The Letter

I realized that for reasons of [insert long story here] it would be in my best interest to at least know what the letter is about. My ex is applying for a sealing clearance. I don’t know what’s more silly — them wanting my opinion on the matter or their manner of expressing themselves. Here’s the text of the letter, with identifying information altered:

Bishop X
Ward X
Address

Dear Sister Molly,

Brother [Ex Husband] is applying to the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for a sealing clearance. As a former sealed spouse of Brother [Ex Husband], you are requested to provide a letter. This letter should include your feelings about this application and whether Brother [Ex Husband] is current in any financial obligations related to your divorce.

Please return your letter to the above address. Your consideration of this matter is greatly appreciated.

Bishop X

This letter provides a pretty good example of the lack of respect for personal boundaries that LDS, inc. has for the individuals it interacts with. Let’s think this through:

  1. I’m not a member of this church any more. But they track me down and send me this letter.
  2. They refer to me as “Sister” – an attempt to demonstrate authority over me and ignore the fact that I escaped from them.
  3. The letter never expresses concern for my well-being, nor does it apologise for what must necessarily be an intrusion of my privacy and an unsettling request to rehash the past.
  4. The letter instructs rather than asks me to provide them with a letter. The tone is authoritarian rather than inviting.
  5. Was this letter written by a robot or what?

I spent most of yesterday going back and forth. But after thinking it through, I will send a response. I’d like to let this bloke know that I do not appreciate being tracked down and contacted, despite my explicit instructions not to. I do not appreciate having my personal information acquired and recorded by an organisation I do not belong to. I do not appreciate the tactless request to dig up a past that is long buried. I want them to know that if they do this again I will contact the press and they will hear from my attorney. One more push and I’ll sacrifice my anonymity and make a public fuss.

The other thing I could possibly achieve from this is getting numerous nasty postings made about me online by my ex and his family. It’s common for cheating spouses to react irrationally when they get caught, and although he was the one having sex with guys from the Internet, all of a sudden I was the one who apparently suffered from every type of psychosis imaginable. Among the claims they made were that I hypnotised him into thinking that he was gay, that I was psychotic, that I had Borderline Personality Disorder, that I had “Killed the Light of Christ” and so on and so forth. The postings are all so irrational that they really only made friends more sympathetic, and they have never affected my work. But from time to time a friend will find one of them when searching for something else about me online, and they inevitably mention it. They mean well and are generally supportive, but it would be lovely not to have these little reminders pop up now and again to shout out “Oi! Molly! Remember how much fun it was being married to a self-loathing gay bloke whose repression made him explode in a giant globby mess of psychological flotsam?” Time can take the sting out of words, but the Internet keeps them fresh. Words on the Internet don’t fade with time. They are either online or deleted. I’ve put down my baggage from this mess. I don’t need it to keep following me around like a smelly unwanted stray animal.

So here’s how I do it. (And I don’t care if the twats from the Church Office Building are reading this, because it’s going to be difficult to disagree with.) The continued presence of this rubbish online is a pretty good indicator that he isn’t remorseful about (a) cheating on me (b) blaming me for cheating on me (c) saying a lot of nasty things about me. If he’s really repaired himself and moved on and is actually psychologically healthy enough to be marrying some other girl, then he shouldn’t be harbouring any bitterness toward me. It’s a bit hard to believe that he’s forgiving himself and me for everything if smug, false claims about my sex life, my morality, and my sanity are still gracing the pages of his and his family’s blogs. The repentance process requires recompense. There is no apology he could make with words that would really mean anything to either of us at this point. No, that ship has sailed. But from a doctrinal standpoint, taking away some words can get close enough. The only recompense I can get at this point is to have this person deleted from my life. To have all threads, physical, symbolic, and digital, cut forever. So that’s what I’ll ask for.

I don’t know if they will listen. After all, I’m the dirty apostate and he’s the one who has used the mask of piety to avoid dealing with the realities of his situation. But I hope by sending one last letter I can send a message to both my Ex-Church and my Ex-Husband: I’ve finished with you. Now fuck off.

