Chapter 8
Home Up

CHAPTER 8
DEVOUT, THEN OUT

Rebecca Uhlig Eagar

In August 1991, I had just graduated from the University of Utah with an honors B.A., cum laude. I was twenty-one and had had a temple recommend to do baptisms for the dead at the Salt Lake Temple and had been going faithfully every week for two years. At this point, I wanted to be endowed. I felt I was mature enough and ready to take the next step in my spiritual progression. I had just become engaged to my sweetheart, Thad, who, like me, had been doing baptisms for the dead for the past eight months or so.

Thad had not been endowed either; and we both decided to be endowed before our wedding as "celebration" of our engagement, which capped a three-year courtship. Our separate interviews with the bishop of our university singlesí ward went just fine. Bishop Sam Morrison told me how pleased he was with me and that he respected my maturity and dedication to temple work.

Neither Thad nor I had ever met our stake president. My interview was first. After the usual "get to know you" questions, President Jackson (a pseudonym) said he didnít know if he could give me a recommend because of my youth. I told him about my two years of near perfect weekly attendance at the baptismal font, and my recent graduation, but he still hesitated.

I protested, "Look. I trust Bishop Morrisonís assessment of my character. If he thinks Iím ready, and I think Iím ready, I donít see a problem."

He said that Bishop Morrison had sent a young woman over "just last week" who was my age and heíd sent her back without her recommend, because of "immaturity." He tried to persuade me to wait until the day of my marriage, so I could have the joy of my husband being the first to take me through the veil. I continued to insist that I felt ready and Iíd prayed about all this beforehand.

Finally he agreed to interview me. But what an interview! He didnít ask the questions from the list as Bishop Morrison had asked, He made them into essay questions. Instead of "Do you believe in God?" it was, "Tell me about your testimony." His voice was very intense and dramatic, and it made me feel I needed to impress him. I was already very confused and upset by his reluctance to interview me, and then his intensity was frightening. I was keenly aware that this man had the power to deny me my endowments. He was in tune with God. And if God wanted him to ask the questions like this, then there must be a reason.

Then he asked, or rather ordered, "Tell me about your morality problem." I just froze. I said I didnít have one. He insisted, "No, tell me about your morality problem!" I didnít know what to do. Guiltily I confessed that Thad and I had had a "morality problem" with light petting. It had stopped there, we had confessed to Bishop Morrison six months earlier, before our engagement, and had fully resolved the problem. Both Thad and I felt forgiven, and there had been no resumption of the problem after that point. I was humiliated to dredge it up again and confused. Hadnít it already been taken care of?

But President Jackson refused to let it go and kept insisting on details. Had Thad touched my bare nipples? Had I let him touch me under my panties? The questions continued for what seemed like an endless time. Again I protested that Iíd dealt with the situation with Bishop Morrison, who obviously felt that I was now worthy of a temple recommend. President Jackson said something like, "Let me be the judge of that." His next question was about "the last time you masturbated" (not if I did). Other prurient questions followed. I ended up telling him about every single activity and thought of a sexual nature that I had been remotely involved in back to about age twelve, because he kept asking, hammering away, communicating clearly that he "knew" I was holding something back. Finally, helpless and devastated, I ran out of things to tell. All these things had long ago been confessed to and "forgiven" by the different bishops of the many wards Iíd lived in during the past nine years.

I was almost ready to cry. I was disgusted, sick inside, very violated and humiliated. I groped for an explanation. What could be his reason? Was he going to use my story to check Thadís version during his interview? It didnít make any sense.

Finally he moved on to the other questions, but he still phrased them as demands: "Tell me what groups you belong to that subvert the purpose of the Church." It was a very unsettling experience. At the end, he said, in essence, that he felt impressed to tell me that although Iíd sinned, he would give me the recommend anyway since I was working on my repentance. He stressed "working on." It was clear to me that he didnít feel Iíd been forgiven yet of any of them. By then, I was starting to feel angry, but I repressed it and instead acted very grateful. I had to have that damn little piece of paper!

