Discipline, Excommunication, and Name Removal
Getting Your Name Removed from the Church Records:
A Guide for Gay and Lesbian Mormons
Updated September 2007
Many members and families of the LDS Church, both gay and straight, are opting nowadays to
get their names removed from the Church rolls. Reportedly, Church Headquarters
is processing thousands of such requests every week.
Once your name has been removed, you will never again be accused by the Church, investigated by its leaders, or summoned for a church court. However, because the name removal procedure is relatively new and the Church does not disclose how the process works, many people see name removal as the final humiliation and frustration they must go through in order to leave the Church. The purpose of this guide is to help those considering name removal to make an informed decision.
No matter what instructions the LDS Church gives to bishops, name removal is not about
the rights the Church has to consider your request, but about its obligation
to comply with it. You have the right to withdraw from church membership, and once you do, the Church loses its "privilege” to further spy on you, disclose any private facts about you, or say things about you that might be defamatory.
The moment you sign and mail a letter stating that you are "resigning, effective
immediately," you are no longer a member of the LDS Church. The Church is required
to remove your name from the records. You can demand that the Church
no longer carry your name on its rolls.
The Church claims that the bishops must make sure that you understand the consequences
of your actions. Therefore, if a bishop receives a letter of resignation, he will likely
attempt to warn you and dissuade you rather than comply promptly with your request.
By attempting to contact you to discuss the matter, the Church implies that they are
"considering" your request.
The Church also attempts to impose a 30-day waiting period.
These actions are really an attempt to delay the process and make you believe that they
control the situation. The truth is that once you have sent your resignation, they have
no alternative but to remove your name from its rolls.
Can I Be Excommunicated for Sending My Name Removal Request?
The Church says that if a bishop has evidence of "transgression," he should not act on the
request but initiate a disciplinary action (typically, excommunication) against the member.
In practice, however, the Church is being somewhat cautious in carrying out this process,
because if you have already resigned your membership, any attempt to impose discipline on
you violates your constitutional right to resign, and opens the Church up to legal
If the church has already initiated disciplinary actions against you, you may be able to immediately resign and put a halt to the disciplinary proceedings. You have to act quickly, however. The letter must be very assertive. For more information on how to write an assertive letter, see the letter sample and visit Mormon No More.
What Should I State In My Resignation Letter?
Because the Church fears lawsuits, the most threatening letters are the most effective. You may want to include the following:
1. You are "resigning from the Church, effective immediately." Because you are no longer a member, the Church has no right to carry your name on the rolls. Accordingly, instruct the Church to remove your name and notify you of the removal.
2. You understand the consequences of your action and the conditions for readmission
(Include here the consequences and conditions as listed in the sample
3. Since you understand the consequences of your action and the conditions for readmission and you will not be dissuaded, you can request (or demand) that the 30-day waiting period be waived and that your request be processed immediately. If you tell them that you will not accept visits, phone calls, or mail to discuss your request, you don't give them options to delay your request.
4. Remind them that since you are no longer a member of the Church, they can no longer initiate nor continue any disciplinary action. If you suspect or know that a disciplinary action against you might or has already been initiated, warn them that if they continue in such a course of action, they could become liable for harassment, defamation of character, and invasion of privacy.
This model expedites your request and gives you some protection against church disciplinary
actions. For more information, see the sample letter. For more details and
additional suggestions, you can check the website
Should I Use the Letter to Make a Statement?
Some members request name removal not because they want to leave quietly, but precisely
to make a statement. Since July 1999, many people, both gay and straight, have resigned
their membership to send a message to Mormon leaders about their persistent support of anti-gay ballot measures, especially of the Knight Initiative
Whatever your reason may be, you are not required to disclose it in your resignation.
Some name removal requests are still triggering disciplinary actions. If a bishop is
looking for evidence to "discipline" you, any hint of "apostasy," or even the mention
of the word gay could give him grounds to launch a disciplinary process.
