not in Primary anymore

my resignation letter

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.

Thank you,

Curtis Penfold

Feel free to contact me with your thoughts and feelings regarding this blog post at cvpenfold at gmail dot com.

120 Responses to “my resignation letter”

    • JazminXX

      Ive followed YMF page off and on for a while and while i consider myself a feminist per se, and felt i might find some like-minded posts here, im finding more reasons to disagree with this blog based on posts like Curtis’.

      I’ve never felt like the men belittled or took the women for granted because of malice, but just that it is traditional and for some reason the way God made it. Wearing pants to sunday? yup, pretty much every week. Do i feel i fit in a church all the time? nope, and thats why i come on here.

      But Its posts like this that blow my mind. I felt for Curtis by how he made it sound sound that he was treated bad. Most of my bishops have been great influences in my life (besides my first Bishop who caused me to almost stop going to church).

      But Curtis said the whole thing with the bishop happened because of information which “contained much of my online activity”. So

      i googled his name along with “occult” to see what i figured would justify Curtis’ mistreatment. I was wrong. The top thing that shows up shows this:
      Curtis says
      Since posting this, I’ve gained a rich relationship with Baphomet who I’ve come to love a great deal. Growing up Mormon, I’ve been taught that God is this Being of Light and Purity and Love. I’ve learned to hate evil, to fight against it.

      Baphomet has taught me to try to accept both the good and the bad, the strong and the weak. For me, Baphomet has come to become the Great Hermaphrodite. He/She represents me as a complete person, containing both good and bad, masculine and feminine, light and dark, weak and strong. He/She also represents the Universe, full of good and evil, living and dead, human and animal. As I grow to love Him/Her, I grow to love every moment, both pleasurable and painful.

      Baphomet has also come to me in my mind’s eye in the form of the Serpent, who I now view to be the hero in the Adam and Eve story. Here the Serpent was, trying to free us from this false dichotomy of good and evil, male and female, obedience and disobedience. He helps us leave this childish, false utopia and enter a more complicated and unsure world we call Reality.

      Since I’m a journalist and an activist, his form as the Serpent has been important for me. He inspires me to bring the knowledge I find to the rest of humanity, to help bring the unknown and uncomfortable to light.”

      So let me get this straight. you worship Lucifer as Baphomet and as the the Serpent, and then he inspired you to “bring the knowledge I find to the rest of humanity, to help bring the unknown and uncomfortable to light.”

      I feel like i might be frequenting the wrong site when the posts aren’t by members with a moderate mind but instead an evil one. He gets inspiration from the depths of hell. Well, i dont know how many of you are active in Relief Society or the like, but after reading his ‘online content’ im more prone to re-read some of those conference talks then ever come back to this site. Did even one other person get spooked out by this guy?

      its unsettling to see all the comments of people who just eat this story up. I feel violated having read his article and feeling like i sided with him before learning where he gets inspired from. Is Curtis some innocent pure soul who was attacked by some grumpy bishop? hmmmm

      ” I’m impressed with your moral fortitude”
      “you were treated so poorly”
      “This took a lot of courage!”

      I would’ve said the same thing until i got a sliver of the other side to his story.

      I’ve only been a member for a couple years but didnt the villains of the book of mormon draw crowds by their flattering words? i’ll follow the bishop’s advice and read up on Korior. Seems a lot of people have been lead astray.

      • Mungagungadin

        If you had a problem with that, you need to take it to someone with an education and an ability to independently evaluate existential topics.

      • Nicol Sorenson-Legakis

        I appreciate the info you sent as it clarifies much and I agree with you 100%. People should know the facts before taking Curtis’ side.

      • Jarom

        Good point. One set of mystical beliefs totally invalidates another set of mystical beliefs. Thanks for clarifying.

      • hannahwheelwright

        JazminXX- Curtis is one of about 20 writers for this blog and is the only one with an interest in the occult like this. Certainly come to whatever conclusions about him you will, but don’t assume the rest of the writers for the blog are involved with the same activities or hold the same beliefs as him.

      • Adia

        As someone who believes in God and I believe has a similar belief system to your own, though I am no longer LDS, that God = Good and Satan = Bad, I think you may need to acquaint yourself with the beliefs of others before you judge Curtis so harshly. As someone who has met Curtis I can tell you that while he is happy to talk about his personal beliefs he has never told me my own beliefs are wrong and tried to replace my beliefs with his.

        He has very little in common with Korihor.

      • curtispenfold

        As already stated by Hannah, I am the only writer with an open interest in the occult, and I believe I’m the only writer who’s officially resigned from the LDS Church as well. So judging the whole blog based on one writer is inappropriate.

        On top of that, I just want to mention that my bishop also thought I may need to get disfellowshipped for my very open association with the occult. But he actually asked where I was coming from. He didn’t call me names. He treated me like a fellow adult. An adult he may have disagreed with, but an adult none the less. As opposed to my stake president who honestly took advantage of his position of authority.

        For anybody who is interested in my spiritual worldview (not that it should be anybody’s business), I do identify as an atheist who loves ritual, fortunetelling, paganism, religious services, and the occult. I don’t believe in supernatural things, though. My relationship with ritual and deities is similar to my relationship with art and theatre. (Other occultists may say that I work under a psychological paradigm).

