Resign in protest?

If you’re new to this blog and my regular blog, you may not already know that I’m one of those “exmos” who has never been ex’d, or even resigned. I’ve explained why a few times (such as in my joke post about my excommunication), but in a nutshell:

  1. I don’t want to renounce my Mormon heritage or my connection with this people. A lot of people mistakenly assume that the fact that I’m an atheist means that I want to erase my Mormon past and I that have no right to claim any continued connection with Mormons. (See the comments of this post for an example of that mistake.) If I were to resign membership, it would fuel this misconception.
  2. If the organization of the CoJCoL-dS thinks I’m still a member of their organization after all these years, that’s their problem and not mine. Actually (if you don’t count BYU asking for money), the CoJCoL-dS hasn’t contacted me spontaneously for around eight or nine years. For all I know, they have cleaned up their database and swept me off. So it would be a little ridiculous for me to spontaneously contact them about it now.

On the other hand, I think the institutional SLC-based church organization is an amoral corporation, and I don’t want my connection with my people to be taken as approval of the actions of this corporation. So it might make sense to make it official that I’m not a member of that branch/organization of Mormons.

But the real reason I probably won’t do it is the following: I need to step away from the computer and go back to my mundane daily life. Y’know, the one where I need to spend his weekend cleaning up my apartment. ;)

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30 Comments

  1. 1
    Matt says:

    I think you’re right. At this point, unless you’re an active and tithe-paying member, the “resign in protest” movement doesn’t really have meaning for you or the church. Just getting on with your life? Now that’s priceless.

    Let’s get busy! :)

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  2. 2
    chanson says:

    Yeah, in reality this post is just an exercise in procrastination. ;)

    But, we’ve done a good job since I posted this earlier today! My husband and I reorganized a bunch of stuff in our apartment, tossing stuff out and putting other stuff in storage. It’s still not clean, but it’s an important first step. After this short braek, it’s on to putting away all the laundry I washed today!

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  3. 3
    Eugene says:

    Besides, there isn’t a physical record that gets taken out of a filing cabinet somewhere and shredded. A bit gets flipped in a database. The record still remains, plus all the backup tapes stored away in Granite Mountain. The more interesting question is whether you would still get counted in the membership totals anyway. I have a feeling it’s one of those “Hotel California” things: you can check out anytime, but you can never leave.

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  4. 4
    rebecca says:

    I think the point is that the church might have a second thought about getting involved in civil rights issues if a bunch of people take the time to officially resign their membership over it.

    Maybe the church won’t care at all, or maybe they’ll just figure those were “inactive” Mormons so it doesn’t matter anyway. But maybe they’ll have second thoughts, no matter how insignificant. Maybe they’ll ask themselves if they’ve done the right thing, because even if every person who resigns was inactive anyway, the point is that they’ve actually taken the time and the effort to resign over THIS ISSUE.

    So that’s why I’m going to do it.

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  5. 5
    Hellmut says:

    I am wondering if it would be possible to meet with the Brethren. They are saying that the civil rights community is targeting them unfairly.

    I am sorry that their feelings are sore. Lets talk about it. Lets discuss what it means to be human and what that implies about the proper treatment of human beings.

    Lets get on the record.

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  6. 6
    chanson says:

    Eugene — exactly. I don’t have any reason to believe they’re adjusting their official menbership totals based on resignations.

    Rebecca — That is a good point. I’ll think about it.

    Hellmut — I thought about writing a top-level post on this point as well, but I’ve probably already written too much about proposition 8.

    The thing is that I think it’s probably true that the forces of “no on 8″ deliberately sent a message of “It’s the Mormons who are behind this!” in order to discredit the “yes on 8″ movement. But that’s all the more reason the bretheren should be take a consistent stand against prejudice. As you quoted in yours remarks about that ad: “If you sew the wind, you shall reap the storm. If you live by the sword, you shall die by the sword.” It’s hard for anyone to muster up a lot of sympathy for the Mormons when they’re whining about being on the receiving end of exactly the crap they’re dishing out.

    On top of that, not all of this being “singled out” is unfair. The Mormons really did do the lion’s share of the organizing and bankrolling of this proposition. Really, the bretheren should be ashamed to issue a press release complaining that the Mormons shouldn’t be singled out because it was a broad-based coalition of churches. What is this, kindergarten? The Mormons who organized for proposition 8 are grown-ups who should know that “they did it too!” isn’t an excuse. If they’re actually proud of what they did and not ashamed, they would own up to it, like grown-ups, and not try to push it on somebody else.

