Letter to the Editor: Sad but resigning Mormon membership

Salt Lake City skyline, stock image, St. George News

OPINION – I’m technically a member of the Mormon church – I converted when I was 21. I haven’t attended for seven years, but I haven’t bothered to formally resign either. The church will generally make the resignation process long and inconvenient unless you get an attorney to help you, and I didn’t want to pay for one.

But last week, two things changed.

The first thing that changed is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced a new policy regarding LGBT members and their children. All lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members who are married or cohabitating are now considered apostates (people who have renounced their faith) and are subject to excommunication.

But the big issue for me is about their children.

There are certain ordinances (church ceremonies) that children go through at certain ages. These ordinances are not only religious but social rites of passage.

Babies are included in a ceremony where they are formally given their name and a blessing. When children are 8 years old, they’re baptized. When boys are 12 years old, they’re given the priesthood (the authority to perform certain ordinances). During this time, baptized children can also perform baptisms for the dead in the temple.

The church’s new policy bars children of LGBT couples from becoming members of the church or experiencing any of these ordinances. Children of LGBT couples can only join the church when they are 18, have moved out of their parents’ house, disavowed same-sex relationships (including their parents’ relationship) and are approved by the First Presidency (the three men at the very top of church hierarchy).

Now normally, I wouldn’t care much about children not getting ordinances. In fact, I think some ordinances aren’t appropriate for children. For example, the church says they baptize children children 8 years old because that’s the age children can make their own decision about whether to join the church.

But I believe an 8-year-old doesn’t have the ability to make a decision they’re told affects them for eternity, especially when they’re subjected to massive peer pressure from their family, friends and congregation. After all, there’s a reason we don’t let 8-year-olds drive, vote or join the military. Don’t get me wrong – there’s a time for baptism for anyone who wants it, no matter who their parents are. However, that time is not as soon as 8 years old.

But the denial of baptism and the priesthood aren’t what gets me most about the new LGBT policy.

What gets me is the denial of the baby blessing.

Babies are innocent. I don’t care who the baby’s parents are, natural or otherwise. I don’t care if the baby is planned or not, premature, overdue or deformed because of genetic issues or because the mother took drugs during her pregnancy. Babies are innocent. But the church is taking out on them the choices their parents have made.

And baby blessings are such a special thing for families – not just parents, but grandparents and extended family. It’s a way of saying to the baby, “Welcome to the world. God loves you. We love you. May you have a happy life.”

Children are so special in the Mormon church. Yet this policy denies a baby blessing to children of LGBT couples. Denying a baby blessing, of all things, doesn’t make sense.

This is what an apostle of the church (a very high ranking authority) has said about the reasoning about the new policy (quoted from the video at the top of the hyperlinked article):

This policy originates out of compassion. It originates from a desire to protect children in their innocence and minority years.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson, of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, then goes on to compare same-sex marriage to polygamy.

(By the way: Since the church’s new policy was announced, LGBT advocates have reported a spike in suicide crisis calls.)

Oddly, while children may not receive ordinances, they can and are encouraged to receive blessings when they are sick and when they need spiritual guidance.

The second thing that changed last week is I found out about an attorney in Salt Lake County who is donating his time and expertise to help people resign from the church.

As I mentioned before, resigning from the church can be a long and inconvenient process. If a member sends the church a resignation letter without very precise wording, the church will say that it’s an ecclesiastical issue and has been forwarded to their bishop. This happens despite the fact that legally the person is no longer a member as of the date church headquarters receives their resignation letter.

What happens after the bishop receives the resignation letter depends on what some people call “leadership roulette.” This is what that term means: Members have no control over whether their local leaders are understanding, kind men or men who are neither understanding nor kind. Some members don’t truly know who their leader is until they resign.

The bishop will conduct an interview, usually in person, about why the person wants to leave the church. If the bishop is understanding, afterward he will send a form to church headquarters and the person’s name will be removed from church records.

However, there are online reports of some bishops who are less accommodating. Some of them will tell the resigning member’s family that they’re resigning, leading to their family pressuring them to stay in the church. Other online reports say that the bishop can initiate a Court of Love, which is a trial where a church member can be excommunicated.

Hence, the process of resigning by yourself can take weeks or months. But if you resign using an attorney, the total turnaround is 15 days.

The attorney who’s helping people quit the church has been doing this quietly for a long time. Before the new LGBT policy was announced, he’d helped 200 people quit this year. After the policy was announced, he received over 2,000 requests, which he’s working through as fast as he can.

