Disenchanted Lives : Apostasy and Ex-Mormonism Among the Latter-day Saints
New Brunswick, New Jersey
This dissertation ethnographically explores the contemporary phenomenon of religious apostasy (that is, rejecting ones religious faith or church community) among current and former members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka Mormons). Over the past decade there has been increasing awareness in both the institutional church and the popular media that growing numbers of once faithful church members are becoming dissatisfied and disenchanted with their faith. In response, throughout Utah post-Mormon and ex-Mormon communities have begun appearing offering a social community and emotional support for those transitioning out of the church. Through fifteen months of ethnographic research in the state of Utah I investigated these events as they unfolded in people's everyday lives living in a region of the country wholly dominated by the Mormon Church's presence. In particular, I conducted participant observation in church services, ex-Mormon support group meetings, social networks and family events, as well as in-depth interviews with current and former church members. Each chapter of this dissertation explores the causes and effects of religious disenchantment as they reverberate across multiple registers: how an overabundance of memory about Mormonism's sacred history has led to people's estrangement from its religious life-world; how despite rejecting beliefs on a cognitive basis the effects of those beliefs can still linger in people's sense of embodied self; how apostates' uncanny familiarity provokes current church members' attempts to expel them from families and neighborhoods; and how the loss of belief is negotiated through attempts to both identity and dis-identify with the Mormon community.