I'm celebrating today's memoir release by resigning from the Mormon church

After years of work, The Accidental Terrorist, my memoir of Mormon missionary life, is out today! And what better way to celebrate than to mail a letter that, honestly, is years if not decades overdue...

10 November 2015

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

To the General Authorities—

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.

My resignation should be processed immediately, without any waiting period. I expect this matter to be handled promptly. After today, the only contact I want 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.

You might be surprised to discover that I’m even still on the church membership rolls. I admit, I’m a little surprised too—at myself. I’ve considered myself an ex-Mormon since 1995, when I first began writing about my many disagreements with church doctrine on a website called “Mormon Matter.” Hundreds of people emailed me over the next decade, to share apostasy stories, to argue, or to confess their own secret disagreements with the church. For some people, my site was the first time they had run across a person who thought the same way they did and was willing to articulate it publicly. I’m happy to have helped in a small way to point some of them toward a way out of the church, toward an exit from the prison of belief.

My own apostasy—or rather, my arrival at clarity, as I prefer to think of it—had its roots deep in my childhood. Even as a five-year-old, I could see how spectacularly unlikely it was that my family would belong to the One True Church, considering how many religions there were in the world.

Still, it wasn’t until the age of 19 that the tide began to turn for me. That was the age at which, as a missionary in Calgary, I felt compelled to ground a passenger jet with a false bomb threat rather than allow my companion to exercise his free agency by going home early from his mission. Yes, the church rallied behind me in that hour of need, as I faced a possible sentence of ten years in prison. But I had to ask myself—what kind of church is so lacking in compassion for its youth that it engenders the conditions under which such an act would seem commendable?

After separating myself from the church, I for years held on to the childish hope that when my mission memoir—with its frank depictions of unseemly missionary behavior and a pre-1990 temple ceremony—was eventually published, I would be summoned posthaste to a church court, where I could explain my objections in person and accept my inevitable excommunication with a smile.

I no longer expect that to happen. I’m not important enough for the church to take notice of me. And the church is not important enough to me for me to care whether it does or not.

What is important to me is your ongoing treatment and exploitation of the good people you claim as members. When I look at the church, I see an organization that conspires to eat up nearly every moment of spare time in its members’ lives, leaving them little time for thoughts and activities that aren’t wrapped up in its gospel. I see a corporation that demands 10% of its members’ income in tribute, encouraging them to pay that tithe even if the choice is between that and rent or food, and withholding worship privileges from them if they don’t cough up the dough. I see a cabal that comes clean about its own history only after years of honest scholarship (not to mention relentless persecution of those scholars) and the advent of the Internet have at long last forced its hand.

And finally, as the revelations of the past week have made clear, I see a clutch of tired old men who are so paranoid about challenges to their tired old conception of what constitutes a valid family that they are willing to set aside their own second Article of Faith and punish children for the supposed sins of their parents. You’re not defending the family—you’ve declared war on it, and the innocent victims are children.

Your church, in short, is a whited sepulchre.

I could go on and on about my objections to your doctrines and practices, your manipulative lies and your comfortable living allowances, but what would be the point? You’ve probably stopped reading already. Let me simply close with my testimony that I know Joseph Smith was an overimaginative con man, the Book of Mormon is bad Bible fanfic, and you so-called prophets, seers, and revelators are inspired by nothing more than the love of money and power.

I say these things in the name of reason and decency. Amen.

William Shunn
(né Donald William Shunn II)  

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill

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Sinister Regard is a small independent press based in New York City. We publish fiction and memoirs in handsome print and electronic editions.