Hedging Your Bets: Refusing to Leave the Church

Jeff Spector apostasy, church, Culture, doubt, faith, families, fear, LDS, Mormon, mormon, Mormons, orthodox, resignation, testimony 80 Comments

Two men pull up to a house they’ve never been to before. It’s dark, but a few lights appear on. They slowly get out, not saying much and walk up the walk to the door. One reaches out and rings the doorbell. Soon, a woman appears and opens the door.

One says: “Are you Sister Smith?”

He goes on, “We’re from the Church. It’s been a few years since someone contacted you and we are just here to check with you.”

She says, rather emphatically, “I thought I told you people that I want nothing to do with YOUR Church! We want to be left alone.”

“Sister Smith, we want to respect your decision, but it is necessary for us to check with you every once in a while to make sure you still live here and that no contact is still your desire. Since you seem to want no contact with the Church, have you ever considered having your name removed from the records of the Church?”

“And have you excommunicate me? I haven’t done anything wrong!”

“Actually, the procedure has changed and all you need to do is write a letter that states you wish to be removed from the records and your request will be granted.” No other Church action is taken.”

“Well, I could never do that; my family in Utah would be devastated!”

And so it goes.

I have been yelled at, cursed at, threatened with the police, etc. just for showing up at a member’s door and asking about them. And yet, most do not want their name removed from the Church rolls.

Either, they have family concerns, are just too lazy to write the letter, or don’t care enough to do anything about their Church membership other than request no contact from the Church.

And so, every once in a while someone in the ward mistakenly contacts them and that person gets yelled at or told in no uncertain terms that their contact is unwelcomed. Sometimes the “no contact” members are nice about it, but often they are very hostile and nasty. We sometimes send letters to their house as a form of contact – one way contact in order to count them as home or visiting teaching. In my current ward, we have quite a list of “do not contacts.”

So, it has always intrigued me as to why these folks seem unable to completely divorce themselves from the Church. Even though they want no contact. They sometimes cite family concerns but doesn’t their family know they are not even the least bit active in the Church? Maybe the family hopes the person will one day change their mind.

What are your experiences with this situation? Maybe, you are one of those that I describe in this post. Please comment.

Comments

comments

Comments 80

  1. Oh yes. I cannot understand it either. I have an ex-SIL who HATES the church and who wrote me a very mean letter once about it. I wrote her back and told her that she obviously did not want association with the church and that there was a very easy way to fix that by writing the letter you mentioned and asked for her name to be removed. It’s not 20 years later. She still has not done it and still rants about the Church. Like I say..I don’t understand whay they WON’T leave. Not can’t but won’t.

  2. Oddly enough, most of my siblings are inactive, so I’m familiar with this. Frankly I’m not sure any of them can really give much insight into why they won’t have their names removed. I’m not going to push the issue too hard while my mom is still alive, however, since that would be a bit much for her to understand/handle why I would do that. But I can’t begin to guess why without getting into areas that could be potentially offensive to those in that situation. Whenever you try to guess other people’s motivations for this type of behavior, you stand the risk of deeply offending them. I’m going to tread lightly.

  3. On my mission, we had a long list of ‘Do not contacts’ in a certain ward. Somebody had the idea to visit them all and ask them if they wanted their names removed. We did our visits and most of them did want their name removed. We showed the long list of ‘name removees’ to the bishop and he shut down the program and didn’t have their names removed (as far as I know).

    This was in Europe. Most of the people didn’t have family ties to the church. They were all too happy to have their names removed.

    There are lots of people consider themselves to be ‘Catholic’ even if they never go to mass and don’t believe anything the catholic church teaches. Its about culture or identity or history–not about belief or practice. We sometimes fail to realize that we have similar people in our church.

  4. As I recently wrote, based on our doctrines, there are serious implications about having your name removed whether it be voluntary or not. Because of how serious that is, even if it becomes only symbolic or superstitious, its a really harsh step to take.

    I’ve never been to the point of having a pen and paper in hand, but I have mentally envisioned that road leading to that letter. If I still believed that its all or nothing I might lean towards nothing, but I am able to be at relative peace with the church by radically reinterpreting the purpose of religion in my spiritual journey. Writing a letter would be like cutting off my nose to spite my face. Its meaningful to my family, and if *they* believe that there is something important about my name being on the records, then removal is not only an action against the church, but against them as well.

  5. Jeff,

    The problem is that you showed up unannounced and uninvited at the door.
    Even when I was active before leaving the church, I never liked that.
    Home teachers (or anyone in any capacity) don’t have a blanket permission
    to show up without calling or writing first. It’s lazy and inconsiderate
    to just show up like that. I don’t even do that to my close friends.

    I realize that if you don’t have someone’s phone number, the imperative
    of home-teaching seems to demand such cold-calling. But it’s a very dicey
    thing to just show up like that.

    As one who asked to have his name removed (and then came back),
    I have this to say:

    1. NEVER suggest to someone that they have their name removed as
    a way to make sure they are never contacted again.

    2. NEVER put forth “name removal” as an option to someone who has
    requested “DNC”. Only talk about it if _they_ ask how they can
    quit, get out, leave the church, get excommuncated, etc.

    3. If someone does bring it up under any heading (quit, leave,
    ex-comm, etc.) the only thing you should say is “You have to
    contact the bishop about that. Here’s his name, address, and phone number.”

    3. Every ward needs to keep a “do not contact” file, and to mark
    each person’s wishes as far as what THEY mean by “DNC”:

    A) Is it still okay to phone? YES or NO.

    B) Is it still okay to write once a year to make sure they
    still live at that address? YES or NO.

    C) Would they be willing to receive newsletters, invitations,
    Christmas cards, etc, in the mail from the ward? YES or NO.

    D) And for the sisters: Is it still okay if ladies from the
    Relief society visit you? YES or NO. Sometimes, women
    will refuse home-teachers, but will accept visiting teachers.

    My understanding is that most DNC people would be willing to
    receive newsletter type mailings, which is part of any
    membership organization.

    In fact, I would hope the church could put those fields in the
    computerized membership records, so that the constantly rotating
    leadership (EQP, HPGL, etc) doesn’t drop the ball with manual lists.

    When I first requested “DNC” (a few years before I requested name removal),
    I found out church members had different ideas of what DNC means. So you
    have to SPELL IT OUT.

    4. Every ward needs to HONOR the “do not contact” file.

    5. When someone requests “do not contact” they need to be ASKED right
    there, which of the options above are still acceptable to them. Most
    people just mean “STOP SHOWING UP AT MY DOOR UNINVITED, YOU
    INCONSIDERATE IDIOT” so newsletters/mailings are generally okay.

    When I first went inactive, I didn’t want people showing up at my door,
    but I did want to receive newsletters and announcements so that I could
    go to non-sunday activities if I ever wanted to test the waters again.

    6. At the moment someone requests ‘do not contact’, it might be a good
    idea to ask them if there are any specific individuals in the ward they
    want to avoid. When I went inactive, I got “love bombed” by some people
    who showed up at my door unannounced/uninvited, and it was the very group
    of dysfunctional/psychotic/toxic single adult women I was trying to avoid !
    (Maybe that was my punishment for going inactive. God has a sense of humor. 🙂

    7. Phone calls: When a home-teacher is constantly blown-off when he
    tries to make HT appointments by phone, instead of assuming he needs
    to “cold call” (just show up at their door), I think it okay to ask
    the person on the phone “Would you just rather home-teachers not visit
    you in person?” And if the person agrees, then go over the above options
    about which _forms_ of contact (newsletters, Visiting teachers, etc) are
    still okay.

