You May Never Want to Join

These are the facts about membership resignation --- important information you should know before (and AFTER) you join the Mormon, LDS religion

The following infomation comes from Kathy Worthington's excellent pages on the procedure to resign from the Mormon, LDS Church.

It is important to read these pages in order that you don't unwittingly surrender your rights during this process.

The following frequently asked questions may help you understand the procedure:

WHAT IF I DON'T KNOW WHERE MY RECORDS ARE? This is one of the reasons we recommend you send your resignation to Member Records in Salt Lake. If your records are elsewhere, no matter where they are, Member Records will make the transfer when they receive your resignation. They will also look up who the local bishop is and they'll send your resignation to him or to the stake president.

WHAT IF I DON'T KNOW WHAT WARD I'M IN? Again, Member Records will take care of this when they receive your resignation. They will find out what ward you live in, who the bishop is, and they'll forward your letter to him. They will send you a form letter in response to your resignation and they will tell you who they sent your resignation to.

WHAT ABOUT MY CHILDREN? If you want to get your children's names off the membership rolls, include their names in your letter or write separate letters for them. If you child has not been baptised, he or she is probably listed as a 'member of record'. In your letter you can tell the church to take their name 'off the records' too. If no one in the church ever heard that you had any children, those children are probably not even listed as 'members of record'. If you have Mormon parents or family, they may have notified the church that you had children.

WHAT IF I'M UNDER 18? If you're under 18 and you want to resign, you will probably need a parent's permission to do so. Sorry, but that's not really surprising. Hang in there until you're 18 and then you can resign without anyone's permission to do so. If your parents are willing to give their permission, they'll need to sign a letter saying you have their permission to resign. One of your parents can do that.!

WHAT IF THEY SAID THEY'RE GOING TO EXCOMMUNICATE ME? If someone in the church has threatened you with excommunication, you can get it stopped by resigning before they complete the process. (see Legal Precedent ) If they threaten you with excommunication AFTER they receive your letter of resignation, you can also get it stopped.

See The Process

WHAT IF THEY CALL ME OR DROP BY MY HOUSE? You don't have to be polite, nor do you have to let them in. Don't agree to any interviews. The only power or authority they have over you is what you GIVE them.

WHAT IF HOME TEACHERS OR VISITING TEACHERS COME BY? You will have to decide how you prefer to handle any visits by church members. You can simply tell them you are no longer a member of the church. You can tell them they don't need to visit you any more or you can come right out and say that you want no further contact from church representatives. If those people are also neighbors or friends, you can tell them you still want to be a good neighbor or friend, if that's how you feel about it.

WHAT IF I LIVE OUTSIDE THE U.S.? There is information on this in the Instructions . Outside the U.S. you'll definitely have to deal with local leaders and, unfortunately they are not as used to handling resignations. They often resist giving you a letter of confirmation after you resign. Each country is different and we don't have a lot of experience in helping with resignations outside the U.S. Sometimes local leaders 'excommunicate' people who dare to resign and we are unable to stop it. Can you live with that?

WILL MY FAMILY FIND OUT? The answer to this question is: it depends. If you live in the same ward or stake your parents do, the bishop or SP will probably tell them. Does 'your' bishop or SP know your parents? If so, they will probably tell them. Does someone in the bishopric or Stake Presidency know your family? . . . This gives you an idea of how complicated this can be. They shouldn't tell your family, but sometimes they do.

WHAT IF MY NAME HAS CHANGED? If your name has changed since you were a member, you'll want to include any names you used as a member in your letter. If you're a woman, you could possibly just use your maiden name, but I would recommend you list all names you used as a member, whatever the reasons were.

SOME QUESTIONS ARE NOT ANSWERED HERE There are some questions that are debatable and you really should get more than one opinion on them. For those questions, Kathy recommends the RFM bulletin board at If you ask the questions there, you will hear about other people's experiences and you'll get a variety of opinions, then you can decide for yourself. Among the questions I think are best to ask there are: Why resign from the church? Why not just go inactive? What happens if I just leave the church and never go back but I don't resign? What is the difference between excommunication and resigning? Should I care if they excommunicate me? If I resign, will the church rebaptise me when I'm dead? Why not just ask for 'name removal' and let them do it their way?




