Kevin - Ex-Mormon
Mailing Date of My Signed and Formal Request for Name Removal: December 30, 2001 Mailing Date of Bishop's Signed Assurance that Name Would Be Removed in 30 Days: May 15, 2002 Mailing Date of Actual Name Removal (from Gregory Dodge): October 8, 2002
On December 30, I met with my bishop and asked to have my name removed. After some lecturing, he assured me that if I wrote and mailed to him a formal (and legally correct) letter, then after 30 days my request would be honored.
By February 26, I had written two follow-up letters, asking what the holdup was. I imagine these follow-up letters helped spur the bishop's eventual response in May.
Since it took till October 8 before Salt Lake got involved, that's a total of 282 days, versus the 30 I was originally promised.
Even going by May 15, when the bishop finally formalized his earlier promise, that's still a total of 145 days.
But I have to admit, I'd expected it to be worse.
I think the number one reason I left is that I reached the limit of how much of a failure I could stand to be.
In the church, if you can naturally believe or feel that you believe, and if you can naturally desire to participate in its lifestyle without the pressure it exerts on its stray sheep, then you can feel like a success.
Technically (and stay with me here, I'm trying to describe the doctrinal viewpoint of the church), no one in the church (or anywhere else, except on the throne of Christ and the other two members of the Godhead) is a success. All are sinners. All are constantly in need of the Atonement. Even though we have "free-agency," each and every one of us (supposedly) frequently misuses this free-agency by disobeying God's noble commands, and acting evil in general.
But if one can be genuinely and naturally happy in the church, then at least one's "spiritual failure" and sin is assuaged by the fact that one's "heart" is in the "right" place.
Enter persons like me, who find the church brings them very little happiness, and instead brings them much sorrow. It takes away friends and loves and dreams from these people, and sacrifices them on the altar of "greater good."
These persons have a hard time feeling good about the church, as well as feeling that the church is true.
For some, the problem is the weight of evidence against the church and its teachings. For others, the problem is that church officials are untruthful about this detrimental evidence, and even go to great lengths to cover it up.
These things all had an effect on me, and helped me eventually decide to get out. But by far the biggest effect on me (and biggest evidence against the church and its goodness) was the way people acted.
I was deeply (and probably permanently) hurt by many people in the church over a long length of time, and I seriously doubt I'm the only one who's had that experience.
I witnessed much more than just an "almost-perfect" church that just had a few "warts." I experienced a lot more than just a barrelful of good, tainted only by a few stray apples.
The face the church turned toward me was almost always corrupt, with rare exceptions. There were good apples but they were by far in the minority (and as such, were a priceless commodity).
I witnessed rampant hate and bigotry. I experienced relentless judgmentalism. I encountered a callous, Machiavellian bureaucracy, at every turn.
Slowly and relentlessly, I learned that people have a terrible capacity for disliking outsiders, and that the church has an awful gift for magnifying that capacity to its extreme.
I'm an outsider. I'm different from other people. My personality is nonstandard. It would be a remarkable group or organization that could include me in a way that I could actually fit in. If such a group or organization exists, the church would surely be the last candidate on earth that would qualify.
So I couldn't be naturally comfortable and happy with the church, and thus could never naturally "believe" in the church. Always my "belief" and "willingness" had to stem from the fear of damnation.
This meant my "testimony" wasn't a pure testimony. It meant I wasn't praying right, or living right, or listening to the spirit right as I ought.
So I had before me the lifelong task of trying to find some way of "making" myself "right" with God -- somehow without sacrificing the one thing that had ever lent me any happiness: my sense of individuality.
Through the church, I learned that I must serve more, sacrifice more, and bend over further backwards in its defense, or I'd lose all hope of gaining that "real" testimony -- and then my damnation would be complete.
As years went by, and I repeatedly talked myself into laying aside my own misgivings, and instead "immersing myself in the work," I found that my experiences continued to feed the misgivings, and do little if anything to help me feel good about being in the church. All the good feelings I had about the church had to be painstakingly manufactured by myself.
What this (apparently) meant is that I still wasn't praying right, living right, or listening to the spirit as I ought.
If one can gain a "true" testimony -- one that feels naturally right and good -- right from the get-go, then one is a sinner (as are we all except the Godhead -- again I'm taking the church's stance), but at least one is only a relatively benign sinner, who at least is able to think, pray, and feel right, so as to gain a comfortable testimony.
If one can't find themselves comfortable with a testimony until after a few years of hard labor in the church, then one is a somewhat worse sinner than the person that got a "natural" testimony right away. But at least one is still a salvageable sinner. After years of repentence through hard work and service in the church, one can still get the testimony which is a stamp of "true" success.
If one takes decades of sacrifice and service before gaining a real testimony, then one is obviously quite a selfish, immoral person. To be able to "resist the spirit" that long, and not gain a comfortable testimony, after that many years of service -- that's a failure indeed, and a sign of some very serious spiritual problems.
This is what happened to me. And there was no end in sight. The longer I served, the harder I worked, the more I tried, the less good I felt about the whole thing.
This meant that, with each passing year, the evidence was growing stronger that I was an eternally cankered soul who'd never gain a satisfying testimony under any circumstances.
I suppose what I "should have" done is kept pulling the weight of the church's immense millstone for the rest of my life, always hoping against hope that my "naturally Satanic" characteristics could be purged.
What happened is I reached a point where I realized if I had to shoulder one more ounce of guilt, I would be destroyed as a human being.
So I was then truly in a position where I'd be destroyed no matter what -- either as a damned soul in one of the "Consolation Kingdoms" (or worse), or as a suicide victim (which would damn me anyway), or as a virtual suicide: one who was "saved," but so wrecked by the cure as to be clinically insane, and unable to partake of that hard-won salvation.
Having realized this is what the church is capable of doing to people, I thought it would be unethical for me to continue going along with being counted as a part and participant in such a movement.
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