Thursday, November 23, 2006

Resignation Response

A friend just resigned from the church. He was joined by his wife and all their kids. Both were lifelong members and both served honorable full time missions for the church. They were married in the temple and were active in the church along with their kids. I've read about how the church responds to resignations (which it insists on calling "name removal"), but my friend sent me their response. I find it puzzling in many ways and thought I'd share it.

Remember, the church expends huge amounts of energy trying to convert people to the church and is especially eager to convert intact families. So it is really a calamity when an intact family opts to never darken their halls again. At least you'd think so. I don't think that is reflected in the following which feels a lot more like a polite, "What's your problem? If you figure it out then feel free to come back."

The first item is a photocopied letter with a vertical black line down the left side. Apparently the copier needed servicing and the former members didn't deserve the original. I've taken the liberty of inserting comments throughout.
I have been asked to acknowledge your recent letter in which you request that your family's names be removed from the membership records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. [They did no such thing. I read the letter and it wasn't a request; it was a resignation which the law states was effective immediately which makes the following both false and completely irrelevant.]

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. [Why? The church employees regularly send unsolicited membership records to the wards and refuses to take them back so why can't they inform the ward that the members have quit and take the records back? The answer: they can and should, but they want to make sure that members aren't quitting to avoid excommunication. However this isn't even a reason anymore because the church has changed its policies and no longer excommunicates people who have quit.] Therefore, your letter and a copy of this reply are being sent to President [stake president] of the [stake] Stake. He will have Bishop [bishop] of the [ward] Ward contact you concerning the fulfillment of your request. [How long before that communication makes it through the ward grape vine?]

In view of the eternal consequences of such an action, the Brethren urge you to reconsider your request and to prayerfully consider the enclosed statement of the First Presidency. [Is that a thinly veiled threat?]

Sincerely,

Greg W. Dodge
Manager, Member and Statistical Records


The next enclosure is a glossy white pamphlet with a black and white photo of the Christus statue on the cover.

AN INVITATION

FROM THE FIRST PRESIDENCY
OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF
LATTER-DAY SAINTS

Inside it says.
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. 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
In a separate block quote at the top of the second column is the following statement.

Come back. Stand with us.
Feast at the table laid before you in
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-
day Saints and strive to follow the
Good Shepherd.
I'd like to parse this, but there's not much to parse. How much time did they take to come up with this? Here you have another complete family quitting the church and this is the divinely inspired last message from the church's prophet? Sorry if you were offended, but we're just trying to do good. I love the touch about partaking of the "happiness you once knew." They're so sure that your experience inside the church was one of happiness, which explains your resignation. And they clearly assume that you are no longer happy since you are quitting.

Then there is the rather obvious statement that they need you as a member. That's rather obvious since nearly every good thing that comes out of the church is the result of its unpaid volunteers and almost despite the best efforts of Salt Lake.

I also love the statement about standing ready to receive you back. There is an underlying threat there because the church's handbook of instructions clearly directs that former members are only allowed to be rebaptized into the church after searching interviews. I suspect that a lot of groveling and humble pie would be required before it happened and before you'd be restored to full fellowship in the church.

Finally there is the reference to the feast laid out for us in the church. Funny how I felt starved, not feted, suffocated, not refreshed.

Somehow I just don't think they get it. People don't leave because they are offended, unless you count being offended at being lied to and taken advantage of. They leave because the church has a crappy product and they've finally seen through the lies. Conspicuously absent is any kind of admission or willingness to consider that perhaps the church did something wrong or that the church could improve. No where do they request input from the former member about why they are leaving or how the church could better fulfill their needs or where the church may have gone wrong in accomplishing their mission. The problem is clearly with the former member, not the church.

What in this is supposed to make a disenchanted member reconsider their decision? What are they supposed to prayerfully consider? The emptiness is stunning when you consider that an entire family that had selflessly served the church their entire life is trying to quit.

Personally, I think that they already know why people are quitting and are completely unwilling to do anything about the reasons. Once a person notices that the emperor has no clothes and stops playing along it is futile to get them to pretend again.

6 comments:

Sister Mary Lisa said...

I fully agree with you. It amazes me how lame this letter and pamphlet are, especially after the attempts made by local members to get you to come back, or re-think your decision to leave. I feel absolutely no warmth or caring in that letter. It's all about the church, and that's all it's ever been.

Michelle said...

I never actually read the letter or the pamphlet until you posted them! It almost seems like they figure it's too late...why put any effort into it? We went to dinner with 2 active Mormon couples the other night. One of them has an adopted daughter, Mexican and Laotian, with pretty dark skin. I had a hard time not asking them if they were waiting for her to become "white and delightsome."

Sideon said...

It's yet another wheel to run on in that great and massive hamster cage called Mormonism.

There's a total disconnect with what the Morg says and what the Morg does. I got the same letter, same pamphlet, in spite of my emphatic and notarized resignation letter. Obviously, literacy and reading for content are not skills that are used in the membership records department.

MattMan said...

Yep, that's the letter. I have scans of mine as well.

That letter and the letter I later got from my bishop I found utterly disrespectful.

They clearly hold out to the end trying to exert their control over the situation -- they completely ignored the words in my letter and just filled in mentally whatever they wanted and acted accordingly. Total dysfunction.

And like you said, these letters are supposed to make people want to come back? Ha! Just confirmed to me that I absolutely made the right choice -- nothing but emptiness there.

Ruthie said...

I don't know you--just linked to your blog from exmormon.org...I didn't get the glossey white pamphlet when I had my 'name removed'.

I wonder why they call it that since they don't really remove it?

I've also wondered why they don't say something like: thanks for the x amount of years you've spent serving in the church and paying tithing. we appreciate your contribution and will miss you...that would be way more effective than the not-so-subtle threats of damnation and fear-filled warnings against Satan that I got.

Good luck on your journey and your marathon running!

Anonymous said...

I guess these people aren't my friends too? Thanks again for the open lines of communication. Friends who aren't my friends, I wish I had known something about all of this earlier. It is really difficult to process what looks like a sudden change in circumstance, but I guess you all have had lots of time to think about it. Yeah, I am pissed off, but not at you. Hope all this is amusing to anyone following the chatter.