The anger really hit me later, when Thad came out of his interview. I had been in that manís office for almost forty-five hideous, humiliating minutes. Thad was in and out in something like ten or fifteen. As we walked to the car, I hesitatingly asked him how the questions were presented to him. Surprise! President Jackson asked him the questions straight off the list, and had said nothing about our "sin" of six months earlier. Outrage and betrayal welled up inside me. I had trusted that man, trusted that God was behind him, trusted that there was a reason to rake up all that stuff in detailóand there wasnít. Thad was as furious as I was when I told him the whole story.

I called my father and asked how leaders were supposed to present the interview questions. He told me they are supposed to ask the question as printed on the card ("Do you live the law of chastity?" ó so he had even made up his own question!); and if you say "yes"ówhich Thad and I certainly couldóthey are to go on to the next one. I told him in very general and abbreviated terms about President Jacksonís way of conducting the interview, and, very troubled, he repeated over and over, "Thatís not right. Thatís just not right!"

But nothing was done. No one talked to President Jackson. I certainly didnít have the guts to. I tried to avoid him; and when I encountered him at our next stake conference, I was repulsed when he grabbed my hand and heartily asked, "Oh Sister Uhlig! Howís the wedding coming?"

I tried not to let it ruin my endowment ceremony, but it bothered me so that I put off going for almost three weeks after he signed my recommend. That interview filled those three weeks with all kinds of guilt, anguish, self-doubt, and feelings of unworthiness. I had been anticipating my endowment as a way of being closer to God, of feeling his love more perfectly. I had always believed if you were sorry and promised not to repeat a wrongdoingóand then didnítóthat Godís forgiveness was total, that the sin was completely erased. But now I doubted that God could ever love me. I questioned whether I was, in fact, forgiven of any of my sins. It was a terrible thing to be told by that man, my priesthood leader, who supposedly had a direct line to God, that I was still stained by those sins and must be constantly working towards a forgiveness to be granted in the not-near future. My self-esteem simply melted away in the face of that bleak and accusing experience.

I no longer believe that I am unforgiven, but I guess Iím still working on forgiving President Jackson for that violation and humiliation. I still get terribly angry when I think of him behind his desk, leaning forward and probing for prurient details. I now know it was terribly wrongóeven sickóof him to do it. I know he was sexually exploiting me for his personal satisfaction. No one should have to go through that kind of thing.

Thad and I were very happy with each other, but the sense of intrusiveness from the Church did not go away. In fact, it got worse. We moved into Nibley Park Ward in Granite Stake in Salt Lake City and were both very active. When Thad and I didnít have a baby right away, the girls in my Young Women class wanted to know why, especially when a lesson in the Young Womanís manual on the evils of the world listed "abortion, murder, birth control ... " I refused to teach this sentence of the manual. Calmly and without making a big deal about it, I told the girls that I took birth control pills, that I didnít think it was wrong, and that it was a personal decision between my husband and me. At least two mothers, perhaps more, called the bishop, claiming that I had told the girls "not to have children" and that they (the mothers) were "wrong to have so many children." I think these ideas were in the backs of their own minds, because I had never said anything remotely similar in class.

These alarmed mothers told the bishop that I should be released. He assigned another woman to team-teach with me. She always attended class, even when I was teaching. I tried telling myself it was better for continuity in teaching, but it made me feel that I was being either chaperoned or spied on or both. Two weeks after she was called, she gushingly told the girls that she was pregnant, that previously she had been on the pill but knew "in her heart" that she was doing evil and that the Lord wanted her to "do right" (that is, get pregnant) since her husband lost his job. So she and her husband "repented," conceived her child, and lo! a miracle occurred. He got a job and it paid more than the one he had lost. She bore her testimony that being on the pill was wrong. Everyone looked at me. No one knew what to say.

