In Keeping with Our Modesty Theme
Song of the Week: Trapped

Ecclesiastical Harassment in the Plano, Texas Stake? Say it Ain't So!

As readers of Equality Time know, I resigned my membership in February of this year.  The bishop in the ward in which I reside and the stake president here in Plano, Texas are friends of mine and handled my resignation with speed and courtesy, which I appreciate.  In meeting with the bishop and stake president after tendering my resignation, I told the stake president (who had only been set apart a week or two earlier) that while my resignation may be the first he processes, it certainly would not be the last.

Well, my words were prophetic.  Sure enough, a friend of mine (Lunar Quaker, who occasionally posts here and around the Disaffected Mormon Underground) residing in a different ward in the Plano Stake, last week sent his resignation letter to his bishop.  Unfortunately, his bishop handled things quite differently from the way mine did.  I can't believe that this represents a change in policy or direction from the good man who is stake president here.  I sincerely hope that it is not the policy of the Plano Stake to have bishops or other ecclesiastical leaders harass people who want to resign their membership and have their names removed from the church records.  I hope that the stake president, if he finds out about the way my friend was treated, will do the right thing and counsel with and chastise LQ's bishop for his belligerent, unChristlike actions.  LQ's story, in his own words, after the jump.

Lunar Quaker's words from a post he made at a DAMU discussion board:

I recently sent my membership resignation letter to my local bishop. I sent it by certified mail last Monday, in fact, and I sent an additional copy to the Membership Records office in Salt Lake. On Thursday, I sent the bishop an email to ask whether he had received my resignation letter. He had not, probably due to the inefficiency of the U.S. Postal Service. This was his response email:


I have not received your registered letter. I have been checking for it each day. Do you have a receipt from the post office? Was it signed? No one at my house has signed for any letter this week.

I'll help you promptly but I need the paperwork. It may have been better to walk it around the corner to my house. I'll check again today. I have already had a brief discussion with President xxxxx. I picked up the paperwork that will be required last night. I have it here with me now. However, I cannot do anything without your letter.

Part of the form is my experience with you. During our phone conversation last year you said specifically you did not want your name removed from the records of the church. What changed? We have specifically stayed clear as you asked. I'll need some help with this for my write up.

As a side note, do you have any home damage from last night's storm?  I'm trying to organize a group to help neighbors.

Bishop xxxxxx

The bishop did receive my letter today [Saturday April 12] (5 days to send a certified letter to an address in the same city?!) and he called me to let me know. I invited him to come over to my house today to finish the paperwork. I know that legally I am not required to meet with the bishop, but I decided to meet with him anyway to help speed up the process.

So the bishop shows up at my house this afternoon, and I invite him in. He sees the For Sale sign in my front yard, and asks if we are moving. I tell him yes, we are selling the house because my wife and I are getting a divorce. He then says, “Wow, getting a divorce. I’m sorry to hear that. You’re getting a divorce, getting your name off the records of the church… you’ve got a lot of things going down in your life, don’t you?” He said this in the usual tone that many of you are familiar with, trying to imply that my life is going to shit because I have lost the Spirit.

So we sit down at my kitchen table, and he pulls out his paperwork. He wants to understand why I am making this decision. One of the first things he asks me is whether my life is in harmony with the teachings of the church. I wanted to burst out laughing, but I kept my composure and asked him to clarify. He wanted to know if there were any sins in my life that I did not want to confess, and whether this resignation was the “easy way out” so I wouldn’t have to face a disciplinary council and get excommunicated. He then specifically and in no uncertain terms suggested that I might have committed adultery. While I was not surprised, I haven’t felt that angry in a long time. I told him that I no longer considered him my ecclesiastical leader, and that such questions are inappropriate and irrelevant. I told him that I was leaving the church for belief reasons, not because I am trying to hide my “sins.”

The bishop then wanted to know why I felt like I needed to remove my name from the records of the church, and why I couldn’t just “walk away” and not worry about this procedural matter. I told him that I no longer wanted to be associated with an institution whose core values are in direct conflict with my own. He continued along this vein of questioning, clearly attempting to dissuade me from taking this step.

He asked me whether I had any religion at all. I told him no, that I was an agnostic/atheist. He then asked me what I am thinking when I attend a funeral, and whether I wonder about the afterlife. I told him that I no longer worry about the afterlife, and that my life has more meaning now then it did when I was a Mormon. I told him that I valued life much more deeply now.

He then wondered why I would want to separate myself from the community. I told him that I didn’t think about it as separation from my local ward community as much as I did separating myself from the church institution. He continued to question my motives. It was very clear to me that he thought that the reason I was resigning was because I was angry. If I wasn’t angry, then why would I go through all the trouble of taking my name off of the records of the church?

He then picked up my resignation letter and read part of it to himself. He acknowledged that I had clearly done my homework about the resignation process. He said that I must’ve read about it on the internet. I acknowledged that I had. We had some more discussion about my beliefs, and he then decided that he had all he needed and we headed for the front door. He said he was saddened by what I was doing. I retorted that I was happy about it.

I walked him out to his car, and we had a little discussion about why some disaffected members resign from the church and some don’t. I said that every person is different, and that not all people feel the need to take the step that I have taken. He said, “Well, I do see your reasons for doing this stated clearly in your letter. I don’t know how much of this comes from the internet and how much of it comes from your heart, though.” I told him that the source of my views is irrelevant. What’s relevant is that those views are in my heart now.

He parted by saying that the stake would contact me before sending off my request to Salt Lake. I said that was fine. He got in his car, and drove away.

I am very disappointed in this man. He merely confirmed all of the stereotypes about church leaders that we all talk about. He didn't treat me with any respect whatsoever. Again, I shouldn't be surprised.