        I may get a lot out of playing Hamlet on stage. I may come to understand myself and my life differently as I do so. But that doesn’t mean I believe that I am actually Hamlet or that anything supernatural is happening on stage. Baphomet, the Great Hermaphrodite, is as real to me as Hamlet is or Harry Potter. The concept may make me view the world a little different, but that doesn’t mean I think there actually is some all powerful hermaphrodite out there who is the whole universe.

        And by the way, Baphomet is NOT Lucifer. (S)He’s a rather modern invention from the 1800s.

      • ande glass

        Jaz, I have to address your comment. There is nothing in the bible that states the serpent was Satan. Simply that a serpent tempted Eve. However, in examining the Adam and Eve story (because it is just a story, after all) you find that without the serpent the “fall” wouldn’t have happened. Eve was expected to know it was wrong to do what someone else (besides god) told her to do even though she had yet to have knowledge of good and evil. How does that make sense? This is the equivalent to spanking an infant because they ate some food on the floor! If you do not possess the ability to know.right from wrong then punishment is cruel.

        The world needs good and evil, yin and yang. Without thedeepest ccruelties kindness wouldn’t appear as sweet. Do I wish there was no evil? Of course I do. But this is a world of humans who are motivated by selfish means. Sometimes selfishness benefits others, sometimes it doesn’t.

        I have to applaud Curtis here. He was trying to get an education (his own and his parents’ tithing money helped to subsidize his education. Had they not paid tithing and instead put it in a college savings account he would’ve had his choice of colleges) and his shift of spiritual belief was enough to get him KICKED OUT of school. Absolutely ridiculous. I attended BYU myself for a year. And in attending I found I didn’t believe. I constantly feared getting kicked out because I didn’t go to church (worked full time, that was my only day to recover) and even pierced my lip. It is wrong to kick someone out of an educational institution they are paying for simply because they are exercising their right as an adult and changing their minds on spiritual matters. It isn’t illegal and doesn’t influence how well they do in classes. It is very discriminatory and unethical. It took courage to stand upfor hhimself. He now has to find a new school, new home, new job. All at once. He could have continued to pretend to believe and kept his housing, schooling, and job but he didn’t. He put everything out there and that is incredibly hard and scary. Good job, man. Keep fighting the good fight.

      • Sabrina

        I think it is different because many people know Curtis in person. I know him and while I do not agree with him on many things, many. But, I think it is wrong that his school, work and housing are all dependent on this one stake president. Curtis is just doing what he thinks is right, he is seeking for truth. We don’t have to agree with him and his occult activities but getting him kicked out of school, losing his job and being homeless for not believing what we do? Cray-cray.

      • N. Anderson

        I loved your response… to be honest I am so saddened by all the outcry people have these days over things the perceive as ‘tradition based’ and never take the time to study or reflect but instead just react. Yes I am referring to the women’s movement, the same sex movement etc. And while we probably don’t agree on everything I still appreciate your sincere desire to make righteous judgements. Thank you for actually looking for truth instead of just reacting.

      • Fred Edgar Bailey

        I have to admit I am impressed by the lengths to which the LDS will go in order to blacken an apostate’s name. Baphomet, indeed! What malarkey.

        It’s as if you blamed Rick Santorum for what happened when his name was googled. You’re a piece of work, darlin’. And you know damned well what you are doing. It is heinous, hypocritical, low, underhanded, fou7l, sycophantic, cowardly, morally rotten, spiritually bankrupt, odious and hateful. Congratulations are in order for such a thoroughgoing abandonment of honor, principle, and the ninth commandment: not everyone has the brazen effrontery to perpetrate this kind of bald faced smear.

      • Brentums

        I know I’m coming in late, but isn’t there a teaching in your church that goes something like: “We claim the privelege of worshiping the almight god, and allow all men the same privelege, let them worship how, where. and what they may”? I mean, I’m no expert, but that kind of sounds like people are allowed to believe in whatever they want. Furthermore, it seems to me the very definition of ethnocentricism, or I suppose you could call it majority privilege, for you to insist that others judge your religion by your standards and definitions, while you don’t do the same for beliefs that differ from your own.

        Oh, and also, Joseph Smith was a total ocultist too, so there’s that…

      • Hyrum

        You are a sad little person. You’ve only been a member for a short time and you are already judging others for their so called “skeletons” while pushing aside your own. Grow up and get a life. He did what was necessary and therefore should be commended for his bravery.

    • Anonymous

      Wow. I’m so impressed. What you have done has consequences like withdrawal from an addiction such as depression, anger, grief etc. Hang in there and may you be supported!

      • Mungagungadin

        dear anonymous,

        What Curtis has done has only consequences of continual personal progress. There is zero “withdrawal” from anything harmful. Curtis has been living amazingly conscientiously.

        Now, Curtis might experience depression, anger and grief — in fact I’m sure he has — due to the profoundly cruel choices of others in this particular passion play. What did it feel like to have his explorations of spiritual systems cached and reported? That would make me feel alienated and betrayed. What did it feel like to have the stake pres be so dismissive of Curtis’s personal journey in favor of rejection and judgment according to the stake president’s preconceived ideas? Probably like a personal assault. What did it feel like to have that same narrow, rather dim witted stake president use his far-too-broad powers to cancel his education, housing and job? As in that case Curtis was the victim of both an individual and a bad policy that is used to coerce obedience, exactly the kind of violation of conscience that Curtis has always stood for (meaning that Curtis was forced to choose between the most important spiritual tool he has in his life, and his education, housing and job)

        YES Curtis will likely experience depression, anger and grief. And YES, we will support him. And YES, we will remember this and do what we can to change the world – even the world of BYU – for the better, in whatever way we can.