When I encouraged the girls in my Young Womenís class to get a good education, I got "concerned" calls from parents and from the bishop. I then spent the next six months very systematically and diligently reading everything I could get my hands on that the Church had published about itself, including its history. I was looking for reasons to stay. Then I read as many as I could stand of works published by detractors. I then tried to make sense of the "pure white" picture presented by the Church and the "pure black" picture presented by detractors. I decided that the truth lay in the gray betweenóand I began to feel that I didnít like aligning myself with an organization that preached one thing for the cameras, the media, and the general public but lived and practiced another.

I compared lessons in the Young Womenís and the Young Menís manuals. Almost 70 percent of the Young Women lessons were about respecting men (priesthood, father, brothers, future husband, etc.); the purity of womanís "role," and how special that role was took the other 30 percent. In contrast, the Young Menís manual had only 5 percent lessons on respecting women. I thought how stifling such relationships would be, especially contrasted to the genuine equality that Thad and I worked hard to build into our marriage. I looked at the "good" Mormon marriages I could observe in our families and in the ward. I was willing to respect those marriages, but I saw in many of them the same assumptions of superiority and submission, the same hypocrisy, the same fear that I sensed in the manuals.

Finally, I resigned as Young Women teacher. Iím sure my leaders were relieved. So was I. Thad and I stopped attending church at the end of 1993. Thad recalls that the final straw for him came during a Sunday School class in which the teacher was announcing that parimutuel gambling was wrong. I raised my hand and said I thought people should think for themselves and pray about whatís right and whatís wrong. Bishop Jay Thornton interrupted, "I canít let that stand. You should go with what the leaders tell you is right." Thad said nothing but he told me afterward, "I just sat there and thought deeply about the implications of that statement on all areas of my life in the Church. I didnít like any of them."

On 22 January 1994, I wrote a letter to President Hinckley, then first counselor in the First Presidency, requesting that our names be removed from Church records:

Dear Mr. Hinckley:

Although I know you will not see this letter (only your secretary will), I address it to you since I am aware of the Churchís protocols to bishops on this matter, and I know it is useless to send this request to my bishop. He will ignore it "for my own good" because he "knows better" than I what I want. I know this because I have sat in the Sunday bishopís councils and listened as he said those very phrases concerning other people in my ward.

My husband and I want our names removed from the rolls of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as an administrative action initiated at these membersí request. As of the date of this letter, we are no longer members of this church and expected your secretary to forward this letter to the appropriate office. We expect written notification when this action has been completed.

There are many reasons behind this request; but at most basic, we feel that we cannot in good conscience remain members of this church while its leaders continue to deny Mother Goddess and hurt and oppress women and men, all in the name of Father God. We are simply not interested in choking down the Churchís pablum anymore, Mr. Hinckley.

Thank you for your secretaryís prompt attention to this administrative action.

Thad and I both signed this letter; my signature was first. On 31 January, F. Michael Watson, secretary to the First Presidency, wrote back a form letter, reversing in the address and greeting the order of our names as we had sent our letter. We considered the name order to be a small test of institutional sensitivity and respect for our preference, which the institution had just failed.

Dear Brother and Sister Eagar:

I have been asked to acknowledge your letter of 22 January 1994 in which you requested that your names be removed from the records of the Church...

I also have been asked to advise you that this is a matter which must be handled at the local level; therefore, copies of your letter and this letter are being sent to President Everett Cannon Peck of the Salt Lake Granite Stake.

In view of the eternal consequences of such action, the Brethren urge you to reconsider your request and to prayerfully consider the enclosed statement of the First Presidency.

They also asked me to extend their love and best wishes to you.

The enclosed "statement" was a one-page "Invitation to Come Back" headed by a small reproduction of a Harry Anderson painting of Christ with partially open arms. The statement, undated,1 is signed by Ezra Taft Benson, Gordon B. Hinckley, and Thomas S. Monson:

 

We rejoice in the blessings that come of membership and activity in this Church whose head is the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. In deep sincerity we express our love and gratitude for our brethren and sisters everywhere.