Plea for help: Mysterious Letter

I was out a few days ago and when I got home, in the post was a mysterious card saying that they had a letter for me from the church which required my signature before I could have it. I’ll now need to take the card to the post office to retrieve it. My mind is full of questions and I could really use some input from Outer Blogness on how to react. Here’s what’s swirling through my mind:

1. I have successfully concealed my address from LDS, Inc. for three years. It’s very creepy that they have tracked me down. If I accept the letter, they will have a confirmation of where I live.

2. What on earth can they have to send to me? I haven’t been a member of LDS, Inc. since November of last year, and in my resignation letter I specified that I wanted to be left alone. What can they have to say to me now? Why is it important enough to warrant a certified letter?

3. A big part of me just wants to ignore it, but I also recognise that it would be foolish to remain ignorant as to why a large, shadowy, powerful office building in Salt Lake City is trying to send me information.

What to do?

Not So Perfect

If you haven’t paid a visit to Cognitive Dissenter lately, you ought to. This post eviscerates the notion that The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day SaintsTM is perfect, despite the traditional saying that “the Church is perfect, even if the people aren’t.” It’s a damning collection of information. It would take quite a bit of Kool-Aid to overlook it all and not simply be taking the piss when you deny it.

But let’s say all of that factual information doesn’t matter. Let’s simply examine the structure of the church to see whether or not it is perfect, despite the failings of its people:

If the Church is perfect even though the people are not, then the Church ought to be structured in a way to have checks and balances on human imperfection.

The organisation that makes the rules is the same organisation that investigates violations of the rules. Conflict of interest much? You couldn’t run a government or a charity that way. If human imperfection is inevitable, then why doesn’t LDS, Inc. have a clear and public method of reporting abuses, addressing dysfunction, and exposing malfeasance on the part of volunteers and paid staff?

If the Church is perfect even though the people are not, then why don’t leaders have to go through a repentance process when they wrong a member under their guidance?

Have you ever received horrible counsel from a bishop? Stake president? Oh, you too then? Did anybody ever apologise? I’m not talking about publicity stunts like paedophile priests washing feet. I mean a simple, clear, heartfelt apology as part of a repentance process when an all-too-human Mormon ecclesiastical leader harms a parishioner intentionally or unintentionally. Have you ever heard of that happening? Me neither. Are you aware of any policy requiring this in the Church Handbook of Instructions, or even informally? Me neither.

A church that is allegedly perfect would have to deliberately look out for ways to compensate for the mistakes and abuses of men given substantial amounts of power over other people. These failsafes simply don’t exist in the LDS Church, and when someone is hurt, they are usually ignored or shrugged off as collateral damage. A perfect church would recognise in advance that it would have to do a good deal of repenting on a regular basis.

Mormons, please stop repeating this bloody nonsense that the Church is perfect. You’re only enabling the systematic devaluing of people who have experienced abuse and driving more members away from you. Sorry if I spilt your Kool-Aid there, but perhaps it’s time for you to consider a more grown-up beverage anyway.

Top LDS news stories of 2010

Continuing its largely successful attempt to hijack the search results for “Mormon” on Google, the Mormon times has put out an article entitled “Top LDS news stories of 2010: Humanitarian aid, temples, missionary work lead the list”.

Har, har, har.

According to the Ministry of Truth Mormon Times, the most notable LDS incidents of 2010 were a few pennies tossed to the poor from a large fat purse, more pay-per-salvation venues, opening two new nations populated by victims of the Curse of Cain so their homes can be trespassed by smug blondes from Idaho, initiation of what will be endless discussion without action with Chinese bureaucrats, and a new FamilySearch Library in Riverton, Utah.

In the words of Mr. Molly, whoopty-shite. Here’s what I think really makes headlines in terms of the long-term prominence and health of LDS, inc.