    8. Remember that HT and VT is about serving the needs and desires of the
    individual, and not racking up points for a scorecard or statistical report.

  6. I wonder at the anger incurred, especially if the person is rational about it. If they don’t want their name removed, expect contact occasionally. Period. To shoot the messenger every time against your own irrationality shows that there is alot of emotional instability in the decision. I grew up in an area of Utah with many inactive Mormon-most were the redneck smoking and drinking type. They get mad when you come calling, but when you interact with them in a neighborly way, it comes acoss that many of them still believe, but they feel guilty when the Elders come calling, and they don’t want to be put in that situation on the doorstep. Most of them are all too happy to let the missionaries baptize their kids and get them to Church. It was an interesting anectode from my life that possibly explains this phenomenon.

  7. Peter, What’s your take on the social acceptability of showing up at people’s homes without calling or writing first? (Other than a blanket canvassing of the neighborhood, that is.) Here in the midwest, and among non-LDS, that’s not socially nice.

    Here, we realize we’re going to get knocks on the door by salesmen, political campaigners, fund raisers, girl scouts selling cookies, missionaries (JWs and Mormons) etc. But for someone to specifically come knocking for _you_, without calling or writing first, is not cool.

    “Occasional contact” does not have to include showing up unannounced. It could be done with a letter or a newsletter.

    When church leaders say they want an “in person” contact, doesn’t it go without saying that it should only be done if the person receiving the contact agrees to it? Why do so many home teachers think that the church’s teaching to make in person visits overrides the social convention against showing up unannounced?

    If you don’t know the person’s phone number, write them, and give them yours. Include a self-addressed stamped envelope if they don’t want to call you thereby giving out their number. 84 cents in stamps and two envelopes is cheaper than gas now.

  8. Post
    Author

    Whoa there, Bookslinger, sounds like you still have quite a bit of hostility there. Thanks, but I didn’t need to be lectured by you on how to handle do not contacts. That was not the point of my post. Also, I didn’t give every minute detail of that example that might indicate that a call was made prior to “them just showing up at the door.” I have had plenty of situations where the non-member spouse who answers the phone says it is fine to come over only to have the member be nasty when we arrive and visa versa. And yes, sometimes we have just shownn up. And a lot of times the person or family didn’t live there, so we moved the records out.

    I also think it is appropriate to ask someone who desires no contact if they wish to have their names removed. It is the one sure way of guaranteeing that no one will ever contact them again. They can always just say no. Also, as far as I know, the Church does not allow us to notate records with DNC. We had that at one time and were asked to remove it from the record.

    Also, I do not think we need to determine every possible perimeter that contact may or may not happen. Otherwise, the person can remove themselves from the Church and never be bothered again. Along with the choice to stay is the possibility that contact may be made.

    “Would you like us to move the Church building, so you don’t have to drive by it?”

  9. Another ongoing problem with this is the fact that the church is totally HOPELESS when it comes to processing these ‘off the roles’ people. Many people have written that resignation letter but it never gets done properly, by our clerks & Bishops & Stake Presidents who all have a role in this. Then there are others who apparently have had their name ‘removed’ from the records only to see themselves back on the directory some 5 or 10 years latter. Why? no one at HQ wants to explain why, we have asked repeatedly.

    I think that the biggest problem is that headquarters doesn’t trust local leaders enough. They want a system which isn’t an incentive to clean the lists. But then they just come up with an operational mess! What they should do is follow scripture and get those ‘two witnesses’ ie home teachers, to give faith that people like sister Smith don’t want to be a part of the church and sign for her record to be so marked.

  10. I think a lot of people don’t want to take hope away from their family! It could devastate parents or a sibling to think they won’t make it into the celestial kingdom with them.

    They maybe are hedging wondering if they could ever change their mind and may not want to go through the embarrassment of being re baptized.

    They may be rude because they are self conscious of not living the standards of the church and then having someone come by and it makes them aware of it. Some when their caught with their fingers in the cookie jar are humble and adults may lash out – sort a defence mechanism.

  11. I am one of the ones you talk about. Bill hit the nail on the head — “it’s about culture or identity or history – not about belief or practice” for me. ALL of my ancestors were Mormon pioneers. Most of my family members are still active. I just choose not to be active anymore. I have a very full and busy life and just don’t have time for church activities. It doesn’t mean I hate the church. It certainly doesn’t mean I want to be removed from the records, although I realize perhaps many of us make a record-keeping nightmare. It does mean I don’t want drop-in visits.

    Furthermore, if I say I want my name removed, if I decide to become active again, does that mean I’ll have to be re-baptized???

  12. “Furthermore, if I say I want my name removed, if I decide to become active again, does that mean I’ll have to be re-baptized???”

    Technically: yes. But in reality if you just keep quiet about the name removal and ask for your records again HQ will miraculously find it somewhere on some list. The church never destroys or deletes a record.

  13. I agree with Bookslinger and disagree respectfully with Peter.

    I do not think we should ever invite someone to resign from the Church (and usually should not even suggest it as an alternative). I do think it can be appropriate to inquire what a person means by “no contact.” If the person describes something that essentially means resigning, but does not use those words, I think it is approriate to clarify at that point whether resignation is what the person desires.

    I think there are many reasons why a person would prefer no active contact from the Church while remaining on the rolls. Fact is, I have been assigned to home teach some very active members of the Church who simply have no time for a monthly visit, and who have requested that I count a brief handshake at Church or telephone call itself as the monthly visit. They simply do not have the time, or do not wish to be bothered. Rightly or wrongly, I honor that request, as I do if the person or family does not attend church meetings.

    For some, I suppose, a do not contact request is akin to a trial separation in marriage. The handbook says that a Church is never to counsel a member to get divorced (or not to get divorced) because the decision must arise within the member himself or herself. I have known a number of people over the years who have been “DNC” but returned to full activity. And some have told me that had they been invited to resign (or had it been offered explicitly as an alternative) while on “DNC” status, they probably would have resigned. But uniformly, they are glad they did not resign during that hiatus and that they were not invited to resign (or had it offered as an explicit alternative by well meaning visitors).

    The only harm I see to members remaining in name only on the rolls in DNC status is that it lowers the HT and VT statistics.

  14. Catching up on comments:

    #4 – Clay, that is important and profound.

    #5 – Bookslinger, I agree totally. I have shared my similar feelings with Bishops and MP leaders with whom I have spoken. Imho, if someone you HT asks you not to contact them in any way, true HT (providing whatever the person wants) dictates that you honor that request and their agency in making it. The clarification is important, but the follow-up is just as important. Also, I would NEVER “offer” name removal as an option. Lacking circumstances that would lead to excommunication, that should come only from the person. Period.

    Going back to reading the comments.

  15. Btw, I personally have no problem with people who have requested no contact being counted as being Home Taught and Visit Taught even though no contact was made. We are providing exactly what they request, which is the heart of HT/VT. I know that is radical, but I am fine with it.

  16. Post
    Author

    We have a monthly letter-writing campaign for the DNCs, so we can count them for HT according to a Stake Presidency directive. Funny, some letters come back with “return to sender, never send me another letter again,” which we honor. If it were me, I’d just pitch the letter in the trash along with the junk mail.

  17. My parents provided my brother’s contact information to the Church’s Lost Sheep program when they called asking his whereabouts. He’s been inactive for 15 years at least.