As I mentioned, I’ve considered removing my name from the church before, but I never did. I’m a Democrat and a feminist, so there are a lot of beliefs and practices of the church that I don’t agree with, to put it lightly. I never resigned … but this new policy has pushed me over the line.

I’m actually a little sad to do it. I’m surprised, because I didn’t expect to feel sad. But the church gave me food in college when I needed it. I have many Mormon friends who are dear to me.

The day I was baptized was actually one of the happiest days of my life. It was beautiful, even though my father threatened to kick me out of the house for doing it. Several people drove out to Mesquite, Nevada, from Southern California for my baptism, including a family I was very close with in high school. Three missionaries that ministered to me for over a year when I lived in California drove from Salt Lake City to baptize and confirm me (an ordinance similar to a baby blessing that officially inducted me into the church).

But while I have many Mormon friends I hold dear, I also have LGBT friends I hold dear. Some of them have children. Both my LGBT friends and their children have gone through enough struggle and discrimination. Why does the church need to add to it?

So though I feel a bit sad to officially leave the church, I’m far more sad for the babies of LGBT couples who can no longer have a blessing because of the “sins” of their parents. My heart hurts for the children of LGBT couples who are being made to pay for their parents’ “sins.”

On Saturday I’m going to an event in downtown Salt Lake City. It’s a mass resignation from the church. The attorney will be there, signing our resignation letters. We’ll listen to guest speakers, bear our testimonies, march around Temple Square and then mail our resignation letters right outside the church’s international headquarters.

The mass resignation has drawn the attention of major news sources, including Reuters, the Washington Post, the Seattle Times, the Huffington Post, the New York Times, The Guardian (UK), and the BBC, among others.  Over 1,300 people have RSVP’d they are going, according to to the Facebook event page. The organizers are working to make this an event about compassion, not anger.

So that’s what I’m doing Saturday. I can’t do anything to change the new policy, but I can voice my opinion by resigning.

Submitted by Tracie Parry, Salt Lake County

Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them; they do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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43 Comments

  • Brendon November 14, 2015 at 8:30 am

    I am not anti-mormon, but i am saddened by religeon. My post is not intended to attack mormonism, but to shed light on difficult facts that some may not be aware of.

    I had the lovely opportunity of having to fight to have my records removed. As the author mentioned, there are some bishops that are less accommodating. I sent my request, and was asked to interview. I declined. I was sent a letter stating that I’d be required to interview. I replied with another decline. After weeks of waiting I inquired again. I received a letter from the office of the stake president to setup a “court marshal”. I believe they were attempting at that point to excommunicate me. I don’t drink, or do drugs. I’m not a criminal. I do nothing that would warrant excommunication. I refused the meeting at which point I made it clear an attorney would now be involved. They sent me a “last chance to save my soul” letter. I replied with the same response. After 5-6 weeks I received a damnation letter. In short, it was asking God to have mercy on my soul. So yes, it is difficult.

    Now to get to the point. Either you believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet of god, the golden plates were real, and that the book of Mormon is a testiment of Christ, or you dont. If you believe in 1 of these ideas, then you must believe they are all true. None can be compromised. I don’t believe any of it, so for me, removing my membership was not an emotional process.

    Conclusion. … if you believe in these three principals, then why would you leave the church over this gay/lesbian issue? If you don’t believe in these principals, then what took you so long? Why would you use an excuse like this to leave? If you don’t believe it, then just grow some damn balls and follow your heart.

    Just my thoughts.

    BG

    • Brian November 14, 2015 at 11:24 am

      Brendon, I agree completely that belief in Joseph Smith, the current prophet, and the Book of Mormon are entirely tied together. It’s like with Jesus Christ, you can’t believe he was just a good person, or even a prophet. He claimed to be the Son of God and Savior of the world, and either He was, or He’s a liar, a psychopath, or nuts. Personally, I believe all of the above. I’m sorry your experience leaving was so difficult. We had people in our ward send letters asking to leave, and after confirming the letters were indeed from them and were their wishes, we removed their records as requested. There is a ridiculous amount of false information online about the Church, much of which is ludicrous and contradictory, and I hate so see someone leave based on that. But if someone doesn’t believe and has no desire to stick around, I say let them go with love and the assurance that if they change their mind they’ll be welcomed back. It doesn’t serve the Church at all to fill its ranks with those that truly want to leave. Just like cutting dead leaves and branches off a plant or tree is healthy and promotes growth, I firmly believe the same is true of the Church, or any organization. Jacob 5:65 says as much. Lawyers should not be required.