        Marni Zollinger, Crown Point Ward, Gresham Stake, OR
        (just in case you want to support the culture of reporting, alienating, judging, coercion and stripping of standing any further than your passive aggressive comment)

      • Fred Edgar Bailey

        No shit. Theocracies are always frightening.

  1. fMhLisa

    I’m so sorry that you’re Bishop was such an asshole. You took a very brave step, and I’m sorry it cost you so much.

  2. Rachel

    love it! I’ve been thinking about sending in my own resignation letter (I haven’t been active for about 3 years now) and this blog post is making me consider it. I remember being at BYU (and even being a teacher there) and feeling like I always had to toe the line–like the smallest misstep would get me fired. That people are watching you, monitoring you. It’s pretty messed up if you think about.

    There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not grateful that I left.

    • bdallmann

      I’m curious – are there any Mormons who have left the church and then repented and returned? Because I hear so often about how happy they are to have left, and how free they feel after escaping the church.

      • Zara

        Sure–but those are the ones who still believe and left for other reasons. Those of us who leave because we don’t believe anymore will never return. We’re much happier outside of the church. The church’s control over every aspect of your life is only bearable if you truly believe that it’s the only path to exaltation (and really, not always then). Once the spell is broken, it’s like being asked to believe in Santa Claus again, if Santa wanted to tell you what kind of underwear to wear, and what movies to watch.

      • Fred Edgar Bailey

        Many who leave cannot afford to also leave Utah. They are watched and persecuted and dogged. This cult is poisonous. Part of shunning them is never giving them rest or succor. Thus they find employment difficult, housing hard to secure and so on. The LDS is only the more odious the closer to Salt Lake City its victims live.

      • Anonymous

        Yes, and I will explain why it happens.
        Indeed, I always hear talk about reactivation, and such other heart-warming stories. One of the most prominent illustrations of someone returning to God is exemplified in The Prodigal Son. But such reasons for dissent tend to have a superficial bases EG getting offended, losing interest, ect… I can’t recall any stories of someone who returned to the Church after leaving it with a deep secular logical investigation.
        However, there are a few stories where one had begun to doubt the church, but then was able to reconcile some of their knowledge with the church principals, and realize that they could have been wrong; personal views are changeable but only one is allegedly the right one. Not knowing what one’s ultimate opinion on a matter could be, makes one more susceptible to the sound opinions of others IE the belief that if one knew more, that their contemporary conflicting ideas would become compatible with the church’s ideals if they had more light (which one does not yet have). Consequently evaluating the validity of the Church goes as follows: The church is true, so what evidence supports this? Or as president Uchtdorf stated “doubt your doubt before you doubt you faith”… I would classify that as confirmation bias. This is opposed to approaching ones faith as formatted: what evidence is their, which makes what true?
        Anyways, people who return, or revive their faith, come back feeling invited and are glad to be back (from what I’ve observed).

  3. Ally Grigg

    Curtis! This was an awesome post and an awesome letter. Both were very powerful. I admire your bravery, determination, and optimism in taking this huge step. Good luck in wherever the future takes you!

  4. Taylor Clarke

    I’m so sorry the church, and those of us who appreciate and need your perspectives, will miss out on the awesomeness that is you. It would be funny, if it wasn’t so tragic, that some church leaders say the most horrible and hurtful things and then think it’s OK by ending it with their professed love. Sending you the best, virtual, vibes during this transition time in your life.

  5. Connell O'Donovan

    I’m so happy that you’re aligning your life with your beliefs, embracing integrity, and have taken control of your life. Congratulations! Mazel Tov! And welcome to the wonderful whirled of post-Mormonism!!

    • Connell O'Donovan

      Here’s the email form you can use to resign, since giving a letter to your bishop generally doesn’t work.

      To: Confidential Records:
      Subject: Resignation of membership in LDS church

      My full name is ______; my date of birth is ____________ . [I was baptized on ___(date). My membership number is ______.]

      My residence address is _______ [in the ________ ward/branch].

      I hereby resign my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, effective immediately, and request you to remove my name permanently from your membership records. I wish no further contact from representatives of your church except to confirm that my name has been removed from your records. I expect to receive that confirmation within a reasonably short time.

      • Nick Literski

        Great short form, but I’d suggest replacing “request” with “direct.” Never give these people the impression that you believe they have the power to grant or deny your “request.” Take back your own power, and DIRECT that they remove your name from their records.

      • exoraluna

        ” [I was baptized on ___(date). My membership number is ______.]

        My residence address is _______ [in the ________ ward/branch].”

        I destroyed all of this information eons ago.

        How in the world would I find my membership number/ward-branch ?

        I have been invisible to the to the LDS spies since my mother died and my siblings do not know where I live.

      • Fred Edgar Bailey

        How about adding a coda? “Eat shit and die” has a nice ring to it.