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  7. 7
    profxm says:

    chanson, FYI, I have it on good authority they will remove you from the numbers. As a sociologist who studies Mormon growth, I’d love to see a massive dip in Mormon members in 2008-2009 as a result of Prop. 8. I understand you don’t want to resign on principle, but it would send LDS Inc. a message. Also, you could say what my wife said after she saw the ad Hellmut posted, “I’m so glad no one can associate me with that bigoted institution anymore. I’m out and proud.”

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  8. 8
    Hellmut says:

    I agree with you, Chanson, the Brethren’s complaint is not rationally sustainable. It would be fascinating though to hear their response after carefully explaining the ethical implications of their position.

    PS: Somehow, I have the feeling that this won’t be your last post about gender equality. ;)

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  9. 9
    chanson says:

    ProfXM — Wow, they’re really removing the resigned from the count in their stats? Maybe I will do it then…

    Hellmut — Yep, you caught me! ;)

    Incidentally, sorry for posting so much on the weekend and so little the rest of the week. It looks like we both have more time to write stuff over the weekend…

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  10. 10
    Holly says:

    I took steps to resign, but my mother found out, begged me not to go through with it, and extracted a reluctant promise that I wouldn’t have my name removed.

    I’ve had arguments with friends who were excommunicated (almost always for homosexuality) or had their names removed in protest over something. They think it’s immoral for me to stay. I sort of agree….

    I’ve also been chastised by the bishops and home teachers and so forth who have the job of tracking me down and harassing me. If I’m not going to allow my home teachers to visit me, I should just resign, because my recalcitrance screws up the ward’s numbers–they’ll never get 100% home teaching, and it’s partly my fault!

    But I like the authority I derive from still being an official member, the way that gives me a right to criticize the church because officially, it’s still MY church. I was at a rally in SLC Friday night protesting the church’s support of Prop 8. I got in conversation with someone and I was able to say, “I am still a member of the church, and I think this is wrong.”

    I also get some satisfaction out of screwing up those home teaching numbers and various records. I got a weird letter a year or so ago from the church saying, “We aren’t sure who you are. You have the same name as this person who was born on such a date and baptized on this date, but we can’t confirm that this is you. Please tell us who you are and where you go to church.” I just wrote, “FUCK OFF” all over it and mailed it back. It felt great! Getting the letter informing me that I’m no longer a member of the COJCOLDS might feel way better, but I doubt it.

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  11. 11
    chanson says:

    Holly — another great point! I’m torn on this, but I’m kind of leaning in your direction…

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  12. 12
    rebecca says:

    Chanson, this made me laugh: “It’s hard for anyone to muster up a lot of sympathy for the Mormons when they’re whining about being on the receiving end of exactly the crap they’re dishing out.”

    Too true.

    I still say resigning in protest sends a message. And that message reads “FUCK OFF” all over it.

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  13. 13
    Craig says:

    I agree witg Rebecca, and would add that it sends a message not just to the church, or to other Mormons, but to the rest of the country, and most importantly, to the members of the GLBTQ community in and outside of the church, namely, that we are so disgusted by the church’s actions that we are willing to formally and finally quit our associations with an organistaion that has been the main cause of so much suffering for so many.

    That, coupled with feeling sullied by even having my name associated with the church are the reasons I resigned.

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  14. 14
    Holly says:

    I’m not trying to persuade anyone to remain a Mormon in name if that makes them uncomfortable, and I both understand and applaud the decision to have one’s name removed from the records of the church. But I do want to make a further case for why leaving one’s name there can be an aid to protest, even when one made a decisive break with the church a decade or two or three ago.

    I readily confess that part of my motivation is how to best annoy the church hierarchy, and I don’t think resigning is the only way to do that. Maybe it’s just because I’ve had 19 years to get used to belonging to a church I have rejected, because I quit wearing garments in 1989 and asked to have my name removed in 1992, which is when my mom got me to promise I wouldn’t. There have been times when I found it really grating and horrible to remain on the church rolls, and thought seriously about breaking my promise to my mother. (Which is a promise I value, unlike the promises I made in the temple. I’m more than happy to tell everyone how I had to enact my own ritual disemboweling as part of pinnacle of Mormon spirituality.)

    One of those times was the first time the church interfered with a state legalizing gay marriage: Hawaii, in the mid 1990s. Like you, Craig, I felt my name was sullied by its association to the church. I remember reading about it and weeping in shame. I was outraged that this institution I’d supported with 10% of my income was using its money to thwart a cause I wholeheartedly supported.

