April 28, 2010

Dear Sister Petersen

After writing and posting the resignation letter to the LDS church, I was mildly worried about what kind of backlash I would face with my extended (and very religious) family. I'm not exactly close to them, living over 500 miles away and being too selfishly wrapped up in my own life to ever call or write. While I have seen a couple relatives once over the last 2-3 years, I have not seen the majority of them (and what a majority: coming from a Mormon family, I have literally hundreds of cousins) since I was a child...if ever.

Nevertheless, "not exactly close" doesn't mean I was setting out to alienate them. I had recently come into contact with about thirty cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents via Facebook. (Ahh, good old Facebook. Bringing families together better than Sally Jessy Raphael could have ever dreamed.) So what would happen when they noticed my "quitting the church" blog post notifications?

Within an hour of posting that letter, a message popped up in my Facebook inbox. It was from my grandma. I had a quick moment of "ruh roh." My grandma was writing to make sure I understood what I was doing, to ask if I had really thought this through, to reiterate that she believed this to be the one true church...and to point out that she will love me no matter what I choose to do. Then she alerted me that it was my move on our internet Scrabble game.

Mad props to Grandma.

While there may be people in the future who will choose to not associate with me, that is fine. What better way to find out who really cares for you than to unwittingly dole out such a drastic test?

Okay, pushing aside the mushy crap and moving on to the cold, hard reality of this quittin' business. I have read over and over that the first trick the church tries to pull is: "Oops, we didn't get your letter." I imagine a mailman trying to hand the letter to a bishop, but the latter sticking his fingers in his ears and yelling, "La la la la...I can't hear you!"

I went to the post office to mail the letter certified and with a return receipt. I walked up to the front counter and handed the letter to a clerk. While sifting through my wallet for $5.00 (see how informative I am being?), the clerk glanced at my letter inquisitively.

With a chuckle, he said, "Checking to see if you're still a member?"

With a chuckle, I replied, "Nope, trying to not be a member anymore..."

The smile abruptly left his face and he said nothing more to me. No "have a good day" or "thank you". Uncomfortable. As I walked away, I thought, "He's not going to mail it. He's just going to throw it away now, I know it."

But a few days later, I received my confirmation that the clerk did, in fact, mail it:

My excitement level kicked up a notch. What would happen next? By the next day (the Mormons are anything if not efficient), I received a letter:

April 23, 2010

Dear Sister Petersen and son:

I have been asked to acknowledge your recent letter in which you request that your names be removed from the membership records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I have also been asked to inform you that the Church considers such a request to be an ecclesiastical matter that must be handled by local priesthood leaders before being processed by Church employees. Therefore, your letter and a copy of this reply are being sent to President Richard L. Millett Jr. of the Denver Colorado Stake. He will have Bishop J. Mott of the Cherry Creek Ward contact you concerning the fulfillment of your request.

In view of the eternal consequences of such an action, the Brethren urge you to reconsider your request and to prayfully consider the enclosed statement of the First Presidency.


Gregory W. Dodge
Manager, Member and Statistical Records

Along with the letter was a bi-fold titled "The Invitation." I squealed, "It came! I read about this pamphlet!" You would have thought I had just been accepted into my college of choice by the way Keene and I carried on.

The Invitation read:

An Invitation to Come Back

We reach out to members of the Church throughout the world in a spirit of love and brotherhood inspired by the Lord Jesus Christ.

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" (Moroni 6:4). If any have been offended, we are sorry. (This was my favorite part. "Aw shucks, Church, don't take it so hard. It's not you, it's me.") 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" (Acts 10:38).

To you who for any reason find yourselves outside the embrace of the Church, we say come back. We invite you to return and partake of the happiness you once knew. You will find many with outstretched arms to welcome you, assist you, and give you comfort.

The Church needs your strength, love, loyalty, and devotion. The course is fixed and certain by which a person may return to the full blessings of Church membership, and we stand ready to receive all who wish to do so.

Sincerely yours,

The First Presidency

So far, the process is moving along exactly as I had read. I am anticipating the next step which is a visit from some church official, in which he (of course it will be a man...these women they have been sending over the years are clearly not effective enough) will try to sway me back to the church.

I look forward the conversation and, hopefully, the thumbs-up pictures I will take with him.

Note from the Future: I realize you can see my address on the letter. Please don't be an internet cliche and stalk me. However, if you do decide to, just know that I will blog about the experience. I mean, this "quitting Mormonism" stuff can only interest people for so long.


SeaD said...

Hello fellow quitter! Things have changed a bit since I left the Mormons about 15 years ago. After sending my letter of resignation, I received a certified letter requesting my attendance at a Court date in my honor. It was to be my very own Excommunication. “Wha!? You can't kick me out, I quit!" So I showed up to their little witch hunt and told them that. Let's just say after 20 minutes of back and forth and "you're just making a big deal out of nothing, sister." Mr. Bishop wasn't acting so holy. He was so angry his face was bright red and veins were popping out of his neck as he ordered me OUT of his office! I know they did take my name off the role, because they contacted my parents and at the age of 35, they told on me. Bwahahaha! Weird, but true.

Kelli said...

I would kind of love to be summoned to the church. I think it would make for better writing. "Come on, Mormons... you've got to fight for me! Don't give up so easily!"

TGD said...

LOL! Good times! I remember when I got my letter and pamphlet. I still want to frame them and hang them on the wall!

Kelli said...

TGD, I heard that they will send a letter stating I am no longer getting into heaven (or something similar). I would love to get a picture of me holding up that letter, standing with a bishop who is giving a thumbs-up.

TGD said...

Yeah, the one with the pamphlet was the only guilt ridden letter I got. My final confirmation letter was very short. Only to inform me that my request was granted and if I want to return I needed to talk to the local bishop.

It would take a very unusual bishop to be willing to do a photo op.

For me I was still the financial clerk for the ward when I resigned. It was really awkward for them. LOL!