My “Signing for Something” letter

Here it is.

So did I resign my church membership like I said I would?

Not quite. yet. I set out to do it, and… I just couldn’t do it.

Now, I know most people reading this will leap to the cynical interpretation that deep down I secretly still believe in God, or that I just haven’t milked this enough for blog material. But it’s not that (okay, well, maybe a little tiny bit of the latter). But, as a purely symbolic gesture, I don’t feel like doing it. I never affirmed my membership or sustained the leadership of the CoJCoL-dS as an adult, so I haven’t said anything that I should have to take back. I haven’t authorized them to list me as part of their organization — so if they’re keeping honest records, they should remove my name on their own, without my insisting on it.

Everybody keeps saying how relieved they feel when they get that final letter washing the stench of Mormonness off them — and I totally understand that — but somehow I don’t feel that way. (And, really, I don’t feel like corresponding with the official organization at all, not the membership records, and not with the local ward who would surely have to call me.) Of course I disagree vehemently with the politics (and many of the values and teachings) of the CoJCoL-dS, but I’d rather be able to talk to Mormon people as kin, as someone who wants to see them do the right thing. I don’t want Mormons throwing this back in my face (telling me I actively chose to cut my ties) when I enter into a discussion with them.

If the CoJCoL-dS cuts me off, I’d be totally down with that. Hell, there’s a certain cachet in getting ex’d. But I’m not going to insist on it. Unless I get really low on blogging material again…

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chanson

C. L. Hanson is the friendly American ExMormon atheist mom living in Switzerland! See "letters from a broad" and the novel ExMormon for further adventures!!

23 thoughts on “My “Signing for Something” letter

  1. I actually have a lot of sympathy for this perspective as well. I have long thought people should be removed who are not active members – period – without having to jump through hoops.

    I know you were actually just dreading a letter addressed to sister hanson….

  2. I liked your letter. Short and to the point.

    In the future, when having a conversation with an active LDS, how will you describe your connection to the church?

  3. Aerin — Thanks! Personally, I feel like I can come up with excuses for my position even though it’s fundamentally irrational…

    Chris — Thanks to you too! Most of my conversations with active LDS are here on the web where they can read the whole story for themselves (parts 1, 2, and 3) and even catch the fictionalization! πŸ˜‰

    My other main contact with active LDS is through my family, and they all already know both my Mormon connection and the fact that I’m an atheist. For any others that I meet in real life, I would probably tell them the same thing I told the mishies.

  4. Since it doesn’t make a lick of difference either way, I’m not sure why you wouldn’t use the moment to milk some symbolic value out of the procedure. That way, if asked, you can always tie your response to this event.

    I “formally resigned” a little over 10 years ago at the prompting of some random LDS bishop in Minneapolis. That event was both meaningless and devoid of a post-mortem narrative. Unless you’re holding out some hope that you’re going to get formally excommunicated, I don’t get the hesitant ambivalence.

  5. John — True, good point. But since it doesn’t really matter (I shouldn’t have to formally or offically tell them to stop counting me as a Mormon), I don’t want to have some random bishop I don’t even know calling me up to talk about it. I have a hard enough time explaining my “talking about Mormonism on the Internet” hobby to my husband without doing something that I expect will cause the local ward to contact us.

    If they were bothering me with calls to go to ward activities or church, etc., I might resign to get them to stop. But since the church hasn’t contacted me sponteneously in nearly a decade, I feel ridiculous opening up the discussion.

    Also, I’m kind of curious as to whether the church will attempt to contact me (and maybe even ex me) over my Internet activities. I can see from my logs (on LfaB) that people at the COB in SLC occasionally read my blog…

  6. I can understand this. In my own perspective, to send in The Letter would alienate me from a lot of people (especially my father…who’s already convinced that I’m going down terrible paths…or something like that).

    This idea that you have to talk with your bishop and then you have to trust that he will expedite the process doesn’t seem like it would work out too well…because when you set out to do something like this, it’s true that people *do* look at you differently. So, as you say, people would probably throw this in your face — and that’s something worth avoiding. I’d not enjoy going through my old ward and having to explain everything over and over just for it to be taken the wrong way.

    It truly doesn’t seem all that irrational. I know members will say acidically, “Ohhh those exes…they leave the church but don’t leave it alone” or “they go inactive but won’t even resign!” but…really, this isn’t something you just walk away and say, “I will now forget a significant part of my life.”

  7. Andrew — Thanks, I’m glad you don’t see it as irrational (even though I haven’t quite convinced myself of that. πŸ˜‰ )

    Personally, I doubt I’ll see many people from my old ward again (maybe some friends of my mom) and have to explain it to them. But it’s true that resignation is a message from the resigner to the Mormons, and I do want to send the Mormons a message, just not necessarily this one. OTOH, it’s also true that a non-believer can’t win when it comes to believers’ interpretations of their actions…

  8. I’m not saying that you should send the letter. If you didn’t want a bishop contacting you, you could include language to that effect: “From this point forward, I will only accept one further official contact with your church: a letter acknowledging that I am no longer a member. There is no need for any other official contact. Any such contact will be considered harassment.” Blah blah blah. However you would say it. The point is that you don’t need to jump through their hoops. Once you resign, their bureaucracy has no power over you. You don’t have to take an uncomfortable call from a bishop.

