I was nervous when two Sundays ago my stake president, Bart MacKay, called me into his office. Here was a man who had my entire future in his hands. If he didn’t like me, he could kick me out of my school, my job, and my housing. I was already seriously considering leaving BYU and the LDS Church after this semester.
I began our interview by telling him my story. I was open about my atheism, my experimentation with alternative spirituality, and my support of feminism and LGBT*QIA activism.
He cut me off while I spoke with him and told me he frankly didn’t care about my story. Rather, I was in there because of a feminist critique I wrote about the temple, as well as my association with the occult.
President MacKay had received a portfolio from an anonymous source that contained much of my online activity. My bishop and the honor code office also received the same portfolio from the same anonymous source.
He called me a covenant breaker for writing about the temple, and whenever I would try to express how I was feeling, he said he couldn’t believe a word I said because of it. He’d cut me off any times I’d try to express myself. He’d tell me why I did what I did instead of letting me explain myself. He raised his voice to me. He compared me to Korihor multiple times. At one point he even compared me to a criminal on the stand. (President MacKay’s an attorney, so that may be one of the causes of his delightful personality).
To end it all off, he told me that he loved me and saw me as a son of God.
Excuse me, but if you loving me means that you don’t even care about who I am or where I’m coming from, I don’t want you to love me.
If being a son of God means you’re going to put words in my mouth and compare me to a villain from the Book of Mormon, I don’t want to be a son of God.
Telling me that you love me after you treat me less than human is similar to an abuser telling their victim that they love them after treating them like dirt. Thanks President Bart MacKay. Thanks for loving me.
President MacKay told me that he was going to disfellowship me if I didn’t repent of beliefs and actions that I don’t think are wrong. Being disfellowshipped while at BYU would make me get kicked out of school, work, and housing.
I broke down and asked him to wait until the end of the semester so my parents could get their money’s worth for my tuition. I told him he had total control over my future. He said, “No, I don’t. You do. You are the master of your own destiny.”
That’s when I realized that I SHOULD be the master of my own destiny. But I’m not the master right now. Because I was currently attending BYU, this man who doesn’t seem to care about who me was the master of my destiny.
Comparing me to Korihor, President MacKay said all that I ever do is look out for myself and justify incorrect behavior. There was some truth to that. I was lying about who I am and what I believe and justifying my lying so that I could keep attending BYU.
I decided right then and there that I would drop out of BYU, quit my work, look for new housing, and resign from the LDS Church. I was going to do this so that I wouldn’t be like self-serving Korihor with his fake repentance.
I don’t want to be like Korihor. I don’t want to justify lying any longer. I want to live up to my ideals even under the threat of losing everything. And I want to leave the LDS Church and everything that comes with it, including my school, work, and housing so that I can be the master of my own destiny.
I gave the following letter to my bishop yesterday:
To whom it may concern,
Please remove my names from the records of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I no longer feel like a member of the LDS Church, and believe it is dishonest for me to pretend otherwise.
I’ve been struggling for the past few months trying to decide to stay in the LDS Church or not. I returned from my mission last year in August. I found I was agnostic by November and that I was an atheist by February. I do not deny the wonderful experiences I’ve had in the LDS Church. But to me it seems that there is no place in the LDS Church for secular Mormons. From going the temple to participating in priesthood rituals to holding a variety of callings, it is clear to me that people like myself are not wanted here.
Besides being an unbeliever, I have no interest in paying tithing to an organization that bars women from full participation in its ranks and has such a shady history in its treatment of homosexual and transgender people, even up to the current day.
Just because I no longer feel like a member of the LDS Church, however, does not mean I no longer feel connected with the Mormon community. I plan on continuing to support my Mormon and ex-Mormon LGBT*QIA siblings, as well as my feminist and skeptical sisters and brothers, those who’ve left and those who choose to stay. My goal is to help make the Mormon and ex-Mormon community a safe place for all people.
At this time, I am following the advice of my stake president and being the master of my own destiny. I don’t want anybody else being my master. And for this reason, I repeat my request that you remove my names from the records of the LDS Church.
Feel free to contact me with your thoughts and feelings regarding this blog post at cvpenfold at gmail dot com.