  6. Lori

    I’m so sorry that your disaffection happened at a time in your life when it costs you so much in terms of school and where you live. I am not sorry, however, that you’re making a very important decision based off of integrity and doing what’s right. I wish you the best in your future and I hope this transition isn’t too hard.

  7. Jess

    This breaks my heart. Not because you are leaving, but because you were treated so poorly. I wish you all the best as you chart your own course. I will put in a plug for the U- lovely institution.

  8. Alison

    This took a lot of courage! I admire you for standing up for yourself and deciding you want to the master of your own destiny. I’m so sorry your SP reacted the way he did and was not willing to really listen to you or even try to understand. It’s sad that someone felt it was their duty to policy your activity and report it. It’s even sadder to think that the person called to serve/love/support you reacted this way. You may face some very hard times as you go through this and I hope you have people who you can turn to and rely on that will support and love you through it.

  9. Chelsea S.

    I admire you for you decision. We all have to do what we think and know is right, no matter the cost or consequences.

  10. Megan

    I’ve never been brave enough to tell a bishop about my dissatisfaction with the way the church treats LGBTQ people. Thanks to your example of integrity I might find the courage to do just that.

    Your former stake president needs to learn that love is an action, not merely a word. And the fact that an anonymous someone handed him a portfolio is disgusting and one of the things I hate the most about BYU (that people feel the need to police each other).

    Best of luck to you on your new journey.

  11. jarom

    Good luck on life’s journey, I am sure you will be just fine. Two of the hardest and consequently best decisions in my life: leaving the church after an aborted mission, and moving out of Utah to Oregon. In hindsight I wish I had done both sooner!

    I second the opinion the University of Utah is a great alternative especially when compared against BYU, if bailing the state isn’t feasible.
    I am not sure how an individual can reliably cope under that fascist regime.

    Best wishes! Jaro

  12. MRW

    the SP comparing you to the anti-christ and in the same breath saying that he loves you as a son of god reminded me of something i read (or maybe heard) margaret toscano say about church court: it is like being “raped by the care bears.”

    church discipline is so infuriating. things that in some wards and stakes would be A-OK (saying you don’t believe, don’t want to pay tithing because the church is sexist, are interested in alternative forms of spirituality) are grounds for disfellowship in others.

    also i can’t believe someone narc’ed on you. don’t people have better stuff to do? mormon taliban types need to be called on the carpet. how telling on people is gods work or christ-like is beyond me.

    admire your courage and conviction. cutting the strings, even when you don’t believe, can be hard.

    my best to you as you move forward.

    • Amy

      “Raped by the Care Bears.” There are some images that can never leave your mind. That might top mine for the day.

  13. Mungagungadin

    I feel like I partly contributed to these events, because I felt like you were channeling some of my temple- trauma in writing that particular post. It has taken me years and multiple spirals of depression to finally get to the point that I have been able to put the temple behind me. I no longer believe that God – or our Heavenly Parents – ever intend the church or our marriages to place one spouse above the other. I believe that is a falsehood taught in the temple that damages every couple that passes through. I am so sorry you were put on this beast-of-a-leader’s chopping block (this guys just a walking asshole, though, so he also helps people not care about how awful he is by being so amazingly reprobate) because of issues like mine.

    And yet. I thank you, Curtis. From the bottom of my heart. Posts like that one have been part of my healing process. From my soul to yours, peace.

  14. Carl McGrath

    Resigning your membership was wise. Only good can come from honoring your integrity. I did the same thing 24 years ago after my SP excommunicated my gay son. In my letter of resignation I said my conscience did not permit me to retain membership in or make contributions to an organization that treats gay & lesbian people the way the LDS church does. After 50 years of membership this was my finest moment.

  15. LovelyLauren

    It sounds like your SP was kind of a bastard, but as a card-carrying Mormon feminist, I can’t condone someone who wants to attend BYU and be open about being an occultist, particularly one who sees Satan as the hero of the Adam/Even narrative. I’m all for embracing your faith in a way that suits you, but there are some lines that when you cross, I don’t want you associating yourself with people who call themselves Mormons because they actually believe in the religion the term refers to.

    Nor am I comfortable with someone calling themselves secular and participating in our most sacred temple ordinances. It’s an insult to all of us who take those covenants seriously.

    Your SP doesn’t sound like a good guy, but I don’t think you’re a particularly good guy for assuming that you’re the victim here.

    • Keli

      I tend to agree with you on everything you just said. I still respect Curtis for being so brave though.

    • Mungagungadin

      Lauren, the concept that Satan is a hero is not at all an unusual view. In order to feel that Satan was not on to *something* one has to find that Eve was wrong, and that our fall was not a growth process. Since our previous existence was static, Satan and Eve did have the only right ideas, albeit for different motivations.

      And yes, I’m a BYU grad, and no, I don’t believe emotionally and intellectually immature people like this idiot stake pres who put zero effort into exploring the concepts Curtis discussed should be in charge of the students in a place of higher learning.

    • curtispenfold

      I’m sorry that you’d rather have BYU students live in a bubble and not meet ex-Mormons or occultists until after they leave BYU.

    • megang

      Hey Guys and Gals,

      Here is my version of LovelyLauren’s comment.

