged by the pain⁄suffering experienced by others at the hands of an abusive system) played an essential role in fueling their creative works of constructive activism. I can also promise you that the same holds true for the many Mormon activists who have lead us in the 21st century (e.g., The Mama Dragons, Jeremy Runnells⁄CES Letter, Kate Kelly⁄Ordain Women, Carol Lynn Pearson, Lindsay Hansen Park⁄Year of Polygamy). While love allows us to feel sadness⁄empathy for the pain suffered by another, anger can help move us convert that sadness⁄empathy into constructive action on behalf of those who are suffering. It is as if to say, “Enough! I am sick of the pain and suffering caused by this institution, and I am going to actually DO something to alleviate the suffering of others and to stop the abuse!”
In summary, I believe that anger plays an essential role in navigating a Mormon transition. I would even go so far as to say that if you haven’t experienced anger as part of your Mormon transition, it is possible that you are not quite through with it.
And while I am also certain that anger should not be a destination (only a visiting place) — and that rage (acts of hatred, loss of control, violence) should be eschewed at all costs — I believe very strongly that the emotion of anger is not something that we should feel ashamed of as transitioning and post-Mormons. Anger should be something that moves us to action — primarily the actions of separation, self-empowerment, and constructive activism.
So embrace and channel your anger, transitioning and post-Mormons! Use it to get your power back. Use it to separate yourselves from an abusive system. Use it to get yourselves to a healthy place. And most importantly, use it to motivate you to engage in creative works of constructive activism — which in turn will help to alleviate the suffering of others, and to stop the abuses.
Finally, please feel free to share this post with any believing Mormon who seeks to invalidate you because of your anger.
And happy healing, everyone!