Sunday, November 29, 2015

12. This is My Fight Song

Fast forward a few years. This has been too much of a journey to summarize nicely in a single post, and I won't here. My wife and I talked about and have come to an agreement on our many issues with the church. We settled down to a life without the LDS Church in our lives. My wife became an avid tea drinker and I've tried to look at my life differently and I'm chugging along just fine, except I might not find it easy to separate myself from the church because I'm still fascinated by the hold it had on me and why I was so attached to it when I had so many issues with it. Be that as it may, my wife let me know that if we were to resign, she and the kids wanted to do it first. She felt it important to declare that her leaving was her decision and not mine.

One evening, I noticed a post on Facebook and I handed my phone to my wife to read. She read along and then gasped. She sat there on the couch and eventually stated. "I'm done."

Document on Changes to Handbook 1

November 3, 2015
Policies on Ordinances for Children of a Parent Living in a
Same-Gender Relationship
The following additions to Handbook 1 have been approved by the Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for immediate implementation.
 A new section in Handbook 1, 16.13 will be added as follows:
Children of a Parent Living in a Same-Gender Relationship
A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may not receive a name and a blessing.
A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may be baptized and confirmed, ordained, or recommended for missionary service only as follows:
A mission president or a stake president may request approval from the Office of the First Presidency to baptize and confirm, ordain, or recommend missionary service for a child of a parent who has lived or is living in a same-gender relationship when he is satisfied by personal interviews that both of the following requirements are met:
1. The child accepts and is committed to live the teachings and doctrine of the Church, and specifically disavows the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage.
2. The child is of legal age and does not live with a parent who has lived or currently lives in a same-gender cohabitation relationship or marriage.
November 3, 2015
 Handbook 1, number 6.7.2 is to be updated immediately as follows (addition is highlighted):
When a Disciplinary Council May Be Necessary
Serious Transgression
. . . It includes (but is not limited to) attempted murder, forcible rape, sexual abuse, spouse abuse, intentional serious physical injury of others, adultery, fornication, homosexual relations (especially sexual cohabitation), deliberate abandonment of family responsibilities, . . .
Handbook 1, number 6.7.3 is also to be updated immediately as follows (addition is highlighted):
When a Disciplinary Council is Mandatory
As used here, apostasy refers to members who:
1. Repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders.
2. Persist in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine after they have been corrected by their bishop or a higher authority.
3. Continue to follow the teachings of apostate sects (such as those that advocate plural marriage) after being corrected by their bishop or a higher authority. 
4. Are in a same-gender marriage.
5. Formally join another church and advocate its teachings.
I took off the next day from work and we discussed the situation. She wanted to resign. I had a link to a sample resignation letter and we reviewed it. We then talked to the kids that evening to let them know what we were doing and that we felt they should also resign. If they wanted to go to church in the future, we weren't going to stop them and that we would be supportive, but right now, we didn't want to be associated with a church that felt this way about anyone. They agreed and we wrote the following note to the bishop.

11/6, 10:01am
Good morning Bishop. I need to tell you that, as of today, November 6, 2015, I resign my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I also need the church membership of my children, (names) terminated as of today. In light of recent changes in church policy I can't, in good conscience continue to associate myself or my children with the LDS church. I fully understand and accept the consequences of my decision and I have the support of my husband. Please let me know if there is anything else I need to do to make this happen. I'm really sorry you're the guy I have to send this to, Bishop.

11/6, 10:01am
Bishop, I want to let you know that this is Wife's decision and that I consent. I am not resigning but I fully support my wife's decision and also the resignation of our children.

11/6, 10:04am
Hi, I'm so sorry to hear that. Can we have the opportunity to discuss it further, at least? Does this mean you want your records completely removed, thus forfeiting all temple blessings unless you're re-baptized? Can we discuss? We love you guys, and certainly hope this isn't the final decision

11/6, 11:12am
I really appreciate you're wanting to discuss my decision is made and final. Having been a temple worker, I truly understand what forfeiting our temple blessings means in the eyes of  the church and having been in leadership positions myself, I also understand how difficult this is for you. But my decision to resign my membership and those of my children is final and will remain so. My decision is completely due to my not being able to support the institution of the church anymore and has nothing to do with any other members in the ward or stake. I have a great deal of love and respect for all of you.

