The Church as a Highly Ineffectual Stalker

Recently, at Feminist Mormon Housewives, a few relatively heated comments focused on church contact with ex-members. Commenter Tiff wrote:

Try leaving the church . . . . My family and I moved four times in three years. Each time within days the ward missionaries appeared at our door. We told them we weren’t interested and yet they still kept contacting us. . . . The church won’t leave us alone.

I’ve seen similar statements made by disaffected former members in many other fora. And I must say, I’ve never found these arguments at all convincing. Here’s why: The portrayal is so starkly at odds with my own lived experience as a Mormon. I’m a lifelong member who has attended wards in a dozen states. And my experience with Mormonism is that the church is a terribly ineffective recordkeeper.

I barely manage to do my own home teaching at a minimal level. I think that most wards in which I’ve attended, home teaching has been well below 30%. And that’s often with mostly active families as both hometeacher and hometeachee! In many (most?) ward, even the people who want a visit don’t get one, unless they make a lot of noise.

Add to that the fact that many ward members have only scanty knowledge about other ward members. I know who the members of my own bishopric are, yes. But there are dozens of active ward members in my ward who I could barely pick out of a lineup. I barely know who the names or faces of the people attending my Elders Quorum classes. Do you think I have any idea who any of the less active members are in my ward? I don’t. I have no idea at all.

Finally, I find it absolutely incredible that the church recordkeeping machine moves with this degree of alacrity. I’ve moved from one ward to another several times over the years. The process of getting records moved has often been a lengthy and touch-and-go roller coaster ride. In some cases, getting records moved has required repeated efforts on my part — and this from an active member! And don’t even get me started on baptismal or baby blessing records. I’ve had to work with a clerk to replace those, after some of my own children’s records were apparently misplaced or misentered or mis-something.

Thus, the FMH comment that “My family and I moved four times in three years. Each time within days the ward missionaries appeared at our door” strikes me as completely alien — utterly out-of-step with anything that I’ve ever seen in any ward in which I’ve ever lived. The commenter might as well be describing the surface of the moon. The world in which she lives is one I’ve simply never seen.

It boggles my mind to suggest that a prior ward would have quick knowledge of a former member’s move. If I left my current ward and didn’t tell anyone about it — and if I weren’t the EQ teacher and choir accompanist — I doubt that anyone would notice for weeks, or months. Our support structure just isn’t all that great. And like most other wards, it’s driven largely by information provided by moving memberrs themselves. If I moved and didn’t tell church recordkeepers about it, I would drop out of the ward and effectively out of church records.

In contrast, the record processing suggested by the FMH comment is lightning fast. “Within days” there were ward missionaries? That’s just mind-boggling. It takes months to get my records moved, and I’m an active member. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a ward that regularly gets anyone’s records within days after moving.

And of course, there’s the visiting. The idea that someone would move from ward to ward to ward, each of which would have an infrastructure in place to get visits out within days, is far out of step with anything I’ve observed.

This is not to say that it is impossible for such an experience to ever happen. I suppose it’s theoretically possible that a former member could move from the most-efficient-ward-in-the-country directly to the second-most-efficient-ward-in-the-country to the third-most-efficient-ward-in-the-country, all in short order. But the odds of that occurring seem awfully small. And because of that, I have a hard time buying into the church-as-stalker meme. If the church is a stalker, it’s the least effective stalker I’ve ever seen.

62 comments for “The Church as a Highly Ineffectual Stalker

  1. J. Nelson-Seawright
    March 15, 2006 at 1:00 am

    Kaimi, I think the basic problem is that you are too active and non-controversial. There’s no dual-Apostle-headed committee that tracks the movements and activities of mainline members. You have to either have Fundamentalist sympathies or have published “critical” remarks in an independent Mormon publication to merit that kind of special treatment.

    The “highly effectual stalker” version of the LDS church is well-documented, although I agree that the version you describe is the more common face. But the Fred E. Curtis Papers at the USU Special Collections provide extensive documentation on the early years of church surveillance on Fundamentalists and sympathizers. Curtis was given a calling directly from the church leadership to conduct surveillance on and write reports on people who attended Fundamentalist study groups. Those reports were handed directly to the highest church leadership, and were often also shared with Utah law enforcement.

    In later years, some evidence suggests that the same set of techniques was applied to suspected homosexuals at BYU, to intellectuals in the 1980s and 1990s, and to Fundamentalists throughout. The Strengthening the Members Committee is the current institutional hub of such activities.

    So, Kaimi, if you want to have the church stalk you, you’ve got to attract the attention of the SMC. Do you want another wife? Or have you ever thought about publishing a book advocating prayer to Heavenly Mother? Talk in public about either theme, and then the church will be fully aware of where you are!