      • fun bag November 14, 2015 at 12:30 pm

        even it if all were true why would god want to punish us every week with the most boring 3 hr block of time imaginable? the same thing week in week out

        • April November 15, 2015 at 1:33 am

          BAG…. appropriate name!

          • .... November 15, 2015 at 10:11 am

            In one country the word April neans cockroach. !

      • fun bag November 14, 2015 at 12:33 pm

        “Just like cutting dead leaves and branches off a plant or tree is healthy and promotes growth, I firmly believe the same is true of the Church, or any organization”

        I wonder if hitler ever said something like this about the jews and others. Seems like something the antichrist would say.

      • 42214 November 14, 2015 at 7:26 pm

        Why so extreme in your choices. Good tactic to manipulate the debate but extreme. Why is Jesus either the son of God or a pyschopathic liar? Isn’t there middle ground here. Why can’t JC just be a well intentioned but delusional carpenter who did good things and had a few enthusiastic followers. Why the 100% one way or the other. Why? Because it shuts down conversation. It’s my way or the highway. You’re like a barker at a carnival midway or Jerry Swaggert on TV. Booooooooring.

  • Terry November 14, 2015 at 9:15 am

    This also deprives a Relative, father grandfather of the opportunity to bless a his baby or grandbaby, sad sad, I’m sure this new Policy Was Not A Devine Revelation ?

  • beentheredonethat November 14, 2015 at 9:17 am

    The fact is the lds church is a private club, with dues. Don’t join if you don’t agree with the bylaws. If you’ve been grangfathered in, get out.

  • Aros November 14, 2015 at 9:22 am

    Huh, see ya then.

  • ladybugavenger November 14, 2015 at 9:38 am

    I didn’t know this process to get “unmembership(ed)” was so difficult. One may need an attorney to “unsubscribe” to a church? WoW! Thanks for sharing. I wonder how many members don’t truly believe the teachings of the Mormon church but are stuck in the cult and trapped by not wanting the hate and ridicule (from other members)and loss of friendships and loss of money and loss of food to raise their children, so they stay?

    • April November 15, 2015 at 1:40 am

      This is actually the funniest comment On here! I hope you were not serious!

      • ladybugavenger November 15, 2015 at 9:43 am

        It’s good to have hope but I was totally serious.

      • .... November 15, 2015 at 10:15 am

        The stupidest comment I’ve seen here is yours !

  • 42214 November 14, 2015 at 10:05 am

    If this wasn’t a divine revelation what was it? I thought the prophet received direction and guidance from God. I thought this is the one true church. Why would God let the leadership of his one true church make such a “bad policy”. It seems apologists cherry pick and rationalize these types of situations, but then again, that’s what they’re suppose to do. Kimball received divine revelation in 1978 to allow the priesthood to blacks. Maybe the real divine revelation was from the US Justice Dept and threats of losing tax exempt status. This seems to be just as bad a bigoted stand the church has made in discriminating against a class of people. It’s probably hard to admit a mistake when you’re so self-righteous. They need a new conduit to God in SLC because the one they have now is doing a lousy job.

  • Curtis November 14, 2015 at 10:13 am

    I don’t understand this business of using an attorney to resign from the church. What’s important is whether the person considers themselves Mormon or not, not what the church might think. If I tell myself I am no longer a Mormon then I’m no longer a Mormon regardless of what the church records show. If you feel to more formally cut the cord then send them a letter saying you no longer consider yourself Mormon and they should adjust their records accordingly. Politely decline any phone or face-to-face conversations. All letters go into the recycle bin unopened.

    • fun bag November 14, 2015 at 12:40 pm

      The way i see it the LDS church isn’t even worth my time or me recognizing them as an organization worth even bothering to make the effort to resign from. And it’s like a spam email operation, no matter how much you beg them to remove all trace of you it will never fully happen. paid tithing records among other things stay in their system forever. So your name is in the system forever no matter what. why bother giving them the satisfaction of begging them to resign

    • fun bag November 14, 2015 at 12:40 pm

      and if i got an excommunication letter i’d frame it and hang it on the wall

    • April November 15, 2015 at 1:41 am

      Finally some common sense!

      • .... November 15, 2015 at 10:17 am

        Well that makes FUN BAG smarter than you..

  • sagemoon November 14, 2015 at 10:58 am

    Wow, the author really captured my thoughts on the subject. I could have written most of this letter myself.

    • Rainbow Dash November 14, 2015 at 2:38 pm

      Same here, Sagemoon.