    But then I started to publish more, and I found it really useful to win awards from the Mormon literary community at the same time I was criticizing the church’s political positions. It’s really funny to me that I’m on BYU’s database as some important Mormon poet, when I loathe everything BYU stands for.

    What the church really hates is criticism, not any shrinking of its numbers. It’s quite happy to kick people out for being gay, so it shrinks itself. What gets its collective garments in a twist is when people who have intimate knowledge of how the church works make pointed and vocal criticism of the church’s hypocrisy–whether their name is on the records of the church or not.

    I think it would readily give up five members for every single vocal, visible critic. It objects to being “singled out” for its involvement in the democratic process regarding Prop 8; but the old dudes in Utah REALLY get upset when those of us who can’t simply be dismissed as “anti-Mormon” discuss the church knowingly. That’s why they have to call us apostate, which is the worst epithet they can hurl at anyone.

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  15. 15
    Eric says:

    I’m with Holly 100% on this one. After analyzing how best to draw attention to the church’s bigotry, the best answer for me seems to be staying on the rolls and continuing to speak up.

    However, I totally understand the people who wish to resign over this issue, and they have my complete support as well.

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  16. 16
    chanson says:

    Okay, now I’m really torn. I’d always said that I’d resign if they really would stop counting me in their totals. ProfXM says that, in fact, that’s how it works. On the other hand, I absolutely intend to continue to offer (hopefully constructive) criticism as a concerned insider. So if I actively tell them I don’t want to be associated with them, it can’t help but undermine my position…

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  17. 17
    Hellmut says:

    Good to meet you, Holly. Thank you for sharing the story of your life with us.
    I agree with you that nothing irks the brethren like free speech.

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  18. 18
    rebecca says:

    Holly, I think you’re totally right. I do. I’ve thought about staying in because it’s way better to be able to criticize from the inside, and I think it’s seriously GREAT that you do that.

    I’m still resigning, because really, I don’t think me being in or out makes one bit of difference to them – I don’t publish about them and I’m not likely to, so I think my voice is better heard by resigning in protest. But I think your point – that your voice is better heard by NOT resigning – is also totally right.

    I have zero problem with people not resigning over this.

    But I’m super happy to add my inconsquential voice to the movement in hopes that together we will be loud enough for the LDS church to hear.

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  19. 19
    Craig says:

    I think there is merit and necessity in both. I agree that it is important to have insiders critical of the church, even if they’re insiders in name only. I think it is also important to make a stand for what you believe in.

    Either way, there are good reasons for both, and I’m not here either to tell anyone what is the best. Like I said, I was just stating why I finally decided to resign, not why someone else ought.

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  20. 20
    profxm says:

    Of course it’s up to you. I’m happy to be out. In no way can anyone associate me with Mormonism and its bigotry. I rejected Mormonism, it didn’t reject me.

    I see the rationale for criticizing from the inside. However, has that ever really led to change? I think compelling arguments can be made that all the major changes in Mormonism originated from external pressures: polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, and even acceptance of celibate homosexuals. All three were the result of broad societal changes. Certainly internal dialogs took place inside the religion, but only after external forces led the religion to deal with these issues.

    So, stay if you want. But that does mean people are going to be able to ask: If you disagree, why do you show your “support” by remaining a member?

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  21. 21
    Elaine says:

    Yeah. I’ve about come to the conclusion that I have to resign now. They might not care; I haven’t been active in years and in fact have never been to the ward whose boundaries I now reside in.

    But, you know what? I no longer want my name associated in any way with the people who spent so much time and money deliberately seeking to tear people’s lives apart. And, truthfully, I want to be able to say that I quit because they were such jerks about it, especially after I heard a “church spokesman” interviewed on the radio on the occasion of a protest at the Oakland Temple protest say that he couldn’t understand why people were blaming the church, since it didn’t contribute any money to the pro-8 campaign.

    Well, maybe. But they “urged” members to give their time and their money to the campaign, and we all know what that means to faithful members of the church in Mormonspeak. Innocent in this, the church is not.

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  22. 22
    chanson says:

    ProfXM — that’s a good point.

    For myself, I’ve never done anything as an adult to affirm my membership in th CoJCoL-dS. Sure, I was baptized at eight after my parents taught me to want to be baptized. But I was a little kid, and, frankly, I don’t think it’s even remotely appropriate to teach kids of that age to make “covenants.”

