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Holding on too tight

I have subscribed to numerous email lists over the years.  Every single one of them has at the bottom of each email an unsubscribe link.  Sometimes I sign up for an email list unknowingly and other times I simply decided that I wasn't interested after all.  So, I click the link at the bottom.  More often than not, that's the end of it.  Sometimes, it sends you to a page where you type in your email address or hit a "confirm" button to make sure you really do want to unsubscribe.  Every once in a while they'll ask you to give the reason why you want to unsubscribe.  But that's about as difficult as it ever gets.

Just a few months ago, I switched my internet service from AT&T to Comcast (and multiplied my download speeds by about 20 or so).  It was not difficult to discontinue my service with AT&T.  I did have a one-year contract with them, so they did charge me for the month and a half or so that I had remaining, but at least they gave a slight discount on it.  The representative I talked to did try to get me to stay with AT&T, asking a couple questions to the effect of "What can we do to keep your business?", but when I made it clear that I wanted to end my service, he complied and informed me he would close the account.  I've done the same thing in the past with closing credit card and other types of accounts.  There's a little bit of pressure to stay, so they can keep your business, but they acknowledge your right to stop doing business with them.

These days, with the Internet being so prevalent, you can often close your accounts online.  Many companies still make you call in because they know they'll have fewer people leave if they are required to talk to a human representative.  But if you're a member of an online community--a forum or a group--you can simply delete your account as quickly as you registered it (and often times even more quickly).

If I were a member of a club and wanted to leave the club, I would simply inform the organizers (club president/admin/whatever) and stop paying my dues (if there were any) and I would not be considered a member of the club anymore.  I joined a local ham radio club a couple years ago.  I never paid my dues for the following year.  I'm sure they don't consider me a member anymore, and I never even told them that I wanted to leave.  I simply lost interest and never went back.  No hard feelings.  No one in the club had offended me.  I got along well with all the people in it that I knew.  I just didn't care to attend any longer.

So, my question is, why does the LDS church make it nearly impossible to resign?  The process should not be difficult and should not be so drawn out.  I thought I had already discussed the ordeal of resigning from the church, but I'm not seeing it now as I look back through my posts.  So here's a little synopsis.  I wrote a letter indicating my desire to leave Mormonism and hand-delivered it to my bishop--my local ecclesiastical leader.  When I handed it to him, he asked me multiple times if I was sure that this was the action I wished to take.  That much, I didn't have a problem with and actually expected.  I find it to be analogous to the AT&T rep asking me if I would change my mind about discontinuing my internet service.  He then asked his two counsellors to enter the room and the four of us repeated the conversation I had just had with my bishop.  I also didn't mind this.  In fact, I was glad that he did because then I had the opportunity to explain myself to these other men, who seemed quite reasonable in their responses.

In my opinion, however, that should have been the end of it.  At that point in time, I think that the paperwork should have been processed and the next communication I had with the church should have been my letter from church HQ in Utah indicating that my request had been fulfilled and that I was no longer a member of the church.  In reality, it was over four months before any of that happened.  I handed my bishop my letter in April of last year.  Near the end of June, I had heard nothing, so I emailed my bishop to let him know that I was interested in hurrying the process along.  I also emailed my stake president, who is essentially the supervisor of the bishops in the area.  I know both my bishop and my stake president personally, and I think highly of both of them.  I respect them both.  I have nothing but positive things to say about my stake president.  My bishop and I clashed on a few things while I was a member, but I believe those to be minor and see no reason to discuss them publicly.  Overall, he's a good man.  But what disappointed me was the fact that they took so long processing the request.

When I emailed my stake president, he wrote back saying that he had a family and a job and many other things in his life and that he was busy.  I know all of this.  And that's actually one of the reasons why I respect him so much.  He is/was a very busy man spent much time in his service in the church and otherwise.  But I really don't think that sending in a paper to Salt Lake City takes much time.  And I don't think it should require me reminding multiple people on multiple occasions before it is completed.

The reason I'm writing about this is because I want to help Mormons understand that holding on to people so tightly will only hurt their church and its image. I have multiple friends who have wanted to leave the LDS church and have not done so because it is so difficult.  In fact, Conrad has wanted to resign for a while but simply hasn't had the motivation to jump through all of the hoops necessary to do so.  He did email church HQ several months ago and inform them of his desire to resign, which (if you ask me) should be sufficient.  But he hasn't heard anything from them ever since, and I doubt that he ever will.

The good thing is that, for the most part, if someone simply stops going to church and lets the members nearby know that they don't want any reactivation efforts, they're left alone and it is effectually as though they had resigned.  So, is it really all that much more to ask that the records be officially removed from the church, and that the person no longer be counted as a member?  I have heard of many cases where even after repeated expressions of desire for no contact, members of the ward or missionaries in the area have continued to attempt to fellowship the person back into the church, but I believe this is the exception rather than the rule.  There certainly is a line between showing concern for someone and harassing them.

I suppose I find it ironic because the LDS church always goes on and on about how God allows people agency to make their own choices and not force them into something even when it's what is best for them.  If agency is such an important factor, why not allow members the freedom to leave without having to go through such an ordeal to ensure that the resignation has been completed?

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