To Whom Should I Send the Letter?
The Church claims that members must send the letter to their bishops, but in reality many
of those resigning have been inactive for years, do not have a bishop, or simply do not
want to deal with him. If you send the letter to Church Headquarters, they usually forward
it to a bishop in your area. Although this forwarding may delay the process a few days,
many feel that sending the letter directly to Church Headquarters makes an important
statement--The Church has no legal right to require that you play by its rules. If you
choose this course of action, make sure to include not only your full name and address, but
also your date and place of birth. The address of the Member Records Division in the U.S. is:
50 E North Temple
Salt Lake City, UT 84150-3684
Fax Number: (801) 240-1565
In many areas outside the U.S., the LDS Church has regional Presiding Bishopric offices where
you may also send your resignation letter. Address the letter to your local Records and
What Should I Expect After I Send the Letter?
If you sent your letter to the Member Records Division, they will send you a pamphlet
entitled "An Invitation to Come Back" and a letter informing you that your request has
been forwarded to a bishop.
When your letter reaches the bishop in your area, it is
very likely that he will attempt to contact you, either in person or by phone. Even
though he might attempt to dissuade you, his official obligation is only to make sure
that you understand the consequences of name removal: It cancels the effects of baptism
and confirmation, withdraws the priesthood held by a male member, and revokes temple
blessings. The bishop's duty is also to explain to you that you can be readmitted by
baptism only after a thorough interview.
Do I Have to Give Any Explanations to My Bishop?
The answer is a categorical no. Remember—you're no longer a member of the Church. You understand the consequences of what you are doing. The bishop does not have the right to contact you. If you do agree to talk with him, it is possible that he will ask for or even demand an explanation for your decision.
At this stage of the process, some bishops have simply contacted the person by phone, explained that they have received a removal request, and told him or her they will comply with the request. Some others have used warnings, intimidations, or threats. There is always the possibility that even the most loving bishop could attempt to use any information you give him to "excommunicate" you. But remember that the Church has no right to know why you have resigned—only the obligation to process your request.
What should I Expect After the Bishop Attempts to Contact Me?
There are three things a bishop may do:
(a) Complete a form called "Report of Administrative Action" and forward it to the stake president, along with your written request and your membership record.
(b) Ignore your request and delay the process.
(c) Threaten you with "church discipline" (usually, probation or excommunication).
If he follows course of action (a), the stake presidency is supposed to "review the matter."
Most likely they will concur with the bishop and process your request. The bishop will
inform you that this has or is taking place, either by letter or by phone. If they don't
hear from you in 30 days, that usually does the trick. Your name gets removed.
If he follows course of action (b), it is usually because he assumes you can be dissuaded. No one will notify you of anything. He might be well intentioned, but if he doesn't act you could sue the Church. You are no longer a member, and the Church has no legal right to keep your name in their rolls.
If he follows course of action (c), he will notify you of a "disciplinary council"
(church court). You can then
threaten the Church with a lawsuit for invasion of privacy, harassment, and defamation.
It is a good idea to send any such letter by certified mail or to Fed-ex it if time is
short. If you send such a threat to Church Headquarters, they may change their mind
about the court.
What Are My Chances of an Expedient Resolution?
The only cases about which we have clear information are the ones handled circa 2000 with the
assistance of Kathy Worthington. Of about 100 cases that include gay and straight people,
both in Utah and in other states, about 20% received a more-or-less expedient notification
that name removal had been completed, about 60% received a response after months of being
delayed or ignored, and about 20% are still being intimidated by their local leaders or
have been notified that they will be "disciplined" by the Church.
In many of these cases the Church insists in delaying the response for more than 30 days,
and the persons involved don't know whether their cases are being delayed, ignored,
or turned into disciplinary actions. Many people have found that only by returning
court threats with lawsuit threats will the Church let them go.
