leaving the LDS church

This is going to be a pain, I can tell. So John and I sent our notarized and certified letter to the church records division, as per the instructions we found online from other former mormons. Since we have never attended our local ward and do not know the bishop here, we saw no reason to send them the letter — we have not been active since 2003, well before we moved here.

Well, we rec’d a response today. First off, I’d like to register my annoyance at the pervasive sexism. Although the letter we sent them had both of us in the address line, was clearly written by me (referring to my husband), and was signed by both of us, the response came addressed to my husband only. In the salutation, they do address both of us, but it’s subtle and irritating form of sexism to address this letter only to the “patriarch” of the home. I can’t help but wonder what their response would have been had I applied to leave on my own, without John’s awareness. Anyway, the response:

“Dear Brother and Sister D*****:

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 Norman E. H***** of the C******** W********* Stake. He will have Bishop Bruce L. H***** of the C******** 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 prayerfully consider the enclosed statement of the First Presidency.

Sincerely,

Gregory W. Dodge
Manager, Member and Statistical Records”

I left Mr. Dodge’s name on there because of this article I found online called Why Leaving the Mormon Church is Not an Easy Process, where he’s mentioned by name as the guy who sends the final letter okay’ing the removal of our name.

First off, there’s absolutely no reason for this response. We don’t know “our” bishop, we’ve never been to “our” ward, and there’s no logical reason (other than a not-very-subtle delaying tactic) to make us talk to him. Furthermore, we specifically requested no further contact from the church other than a written notification that we have been removed from the records. We made this request for two reasons:

One, we get regular visits from the missionaries and a monthly postcard with the visiting teaching message. This is annoying, and I’ve repeatedly sent it back as “Return to Sender, do not contact again.” I’ve also kindly, politely and firmly told the missionaries that I’m no longer a member and do not want to be visited, thank you very much.

Two, and significantly worse in my eyes, my son (who has not been to church since he was 2) has begun receiving materials from the church. They send invitations to primary and postcards about primary activities. It seriously irritates me, and I specifically mentioned in my letter that they need to stop attempting to contact my minor son.

If they’re so willing to ignore the request not to contact us, I can’t see by what logic they’d be willing to forgo the more subtle and manipulative tactics of attempting to convert my son.

It’s frustrating. We’ve been completely inactive since 2003. We’ve been planning on writing the records division since about 2004, but we were concerned about how my family would react so we held off. But I think my family relationship is strong enough to weather this, and I can no longer in good conscience affiliate myself — even as an inactive member — with a religion that perpetuates the kind of discrimination I stand up against in every other aspect of my life.

This is seriously irritating me. I’ve read this process can take a while and may even require a lawyer, but I was really hoping it would be quick and easy. There’s no logic to retaining members who aren’t active and tithe paying — not to mention the fact that we aren’t content being jack-mormons, and went to the effort of researching how to leave and actually acting on that research. What can they possibly gain by these delaying tactics?

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loss of faith

A friend of mine recently left her religion. I’m happy for her, but at the same time I hurt for her. I remember when I first left my religion, the confusion and terror that overwhelmed me when I realized I had been brainwashed my entire life — brainwashed in the most loving manner, by people who did not mean me harm and were doing it with good intentions, but brainwashed nonetheless. I remember my sorrow and anger as I read through (approved) church histories and texts, as I re-read scriptures and saw unfulfilled prophecy after unfulfilled prophecy. I remember the terror I felt, the unmoored feeling as I realized I had been misled regarding the facts and history of our church.

My friend was panicking on the phone. She asked, “How will I raised my children? How do I teach them? What am I supposed to say?”

I said, “You know right from wrong. Be kind, be honest, be forgiving, be generous. You don’t need a church for that.”

I started thinking about it more after our conversation, and my own discontent with the church. It started when I was in my teens. As a mormon, I had been taught the three-kingdom belief. I was taught that the most righteous went to the celestial kingdom, to sit on the right hand of god. I was also taught that the less righteous and the unbelievers went to one of the lower kingdoms, and that they did not remember their earthly lives.

At the time, my older brother was inactive. Not completely — he went to church on Sundays (lived in the house and all), but it was pretty obvious he thought it was all ridiculous. It really bothered me that not only would he not go to the celestial kingdom, but he wouldn’t even remember his earthly life or family. I asked about it once in Sunday school — would I be able to visit him, I asked. In the lower kingdoms — could I visit my family and friends? My Sunday school teacher said I could, but they would not remember their earthly lives. They would not remember me. They would greet me as an old friend, but they would not know who I was or how they knew me or why they loved me.

