Name Removal Request: You’re the Bishop! (Poll #8)

by: Bishop Bill

September 24, 2011

Name Removal Request:  You’re the Bishop! Poll #8

In PEC you learn that there is an inactive man in the ward that does not want any contact with the church, and wants his name removed from the membership records. In accordance with the Church handbook of Instructions, you must get it in writing from him before you can send the request to the Stake President to process his request. On your way home from church after a long Sunday, you stop by his house to explain this to him.

You ring the doorbell, and he answers. You explain that you are the bishop of the local Mormon church, and that you understand he wants his name removed from the church records. He says this is correct; he has joined another church. You then explain that you need that in writing. He becomes very agitated, and says he is not writing anything, just remove his name! He says that in any other voluntary organization, when one wants to be removed, they only need to tell them. He does not see the need to write anything.  He tells you not to ever come back, and then slams the door.

(Note:  When this happened to me, joining another church did not mandate church disciplinary action. Since the 2006 CHI, it is now considered “Apostasy,” and as such one can be excommunicated for formally joining another church. I did not have that option when I was bishop.)

You're the bishop. What do you do? (Poll #8)

  • Write down all that happened, and turn it over to the Stake President for action. (49%, 72 Votes)
  • Send him a letter with an envelope with postage already on it, and ask him to return the envelope with his written request. (37%, 54 Votes)
  • Put him on the Do not contact list, and let the next bishop handle it. (13%, 19 Votes)
  • Go back another day and hope he is in a better mood. (1%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 147

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Discuss.

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28 Responses to Name Removal Request: You’re the Bishop! (Poll #8)

  1. Fran Walsh on September 24, 2011 at 7:11 AM

    The LDS is the only church I know that requires members to resign in writing or face a lifetime of badgering. I really don’t get it.

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  2. el oso on September 24, 2011 at 7:42 AM

    There is a reason we have a DNC list. It is for situations like this.

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  3. NoCoolName_Tom on September 24, 2011 at 9:28 AM

    How about an option for forging his signature? I’m only mostly joking.

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  4. Brian on September 24, 2011 at 10:11 AM

    I would write the letter for him and take it to him for his signature. I would apologize for the bureaucracy and wish him happiness. I would buy the stamp and mail it for him.

    He’s happy. I’m happy

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  5. Left Field on September 24, 2011 at 10:41 AM

    I dunno. I think for most organizations, voluntary or not, putting membership issues in writing is SOP. If I resign my job, I put it in writing. If I quit the book-of-the-month club, I put it in writing. Do other churches seriously take verbal resignations? If I call up the local parish and impersonate my neighbor, can I get him out of the Catholic Church? If someone storms out of the pastor’s office and screams, “I’m through with this!” does that count as a resignation?

    It seems like there’s a lot of room for both parties misinterpreting and misremembering what was said in an oral exchange. Put it in writing and at least there’s a record of what was requested. What’s the big deal about writing a note anyway?

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  6. KLC on September 24, 2011 at 11:25 AM

    The problem with a no contact list is that sooner or later a new EQP or a new Bishop or new missionaries decide to give the person another try, DNC status or not. Or the DNC list is misplaced or a new leader doesn’t know about it.

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  7. E on September 24, 2011 at 12:26 PM

    I think changing the policy to allow removals of people from membership based on verbal request only would lead to a lot of people being taken off the rolls without really wanting it done. Even in a case like the above, it seems bizarre that this gentleman is so unwilling to do a simple thing like request removal in writing.

    Years ago while I was a missionary, I heard of cases in latin America where local bishops or branch presidents would remove people from church records unilaterally to “clean up” the member lists. Although many of the people removed may have been members in record only, I’m sure there were some who wouldn’t have wanted that one. Submitting a request in writing protects against misunderstandings.

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  8. NewlyHousewife on September 24, 2011 at 12:47 PM

    Does email count as writing?

    Cause if so, I would simply call up everyone on the DNC, ask for their email address (letting them know it was a one time thing and WILL NOT be stored) if they wanted to be removed, send out a mass email with the line “I want my name removed from church records. By replying to this email with my full name (and whatever other jargon is needed to distinguish me from the other David Smiths) I am stating the above desire.” Then forward all responses to the Stake President to deal with.