    My brother was livid. He wanted no contact at all with the Church and told my parents never to do that again.

    Yet I doubt he would bother with forms and letters to avoid the possibility of contact entirely. His name’s mere presence on the rolls performs some minimal comforting function for my parents, who think his testimony is just weak, or that he is going through a phase.

    I don’t see it as a phase for him. There are just an increasing number of folks who want nothing to do with organized religion, and our Church is probably going to have more and more of them on its hands as the years roll on.

  18. Carlos (#18), I don’t live in Utah – and the reason the stats are so good there might be because many people can walk their entire route in less than 15 minutes. 🙂

    Frankly, the “stats” mean far less to me than the results that takes place. I want each member to receive “according to their wants” – not “according to the wants of the report generators.”

  19. I have an interesting thing that occured with my neighbors.

    Many years ago, they lived in a nice Portland neighborhood and their neighbors were members. Over a year period, they investigated and then joined the church.

    3 months after joining, they each had 2 callings, many meetings to attend and lots of new information to learn. They got tired and thought they were doing to much.

    They told their good friends and neighbors that they were going to take a small break from attending to just catch their breath and catch up on a few things that needed to be done.

    The VT’s were over the next day. Asking what had been done and could they help. My friends responded with a very polite “We just need a little break, we will be back. Don’t worry”

    The HT’s were over the next day. Asking what had been done and could they help. My friends responded with a polite “We need a little break. We may be back. Don’t send anyone else”

    The EQP was over the next day. Asking what had been done and could they help. My friends responded with a “We’ve said we needed a break, and we mean it. Please respect our privacy”

    The Bishop was over the next day. Asking what had been done and could they help. My friends responded with a “Get the hell off my door step and don’t ever come back.

    The 2 neighbors never spoke to each other again.

    When the now inactive family moved to my town, I heard this story. I promised him that I would get set up as his HT and my wife would be the VT. We have maintained that for 15 years. No one from the church has ever been over, and this family and mine has a wonderful relationship.

  20. Peter,

    What do you think it says about the church that it would not trust an adult to contact them if they were interested in further involvement with the church? I find it very odd that the church would feel the need to ‘check in’ on a person to make sure that the wishes that were expressed were still true. Can you think of any other example in life where that is acceptable?

  21. #8, Jeff, “I also think it is appropriate to ask someone who desires no contact if they wish to have their names removed”

    I strongly recommend (and its fine with me if you call this further lecturing) that you confirm that with your bishop and/or stake president. It comes across as a suggestion, or as the _only_ way to not have people drop in unannounced.

    “Also, I do not think we need to determine every possible perimeter that contact may or may not happen.”

    (Er, I think you meant “parameter”.) Well, I’m glad you have a letter-writing or newsletter thing going. That’s what I wanted when I requested DNC status, and tried to explain, but the guys in the quorom couldn’t get past “Do we go to his house or not?” dichotomy.

    Also of note is the relatively recent church policy of only one re-baptism per person. If you request name removal, are re-baptized, and then are excommunicated for any reason, or request name-removal again, you cannot get re-baptized in mortality. You’ll have to hope someone does it in the temple for you. This was told me by my bishop when I first came back, and you can check for yourself in the current Handbook of Instructions.

    The reason I like the newsletter idea is that inactive members sometimes like to show up for secular non-Sunday activities. I’ve seen several people show up for Single Adult game-nights on Friday nights at the chapel. It’s sort of like date-night for those who aren’t dating.

    Ward picnics and quorum activities are other things where inactive people show up. And if they don’t get a newsletter or phone call, they won’t know about them. For several years, the only time I saw some members was when they came to the ward memorial day picnic or the ward pioneer day picnic.

  22. Clay,

    That is an interesting take on name removal. How do you feel about converts to the LDS faith who come from other faiths? When we left the church my husband had siblings who took that point of view, that what we were doing was so horrible to do to my parents in law. The funny thing is, my parents inlaw came from religious traditions of their own to join the LDS church. How do you reconsile the two?

    I like to think that when I had my name removed, I was being honest with my fellow man, and to myself. I hope you don’t take that as an attack, because it isn’t meant as one. I just couldn’t live the lie any more and I think that by not having my name removed, I was playing into the misguided belief that we really did believe in our heart and would one day come back. It was easier for us to make the clean break.

  23. To all the respondents of my comment, what I was postulating was my experience in the neighborhood I grew up where I was party to my father (since I was home teaching companion) and I receiving the nasty door treatment, yet baptized the kids of those people a month or so later when the missinaries showed up to the same door. It was a disconnect for me. And when in discussions with these inactives, that reason they gave for their behavior was that they felt they were being scolded for their inactivity with those door visits from the ward, yet they didn’t feel so with the missionaries, because they knew the missionaries were looking for non-members.

    I counted it as anectodal, because I lived in west side neighborhood in Salt Lake County. It may not apply elsewhere.

    I think people approach people on the door because of duty, love, concern, the desire to look good, etc. It’s also an evolution of the missionary spirit. I realize culturally that people don’t like it. I personally don’t mind it. I don’t get offended when the JW’s call. I have the emotional maturity to speak politely and offer a no thank you. I know some people don’t have that ability. When people show up on their doorstep they feel confronted. I’m convinced that the Church, in missionary work, as well as in HT and VT may need to find other alternatives to approaching people rather than a cold door contacts.

  24. Heather:

    With many organizations and corporations, they do similar recruiting tactics. Even businesses will often keep someone on their mailing list even when they ask not to be contacted…it’s just the matter of intervals between calls.

    But I do not follow business as my example. The bottom line is that we care about these people. And no, our modus operandi is different…and different for a reason. Sometimes people have pulled away from the Church and yet have a small yearning to come back. Yet they don’t feel confident in approaching the church. I’ve seen this happen myself. In these circumstances, it was a good thing indeed to do a cold call. So even if one has to hear 15 people tell you to go to $%&# for visiting them, if one person opens up, it’s worth it. If one accepts the gospel as what it is, then the momentary frustration of those individuals is more than worth the eternal fulfillment of the individual who wants to come back.

  25. Heather,
    I absolutely see your point and I’m willing to see your choice as what was right for you. Even still, it was a harsh process, right? I mean, people felt really hurt. That’s what I’m getting at. For me personally, I am not feeling that same ultimatum of integrity, where I have to either declare my separation or else I’m not being honest. Its possible I might come to that point one day and I do respect those that have gotten there.

    On the point of reconciling conversion from other faiths… I think it has the same problems, but then I’m also kind of pluralist, so… 😉

  26. I think some people are just “too lazy” to write the letter, but I think this characterization is used a little too often. I think it’s far more common that the people we think are “too lazy” are actually not lazy at all – it’s more of a statement of freedom than anything else to not write the letter. I think some people who no longer want anything to do with the church don’t write the letter because to do so would be to admit that the church still “has claim” to them in some way. I think this is particularly common among members who feel they were somehow abused, neglected, betrayed, or lied to by the church.

    I agree that all the people who don’t have their names removed are more or less “dead weight” on the system, but achieving maximum systemic efficiency is not the purpose of the church.

  27. Post
    Author

    Bookslinger,

    “I strongly recommend (and its fine with me if you call this further lecturing) that you confirm that with your bishop and/or stake president. It comes across as a suggestion, or as the _only_ way to not have people drop in unannounced.’

    Thanks again, but beleive it or not, I do not randomly go out and bother the DNCs in our ward. Most of my experiences have been in leadership roles and, if it makes you feel any better, had the approval of my Priesthood leader, whomever that was at the time, ward or stake.

