Resigning Your Membership In The Mormon Church

Why it is important to do, and how to go about it

A relatively simple process, by Scott Bidstrup

"It's not enough to simply quit attending. When they notice you're not showing up, an entire machinery often (and is supposed to) swings into action - to get you back into the pews, into a tithing settlement and saddled with a 'calling.' More often than not, they won't leave you alone. They followed me through seven interstate moves (they have an amazingly detailed and thorough process for tracking you down), several requests for my membership records to be marked 'Do Not Contact' (and at one point, an acknowledgement they were so marked), and finally, at the end, a neighbor who had been assigned by the Elders Quorum Inactive Members Committee to 'fellowship' me. He came around at least once a week for months - in spite of being asked not to, always finding a pretext. It's not at all uncommon that they send the proselytizing missionaries around as well. It didn't end until I was excommunicated. If it hasn't happened to you, it's only because someone in the ward isn't doing their job."
        --my personal experience as explained on Facebook forums

One of the defining characteristics of a cult is that they don't make it easy to leave. And one of the several reasons I regard the Mormon church as a cult is that it is no different than other cults in this regard. When I had my name removed from the membership rolls of the church in 1988, a formal excommunication was the only process that was available. So I got myself excommunicated. It wasn't easy - it required writing a 12-page letter justifying it, sending it to the presiding bishopric in Salt Lake, waiting three months for the church to respond, going through a 3-hour interview, and two weeks later, a humiliating "disciplinary council" proceeding, and then waiting for a "judgment" followed by a confirmation letter.

Some years ago, a man in Arizona sued the church, asserting that the process of excommunication was demeaning and humiliating, and, since it was the only means of getting one's name off the rolls, he won a large judgment, which the church had to pay. As part of the judgment, the judge required the church to create a process that was simple, relatively easy, and was not humiliating. The process outlined in this article is what has resulted. But note that it changes from time to time. I will endeavor to keep this file as up to date as possible, so that it is as successful for my readers as I can make it. But there's always the possibility that the procedure has changed since the last time this article was edited. It does so with some frequency. If that happens, please write to me at the link above and let me know, so I can research the changes and update this file.


Note that, no matter what happens, your membership record is never actually expunged from the membership database. That simply doesn't happen. Everyone who was ever born to a member of the church, blessed as a baby, or baptized as a member, regardless of what happens subsequently, has a membership record. These records continue to exist, even after you die, and if you're baptized a member and haven't had your name removed, you are on the membership rolls of the church along with any unbaptized children under the age of nine, and included in the wildly inflated membership count until your 110th birthday. Yes, even if you die. I've often joked that you can drop dead in front of your bishop, he can conduct your funeral in his wardhouse, and he can bury you in the local Mormon cemetery, and you're STILL listed as a member on the rolls of the church until the 110th anniversary of your birth.

Getting your name removed from the rolls only means that you're no longer counted in their wildly inflated membership number - and, if done correctly, will accord you some privacy you wouldn't otherwise have. But your membership record still exists and will continue to exist, no matter what. Deep within the bowels of the church's granite mountain vault in Little Cottonwood Canyon, near Salt Lake, your name is securely recorded, and will be there regardless of anything that happens. And will continue to exist there until either the church itself no longer exists, or the earth no longer does. All that changes is what the church does with your membership record.

That raises the question of why you should do this. For me, the reason was that I could not countenance my name being associated with an organization that was so bigoted towards and thoroughly abusive of its sexual minority members, with my membership implying an endorsement of that bigotry. I also grew to resent the constant contact with me as outlined in the epigraph above. The day the confirmation of my excommunication arrived in the mail, it stopped. And I haven't been contacted by the church even once since. There's no guarantee they won't - I've heard of resigned members being contacted by missionaries, but that's uncommon. And the sample letter includes a legal demand that makes them vulnerable to a lawsuit if they do - and that's been shown to help.


