October 14, 1996
As many of you know, yesterday was our last Sunday in church. We weren't excommunicated and we didn't have our names removed (and we don't plan to), but it is fairly safe to say that we won't be attending anymore (except when we visit relatives, etc.).
Anyway, the reason I'm writing this is to tell of yesterday's experience as several of you have emailed me asking how it went.
We originally scheduled a meeting with the bishop that was to take place during Sunday School (after Sacrament meeting). The bishop had no idea what we were thinking or why. He only knew that we had asked for a meeting with him so that we could be released as we no longer were planning on being "active". We received a call before church informing us that the bishop wouldn't have time to see us then so we were asked to change the appointment to a time after church which we agreed to. (We later found out that the bishop didn't do anything during Sunday School except attempt to find out information about us.) My wife had told the other members of her Primary Presidency earlier in the week that we weren't believers and weren't going to continue our activity in the church so we figured word had leaked to other members of the ward, and this is why the bishop wanted to change the time (so that he'd have more time to talk to us).
After arriving at church we realized that it was a testimony meeting Sunday. I thought we had lucked out though as the most mild mannered member of the bishopric was conducting so he would be the one kicking the testimonies off. I really didn't imagine what was going to happen next.
First of all, you need to realize that this bishopric member is about the nicest, calmest, generally all-around "good guy" you are ever likely to meet. In our 2+ years in our current ward, I've never noticed anything in his personality that would indicate that he was anything like the man we were about to experience. However, he had heard of our soon-to-be departure and his defense mechanisms must have flipped into high gear or something.
He stood up and started out like normal, but soon into his testimony he started wigging out. It was the most bizarre thing I have ever heard since my pre-mission BYU days when a guy got up and wouldn't sit down until 3 members of the audience (myself being one of the 3) got up and said that we "knew the church was true". That guy was sent to the Utah Mental Hospital two days later where he stayed for the next 6 months before being called on his mission to Salt Lake City but that is a whole 'nother long story.
Anyway, the bishopric member yesterday went into a hell fire and damnation testimony which included pounding the podium about a half dozen times and basically screaming into the microphone several times that he knew the Book of Mormon was true and that Satan was trying to steal the hearts of members, that anti-Mormons were in our midst and out to steal our money, that the testimony of the 8 and 3 witnesses prove the Book of Mormon to be true, Joseph Smith saw God and Jesus just as he said, blah blah blah, etc., etc. He was not just saying this stuff, he was yelling it, and the audience was completely freaked out because this guy is normally so low key, calm, and quiet. He went into an entire speech trying to make the audience (although he was looking straight at us half the time) feel guilty for ever doubting anything about the church.
To make a long story shorter, his outburst went on for about 15 or 20 minutes before he finally turned the meeting over to the audience.
The first person to get up was none other than the Bishop's sister. She gave a very similar speech which included a lecture (while looking at us--BTW, we were sitting off to one side so it was very obvious) to the effect that the world was an evil place and the only place we can be happy is with our fellowship with other members.
The rest of the meeting was fairly normal so we think that the only people "in the know" were the bishopric, the bishop's sister, and the Primary Presidency.
After that meeting I had to still count money with the other member of the bishopric during Sunday School since I was the Ward Financial Clerk. (I was previously in the Young Men's Presidency but asked to be released about a year ago because I felt hypocritical holding a teaching position as a non-believer.)
The member of the bishopric was extremely nervous around me (for the first time ever). Also for the first time, he demanded that we count the money with the door closed and locked and no one was allowed to enter. This is in stark contrast to how we normally count the money since the room we count it in is the only one in the building that has a copy machine. Normally we have half a dozen people coming in and out of the room while we are counting, we never close the door, and we hardly say a word to each other. This time he was full of comments and no one was allowed to overhear the conversation. He probed and probed but couldn't get me to utter any of the things he was looking for. I was "as calm as a summer's morning". ;)
He asked how my job was going, if I was feeling well, if anything interesting had happened to me recently, if I had been talking to my neighbor (who is an inactive member that I've never talked to), if I was too busy at work, etc., etc. He was very nervous during this whole interrogation. When we drove to the bank to make the deposit, he couldn't even drive well. The car stalled twice as he forgot to push in the clutch while shifting! We almost crashed getting back into the church parking lot. As soon as we separated, he dashed into the bishop's office to give report.
I went into the primary room to take care of my under 1-year old son while my wife gave her last "sharing time" in Primary (on honesty ;0) The whacked out bishopric member who gave the testimony (not the one I counted money with) gave me the meanest look I've ever seen in my life. He then called the Primary President out of the room and talked with her outside for 15 minutes before making a mad dash to the bishop's office 10 minutes before we were supposed to meet with him.
After all of this, our actual meeting with the bishop was somewhat anti-climatic. He was very nice and didn't threaten us at all. He didn't want to know our reasons. We explained that we weren't giving details to those who were happily active in the church unless they asked. He told us that if we felt a void we were more than welcome to come back. He said that if we felt this "void" it meant the lord was telling us that we made a mistake. My son was screaming through the whole thing as he hadn't eaten and hadn't had his afternoon nap yet so we were giving him Cheerios to try and keep him (somewhat) quiet. He threw up on the bishop's desk near the end.
After we got home, my wife said, "I don't feel a void, I feel happy."
Overall, it was a very interesting day that you would have had to actually go through in order to fully appreciate the strangeness of the events that transpired.