Life after leaving the Mormon Church

Rachel Velamur

Rachel Velamur
February 15
Born and raised in a strict Mormon family. I write about what life was like as a Mormon and what my life is like after leaving.


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JULY 7, 2012 11:56AM

My Own Futile Attempts To Resign From The Mormon Church

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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.  

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Good luck with an organization that secretly baptizes dead Jews. Maybe you can get some help from Mitt.
Thanks jmac! It's frustrating because people like my father always point to membership statistics (and the somewhat dubious claim that Mormonism is the fastest-growing religion) as "proof" that the Mormon Church is true. Which is probably why they don't want to allow people to resign.
Perhaps you could reframe this situation in your mind: "I have resigned. If they fail to recognize that reality, that's their problem. They are denying reality." From that perspective, your efforts are not futile at all. You don't need their permission or approval. You are in charge, not them. Just an idea....
Donegal: I am trying to keep that perspective - I no longer identify as a Mormon and it's not too bad knowing that my name is still on the rolls. It just bothers me to see such a lack of respect for a person's decisions. And ultimately, I do want to draw attention to this issue, as I am not the only one in the same situation. And the problem is, the Mormon Church will send your records whenever you move, even if you don't notify them of the move. Which leads to a lot of harassment of people that are just trying to live their lives in peace.

This post might give you a better perspective on what it is like to be an inactive Mormon. I am ashamed to say that I was one of the girls involved, as our actions were excessive.

Considering how organized the LDS Church is, official resignation should be handled timely and the process should not be secretive. I have heard of others who thought they were off the roles, only to discover that it was not so. I'm so cynical now that I think it is just to keep the high membership claim...
onislandtime: Resignation can be very hard to pull off - and I do think the difficulty has something to do with maintaining the claims that Mormonism is one of the "fastest-growing" religions.
I think as Donegal Descendant says, the idea of your resignation has already taken place and the fact that they might or might still be clinging to you as a member just proves how false their numbers really are. It would possibly be happening to others who wished to be separated from the church too. I think you did the right thing.
Thank you Sheila. And I consider myself resigned in spirit, although I think the matter needs to be addressed so that others know just how much a hassle resigning can be. And considering that the Mormon Church has a habit of continually contacting inactive members on their rolls, an unsuccessful resignation attempt can lead to a continuation of members invading your privacy.
So much for "truth" in the sense of agreement with &
reflection of objective reality---
like with pesky things like numbers,

Their invading yr privacy & treating you like a wayward waif
who has gone to the wolves
doesn't shock me as much
as the fact that this branch president is a professor of biology.
That deeply disturbs me.
I wonder what ''scientific'' paradigms swim in his frothy head?
I totally get this. My husband attended BYU for a while, although he isn't Mormon. Somehow the local LDS church got his information and he gets a letter about every 6 months about being part of the organization. They send all the new missionaries over to meet him and about every 18 - 24 months someone higher up in the organization food chain will drop by out of the blue to talk to him. He has repeatedly told them "no thanks", but the cards, letters, and visits keep coming.
Considering that they also baptize all your ancestors going back to Noah's Ark, I can see how it would be difficult to get out of it yourself. Let's hope you achieve it in this lifetime, after that it's too late. R.
My church (non-mormon) deleted me and a bunch of other 20 something friends in one swell swoop by sending us rather curt letters that we had been dropped. My guess is that they weren't bringing in enough money for the number of members and were trying to even things out. It was fine by me, but it did strike me as a bit uncharitable. I guess it must be numbers instead of money for you. Good luck.
Best of luck, PMG. Stay strong.
James: I do wonder how he balanced his profession as a biologist with his unconditional acceptance of the Mormon Church, as the mindset required for the two are polar opposites. But as I've heard some Mormons say - for church you just need to shut off your questioning side.

Midwest Muse: Your poor husband! And unfortunately, that is a story I hear over and over again. My husband is from India - one of his college-mates ended up doing his Ph.D at BYU (none of them really knew much about the US) After five years of constantly being targeted for conversion, the poor guy just ended up becoming a hermit - refused to socialize or trust any new attempts at friendship.
Dances With Cats: Love your name! I may try again, although the thought of having to go through the process all over again is pretty exhausting to think about. And at the very least, they're leaving me alone now.

jlsathre: Ouch! I guess that would a reversion of the issue I've had, although I'm glad you took the letter in stride.