As of this writing, besides excommunication, there are basically four processes for getting your name removed from the membership rolls of the Mormon church. Whichever process you choose, DO NOT use more than one until any previous process you have used has run to completion or you are certain a previous request is not being acted upon. If the church detects that two requests or more are in process, it will simply drop any and all requests for name removal on the assumption that they are fraudulent, and you'll be back where you are started. If you start a process, see it through till the end, and don't start another removal process until any previous process has played out. Yeah, this is going to take some time, but there's no other way.

The first process is to simply contact your local ward bishop or branch president and ask him to remove your name from the rolls. There is a process outlined for him in his Handbook of Instructions that tells him how to do so, and he should have the forms/online access for executing this process. This is the simplest, but, unfortunately, it is the least reliable - in fact, quite unreliable, as the incentive for the bishop is to not complete it. If you want to try it, send an email to your bishop with the following three (required) components: 1. Declare your desire to resign and have your membership removed. 2. You must acknowledge that you understand and agree to the repercussions of the decision (removal of effects of baptism, the priesthood, and the temple endowment and blessings, etc.). And 3. indicate whether or not you are open to ecclesiastical visits after resignation. My estimation is that between a third and a half of all requests via this route are never completed. For this reason, this is not a process I recommend.

The second process is to use the service known as Quitmormon.com. It is a free online system run by a lawyer in Salt Lake who is doing a great job of handling the requests he receives, and tens of thousands of former members have successfully and conveniently used this service to resign their memberships. Historically, the system worked remarkably well (and for a long time, it was the process I recommended), but the church has on occasion been harassing Quitmormon by doing whatever it can to make this service more difficult, time-consuming, unreliable and onerous to use, and then delaying processing their submittals by up to three months, and simply trashcanning a percentage of them. I have received confirmation (mid February, 2020), though, that lately at least some of their submittals are being processed promptly and confirmations of removal have been coming back as quickly as nine days. So once again, this is a viable option. The question remains, however, of just how reliable it is - I haven't had enough information to know if the submittals are being dealt with reliably, or if they're still trashcanning a percentage as they were.

The third process is to communicate your wishes directly with the Confidential Records Department by postal mail as outlined below (note that this will often not work for residents of the European Union - you will need, instead, to submit your request through your national EU privacy office (see the link in the note at the bottom of this page). This is the most inconvenient of the four processes, but for North Americans at least, is the fastest and, if properly executed, the most reliable. Often as not, users of this method report getting confirmation letters back by return mail. And that is why I am currently recommending it. It requires that you draft a letter, have it notarized, and then take it to the post office to have it mailed as priority certified mail, with return receipt. Yeah, it's a pain, but to be sure you get out as quickly as possible, you've gotta do it, as I will explain below.

The fourth process is to contact the Confidential Records Department via email. There have been several reports of people who have successfully resigned via email, and recently it seems to be increasingly effective. There are several reasons I discourage use of email for this; whether the church elects to honor an email request seems to depend on whose desk it lands on, and so there's really no certainty that it will be honored. I have had reports of people who sent a resignation email and all that actually happened was that some of their functionality on LDS Tools or features on the church website were removed or restricted, but no further action was taken. Additionally, more often than not, people who have tried this method have reported that they have gotten a response indicating that it is an "ecclesiastical matter that is handled at the local level," and so the request gets forwarded to your stake president, and he will probably delegate it to your bishop. And God help you getting it off their desks. So if you go this route, I strongly suggest you use the suggested wording for your resignation email, as explained below.


Name Removal By Request To The Confidential Records Department Via Postal Mail

For most members, especially those in the United States and Canada, this is the preferred method, as it is the most sure. For members residing in the U.K., or E.U., see the notes for "Citizens of the European Union" at the bottom of this page, as how the church deals with those resignations is somewhat different.

If you are not yet 18 years of age, the church will require the permission of all parents or guardians that have legal custody over you before they will remove your name from the rolls, but if you can secure their written permission (see the note for "Minors" at the bottom of this page for more detailed information), you can get it done. If you can't get their permission, your only legal option is to either wait till your 18th birthday or get an order from a family court.