      It sounds like your SP was kind of a bastard, and as a card-carrying Mormon feminist, I can’t condone someone who wants to define that label for others and someone who seeks to exclude people who associate with Mormonism culturally if not spiritually, particularly one who can’t understand the nuance of Curtis’s views on the occult (as he has explained elsewhere on this thread). I’m all for embracing your faith in a way that suits you, and if you don’t do so in the way I do, I still want you associating yourself with people who call themselves Mormons because we are still brothers and sisters.

      Nor am I comfortable with someone calling themselves a card-carrying Mormon feminist and not understanding that some in faith crises/transitions seek to go to the temple to understand it better. It’s an insult to all of us who take our covenants seriously to mourn with those who mourn.

      Your SP doesn’t sound like a good guy, and I don’t think you’re like Korihor at all.

  16. Courtney

    A dear friend of mine was also “turned in” based on something she wrote on her blog about attending the episcopal church. She was told to either resign or she would be excommunicated. She resigned.
    I find it interesting how terrified Mormons are of the “occult.” As I see it, you’re just trying to find meaning in this insanity of life. I don’t think Jesus would draw a line and say “oh you’re interested in Christian-based spirituality? Ok, you’re still welcome here. Interested in the occult? No dice.” Interesting how those who struggle to find a place for themselves in the church still want defined parameters to keep the unknown on the outside.
    I wish you the best of luck. I am so sorry you were not shown any compassion. I do believe there are other stake presidents who would have nurtured your spirit and helped you feel genuinely loved. It’s so sad such inconsistency resulted in this experience.

    • MLS

      What’s very interesting about the Mormon fear of “the occult” is the very strong basis in folk magic that Joseph Smith and his associates shared. The extremely well-researched text “Early Mormonism and the Magic Worldview” goes into great detail regarding Joseph Smith’s intense relationship with the occult.

      • Anonymous

        I’ve heard other insignificant Joseph Smith facts repeatedly, but for the first 18 years of my life growing up in the church I heard nothing about Joseph Smith being involved in Free Macenery. Strange it’s kept so quiet; I guess it’s gone in a memory hole because views have changed.

  17. Evan Witt

    Way to go, Curtis. I went through something very similar a few years ago when I realized I was an atheist at BYU. Hang in there and pull through!

  18. KOA

    Am I to understand that if you go to BYU as a Mormon but change your faith, in this example to atheism, you can no longer attend BYU? So a Mormon must remain a Mormon in order to be allowed to get an education at BYU? But other people who attend BYU from non-LDS faiths can continue to go to BYU even if they change to Mormonism?
    Can I get some clarification on this? Sounds very discriminatory…

    • curtispenfold

      The Student Review made a good article regarding this policy.

      Basically, I signed a contract saying that if I was a member of the LDS Church, I wouldn’t leave the LDS Church. By leaving, I’m breaking my contract and am forced to leave BYU and my work. I’m also getting evicted from my home.

      • latterdaytruth

        Be grateful you had priesthood leaders who had the guts to push you in the direction of having integrity. You (and everybody else posting) seem to miss this entirely. Call them childish names all you want- without their influence you have continued to live a lie and abuse a generous system that is based on faith and charity.

      • Ziff

        Latterday”truth”, I can’t share your optimistic appraisal. Regardless of what you think Curtis should have done, his stake president was an unChristian jerk.

  19. Shane

    As I’ve mentioned on Facebook, I am sorry you have to go through such a hard thing, Curtis. But, that said, the bottom line for me is that I don’t see you a victim in this situation. Your values and beliefs are antithetical to Church doctrine and university policy (which you knowingly and willingly submitted yourself to). Even knowing this, you admit to lying to stay enrolled. You didn’t do this for anything other than selfish reasons. As soon as your incentive to stay a member of the Church was removed (namely, highly subsidized tuition at a top university), you went ahead and removed your name from membership. This doesn’t give you integrity credit in my mind — it just cements your pattern of opportunism and cynicism.

    I feel sympathy for you because this is clearly a tumultuous event in your life, and I don’t wish tumult and stress on anyone. I have profound sympathy for your parents, who I am sure are distraught and deeply embarrassed by this entire matter. But, to me, you are “losing everything” because of choices you made and could have avoided by being honest with yourself and with others at any number of previous points.

    Fortunately, this is something of a tempest in a teapot. You are clearly a bright young guy with an excellent support network. You have a host of other affordable educational options, where your personal/spiritual worldview will not come into conflict with the explicit policies of the school you attend. I am sure you will land of your feet, if that’s what you want.

    • curtispenfold

      Shane, me being dishonest was taking the sacrament even though I’ve lost my belief in God, because I didn’t want my bishop to kick me out of BYU.

      I could’ve faked a repentance or fought it out in disciplinary court. A lot of people in my same situation do just that. I don’t judge those people. I don’t think I’m any better than those people. It is a hard decision to make!

      My conscious has been in turmoil while attending BYU and half-hiding my beliefs, pretending to be something I’m not and believe something I don’t believe. I would go back and forth about the subject.

      My stake president was the final catalyst. It was while with him that I realized that I didn’t want to pretend any longer. I didn’t want to fake a repentance. I didn’t want to lie. I want to live an open and honest life. And that’s what I’m doing.

      I regret being dishonest. I apologize for those months I spent as an atheist more or less in the closet at BYU. But I hope to not be in any closets any longer, regardless of the consequences.