    In spite of some of the negative comments here, most members of the Church are kind and loving people who would never knowingly offend someone. So, if they go to a house of a DNC, it is usually out of love and concern for that person or family. Sometimes, the situation is grave and the Church can help. Often a person disassociated with the Church cannot or is too embarrassed to, call on the church after a tragic event in their lives where help could be rendered. If the Spirit is speaking to the right person, a timely visit can work wonders in those lives.

    Typically, the member making the contact will be very respectful of the DNCs request and be nice about it. the niceness is very often not returned. So, in spite of your tirade to the contrary, most members act out of love and concern for others as they try to emulate Christ’s teachings to go after the one.

  28. I’m a membership clerk and I can’t for the life of me figure out why there is no field in the Church’s MLS system that simply says “no contact” that can be checked or unchecked by a clerk in half a second.
    (1) It would keep a record in the Church’s membership system that the individual wants no contact
    (2) Even when the person’s membership records are sent around the Church when they move to a different place, it would follow them, and there would be no contact
    (3) At such time that the person changes his or her mind, the clerk could uncheck it
    (4) Those in the elder’s quorum presidency, RS, and bishoprick who are the “need to know” people would have access and wouldn’t keep making the mistake.

    So to me, it is as easy as a membership record problem in the computer system, and an issue of training for ward leadership to implement a no-contact policy.

  29. Oh yeah, it would be as easy as passing out “no contact” maps that would be distributed to the ward leadership from the clerks, who would maintain the map. I have to maintain several maps as it is. I would certainly have no problem maintaining that kind of map.

  30. Let’s be very clear — I don’t know any member of the church, including those in leadership positions (who are most likely to make contact with DNCs), that actually revels in going to somebody’s door when there is pretty good chance that they will be yelled out, spoken rudely to, chased off with a sharp stick, etc. But they do it. Why? Because, in our view, those names on those roles are members of the Lord’s Church and we have a very clear responsibility toward them. We have a stewardship that does not end with those members that attend church.

    I have seen devoted Saints who actually believe what the Lord said when He spoke of the 99 and the 1 (however inverted those figures may manifest themselves on our roles). They take time from their own families, from their own work, from their own hobbies, to visit people, to make sure that things are okay, to help where they can. Sometimes they visit people who in the past have said they don’t want visitors. Why would they do such an idiodic thing? Because it is not always easy to decipher what somebody meant, three or four years ago, when they said “don’t come back.” Were they angry that day? Was the person contacting them ugly? Did the person contacting them report the experience accurately? Are we willing to completely write off this person forever based on this one statement, without ever checking back, without ever trying (and we’re not talking about every month here — it is usually more like every few years)? Are we to expect that this person will simply come back on their own, even if they do happen to maintain that smallest ember of testimony inside of them? How many semi-active members do we know that stay away because of shame, because of pride, because of discomfort? Wouldn’t it be so much more for a brother or sister that at one time stated they wanted nothing at all to do with the Church? Are we not obligated to reach out, even if just occasionally, to see if we can help?

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t respect the individual wishes of members of the Church who no longer want anything to do with it. But I certainly don’t imagine the Lord will condemn the faithful Saints that refuse to give up on them.

  31. #28, Jeff, we seem to be talking past each other. My “tirade” was not against checking to see if the DNC is at the same address, or still wants DNC status, or making an inspired visit after a traumatic, tragic, or special event. It is against the idea of asking if a person wants their name removed, or in any way suggesting it. Such a question, or anything that could be taken as a suggestion, should be limited to those who have the keys of membership such as the bishop or stake president.

    Okay, now on to the point you seem to wish to discuss: “In spite of some of the negative comments here, most members of the Church are kind and loving people who would never knowingly offend someone. So, if they go to a house of a DNC, it is usually out of love and concern for that person or family.”

    My experience is that the vast majority of times when a DNC-person receives a visit, it is because the visitor didn’t realize the person had requested DNC, likely because they didn’t check the DNC list, or didn’t know a DNC list existed, or the list got lost when a new EQ Pres or HP group leader was called, or the bishopric was re-organized, or the EQ Pres just decided to “reorganize home teaching”, or the person’s previous verbal requests for DNC never got communicated back and put on the list.

    I would also like to point out that “love and concern” doesn’t override the social requirement of calling before just dropping in unannounced on someone who has previously requested no contact. I can see how special events might justify a cold call, but absent special reasons, a phone call would be better, and if the person’s phone # is not known, then a letter would be better than just dropping in unannounced.

    #31, WMP, in general (and absent special circumstances that would over-ride a DNC request, and justify an in-person visit) I am against any method of contacting DNC’s that would push them into thinking that name-removal is the only way to be left alone. “But we love you” is not, in my opinion, a sufficient reason for bothering someone after they have specifically said they don’t want unannounced drop-in visits. But I do believe in personal revelation. If someone can honestly use the “The Spirit Told Me To” excuse, then by all means, do whatever the Spirit says to do. That’s the ultimate trump card.

    But otherwise, good intentions don’t trump social conventions of a polite society in
    how to handle someone’s request to be left alone. I think Ray and DavidH are on the mark, in that the guiding principle of how to handle DNC people is honoring how the DNC person wants things.

    I really regret going inactive and requesting DNC. But at the time, that was the only way I thought it was possible to be left alone by people who made church activity unpleasant for me. The “But we love you” attitude on the part of the people who were offensive (and who dropped in unannounced) only made it more offensive.

    You can’t serve someone unless you gain their trust. You can’t gain their trust unless you deal with them in the way that they want to be dealt with. If they don’t want unannounced drop-in visits, and you drop in unannounced, you’ve lost any trust you had, and you lose the chance to gain it back for at least a while.

    The bottom line is, please don’t make it look like the only way to be left alone is to renounce church membership. That’s not how it’s supposed to be.

  32. I was trying to check my records a couple of days ago and was terrified that my records were removed. What if I was X-ed? I was happy when the stake president called and my home teacher called. I even like when the missionaries come by. Funny thing is all of these things happened right when I needed it.
    I think many inactive members have a testimony and are just sinning. The ones that scream at the home teachers or missionaries could feel guilty because they know “they love evil more than good” or may just be evil and are being used to test the resolve or patients of the missionary or home teacher.
    Somewhere in the Bible it says if you go to the people twice and they reject you; you are to leave and not return. (New Testament somewhere) I’m glad the members don’t adhere to that.

  33. Just so it is perfectly clear, I am not saying that we should “give up on” any member who requests no more contact. We should think of them, pray for them, try to stay aware of their lives, offer assistance whenever it appears to be needed, mail a note periodically to make sure emotions and wishes haven’t changed, etc. I’m just saying that, in my experience, most members who request no contact have reached that point for a reason – and, unfortunately, that reason usually is that members and/or leaders won’t leave them alone – that they feel like they are being hounded and pressured and pushed and treated badly.

    Expressing love cannot be measured by how often we ask them to come back; it can’t be a derivative of ignoring and de-valuing their stated desires; it isn’t seen in our continued insistence on doing it our way. I don’t like a lot of the implications of, “If you love something, let it go,” since it can be taken to an extreme that is not healthy. However, it has an element of, “Do unto others,” that is relevant to this discussion, imo.