We are aware of some who are less active, of others who have become critical and are prone to find fault, and of those who have been disfellowshipped or excommunicated because of serious transgressions.

To all such we reach out in love. The Lord said: "I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men." (D&C 64:10)

We encourage members to forgive those who may have wronged them. To those who have ceased activity and to those who have become critical, we say, "Come back. Come back and feast at the table of the Lord, and taste again the sweet and satisfying fruits of fellowship with the Saints."

We are confident that many have longed to return but have felt awkward about doing so. We assure you that you will find open arms to receive you and willing hands to assist you.

We know there are many who carry heavy burdens of guilt and bitterness. To such we say, "Set them aside and give heed to the words of the Savior, who gave his life for the sins of all. "Come unto me, all ye that are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls, for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matt. 11:28-30).

We plead with you. We pray for you. We invite and welcome you with love and appreciation.

We realize that it is difficult to write a form letter that covers everyone, but for us, the invitation in the statement was marred by the assumption that we were "bitter" and guilty of sin or had had our feelings hurt. In fact, the attempt to deal with us through "forms" became as trying for us as we left as it had been while we stayed.

A week later, on 11 February, Thadís mother, Kay, called me. "Whatís going on, Becky?" she asked, sounding bewildered and confused. "Jay Thornton wants to talk to us, wants to know what to do about Thad? Is something wrong with Thad?" Now understand that Thornton was our bishop; he and Thadís father, Brent, had both been counselors in a stake presidency a long time ago, but they hadnít really been friends since then.

Thad and I had an excellent relationship with his parents. They loved us, respected us, cared for us, and were always supportive of us. We felt exactly the same about them, so I had no hesitation in explaining to Kay that we were having our names removed from the Church records. "Iím sorry you had to find out this way," I said. "We wanted to tell our families on our own terms and in our own time." I didnít tell her that we had both speculated on the possibility that our request would become public knowledge before we announced it.

Kay was supportive of our decisions and said something like "All we want is for you to be happy," but she seemed baffled by the whole thingóour wanting to leave and Bishop Thorntonís intervention.

The next day, Kay called back after their meeting with Bishop Thornton. He had wanted to keep the meeting a secret from us, but Kay promptly informed him, "I already called Becky and told her about this meeting." He showed them our letter of request and asked, "What should we do? We can either process the request quickly or sit on it for a little bit if you think thereís a way to get them to change their minds." Either Kay or Brent asked why Bishop Thornton wanted to meet with them. He said it was "because of the love and respect" he felt for them. "I wanted you to know what was happening with one of your children. I want the right thing to happen, but what is the right thing in this case?" Brent and Kay naturally werenít thrilled about our decision, but they felt uncomfortable with the position that the bishop was putting them in. They assured him that "sending people to change their minds wonít work." Bishop Thornton said he planned to make an appointment with us and talk about the letter.

I was so angry that I couldnít even find words to express my feelings. It outraged me that Thad was being treated like a little boy. And where did that leave me in the patriarchal chain of commandóperhaps on the level of the family dog?

Thad is normally very mild-mannered and easy-going. He has deep convictions and nobody can talk him into doing anything that he thinks is wrong, and he doesnít usually get angry at people. But now he was furious, He jotted down some notes of what he wanted to say so that he could communicate without getting flustered, and then called the bishop. He also took notes on the conversation so that he could be sure he understood what was happening. The conversation went like this:

Thad: Weíre grown-ups. If you want to discuss our personal private business, then arrange to talk to us. What right do you have to share any information concerning us with anyone else?

Bishop: Are you through?

Thad: When we make religious decisions we want to be able to share those decisions with other people when and if we choose. By sneaking around, trying to go behind our backs, you have deprived us of our choice to share this with our family when and if we choose. Do you realize what a violation of our rights that is?

Bishop: No. I have a deep and abiding love for your parents. If it were my child, I would want to be told.

Thad: My parents have nothing to do with this.

Bishop: Oh yes, they do!