It does seem, Equality's experience aside, that church leaders do not appreciate the formal membership resignation, which is understandable. This is clearly a form of open protest and one which hits the church's bottom line ... membership figures. It's how they affirm their validity and you just undermined that affirmation. Can't have this become a mass movement.

EQ, thank you for having the fortitude to take this extra step. We all know how much easier it is to just fade into the woodwork while allowing the church to continue counting us and our children as members. Same to you, Equality, since I didn't get a chance to thank you before.


PS, I meant LQ. Lunar Quaker, thank you. It's a beautiful new life for you.


Classic. If it's not because you're a secret sinner than it must be because you've been brainwashed by the Internet. How long do you think till a GA at Conference advises the membership not to read about religious subjects online?


While my (former - because I'm no longer Mormon) Bishop wasn't quite that inquisitive, he did not believe me that as soon as I handed him my letter I was no longer a member. He claimed the church still had "jurisdiction" over me (i.e. my soul), and not so subtly insinuated something about excommunication. He was kind of mumbling at the time, so I'm not quite sure where he was going with that.

I told him that I expected no further contact, and that I knew what my legal rights were. He obviously did not, and continued to threaten me. I told him to be careful, as what he was threatening was illegal, and I could technically sue the church. Then he half-yelled at me, "Don't you try and threaten ME"!

He also asked me quite gruffly if I was certain that I had come to the right ward. I told him to look at my address, and then he muttered, glaring at me, "At least you did one thing right".

He also kept correcting me when I said "resign from the church". He said, "you mean excommunicate yourself", or "get yourself kicked out".

It was all so melodramatic and stereotypical. Just like you expect an old, crusty Utah Mormon bishop to be.


I always enjoy hearing these stories. I left almost twenty years ago and the bishop, whom I had never met, had tears in his eyes at losing such a special spirit to a cult. (I had in an ankh earring and he made assumptions.)


I always enjoy hearing these stories. I left almost twenty years ago and the bishop, whom I had never met, had tears in his eyes at losing such a special spirit to a cult. (I had in an ankh earring and he made assumptions.)


LQ's experience sounds pretty mild to me compared to other stories, such as Craig's above. I wasn't there, though, so I don't know about tone or body language. I agree that accusations regarding sin are completely out of line, especially after making it clear in the letter the reasons for the exit. However, if I put myself in the bishop's shoes, it would be difficult for me to process the paperwork without wanting to ask other questions. I assume that there are TBMs who leave out of anger or out of fear of facing discipline for sin (I find it sad that reasons even exist for fearing the church). From a TBM viewpoint, it would be a shame to let that believing person go without a true Christian effort to help the person out (although my experience tells me that that deep a level of openness and understanding is rarely exhibited in the church). By meeting with the bishop after delivering the letter, LQ opened himself up to these efforts by the bishop to understand or dissuade. I would expect that from any leader of any church who believes in God and in the spiritual path he/she is on. And, the bishop's email sounds pretty respectful. Overall, it sound's like the bishop could have handled it better, but also could have done much, much worse.

Lunar Quaker

I suppose it did have a lot to do with his body language and his tone of voice. It was the smugness, his judgmental speculations, and his condescending attitude. From my perspective I didn't see any real attempt to understand me. There was nothing Christian about it. He was merely asserting to himself his own sense of superiority.


Yeah, I'm sorry you had a bad experience leaving. Ironically, I would bet that it only served to reenforce your decision. I hope for your sake that going through the process was enough for you to put that chapter of your life behind you so you can now focus on finding what works better for you. Best of luck.


Yes, I think it probably would've worked better if LQ hadn't had a meeting with his bishop. Agreeing to a meeting implies that there is room for discussion. The bishop doesn't need a meeting in order to process a resignation. If a person includes all the necessary things in the resignation letter, a meeting is completely unnecessary. I was inactive for nearly 20 years before I officially resigned. I observed the bish in my neighborhood for a year or so. Once I felt sure enough that he was pretty moderate minded and likely wouldn't give me any problems, I then chose him to resign under. I only heard from him once, through a letter saying he'd received my request and would process the paperwork. All my other correspondence/contact was with member records at HQ.

Lunar Quaker


Yeah, I understood that I could have handled this without meeting with him, but a part of me was curious to see how he would handle the situation. I also wanted to avoid delay. I wasn't particularly affected emotionally by this. I am way beyond that. But I recorded this experience for the benefit of others, to show that the stereotypes about bishops do have some basis in reality.

Jonathan Blake

While I wasn't there, I agree that this sounded mild. The bishop was mouthing common stereotypes. Perhaps looking at this as an opportunity to educate someone who was blinded by their religion might have helped the situation, though I can totally understand the desire to push back against someone who thinks they have authority over you.


LQ - OK I see what you are saying. I'm glad you weren't affected emotionally by it all. Best wishes to you on your journey.


My Bishop was fine with the resignation. My letter laid out my complaints, I asked not to be contacted and promised a defamation suit if an excommunication was attempted (being a lawyer adds to the punch!). Not to be challenged, the Stake President called to dispute each of my reasons for leaving. I controlled my rage enough to explain how disrespected I felt at his call and hung up.

If that wasn't enough, the entire presidency sent my 7 year old a birthday card two months later encouraging him to make the right decisions even when people he is close to or people that he looks up to make bad decisions. The strain on our marriage from that beauty took months to sort out.

Best of luck on your adventure LQ,

Lunar Quaker

Well, I got my Gregory Dodge letter yesterday, and the letter was dated May 5. I got it sooner than I expected I would. Kind of anti-climactic, actually. Two little sentences, that's it.

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