  2. A Nonny Mouse
    March 15, 2006 at 1:02 am

    The only thing I can think of that might encourage the “church-as-stalker” behavior witnessed by Tiff would be a very persistent Mother/Mother-in-law with a good internet connection or one of those lists of North American bishops phone numbers… I could find that semi-plausible: the Mother-in-law concerned about her “apostate” children calls ahead when they move to make sure somebody goes to see them… But the church itself managing that level of sophistication? No way.

  3. March 15, 2006 at 1:04 am

    Me too. I was baptized in 1988, but for mysterious reasons no one’s managed to explain to me, I never had any church records created for me (in terms of computers) at all until about a year ago. I’ve lived in nine wards since 1988 (and visited over summers in two more), and it wasn’t till I’d been in the eigth ward, for the second time, and for more than six months since the second move-in, before anyone even noticed I didn’t have a church record number. If it weren’t for the fact that my mom keeps everything, including original baptismal certificates, I would have had to have been rebaptized (the bishop made fun of me for months, as did my stepdad: I had to be redunked twice during the original baptism, and now this!)

    I mean, come on. (I do admit, lots of ward clerks got confused when my name didn’t appear on my mom’s individual ordinance summary — but she and I have different last names, and she’s not married to my father, so they figured it was just an oddity of the system.) And I was active about the issue, since I showed up on all the attendance lists as an unbapized adult, and that bugged me. Also, the only people who really knew my family, always put my mom’s last name down for me on “getting to know you” bulletin boards and such (as though they were going off of knowing her, rather than going off of a list of people.) I did youth baptisms at the Washington DC and LA temples six times, and got a patriarchal blessing, and requested a replacement copy of my patriarchal blessing, all without that record number or any evidence, other than my mother’s say-so, that I was actually a member… and no one noticed.

    I remain…decidedly unconvinced about our supposed mad recordkeeping skills, as a church.

  4. March 15, 2006 at 1:11 am

    I was inactive for over a decade, and never had visitors from the Church, other than family–though I certainly could probably have used them. It may be that in certain few cases as described by J. N-S. above there are some visits; but, like Kaimi I don’t buy the story of Tiff over at fMh for the very reasons he describes, and from my own personal experience.

  5. Mahuph
    March 15, 2006 at 1:37 am

    It appears Tiff gives a hint as to the reason for the effectiveness of the system in her comment, just a few lines beyond those quoted in this post:

    > I have friends and family members who continually harrass me about leaving the church.

    A simple call by a family member, alerting the new ward to Tiff and her family, is a simple and adequate explanation for the experiences of these individuals.

  6. sue
    March 15, 2006 at 1:55 am

    I would suppose it would depend upon where you live. Within our ward boundaries, there is only one non-member household, and there are only two really inactive families. If someone inactive or not-yet-converted (as the EQP likes to say) moved in, they would get a lot of attention. A lot. I could see a stalker vibe perception.

  7. March 15, 2006 at 2:03 am

    “In later years, some evidence suggests that the same set of techniques was applied to suspected homosexuals at BYU, to intellectuals in the 1980s and 1990s, and to Fundamentalists throughout. The Strengthening the Members Committee is the current institutional hub of such activities. So, Kaimi, if you want to have the church stalk you, you’ve got to attract the attention of the SMC. Do you want another wife? Or have you ever thought about publishing a book advocating prayer to Heavenly Mother? Talk in public about either theme, and then the church will be fully aware of where you are!”

    That’s the problem. One claims to be a covenant-keeping member, or abides by the Honor Code, then does something rebellious like that. You know, there’s a better way no one will ever visit you–be a man or woman about it, be responsible, and get excommunicated or remove your name from Church records. It’s THAT easy. Then you’ll never have to complain again. Otherwise, you have nothing to say, in my opinion, about first-time and timely visits.

  8. March 15, 2006 at 2:30 am

    I vote for A Nonny Mouse’s scenario. If Tiff’s comment is true, the “spy/narc” scenario is the most likely.

    Either a busybody mother-in-law, or a member who was offended by the stalk-ee.

    In every ward I’ve been in, the magic words are “Do Not Contact.” Everyone I know seems to respect the wishes of the people on that list. Isn’t there a field in the membership record for that? Don’t most bishops/clerks put “DNC” in the “notes” field or something along those lines?

  9. March 15, 2006 at 8:37 am

    Having been in both Elder’s Quorum Presidencies and Bishoprics, the Church does not officially recognize “do not contact” requests. As long as they are on the record of the church, the church has a relationship with, and a responsibility to the member. If they want to sever that relationship, they can request their names be removed, in writing. They will then be contacted by the State President who will confirm their desire to be separated from the church. After a waiting period (usually 30 days), their names will be removed from the list.