Using the mail option means the only thing you are really going to need that you may not have is your membership record number. The church is quite used to supplying this to its members, as it is required to set up and use a member account at the church's web site. It is useful to have this account set up (link is in the upper right), so you can determine if your name has actually been removed. If it has been, the access to your account will be denied when you try to log onto it. So it's useful if only for confirming that the action's been taken.

It's also important, if you have that account set up, to log onto it and mark it "Private-Leaders Only" - and you'll need to do this for your household as well for it to be effective (see the notes at the bottom of this page). You should do this before you resign, so that your contact information actually gets purged from ward databases prior to your resignation. Otherwise there is no guarantee they will be - and there have been some reports to the effect that they haven't been.

If you do not have the membership record numbers for you or your children, you will need to ask your bishop, ward clerk or ward membership clerk for your membership record number, they should be able to supply it to you without any questions asked. You can obtain it from Salt Lake by writing to the Membership Records office at the address below, if you do not have your bishop's contact information. The reason the church needs/wants this is that, with 16 million members of record, the chances are quite high that, even with an unusual name, there is someone in their database who has a similar or identical name.

Without the membership record number, the Membership Records office will have to contact the stake president or bishop and verify that the record they are looking at is indeed yours. That slows things down enormously - by even months.

If you have any minor children, whether or not they have been baptized, and you wish to remove their names as well, you will need their membership record numbers as well. Be sure to ask for them at the same time, if you are going to request their name removal(s).

It has recently become the policy of the church, when removing the names of parents, to also remove the names of minor children who are unbaptized and at or below the age of nine. This is a recent change, and it is not certain that this applies also to minor children who have been baptized, nor is it certain that this policy will continue. If your minor baptized child also seeks name removal at the same time, it is required to provide a separate letter for him/her, bearing his/her notarized signature, as well as that of his legal guardian. A spouse or adult child seeking name removal will also require a separate notarized letter.

You will need to generate the following letter, one for each person seeking to resign, including baptized children, changing the information as required. Feel free to copy and paste this text into your text editor for getting started.

        Your full legal name here
        Your current mailing address (they will need this for the confirmation letter)
        City, State or province
        Country (if outside the U.S.)

        By CERTIFIED MAIL

        Confidential Records Department
        Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
        50 East North Temple, Room 1372
        Salt Lake City, Utah 84150-5310
        U.S.A. (if outside the U.S.)

        To Whom It May Concern:

        This is my formal instrument of resignation from the Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints, and is effective immediately upon notarization of this letter. By resigning, I withdraw my consent to being treated as and considered a member of the church, and formally withdraw my recognition of any and all authority of the church. By so resigning, I withdraw my consent to being subject to the rules, constraints, policies, authority and discipline of that organization.

        As I am now no longer a member, I am hereby requiring that my name be immediately and fully removed from the membership rolls and database of the church, that I no longer be counted as a member for any purpose, use, reason, logic or statistic. I am also requiring the removal of the names of any minor, unbaptized children in my custody as may appear below.

        I understand and have given due consideration to the consequences you deem this action to have. I am aware that my baptism is cancelled as well as priesthood ordination as the case may be for male members, as well as any temple ordinances, blessings or any and all other rights and privileges as I may have had and recognize that should I ever wish to rejoin the church, it will require an interview and rebaptism. I am fully aware of and conversant with this and hereby irrevocably consent to it.

        I require and expect this action to be taken immediately and without a waiting period or delay. I am aware of my legal rights and expect and require that they be fully respected.

        I also require that it be handled in confidentiality, and that this action not be disclosed to anyone not involved in the actual processing of this resignation by the membership records department. Specifically, you are not permitted to mention or discuss this with anyone, including but not limited to members of my family or the ward or stake in which I reside.

        Furthermore, I require that you will no longer contact me at any time or for any reason other than to confirm, by letter, that this instruction has been duly carried out, and that my name no longer appears on the membership rolls or records of the church.