11/6, 11:15am
OK, I understand and respect your decision. Would it be okay with you if I discuss it with Pres before I process the paperwork? I don't want to be too hasty, but I also want to respect your wishes while proceeding with caution, if that makes sense

11/6, 11:19am
I'm fine with that. Thank you for your understanding and heartfelt concern. Can you keep me updated about the process? I think I can expect a written confirmation from Salt Lake when our memberships have been removed?

11/6, 11:21am
Correct. I'll speak with Pres today and keep you posted. Thank you for your patience and for letting me know your thoughts and plans.

November 6
11/6, 3:12pm
Hi, so there are some specific instructions on how to proceed, so I'll copy exactly from the Handbook, and please let me know if you have questions. Since there are more than one of you desiring name removal, one letter is sufficient but it should be signed by all, and also by Husband that he supports the action. If anything doesn't make sense, just let me know. Thanks and I still hope you'll reconsider. Anyway, here you go:

11/6, 3:14pm
"An adult member who wishes to have his name removed from the membership records of the Church must send the bishop a written, signed request. A request that Church representatives not visit a member is not sufficient to initiate this action.
The bishop makes sure that a member who requests name removal understands the consequences: it cancels the effects of baptism and confirmation, withdraws the priesthood held by a male member, and revokes temple blessings. The bishop also explains that a person can be readmitted to the Church by baptism and confirmation only after a thorough interview. A minor who wishes to have his name removed from the records of the Church must follow the same procedure as an adult with one exception: the written request must be signed by the minor (if over the age of 8) and by the parent(s) or guardian(s) who have legal custody of the minor.
If two or more family members want their names removed from the records of the Church, they need to prepare only one written request. However, a Report of Administrative Action form should be completed and signed for each person who has requested name removal.

11/6, 3:16pm
I think it's a good opportunity, if you haven't already, to explain to the kids what this means, which is why it's a good idea to have them sign it. Just making sure I'm covering all the bases! Thanks you guys

November 10
11/10, 10:30am
Hi, I received your requests and will process them right away, just one more question: Child also has a record, since he was blessed. I'm assuming you would like his removed as well? I don't think we would need another letter, just your permission. And we're removing all except Husband's, correct?

11/10, 10:31am

11/10, 10:31am
Got it, thanks

The text of our letter, sent Nov. 7th is attached.
November 6, 2015
To Whom It May Concern,
This letter is the formal and final notification to you and to your Church organization that I, have resigned my membership in your organization, specifically, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with the support of my husband. As the parents and sole legal guardians of our minor children, it is our right to also, at this time, submit their formal and final notification of resignation as well.
I have given this decision considerable thought and having made my decision, I will not be convinced or dissuaded into changing my mind. I understand that your organization views this action, the voluntary resignation of membership, to be a "serious decision" with potentially "eternal ramifications". I understand that our voluntary resignations for each member of our household listed above will cancel out, in the view of your organization, the effects of baptism, will result in the withdraw of the “power of the priesthood,” and will vacate any “ordinances" and “blessings” that took place in your organization’s temple, to include “endowments" and “sealing" of our marriage. We understand that if at any future time we wish to reestablish membership with your organization, the process would require our meeting with local leadership.
With full understanding of these things, we do, here now, submit our formal, written and final notification of our resignation from your organization.
As this letter includes all the necessary information required to verify our identities and that we are in fact the parties making this notification, you are required to process this notification immediately, without any delays. Despite any internal procedures your organization’s handbook may “require”, you are legally obligated to process this notification of resignation immediately, without delay.
Despite what any instructions regarding the resignation of baptized minor children over the age of eight requiring a signature of the individual child, it is our right, as their parents and sole legal guardians, to submit this resignation on their behalf without need for their consent or signature. It is with this legal backing that we do now submit the formal and final notification of resignation for our minor children.
Our resignation is final as of the date of receipt of this letter. It is now your legal obligation to process these resignations and to provide us with written official notification that this matter has been handled. We expect that there be confirmation of our resignation delivered by the USPS to our home address in regards to this matter.
Thank You

I, Husband, while not resigning my membership at this time, sign in full support of my family members, listed above, who are choosing to resign their membership.
In response to the letter, we received a letter dated November 13, 2015, and copies for each of our children as follows:

Dear Sister -:

This letter is to notify you that, in accordance with your request, your name has been removed from the membership records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Should you desire to become a member of the Church in the future, the local bishop or branch president in your area will be happy to help you.