    What I dont understand, are those people who dont want contact with the church, yet will not remove their names. I was met at the door once by a shotgun toting brother who was fed up avout being harrased. Yet he still would not separate himself from the church.

  10. March 15, 2006 at 8:38 am

    I agree Kaimi. In my opinion if anything the church need to improve its stalking.

  11. jimbob
    March 15, 2006 at 10:45 am

    Re 8 and 9: I’ve tried to get people who tell me they don’t want me/us stopping by to simply get out, but have usually been in a position where I can make that happen (i.e., either process the record myself or lean on the clerk). The truth is that for the same reasons Kaimi doubts Tiff, taking your name of the records of the church also doesn’t always happen very well. Both clerks and bishops rarely see the form or send a letter, and so don’t always have a good idea what to do with them. And then once either the bishop or clerk learn what to do, frankly, there’s a new calling for one or the other or both. There are plenty of former members who think it’s a conspiracy theory that their names remain on the records long after they’ve written a letter. The truth is probably more along the lines of competence.

  12. DavidH
    March 15, 2006 at 11:12 am

    I suspect the reason the prompt visits came from ward missionaries is because the caring family member contacted the local mission, the mission contacted the full-time missionaries, who coordinated with the ward mission leader. In wards I have lived in, it usually takes months before a visit is made to a nonparticipating person whose records arrived unsolicited by the ward. And it usually takes months after a nonparticipating member has moved from a ward before the membership record is moved (assuming anyone knows the forwarding address). The few cases where someone was visited soon after moving in (and usually long before their records arrived) usually were prompted by calls from a caring family member to the mission home.

  13. Travis
    March 15, 2006 at 11:14 am

    In contrast to Craig’s experience (#9), I’ve been in two EQ presidencies and two Bishoprics where “do not contact” was a well respected category. In all cases, we had so many people to visit and care for that the last thing we wanted to do was spend time/energy/resources sending people on visits to those who just get angry/offended about it.

    BTW, I also agree that the name removal isn’t as easy as it sounds and the process often breaks down even when a person requests it (though usually because they don’t completely follow the very clear instructions given to them about how to complete the process).

  14. Mary Siever
    March 15, 2006 at 12:11 pm

    Ok, all I want to know is, if ex-members are getting this much contact, why was it more than a year since we saw our home teachers??

    lol

    Oh and my inactive siblings rarely hear from anyone in the Church. sigh.

  15. annegb
    March 15, 2006 at 12:26 pm

    I’m in charge of stalking here. We have some people who don’t want contact, so we write to them. I’ve assigned a couple of visiting teachers to sisters who don’t want them. They are “stealth” visiting teachers. I said do the best you can and give them a loaf of bread once in awhile.

    #5, I think you hit it on the head. Because I do that every time my kids move. I call the bishop and put a guilt trip on them about my kids. Kaimi, have your mom call your bishop.

    A lot of people don’t mind the friendship, they don’t want the preaching and responsibilty that comes with it. Actually, I’m sort of that way myself.

    I’m pondering how I can go inactive without anybody noticing so I can get some rest. I think I’ll volunteer to be the ward scrapbook chairman. I guess I could be the high priest group leader.

  16. Mark
    March 15, 2006 at 12:46 pm

    My family moved at the end of June, 2005. My wife and children were still attending our old ward right up until the move, but they didn’t give a forwarding address to the clerk. We haven’t attended the ward in our new locale, nor have we done anything to alert them to our presence.

    It took them just over seven months to find us. I didn’t know it was possible to stay off the Mormon radar screen that long. I suspect that there are a lot of names in the limbo file in Salt Lake City and it took some time for us to get to the top of the pile. (There was an article in the Salt Lake Tribune recently about how they track people down.) I’ve been an elders quorum president, so I have some experience with how they find people. It’s common for them to send a request to a relative of the member they are trying to locate. Maybe this happened in our case. It’s not hard for me to imagine my mother or my mother-in-law ratting us out in a heartbeat. I believe common courtesy dictates that you get a person’s approval before giving out his or her address to anyone, but some people don’t see it that way.

    I could also picture my mother or my mother-in-law ratting us out proactively, even without anyone asking.

    My daughter had a soccer teammate last fall who was LDS. We had several conversations with her parents at games and practices. We didn’t get into any specifics about why we were no longer participating in the church, but they did figure out that we were nominally LDS. Apparently, they are in the other ward in our town, but are friends with the bishop of the ward in which we reside.

    In December, two LDS missionaries came through the neighborhood. They asked if I knew anything about the Book of Mormon. I told them that I was familiar with it, and that I probably had multiple copies in my house. They didn’t ask if I was a member, and I didn’t tell them. We were on our way out the door, so it was a brief conversation. Full-time missionaries are usually keenly aware of the membership roster, so I was pretty sure that we were still below the radar at that point.