    • Nathan November 16, 2015 at 4:41 am

      This reasoning makes little sense. A baby blessing is not a saving ordinance. It is not on par with baptism, etc. It is a church ordinance which basically places the baby’s name into church records. It is special for families devoted to the gospel but carries no weight, and the “blessing” as pronounced is just whatever aspirational things dad wants to say about his son/daughter. It’s fine if you want to resign over policy issues but it would make little sense to place a baby’s name into church records if the parents are non-practicing and are living in an arrangement considered apostate by the church.

  • fun bag November 14, 2015 at 11:03 am

    I wanted mesaman to know that i’m an official member of the LDS cult. have been since 8yrs old. never paid in a dime, so they don’t chase me around with missionaries and what not. lol, ill say it… i am a mormon, hehe

    • .... November 14, 2015 at 12:27 pm

      LOL ! I’m waiting for mesaman to cone in with all his..I walked with Joseph Smith Mormon dribble..!

  • Gary November 14, 2015 at 11:28 am

    Sad? Possibly but I doubt it. Otherwise you would have been attending for the last seven years.
    Accurate? Not very. No lawyer is needed.
    I am very glad though, that you finally have the excuse you needed to leave the Church.

  • William November 14, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    Sad to hear you feel you want to remove your membership. Good luck to you. The thing that is great about this country we live in is that we have the right to worship as we please. I hope you find a church that will reflect closer to the social fads of our day .

  • .... November 14, 2015 at 12:21 pm

    You should always understand the rules before joining a cult

  • Paul Bottino November 14, 2015 at 12:25 pm

    I don’t understand why you are so sad. By your own admission, you haven’t been active for seven years. Do the church a favor and get your name removed. Then they don’t get a zero each month for not home teaching you. It just takes a letter, not a Lawyer.

  • DB November 14, 2015 at 2:10 pm

    Disclaimer: I’m not LDS. Why do the church leaders have a vendetta against gays and at the same time, ignore what goes on in Hildale and Colorado City? Maybe I’m misinformed. I’m certainly baffled.

  • DRT November 14, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    I’m just enough of a cynic to look at this and wonder. I wonder just how long it will take the church leadership to realize just how much more money they could have, if they would welcome the LGBT community! From what this letter states, they are regarding gay marriage as they do polygamy.
    Now I could be wrong, but somehow, it seems to me that a little bird told me the LDS was founded on polygamy, until it became an issue that stopped them from getting what they wanted. (Statehood for Utah.) Suddenly, there was a “Revelation,” and polygamy was no longer within the church’s guidelines. In light of this, I just have to wonder how long it will be, before another (pragmatic,) Revelation that the LGBT is welcome in the church, and gay marriage is recognized as a sacred vow.

  • April November 15, 2015 at 1:52 am

    Like the popular phrase in a game show……….GOODBYE.

    • April November 15, 2015 at 1:53 am

      That’s to all you &@#%N WHINER’S!

      • 42214 November 15, 2015 at 10:09 am

        Are you Mesaman in drag?

    • .... November 15, 2015 at 10:19 am

      Yay !!!!!!!!!!!!! BYE. !

  • Nathan November 16, 2015 at 4:39 am

    This reasoning makes little sense. A baby blessing is not a saving ordinance. It is not on par with baptism, etc. It is a church ordinance which basically places the baby’s name into church records. It is special for families devoted to the gospel but carries no weight, and the “blessing” as pronounced is just whatever aspirational things dad wants to say about his son/daughter. It’s fine if you want to resign over policy issues but it would make little sense to place a baby’s name into church records if the parents are non-practicing and are living in an arrangement considered apostate by the church.

  • CaliGirl November 16, 2015 at 8:12 am

    My husband was raised LDS but never participated after he left home at 18. He disagreed with most of its doctrine. After we married and started attending a different church, he simply send a letter to the local bishop expressing his desire to have his name withdrawn from the roles because he disagreed with church doctrine. He wrote that this decision was not subject to discussion. He received a notice that his melchizedek priesthood has been rescinded (insert tear here) but should he change his mind, he’d be welcomed back. Now, 20-years since that decision, and after living in the same home, the good LDS neighbors across the street still won’t talk to us. I guess we don’t have to worry about keeping up with the Jones’.

  • radioviking November 17, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    I challenge any member of the LDS Church to read http://cesletter.com

    .
    Every point is based on LDS teachings and Church documents. Try to prove the points wrong! You want people to read your literature. Why not do as you try to get others to do. There are many doctrines, historical issues, and problems with prophets and apostles which most Mormons are trying to deny.

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