Monday, August 23, 2010

Letter Pros and Cons

So I haven't made it any secret that writing the letter of resignation is a def possibility in my future. It wasn't until I was able to say that publicly that I seriously considered it, and it wasn't until the Church's official response to Judge Walker's ruling on Prop 8 that I decided it was probably getting to be time.

For me, it's a matter of disingenuousness.

That's not a word, but work with me here, people.

Though we began some serious questioning even back in 2005, I think (right after April conference, if you'd believe it), we didn't get active about it until three years later. In 2005, however, I went to renew my temple recommend. It was always such a pain in the ass thing to do as it was with our schedules, but with the nagging questions and impressions it made it that much harder to do. But we did. It was the last time we would.

I have always had this thing of being honest to a fault, so when my bishop asked me the questions I was pretty honest. I dunno about 100% intellectually honest, but I did my best.

...until we hit the "Do you believe/know/whatever that Joseph Smith blah blah blah?"

I told him I wasn't sure about that anymore. He told me I should watch more BYU-TV and gave me my recommend. I didn't bother telling the stake president about my issues after that. Whatever, yeah?

Besides, I was pretty pissed for being dismissed like that. I was in tears because I was so scared the church wasn't true and I get this. BYU-TV, are you fucking serious?

The temple became interesting after that.

Anyway, fast forward to 2008ish and we're in a new ward. It's after Prop 8. I had my last blog up. I wasn't looking to leave but I could see it coming. My bishop knew nothing of this--or maybe he did. Not sure now. The timing is all blurry. This may or may not have been after I had my pointless "Tell me please why I should vote yes" talk with my bish. That was a fun talk. Srsly. Also good PR for me. I could tell people I not only prayed about it but I cleared it with my bishop.

Which is stupid.

But I did. I wanted him to give me one good reason to vote, and he didn't. I walked out more sure than ever to vote no.

I have to give the guy credit, though. He didn't say I was apostate for voting no when teh prophet said otherwise.

But I digress. Either before or after that, I was called to be a 5th Sunday Relief Society teacher. Or 4th. Whichever one has me teaching from General Conference talks. Doesn't matter, I had to teach.

I love teaching. I always have whenever I've been given the opportunity to. I'm not always good about it, but when I relax I like to think I've a talent. So I accepted the calling even while knowing I may not be able to stand behind the things I'd have to teach--I mean, if I had to teach something akin to "Mother's Who Know," I'd bust a vein. And I'm only slightly exaggerating.

If only I knew of the blogosphere back when that hack of a talk happened, I would've been better off. Felt very alone in my hatred for that talk.

Right. Tangent.

So my first talk comes and I do my best to make it (a) something I could swallow, (b) not cliche and (c) something edible for the women while also being a bit, if only a drop, fringe.

I succeeded.

The second talk came and I really, really struggled. I don't remember which talk it was based off of, but it had something to do with activity or sustaining or something stupid like that. I did my thing and it wasn't as good as my first lesson.

I couldn't take it anymore. I felt like my skin was crawling. I called my bishop and asked to be released. Of course he wanted to know why, and with my "honest to a fault" crap, I told him. I outed myself. He wanted to visit with me, but the appointment was made unknowingly on Back to School night and--sorry, bish, my kid comes first.

We never rescheduled. He never said a word to me. The Relief Society President came to me on two Sundays wanting to help me. It didn't seem to me that she knew I was looking to become inactive because she said something about knowing my life was too crazy for this shizz, so she offered to have me be on the less demanding (?) enrichment committee.

I gave it thought over the hour of RS but only because I didn't want to disappoint this woman (I hate disappointing anybody), but in the end I knew I couldn't do it. Not with a clear conscience. Besides, I didn't want to be in church anymore. I knew the anchor of a calling would only drag me further to the bottom. Besides, church bugged the fuck out of me. So I told her no. And it was weird, mostly for her. The look on her face--No?

It's foreign, I know. Maybe I should've tried speaking louder, slower, or in sign language. Though I think I did shake my head as well.

We moved soon thereafter, and that's when we decided we were done. It took us a few weeks to decide finally that we wouldn't even go once (because then you REALLY attract attention), but we did decide.

So now we're looking at the resignation letter, and I'm met with the same feelings. I can't help but feel that, if we stay, we are expressing passive support of the church and its doings. We are counted among the membership even though we don't go and don't believe. We retain the title for whatever intents and purposes, LDS/Mormon. We also, however, get the benefits whatever they may be. If any. We never liked using them anyways.

Just as I didn't feel right teaching lessons to these women I couldn't stand behind (even though I thought I could help them think about things differently), I don't feel right staying in a church I cannot stand by.

So I spoke with Eric last night about it, and he brought up an interesting point. There have been benefits of our lazy membership within the church. It's called getting a job.

The community here is saturated with LDS people. They're literally everywhere. And Eric is sure a few someones gave him a good reference. The parents of LDS kids want their kids in his classes--and they're good kids.

Like it or not, people do associate positive things with members of the church. And here, the idea that the church was so involved in supporting Prop 8 wasn't an issue. Everyone else here supported Prop 8, too.

So he's worried about what may happen once we officially remove our records from the active church files (they never really destroy yr records). And it's a real concern. While he's one of the only teachers at his school with a single subject credential in math, he isn't tenured yet. Next year. And that may not even matter. Every year the budget is cut so that they have to lay off a ton of teachers. We got the initial pink slip this past year before he was "rehired"

And we figure he gave two years of his life to this church plus I-don't-want-to-know how much money and time, so what the hell.