    When the bishop finally showed up in mid-February, he was polite and respectful. I wasn’t home at the time, but he told my wife that he had been aware of us for a few months because of the family in the other ward, but that he had respected our space because it seemed obvious that we were making a conscious choice not to attend. He said that he was visiting us because our records had arrived and he was duty-bound to welcome us into the ward. My wife thanked him for his time and let him know that we are certainly aware that we would be welcome there. She also told him that he didn’t need to commit any of his ward resources to our family, as we have plenty of connections to the church through relatives and friends.

    About a week later, a woman from the primary stopped by to bring a plate of cookies to my children and welcome them. I met her outside, politely accepted the cookies and thanked her for stopping by. I didn’t make a point of telling her that she isn’t likely to see our children there because it seemed clear that she hadn’t spoken to the bishop about us. She asked me if we had just moved here and I told her that we had been here for several months. I think she just saw two new names on her records and sprung into action.

    Overall, I’m optimistic that they won’t be stalking us because the bishop seemed to really get it. I hope that’s the case. If not, I may meet with him just to define some boundaries.

    So, Kaimi, our situation seems to support your theory. On the other hand, I know people whose experiences have been vastly different.

  17. B
    March 15, 2006 at 1:48 pm

    Agree with #5. As for me, the glib dismissiveness of the original post appears to reflect a lack of other-oriented thinking and careful consideration that borders on the offensive. Whether or not the Church is terribly good at record-keeping (it has its moments on both sides), it’s fairly easy for the stalking pump to be primed through means other than someone’s name being on a ward’s records, as Tiff’s experience — which I, unlike Kaimi, see no reason to doubt — confirms.

    As to removing records, that is a drastic step many disaffected Church members would prefer not to take, for a variety of reasons. That shouldn’t be required of them simply because they don’t want to be harassed.

  18. Paul Mouritsen
    March 15, 2006 at 2:26 pm

    I do not see any real problems with the way the church tries to take care of members. In fact, pastoral care is one of the areas where our church really excells. We should not apologize for it.

    In our own ward, the bishopric does make an effort to track down members. When we receive a membership record, the bishop immediately sends the family a letter welcoming them to the ward. As executive secretary, I follow up in about a week with a telephone call inviting the family to meet with the bishop.

    Most members are really grateful for the contact. In fact, they often complain that they have been living here for a while and no one has visited them.

    In a few cases, really very few, members ask not to be contacted. In those cases, the bishop sends a polite letter explaining the because they are members of the church we feel concerned about their spiritual welfare. The letter also explains that we will remove their names from the records if they direct us to do so. We enclose a stamped envelope addressed to the bishop for that purpose. Over the last couple of years, about eight people have exercised that option. We remove their names promptly and without any fuss. Their friends and family never know about it.
    The whole process works just fine. There is no reason for anyone to be embarassed or offended.

    If I were to suggest any changes in the present process, I would say that we should be allowed to accept oral requests to remove members from the records rather than always requiring them to be made in writing. Even better, perhaps we could require that members periodically reaffirm their connection with the church, as the early Methodists did.

  19. Kaimi Wenger
    March 15, 2006 at 2:32 pm

    B.,

    I haven’t said that I doubt Tiff’s statement; I have said that it’s vastly at odds with what I’ve personally observed. That kind of behavior may certainly exist somewhere, but it’s nothing that I’ve personaly observed, and I’ve seen my share of wards.

    So I suppose that my statement could be characterized as doubt, but only in the sense of a Doubting Thomas kind of doubt. I’m not saying it couldn’t or didn’t happen, I’m saying it sounds alien to me.

    (And I agree that former members shouldn’t feel obliged to remove records).

    B. and Mahuph,

    If the contact was indeed initiated (over objection) due to proactive contact by family members, then the problem is not of being stalked by an uberchurch. The problem is being stalked by family members who don’t properly respect one’s boundaries, and the solution is to tell those family members to stay the hell back.

    Random bishops and primary leaders and other members of new wards are regularly asked to visit people who want to be visited, and they do so. If a former member moves into a new ward, those leaders will have _no way of knowing_ that that person doesn’t want to be visited.

    So the bishop doesn’t know that you don’t want to be visited. The church doesn’t know it. You know it, and you stalking mother in law knows it. She tells the bishop to go visit you, without telling him that it’s against your wishes. She does this because she’s an overbearing MIL who doesn’t respect boundaries. She uses your Bishop as a pawn in her own little power game. And suddenly, it’s the Bishop’s fault or the church’s fault or “the church won’t leave me alone.”

