Sunday, November 09, 2008

Prop 8 passage results in one less name on LDS church rolls

A couple weeks ago, I wondered why the LDS Church was so eager to deny equal rights to gays and lesbians. Then Prop 8 passed, due in no small part to the Church's efforts.

Though I am no longer an active member of the Church, and have little influence over anything it does on any level, I am still technically a member.

That will change after the Church receives the letter I am sending out tomorrow, reprinted below:

November 10, 2008

Member Records Division, LDS Church
50 E North Temple Rm 1372
SLC UT 84150-5310

To Whom It May Concern:

This letter is my formal resignation from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and it is effective immediately. I hereby withdraw my consent to being treated as a member and I withdraw my consent to being subject to Church rules, policies, beliefs and discipline. As I am no longer a member, I want my name permanently and completely removed from the membership rolls of the Church.

I have given this matter considerable thought. I understand what you consider the seriousness and the consequences of my actions. I am aware that the Church handbook says that my resignation "cancels the effects of baptism and confirmation, withdraws the priesthood held by a male member and revokes temple blessings" I also understand that I will be "readmitted to the church by baptism only after a thorough interview". (quotes from the current Church Handbook of Instructions)

I have not been active in the Church for more than 11 years now. I have moved several times and never contacted any local Church leaders or members to update my records. Until now, I was content with the current situation. Only once or twice was I visited by members or missionaries—the Church seemed to respect my wishes and by and large left me alone. If it had not done so, I might have resigned long ago.

One reason I had not previously resigned was because it didn’t matter much to me whether or not I was still listed as a member, and it didn’t seem to impact my daily life one way or the other. I felt the trouble it would take to resign was not worth the sorrow it might cause members of my family.

With respect and love to my family, I no longer feel that I can leave things as they are. My decision on this matter has changed with the Church’s public and very effective support of Proposition 8 in California in the recent election. I cannot allow my name to be associated, however symbolically, with this shameful attack on the basic civil rights of a historically oppressed group. The Church’s official position is doubly troubling given the history of persecution members of the Church—my ancestors—endured in the name of their faith.

Knowing that the outcome in California on November 4 was a direct result of the Church’s efforts was a deeply shameful realization for me, and may irreparably change my relationship with the Church. I can only hope that, sooner rather than later, the Church leadership comes to understand the harmful consequences of this misguided policy and reverses it, as it reversed the policy of refusing blacks the priesthood after President Kimball’s historic 1978 revelation.

My resignation should be processed immediately, without any waiting periods. I am not going to be dissuaded and I am not going to change my mind.

After today, I request that the only contact I receive from the Church is a single letter of confirmation to let me know that I am no longer listed as a member of the Church.

Sincerely,


David Colin Bennion
The letter is a modified version of a letter I got from this website. This website gives instructions on how to request that the IRS revoke the Church's tax exempt status. I don't know enough about tax law to know whether that effort is just pie in the sky.

The LDS Church didn't pass Prop 8 on its own. I'm not too happy about the Catholic Church's role in the passage of Prop 8 and in fighting against LGBT rights more generally. I was employed by the Catholic Church for two years, and I have a lot of respect for Catholic Social Teachings on poverty and migration, among other things.

But the Catholic Church's backwards, hateful institutional posture on LGBT rights is the principal reason I did not seriously consider taking another position at a Catholic organization when I moved here to Philly from Brooklyn.

It gives me no pleasure to send this letter. I think there is a lot of room for collaboration on social issues between seculars like me and people of faith. I can only hope that as more members of the churches speak out against these policies, that the leadership will listen. (That is why I am publicizing here what should be essentially a private matter.) I am afraid, though, that the day of change will be a long time coming.

13 comments:

Ryan Hines said...

Bravo!

Anonymous said...

Thank you.

Prerna said...

Yave
*hugs*

I believe you deserve one of these:
http://i37.tinypic.com/1jasdz.png

Rose said...

Thank you. A beautifully-written letter.

What shocks me is that more members have not spoken out about the fact that the LDS church violated its own scripture in urging its members to support Proposition 8. According to Joseph Smith himself, they have a moral obligation to follow scripture where the elders deviate. But they didn't.

Karla said...

Dear Dave. I totally understand why you are doing this, though it makes me sad. As you know, I have struggled with what to do about this issue, and too often, out of cowardice, exhaustion, and hopelessness about being able to make a difference, do nothing. Maybe I personally can be most effective from the inside. How to not let that be a cop-out or excuse for NOT acting, I haven't yet figured out. The whole thing makes me heartsick and has loosened my affection for and loyalty to my church and culture (despite everything) until now. But know that resigning your membership in the church does NOT affect my/our love for you or your membership in our family. You're stuck with us!

Pinko Punko said...

Dave and Karla- thank you for sharing this.