I was appalled. If anything, it sounded like a punishment to me, the one who made it to the celestial kingdom. I decided my best bet was to shoot for a lower kingdom — at least I wouldn’t have the misery of losing my brother, then.

Over the years, my faith waxed and waned. I often felt guilty for not having a stronger testimony of the church, for being too questioning and inquisitive. I felt as though there was something essentially wrong with me because I asked things like, “Why would god damn me for smoking a cigarette,” or “What makes coffee evil?” I felt as though I was missing some key component of the faith, as though I didn’t have the whole picture, but just a very small piece of it — so small a piece, I couldn’t justify the rules.

I’m the first to admit it’s difficult for me to follow orders without reasonable cause. It’s very difficult for me to blindly say, “Oh, okay,” when someone says, “Don’t do that, it’s bad.” My response is more along the lines of, “Why is it bad? How did you learn it was bad? What is the character of your source? How do you know the character of your source?”

I felt uncomfortable with my desire to know more about religion and faith in general and the church specifically — I felt as though I was innately evil because I wanted to pursue knowledge and all the sides of the argument with religion, just as I did in every other aspect of my life. I couldn’t understand why questioning religion and my church should be so bad — my dad taught me that questions are the way to knowledge, and knowledge is truth. So how could questioning the church be bad?

But I didn’t want to lose this, my only surety and anchor in a world I didn’t understand. I didn’t want to lose my faith, no matter how weak it was. The reality of god was the only insurance I had against the world, and my desire for the church to be right was my talisman. It wasn’t even certainty — it was just a really strong desire for the church to be true. I figured no religion had it right, not even mormonism (it is impossible, as mortal and fallible beings, to comprehend the mind of an immortal and infallible being, and to claim we can is a horrible conceit) — but mormonism had to be the closest approximation of that truth. And then my mom died.

In the months after her death, my dad and his new wife and several church members would often come to me with a comforting story about how they had “felt” mom’s presence in the temple, or how mom had “come to them” in a dream and told them how happy and at peace she was now. I would be told these stories on average once a week. They were beautiful. During this same time period, I was having horrific, terrifying nightmares that my mom shambled into my home, a rotting zombie with purpled bruises around her neck and gravedirt embedded in her skin and nails. She would hold her hands out to me, the nails and fingers cracked and broken from digging out of the grave, and beg to know why I had left her there, why I had let dad remarry, why I had forgotten her.

I started taking sleep medications, trying to avoid the dreams, but they got worse — now I couldn’t jerk myself awake. I felt angry and terrified and sad. I felt as though I was so bad, as though my lack of faith was so horrible, that mom was punishing me. And then I realized, mom wouldn’t do that. They were just dreams — all of them, the good ones dad and his wife were having, and the nightmares I was having. Mom had never, ever played favorites in life, and she wouldn’t do it in death. And if mom couldn’t visit me because I lacked religious faith, but she could visit others, that made no sense. Logically, visiting me would make me faithful, while it only verified the faith of the others — by not visiting me, my long-term spirituality was in danger.

Then I thought maybe it was a test of my faith, that mom was prevented from visiting me because god was testing me. Then I realized if that was the case, mom would ignore god and comfort me, because she could never stand to see us suffer. And if god was preventing mom from coming to me in my time of emotional turmoil and grieving, then he was not the god I had been taught about. I began to ponder the nature of god, and I realized if god was omnipotent and chose not to prevent evil, god was evil. If god could not prevent evil, god was not omnipotent and was not god. And I realized that if I accepted the premise this life is a test of god, then either I was really egotistical (you mean all these people died and all this horror and tragedy and sickness happens to test me?!?) or god was really awful and nobody I particularly wanted to spend eternity with. I realized if god is good, god does not exist, because a good god would prevent sickness and natural disasters — or at the very least warn us. If god is malevolent, god would not exist, because a malevolent god would make the world nothing but terror, with no love or hope or joy. Ergo, god was neutral, and if a god created us it was probably on accident and it didn’t really care, or perhaps even know, that we are here.

And I realized I was an atheist.

writers block from livejournal

This is actually a writers block question from livejournal, but it’s related to a topic I have some personal interest in: Do you think parents should have the right to post public pictures and videos of their children on the internet?

As far as parents posting pictures goes, yes. I think parents should have the right to post pictures of their children on the internet. But I do think there are some common-sense rules at play here. For instance, posting pictures of your kids on an invitation only blog or a social networking site with the privacy filters maxed out is one thing. Posting them on a blog like this, where anyone can see, is something I’m honestly not personally comfortable with, and I do tend to think incrementally less of parents when I see them posting pictures, real names, etc. of their children on the internet with absolutely no attempt at privacy. I also figure that’s up to the parents and their comfort zone, so I am not advocating any sort of laws that protect or restrict this right.  I’m just stating that I personally, as a parent, am not comfortable with making my child’s face and information publicly available to strangers.