1. US Crackdowns on polygamists have become regularised; Canada is considering legalising the practise

For too long the abuses within the FLDS community have received a blind eye from American authorities from Utah and Arizona too embarrassed to deal with the embarrassing reality that the “plygs” are their theological and literal cousins, and that polygamy is a part of LDS history, like it or not. Texas, however, doesn’t seem concerned with this. Arrests have become more routine, less high profile, and will hopefully continue the erosion of this highly toxic form of fundamentalism. If Canada legalises polygamy, watch for an exodus of the FLDS north of the border.

2. Boyd K. Packer’s homophobic talk at Conference

We can also add in Keith McMullin’s un-scientific and horrifying keynote given at Evergreen International’s annual conference. Nothing has changed; the church is still homophobic, although it seems to have learnt that it must be less strident if it doesn’t want any more PR headaches of the sort caused by its involvement in Proposition 8.

3. The editing of Boyd K. Packer’s talk, and the Internet calling the church out on it

Nine Moons reported it first, and the bloggernacle went mad after that. MiniTru can no longer send things down the Memory Hole. The digital world moves too quickly.

4. The resounding silence after the defeat of Proposition 8

I’ve long had a theory that most LDS people didn’t actually care on a personal level about whether or not gay marriage was legal; their prophet told them to spring into action against California’s Proposition 8 and so they jumped. The relative silence and lack of involvement by Mormon people in the aftermath of Judge Walker’s strong ruling striking it down shows, to me at least, that most Mormons who campaigned for the initiative did so unthinkingly. This is both reassuring and frightening, the more I think about it.

5. The whitewashing of the Book of Mormon by sending racist chapter headings down the memory hole.

This is notable not only because it continues the church’s established trend of silent edits with no explanation, but it makes it clear that there will never, ever be any kind of apology for past racist teachings. Like Mormonism’s anti-woman and anti-gay teachings, historically inconvenient facts are “vaporised” and the faithful doublethink their way past them. However, I believe 2010 has become a landmark year in terms of the documentation of these sorts of changes.

They Don’t Make it Easy

Dear Sister Molly,

I know that you know that you ceased to be a member of the LDS Church the second we opened your letter, forcing our pure and temple worthy fingers to come into contact with remnants of your slimy green saliva along the envelope’s edge, but this letter is to inform you that you’re not getting off that lightly.

You told us you don’t want to be a member any more, but you can get stuffed. You’ve got to deal with local authorities first. We’ve figured out who your bishop should be, you naughty less-active, you, and we’re sending him over to intimidate you. Also, since we’d like to be patronising and dismissive and pretend this wasn’t a decision you took seriously, here’s a stupid pamphlet with a snapshot of that boring second-rate Jesus statue we keep in all our temple visitors’ centres. It’s telling you to get your arse back to church because clearly you haven’t given any of this much thought.

Love and Kisses,

Gregory W. Dodge
Borg De-assimilation Prevention Team

Apostasy FAQ

I recently sent in my resignation letter. Here’s the FAQ:

What was in the letter?

I copied the text of a sample resignation letter available on many sites explaining how to resign and used that. I chose the briefest and most perfunctory version, which contained all the needed language to prevent any stalling or refusal to comply on their end. There was no point in getting personal, since my resignation is going to be handled by some drone at the COB who has no interest or need to hear my list of grievances. The sample letter is a fitting way to resign, because it treats LDS, Inc. with the same one size fits all attitude with which it treated me.

What were your real reasons?

There are oh, so many, but if I had to sum it up:

  1. The Book of Mormon and Pearl of Great Price are not historical records. This an essential requirement for the church being true.
  2. Mormonism privileges whiteness over other races in its scripture, culture, and power structure, holding that dark skin is a punishment from God.
  3. Women are barred from leadership and kept segregated from one another through multiple layers of priesthood authority.
  4. The top-down structure of church power leaves no method for correcting abusive or incompetent leaders.
  5. Loyalty to the institutional church is prized over loyalty to family or the gospel.
  6. Homosexuality is forbidden, despite scientific evidence that it is natural and normal.
  7. The church has repeatedly engaged in political activity over the years that is racist, sexist, and homophobic.
  8. The church has changed so much over the years that even if the organisation was the true church when Joseph Smith founded it, it isn’t the same organisation now.