    No. It’s your overbearing MIL’s fault. And the only way to deal with is to go to the source. It’s not going to go away otherwise. Are you suggesting that the church adopt some policy that prohibits bishops from ever visiting anyone on the word of a family member? That would limit a whole lot of desired visits. Remember, a lot of members _want_ to be visited.

    What the church should do — and in many cases, does — is tell family members not to send local church leaders to visit people who don’t want it. (Doesn’t every ward have a ZZ list?)

    Mark,

    Thanks for your story – I think it supports my own observations.

    Mary Seiver,

    Yep.

    Travis,

    Thanks for your comment. You write “we had so many people to visit and care for that the last thing we wanted to do was spend time/energy/resources sending people on visits to those who just get angry/offended about it.” That’s been exactly my observation.

    You’re right, too, that the ineffective record keeping is a two edged sword. It can lead to inadvertent contact as well, or at least to badly kept records of desired no-contact.

    (Gotta run to a faculty meeting – I’ll respond to other comments in a bit).

  20. March 15, 2006 at 2:35 pm

    People who get really quick contact upon moving, especially multiple times, are ususally having family calling the new ward and requesting contact. I’ve moved many times and sometimes the contact is quick, other times it never happened and I had to physically track down my own records and have hq move them.

    With 8 million inactive mormons around the world the church doesn’t have the resources to immediately contact each one.

  21. March 15, 2006 at 2:48 pm

    As a missionary, we ran into a lot of inactives that we had no idea who they were. Some of them wouldn’t beleive us when we told them that we had no idea who they were. They always assumed that they were stalking them. There were a lot of non members that assumed that they were on our “list” who wouldn’t beleive us that we were just going from door to door.

    Some people are just paranoid when it comes to the church.

  22. Ana
    March 15, 2006 at 2:52 pm

    Kaimi, if you can’t believe in a phenomenon just because you’ve never seen it, you’ve got bigger fish to fry with your faith than this.

    It does happen. It’s happened to my brother. He’s suspected us of forwarding his name. We are not doing it. I’m starting to wonder if it might be my grandma.

    My husband is serving in a calling where he is responsible for some records. He tries to visit people on the “unassigned” list — those who are inactive and do not have HTs. However he has been known to ask them if they would prefer to have their names removed from Church records, and our bishop has supported this. So I hope his visits are not of the obnoxious variety.

  23. DavidH
    March 15, 2006 at 3:13 pm

    25 years ago, our bishop suggested that SLC should itself establish a special file for people who do not wish contact, and do not wish to remove their names from membership in the Church. Salt Lake would keep the records of such people, and not forward them to the local congregation (or if they did forward them, there would be some kind of code on it). I do not think the stake president even considered sending the suggestion up the line (see discussion of whether this is a top down or bottom up Church).

    I thought it was a good suggestion then; I think it is a good suggestion now. Perhaps there could be a requirement for a written request to be on the formal Salt Lake do not contact list–like there is a requirement for a written request to remove one’s name from the membership records.

    I know there are many people who do not wish to resign from the Church, but wish to be left alone for a while (or even quite a while). I think it is a matter of common courtesy to abide by such wishes. And I am uncomfortable in inviting such people (or anyone, for that matter) to consider resigning.

  24. March 15, 2006 at 4:39 pm

    I used to post as “B” but I am not the “B” who posted in this thread.

    I recently spoke with one elderly nominal member of the church whom I know socially. She was telling me that she does not like being visited by representatives of the church, and her relatives regularly (every year or two) plead with the local bishop to visit her just one more time. So I tried to explain the “name removal” process to her.

    She freaked out and started shutting me down before I had finished explaining it, saying that what I was suggesting was “excommunication.” She didn’t understand when I tried to explain that “name removal” doesn’t have the same stigma.

    And that is why she does not resign. She is afraid that anyone who sees the record of her “excommunication” is going to think she is an embittered apostate/adulterer/what-have-you. In her mind, it shows her lack of hostility toward the church and maintains her dignity if she allows the church to keep her name on its rolls and she sends church members kindly but firmly and immediately away whenever they visit.

  25. March 15, 2006 at 4:43 pm

    The only believable explanation for FMH’s experience is that her MOTHER is contacting new wards in advance of her move and putting them on notice. And furthermore, that she’s following up.

    FMH, call home!

    –The Practical Mormon

  26. March 15, 2006 at 4:45 pm

    Oops. Number 5’s already on it. Never mind.

    –Miss Emily Latilla.

  27. Kimball Hunt
    March 15, 2006 at 4:59 pm

    I can’t seem to openy my mouth without hijacking a Times & Seasons thread.