      • Shane

        And this recognition and resolve, I think, speaks well of you for your future. While I absolutely side with BYU in this matter, I wish you nothing but success and happiness down the road.

    • Zara

      Ugh, you know what? Consider the money Curtis used during his “highly subsidized” education at BYU to be the portion my parents paid on their decades of upper-middle-class-level tithing, and go ahead and throw in my sister’s and my contributions over the course of our lifetimes. I hate that so much of my family’s money subsidized that particular institution, when neither my sister or I ever wanted to go there, and when there were real people in need that I wish the church had helped with that money.

  20. kristennicolu

    Curtis, I’m heartbroken at your stake president’s treatment of you. I’m so sorry that happened. I am glad that you feel empowered, and I’m glad you made the right choice for yourself, even though Siegfried’s women’s studies class is going to be a lot less wonderful without you. Thank you so much for writing this post. You are good.

  21. Paul

    There are two powers in the universe, God and Satan. God’s authority is exercised through his priesthood. Anything else comes from Satan. The occult comes from Satan. Although Curtis served a mission for the Church, it is obvious from his remarks that he doesn’t even have a rudimentary understanding of what the Gospel really is.

    It is right that he left the church. He has chosen the ways of the world and the philosophies of man over the counsels of God through the Bible and modern prophets.

    • curtispenfold

      Just because I disagree with the teachings of the LDS Church does not mean I don’t understand them.

    • Free-thinker...

      Gospel= old English contraction of two words, god + spell. So you are under the “spell” of a god. That is part of the occult. Spell is another word for a script. So basically you are letting someone else’s script be in control of your life. Atheists write their own stories and control their own brains.

      Secular humanists don’t have any gods they serve. Humans loving or interacting with other humans is all that matters and all that really exists for sure. Look to your own conscience and science for a great life. No dictators in the sky (or their fake-ass/delusional representatives) are required to enjoy life.

      Take it easy. 🙂

    • MLS

      And, Paul demonstrates beautifully the pride and patronizing dismissal towards those with sincere differences and questioning viewpoints in the church.

  22. brett

    I would encourage anyone reading any of these responses to go to the source of what Mormons profess to be truth. Before you take the word of a blog post, I would read the Book of Mormon, or talk to Mormon missionaries, or attend a Mormon service (all are welcome any time). Be your own judge. My experiences with the church and church leaders have been nothing but 100% positive, uplifting, and inspiring.

    • Free-thinker...

      Being 100% certain about anything shows the lack of depth in your intelligence and should not be something that you are proud of. The more confident tend also to be the stupidest. Having doubts and then investigating the causes of those doubts and concerns is a sign of a great mind. Blind obedience is the mark of a fascist indoctrination. Enjoy your little bubble but you must know that the beautiful full world awaits those brave enough to break free.

      Congrats, Curtis. The whole wide world is your oyster now.
      Have a great time.

      • Anonymous

        “The only thing I am for sure is unsure, and this means I’m growing, and not stagnant or shrinking.”
        ― Jarod Kintz

      • Anonymous

        The only thing I am for sure is unsure, and this means I’m growing, and not stagnant or shrinking.”
        ― Jarod Kintz

      • Anonymous

        Why smart people are not confident:
        “The only thing I am for sure is unsure, and this means I’m growing, and not stagnant or shrinking.”
        ― Jarod Kintz

        And the ideology for ignorance being conducted:
        6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

    • Ziff

      I’m a Church member too, Brett, and I’ve got to tell you that when you say this:

      “My experiences with the church and church leaders have been nothing but 100% positive, uplifting, and inspiring.”

      you really make the Church sound like a cult. Nothing is that positive, uplifting, and inspiring unless you’re willing to turn a blind eye to a lot of bad stuff to keep your percentage up.

    • MLS

      Mormonthink has THE best and most accurate information in the LDS church. I, too, encourage all interested in the beliefs and practices of the Mormon Church to read and explore everything they can.

  23. LiberalMormonSeagullite

    Curtis. I sympathize with you, but I really don’t understand this entire situation. I want to hear the stake president’s point of view. Not because I don’t believe you, but because this entire experience felt so sensationalized from your perspective. Maybe it really did happen just as you say it did, but until I hear both sides of the story, I remain skeptical. I know others will call me out for this perspective, but I stand by this belief.

    Also, I am somewhat confused how you could be so naive with your internet use. You put your name out there. It was a dick move of the person who turned you in to do so, but I cannot believe that you thought that some day you wouldn’t be turned in. When you plaster your real name on the internet, there are always trolls who are going to stab you in the back. That is the reason most people don’t use their real name or don’t publish their thoughts as openly as you have done. Once you have posted something online, you cannot take it away.

    I would ask you to not make a huge public example of this because, frankly, you have the potential to make a lot of liberal/feminist/unorthodox Mormons lose a lot of credibility in the eyes of most traditional members. I am disappointed that you are leaving the Church, but I can understand your motivations. I would ask you, however, to please not turn this into some big controversy.

    • curtispenfold

      I invite you to find and contact my stake president if you feel so inclined.

      How could I be so naive? Because I’ve always been open. I’ve never tried to hide my Internet usage. Openness has always been an important quality for me. Sure, for the past few months, maybe I’ve only been half open. Open in some places but not open in others. But at the end of the day, I wanted to be open everywhere. I’m glad I can now do that without fear of losing anything else.