What was the procedure?

I used a letter that contained the necessary language to require them to mark me as no longer a member. The letter was notarised and I scanned it for my records before sending it with a tracking number so I could verify delivery. Now it’s the waiting game. The church usually sits on these letters for a month before taking action, despite the fact that legally I was no longer a member the moment they received the letter.

Does your family know yet?

No. I’m waiting for confirmation that I’m no longer a member before telling them. This is partly because I don’t want to give them false hope that I can be dissuaded during the Church’s waiting period. It’s also partly because I want them to know that my decision was real and final when they learn I’m no longer a member.

What’s your family’s reaction going to be?

Not sure. Either shock, sadness, and withdrawing, or shock, sadness and anger. I shall only inform my parents initially and let them decide who they wish to tell and when. I hope for my granny’s sake they do not tell her. I will happily pretend for her sake. She’s very old and doesn’t need this burden. My guess is that there will be a period of estrangement, but for the sake of appearances they’ll eventually let me back in to family events.

How do you feel?

Not that different. This is just executing the formalities of a state of mind I’ve been in for some time. My membership in the LDS Church is largely symbolic, as I haven’t attended actively for several years. The only anxiety I feel is over how much this will hurt my parents, and I particularly worry about my elderly grandmother should they choose to tell her.

What’s next?

Dunno. Heroin? More likely I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing all along — earning a living, spending time with friends, and looking after the loved ones in my life. Damage control and drafting the letter that will break the news to mum and dad. After all, I want them to get this bad news from me and not from the LDS gossip chain . . .

Exit Strategy

1: Should I tell anyone ahead of time?

I’ve been able to discuss this issue at length with people who love, support, and respect me — my friends. I cannot have this conversation with anyone in my family because the topic will only result in them feeling very angry toward me. It’s a good sign that your religious beliefs are unhealthy when in theory you are the first person your family members should turn to for advice, but in reality it results in chaos and anger.

My father would be furious if I told my mother directly. He guards her with the sort of patriarchal, patronising attitude that keeps my mum in a chronic state of neurosis. (Sound familiar?) However, my mother will be upset by the news no matter what. I have wondered if, in this case, I could be honest with her that my dad’s overprotective nature has kept me from confiding in her about my struggles. I don’t want to put a wedge in their marriage, but a big part of what keeps my mom repressed, festering, and unstable at times is the narrow, confining pedestal she’s required to stand on. Would it be selfish for me to potentially put a thorn between my parents, if it means that I can really talk to my mum for the first time? Especially considering that my dad may very well disown me when it’s all said and done?

Next up: Should I tell my dad? He knows my general objections, and periodically makes attempts to interrogate/shame/coerce me back into the fold. He’s my dad, and I love him, and I’m thankful for the many ways that he’s made my life better. But all of that comes at a pretty steep price, and I don’t think my debt to him requires me to allow him to hurt me unlimited times. If I tell him ahead of time, he’ll just try to make me change my mind. My first guess is that it may be best to inform him privately after receiving confirmation of my resignation. This way I can spare him false hope.

I have two siblings who seem likely to follow my path out of the Church. I believe that working with them ahead of time will be a good course of action. The possible downside is that they may be mistreated by my TBM relatives if they find out that they knew ahead of time what I was going to do and didn’t rat me out to the Thought Police. However, I think they’ll be good at keeping a secret. The disadvantage is that both of these siblings are still at home. It may be very difficult for me to see them in the future, until they are out of the house and self-sufficient. I will not bother consulting with my TBM siblings. They will most definitely send the dogs after me.

I want my one remaining grandparent to stay unaware of the whole thing. Regardless of what happens, I will lie through my teeth to preserve her ignorance. She is very elderly, beginning to get frail, and is a good, loving woman who has given her all to this Church. She has seen all of her children grow up, marry in the temple, never divorce, and raise faithful Mormon broods. She deserves the satisfaction of leaving this earth believing that no chicks have fallen from the nest.