    My bad. Anyway, ahem, at the bottom of this e-page I’m looking at here is a red writing linking to various sites, loosely termed the bloggernacle: some dominated by “Brighamite” types (/mainstream “Mormon” or Church of Jesus Chritst of Latter-day Saints), but also secular humanist types, Community of Christ types, blah blah. And then some of these categories can be seen to be “anti-Brighamite” (“anti-Mormon”, anti-Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). And aside from issues of belief is the issue of practice or level of activity in the “Church of Jesus Christ” (LDS) group.

    Yet . . . we still can all bloggernacle (as a verb) together to some degree.

    What’s controversial is whether some individuals and organizations should separate formally (in particular) the Church of Jesus Christ (/the, uh, “Brighamite” church), to either to help to mark them to the orthodox as being wolves among the flock or else to enable them to avoid people trying to fellowship them–or whether it’s OK to let the “Mormon” church just continue on, un-hyper-“reform”-edly and amorphously[sic (lex.?)].

    But all this just sets up this thought: I say it’s pretty obvious that the defining principal of the Church of Jesus Christ (/”Mormon” church) is this type of hyper”reform”-ednous, right? So, OK, then, to the church I say: Purge baby! And to these “amorphous” Saints: Request to have your names removed. If you need an organization to belong to, try the Unitarian-Universalist (or a Catholic, Jewish, Community of Christ, et cetera synagogue or church) or start your own or join some other group.

  28. Kevin Barney
    March 15, 2006 at 5:34 pm

    When I was EQP, I felt no compunction against encouraging people to resign. I did it all the time. That whole time, only one person ever took me up on it.

    And in that one case, the letter of resignation went up to the SP, who was acquainted with the guy, and said “Oh, let’s give him another chance,” and he threw the letter away. Aaargh!

    In PEC I would regularly advocate not bothering people who had made it clear that they didn’t want to be bothered. I remember on more than one occasion making impassioned speeches to that effect. And I was regularly overruled, the sentiment being “to give them another chance.”

    It drove me nuts.

    So the moral is, if your name is on the rolls, eventually some unsuspecting Mormon is going to show up on your doorstep. Either deal with it or resign already–if you can manage to run that gauntlet effectively, that is.

  29. Veritas
    March 15, 2006 at 5:36 pm

    Wow…I have had wards mysteriously think I wasnt baptized…lived in a ward and moved again without them ever getting our records…four months ago moved to a new ward in a different state (Az to TX) and the EQ president of our old ward called my husband last week to ask him to help in a move. Never called to see where we were mind you…just when he needed help with a move, despite the fact that we had had our records transferred months before…Also havent been home taught in four years (and having gone through 5 different wards) though I have been visit taught 2 or 3 times. Never been assigned to VT however (not that I minded). There have been times when we were considered inactive (somehow made it on the list) when we had never missed church (cept when we were out of town of course) and other times when we missed church for weeks at a time and never called/visited/noticed at all. So, yeah…that experience seems completly crazy to me. The ward Im in now rocks but it is literally the first ward I have been in in my married life where we were noticed, welcomed, asked to speak, given callings etc…and it still took them 4 months to get us HT/VT…so, I just can’t imagine the stalker phenomenon.

  30. March 15, 2006 at 6:16 pm

    If Mormons who proselyte — inviting people into the Church — are called missionaries, what do we call Mormons who make it their business to invite people out of the Church? Anti-missionaries? Excommunicators? I’m a little puzzled how anyone who actually believes LDS ordinances have any salvific efficacy could sincerely recommend to an inactive Mormon that they ought to request name removal (and cut off those ordinances). If people prefer to stay on the records as members of the Church, they should be allowed to do so, whether they declare themselves as “do not contact” or not. I have never heard *any* official LDS guidance suggesting that local leaders or local members should be advising local inactives to request name removal.

  31. March 15, 2006 at 6:30 pm

    I agree that the way out should be a little easier–and it probably should not require the follow-through of local leaders with soft hearts and lots of other things demanding attention.

    Not to threadjack, but I’ve been thinking about how the Church relates to our customer-service culture (in the U.S., anyway). Should you be able to cancel church membership as easily as canceling a credit card?

  32. Mike Parker
    March 15, 2006 at 6:43 pm

    My experience as an EQP was similar to Kevin’s (#28). I would regularly go out with a counselor or a member of the bishopric and try to hunt down people whose names were in our computer but about whom we knew nothing. Frequently we were told to not bother coming back. But only in one or two circumstances did anyone seriously consider writing the letter and being done with it. Many of them had family members who would be upset if they found out their sister or son or parent had left the Church.

    I promised them that I wouldn’t come back to visit them, but I told them I couldn’t promise that no one would ever visit them again. In this church we take seriously the story of the shepherd who left the ninety and nine to go into the wilderness and find the one. If your name is on the records, people will bug you.

