017 The Great and Terrible Sorting: Dealing with Mormon Paraphernalia
Where life after Mormonism meets Marie Kondo
Whether you grew up in the church or joined as an adult, the textures and trappings of Mormonism become a part of you. The sights, smells, and sounds of a church building can conjure up immediate memories and emotional responses, sometimes powerful ones. After years of participation in the church, you also have likely accumulated quite a collection of Mormon-related paraphernalia; it happens to the best of us. Now that you’ve left Mormonism, what do you do with the physical and emotional mementos of your time in the church? In this episode, Aimee, Donna, Kristin, and Micaela discuss their experiences with sorting through their Mormon paraphernalia and what worked for them as they decided how to part with these items.
The material culture of Mormonism fills our lives and homes; the books, lesson manuals, artwork, temple pictures, scriptures, BYU clothing, and so much more, create the backdrop of daily life for many believing Mormons. What to do with all of it when you leave Mormonism behind can be difficult to navigate.
Getting rid of these physical reminders of our experiences in the church represents the physical embodiment of leaving and all the emotions and memories associated with that process. Allow yourself space to work through any difficult feelings you may experience.
Consider your personal attachment to the items; some items will have significantly more personal meaning than others, and you should take this into consideration when deciding what to do with them.
If you’re in a particularly angry phase of your transition, consider waiting a bit before permanently disposing of things that are part of your personal history. It’s perfectly fine to keep items that are important to you, and it’s okay for things to take up space in a box until you’re ready to deal with them.
When sorting through your paraphernalia, ask yourself, “What emotion does this spark? What is the intensity of the emotion? Might it change?” Pay attention to these feelings and use them to help guide your decisions.
Ask yourself whether or not you would keep these items if you were in the middle of a move – is it important enough that you would pay someone to ship it across the country?
Offering up items like books, manuals, and scriptures for free at a church building can be a way to donate those items to folks who might appreciate them. Donating to a local Deseret Industries if you have one nearby can be another option.
Some items can be recycled, and others can be reused or repurposed. For instance, picture frames from Mormon artwork can always be used for another piece of art. Creating a new meaning for items can be a powerful symbol of reinvention.
Be sensitive to still-active family members as you begin getting rid of items, especially when it comes to your partner or children.
Extend grace and generosity to your former self. Recognize that you were doing what you believed to be right with the knowledge you had then; honor and love the person you once were.
What you choose to do with your old temple clothes is entirely up to you, but for those who are interested in what the church recommends, we contacted the temple department in Salt Lake to ask a few questions. They suggest contacting your local Relief Society or Elders Quorum president to see if there is any interest in or need for them locally. If you aren’t interested in passing them along to someone else, they suggest destroying or disposing of them as you would garments. They ask that you not donate them to Deseret Industries or to the temple.
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