    Let me turn this around and insert an evangelical neighbor – just for the sake of making it obvious what I believe. This neighbor cares deeply for the welfare of your soul – truly loves you as much as he is capable of doing so. He believes it is his Christian duty to save you from Hell. He believes so strongly in this that he is willing to visit you regularly and ask you to “find Jesus”. He drops by unannounced periodically, sends notes and letters every month, calls you on the phone, etc. – to the point where you ask him to stop – that you aren’t interested and want no more contact. He agrees when you talk to him, but then he starts again a couple of months later. How would you feel? How would you react?

    I would have no problem with that friend sending me an occasional note or calling once a year and simply asking, “Would you like to talk now?” I would appreciate it more, however, if that neighbor continued to be a friend, associate with me without mentioning religion and simply waited for me reach the point where I was willing to ask him myself. To me, that is the ideal – that when someone wants no contact with the Church there still is a member friend who will continue to be a friend without any discussion of the Church. Lacking that, I would want my wishes honored and respected – again, not minding a simple note or phone call every year to check up on me.

  34. I haven’t read this entire thread, but I did want to share a few thoughts. I am disappointed by the tone of this post. It assumes an either/or position–something that is deductive and inaccurate. I would venture to say that many members who request to be on the no cotact list have a multitude of reasons that are keeping them from full activity in the church. Furthermore, to suggest that one requests to have their name striked from the records of the church is not only diminishing the potentially complicated beast that is their spiritual struggle, but it is implying one’s own righteousness in comparison to another. “Oh you don’t want to be contacted? Why don’t you just get your named removed then?” Doesn’t anyone realize the negative implications of this oversimplification? I tend to agree with bookslinger on the urge to refer no contact members to the bishop.

  35. The special kindof “love and concern” that motivates LDS members to persistently attempt contacts with “do not contact” directives arises from simple refusal to believe that such people (a) really want to be left alone, or really understand what they’re “giving up.”. It is, in reality, a profound lack of basic respect, much as if the person refusing contact was merely a foolish child. A corporation which is otherwise obsessive about recordkeeping this actively chooses not to provide a tracking mechanism for such directives. It’s thesame reason that after I withdrew my name from the records of the LDS church, and at the advice of my stake president directed that I not be contacted other than with a letter saying I’d been removed, the bishop sent a pair of senior missionaries to my workplace to try to stop me.

    The sad fact is that only two methods will get LDS leaders to respect such wishes. One method is publicity, such as writing letters to the media about how thesepeople won’t leave you alone. Another is to explicitly direct that no person representing the LDSchurch is allowed on your property, and follow that up with police contact in cases of trespassing. Your visitor will prptly lie, saying he or she wasn’t coming in a church capacity, but they’ll generally get the point.

  36. I have had plenty of situations where the non-member spouse who answers the phone says it is fine to come over only to have the member be nasty when we arrive and visa versa. And yes, sometimes we have just shownn up. And a lot of times the person or family didn’t live there, so we moved the records out.

    There is a real problem in following up with people when you have no working telephone number or when the number you call is one where no one answers or the person who answers welcomes you to come over …

    I have known a number of people over the years who have been “DNC” but returned to full activity.

    That is a very common thing. The “why don’t you resign” too often seems like “we’d like to reduce our paperwork” …

  37. Nick,

    One real problem is that over time anyone dealing with this issue will meet a number of people who say they are leaving but then, when contacted, will tell you that they were just waiting for someone to call.

    That complicates the entire thing. I was tempted to compare it to suicide attempts. For every ten attempts, only one is serious, the other nine actually want to be stopped.

    Is it a profound lack of basic respect that causes people to disregard most suicide attempts?

  38. Post
    Author

    It always seems odd to me that every discussion about the activity in the church is diverted to how the loyal, active members are so rude and discourteous to those who are less loyal and not active. And yet, these loyal active members are only following what they beleive to be the Savior’s and the church leadership’s teaching to shepard the flock.

    It seems to me that if someone is on the DNC list for years and years, it is a legitimate question to ask them if they want to be on the church records. I never said that two Priesthood holders should accept a letter there and then but they could certainly report that to the Bishop. Besides, most of those visits are done at the behest of the Bishop anyway and typically discussed in a PEC meeting. As someone said previously, once you’ve been yelled at by someone or had a gun pulled on you, visiting these folks is not a favorite thing to do.

    I think some folks need to lay off the hyper-criticism.

  39. Post
    Author

    Ray #34,

    I am sure we can, as you did, craft an analogy that seems a parallel to this situation we are discussing, but really, we are unique in the world as a Church who watches over the flock so regularly and programatically. Most members, who were active at one time, know the HT program, know how things work and that their names are on a ward/branch list. So, it can’t come as a total shock to them if someone, out of the blue contacts them, after requesting no contact. As I said, most members are nice, but sometimes do not get treated nice in return.

    The other analogy that I thought was close was the friend who sells Amway. They keep coming at you no matter what! 🙂

  40. Post
    Author

    “One method is publicity, such as writing letters to the media about how thesepeople won’t leave you alone. Another is to explicitly direct that no person representing the LDSchurch is allowed on your property, and follow that up with police contact in cases of trespassing. Your visitor will prptly lie, saying he or she wasn’t coming in a church capacity, but they’ll generally get the point.’

    Nice, Nick, real nice.

  41. Carlos,

    Nice to see another bitter post from you. Allow me to respond to the following:

    “Another ongoing problem with this is the fact that the church is totally HOPELESS when it comes to processing these ‘off the roles’ people. Many people have written that resignation letter but it never gets done properly, by our clerks & Bishops & Stake Presidents who all have a role in this. Then there are others who apparently have had their name ‘removed’ from the records only to see themselves back on the directory some 5 or 10 years latter. Why? no one at HQ wants to explain why, we have asked repeatedly.”

    I served as a Bishop and removed about 4 names a year. The only time I ever had an issue was when I dropped the ball due to shear unorganization only to discover my mistake about 6 months later and resolve it. My clerks never knew what was happening until they received word that the action had been taken and it showed up on the computer. I handled it myself from start to finish. If your claims are correct that nobody wants to help why don’t you just threaten a law suit. That seems to get things rolling these days.

    As a matter of fact I had a young couple send me a letter threatening such action if I did not. I wrote back and in a very kind, loving way, told them that I would grant their request and advised them to back off the angry rhetoric. We seemed to be able to comply with their wishes in a rather rapid fashion. Give it a try Carlos because I can tell this is just eating you up inside.

  42. I found the same problem on my mission, where people would want no contact with the church, yet refused to write a letter stating such. The family reason I never got, but the “laziness” problem was something that was common.

    I do however remember one certain less active member who continually complained about getting visits from the missionaries, even though he had sent two letters already requesting for his name to be removed. Whether these letters reached the ward, or whether the ward clerk had misplaced it, is still a mystery to this day. Naturally though, he wasn’t prepared to go through the process of writing a third letter all over again….So even though putting in a written request to have your name removed from the church records is the method those people should be using, there will always be honest mistakes that will happen.

  43. I have neither requested DNC nor resigned, and yet they never contact me. I’ve speculated (here) that I might have gotten blacklisted. Or maybe they’ve ex’d me behind my back. I don’t really care either way.

    I have no reason jump through a bunch of hoops to renounce my membership since they’re not bothering me. If keeping my record is hindering the church’s record-keeping efficiency, they can go ahead and delete it or move it to ex’d column or whatever is convenient for them and their database.

  44. ThomasB #43

    “Give it a try Carlos because I can tell this is just eating you up inside.”