    However, I have also been in wards where leaders shuddered at the thought of ever removing someone from Church records. This is clearly contrary to the manual, which lays out precise procedures for doing so.

    So our problem is not in our procedures. The problem is kind-hearted local leaders who think that the procedures don’t apply to their circumstances.

  33. jimbob
    March 15, 2006 at 6:44 pm

    Dave:

    This is irrelevant to your statement as a principle, but I wonder if you currently live in a place where you were leaving the one to find the ninety-nine. Or a place where your home-teaching list includes several dozen families.

  34. Paul Mouritsen
    March 15, 2006 at 7:44 pm

    DavidH

    So far as I know, there is no basis in scripture, church teachings, or policies for maintaining a do-not-contact list. The classic scripture on membership records is Moroni 6:4:

    “And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith.”

    That scripture does not seem to leave any room for a category of “sort-of” members who are no longer visited, admonished, or disciplined for moral infractions. If a member no longer believes in the doctrines of the church, if he no longer feels any connection with its members, if he no longer wants to abide by its teachings, then he should either voluntarily withdraw from fellowship or the local church leaders should excommunicate him for apostacy. Of course, that does not mean that we should conduct a witch hunt, but we should help those who have left the church make a clean break.

    Many of our problems stem from lax discipline, our apparent inability to draw a clear line between the church and the world. Church membership should mean something.

  35. Kaimi Wenger
    March 15, 2006 at 8:22 pm

    Okay, more comments:

    JNS,

    I guess if I were a September Six person, I might worry about that. But I’m just a blogger. And I seirously doubt anyone at the Strengthening Members Committee has me on any watch lists. Can you imagine the poor schlub who had that job? “Read all of Kaimi’s blog posts and report back to us.” The guy’s therapy bills alone would be astronomical.

    By the way, I hope that you and Serenity got the invitation I sent you last month – I’m taking a second wife. The wedding is this June. That’s right after my book on Heavenly Mother is set to be published.

    Sarah,

    It sounds like your observations have been a lot like mine.

    Sue,

    I suppose that’s a potential problem in uber-Mormon areas. Solution: Avoid Utah. (That’s good advice on a number of fronts, by the way.)

    Both Jimbob and Travis make the excellent point that the church’s ineffectual recordkeeping can create its own problems. A former member does make an effort to request no-contact — and that request goes to some assistant ward clerk who doesn’t really know how to file anything, and is promptly misplaced or forgotten.

    Ian,

    Also a good point. Neighborhoods get canvassed by missionaries. They often have no idea who lives where – they’ve been in the area for two weeks, have no contacts, and so they tract. That’s not any intentional contact. (Cf. Mark’s comment, similar point).

    Beijing,

    Agreed that people shouldn’t be forced to take steps that they’re not comfortable with.

    Kevin vs Dave vs Paul on the issue of clear lines and encouraged exit versus no policy of encouraged exit:

    Very interesting question. I think that as a practical matter, encouraging exit can avoid some of (though not all of) the problems people mention about unwanted contact. On the other hand, I don’t see a strong doctrinal hook for it. And it seems to open up its own potential cans of worms — i.e., encouraging exit in cases where it would not be best. So I think I’m (tentatively) against the idea. But it’s a very interesting topic.

  36. Kimball Hunt
    March 15, 2006 at 8:25 pm

    (Livin’ up to my threadjackin’ rap):

    I live in northeastern New Jersey adjacent to NYC. It’s an involved story having to do with my wanting to make my mom happy as well as to reciprocate with her providing me some, well, financial assistance, but for a few months I visited my local ward. Observationally, it seemed as though they have dozens of families on each individual home-teaching list here. Since I quit showing up two years ago, the full-time missionaries stopped by just once, looking up people on the rolls, although I wasn’t home.

    I loved hearing the verbal slang of the youth and even as well as many of the yuppies just moving into the ward from Zion, who generally are of a generation younger than me. When I’d been in Utah Valley after my mission, such slang as this, as I’d uttered unconsciously, had marked me as a West Coast outsider. And now among these insiders it’s the norm. And I noticed as well how the women dressed at varying points along the “staid-to-trendy” continuum, depending on their personalities and background.

    One of the main vibes I picked up was their sense of being perceived as being . . . marginalized? no, I just can’t think of the word. A super minority. And the usual dynamic I’ve remembered from way back when when I’d been active was still in place: The congregation’s lay leaders and the larger ecclesiastical area’s high council members were the more smoothly polished professional types; and below this level of status was allowed some modicum of individuality and even eccentricity; and whether indian types of chief types, many of the members were truly brimming with fervor, anywhere from the extreme of almost giddiness to the most sullen and introspective earnestness.

