My Own Futile Attempts To Resign From The Mormon Church
Recently, there was a mass resignation ceremony in Utah where 150 people joined forces to formally resign from the Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, more commonly referred to as the Mormon Church. I am glad that this event has received such widespread attention, although my own experiences with resigning from the Mormon Church leaves me feeling cynical as to the efficacy of the resignation attempt.
You see, I have tried three times to have my name removed from the membership rolls of the Mormon Church. Three separate attempts and I still don’t know if I am counted among the official 14 million members that the Mormon Church stakes claim to. My first attempt to resign was during my freshman year of college. I wrote out a letter requesting my resignation and sent it to the Church Headquarters in Salt Lake City. I assumed the matter was finished -- I was grown up and ready to move on with my post-Mormon life.
Then someone told me that the Church sends you an official letter after they accept your resignation. I had never received a letter; did that mean I was still a member? I feared that the answer was yes. So this time around, I looked up the local ward and called the bishop. I had to call a couple times but I finally reached him. I explained that I wanted my name removed. The bishop was quiet for a moment and then said, with a note of regret in his voice, --- “Are you sure? You sound too young to make such a big decision; I don’t want you to do anything you might end up regretting.”
I hated that he sounded like a father grieving over a wayward daughter. I just hated that. “Yes.” I told him, full of youthful conviction. “I am sure about this.” After I hung up the phone, I would berate myself for not pointing out that if eight is old enough to be baptized into the church, then nineteen should be old enough to leave the church. But for the moment, I was too insecure to argue with a man that sounded like my father.
“Why don’t I send the missionaries over so that you can discuss the matter?”
I didn’t want to talk to the missionaries. I didn’t want to have to deal with people telling me that I was wrong and that I needed to go back to church like a good little Mormon girl. I told the bishop no, I didn’t want the missionaries over at my house. I ended up mailing another resignation letter to the local ward. A futile gesture, but one that I hoped would yield some result.
Then I transferred colleges. And I started getting calls to my unlisted phone number from church members. And the Mormon organization on campus decided to add my e-mail to their list-serv, without notifying me or asking my permission. All of a sudden, my in-box was being flooded by e-mails about temple trips and church activities. The e-mails were a shock to my equilibrium, as I wondered if I would ever be free of the religion that had caused such heart-ache growing up.
So I sent an e-mail out to the list-serv at large, pointing out that I had not asked for my e-mail to be added and that I had not been notified of this decision. That action prompted a flurry of e-mails. About half of the e-mails were from people that wanted their names removed as well. The other e-mails were from members that were bewildered as to what the problem was about -- didn’t I know that I could just have my name removed, without having to make a big fuss about it? But the issue was not about the e-mails; the issue was about my invasion of privacy.
Eventually the list-serve administrator contacted me. He introduced himself; he was friends with one of my brothers. My father had contacted him and asked him to “make me feel welcome”. I told him that he had no right to add my e-mail without my consent or knowledge. Then I told him I wanted out -- I wanted to officially resign from the Mormon Church. He forwarded my e-mail to the branch president, who then contacted me.
A week later, I met with the branch president. He was a professor so we met on campus at the ice cream store. We made some small talk about research; he was a biology professor and I was a biology major working in a genetics lab. We had some common acquaintances; I had interned in the lab of one of his good friends. His wife was also my spinning instructor. Then we moved on to the matter at hand.
“I want to resign.” I told him. “I don’t believe this Church is true and I can’t support the authorities.”
At that point his eyebrows rose and his tone changed from friendly to dismissive. “I guess we can’t all be believers.” he said, his shoulders shrugging. Then I signed some papers confirming my desire to resign and left.
I am still waiting for my letter.