If only it were this easy!

Apparently the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Finland make it super easy to leave by simply resigning on the Internet.

Although I disagree with the Evangelical Lutheran Church (the state religion in Finland) in their position regarding LGBT people, I respect them for providing a simple, convenient, stigma-free process for people to leave. What a contrast to the Mormon Church, which makes it very painful and difficult to leave, and the Catholic Church, which is now trying to make it impossible for anyone to resign. This is the difference between being a religious sect and having cult-like characteristics. Compulsory faith systems do not care about or leave room for authentic belief. It takes true faith to allow members to come and go freely.

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.

Time to begin the exit strategy

Draft one of my resignation letter. Feedback would be lovely. Next post: Planning the actual strategy. I’m still clinging to the idea that I can do this without losing my entire family. I will probably lose my extended family, but I know I can keep a few siblings and possibly regain my mum at some point. I think my dad will never see me again, and I doubt I’ll ever be welcome back in his house. But the schizophrenia of living with the Church hanging over me is making me mad. As the church becomes ever more bigoted and dishonest, the shame of still being on their roster is getting to me. It’s time to go. Do what is right, let the consequence follow.

This letter is my formal resignation from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and it is effective immediately. I hereby withdraw my consent to being treated as a member and I withdraw my consent to being subject to church rules, policies, beliefs and discipline. As I am no longer a member, I want my name permanently and completely removed from the membership rolls of the church. My information is as follows:

[redacted]

To the best of my knowledge, my membership records were last located in [redacted] under Bishop [redacted].

I have given this matter considerable thought over a period of more than five years. I understand what you consider the seriousness and the consequences of my actions. I am aware that the church handbook says that my resignation cancels the effects of baptism and confirmation and revokes temple blessings. I also understand that I could only be readmitted to the church by baptism only after a thorough interview, although I have no intention of ever doing so. I also forbid the church from rebaptising me by proxy after I am dead.

My resignation should be processed immediately, without any waiting periods. I am not going to be dissuaded and I am not going to change my mind. I expect this matter to be handled promptly, with respect and with full confidentiality. After today, the only contact I want from the church is a single letter of confirmation to let me know that I am no longer listed as a member of the church. I do not wish to be contacted by telephone, e-mail, in person, or by any other means except to receive the letter of confirmation. Do not send me any pamphlets or documents intended to persuade me to reconsider. Any attempts to convene a disciplinary council against me will cause me to consider legal action.

If any reasons are to be recorded as to why I am leaving, they are many. Overall, my values do not match those of the LDS Church. I believe in honesty. The Church lies about its history and hides the revision of its doctrines in its teaching materials, public addresses, and official publications. I believe that men and women are equally valuable as leaders. The Church does not. I believe that race is simply a side effect of genetics. The Church teaches that those with dark skin are the way they are because God cursed their ancestors. The Church privileges whiteness in its scripture, the makeup of its leadership bodies, and its culture. I believe that loving relationships should be honoured regardless of the gender of those who love. The Church teaches that cisgender heterosexuality is compulsory, to the detriment of the well-being of LGBT and straight people. I believe no one should attempt to legislate morality through laws that have no proven secular, civic value. The Church believes in imposing its doctrine on non-members by lobbying for laws that support its beliefs. I believe that if a church decides to become involved in the public sphere, it ought to do so for humanitarian purposes. Instead of leveraging the Church’s considerable resources to vanquish AIDS, poverty, lack of access to education, and starvation, it has decided to wage war on homosexuality. This lack of perspective in determining priorities is shameful and causes the LDS Church to bear no resemblance to the man whose name they place on their chapels.

I have a firm belief that the doctrine preached in LDS chapels and in the temple does not offer what I consider to be a plan of happiness. Had I not been born to this organization, I never would have joined it. I now take the opportunity to correct this issue. The only reason I have not done so sooner is that I know when my family discovers what I have done, they will likely never speak to me again. However, the integrity they taught me to value so highly compels me to no longer remain a member of an organisation that I find morally bankrupt.

Oh-so-very-sincerely,
Molly