        If the instructions herein are not complied with in full, you may expect legal action.

        Signature:________________________________
        Full legal name: (put your full legal name here)
        Previous name(s) by which I may appear on your records: (put maiden names or any previous names here)
        Membership Record Number: (put your membership record number here)

        Name of unbaptized minor child in my custody: (insert here the name of any unbaptized minor child you wish to include in this name removal)
        Membership Record Number of above: (put the child's membership record number here)
        (duplicate as many times as is required for all your unbaptized children or remove this section if it does not apply)

That's the letter you need to prepare and send. You also need to prepare and include the notarization form on a separate piece of paper that you'll take to your notary:

        (insert state or province name where notarization is taking place here) Notary Acknowledgement

        State of (insert state or province name where notarization is taking place here)

        County of (insert here the name of the county, canton, parish or local government area where the notarization is taking place)

        The foregoing instrument was acknowledged before me on this_______________ (date)

        By ________________________________________________________________

        (seal)

                    ___________________________________________

                    Signature of Person Acknowledging This Instrument

                    Title or Rank:___________________________________

                    Serial Number (if any)___________________________


Once you have suitably prepared the letter(s) and the notary acknowledgement, take them both, UNSIGNED to your notary and sign it as directed and then have it notarized. If you do not know or have ready access to a notary, most banks can provide the service, and most do so free of charge or at a very nominal cost. It may be necessary to make an appointment; some banks require this, most do not, though you may have to wait. Photocopy both your resignation letter and the notary affixation, and keep them for your records. In the event it becomes necessary to sue the church (and this has happened many times), these will become evidence in court.

Prepare an envelope with your return name and address, as it appears on the letter, and addressed to the church as specified in the letter above. Once you have had your letter notarized, take it to the post office and ask the clerk to send it "priority certified mail, return receipt requested." They should give you a receipt with a tracking number you can use online to prove that the church actually received the letter. When you get the return receipt, keep it with the copy of your letter.

There are reasons why the church requires all this. They've had problems with people falsifying resignations by others, by people sending in multiple resignations, by sending in resignations where their names have already been removed, and a variety of other problems. The reason for sending it certified is to be able to prove that they got it, and that means that it is thereby a legal instrument. When they get hit with a legal instrument, they take it much more seriously.

Good luck, and let me know how it goes. If you encounter any problems, please advise so that I can correct this file and make it better for the next person who needs to go through this process. Thanks and best wishes! Oh, and check in to Exmormon on Facebook or r/exmormon on Reddit, and let us know how you're doing!.


Name Removal By Emailed Request

Not the recommended method, but easily the most convenient, and I am increasingly hearing that it is successful. If you are 18 years of age or older, and are insistent on trying it, you can, in principle, do the entire transaction in a few minutes via email. Note that whether you will succeed depends on whose desk it lands on, so the response can vary anywhere from prompt and immediate action all the way to simply ignoring the request. There have been some reports that nothing happened except some of the functionality of the member's LDS Tools or church website member account have been suspended. But one thing that is known, is that it helps if you use the suggested wording below.

Before you do that, though, you should log onto your church website member account, if you have one, and mark your privacy status as "Private - Leaders Only." Doing so will remove your contact information from any ward databases in which it may be stored - as long as every other member living at that address has done so. So this is a whole-household effort. If you don't do this before resigning, there's no guarantee that your contact information will be removed from ward databases when your name is removed from the membership rolls. It also makes your membership record inaccessible to ward members, though it will still be accessible to people in a leadership position - the bishopric, the stake presidency and high council, priesthood and any of the auxiliary leaderships. But at least the ward members generally won't have access to it.

When that's done, you're ready to do the email. The basic information you must provide are your full legal name and any previous names by which you may appear on the church records (such as a maiden name or a pre-adoptive name), your full current mailing address including zip code, your date of birth, your date and location of baptism (if known), and your membership record number (required - get it from your bishop or ward clerk if you don't have it).

