Over the last week, hundreds of former members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have posted photos of themselves on an ex-Mormon corner of Reddit in an act of rebellion, a celebration of freedom from the restraints of the LDS Church, and an unshielded, open-armed welcome for people considering abandoning their faith.
The selfie movement began about two weeks ago on the ex-Jehovah Witness subreddit, but quickly spread to the largest ex-religion subreddit, /r/exmormon, which has more than 37 thousand subscribers. In the flood of posts, many images show people committing sins against the church — drinking beer and coffee, sporting tattoos and piercings, exposing shoulders and thighs, and celebrating same-sex relationships. But the biggest contradiction to the convictions that ruled their lives for years are the wide smiles on all their faces. “It’s an expression of joy as a statement of defiance against the toxic teachings we grew up in,” says Ryan McKnight, a former Mormon who is active in ex-Mormon communities. “I really believed when I was a Mormon that only Mormons were truly happy people — that everyone else went home and wallowed in despair every night and had to drink away their sorrows. It’s a total mind-trip that makes it harder to leave.”