    Otherwise I’ll need to create a new budget just to cover all that postage…

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  9. andrew h on September 24, 2011 at 12:50 PM

    E.

    A similar thing happened where I served my mission (Oklahoma). In one area my comp and I seemed to tract in to a lot of people who said they had be ex’ed from the Church. We eventually found out that about 6 or so years earlier the Bishop in that ward had ex’ed all the people who were not active. When I met him he still thought that he had done the right thing.

    He first sent them all a letter asking them to come to Church and reminding of them of their baptismal covenant to attend. All those who had not come back with in about a month of his sending the letter he ex’ed for apostasy/”rebellion” (failure to follow his priesthood instructions to them to attend Church).

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  10. Martine on September 24, 2011 at 1:50 PM

    How about taking a Pre-printed form letter of resignation where one just inserts their name and signature? Visit with them first. If they won’t let you in, mail it to them. But that would too easy and I’m sure many inactives would quickly respond.

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  11. FireTag on September 24, 2011 at 2:45 PM

    Bishop Bill:

    Even before I read the post, thumbs up on the featured graphic! :D

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  12. FireTag on September 24, 2011 at 2:55 PM

    I understand the seemingly bureaucratic need for people who sincerely regard themselves as shepherds to keep count of the sheep. You have no way to tell the strays from the runaways unless you try.

    Having said that, the Community of Christ isn’t really the one to talk. One-fourth of the North American membership is officially “unknown” because we have no idea if they are even alive. I once made “first contact” with a member still on our “active” rolls who had actually been ordained a Methodist minister 20 years previously.

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  13. Jeff Spector on September 24, 2011 at 4:06 PM

    I was involved in a similar situation a number of years ago. As Executive Secretary, I wrote a letter and we mailed it to her with a pre-stamped return envelope. She signed it and returned it.

    The Stake President accepted it but told us not to make a habit of it. So I think that is the way to go for folks who refuse to write the letter.

    OTOH, I had another situation where the lady refused to write the letter even though I had a piece of paper in my hand. so I just said that we would not bother her again, but that I could not guarantee that no one would ever contact you. The letter would do that. But she refused.

    Her husband came out and asked me to accept Jesus into my heart and when I said that I already had, he told me to “get out of there.”

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  14. el oso on September 24, 2011 at 5:53 PM

    This is a classic DNC case. I know that many people do not like having an extra 5-20% of people on the ward list that want nothing to do with the church. Having been an EQP in a large area ward with lots of unknown members, I really did not mind. We worked with the people we knew to the best of our ability. A DNC was easy to manage, just move on to the next person.

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  15. Dan on September 25, 2011 at 2:13 PM

    dude, just REMOVE his freaking name! for the love!

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  16. Roger on September 25, 2011 at 2:14 PM

    As someone who is not at all active in the LDS Church and participates with my “evangelical” wife at her church (to the extent of driving a van every Sunday for Burundi refugee children), I hope that the good and enlightened leaders will continue to permit us to stay in a limbo status.

    Even though, I have had some very disturbing experiences during my period of activity (BIC-RM, BYU grad) and cannot reconcile myself to many Nauvoo-era doctrines/folklore/traditions, I do follow blogs, reading sections of the Ensign that my sainted mother still subscribes to for me and keep in contact with all my TBM siblings and some former grad school companions. I am glad that you don’t unchurch me. There are a host of reasons for this—I am glad that the bishops and stake presidents I have dealt with did not have quick trigger fingers.

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  17. Toni on September 25, 2011 at 5:26 PM

    Roger, you should read Denver Snuffer’s newest book. It may help you reconcile yourself a bit. It’s called Passing the Heavenly Gift, and is available on Amazon.com.

    I like the idea of having a ready-made letter (or email) for the person to sign. I was SA rep (then, later, RS secretary) in a ward that had thirty or more DNCs. Some of them really didn’t want anything to do with the church, but there they were. What were we to do with them?

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  18. Dan on September 25, 2011 at 5:33 PM

    Toni,

    Some of them really didn’t want anything to do with the church, but there they were. What were we to do with them?