Thad: No, they donít. We donít want to meet and discuss our membership. Complete the removal of our names from the records administratively, then send us written verification immediately.

Bishop: I canít. I wonít. Not without meeting with you and discussing it.

Thad: Why in the world would any church want to keep the names on record of people who want their names removed? Just take our names off.

Bishop: It doesnít work that way. Should we arrange a time to meet?

Thad: No! Take our names off the records immediately.

Bishop: I wonít.

Thad: Weíll see.

On 12 February 1994, I drafted a stiff letter to Bishop Jay Thornton that Thad and I both signed.

Mr. Thornton:

This letter is to protest your serious irregularities in the handling of the removal of our names from the rolls of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. By calling Thadís parents into your office to discuss "how to handle" our request, you have violated our privacy and our agency to tell our family about our personal decisions.

Your statement on the phone to Thad tonight that you wonít and canít initiate action to remove our names without our coming in for an interview is a violation of the procedures outlined in the Churchís policy manual. I refer you to page 8-4, the section entitled "Removing Names from Church Records." It does not specify that an interview is required. All that is needed is a written notice from the adults concerned that they want their names removed. You have a copy of our letter that states that. We wish to add to that statement at this time that we both understand that removal cancels baptisms, withdraws the priesthood from Thad, and suspends our temple sealing. You may be certain we will not change our minds about this in the future. By the Churchís own written procedures, you now have no reason to "sit on" our request and should fill out the administrative action report and forward it to the stake presidency, unless you are planning on some type of Church discipline. In which case, Thad and I would like a written notification of such disciplinary proceedings and a description of the grounds for discipline.

We consider your actions not only irregular, but demeaning. Your talking to Thadís parents without our consent is very paternalistic, condescending, and insulting to his status as an adult. We hold you personally accountable for these insults; we consider it unrighteous dominion and violation of our agency. We want you to know that we will protest this humiliating treatment with a copy of this letter to the stake presidency. You have ten days to respond in writing to this letter; at that point, the matter will be out of your hands. We will consider going to the media, who, in light of the current events, are very interested in ecclesiastical abuse. We will also consider retaining an attorney to discuss legal action for the violation of our privacy and denial of our right to have our names removed. I suggest you refer to the 1985 lawsuit (Hancock v. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) in Arizona. There is a legal precedent ... to sue to get our names removed.

Please expedite this matter.

We sent this letter to Bishop Thorntonís home address and he should have received it the next day, but he did not respond until close to the limit of the ten days. On 20 February 1994, he wrote to "Brother and Sister Eagar":

 

This correspondence is in response to your letter to President Gordon B. Hinckley of 22 January 1994 in which you requested your names "be removed from the rolls of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" as you considered yourself "no longer members of this Church."

I want to make sure you understand that removing your names from the records of the Church: cancels the effects of your baptisms, withdraws the priesthood held by Thaddeus, [and] suspends your temple sealing and blessings.

This is to inform you that, as requested, a Report of Administrative Action form has been sent to President Everett C. Peck. This is for the purpose of removing your names from the records of the Church. This action can only be rescinded if President Peck receives a written request from you within the next thirty days.

I recommend that you reconsider your request with its consequences. This description is far reaching and has eternal implications. If you decide to reconsider your request action, please contact President Everett C. Peck.

May the Lordís blessing be with you in your decision.

It seemed pompous to have him warn us of the "consequences" that we had already explained to him we understood, but at least he had finally taken the action we desired. We felt quite encouraged.

On 27 February, our former bishop, Jerry Wells, now a counselor in the stake presidency, stopped by the house to ask us to call the stake president, Everett Cannon Peck. "He wants to talk with you but doesnít have a phone number for you. Will you please call him?" Refusing to commit us, I said, "Itís a possibility. Iíll talk with Thad."

When Thad got home from work, we discussed this request. We knew that talking to the stake president wasnít required by the General Handbook of Instructions. All he had to do was process the report as sent on by the bishop. Had Bishop Thornton really sent the request on? We werenít sure.