  9. Jonathan — That’s a good point, but I feel like they might have the bishop call me anyway. OTOH, I’m not sure how they would get my number since I assume that (if its listed) it is probably listed under my husband’s last name, which the CoJCoL-dS doesn’t necessarily know.

    OTOOH, there’s a decent chance that — upon not being able to find my number — they’d call my mom (which would be worse since she and I have kind of a friendly truce on religion at the moment, and I don’t want to go out of my way to rock the boat).

  10. I share your ambivalence on the issue of resigning, but as I explained on my blog, I have more reasons to not resign — including a believing spouse and children, my parents and siblings, and the fact that I live in Provo :-) — all of which would make resigning something of a selfish act for me.

    However, I was just called by my stake president, who told me he received a letter from the First Presidency regarding my Signing for Something letter, and wants to talk about it. I scheduled an interview for December 2. We’ll see what comes out of this, though I can’t imagine them excommunicating me (or most other SFS letter writers) over this issue. Stay tuned…

  11. Eric — Wow, you were contacted about your letter? I wonder how many people on the list have gotten contacted by the church about this. I definitely want to hear what happens next!

  12. I officially resigned long after I left. There was nothing emotional about it for me. The bishop of the ward I lived in told me, very politely, that he did not need to interview me.

    I resigned hoping to help “the church” in keeping accurate membership numbers. Just doing my part.

  13. I hope you will reconsider. I think resigning is probably the best way to get the leaderships attention. They can’t ignore hard numbers and they certainly understand that for each person who made the effort to resign, there are hundreds of others who are very disappointed with the church.

    I think you’ll feel better if you do it. I did.

    I told my readers I’d resign after the Church refused to sign on to a letter condemning torture. I didn’t. I let it go after my initial disgust because I did not want to acknowledge that membership meant anything to me. And I certainly did not want to jump through the hoops of a bishop’s court or a exit interview for an organization for which I felt no affinity.

    But I changed my mind when they came out for prop 8 and the other measures after declining to sign the torture letter because it was “too political.” I had to send them a message somehow, and the letter, in my opinion, was the best way to do it.

    So I wrote the letter and told them that I’d sue them if they required me to do anything else to remove my name. I received an acknowledgement of my resignation a week later–no request for an exit interview or bishop’s court.

    It was the right thing to do. We are talking about basic human rights here. It was the very least I could do. It’s the very least you can do.

  14. Wayne — that’s cool! πŸ˜€

    I hope my hemming and hawing over this isn’t discouraging reasonable people from resigning.

    I think it would be very positive and constructive if Singing for Something gets a strong showing of people who are willing to take a stand and resign their membership over the CoJCoL-dS’s shamefully hypocritical efforts to pass Proposition 8.

  15. JC Christian — Really, they didn’t contact you? That’s cool. If it’s just a question of sending them one letter and getting a letter back, maybe I should do it. OTOH, if it’s just to get the church’s attention, I can see from my logs that at least somebody in the COB already reads my blog… πŸ˜‰

  16. Yes, the key is to threaten to sue them if they try to require more than the letter.

    Yes, they probably read your blog, but is it church security doing it? IIRC there have been media reports saying they keep an eye on “dissidents.” That’s not a useful audience for this.

    You want to become one of the numbers in their “resigned because of prop 8” accounting. They’ll pay more attention to that.

  17. Chanson, when my sister, Rippy (I believe you met her in Paree–she’s Liz) resigned in the UK, there was no pretense about the bishop’s visit. I think that’s something they make the U.S. membership crawl through because of the convoluted legal history of the resignation “process” (i.e., it used to be pretty much impossible to resign at all. From where you are, I’m betting there wouldn’t be a lot of froofrah about that. Rippy resigned directly through Solihull and there was no direct contact with SLC. She got her “out” letter in two weeks with no fanfare whatsoever and that was it. I’m betting it would be the same from your location.

  18. My experience was that there was nothing to the procedure. The bishop, who I’d never met or seen before, knocked on my door. I said I wasn’t interested in his church. He asked if I wanted to resign membership. I said sure, and told him I’d heard there were all these hoops, etc. He said their weren’t. I handwrote him a 2 line note saying that I didn’t consider myself a member and wanted no further contact with the institution or something to that effect. I got one confirmational phone call from the local stake president — this being the area I grew up in, it happened to be a former employee of my dad. A couple months later I got a confirmational letter that was as brief as the one I’d written. No hassle, no emotion, no big deal.

  19. Is it one of the unintended consequences of this whole Prop 8 brouhaha that it’s now become nearly impossible to get x’d for being the online equivalent of a Sonia Johnson?

    Admittedly, a silly question. Online activity is obviously not equivalent in the view of the controlling authority … and once again, bloggers wind up being denied even that modicum of respect.

    Attica!

  20. Is it one of the unintended consequences of this whole Prop 8 brouhaha that itÒ€ℒs now become nearly impossible to get xÒ€ℒd for being the online equivalent of a Sonia Johnson?

    I don’t know about that. They’re ex’ing Andrew Callahan, and I think most of his organizing has been online…

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