Colin said...

Perhaps you have not read the offical statement by the Chruch.

Let me quote a little bit of it here.

" It is important to understand that this issue for the Church has always been about the sacred and divine institution of marriage — a union between a man and a woman.

Allegations of bigotry or persecution made against the Church were and are simply wrong. The Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage neither constitutes nor condones any kind of hostility toward gays and lesbians. Even more, the Church does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches."
http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/news-releases-stories/church-responds-to-same-sex-marriage-votes


Weather someone comes or goes is no concern of mine but readers out there should be in possession of the facts in stead of hearsay.

Michael said...

Colin,

I don't know you, and I have no intention of claiming anything about you or your beliefs. With that said, your response only represents, to those of us who have been and are solidly against prop 8, to some degree the reason why it is so difficult to be a solid member of the church, or at least support the church's support of prop 8. I cannot speak for Yave Begnet in any way, but what you quoted (at least for me) actually drives me further away. There are those of us that believe that defining marriage between only one man and one woman actually tears down the fabric of the family unit. Furthermore, the church can suggest and proclaim as often as they like that they do not condone hostility towards gays and lesbians, but the mere act of publicly supporting prop 8 has still given the members within the church (at least in their own minds) the right to actually be hostile to the gay and lesbian community. Hostility is not just physical or verbal abuse, it is also backhanded comments about character based solely on the fact that a person is gay. Most of the the hostility that has been coming out from the LDS members is defined as defense for the family unit, but most of the defense for the family unit which I have heard ends with a backhanded insult of character targeted to the homosexual individual or community. I consider this to be hostile. I have not gone one day over the last month where I haven't heard an active member of the church proclaim a very racist comment about the gay community. As a BYU student, I hear these comments on campus and at church with not even a hint from any authority that what they are proclaiming is wrong, hateful, and hostile. In fact, I hear these backhanded character insults often from those in authority which only gives others more fuel to speak similarly. These comments are made with the understanding that it is okay and even righteous because the church and prophet feel the same way they do(at least in their own interpretation of doctrine.) All of this happens because of the church's very public support of prop 8. It doesn't matter that the church asks it's members to refrain from being hostile, because to the members, they are not being hostile, they are standing up for the right to protect the family. Therefore in my mind, the church and its leadership are still responsible to some degree for the hostility towards the LGBT community.

I appreciate that you only want to state the facts, and I think that is very useful and honorable, but the other side of stating the facts and how those facts have perpetuated the bullying of the LGBT community should also be mentioned.

I obviously am jaded towards the church right now because of this issue, so that should also be taken into consideration with my comments.

I apologize in advance if this in anyway came across as a character attack. I only hope to mention that by going back to the church leadership and their comments in the way that you have only seems to isolate me (and I suspect others as well) further because it only suggests that if the leadership feels a certain way that actually culturally perpetuates what I consider to be the problem, than maybe I don't belong in this church after all. I speculate that this is at least part of the reason that some individuals have decided to leave the church for good.

Gilly said...

Very well said.

yave said...

Thanks to all for the kind thoughts.

Colin, if I found the Church's official statements to be convincing, I would't have taken the action I did.

When I am away from Mormondom for awhile, I forget how conciliatory LDS discussions often are, even when there are fundamental, unbridgeable differences. It is not typical of the blogosphere, and it makes me smile.

Anonymous said...

Bravo. I was reading the discussion boards on Facebook, and a high school student had posted that his parents had actually received a donation request for Prop 8, signed by their "pastor" (It wasn't "pastor" but a word I assumed to be something similar.) If the church was asking its members to donate, even if the donations did not come from the church directly, this is just as bad, and no amount of defense will excuse those actions.

Anonymous said...

The group that got Prop 8 on the ballot, Protect Marriage, claims they were not trying to take rights away. However, this link says otherwise:
http://web.archive.org/web/20060508183535/www.protectmarriage.com/index.aspx?protect=FAQ

This was only 2 years ago, and it clearly says that the original purpose of the amendment was to
make sure that that only legal union that could be recognized was marriage between a man and a women, and therefore those rights and benefits could not be given to a domestic partnership or civil union. So if their intentions were always just about the "traditional" definition of marriage, what's this??

Anonymous said...

This is really funny:


"Throughout the campaign, while the LDS Church stated its support for Proposition 8, it also made repeated comments that the Church 'does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights'," said Equality Utah Board Chairwoman Stephanie Pappas in announcing the gay legislation effort. "Just last week, Elder L. Whitney Clayton stated the LDS Church does not oppose 'civil unions or domestic partnerships'."

"We are taking the LDS Church at its word regarding these basic protections and we hope to gain their support as we work to secure these rights and responsibilities."

http://ontopmag.com/article.aspx?id=2707&MediaType=1&Category=26