Erica: Thank you!
What a hassle! You're no longer a mormon in my eyes. Good luck.
Well then u are denying your entire "reason to be" and
"God's plan for u" as a scientist, are u not?
If you turn off yr questioning side.
James: Yeah, I think you are. It's quite the struggle to reconcile your questioning scientist mind from your non-questioning obedient side. I could never make it work. :-)
The Letter is either Lost in the Mail
Church Usher stole for free money?
Visit Mennonite church. Sit on Left.
Preacher may ask you to No Snore.
Women on the Left. Males on Right.
I went through a Looking Into Churches.
I attended a Methodist. Preacher Cussed.
He visited Monasteries. Buddhist Monks.
James M.E. would be a great choir singer.
He sing solo we no have to stuff ears up.
I believe a Deity Loves ears wax stuffed.
Never stuff ear with` GoodCelery! sticks.
James M.E. and You can begin a new church.
Hugging Church. No Pickpockets if Hugging.

You ask @ Salon? Crooked Usher Wanted.
Join @ Salon Personnel. Kerry L. donates.
He toss old Lobsters into a collection coffer.

He may have loved to chew with quiet Nun.
Chewing chow slowly and with no chatters?
You ask the Nun to go for a P.U. truck ride.
Art: Maybe James and I should start our own church - no judging, no forcing opinions on others, just being nice to each other and enjoying humanity!
Pmg, these posts continue to be frighteningly (if that's a word) enlightening. I honestly can't see how Mitt can possibly be a valid choice to represent all Americans, considering the cult-like environment of the Mormon Church (not to mention his financial status). Resigning from the Mormon Church sounds like as much of a problem as leaving Scientology. (I've got Katie Holmes on my mind these days.)

By the way, quick question regarding baptizing the dead...that creeps me out, because dead people aren't giving their permission. I'm wondering how this works, because I have a relative who is a Mormon. Can she baptize me without my permission? I know she asked permission to have our aunt baptized when our aunt passed away, but our aunt's granddaughters said no. Thanks for any info.
Get that letter!
Can one not file a stalking complaint against a church? Seriously.
This is a really interesting story. We are what we believe we are. (Or aren't.) ~r
Pam: You can but it won't do much good, the Mormon Church spends a lot of money on legal services. It'd be a modern day David and Goliath.
How frustrating to deal with these constant misplaced desires to "help" you. I guess this is their way of keeping themselves convinced that absolutely no part of them wishes they could do what you have done.

When I first left the church I felt deep shame and embarrassment. I didn't like people knowing that I was Mormon. Now, I proudly hang my exit-confirmation letter on my refrigerator door.

Great blog post, and I hope you get that letter!
jkf: Your exit experience sounds very similar to my own. I also felt a very big burden to be an "example" of a good apostate - that I hadn't left because I was proud or sinful or deluded. And it was tough, seeing people that I had grown up with suddenly look at me in an entirely new and negative light. Which is a feeling that I am sure you are all too familiar with.

Thank you for stopping by and commenting.
If you're not in it mentally, you're not in it, as far as I'm concerned, like a marriage in name only isn't a "real" marriage or people who live together and feel spiritually bound are as good as married.
I had the same problem once with my Lifetime Fitness membership. Who knew Mormonism is like a health club? Or like the Hotel California - you can check out but you can never leave. More power to you!
jackie: The only issue is that Mormons have a way of locating your contact information (even if you move!) and sending missionaries/members to your house, all in the interest of getting you to come back to church. Which annoying at best, depressing at worst.

Rima: That is a good analogy!
Yeow pmg! You do have to wonder about any organization that embraces the Roach Motel model (They can check in but they don't check out). I hope you've been successful in putting the formal affiliation behind you. But something tells me there's probably a few more lingering entanglements down the road. Good luck with it.
Your struggle reminds me of trying to remove myself from mailing lists! "NO, I do not want any VIAGRA at ANY special price!" I have written several letters over the years asking a women's clothing store to CANCEL my account that I have not used since O.J. was in the white Bronco on the freeway!

Of course in your case, you have been actually talking with real people and STILL can't get things done! Amazing.

Some of the finest people I have ever met are Mormon, but you should be able to leave the church and move as you wish! When you finally succeed, then try getting off the Publisher's Clearing House list!
"I no longer identify as a Mormon "

It seems like you put a lot of your mental energy in being PMG. So if you don't identify that way why isn't your name something else? Why write about something that you are not?
I can totally understand that you want to be out of that church officially. Your spirit is out but keeping your name out of their records is the goal. Good luck. When I was sixteen I wrote a letter to the Lutheran Church I had been sent to as a girl. I did not believe anymore and I thought that was it. I wonder if I am still on the books there? I never thought about it. Great post. Thanks.
i guess to a smaller, more trivial extent this is what happens in islamist countries when people decide they don't want to belong.

the big news these days though is tom and katie and siri and the church of scientology. i've heard if you try to resign from THEM they put rattlesnakes in your mailbox and throw anthrax infected livestock in your well.

