This concept may not have as much meaning to those ex-mo's who never became totally immersed in the LDS culture but lately I have been wondering how I can find or create a social environment that can provide at least some of the things that the LDS and other active social group environments provide. What do I mean by this?

Growing up LDS, mostly outside of Utah, I was presented with numerous opportunities for personal growth by being asked to fill leadership and teaching roles. The concept is that there was a set uniform organizational structure that needed to be filled with warm bodies. In my adolescent years, there were few active members in my age group. I recognized that I had leverage in shaping programs to serve more realistic and relevant teenage needs, which is what I did. I learned important planning and implementation skills, social skills (still my weakness), and organizational skills. Over the years, I also had many opportunities to make presentations, public speaking, and teaching (with the need for preparing lessons). Some of this was even done in my home through the concept of the FHE.

One big reason that I left the church is because none of my nuclear family were being emotionally engaged. My children have become decidedly apatheistic. To complicate things further, most of them have some form of ADHD which further fueled their disdain for the conformity and boredom of church.

So, despite my efforts to set an example of secular community involvement, my family continues to follow the path of least resistance of becoming cynical couch potatoes. Rewarding community involvement and personal growth opportunities are missing. The Scouting programs haven't been a good fit. Volunteering at a food bank, animal shelter, or senior's home is not the same as being tasked to lead a group, organize an event, present a topic, etc.

Any thoughts?

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I know what you are talking about. I learned and grew so much with the different "callings" I had in the church. Went through scouts, was a den leader, taught primary, young mens, sunday school, gospel essentials, went on a mission. . .

That was one thing the mormon church offered, was personal learning and growth, but with all the trappings that went with it. Sounds like you are looking for the same personal growth opportunities for your kids that you had. I don't have kids but have struggled with this same desire for me, where to find the same growth opportunities so i can continue to learn and grow. I was going to suggest Scouts but that didn't seem to work for you. Plus even in troops that aren't sponsored by a church there is too much god in the program.

How old are your kids?? Clubs at their school could fill some of what you are looking for. Sports could too, if they are into any. Family activities, tutoring programs, speech club, debate club. Any hobbies, local groups or organizations that share the hobby. Any local Atheist organized groups that help the community, lobby local government, or just meet and organize activities?

I think you are going to find it hard to replace the social network and opportunities that the mormon church offered. I wondered other churches for a while after I left the mormon church and didn't find anything even close to the organization of the mormon chruch. The only other one was the Jehovah's Witnesses, but they were even more nuts religious wise.

Of all the crap and baggage that I have had to deal with from growing up in the church, I did learn a lot about myself and have the chance to grow and learn to become a better more well rounded person. What other organization would have taught me public speaking starting at 6 years old. given me, at 18-19, a chance to prepare lessons and activities every week for the primary class I taught and the cub scout den that I was in charge of while I was starting college and working to save money for a mission. At 19 years old to be in charge of a fleet of 56 cars that my mission had. At 20 to overhaul their media program that covered half a state while at the same time babysit 18 other missionaries away from their homes for the first time. I just don't know what can fill all that experience. Of course since I grew up immersed in that culture, I wasn't aware of what else was out there. We both might be missing something out there that we just don't see and are not aware of because of being raised in the church.

Good luck and I hope somewhere in my ramblings I have an idea or two that might help.
This is the million-dollar question, in my opinion. Daryl, I really appreciated your comments.

It has been said that you can't simply quit a bad habit or stop a bad behavior. You have to replace it with something better in order to truly conquer it. The same principle applies to the church. You can't simply drop the social structure, opportunities for leadership & talent-development, sense of community, unique identity, and connection to the human race & cosmos that the church provides in abundance (mingled with made-up scripture). You have to replace it with something better.

I have no idea what the hell that is. I have joined atheist/secular groups, but there is nothing local here. Unitarian Universalism is an option (not in small town OK, however).

To me, the church is like Wal-Mart. It is one-stop shopping for all of your social, emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual needs. Are better products available in other places in the community? Yes, but it is a bitch to take the time to find all of them. So most people just shop at Wal-Mart.
Thanks for your thoughts, Joey.

I agree that a replacement is what some (perhaps many) of us wish for. The something better is what we are challenged with. It is an extra challenge when, as a non-theist and likely a materialist, you have a strong sense that there is no long-term, over-arching social objective to which you can get a reasonable number of local people to agree to. We are not building the Kingdom of Secular Reason so to speak.