    Also, I’ve published quite openly (on the Internet) that the church can go ahead and ex me if they like or do whatever they want with their database (and I’ve given them my real name in person and online). I don’t feel like I’ve done anything at all to suggest that I support their organization, and (since they’re leaving me alone) I almost feel like it would be absurd for me to actively write them to renounce my membership.

    OTOH, I’ve noticed that Signing for Something now is specifically counting people who renounce their membership because of the church’s political position on civil laws about marriage. Now that’s something I’m willing to be counted for.

    I’m thinking that (as soon as I get a little calm free time this week), I’ll fill out the form on “Signing for Something” and then write a careful letter to LDS Inc. explaining that I don’t reject my Mormon heritage or my connection to this people, but I do renounce my support for this particular SLC-based organization.

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  23. 23
    rebecca says:

    Chanson, that movement on Signing for Something is what made me think of it in the first place – and I already put my name down for it. Your wording to LDS Inc. makes GREAT sense, and I think I’ll steal the idea, if you don’t mind! I will, however, also be using the words “I resign.” Just to make sure.

    And on a tangentially related note – I have a not-so-secret wish that they would excommunicate me. What a great story that would be!

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  24. 24
    Holly says:

    I see the rationale for criticizing from the inside. However, has that ever really led to change?

    I don’t really feel that I’m criticizing from the inside, because I’m NOT on the inside–I’m out and have been for almost 20 years. I’m merely able to invoke certain a authority because I can say, in all honesty, “I am still technically a member of the Mormon church.”

    I’m also not really interested in changing the corporate church. It’s as evil as any corporation anywhere. I’m interested in truth and education. The only change I want to see is in the minds and hearts of individuals.

    I guess part of why it doesn’t particularly bother me to remain a Mormon in name is that I can’t undo what I really wish I could undo, which is my mission. Saying “I’m technically a member of the Mormon church” doesn’t bug me as much as saying, “I used to be a Mormon missionary.” That latter phrase always requires a deep breath and before I say it and brings on a twinge in my gut after I say it.

    And on a tangentially related note – I have a not-so-secret wish that they would excommunicate me. What a great story that would be!

    I admit that I felt better about keeping my promise to my mother when someone who had been exed for intellectual heresy pointed out to me that if I wrote enough and waited long enough, I’d get exed too.

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  25. 25
    chanson says:

    Rebecca — That would be cool if you would also put it to LDS Inc. in that way! I’ve looked up the site, and I’m working on my letter. ;)

    As I said in my excommunication post (linked above), I also think it would be more fun to be ex’d. But the thing is that I think they specifically avoid exing anyone who would like to be ex’d.

    Holly — sorry to say that probably goes for you too. Yea, they’ll ex people for writing things they don’t like, but my suspicion is that they’ll only do it if they have reason to believe that you don’t want to be ex’d.

    For myself, I’m not trying to change the corporation from within either. I’m trying to have a civil and friendly dialog with the people who share my Mormon culture, and I feel like resigning might affect the way believers view me…

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  26. 26
    Eugene says:

    At least according to this guy, when you get your name removed, “You are still counted in overall membership numbers. The church does not subtract resignations each year when calculating membership numbers.” I can appreciate the symbolism, but keep in mind that at the end of the day, the only person you’re inconveniencing at the COB is some lowly database entry guy.

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  27. 27
    chanson says:

    keep in mind that at the end of the day, the only person you’re inconveniencing at the COB is some lowly database entry guy.

    and myself. Don’t forget, I’m also inconveniencing myself. ;)

    So it looks like opinions are divided on whether resignations are subtracted from the total, and I haven’t seen any hard evidence from either side on the matter (since the church won’t say what their policy is).

    However, if I resign and send my letter to signing for something it will be counted by the signing for something people, which is probably enough to make it worth my while. I have a bunch of other things on my to do list for today, and this is on it too. We’ll see how far down the list I make it. ;)

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  28. 28
    Holly says:

    But the thing is that I think they specifically avoid exing anyone who would like to be ex’d.

    I know for a fact that that’s not true. Debohrah Laake, for instance, was ecstatic about being exed for her book Secret Ceremonies. I also know private individuals who were delighted to be exed. It depends on what you’ve done.

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  29. 29
    chanson says:

    That’s cool. So maybe I do have a shot at getting ex’d after all. Probably not, though.

    I do think they have different standards for people who care about their membership and those that don’t. For example, an active member can get ex’d for having an affair, but if an “inactive” member has an affair, the local ward is not going to call them up just to ex them, even if the bishop and/or assigned home teacher happens to be aware of the situation.

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  30. 30

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