a bit more agressive than having your dad reach out to the church to have a chat with you.
I think your post brings up some other deeper points. The mormon church is a cult and this shows how hard it is to get out of it. R
I live in Salt Lake but am not LDS. I remember working with girls who told their parents they weren't going to church anymore. I was shocked when the parents kicked them out of the house. How could anyone choose church over their children? I can't believe the stronghold the Mormons have over their members./r
When I asked my late friend, Deana Jensen, why the Mormon Church didn't excommunicate her, she replied that it would just draw attention to her and make people aware of her work; easier, she said, to just let her die. But her words live on, and I've reposted them more than once.
Evidently I need to break up the link to make it fit here:
I've been following the comment thread. My parents moved us to Utah when I was in high school, with no idea of the culture shock that we would experience. I have many Mormon and ex-Mormon friends. If you are not excommunicated, getting removed from the membership role is very very difficult. I know one man that did have to threaten legal action. For commentators that say it doesn't matter if they have you listed as a member, I have to respectfully disagree. If the American Nazi Party had you as a member of their organization, and sent you information as a member, you might understand the strong personal commitment to be removed from the rolls. It's not always just a matter of not wanting to go to church anymore. Sometimes it is a conviction about what you stand for in life.
Already rated you....
Loved this line - "... if eight is old enough to be baptized into the church, then nineteen should be old enough to leave the church." It disturbed me to see my nieces baptized at the Assemblies of God church at a very young age. I think religion should be the choice of an adult, not a child. But children are the easiest targets. If you start them young, they often won't question it when they're older. But thank goodness you did! I very much hope you receive that letter, and are able to break free from harassment.
Fascinating post. I wasn't an LDS but was a member of a "religious cult" for 15 years & have written a few posts about it. I can certainly relate and if I were you, I'd keep trying for that letter.
Some of these behaviors verge on stalking. Very weird. And to think our next president might feel the same as your professor did. "We can't all be believers." Yikes. Very good story. Congrats on theEP.
It's people like this that are called on "missions" that work to find you, no matter where you are: http://servicemission.ldschurch.org/csm-public/public/viewOpp.jsf?viewOpp=true&oppId=1331

I got a call from one looking for me dad and another looking for my sister-in-law recently. I said she doesn't want to be contacted and neither do I. She asked if I wanted to be put on the do not contact list. I confirmed. I also changed my phone number on the ward/stake website to 000-000-0000.
Thanks for the link, eiznem! I suspected something similar but I wasn't sure where to find documentation.
Despite the coverage of this in the Chicago Tribune I suspect it wasn't published as widely as it could have been except in alternative outlets that pay more attention to Mormonism. this is the first I heard of this. There will probably be many more stories like this at the grass roots level that aren't reported too widely in the national press.

Not all of them will be about resignations; there are many other problems with the Church. Mitt may have the support of many devout Mormons but he also has the opposition of many anti-Mormons or ex-Mormons including his own cousin Park Romney who wrote about why he had objections to Mitt running.

There has hardly been any coverage about park Romney in the National press either. Just in case anyone wants to know more about him here is something about him from Mormon Think "An interview with Park Romney"
To clarify some of the discussion from the Church's actual doctrines, the sin worse than all but murder is actually immorality (specifically adultery). Denial of the Holy Ghost, the sin worse than murder (to which you refer) is much more than denying the church's teachings and requesting removal from the records, as you have suggested. You and me are likely not those that can even commit this sin, according to the church. Denial of the Holy Ghost, as Christ teaches in the New Testament, is to have a perfect knowledge of God and His plan--to know Him--and then to willfully deny Him, and fight against him. Outer Darkness, is reserved only for those (perhaps like Judas, though we don't know for sure as only God is the judge) that do deny Him after a perfect knowledge. If you were told that a 16 year old girl is capable of this sin, then you were misinformed, and could easily find clarification through trusted family members or leaders. This is why members are encouraged to study the words found in the scriptures and the words of the Prophets, so as to clarify those things that may trouble them or that do not make sense.

Regarding your requests to leave the Church, remember that it is an organization run by imperfect people like you or me. For every person like yourself that has found it difficult to be removed, there are others that have had no trouble.
PMG....have you checked out the cost of a first class stamp lately?

I can't blame them. You, plus a few thousand other apostates, could cost them real money to send letters to; money better spent backing campaigns against gay marriage in California...or (eek!) giving to Mitt's campaign.

Sorry! You're not high enough in the Mormon food chain for exceptional treatment, so just consider yourself resigned and move on....to Catholicism.

[I kid, I kid!]
What an amazing coincidence that this post, and your others that are similar, are appearing during the first campaign in which a Mormon will be nominated for the presidency. It is true that the Mormons don't like to take no for an answer, and will pester their former members to return to the fold. I have seen that firsthand. But I can't help feeling that you are using religious prejudice to score points against Mitt Romney. This is just as bad as using race to attack Obama.