      How am I going to make somebody else lose credibility? What, for associating with me? Credibility from who? Credibility from people who believe atheist, occultists, feminists, and ex-Mormons deserve to be treated less than human? If that’s the case, those people are the people who support the oppressive system. I have no interest in satisfying them or having their credibility.

      I was forced out of a school I loved, out of a work I loved, and I’m now being evicted from my home and being told that I can no longer live in BYU approved housing (the large majority of housing here in Provo) because I’ve left the LDS Church.

      You call yourself a liberal, but you sound like you’re just trying to silence victims. You sound like a supporter of continued oppression. Forgive me if this isn’t the case, that’s just how you’re coming off. But I AM going to make a big deal about how screwed up this system is, and how it screws over so many people.

  24. Mungagungadin


    I am a Mormon feminist and active in politics. I put my name out there. The only way the world changes for good is that we do stand up and talk about our convictions. This church was meant to be a place of great, swarming ideas, held under and umbrella of testing and basic agreements. The great swarming ideas can test the basic agreements. I know a lot of Mormons that cannot stomach the constant Mormon garbage about us being the only ones with truth, the only happy and safe and right people in the world, and they *should be able* to say that out loud, but they don’t. They can’t. If they did, they’d be instantly attacked. If they did, the church members could become better people. Our cowardice is expensive.

    I am a Mormon who does not believe that God ever — even for a minute– placed men over women. I don’t believe that happened in any garden, and I don’t believe God ever gave that message to any prophet. What is taught in the temple is very, very damaging. I think man usurped God’s authority and voice for his own venal wants. He wanted to be served by women, to own and control and choose for women, rather than live with women who are equally empowered and authorized to make her own personal choices. Man wanted to tell women that women were not whole or acceptable without his presiding/ownership/control of her. But, I say women and men are meant to have equal power and authority. I say we are held together by love and our desire to build good things together, not by any design flaw or lack. I *should be able* to say that out loud, but I don’t. I only write it and, because I know I am morally wrong to keep silent, I sign my name. Doing this is my gift, my sacrament with Christ, but it shouldn’t be. I can recognize the wrong in my silence.

    There are so many issues to come clean about, including the notion of our Heavenly Parents. Do we believe in the sexist, racist, capriciously cruel and narcissistic version of God in the scriptures? Do we believe in the horribly sexist version of Heavenly Mother granted to us by tradition that gives women an idea that we are most exalted when we are practically dissolved invisible, only a trail of good works to marked that we passed through? Do we believe in the actual need of a Christ because the universe is set up to demand a horrible price for “bad” (always culturally dependent and totally changing morality through the ages- Christ’s blood also paid for sins of wearing the wrong cloth in your clothing, apparently) or do we believe that Christ’s sacrifice was a demonstration of love, support of progress, acceptance to barbaric people who couldn’t fathom anything else? But we can’t talk because ….gag order. We have thought-police, usually bishops and stake presidents, who will hurt us one way or another.

    To top it off, should we have a new tradition of finding people who question differently than ourselves so that we can suggest that they silence themselves so as to not give our own questions a bad name?

    • curtispenfold

      We don’t need to silence them Mungagungadin. We just want them to use anonymous names. And not make a “big controversy” when they’re lives are screwed over by the system.

      • Mungagungadin

        hang on, this hath lost its savor, I need to spit…

  25. Dominique

    If you’re Korihor, he’s King Noah. He will suffer an ignominious death of his own making.

  26. Dominique

    Also … BYU holding credits hostage, refusing to transfer them to other institutions, and refusing to refund costs thereof… are just heinous, disingenuous, and completely in violation of temple covenants of being honest in one’s business.

    If any of your tuition was paid for by government grants (another violation of separation of church and state, imo), then you should sue the institution for discrimination.

    • MLS

      BYU’s accreditation should be gone after with their truly heinous practices towards former students who have left or been expelled from the Mormon Church.

      • Mungagungadin

        This is an actually good actionable idea. I bet some of that education was paid for with Pell or loans. I’m sure the govt puts some reasonable strings on that…

  27. MLS

    The Mormon Church does keep track if of its members’ online activity as much as possible. Which is one of the reasons for the recent railing by church leadership against anonymous online posters. The Committee for Strengthening the Saints is the Mormon version of the FBI. It is a real thing as Holland admitted in a television interview. It is headed by a member of the Twelve. It’s mission is to provide supporting evidence for church leadership punishing membership through church discipline. The committee does this by gathering dossiers (portfolios) of members’ online and published activities (from from blog posts and facebook activity to letters to the editor in published newspapers and magazines). That is where this MacKay person got a “portfolio” of your online posts. You are being watched -especially is you attend BYU.

  28. Olde Skool

    Curtis, the community will be the lesser for your formal withdrawal from it. Here’s hoping that we can find a place to honor the authentic selves of all God’s children.

  29. robert bridgstock

    Sad story… and yet wonderful story too, because you have defied the Mormon God. Your future is bright… no turning back.