(Writing this last bit has made me imagine what it would sound like to hear “Families Can Be Together Forever” sung by Judas Priest. That would make an excellent metaphor for how fucked-up LDS family dynamics get once someone decides to switch off Gospel Auto Pilot.)

2: Is doing this going into the holidays a good idea?

If I do this now, it means that my family could find out about it just before the holiday season. This offers two possibilities. First, I could be seen as “ruining” the season by doing this at a time when families are supposed to be together. If I become unwelcome in my parents’ home, I would be conspicuously absent and family events will be soured by the constant reminder that I’m a dirty traitor apostate. Second, if everyone realises the consequences of option one, they may decide to play nice and try to all get along. This means that although I’m still a dirty traitor apostate, I have the chance to smooth things over through family time and activities that build positive memories. My apostasy may be able to disappear into the background, only resurfacing during events such as temple weddings. Unlike a male apostate, I won’t have extra ways to shame my family by not participating in baby blessings or priesthood rituals.

3: How much should I worry about how my extended family will respond?

I have virtually no day-to-day contact with aunts, uncles, and cousins. We see one another at family gatherings and have a nice time stuffing our gobs and keeping the little ones from murdering each other. You know, what all large families do. I expect nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction from my extended family if they find out what I have done.

4: Should I attempt to broker a deal to minimise damage?

I have considered offering a truce to my father; out of our shared interest in protecting my Gran from this information, we can simply avoid telling anyone outside the immediate family. My family gossips like, well, like a large Mormon family. Mormons gossip. A lot. As a child I knew a lot more about everyone in my ward than was remotely appropriate. I knew whose marriage was on the rocks. I knew who had been disfellowshiped. It’s pretty alarming how bad Mormons are at respecting privacy. If something needs to stay a secret, the worst thing to do is follow the normal chain of command and tell the Bishop about it.

But if there is one thing Mormons do better than gossip, it’s keep up appearances. I don’t really care what my aunts and uncles think of me. They’re lovely people but if they cut me off I would only be disappointed, not devastated. I had a dry run for this during Prop 8, when my father’s sister left a psychotic rant on my Facebook page and promptly de-friended me after seeing me comment that I didn’t support the idea of mixing religion and politics. We have never spoken since. I have never met her two youngest children. I regret the loss, but it didn’t ruin me, as it only means that I’ll never see someone whom I barely saw anyway. (She lives in Utah, and I avoid Utah like the plague since leaving BYU.)

Due to the semi-immigrated state of my extended family (they’re spread out across the Mormon Belt, with a few holdouts back in Britain) I believe I can make an attractive pitch that there is no sense upsetting an applecart that only gets wheeled out once or twice a year when we all get together. I don’t care if they know, and I don’t care if they don’t know. But they need to not know if my Gran is to be protected. And really, now that I think of it, it isn’t any of their business. We’re relatives, not friends. They have too little context of my life to understand my reasons for making such a big decision.

In a deal I would also agree to never discuss my apostasy with family members. I’d likely be lying a bit, as I intend to help my two youngest siblings if they need it when they have to make their own break with LDS, Inc. But I can agree not to proselytise to them or present them with any troubling information about Mormonism. That’s rather generous of me, if I say so myself, since I won’t be extended the same courtesy. After all, I was taught in Primary to turn the other cheek and do my best live with higher standards than the world around me.

5: What am I missing?

Ideally I’d like this to be a coup de grĂ¢ce. I want to end my schizophrenia that comes from not wanting to be a Mormon but feeling like I have to stay because it’s holding my family hostage. I want to kill the fear I feel over wondering if the church will find out what a horrible evil sinner I am and call me to a disciplinary council, forcing me to resign my membership before I’m ready to do it on my terms. But I want to do this so that, for once in my bloody life, I’m looking out for myself first. I’ve been a doormat for too long. I’ve cut myself down to size and tried to fit in the box, but it doesn’t work and I’m sick of forcing it. I just want to make sure that when I do this, I do this so that it has the best possible outcome for me, and the best possible outcome for my family that I’m willing to accommodate.