In addition to providing the above information, here is the body of the email you should send (OK to copy and paste into your email editor).

        This email is to officially notify The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that I am hereby cancelling my church membership and are requesting that my name be removed permanently from the membership rolls of the church.

        As per law, I hereby render my membership cancelled with immediate effect, and you are informed that I am therefore no longer are subject to the church's rules, constraints, policies, authority and discipline.

        I understand my rights under the law and expect them to be complied with, including, but not limited to the right to privacy - that this request will be handled immediately, without delay, and by the Confidential Records Department only and without consultation with or advice to anyone else (other than the Global Service Center for generating a confirmation letter).

        I fully understand and irrevocably agree that any rights, grants, privileges, immunities and "blessings" I may have received in consequence of my membership are cancelled and no longer have any effect, including but not limited to baptism, priesthood ordination, temple endowments, etc.

        In the event I elect to rejoin, I understand and fully accept that rejoining the church would require an interview, ecclesiastical approval and baptism.

        I expect and demand that no further communications with the church are desired or will be considered acceptable to me, and that the church will cease any further communication with me at any time, by any method, from any person, or for any purpose not related to this request. I hereby request confirmation by postal mail confirming that this action has been undertaken, to be sent to the mailing address given above.

Email your request to msr-confrec@ldschurch.org and print out the email and keep a copy of it in your records. Wait for up to a month for a response.


Additional Notes

Threats of Excommunication: There have been instances of the church threatening to excommunicate members after they have sent resignation letters to the Confidential Records Department or to the bishop or stake president (briefly in 2004, before the courts slapped them down, they were routinely doing this). As you are legally no longer a member of the church at the instant the Membership Records Deparment opens and reads your letter or email, they cannot legally do this without incurring liability. You are legally no longer under their membership obligations, so to do so constitutes defamation under the laws of the United States and the laws of most other countries.

Normally, the Confidential Records Department will advise a local bishop or stake president to cancel a disciplinary court if one has been convened that they are aware of. There has been at least one instance (in 2004) when Membership Records tried to convince a local bishop to cancel a disciplinary court and failed to do so; the bishop convened the court and excommunicated the former member anyway, and the church could likely have been successfully sued in that case, but the former member chose not to exercise that option. He could have made some serious money, as the church does everything it can to settle lawsuits out of court to avoid the negative publicity.

If anyone threatens you with excommunication, immediately call the Confidential Records Department on the telephone (1-800-453-3860 ext 2-2053), or better yet, fax them a demand letter (801-240-1565) and advise them of it and ask them to call the person involved and warn him of the legal position he is putting the church into (if you fax the demand, keep the demand letter in your resignation file, along with the evidence that it was sent). Include this language in the demand letter: "It is my understanding that a disciplinary court has been convened regarding my resignation. I require and expect that it be immediately cancelled, and without condition or delay."

There have been numerous instances of the bishop cancelling the pending trial within hours of having done so. If the bishop is stupid enough to go ahead with the court, keep the originals of all communications you may have with him or the church. They could be evidence for a court case that could possibly make you tens of thousands of dollars in a court judgment.

Minors: If you are not 18 years of age, in most countries, the process will require your parent or legal guardian's written permission, before the church will honor your resignation request. Include a letter from your parent(s) or guardian giving permission for you to resign your membership - you'll need letters signed by each person who has legal custody over you. While there have been reports that simple signed letters have sufficed, it's best not to count on that, so include that signed letter with the documents you are having notarized. How parents react to news that their children have resigned is notoriously unpredictable, and please note that there have been several reports of parents who, once they have confirmed that their child has resigned, have been disowned them and thrown out in the street. If you're a minor and still living at home, bear in mind this is an actual possibility, and be sure it won't happen to you before you resign, or have a bullet-proof plan in mind in case it does. If it does happen to you, go to the r/exmormon or r/exmoteen subreddits and ask for help. You'll almost certainly get responses from those willing to help you out.