  30. Brandon J

    I was in a similar situation a while back. I had applied to go to BYU because my girlfriend had recently been accepted there, and because I had far better grades, harder classes, and more extra ciricular activities than her I thought that I would be a shoe in… Aparently telling my bishop that I wasn’t willing to go on a mission to tell people that they need to pay tithing, when I myself came from a family that lived on the brink of poverty because of my parents blind faith in tithing. They literally believed their house would burn down if they didn’t “follow the rules”. My Bishop told me that my recently deceased grandmother was in the room with us and he knew that she wanted me to go on a mission. It was at that point that I left disgusted at the petty tactics of this person I was told to trust, but could obviously tell was lieing.

    I did try to go to a singles ward once I was living in Provo, but to be honest, it wasn’t spiritual in the slightest. It was a bunch of morons getting up and trying to deliver a sort of quasi dating service ad. I’m new to town, i love to cook, i give great massages, etc. I also was disturbed by the clearly manipulative move they made in saying that “every member needs a job” so what? you can guilt trip me into coming back? No thank you. I’ve got plenty or reasons to not believe in the church. It was almost entirely due to social pressure that I faked a belief for so long. I left the church without much difficulty. But I can imagine actually being enrolled at BYU would have made that sooo much harder. I’m blessed that they didn’t want me to attend school there. I guess their quota for white dudes from Idaho was full. However had I been black, or asian, or well anything other than white I would have been readily accepted there. Thank GOD that I wasn’t! 😉

  31. lisarpetty

    This was an AMAZING letter. Good for you. I am also an atheist. I grew up without any forced religious upbringing, though my mom does send Jesus emails sometimes now. Anyway, I’m proud of you for sticking up for yourself, and many others. I’m following your blog now. I can’t wait to read more.

    • curtispenfold

      Lisarpetty, thank you for your kind words. I just want to throw out there that this is not my blog, but rather this blog belongs to a community. I write with it monthly on topics of Mormonism, feminism and how they intersect.

      I will say, there are some great writers on here with a lot of insight on religion, hierarchy, oppression, skepticism, objectification, Mormonism, race, gender, LGBT*QIA issues, how the media affects our lives–it really is a blog worth following. So many perspectives from so many different young people.

  32. Bryce

    Congratulations on your bold move. I am in the process of officially resigning my membership after 36 faithful years. It has been nearly one year since I stopped attending and a couple of weeks since coming out to my family. Like you, my family has been critical. The tough part is my wife has not followed my path. She continues to believe. This has caused huge challenges for us. Challenges that I don’t know we will be able to overcome. Best of luck with your new life! Thank you for sharing such a personal experience with strangers like me.

  33. Chris

    Curtis, you did a very brave and difficult thing, and you will have such a better life because of it. Congrats!

    Also interesting to read that people think he is somehow evil for being interested in the occult, that that somehow makes him a devil worshiper. That is impossible for an atheist. Interests and beliefs are two different things. It shows only ignorance.

  34. L.G. Keltner

    Good for you! Your decision is a brave and honest one. I wish you the best in your future endeavors.

    Also, your letter was excellent. You truly have a way with words.

  35. Gilbert Gripe

    Anonymous source? I think we can safely speculate that its the “Strengthening Church Members Committee”. They keep track of members that are inconvenient.

  36. Keith

    Yet another example of how fanatics in my church blur the lines between doctrine and tradition. I’ve seen many wonderful, intelligent people driven away by blind zealotry. I still remember when my mission president preached against Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. He say that these are are ‘similitude’ of witchcraft and demonic worship, an interesting way to compare absolutely great fiction to a ‘gateway drug’ of sorts.

    While I absolutely understand the author’s position, I still maintain that though I know without a doubt the doctrine (unadulterated and not misinterpreted by moronic – idiots in leadership positions) is true, the farther the leadership is from the chain of authority the higher the probability of zealotry and development of corrupted sense of responsibility. It is sad that there are those put in leadership positions that serve unknowingly the wills of Satan, because blind faith or zealotry and pride.

    Kudos to the author for standing up for himself, and may his journey to find faith or sense of being be a fruitful one.

  37. Anonymous

    You will enjoy the POWER of being the master of yourself. It’s the most liberating feeling. It may take a while for the shadows of LDS guilt to fade.

  38. Anonymous

    you’re in good company brother curtis. welcome to the other fold, the one that respects your beliefs.

  39. Anonymous

    Anyone who ever thought the Mormon Church was true is nuttier than Squirrel Shit!

  40. Jabulile

    This makes me feel so sad, Curtis. I am so sorry you were treated this way by your stake president. Things like that should not happen, especially in God’s true church. It is certainly not up to me to make any judgments, but from the way you described things, it sounds like President MacKay was clearly out of line. He should have showed you more love and respect. Unfortunately, imperfect people like me and you and President MacKay are all that God has to do his work. We all make mistakes. I hope someday you will be able to forgive him for this. I also hope that someday you will find yourself back on the path of Truth. In the end, the Truth is all that matters. God lives. He is our Heavenly Father, who has unconditional and eternal love for every one of us, and He wants you back. I know this sounds like squirrel poop to those who do not want to believe, but it is nonetheless True. I know it. I feel it. Love always to you, my dear brother.

  41. Proud Athiest

    I am athiest, but if I had to choose between god and satan I would go with satan. He only killed 10 people in Bible, whereas Heavenly Father knows how to lay out some serious killing. So much for your ‘unconditional’ loving god.

    Former LDS, BYU grad, missionary. I resigned from the LDS Church. Now very happy.


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