There is one case in particular that has clearly established in case law a right that most of us believe we had all along: the right to simply resign from a church. A second case is important to establish the church's vulnerability to lawsuits when they refuse to honor resignations.

GUINN V THE CHURCH OF CHRIST OF COLLINSVILLE (final decision by the Supreme Court of Oklahoma, January 1989) You can read the entire ruling, it's available at Marian Guinn, a member of the Church of Christ of Collinsville, OK, hand delivered her resignation to the minister after he told her he was going to excommunicate her for fornication. The minister refused to honor the resignation, went ahead with the 'excommunication' and then announced it from the pulpit. Guinn sued and was awarded $390,000. On appeal the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that Guinn's resignation was effective immediately and that anything the church or the minister did after the minister received Guinn's resignation was tortable. In other words, she could sue for anything they did after she resigned. The court ruled that with her resignation Guinn withdrew her consent to being treated as a member and she withdrew her consent to being subject to church discipline. In several subsequent court cases the Mormon church has agreed to the principles established in Guinn. They have not even attempted to argue that the principles do not apply to them.

THE NORMAN HANCOCK LAWSUIT (Mesa AZ 1985) In 1985 the Mormon church 'excommunicated' Norman Hancock AFTER he submitted a letter of resignation to the church. Hancock filed an $18 million lawsuit against the church, saying a person has a right to voluntarily resign from a church. The suit was settled out of court and the settlement was sealed. An account on line reports that Hancock filed the suit himself, without the aid of a lawyer, after studying the Guinn case. The same account says that church lawyers started discussing with Hancock just how much money he wanted, but he told them he didn't want their money, that what he wanted was to have his name cleared. They agreed to change the records such that there would no longer be any record of an 'excommuication': the records would show that he resigned (that he asked for 'name removal'). The Hancock case shows that the church is willing to settle out of court when someone sues because the church 'excommunicates' them after they've resigned their membership. The Hancock case was basically the end of the era when the church told members that there was no way to stop being a member except by excommunication. The church began having a process it calls 'name removal'. However, the church still tells bishops and stake presidents that a member who is 'transgressing' should not be allowed to resign, that "name removal should not be used as a substitute for church discipline". If you've paid attention to the Guinn case, you already know that the church is wrong about that and they can be sued for 'excommunicating' someone who already resigned. At church headquarters they know this very well and they will put a quick halt to 'discipline' proceedings if they find out that the former members knows what his or her rights are.

NOTE: The sample resignation letter available below, through the wording that is used, lets the church know that the person who sent it in knows what his or her rights are. They rarely threaten to 'excommunicate' people who've used that letter. Even in cases of blatant 'transgression' the church usually just lets people go.

Letter for resignation example:


Your name
Your date of birth
Your current address
The date

Member Records,
LDS Church 50 E North Temple
Rm 1372 SLC UT 84150-3810

RE: Resignation from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

This letter is my formal resignation from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and it is effective immediately. I hereby withdraw my consent to being treated as a member and I withdraw my consent to being subject to church rules, policies, beliefs and 'discipline'.

As I am no longer a member, I want my name permanently and completely removed from the membership rolls of the church. I have given this matter considerable thought. I understand what you consider the 'seriousness' of my actions. I am aware that the church handbook says that my resignation "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". (quotes from the 1999 Church Handbook of Instructions)

My resignation should be processed immediately, without any 'waiting periods'. I am not going to be dissuaded and I am not going to change my mind.

I am asking for a simple administrative procedure under my constitutional right to practice freedom of religion. I expect this matter to be handled promptly and with full confidentiality. If my friends, family or neighbors learn of my resignation through anyone but myself, I will consider it invasion of privacy and I will consider taking legal action against the church.

After today, the only further contact I want from the church is a single letter of confirmation to let me know that my name has been removed from the membership rolls of the church. (you can add any comments or reasons here)


Your signature
Your name, printed

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Page Modified: March 8, 2007