The Spiritual Dimension of the Process
Obviously this is the most important dimension of the process—what does name removal
mean to you. For a person who believes that God will judge us according to a checklist
of ordinances and acts performed in the LDS Church, name removal might be a grievous
sin. For a person who believes that God will judge us according to our faith, love,
and Christ-like conduct, name removal might be a desirable option.
There are many who feel that the Church controls its members through intimidation, fear,
and inquisitorial practices. For those who are tired, angry, or fearful of the Church,
name removal might be the way to find relief and begin to heal.
The LDS Church is allowing members to disassociate from the institution
through name removal, but attempts to impose dilatory and arbitrary rules.
Some people feel this is an effort by the Church to maintain and extend control
over their lives. The current wave of requests and lawsuits will probably force
the Church to standardize the way it handles name removal requests and make the
process more expedient and less painful.
Despite many instances of ecclesiastical and spiritual abuse, many Gay and Lesbian
Mormons still love the Church and consider name removal a serious matter. It is sad
to see the Church control people by threats of disciplinary actions, inquisitorial
queries, and arbitrary delays. We find hope and joy in our conviction that the gospel
of Jesus Christ is something much bigger and expansive than the institutional Church,
and that personal spirituality and inner happiness are God-given gifts that no
institution can restrain nor curtail.
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Appendix 1: Sample of Resignation Letter
[Address of either the Bishop or of Member Records office]
Your full name and address
Your date and place of birth
RE: Resignation from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
I'm writing to inform you that this is my formal resignation from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, effective immediately. I hereby withdraw my consent to being treated as a member of the church. Since I am no longer a member, I am no longer subject to the rules, policies and 'discipline' of the church. I am writing this because I want my name permanently and completely removed from the rolls of the church.
I have given this action considerable thought. I understand the "seriousness" of
my request. I know that having my name removed from the records of the church
cancels the effects of baptism and confirmation, withdraws the priesthood held
by a male member, and revokes temple blessings. I also understand that I will
be readmitted to the Church by baptism only after a thorough interview.
I request that the church-prescribed 30-day waiting period be waived and that
this request be processed immediately, as my decision is unalterable. I am not
going to be dissuaded and I am NOT going to change my mind. I will not
participate in a church court or 'disciplinary council', and, because I have
voluntarily left the LDS church, I expect that the term excommunication will
not be used in any correspondence concerning this matter. I am asking for a
simple administrative procedure under my Constitutional right to exercise
freedom of, and from, religion.
This decision is not open for discussion with you or any other representatives
from the LDS Church. I will not accept visits, phone calls, or mail from church
leaders or members.
I expect my request to be handled promptly and with full confidentiality.
If my family or friends learn of my request from anyone other than
myself, I will consider it invasion of privacy and harassment. I will
use all available media and legal resources to air my grievances.
Any attempt to delay action on this matter or to slander my good name
will be countered with the same.
After today, the only contact I want from the church is written confirmation that
my name has been removed from the membership rolls of the church. As you know, I have
a right to unilaterally terminate my affiliation with the church. Now that I am no
longer a member, any unwanted contact from church representatives can be considered
(Feel free to add your reasons for doing this. Make your letter as long or as short
as you like.)
Your full name, printed
cc: Public Relations, LDS Church
Appendix 2: Text of Letter Your Will Receive
Dear Brother/Sister ______________,
I have been asked to acknowledge your recent letter in which you request
that your name be removed from the membership records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I have also been asked to inform you that the Church considers such a
request to be an ecclesiastical matter that must be handled by local
priesthood leaders before being processed by Church employees. Therefore, your letter and a copy of this reply are being sent to President _________________ of the ____________ Stake. He will have Bishop __________________ of the ________________ contact you concerning the fulfillment of your request.
In view of the eternal consequences of such an action, the Brethren urge you
to reconsider your request and to prayerfully consider the enclosed
statement of the First Presidency.
Gregory W. Dodge
Supervisor, Member and Statistical Records