A series of small failures

“eternal consequences”
November 23, 2008, 7:07 pm
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As a reminder, I resigned from the Mormon church November 4, 2008. The last straw was their involvement in passing proposition 8 in California.  I sent the letter to the records department via priority mail.  (I’d heard that if you don’t use priority mail with tracking, they will often just return it, in other words, not accept it.)  I waited patiently for a response.  I asked to only be contacted via mail with confirmation that they had done what I asked.

It didn’t take that long. When I opened the letter yesterday (November 22) and found that they totally disregarded my request, I was bemused. Not angry, which is refreshing. Bemused — slightly amused; feeling wry or tolerant amusement. That word is perfect for this occasion.

I resigned. And, to make sure i wasn’t padding their numbers any further, I asked to have my name removed. Mistake? Perhaps alerting them that you have resigned is enough. Perhaps quoting the page of the church handbook that lists instructions on waiving the 30-day period is not necessary. Maybe mentioning the stake president’s role in the process wasn’t necessary. (I didn’t name him, because i didn’t even know who he was until I got their letter.)  

They don’t make this easy. The man who wrote the letter to me, Gregory Dodge, says that this matter has to be handled by local leaders before it can be processed by church employees. Why?  It’s reveals the patriarchal nature of the organization. “I’m sorry, little girl. You obviously must not be thinking clearly.  We’re tattling to your leader daddy, who is going to come give you a spanking.” I wonder what he will do. In Utah County, where there are so many members, the ward boundaries usually encompass your neighborhood. I realized when I heard his name that I know who my bishop is.  He seems cool. He spoke up at our Homeowner’s Association bi-annual meeting a couple of weeks ago, essentially lending a voice of sanity and defending the people who don’t consider our development a retirement community, and who don’t think parking on the street overnight is a vile affront to the other neighbors. I wonder how he will deal with this.  I didn’t include my phone number on the letter. I assume he will pay me a visit.

He may want to initiate a church court against me.  Since I’m no longer a member, it’s sort of weird and ridiculous, but at this point, i’m feeling like i might as well go along for the ride to see what it’s like.

The letter asks me to reconsider, in view of the “eternal consequences” of such an action. I wonder if when the bishop comes, he tells you what is going to happen to you. “You are going to outer darkness,” or “you will never get to have sex in the hereafter, because only those in the celestial kingdom get to do that,” or “you will never see your family again.” Or if they just leave it at that … threatening “eternal consequences.” 

They have produced a simple brochure for people like me. “An Invitation” from the first presidency. Inside, there’s a picture of them. Three white men with varying degrees of hair loss, wearing white shirts, ties, and dark suits. “Come back. Stand with us. Feast at the table laid before you in the church…and strive to follow the Good Shepherd.” They are reaching out to me, inviting me to return and “partake of the happiness you once knew,” promising outstretched arms to welcome, assist and give comfort. 

The church needs me! 

They reach out in a spirit of love and brotherhood inspired by Jesus. This paragraph is, i believe, the crux of the argument. “Our interest and concern are always with the individual man or woman, boy or girl. Our great responsibility is to see that each is ‘remembered and nourished by the good word of God.’ If any have been offended, we are sorry. Our only desire is to cultivate a spirit of mercy and kindness, of understanding and healing. We seek to follow the example of our Lord, who ‘went about doing good.'”

I see no good in the campaign against same sex marriage. Yes, I have been offended. The only way I know how to heal from the anger is to separate myself from the church. I don’t want to go back. I can’t go back and still be who I am. 

I can imagine how hard this must be for some people. To those who think we resigners are a bunch of whiners, I’m just gonna say this once: Leaving is a difficult, emotional process. It’s taken me about 20 years. I envy those who leave quickly without grief. But I can say it has gotten easier.