Confidential Records

For what it is worth, the church did modify their change, pushing the responsibility to the local units. Still, I think they made their statements clear. Link to Letter

First Presidency Clarifies Church Handbook Changes
November 13, 2015
To: General Authorities; Area Seventies; General Auxiliary Presidencies; Stake, District, Mission, and Temple Presidents; Bishops and Branch Presidents
Dear Brethren and Sisters:
The Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles provides the following guidance in applying provisions on same-gender marriage recently added to Handbook 1:
Revealed doctrine is clear that families are eternal in nature and purpose. We are obligated to act with that perspective for the welfare of both adults and children. The newly added Handbook provisions affirm that adults who choose to enter into a same-gender marriage or similar relationship commit sin that warrants a Church disciplinary council.
Our concern with respect to children is their current and future well-being and the harmony of their home environment. The provisions ofHandbook 1, Section 16.13, that restrict priesthood ordinances for minors, apply only to those children whose primary residence is with a couple living in a same-gender marriage or similar relationship. As always, local leaders may request further guidance in particular instances when they have questions.
When a child living with such a same-gender couple has already been baptized and is actively participating in the Church, provisions of Section 16.13 do not require that his or her membership activities or priesthood privileges be curtailed or that further ordinances be withheld. Decisions about any future ordinances for such children should be made by local leaders with their prime consideration being the preparation and best interests of the child.
All children are to be treated with utmost respect and love. They are welcome to attend Church meetings and participate in Church activities. All children may receive priesthood blessings of healing and spiritual guidance.
May the Lord continue to bless you in your ministry.

So, I didn't resign for family reasons, but I'm just as much out as my wife is. I hope we can continue to put this situation in our lives behind us.

11. Sick of It All

In order to set up what my wife’s decision might have included, I need to tell you about my family. My wife converted to the church when she was 15 and after a bad boyfriend experience. She’s been very focused on keeping her family with her forever. We adopted a child who is black. It was through LDS Family Services and from a married couple who didn’t feel they could support another child. They purposefully wanted a white couple to adopt and the church was the only ones to assist them. Shortly after we adopted him, my wife started working for LDSFS as a counselor as she had a masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. After a few years, I felt an obligation to help some children from a poorer country and adopt there. We eventually adopted a brother and sister. A few years after that, and after 19 years of trying ourselves, my wife became pregnant and we had one the old fashioned way.

 After I expressed my issues with the church, we had a baptism of my middle son and ordaining my oldest to deal with. It was harder and harder to be a non=believing father. My oldest was inquisitive and asked me a lot of questions about God that I no longer felt qualified to answer. I had more discussions with my wife about how to handle it and my increasing frustration. That made the marriage harder and harder as my wife demanded that I stop creating a bad environment. There came one point when I figured that I was so disruptive that I had better leave. We came to an agreement. My wife would listen so that she could respect my views and that I would talk to her about how I answered the children. I just wanted to be heard and have just a little respect on my views. Not much. I don’t need much. After a few more discussions, I read 2 Nephi 5 to DW about our children being cursed. She was clearly, loudly angry at me for pointing out that our children that we loved more than anything, were disfavored by God. We also had an issue with my oldest, the black child, at church. He was consistently, routinely being bullied at church. Several children were involved and we had made repeated complaints to the Bishopric about it. I was unsure if it was racial. I feel it was more an issue with his being passive and frankly, a darn good kid.

I had also had a few discussions with the bishop, a personal friend of mine, that he was not to ask my children ANY questions of a sexual nature. NONE. My wife was shocked when I told her that every bishop I ever had had asked me about masturbation. I felt that was psychologically damaging and I wasn’t going to put my children through what I went through. I was also highly annoyed by the YM emphasis on missions. I didn’t feel my oldest had the personality to survive a mission. Only a few years before did I finally tell my wife how much I hated mine.

 On Easter, I was home from church tending my youngest who was ill. My wife came home and went into the kitchen and started crying. The bishop’s wife, my oldest’ teacher, had expressed to DW that she essentially didn’t believe us about the bullying. She couldn’t subject our child to 6 more years of abuse from members of the church. She couldn’t let my daughter learn her “proper place” that the church would teach her. She couldn’t handle the stress that she felt for 27 years trying to be perfect. We were out.