    Actually it isn’t at all since I was released as Bishop a long time ago and only teach youth now. And threaten a law suit? why? I was pointing out a problem that exists in the church today after the way the GA’s have set things up since changing it to admin action from excommunication after those law suites in texas (?or was it arizona?).

    Things ended up complicated for everyone involved: on the church side due to the many steps involved with the possibility of an increase in errors growing at each step, and on the non-church side they just describe it as “jump through a bunch of hoops to renounce my membership” plus they usually don’t really care if they are listed as members or not. By the way you’d be the first ex-bishop I know off who doesn’t complain about records or church offices. Strange that…

    Anyway, for the families I get to visit with my comp, we call to see if we can go but if they start the no-contact stuff or ‘we aren’t members anymore’ I just say fine and don’t see them ever. Why waste the time? But I also don’t bother reporting that anymore since nothing gets done anyway!

  45. ThomasB #43

    I hate to look like I’m agreeing with Nick, but in this ONE OFF very special case I do. Read his words again and tell me why one earth would members continue to go and see him or keep his details on the rolls after he asked to have them ‘removed’? You know the new process: 1 letter from Bishop acknowledging the request and informing them to contact me again within 30 days if they want it stopped, and then if there is no answer within 30 days it all goes to the stake president who also writes just ONE letter saying your no longer a member and so on…..But how many Bishops/Stake Presidents actually do this correctly?

    Nick wrote:

    “It’s the same reason that after I withdrew my name from the records of the LDS church, and at the advice of my stake president directed that I not be contacted other than with a letter saying I’d been removed, the bishop sent a pair of senior missionaries to my workplace to try to stop me.

    The sad fact is that only two methods will get LDS leaders to respect such wishes. One method is publicity, such as writing letters to the media about how these people won’t leave you alone. Another is to explicitly direct that no person representing the LDSchurch is allowed on your property, and follow that up with police contact in cases of trespassing. Your visitor will promptly lie, saying he or she wasn’t coming in a church capacity, but they’ll generally get the point.”

    “It is, in reality, a profound lack of basic respect, much as if the person refusing contact was merely a foolish child. A corporation which is otherwise obsessive about recordkeeping this actively chooses not to provide a tracking mechanism for such directives”

    Ah?? and?? and ThomasB you think that all is perfect with name removal in church???

  46. Post
    Author

    BTW, I have never been a part of, or know of any concerted effort to cull the membership records of the DNCs. Typically, in my experience, the Stake wants the wards to insure people are still living in the ward and that membership records are up to date. With so much work to do in the wards, there is little time to chase people down who want no contact. As you all know, it is hard enough to get all the active/less active members visited in a month.

    I had a situation a long time ago when the Bishop and I visited a member who was very, very hostile to us. She stated she wanted nothing to do with the Church and asked how she could stop people from bothering her. The Bishop explained the process but the person really didn’t want to make the effort. So, I wrote the letter, the Bishop sent it to her and she signed it, returned it in the pre-stamped envelope and that was that. I remember the SP, who lived in our Ward, wanted to make sure we weren’t going to be sending out form letters to all the DNCs and asking them to sign it. We assured him it was not our intention to emulate this exceptional situation.

  47. The first thing I want to address is the issue of “cold calling”. The culture is different in many places. In areas like the South, dropping by to talk is certainly acceptable. Additionally, in most areas a pastor is much more welcome, even if he drops by unannounced.

    This seems to be a problem with hometeaching, neither the teachers nor the teachee seem to realize the teachers are acting in a pastoral role.

    This is why we Do Not Contact lists are not permitted on official documents. The visiting of the members is a scriptural commandment. (Moroni 6:4 and again in the D&C). Most of the time I don’t know who this inactive member is that I’ve been assigned to HT. So I can’t go there for him. I go to visit because of the love I have for my Savior. He wants to watch over His flock and has assigned this specific individual to me and asked me to watch over him. Therefore if he is offended or insulted does not matter. HT and VT is not only about the needs of the person you are assigned, it is also about the duty we owe Jesus to serve him as under-shepherds.

    Obviously we should seek to minimize the anger we generate in people, but abandoning our duty to care for them and make sure they are alright is not an option.

    When I run into angry people I explain this to them and tell them that as long as they are members of the church, someone will be assigned to watch out for them, and as long as that person is me I will continue to stop by and check on them, but not to worry, I don’t intend to force them to listen to a lesson or anything, I just need to make sure they’re still alive and okay, and if they want me to get lost just say “Go away” and I will. Then I ask if I can leave my number so they can call me if they are in trouble.

    You’d be surprised at people’s responses. They range from shamefaced apologies to stoic resignation to threats of police and lawsuits. I also get a a few requests to have their names taken off the roles, so I didn’t have to bring it up, and then I explain how they get their name taken off, (if they threaten lawsuits or police I go ahead and explain what they need to do get their names taken off).

    A surprisingly large number (including those who continued screaming at me) call me up 4 or 5 months later because they need help with something.

  48. Jeff,

    “I remember the SP, who lived in our Ward, wanted to make sure we weren’t going to be sending out form letters to all the DNCs and asking them to sign it”

    Yet another example of leaders not trusting local leaders/staff enough. If you give faith that this was the case with the belligerent sister then that should have been it. No questions asked by anyone, especially doubt-filled-ones by a stake president. This president obviously thought that you were cleaning out the lists.

    I mean they should just accept the word of the HT at face value and move the records ‘off list’ or to the ex-member lists -which they’ll do anyway after all the paperwork is done.

  49. Jeff, I hope you can see how these two statements of yours are at odds with each other.

    “It seems to me that if someone is on the DNC list for years and years, it is a legitimate question to ask them if they want to be on the church records.”

    “BTW, I have never been a part of, or know of any concerted effort to cull the membership records of the DNCs.”

  50. Post
    Author

    Carlos,

    “Yet another example of leaders not trusting local leaders/staff enough. If you give faith that this was the case with the belligerent sister then that should have been it. No questions asked by anyone, especially doubt-filled-ones by a stake president. This president obviously thought that you were cleaning out the lists.”

    Where do you guys get this stuff. You like to read some sort of evil into everything that gets said here. The SP didn’t yell at the Bishop or chew him out, he just wanted to make sure we weren’t going to run a campaign since all the actions must come to him for final action with HQ.

    Bookslinger,

    Are you just looking for things to be critical of? If so, I guess you can feel free to pick apart each and every statement and compare and contrast them for consistency. I was talking about two different things. But, if it makes you happy, have at it.

  51. JS wrote: “I remember the SP, who lived in our Ward, wanted to make sure we weren’t going to be sending out form letters to all the DNCs and asking them to sign it”

    Carlos wrote: “Yet another example of leaders not trusting local leaders/staff enough.”

    Carlos,
    With Jeff’s attitude that it is proper to bring up the subject of name-removal (wherein he wrote: “It seems to me that if someone is on the DNC list for years and years, it is a legitimate question to ask them if they want to be on the church records.” ), I’d say his SP’s lack of full trust is warranted.

    The subject is too important, and the normal snafu’s of human communication too common, to leave this to a matter of verbal say-so. I totally agree with the church’s policy that name-removal requests be in writing.

    I’ve been on both sides of this equation. I’ve been the Bishop’s “bird dog” to go track-down lost members. I’ve been offended/hurt. I’ve been inactive/DNC. I requested (in writting) name removal, and it was done. (They sent the 30 days notice letter, but not the follow-up “It’s been done” letter.) I eventually came back to church. I thought I was still a member since they never confirmed name-removal. Then a couple weeks after the clerk requested my records, the Bishop said “Um, no, you’re not.” So I’m totally with you on the record-keeping and communication snafus in the church.