Four days later on 3 March, President Peck came to our house at 9:45 PM. and asked if he could talk to us. We invited him in and asked him to sit down. During the entire conversation, Thad and I felt at ease and calm, functioning as a real team in the conversation with both of us answering questions, commenting, and explaining. At no point did we feel on the defensive, and this fact alone is some measure of how completely detached from the Church we felt already.

He said he wanted to talk to us about our request to remove our names from the Churchís records. We responded, "Thereís nothing in the manual that requires you to talk to us and nothing anyone says will change our minds, so thereís really nothing to discuss." He admitted that the manual didnít require an interview "but I feel concerned for you." We thanked him but said it wasnít necessary.

He wanted to discuss our reasons for making the request. We said, "Weíll be glad to discuss our reasons with you after youíve taken action on our request." He tried several different ways to find out what we believed. "Do you still believe in the Book of Mormon?" "Do you have a testimony that Christ is your Savior?" "Do you feel that there is a God?" Each time we responded with, "Weíll be happy to talk it over with you after we have received notification that our names have been removed."

He was getting increasingly uncomfortable, but we were feeling fine. It was our first experience with being assertive in any degree with a Church leader, and it astonished me to realize that most members of the Church really do hand over their privacy unquestioningly, answering any question the leader thinks of.

"Iíve read and reread your letters," he tried again. "Iíve thought about it quite a bit. I admit Iím curious about your reasons."

"The letters express our reasons just fine," we answered.

He persisted. Finally, Thad said in his gentle way, "We donít want to say anything that might influence the way you handle our request to remove our names.

President Peck gave up at that point and asked if we would read a few scriptures after he left.

"Perhaps," we answered.

He gave us the references to 2 Nephi 32:9 and 3 Nephi 18:15, and we jotted them down.2 He bore his testimony that the gospel was true and that Jesus was our Savior.

We listened politely as he continued saying that we had to follow the plan. "Remember the Donner Party. They deviated from the plan and you know what happened to them." I became irritated with the moralizing, but we continued to listen as he developed this warning theme further: "Satan is the incurable insomniac," a phrase he borrowed from Elder Neal A. Maxwell. "Heís never slept and he never needs to."

We didnít argue, but he could probably tell that the threat of being deceived by Satan was not having its desired effect. He shifted to a warm, fatherly tone and said, "Iíve gotten to know you as your stake president." This statement also failed in its desired effect, since we had met him only a few times and never for more than a handshake and a perfunctory greeting. Someone else had always conducted our temple recommend interviews. "I feel that youíre marching to a different drum," he said. "I just want to help you sort through all of the confusing voices youíre hearing."

We answered, "The best way you can help us is to process our request."

He shifted tactics once more. Without admitting that Bishop Thornton had been out of line in calling in Thadís parents, he said, "Iím sorry you were offended by Bishop Thornton. I think you just didnít understand his motives. He feels great love and concern for you and Iím sure he thought he was doing the right thing. I hope you can forgive him."

We answered that we certainly didnít appreciate the way he had handled it, regardless of his motives; but it didnít really matter since the incident was over and done with.

He tried once more to discover our "problem": "Are you having difficulties with a doctrine? Are there institutional matters you donít understand? Has someone hurt your feelings?" It was interesting to both of us that, even though my letter to President Hinckley had specifically mentioned our distress over the Mother Goddess and the oppression of women and men, President Peck asked no direct questions about either topic.

Once again, we repeated that we had no intention of discussing our reasons until he had acted on our request but explained that we had not had bitter or angry feelings until Bishop Thornton had seen fit to talk to Thadís parents instead of to us. Still, we werenít holding any grudges against Bishop Thornton.

He had run out of ideas. He counseled us to pray about our decision and said, "You have thirty days"ómeaning that we could change our minds. I corrected him, "You have thirty days, President Peck. We expect you to follow the procedure outlined in the handbook."