Ecclesiastical Endorsement: If you are enrolled in any of the church colleges or universities, and you had to obtain an ecclesiastical endorsement to enroll, you can expect that this action will result in the immediate cancellation of your endorsement, and you will be promptly expelled, your credits cancelled and your transcript made inaccessible to other colleges and universities. Be aware that this will almost certainly happen, and if you have recently graduated, but your degree has not yet been posted, it means your degree will likely never end up being posted. This process has been known to take as long as six months. So if you are dependent on your enrollment, take care! Don't say you weren't warned! Wait until your degree is actually posted before you resign!

Data Privacy Policy: Believe it or not, the church actually has a data privacy policy, and you can have your church membership records marked "Private-Leaders Only," making them inaccessible to church membership generally, though they are still accessible to auxiliary leaderships, the priesthood quorum leaderships, the bishopric, the stake presidency and high council, and stake and ward clerks. For it to be effective, you also have to similarly mark your household private and have all of the members at your mailing address do so, but doing so prior to resignation ensures that your contact information will be removed from all ward and stake databases, and the missionaries can't get to it, either. If you do this after you've resigned, there's no guarantee that the database removals will actually happen (there have been lots of reports that they don't). That's why it's important to do it yourself and do it before you resign. Yes, it may slow down the response from the church to your resignation, but it's worth it to ensure that they don't keep bugging you after you've resigned.

If you have a member account set up on the church website, you can do it there. If you don't, or you have already resigned and your account is inaccessible, send an email with your name as it appears on your confirmation letter, membership record number, and date of your resignation confirmation letter, to DataPrivacyOfficer@ChurchofJesusChrist.org and state in that email that you wish to have any and all remaining database entries marked "private" or preferentially be removed entirely. If you live in the European Union, they must, by law, remove nearly all the information they may have about you in their databases.

Citizens of the European Union have certain rights under the law that other members, depending on what country they live in, may not have, and because EU privacy rights are considerably different than in North America, how the church handles things may be different. Many of these differences relate to privacy and data retention, but some also relate to process. Those citizens have a legal right to have their name removed from the rolls of the church, promptly, and the data that may be retained by the church after removal is strictly limited. It varies slightly by nation, but the upshot of it is that they may not withhold from you what data they are storing and what they do with it. This is true even after you have resigned.

Because laws are different in the E.U., how the church handles resignations is a bit different there. I have been receiving reports that the church will not accept a postal request from E.U. residents as described above, and will demand a current address if you do not provide one, so that the local bishop can be informed and that he will handle the resignation processing. For reasons described above, that's not acceptable to most members, and it's not reliable. For that reason, I suggest that E.U. residents send their resignations via email to the government privacy office in their E.U. member nation - the link to where you can find the address is at the conclusion of this article. Under E.U. regulations, the church can open itself up to criminal prosecution if it does not respond, so they will respond promptly and with certainty. You may email your request to msr-confrec@ldschurch.org, but if you have an email address for your national privacy office, you should CC them as well. Mention in your email that you are aware of your rights under E.U. law and you expect and require them to be complied with.

To find out what data they are retaining and what they do with it, you may send an email request to DataPrivacyOfficer@ChurchofJesusChrist.org and a CC to TeubnerOG@ChurchofJesusChrist.org. You must specify in your request, your name, membership record number (if known), the EU nation in which you reside, and which of the following categories of information you are interested in knowing - and they may not legally withold any of the following categories of information: 1) the categories of data concerned that they may have; 2) the purposes of the processing; 3) the recipients or categories of recipients to whom the personal data have been disclosed; 4) what appropriate safeguards have been put in place if the personal data has been transferred to a third country or to an international organisation; 5) the source of the data if known; 6) the envisaged period for which the personal data will be stored; and 7) the existence, if applicable, of automated decision-making, including profiling, to which the data is subject.

If the church does not fully respond to your request within 30 days, you may (and should) file a complaint with the relevant national authority (of the nation in which you live) charged with enforcement of the General Data Protection Regulation Act. A list of those authorities can be found here.


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