Thursday, November 11, 2010

Alleged changes to the resignation process

There have been rumblings lately that the church is streamlining the resignation process. For those unfamiliar this resignation process is the procedure one goes through to have their name removed from the church, resigning their membership, ultimately making them no longer a Mormon.

The process is one that has apparently changed a lot over the years. The most recent procedure basically involved sending a letter to your bishop telling him you did not want to be a member anymore. (There several things that it is recommended that you put in the letter. Google it if you are really interested.) The bishop fills out some paperwork and sends it off to the Church Office Building (COB). The process was overwhelmingly controlled by local leaders and with it being controlled largely by local leaders follow through on the process differed greatly. Some people have a really hard time resigning while others have their resignation processed immediately all because local leaders did or did not follow procedure.

Recently there have been reports that you can now email in your resignation and someone else reported faxing theirs in. These two new methods of turning in the resignation allows one to skip local leaders and contact the COB directly. Where the previous procedure was basically one where the bishop told the COB who was leaving now the COB informs the bishop.

It is an interesting change in procedure. Why would they streamline the leaving process?

I can do nothing but guess as to why such changes have taken place. The church’s desire to be consistent and “correlated” in all of its practices probably plays a part. Local leaders, though given procedures for how to handle resignations, were not following the process through correctly inevitably leading to people calling the COB directly anyway. Expect by the time someone has already sent in their letter and waited around while the bishop dinked around they are probably frustrated or mad. I am sure some of those phone calls to the COB have not been pleasant.

If this change is actually a change in procedure and not just a rumor it really simplifies the leaving process. It’s a good move in some ways. It ensures that things are handled correctly though it does take more power away from local leaders.

Power being taken away from local leaders is nothing new. The church has been working to centralize power and correlate things for a long time now. Alan’s post over on PureMormonism hits on many related ideas. Streamlining the resignation process is not all that surprising if you look at it in terms of correlation and the corporate side of the church.

Why do I as an already resigned member of the church care about the current resignation process at all? To be honest I am not sure that I really do. I think the change is interesting. I think the change should have been predictable.

Many think that the church more or less ignores what goes on in internet forums, on blogs and other media. However, I think they pay a lot of attention to what the “apostates” do and say about the church. These forms of media make it too easy for us all to compare notes about church practices. In some ways it is just good business practice to listen to what your former members says.  Your most informed critics are always going to be those who were previously on the inside. I think the church would be stupid to not pay attention to us. When I see changes like this change in the resignation process I can’t help but think they are listening…  

11 comments:

  1. Huh.

    If this is true, it'll make leaving a bit of an easier idea for Eric as one of his hangups is letting his bishop know before the COB. He grew up with a lot of the leaders in our ward and really loathes the idea of disappointing them.

    That said, he loathes even more his family finding out, directly or indirectly, so there's still that hurdle.

    As for me, I'll believe it when it's printed and even then I imagine there'll be some kinks to get past and self-righteous people who struggle with change in procedure. So we'll see.

    Promising, though, for sure.

    (I wonder, also, if this new streamlined policy is due to an overflow in resignation letters? would this just make things easier for them? I hardly believe this is for the convenience of the resigned)

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  2. Interesting. It's a good change, but it does surprise me. I guess they realize that streamlining the process will make it easier for them too, maybe.

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  3. You've always been able to send the letter to church headquarters directly; I know people who've resigned that way. I think, like so many things, the "standard procedure" is a *lot* more flexible than people are led to believe. They want you to have as many stops on the road as possible, so you can change your mind. But, as with everything else regarding the church, it only has power over you so long as you let it. The biggest myth we buy into, with religious organizations and with life, is that they can control us. What we freely give, we can freely take back.

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  4. I sent my letter directly to COB and then an email to my bishop. I called after 30 days to see what the hold up was and the guy answering the phone was very nice and with 2 weeks I had my Dodge letter. -A.J.