But I don't know. As his initial worry about his family and friends' reactions went away, I think this one will too. Maybe after he's tenured. But then I have to wonder about myself when I'm ready to get a job.

It's incredibly selfish, I'll give you that, but it's practical. I guess. I'm just not so sure we should give that much weight to this theory that being and growing up LDS helped him get the awesome teaching job.

What say you?


  1. Hm. I'll be honest, I feel completely ick about the concept of staying in the Church for financial or professional benefits. Not judging-you ick, but that's-a-really-fucked-up-situation ick.

    When we resigned, we still lived in Utah, and you don't get much more LDS-saturated than that. We worried how it would impact Jeremy's profession (he's a teacher, too), and other issues. But in the end, it didn't matter at all. It did not matter. And probably the biggest reason it didn't matter is because we'd recently moved and we'd never attended our new home ward. So we weren't missed by anyone in particular.

    I think that's bound to be the case for you. Unless you come out and tell people that you've officially resigned, nothing is going to be outwardly different about your situation. Right now, Eric's school families might know he's Mormon, but they aren't apparently in your ward or they'd know you're inactive, right? If you resign, that isn't going to be a much bigger issue because it shouldn't come up in these contexts. You have a right to privacy - thanks to lawsuits against the Church - and nobody is going to know that you've written that letter.

    I'm not saying that you have to be disingenuous - I'm totally with you on the honest-to-a-fault thing. But these things shouldn't come up in professional or financial discussions anyway. If someone out there thinks you're active LDS and gives you a reference just because of that, that's pretty douch-y. For everyone else, the fact of your inactivity versus outright resigning is going to be fairly inconsequential. That would be my guess.

    Personally, I am wholly in favor and encouraging of resigning. I felt so much better about things when I did it; it closed the loop for me and ended my anxiety about confrontation and the potential influence on my children. But you have to do what's right for you.

  2. I thought about those same things after writing. I don't think this will be an issue for us once Eric realizes it, too. But maybe then we'll find something else to postpone this until we're both *really* ready. So far we're off each others' timing.

    I will tell you this, and maybe it shouldn't piss me off because they're kids but it does: Eric has had students (and my daughter has had friends) who are, apparently, in our ward and have asked why we don't attend. Not exactly the best question to ask in school and certainly not professional for the teacher to have to answer. Which is why Eric never does.

    I also realized that a resignation should be confidential and not something we'd advertise unless asked directly. I don't imagine anyone would rat us out, but it's hard to say. I think right now certain people hope this whole inactivity thing is just a phase so they're waiting it out patiently.

  3. Hey Lisa!

    I liked this post. And I mostly agree with Chandelle too. You recognize the value of the social network within the church but that alone is not a valid reason to stay; and staying in the church offends your sense of honesty which is part of what makes you a good person :)

    But I will say this...

    To say that staying in the church simply for the benefit(s) of a good job is selfish isn't entirely fair to yourself. Even faithful members think there are "blessings" inherent in their membership and, brace yourself, obedience. Often these benefits can be described in temporal ways (financial, professional...).

    I do hope that maybe even a hint of your hesitation comes from a faith (however infinitely small) that perhaps this church harbors truth to be embraced. I can't describe it, just don't want to see you go.


  4. annalee, annalee. how do i explain.

    First, thank you.

    Second, can we strike the word "obedience" and all its forms from our vocabulary? it makes my head hurt. but i think you knew that, yeah? ;)

    i appreciate--no, really (snark free)--your hope and all of that. i'll take that over "so, i see you have a beard" (to my husband, not me) or "you should be in church." so thank you for that. positive, not negative. much, much better. especially for someone who only lives to please ;)

    my hesitation comes from a few things: this has become my home, my family. i like familiar things--don't like most change, good or bad. but faith? to keep my reply short, i'll just say i leave open totally the possibility of a god and hope for the rest of the good stuff (seeing family, friends--not exclusive to the church, btw) without the stupid stuff (degrees of worthiness, more work--i've a feeling i'll be tired--etc.)

    i thought of that last bit, too, but it doesn't make sense, either. How honest is it to suck off the system? why would i be rewarded for that? especially given that we've defied some of the most important things the church teaches--garments and whatnot. (and thus learned that life goes on like it always has)

    you know?

  5. I don't have much substantive to provide to the (dis)cussion, but are you sure that (dis)ingenuousness is not a word?

    I guess I'm far more pragmatic than ideological, but I think that you shouldn't beat yourself up over staying in for personal/professional security reasons.

  6. Lisa,

    Maybe I sound like a broken record but always told me to stick to what I know. I would give you the same advice I give gay kids who are getting ready to come out. If your parents are paying for school and that could be at risk then don't tell them .... yet.
    Some things really are more important than being completely honest and financial well-being ofr the sake of your family is one of them. I say keep your records on the church and just be inactive for a little while longer. Look on the bright side, now you can have all those lovely sisters come and bring you meals designed to get you to come back into the fold.

  7. @Andrew: Well, my spell check didn't think so and I was too lazy to double check ;)

    @David: Ah but we've no sisters bringing us stuff. Just the rare and out of the blue invitation to some event or a RS newsletter in the mail. And the stake prez lives on our *street* I dunno what's going on.

    we'll see what happens. i'm one of those who can not care about things like this (y'know, whether or not the church helps with jobs), but i can be rather naive, too. i'm trusting Eric with this and furthermore just respecting his hesitation like he respects mine when i express it. he's been in the church all his life, so we'll just wait and see.

    I spoke with him last night about this and he's suspicious. He thinks his family/other people will find out if they ever search out family records for whatever reason. I don't know how that works, but again: gonna wait until he's ready. Until we're both ready at the same time.