One Former Mormon's Experience with
Having His Entire Family's Name Removed
from the LDS Church Records
[Names and contact info withheld.]
Date: Thu, 28 Oct 1999
Sandra, here's my account of our experience in leaving the LDS church. I still have the letters from the bishop and S[take] P[resident]. ...Note that I was able to use information from the G[eneral] H[andbook] I[nstruction] in my case. If I had not had access to the church's own procedure for name removal, I could have been subjected to an even greater offense, and run-around, than I received.
I was ward clerk in three wards as well, and having that knowledge of the church's procedures helped me as well. The public needs to know that the church intentionally conceals information on how to resign their memberships, and that local leaders make it difficult, if not impossible, to resign.
We delivered our resignation letters to both the bishops' and SP's houses on Dec. 15, 1998, and heard nothing from either of them, until my wife heard from the bishop's counselor in Mid-Feb that "they were holding on to our records to qualify to build the new chapel." Then, on March 7,  two guys from the church came over, unannounced, and one of them asked me if I "intended to continue disseminating anti-Mormon information," to which I replied, "Do you mean do I intend to exercise my constitutional rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religious expression?"
The fellow obviously repeated my response to the bishop and SP, because last Friday, March 19, I received a letter from the SP "requesting me to attend a 'high council disciplinary council' on April 7 for the purpose of discussing charges of 'conduct unbecoming a member of the church.' Unfortunately, I was out when the letter arrived, and ______ called the SP at work to voice her displeasure over receiving the letter. Those of you who know ______ know what she did to him (chewed him up and spat him out). :-) I don't have time to write all the details. The SP's contention was that I was sharing 'anti-Mormon information' with other church members before I delivered our resignation letters, which he and the bishop thought gave them the right to 'excommunicate' me, rather than let me resign voluntarily.
I spent the entire weekend composing an eight-page response to him, in which I laid out the timeline of events, and why there should be no 'disciplinary council.' An ex-Mormon friend sent me portions of the LDS Church's General Handbook of Instructions directions on voluntary name removal. When a member requests name removal, the bishop is to contact the member, confirm their decision, inform the member that he has a 30-day right of rescission before the deed is done, (in case you change your mind), complete an administrative form, forward it to the SP, where he approves it, and sends it to Church HQ.
As I wrote above, no church officers had even contacted us since we delivered our letters on Dec. 15 . We had assumed that they were removing our names according to our wishes, and that we'd simply get confirmation in the mail. So church officers did nothing of what their handbook states for them to do.
The Handbook also states that if a disciplinary council (church court) is pending on a member, he cannot escape it via name removal. That is logical as far as "sinning" members goes, but we are not in that category, we simply want to resign. (The church wants to excommunicate "apostates" so that they will be discredited, stigmatized, and shunned by other Mormons, so that other Mormons will not listen to any "anti-Mormon" info from them.)
After I got all my "ducks in a row," I called the SP yesterday, and explained my position to him. He tried to get me to admit that I had been speaking to other Mormons (seeing as how ten other ward members are exiting, partly due to us), so that I might "incriminate" myself. I told him that what I told others was none of his business, and that his questioning of me was unwarranted, as we had resigned from the church as of Dec. 15, and that his questions were a violation of my constitutional rights of freedom of speech and of free religious expression. I also told him that sending the two guys to my house, unannounced, to ask me, a former LDS member, personal questions, (including "was I attending another church"), was not only a violation of my constitutional rights, but since they repeated my response to the SP, instigating his letter to me, I considered their repetitions of my comments, against my knowledge or permission to him, to be slander, and a violation of my privacy. I told him that I believed that he 'held on' to our membership records long enough for him to qualify to get his new chapel built, and that he only wanted to excommunicate me as a vendetta against me because I called the SLC Membership Dept. and complained about it. I told him that I believed that his failure to honor my resignation request for three months, and then springing a 'disciplinary council' on me, was an attempt to smear my name and to defame my character in my community, and that he had no jurisdiction or authority to judge, or attempt to judge, my 'conduct,' as I am a FORMER member whose name he simply had not removed according to my stated desire. I stated that if he sent me any future correspondence including the words 'disciplinary council,' 'conduct unbecoming a church member', or 'excommunication,' etc., that I would sue him for defamation of character.
After stating my case, sounding very legalese and educated, I asked him if he had the authority to make the decision as to whether or not this 'disciplinary council' would actually be held. He replied that he did. I then told him, "I need to know right now whether you still intend to hold this council, because I have some paperwork to deliver to you, and have you sign for today, if your decision is yes. Your decision will determine whether I need to deliver this paperwork to you."
In other words, I bluffed him. I had him thinking that I had something from an attorney, such as a "cease-and-desist" order, or notice of a defamation lawsuit. Actually, all I had was my eight-page letter laying out my position.
After about 30 minutes, he began to "soften," and he said, "maybe we'll just do the name removal thing." I replied, "So this is your decision, then?" He said, "I have to make one phone call, and I'll call you back, and let you know for sure." I replied, "I still have some paperwork for you, but with your decision, I won't need to deliver it today. Please give me a letter confirming your rescission of the notice for the 'council,' " and he promised that he would.
He called back later, my wife took the call, and he told her that they would indeed honor our name removal. I presume he called the church Membership Dept. and spoke with one of their fellows who handles lots of these cases, and since I had interspersed 'lawsuit' and 'defamation' and 'slander' and 'freedom of speech' throughout our conversation, I suspect that the Membership Dept. instructed him to change his mind and honor our request immediately.