    Remove their names and be done with it. We’re a religion that thinks it is okay for someone to die in this life without receiving the gospel, because “they’re gonna be taken care of in the afterlife.” They’ll be given a second chance. If someone wants to have their names removed from the church record, remove their name. Stop with the hassle. It shouldn’t be this difficult. Or maybe they should commit some “sin”…that would take them off the list.

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  19. Toni on September 25, 2011 at 5:50 PM

    Dan, I understand that, but none of them told *me* that they wanted their names taken off, even though some of them had joined other churches. Even if they had, I had no authority to do so. But, yes, I agree with you. If they don’t want to be there, they shouldn’t be forced to be there.

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  20. Paul on September 25, 2011 at 7:56 PM

    Kicking it up the SP does no good. If he doesn’t have a letter, he can’t act, either.

    E-mails don’t work (yet) because of the need for a signature.

    We sent out a mailing inviting couples to a Christmas party one year and I got an agitated phone call from the wife of the member on our list. She said he’s been attending the catholic church with her for years and their children are being raised catholic and he no longer considers himself Mormon.

    I said if he didn’t want any further contact, the only way to guarantee it was to write a brief letter to me. I offered to talk to him about it if he wanted to. She said she’d pass the message along. He never called; he never wrote. He’s still on the list.

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  21. Richard on September 25, 2011 at 10:11 PM

    As a former Bishop, I had several occasions like this. They refused to put it in writing. I documented my contact with them and what they said to me. I sent it to the Stake Pres. and he submitted it to Church headquarters. Their names were removed.

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  22. all_black on September 26, 2011 at 4:05 AM

    Option 1 is corect i’d say.

    We always tried the letter with stamp (option 4) with a draft letter that they only need to sign and return in the envelop provided. I remember only one violent guy who refused and so we did option one (stake president) with the bishop singing on behalf of the guy the compulsory letter and that seems to have gone through now but it took years to convinve the stake pres.

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  23. SilverRain on September 26, 2011 at 4:40 AM

    Pardon the note of disbelief here, but seriously? There is nothing in being required to formally ask for removal that “forces” anyone to stay. If they’re serious about being left alone by the Church, they’ll write a note. If they are unwilling to put it in writing, I would wager some part of them isn’t committed to the idea.

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  24. Bro. Jones on September 26, 2011 at 9:17 AM

    In one ward I was in, the Stake President issued this directive to the priesthood: “If a non-active member verbally states before two witnesses [presumably their home teachers] that they wish to be removed from the membership list, we will honor that request.” Obviously not something that exists in many other places, but I don’t think it’s a terrible idea.

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  25. Ray on September 26, 2011 at 6:18 PM

    Send the letter. If they really want to be taken off the records officially, they will sign it. If they have even a tiny wish to keep their options open, so to speak, they won’t.

    I make it a strict personal policy to try to avoid making decisions for anyone else that they are capable of making for themselves. I also don’t trust fully decisions made in the heat of the moment, in an emotional situation.

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  26. Douglas on September 27, 2011 at 1:41 AM

    #9 – I was disturbed (even more than my usual “disturbia”, LOL) by the anecdote of the Oklahoma bishop taking it upon himself to excommunicate recalcitrant members that didn’t meet HIS standards of activity. Man, it seems that those most bishops are remarkable men that serve with love and vigor, we get some real yahoos that “wear the mantle”. Thank goodness the nuttiness gets filtered out usually at the Stake level.
    It’s too bad that there are some that are so immature that they get huffy if requested to put their name removal in writing. Cheesh, it’s a way to document that they want to be left alone!
    The ones that bother me are the well-meaning nimrods that don’t pay heed to “do not contact”. They’re so dammed full of themselves that they think their “angelic” presence will somehow woo the reluctant member back into the fold.

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  27. mark gibson on September 27, 2011 at 5:49 AM

    In 1999, my wife and I reqested withdrawl from the RLDS church as we were about to become LDS. RLDS policy states there should be a visit from one of their priesthood which we were willing to have but it never happened. And we had to fill out the paperwork.

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  28. x1134x on January 6, 2012 at 4:49 PM

    Alter the rules to allow for a presiding bishop or stake president to sign an affidavit attesting to the facts as to why this person was removed, and file it as though it is their signed resignation.

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