    Jeff reminds me a lot of the home-teacher who contacted me after I was inactive, and couldn’t comprehend that I wanted home-teaching by mail, not in person. I wanted a newsletter, or just something to let me know about events, so I could show up and test the waters if I ever wanted to. The EQP wrote a couple times, and that was it.

    Nobody in that ward at the time caught the vision that Brad and DavidH explain above, about offering service or contact tailored to how the member wants to receive it. The only thing those guys at that time could wrap their heads around was “We either show up at your house whenever we feel like it, or we don’t visit you at all, those are the only two options.”

  52. I’m just not really comfortable with the notion of people being asked if they want their names removed. At least not when the asker is not a close personal friend asking them as a friend. When the person asking that is a representative of the church, no matter how politely they offer it, it’s on some level like they are saying:
    1 – my HT stats are more important than your wishes
    2 – you should just leave

    It just leaves me cold. But I would also say the DNC always needs to be respected, and there should be better tracking. There should also be some sort of passive contact channel like newsletters so they can choose whether to throw it out or come back.

  53. Jeff,

    Where do ‘me’ guys get this stuff? A)from more than 3 decades experience in various leadership positions, from Bishop, stake president counselor, to stake and ward clerk and just about every other calling except stake president or patriarch. B)Form what you yourself wrote. I never mentioned evil or the SP yelling just noted from what you wrote that the man obviously didn’t trust your management skills enough and ‘just wants to check’, ‘just in case’…’lets make sure’….

    Fact is that the church is anything but efficient when it comes to membership records and procedures. GA want inspiration to be a part of everyday church activity so they don’t police much on the admin side of things. But then they’ll make some small comment that ‘clerks need to be trained..’ and so on. And I’ve heard some complain of the lack of continuity in bishops especially, where today they average about 3.5 years in the calling, then a new kid is called and it all starts again, the training, teaching, checking……so maybe they have reasons to be suspicious of what local leaders do.

    But still I wish that our common elders in our church would be kind of equivalent to officers in the military, for example, so that everything they do is trusted and respected because they are ‘officers’ and professionals, instead of all going to the Bishop. Maybe someday…..nah!

  54. Bookslinger,

    I get what you’re saying, but obviously disagree with the lack of trust by the SP.

    Maybe you’re right and it needs to all be in writing and formal, but if only they would just trust elders more and accept their, the HT elders written report of events as sufficient just as a judge accepts a police officers report as valid almost always, then I’d be more likely to take part in the whole process again.

    But then hawkgrrrl has a good point here in that it does sound a lot like “you should just leave” when that letter is requested by HT, doesn’t it??

    Who knows? anyway I need to get some sleep now, being up all night and too many ‘evil’ and ‘bitter’ comment have been flowing from my mind 🙂

    By the way, I take it that they re-baptised you? If so you should check the numbers on the records before you left and on return and the baptism dates, which should all be the original ones, to kind off prove that the church never destroys or deletes any record, only moves them around form one list to another. And in that moving is where errors are usually made.

  55. Carlos, I haven’t been rebaptized yet. I’m still a “back-slid Mormon”.

    I think we’re on the same page about the trust issue with the average Elders Quorum member. Yeah, it would be nice if all Elders caught the vision of home-teaching, stewardship, serving people in the way they want to be served, and how Christ would have us serve, and were good communicators. But few seem to have the vision that you, Ray, and DavidH have. Most members just don’t “get it.” And many people don’t have good communication skills. And having once had the vision, that’s probably the most frustating part for me of being an attending/active ex-member. I miss home teaching.

    I haven’t had much contact with members of HP groups. But generally, they seem to have a better vision than the elders. However, the problem of human communications still plays a part, where when you say “x”, people automatically assume that it includes “y”. Or when people say “x”, and they did mean to imply “y”, but the listener is a literalist.\\

    Then there’s the whole spectrum of people skills. Some people can establish a relationship of trust on the first encounter. Some people never do. Some people can read others well, some can’t. I have a problem understanding people who never speak in complete sentences.

    And yes, I knew that one’s baptism date, after rebaptism, reverts back to the original date.

  56. BTW, last time I knew, the membership records were on a legacy computer system that was started around ’73 or so. My records got entered into it then, and were always quirky.* Eventually, after years of problems, they finally deleted my records and re-entered them. They’ve been fine since.

    The system may not be anywhere as easy to change as you might think. I’m not sure it is even in anything as modern as COBAL.

    (*you know, drop dates and other information, add stuff, etc. I’d get them corrected and they would go squirrelly again all on their own).

  57. Carlos,

    Maybe the Bishops you know that complain so much are just incompetant. In all my years of service the only people I ever heard complain about record keeping was the clerks. The only time there were problems with it is when they continually ignored what I asked them to do. This really is not a complex matter and I am sorry but it sounds like there is to much delegation given in these issues to individuals who have no reason to be involved.

    If someone asked or we found out someone wanted their name removed I was the point person with them from beginning to end. If someone made a mistake guess what it was me. I did not send out the EQ Pres, HP GL,or a missionary couple to deal with an issue that has such sensitive issues surrounding it. After reading all of this it just seems like there are many individuals dealing with these circumstances that have no common sense.

  58. Post
    Author

    “After reading all of this it just seems like there are many individuals dealing with these circumstances that have no common sense.”

    I am not sure what to make of this comment.

    You sound like a Bishop who was very interested in doing his job. Not all Bishops want to take personal responsibility for the DNCs. They delegate that to the Priesthood quorums, whose job it is to assign, manage and perform Home Teaching. Even when reporting back that a person desires no contact or continued no contact, sometimes, that member is not contacted by the Bishop to understand the reasons why. And sometimes, when the Priesthood Leader knows the reason, still the member is left alone. Let’s face facts, no one wants to deal with the growing number of members who want no contact with the Church. It is one of the most difficult things to deal with because of the usual hostility that accompanies it. But, still, the ward and the Bishop have a responsibility to that person, whether they like it or not.

    Leaving those folks alone is the usual course of action.

  59. Alma 1:24 is interesting:

    For the hearts of many were hardened, and their names were blotted out, that they were remembered no more among the people of God. And also many withdrew themselves from among them.

    There appears to be a difference between those who were so hardened that they were excommunicated and those who simply withdrew – and there is no indication that those who simply withdrew were tracked down and officially “blotted out”.

  60. ThomasB,

    “and I am sorry but it sounds like there is to much delegation given in these issues to individuals who have no reason to be involved.”..”their name removed I was the point person with them from beginning to end”

    I take it you didn’t delegate much. I knew many over the years who lead that way, did most of the paperwork even though they had a clerk. But one day they look back and finally realise that they should’ve spent more time with members and less time on admin. I suppose you haven’t reached that yet.

    Jeff,

    “Let’s face facts, no one wants to deal with the growing number of members who want no contact with the Church. It is one of the most difficult things to deal with because of the usual hostility that accompanies it.”

    So very true.

  61. Post
    Author

    Ray,

    There appears to be a difference between those who were so hardened that they were excommunicated and those who simply withdrew – and there is no indication that those who simply withdrew were tracked down and officially “blotted out”.

    Excellent quote and an unfortunate situation for many. Let’s not forget, no matter how it is handled, the name removal is still voluntary on the part of the member and no one in the Church will do anything beyond that.