He told us that he would not act until the thirty days was up, hoped he would hear from us, and thanked us for letting him in our house.

After he left, Thad said that even a year ago he would probably have felt intimidated by President Peckís position and power. He was amazed at how calm and in control of the situation he had felt during the conversation. I wished, in retrospect, that I had pointed out a couple of errors: the Donner Party hadnít deviated from any special plan; they had just delayed their crossing of the mountains to a dangerous point. And what was he suggestingóthat Thad and I were going to turn into spiritual cannibals if we left the Church? Honestly!

We waited the thirty days and, on 31 March, I wrote to President Peck asking for written verification that he had forwarded his administrative report since the thirty-day period had expired the day before. Ten days later, on 9 April, I received a handwritten letter written the day before on Granite Stake letterhead and again addressing us as "Brother and Sister Eagar." It said he had sent his report to the Office of the First Presidency (right where weíd started three months ago), and added:

As I visited in your home some weeks ago, you indicated that it was your desire not to discuss the matter until after your request had been granted. Now that that has been done, I would appreciate the opportunity to visit with you. Please give me a call. I can generally be reached at. ... If I am not in, please leave a message and I will get back to you.

I wrote to President Peck on 11 April reminding him:

Mr. Peck:

Thank you for your notification that you sent our administrative action report out. In reference to your request for another meeting, it seems you misunderstood us. We would be happy to discuss the matter further only after the letter has come to us stating that indeed our names have definitely been removed. That is what we thought we said in our last meeting.

So, we would be happy to discuss the matter once we have a letter certifying that our names have been removed, not a letter saying [that] you sent the report onward. We perceive those to be two different things from everything we have read and heard about with regard to the Church procedures.

Thank you for your understanding and interest.

Almost a month later, on 4 May, we received a handwritten letter from President Peck dated 1 May on Granite Stake letterhead. He again called us "Brother and Sister Eagar.

This note is to inform you that Bishop Thornton has received notice from the Church Membership Department certifying that as of 13 April 1994 your names have been officially deleted and removed from the records of the Church.

As mentioned in earlier correspondence, I would appreciate an opportunity to visit with you. I can be reached at ...

Please give me a call. If I am not in, please leave a message as to where I can reach you and I will be in touch. Thank you.

Thad and I were both irritated. Bishop Thornton had received the notification almost three weeks earlier, Why had there been a delay in informing us? And even more important, why had our request for personal notification still not been granted? Suppressing our irritation, I wrote back the same day, courteously but firmly saying:

Mr. Peck:

Thank you for your note saying Mr. Thornton had been notified that our names have been removed from the Church records. We are wondering, however, where our copy of that official notification is. A handwritten note informing us that Mr. Thornton was notified is not an official notification in any sense to us.

We would be happy to visit with you as soon as we have a copy of the official notification from Church Membership that Mr. Thornton received. We feel that is what constitutes written notification for the Church when it is conducting its business; we desire no less, especially when that business concerns us.

Thank you for your understanding.

On 25 May 1994, President Peck signed a lengthy, typewritten letter with a copy to the First Presidency, once again addressing us as "Brother and Sister Eagar":

This is in response to your letter of 4 May 1994. Reference is also made to your previous correspondence regarding the removal of your name from the membership records of the Church. It seems there has been some miscommunication, and I hope by this letter to clarify any misconceptions you may have.

With very few exceptions, all actions which may change the membership status of any Church member residing in a stake take place within the stake and under the jurisdiction of the stake presidency. The reporting of such actions to members is done by the stake president or, if the action took place under the direction of the bishop, the report is made by the bishop.

The Member and Statistical Records Division of the Church is the custodian of the records. Their function is to see that pertinent actions which take place within the stakes and missions are properly recorded. They do not initiate actions affecting the membership status of members; nor do they report such actions to the membersóonly to priesthood leaders within the stakes (and missions).