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  5. Although I do not mean to overstate it, there are more important changes that have been made. Check Joanna Brooks' post at Religion Dispatches regarding the change to the GHI which is being implemented tomorrow. Gotta run now.

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  6. @ Lisa - Your husband is so not alone. I think many people just leave themselves in so that there are fewer family issues.

    @TGW - Maybe that is all. Making it a bit easier on Mr. Dodge. (I wonder if Mr. Dodge is a real person. I used to work for a company that had a fake VP, just a name, so that when advertisers called they were forwarded to this fake voicemail...)

    @CJ - You have always been able to send your letter straight to the COB. My understanding though is that when you did that they don't move at all until your bishop sends stuff in to them.

    With regard to their power though, the challenge is realizing that you have freely given it in the first place. That is a hard mental block to process sometimes.

    @A.J. - I did not have to deal with the office at all but I have heard they are nice. What a tough job.

    @Murdock Wallis - I will have to check that out thanks. I don't keep up on that blog all that well sometimes.

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  7. I also heard about the new emailing changes. Are they no longer requiring that someone offer their physical address to resign? I'm wondering if it needs to be included in the email.

    I'm finally ready to officially resign and still think I will do it by mail so that it is completely legit so that I can have everything notarized and in its original document form for my records. Emailing does sound convenient though.

    I too was wondering what the COB logic was to this change. It seems they have made resignation such a difficult process over the years and Kathy Worthington had to fight so hard to make it easier. Now I'm scratching my head at the fact that the COB may be making it as easy as click-and-send. But I learned a long time ago that I am not going to be able to figure out the inner workings of the minds that make up the COB.

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  8. I just read the comments after commenting above. CJ has a point that they try to put many stops in the process so that you have a chance to change your mind. My question is, do any of you know anyone who has changed their mind after sending the initial letter? Have you heard of anyone changing their minds about it? I have not, but am curious if it happens very often. My inclination is to guess that it is not common as most Mormons wait a very long time to send that letter. I have considered myself to be an Exmormon in my heart for over 10 years, but am just now officially doing the letter. I did try once 12 years ago and it was such a circus that I gave up with the process. I wish I had just done it then because as long as I was still offcially a member, I kept trying to deal with the church and all of the drama of it all just so I could complete my education at BYU. I feel that the whole process kept me in limbo for a long time, so I just need to get that letter over with. Back to my point though: Maybe the COB guys realized that people were not changing their minds by the long process and that meeting with their bishops was causing further conflict and did not ultimately bring the person back "to the fold". They also might have realized that they don't want the wavering Mormon who wants to be an exmormon in their congregation in the first place. Maybe they are finally realizing it's easier to just let people peacefully practice their free agency and the 11th Article of Faith without dragging it out and making everyone more miserable during the process. One can hope.

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  9. To be honest if you have worked up the guts to write and send the letter I have a hard time believing you would back out. I think by the time people reach the point where they are ready to face the process they don't back out.

    Since the COB protects so much information it is difficult to say why they might change the process. A popular speculation is that they are just receiving a lot more requests for name removal. Which in many ways sounds like a valid theory to me. The fall out from Prop 8 really seems huge.

    In all honesty I see the changes that they are making and they softening a lot of their policies and procedures. When the posted the Handbook online that blew me away. I really think they are realizing that they have to change if they are going to retain people. I wonder how many of us would have been content to be unorthodox Mormons if they weren't so in members faces to comply with every little thing...

    Oh well. Like you said it is difficult to figure out what is going on in their heads.

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  10. I remember reading that the number of volunteer missionaries who process
    resignations had to be increased several times. Perhaps the COB is worried that eventually some little old widow from Orem will announce to the world,
    "Did you know that 300,000 members are leaving each year? It has to be a hard missionary assignation, watching folks walk away.

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  11. I can't even imagine what a crappy mission call that would be. If that didn't cause some serious cog dis I don't know what would.

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