  62. Out of curiosity (and I’m definitely not trying to be combative here), I was wondering about the following scenarios. I had cable TV in my old apartment. It was okay but honestly I just don’t watch TV at all so I hardly ever used it. If I just stop paying my cable bill, they’ll stop sending cable to my house. They wouldn’t send a guy to ask me if I REALLY want to stop getting cable. Seems like that would be going above and beyond what was necessary. Obviously if I wanted cable I’d keep paying them. They’ll also delete me off their lists of customers.

    Or a different example… I’m a member of a special interest group called Republicans for Environmental Protection. I sent them a token amount of money and they started sending me a newsletter and other things, which I appreciate. But next year if I don’t send them the money they’ll eventually get the hint and take me off the records of their organization. Or another example… at the end of the year many magazines send you a card asking if you want to renew your subscription. Is that “rude”? Would it be rude to send a member of the Church a card that said, “Are you really that interested?”

    So my question is, how is this different than the Church? Am I missing something? It seems that a few people think that a member of the Church saying, “Are you really that interested? If not, why are you baptized?” is kind of rude… I’m wondering, is it really all that different than a magazine asking for a renewed subscription when they haven’t been paid in a while. Am I a calloused jerk?

  63. Post
    Author

    Arthur,

    Check out Cicero #49, he has a good answer to your scenarios. I’ve had situations where people say, “Gee, I’ve really not that interested right now, but maybe someday. In the meantime, I’d rather not have any contact.” That’s the nice response and everyone leave happy and cared for.

    The other scenario is the nasty, hostile one where it makes you wonder why they still remain on the records, if they are so hostile to the church. Which was the whole point of the post before it got sidetracked to “don’t come to my home without calling first.”

  64. Well that makes complete sense. The article is entitled “Hedging Your Bets” and the implicit but unaddressed issue there, I suppose, is whether some of these people might entertain the idea that keeping your name on the records is some sort of “just in case” thing. Kind of confusing really.

  65. Jeff,

    Do not take umbridge with the comment but what you say is one of the real problems in context to this subject. If you are the “judge” in your boundries then you should not be sending the WML out to discuss a DNC who wants his name removed. I did have people who told me that they had tried this before to no avail and I would tell them that I was going to see it through personally from beginning to end. I would imform them of every step and I followed through personally.

    Those that try to delegate this or skirt it can answer for it later. It is simply a matter of stewardship. At the end of the day the only individuals that are going to carry it out are the Bishop and the Stake President. No one else can be blamed for not following through if a member of record has requested removal.

    The beauty of the ward is that it has maintained a great deal of its effiency despite the growth of the church. There is no sprawling beauracracy. The councils, channels of reporting have remained relatively untouched for decades. The Lords House is supposed to be one of order. If it is not then that rests on the Bishop and he needs to ask for council and guidance on how to fix it.

  66. ThomasB,

    That’s an excellent response and I appreciate it. I’ve seen it done both ways and I think you’ve got the right idea. It’s ministering, after all.

  67. I’m coming to this discussion late, but wanted to add an experience my son had. He decided a few months ago to stop attending church. Of course, I hope it’s because he’s 18 and trying to figure out what he believes and I hope it’s temporary. Our bishop went to visit him and as he talked with him he asked him if he wanted to have his name removed from the records of the church. I was horrified by this. It seemed premature and inappropriate.

  68. I was in a ward that initiated by a new bishop what he called Home Teaching “Triage” visits, so he could get the exact “contact” status of every member that hadn’t been to church or HT for 13 months. What an ordeal. The whole male end (too dangerous for us sisters) of the ward council went out and saw everyone and made a detailed file sheet about their exact wishes, etc. I felt like this was effective.

    I’m pretty thick skinned about getting yelled at by a stranger over things that have nothing to do with me. Do you actually take it personally when they tell you to get lost? Dust your heels and get on with your life!

  69. Lisa,

    There is a Bishop that needs some training. I would call the Stake President and let him know. I am confident that if the Area Authority knew that had happened that Bishop would get a personal phone call.

  70. LisaRay,

    I agree with ThomasB. That seems a little premature to be asking such a question. In my example, we are talking about people who continuously had no contact with the church for many, many years.

  71. Pingback: Mormon Coffee » Leaving the Mormon Church

  72. Before we left mormonism I was the membership clerk in our ward, and when I was calling people I was shocked at the hostile reaction we got from some people. The very first thing I did when we left (well, after I had a cup of coffee) was to have our names removed. I knew that otherwise we would get regular contact from home.

    I would say this, if you want your name left on the rolls on the mormon church for whatever reason, you ought to expect to hear from them on a regular basis. If you don’t, then do what I did and take five minutes to write a letter to the stake president and get your name removed. Eveb thought I think mormons are lost people in need of Christ, there is no excuse for lashing out at some poor membership clerk who doesn’t know you want no contact.

  73. I have heard it is hard to get your name removed and if a person requests DNC then I think it should be printed on the roster to respect their wishes and someone should contact at the most once a year.

    Here is the root of the real problem: Church statistics!
    All over membership could shoot down quickly if the removal of names was facilitated. They should have a way to transfer these names to the DNC Ward at church headquarters and then if someone wants to re-activate don’t put them through a grueling re-baptised, re-entry process, but welcome them.
    The other statistic: Home Teacing, VT, attendance would go up if these were removed!
    And, what I think is even more important is people. Why should active members who are busy anyway spend a time/gas/worry about getting the HT/VT done every month to DNC folks that don’t even know are DNC? We constantly see new HT assigned to these folks who spin their wheels trying to see these folks and use up time and energy instead of telling them up front the deal. Of course, PH leaders hope the “new HT” will have a fresh prospective and more luck and will re-activate these folks. But at what cost? They may be the sheep that have wondered, but once a year should be enough to just confirm they are there and whether to switch them from DNC to welcome to visit.

  74. Pingback: By Common Consent » All About Name Removal

  75. Interesting topic. I recently heard a presentation by Seth Godin (a well known marketer). He expounded on tribes in business (associations with a remarkable following and this being the new way of the future and here already in many forms). Interestingly, Seth utilized the Mormon church as an example of one the best functioning tribes in society because it is exclusive. For any organization to remain strong and have appeal, it has to be exclusive and self supporting and self cleansing (i.e. a way to remain pure which is part of its appeal to begin with and which attracts other to want to belong to the tribe). Tribe is obviosuly utilized loosely by Seth Godin in numerous contexts (business, associations for learning and even religion). Yet, the idea of not dilluting the content and the faithfulness of its members are two key characteristics.

    So the point is: this discussion revolves around balancing purity within the LDS church and extending a time of mercy for those who for whatever reason do not identify- tough call! Difficult topic. Local leadersip acting with sensitivity and hopefully inspiration seems to be the answer to me.

  76. Sorry to be so realistic here, but it’s not actually that simple to remove your records from the church. I know people who have been trying for nearly a decade with no luck. You can write as many letters as you wish, but somehow your name keeps resurfacing on the church records. So we “inactive members” have come to the frustrating realization that we are (just as we were as active members) powerless in regards to our own records in the church.
    Some frustration may be resolved if family members were not authorized to move your records for you. In any other organization, you are not authorized to contact by e-mail, phone, mail, or in person unless that individual gives their personal consent.
    Basically – by legal standards the contact made by the church to inactive members is an invasion of privacy, and is often grounds for legal action.
    Often times an inactive member is not bitter at all until they start getting unwanted contact that won’t stop even if you put in a “no contact request”. THAT’S the frustration.
    Just trying to give you a different perspective.

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