No word, yet
November 10, 2008, 10:31 pm
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There was a long line at the post office in Pleasant Grove on Saturday. Having to wait made the event seem more dramatic. I didn’t have anything else to do (besides trying to not listen to the woman behind me barking into her cell phone). I looked at my letter. It’s dry. It feels emotionless. Emotionlessness is huge. The first two times I seriously considered resigning from the Mormon church, writing the letter was an angst-filled process. I didn’t send it, either time. I’m not sure why. At first, I know I thought, “but what if they’re right?” Abandoning what you’re grown up believing is frightening, especially when it has to do with your entire life’s purpose. Where you came from, why you are here, and where you are going (as they put it). I was so into it that I devoted 18 months to being a Mormon missionary, wearing one of those black name tags (Hermana Mardesich), knocking on doors (or clapping outside non-existent doors in the countryside of Uruguay), looking for people who were “ripe and ready to harvest.” 35 of my investigators joined the church. I took time off of college and spent my own money (and some from an anonymous donor). Not trying to brag. Just explaining how significant it was.

But even though I stopped believing, it was still in me. 

Around 2000, I wanted to write a book on my experiences in the church. Word got back to my mother. She called me one night, in tears, and told me that I really didn’t grow up Mormon, so how could I write a book about it? “Your father never joined the church, so we didn’t have the priesthood in our home,” she said. “So you really didn’t grow up Mormon.”  I asked her what all those hours of church meant then? It seemed that every day was consumed by meetings. Three hours of services on Sunday, extra time to prepare for my calling (I played the piano for the kids’ services, so my piano lessons, taught by an enthusiastic, ancient woman in our ward, who had survived polio, centered around mormon songs, though I did get to practice the occasional Scott Joplin ragtime). Monday nights were for Family Home Evening. Tuesday or Wednesday the “youth” had meetings of their own, where learning about chastity seemed to be the focus. Fridays there were usually some sort of social event. Saturdays we had outings, things like visits to the cannery — where we helped can peaches, which were distributed to the people on church welfare, or visits to to the temple — where we offered up our bodies as proxies for dead people the church wanted to baptize and save (like those holocaust survivors that absolutely are not being baptized these days). Oh, and every day before school –BEFORE SCHOOL! we’re talking early– we had to go to Institute (the Institute of Religion) for an hour-long discourse on mormon topics. It felt like I’d sacrificed all my free time for this organization. And I didn’t grow up Mormon? 

After my monologue, she came back with the only thing she could — she simply asked me to not make fun of something that is so important to her and my brothers.

Honestly, that virtually stopped me. I still wrote bits and pieces, in between long bouts of self-medicating, but she got her way. 

So why start writing about it now?  And why now, finally, am I resigning from the church?  I can’t sit back and do nothing after what they did in California. And Arizona. And Hawaii. And Florida. Next stop? your state. 

The heart of this whole issue, to me, is that they believe gay marriage is wrong because being gay is wrong. It’s not. It’s natural. People who are gay don’t choose to be gay. They just are. What’s wrong with that?  Why do we have to fear something we don’t understand? And more than fear, hate it. And campaign to strip people of their fundamental rights.

It’s time for people to get over their prejudice. The gay civil rights movement is the last great civil rights conflict of our time. What other disenfranchised group is left?

I finally got to the counter at the post office. I handed the postal worker guy my priority mail envelope. He looked at it. Then he looked at me, straight into my eyes. In the past, I would have felt some sort of shame or judgment, even if he wasn’t intending that. This time, I looked right back at him, not feeling shame, but liberation. I smiled at him. I thanked him. 

As I was walking out of the post office, I felt light, free, and completely joyous. I wasn’t prepared for how it was going to feel. It felt like the best part of meditation, that spaciousness and openness, energy rising up through my third eye and out of the crown. That feeling of being connected to all. 

That huge burden of shame and guilt was gone. I thought of myself as the creative seven-year-old girl I was before being introduced to the mormon church, finally free and able to move on beyond the roadblocks, and beyond the damage, the guilt, the fear, and the self-loathing. I am free.

I don’t know what they will do with my letter. But as of the date I wrote it, I resigned. It really doesn’t matter.

If anyone is thinking of doing the same and needs encouragement, please write to me. There’s also a website, http://www.signingforsomething.org, that is posting letters of people who have resigned. There are also sites, like http://www.exmormon.org, or http://www.mormonnomore.com, or mormonresignation.com, that have sample letters and instructions.