What I now want from him, to rectify the situation, and to restore our good name in our community, is for him to draft a letter of apology to me for casting aspersions on my character, via his letter including the words 'charges of conduct unbecoming a member of the church,' and for involving others in this fiasco. I want him to deliver a copy of that letter to every Mormon who may have heard about this case through the 'Mormon rumor mill,' and that the letter should state that we have voluntarily resigned from the LDS Church, and that anything they have heard to the contrary is incorrect, and that there should be no further conversation or innuendo on the matter in LDS circles.
I also want him to direct the fellow who appeared at my house unannounced and asked me personal questions to write me a letter of apology. His compliance with my wishes will determine whether I file lawsuits against all parties and the church itself.
Another thing that helped me immensely was calling John L. Smith of Utah Missions for advice. He has been an 'anti-Mormon' advocate for 50 years, and has much experience in helping ex-Mormons leave the church. He informed me of a case in Mesa, Arizona, filed by a Norman Hancock, who tried to resign from the church, and they tried to excommunicate him. He sued for $18 million, and that case forced the church to allow members to remove their names at their request, without using any stigmatizing verbiage such as 'excommunication.' This is what my SP obviously wasn't aware of in my case.
Also, he could not excommunicate me, even if I had been sharing 'anti-Mormon info,' because he had given me no notice of a 'disciplinary council', or any intimation that such was in the offing, before we sent in our resignations. Therefore, his desire to excommunicate me was nullified by my prior resignation, which was my contention to begin with. Smith subsequently sent me some info on the Hancock case as published in "The Mormon Alliance."
May 2 1999 update:
My phone conversation with the SP was on March 22, wherein he agreed to remove our names and forget about the 'disciplinary council.' We received a letter from the ward bishop dated March 24, which he obviously wrote after he conversed with the SP, but before the SP agreed to drop the church court and allow us to resign. I do not know the bishop very well, since we stopped attending church shortly after he became bishop, and I've never talked to him much, and not at all as bishop. His letter was unnecessarily caustic and offensive, and revealed him to be even more TBM [True Blue/Believing Mormon] than I thought he was (______ calls him a 'storm trooper'). A few extracts, interspersed with my comments:
"I have received your letter and will comply to the best of my ability with your request to remove your names from the church rolls."
(Hmmm, the 'best of your ability' must not be very good, seeing as how you held onto our exit request since Dec. 15. How 'able' must you be to simply sign a form and send it to the SP?)
"Apostasy has a familiar pattern with certain steps occurring and I knew that you each had taken a number of those steps already."
(How would you know what 'steps' we've taken, seeing as how I haven't spoken to you for more than probably five minutes since you've been bishop, you've never called or expressed a desire to discuss any issues with me, even after I invited you to, and everything you've heard about our 'apostasy' comes through hearsay?)
"I would offer counsel to you one last time as your Bishop however..."
(That's funny, I don't recall receiving any 'counsel' from you a FIRST time, nor have I asked for any. I've received absolutely nothing from you since I sent you our exit letter of Dec. 15, to this letter of March 24. ALL I got was two guys coming to my house unannounced and uninvited, to interrogate me about my personal life. You didn't call and say "I'm terribly upset that you've decided to leave the church," or "please let me come over and discuss it with you," or "Go to hell, apostate." Nothing.)
"I assure you that no one will attempt to dissuade you from your choice, as agency is an important principle in the true gospel."
(Hmmm, you apparently weren't concerned about 'agency' when you held onto our exit request for 3 months, and then I get a surprise letter from the SP requesting me to attend a 'court.' I guess this 'free agency' thing is dispensed by you on a discretionary basis.)
"Certainly the Lord will show some measure of mercy on each of you as he considers how you've been beguiled..."
(Love that medieval term "beguiled," but if I was ever "beguiled," it was by the lie of Moism for 35 years.)
"You spoke about truth in your letter.....I have not been personally offended by the untruths you've spread against the Church or its leaders."
(Well, that's nice to know that you weren't 'personally offended', since I try to make certain that everything I write about 'the church or its leaders' IS the truth. But since I've not said a single word to you about 'the church or its leaders,' I guess that once again, you're basing your opinion on hearsay. I don't suppose you'd want to sit down with me for 6 or 8 hours and permit me to document everything you describe as 'untruth'?)
"I have chosen not to hold a Church disciplinary council, although your actions could easily warrant it."
(Hmmmm, I don't suppose the fact that I threatened the SP with numerous civil charges helped you make this decision? And seeing as how I resigned from the LDS Church on Dec. 15, 1998, my 'actions' after that date are none of your business.)
We got a letter from the SP dated April 8 , which was much nicer--no condemnation, etc. A few excerpts:
"Whenever someone leaves the Church there is naturally an awkward period of adjustment for everyone involved....it is my hope and prayer...that the awkwardness and misunderstandings will soon melt away and that you will again feel the hand of friendship from the many friends you know in...the ward....We have not intended to cause the pain and heartache that I understand you have recently felt, but we realize now that we...unintentionally...irritated raw nerves. Many things have been put on the back burner and many things are done without thinking of others' feelings....We regret any thoughtless actions or inaction that caused you or your family any pain or heartache."
We finally received confirmation of our exit request from the Membership Dept., dated April 21--more than 4 months after we requested it, and after threatening legal action. So at last, 'our long family nightmare is over.'
I still plan to request that the SP read an apology for his and the bishop's actions to the high council and ward correlation council; the reason being, that if they don't publicly state that our family voluntarily left the church, rumors of 'courts' and 'apostasy' will continue. It's also to teach them that they can't do this to anyone else in the future. They simply can't run over people, or attempt to destroy the character and reputation of ex-Mormons under the guise of 'defending the church.'
Go to Resignation Letter
Go to How to Remove Your Name from the LDS Records
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