On that note, what I do think there should be some sort of law legislating is the parent’s right to their child’s pictures/ information. I mean, I know there are already laws regarding that on a paid level — Campbells Soup, for instance, would not be allowed to use my child’s photo without permission and possibly monetary recompense. On the other hand, I have numerous relatives who have taken photographs of my son at family gatherings. These relatives then post those pictures up on their websites and facebook profiles without actually talking to me or my husband about it, or letting us know the security settings on their profiles or anything. It’s a bit nerve-wracking and nauseating. We’ve made the personal decision not to splash our son’s face and name all over the internet, and it’s a point of tension when we try and ask them not to do so without our permission. They think we’re being overprotective, and I think they’re disrespecting our personal parenting decisions.

So that is something I would like to see addressed, either on a wider social-awareness/ safety level, or on a legal level. I would dearly like to see public-safety messages advocating people to amp up their privacy measures when posting information about their children online, and I would absolutely love to see public-safety messages that say something like, “Not your child? Ask their parents before posting their picture.

*yawn*

I am tired. I think this schedule is getting to me. Lol, it’s going to be worse when I go back to school eventually. 🙂  I’ve been looking at course catalogues and I’m thinking I am definitely going to be taking classes in sociology, women’s studies, and social networking/ marketing. I wish college was more affordable, but at least the school I’m looking at is highly regarded, has extremely flexible scheduling, and is a state school (ergo, slightly less expensive than the other opportunities in the area, all private schools). I feel all antsy and out-of-sorts not being in school, like my brain is slowly atrophying. It feels like questions and debate aren’t welcomed anywhere but in a learning environment — I mean, I could question and debate certain issues, but I’d probably end up friendless and jobless.

I like the open-minded, inquisitive nature of school — the assumption that you are there to learn and question, not to follow rote social protocol and obey orders without question. I like that in the classroom, serious academics don’t take your views personally — they see it as a means of opening up the discussion, of looking at something from the other side of the fence.

Outside the classroom, disagreement is increasingly being viewed as dislike, which is baffling and irritating. Can’t I disagree with someone and still like them, even love them and respect them?  I don’t understand why saying, “I understand where you’re coming from, but I think you haven’t considered all the evidence –”  or even, “No, I disagree. I think you’re wrong and here’s why –” is so incredibly insulting to people in everyday circumstances.

10 day meme (day 10)

Day Ten: One confession.

  1. I confess, I am afraid of people. I am afraid of loving too much, and not being loved in return. I am afraid of loving too little, and hurting someone. I am afraid of failing those I love. I am afraid of being judged not for who I am, but for who I am perceived to be. I am afraid of misunderstandings, of never being able to explain the truth — or of not being accepted because of that truth. I am afraid of angering someone special to me or mine, and being unable to work it out because society does not condition us to value discussion and openness — instead, people curl their hurts against them like precious kittens and murmur over their angers, rather than approaching the object of their offense and speaking with clear eyes and an open heart. 

10 day meme (day 9)

Day Nine: Two images that describe your life right now, and why.

  1. Rain slips against the glass, silvering it to a dull sheen. Outside, the rain-bright green leaves weigh down sad brown limbs, and the trees droop with the sad weight. The sky oversees the scene, brilliantly grey and throughly depressed with itself. The entire world seems to be simultaneously holding it’s breath in expectation and giving up. It is, after all, winter — with 5 longs months before the certainty of warmth and sun and motorcycle rides and laughter.
  2. Inside the house, the lights are all on. They shine bright, reflecting off yellow walls and warm wood laminate floors — an insurance of joy against the relentless pacific northwest winter. The cats tumble and play, small paws surprisingly loud on bare floors, and the dog sighs pathetically, raising sad cabin-fever eyes to me. I scritch behind his ears, perfectly in accord with his impatience.



10 day meme (day 5)

Day Five: Six things you wish you’d never done.

  1. I wish I had spent more time with mom when she was sick.
  2. I wish I hadn’t dated Tim.
  3. I wish I hadn’t slept with Richard.
  4. I wish I hadn’t gotten sealed in the temple.
  5. I wish I hadn’t tried that one experiment in 2009-10.
  6. I wish I hadn’t taken psychotropic medications (on doctors & parental orders) through my teens and early 20’s.