Like you point out with the Wal-Mart analogy, there are separate products out there to fill the void. I agree that it will be a pain to participate in so many groups. Worse that those groups are not likely to be focused on your needs (which is not to say that the LDS church was ever really focused on your needs either...)
Moscar, we are not looking at belonging to an "organization with almost the same characteristics and goals? . . ."

We don't want the church again. We were trying to find someplace where you have the same opportunities for personal development that the church offered. If you grew up active in the church you know what we are talking about. Public speaking roles, leadership roles, service, learning responsibility. You don't learn these things in public school. So where else can you provide these lessons and growth other then in the church??

Joey was looking for ideas, not sarcasm. . . This site and this group is for supporting each other, not meaningless cold comments. . . you know how lonely it can be to be Atheist.
Thank you, and I too am sorry. I think we all are a little touchy about the church. I know I hate it with a passion, but also miss some of the good things at the same time. I am in this group to try to figure out how to deal with it. Deal with family, and deal with how to live in the real world. . . And hopefully help a few others along the way. And maybe help them not make the same mistakes I did, like spending needless years figuring things out on my own because I didn't have someone else to talk to.
Thanks, friends for sharing your thoughts on this matter.

I am currently involved with a number of atheist and community groups of sorts. I am looking at some more as for a framework for building a social environment. A strictly secular option does not seem to exist at this point.

I think it is useful to recognize that the programs in the LDS church did not grow up simultaneously with the church. Each program has been initiated and evolved with time: RS, Primary, YMYWMIA/Mutual, etc. The church uses Scouting as a ready made program from boys. So if someone were to start a secular community, expectations would need to be set accordingly that it won't all happen at once. And then finding individuals who are committed to both secularism and community programs who is willing to run the programs will be another challenge.

An alternative could be to form a social group that in turn participates in a number of existing local clubs and activities. This could maybe use programs at the library, recreation center, Toast Masters, Optimist Club, food bank, animal shelter, etc, as well as having their own separate social gatherings. Come to think of it, many groups on do this sort of thing. Some elements that would need to be worked out are a way of setting goals for continuing effort and acknowledging achievement.

And then, what would you call such an organization....?
Sometimes I've wondered if the best option is to make a group that offers what you're looking for. I like the model that the Atheist Community of Austin has set. ( (I've been listening to their podcast for a few years...)

I've thought about taking their model and expanding on it a bit. I could imagine some sort of humanist organization that:

- Has a lecture once a month, open to the public, with professors or representatives of various organizations.
- Has social events once a week, like going out to dinner, a game night, swimming, picnics, the bar. Some events would be family friendly and parents could bring their kids.
- Performs some charity once a month, like volunteering at a shelter, gathering food donations, cleaning up a highway, etc.
- Goes on an educational "field trip" once a month, like to a museum, the zoo, exploring local interests... here, it would be a trip through Timp Cave. Visit a factory, go to the planetarium...

The idea would be to have plenty of options. No one would make it to everything, obviously, but there is enough variety that members could pick what they want to do. I like your idea, Jimmo, of just taking an existing group and piggybacking along with other clubs and charities.
I wonder if there would be support for this from the Post-Mormon community? I tried to make contact with a local chapter but have not heard anything. Is anyone else signed up as a member of that community?
I have been in contact with some groups in Phoenix, AZ and got a cold shoulder because I was Atheist. Haven't been in touch since. They all seemed to be Baptist here. . . Didn't learn a thing. . .Didn't progress, just switched one bad habit with another. . .

Makes me wonder who is really behind the Post-Mormon organization... (other than Lucifer, of course :-)
I found a similarly themed discussion going on elsewhere in A|N

The comments there seem to be more about basic social isolation. The atheist group I associate with has done a fair job with providing for social settings but could use a broader variety of venues and meeting times. (I will be proposing as much to them).
Just an update.

In early 2011, I made contact with some other ex-Mo's that are now in the local atheist communities. One "ex-brother" has taken a leadership role in organizing an email list and monthly socials for ex-Mo's. He also seems active in trying to connect with more ex-Mo's, ex-JW's, and even ex-Scientologists lurking in the area (Colorado).

No signs of anything for personal growth, expect learning to consume alcohol. Also nothing for socializing your kids but I guess I can look at that as an opportunity.


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