Your official notice of the removal of your name from Church records was my letter to you dated 8 April 1994 which informed you that I had forwarded the Report of Administrative Action to the Office of the First Presidency. I am sorry you were offended by the fact that the letter was handwritten. I did not have it typed because I knew you were anxious to receive the notice and having the letter typed would have caused a delay of a few days.

The Report of Administrative Action was my official report to the First Presidency that your request had been granted. No further action will be taken by the First Presidency or the Member and Statistical Records Division unless you appeal my action or request readmission to membership in the Church. This procedure is consistent with that followed when a disciplinary council is held and a person is excommunicated from the Church. It is also the reason you were notified by Brother F. Michael Watson, Secretary to the First Presidency, on 31 January 1994, that your initial request had been referred to me, indicating Ďthat this is a matter which must be handled at the local level."

Since this letter pertains to an action that has already been completed and reported to the First Presidency, I am forwarding a copy, together with your letter, to the Office of the First Presidency with a request that they be filed with the Report of Administrative Action pertaining to your request.

I am still hopeful that you will be willing to visit with me pertaining to the action you have taken which has resulted in the severance of your Church membership.

It was disheartening that President Peck still didnít get it. All along, we had been asking that our clearly expressed needs be acknowledged and respected. He seemed puzzled and aggrieved because we still werenít satisfied, yet all he could do was repeat that he had followed correct procedures. His office had communicated with the First Presidencyís office. What more could we want? The fact that there was no communication with us, except what we had forced out of him, still did not seem to register with him as either desirable or necessary.

We decided enough was enough. Another meeting obviously wouldnít make us feel any better and it probably wouldnít make him feel any better either. Even for the sake of courtesy, we could not summon the emotional energy for another futile encounter. We never called him back.

In the four years that have passed since we left the Church, Thad and I have felt a sweetness and lightening of our burdens that I had never imagined possible on the day when I knew it was time to leave. Thad returned to school, earned a masterís degree, and now has a wonderful fulfilling job teaching in special education. In turn, I also returned to school in preparation for a career as an optometrist. This move required much faith on my part, since my undergraduate degree was in English literature, but I have learned that I can do whatever I put my mind to. I am wildly successful at science, as it turns out.

Iím sure it would comfort the tongue-clickers in our former neighborhood to learn that we were unhappy, unsuccessful, or had lapsed into drinking or another kind of addiction. We have done no such thing, and much of our life-style is still that of conservative and orthodox Mormons. It is still shocking to some members of my pioneer Mormon family that I think for myself, speak my mind, am educated in the sciences and the arts, cook and fix cars, and have become a professional belly dancer as a way of celebrating my body and cultural diversity. To my family, this pattern adds up to "questionable moral judgement," especially since I am neither defiant nor apologetic and guilty about these decisions.

I am very happy with my life and its path. Mother Goddess has blessed me. I know sheís happy with me. I always knew Father God was there, waiting for me to reject the false "angry God" I was taught to placate and fear throughout my childhood, waiting for me to find the strength to believe in myself. Thad still searches for his "truth," and I respect him for the authenticity of his quest. Thad and I love and support each other fully through both the ups and downs of our lives. We are a multifaceted team; together we are much more than the sum of whatever would have been left of us after we had lopped off whatever didnít fit inside the tiny boxes of rigid gender roles.

We find ways to serve others in our community regardless of their religion. We live meaningful, fulfilling, and ethical lives. We treat others with respect and dignity. Ironically, it is only since we have stepped outside our childhood religious tradition that we are at last being treated with that same respect and dignity.

1This statement had been published a decade earlier as "An Invitation to Come Back," Church News, 22 December 1985, 3.

2These are the references he meant. A few days later, Kay called, quite amused, to tell us that President Peck had called her, worried because he thought heíd transposed some numbers in the scriptural references and had given us one referring to fire and brimstone. Would Kay please tell us of the error? (Weíd already looked them up and figured out that he didnít mean that one.) The first reference reads, "But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul." The second reference was: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always, lest ye be tempted by the devil, and ye be led away captive by him."