    When I’d visited the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) last was when I’d been living in a gentrified part of Philadelphia area near the University of Pennsylvania ten years ago. I somehow ended up in some kind of branch geared for professionals. This turned out well, as a lot of the members were these extremely bright people attending Wharton and the like. I just loved it as they’d argue about the best interpretation of the principles of the gospel, “Well, the Brethren say– ” blah blah blah, with these amazingly philosophical twists put on it.

    The above phenomenon was what interested me the most. But another one I just vaguely noticed without my really paying any attention to it was how quite a few members were subtely presenting themselves as renegades. Maybe if they were women they’d completely disregard the conservative Mormon attire (similar in ways I’m sure to that of conservative Christians and Jewish Orthodox) to instead opt for not too outrageous of contemporary fashion (you know what I mean: slightly more flashy of dresses or even dressy-but-stretchy trousers).

    What was cool about this branch was how all the members acted. I wear a suit but usually find em at a thrift store and so end up looking sort of professorially tweedy. (These days when I’m headed somewhere where I have to be dressed up and have a tie on and have had to go that day to my psychological counsellor, he’s told me many times I look like a professor.) Anyway, the Philadelphia people would many times compliment my closely cropped beard. They would ask me philosophical questions along with follow up questions, completely unsurprised at wherever I took it. This wasn’t one person but about twenty. Can you believe it? Both here in Jersey and down in Philly I never overtly intimated any skepticism. Essentially ya could say I was just there: vibing. Although– Chuckle– from my experiences in Utah Valley back in the day, I knew better than to describe it as such. That is, I’d probably come across as a sort of quiet observer who might voluteer a privat question or two, but only if I was invited by somebody into a conversation.

    And I’ve got the feeling Times & Seasons may be the cyber version of the above, with contributors running the gamit from liberal to conservative and with those of either type, through their spiritual yearnings tending more towards their being bubblingly devoted or sullenly doubtful, depending upon whatever their stage or phase within their spiritual quest.

  37. jjohnsen
    March 15, 2006 at 8:46 pm

    I have an aunt that would complain about the problem in post #0. Everytime she would move the missionairies or bishop would be on her doorstep within days of moving in. She didn’t want to take her name of the rolls, wishing to ‘keep her options open”. She stopped getting these visits after my great-grandma died, we all assume she had been the cause. My guess is this would be the cause of Tiff’s stalking, even if she doesn’t realize it. My aunt didn’t think of this option until it quit happening.

  38. Razorfish
    March 15, 2006 at 10:02 pm

    The notion that the Church is efficiently stalking in-active members is a complete farce. This issue is like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day where the same events happen over and over….forever…

    Rather than some well organized conspiracy, this is just the product of the system. As a previous EQP and Exec Secretary, or like anyone else that’s been involved in PEC, Ward Council, or other “finding the lost sheep stewardship” the problem is this…As a Church we love working off lists and ward rosters. Missionaries, ward leaders, and other people are constantly printing off the latest ward list and trying to figure out who the 250 people are on the 500 person ward roster that no one has ever seen. Since the ward leadership is constantly changing, and no good notes are kept…new leaders constantly are going through the list to figure out who these people are. Missionaries move wards every few months…and so the new guy just requests a “new ward list” and starts searching for lost sheep and occasionally “hits a grenade” when visiting a hostile less active.

    The problem is the Bishop can’t designate someone as a DNC, because they have stewardship over everyone. DNC lists are discouraged, and if they are maintained it is usually on some loose leaf paper the Bishop maintains. In our ward, we would put an * in the address field of the ward roster, so that unless you knew what it meant on the “ward roster”…you would just think the clerk made a typo or fat-fingered some data entry. For the trained eye – you knew this was a person who requested not to be visited.

    So unless a formal DNC file is allowed to be maintained, less actives will always be contacted by the newest missionary or newly called ward leader who prints off the latest copy of the ward roster….

  39. APJ
    March 15, 2006 at 10:33 pm

    It seems like people have quite a variety of experiences. I think it’s probably right that there is rarely (if ever) an organized, stalker-like effort to harrass people.

    However, one could argue that the lack of organization actually invites occassional over-ambitious missionary reactivation efforts at a local or stake level. The Church has general policy, as I understand it, in regards to how often to visit DNC’s and other related issues. But since this is rarely focused on, except when someone gets upset about it, it gives local leadership a lot of leeway. I think this partly explains why a lot of people have no problem separating themselves from the church, if they wish, but also why some people seem to have a lot of problems trying to sever ties when they want to. Local leadership can use aggressive tactics at a local level with pretty little fear of repercussion from leadership. At least, I never recall anyone being taken to task for being over-zealous in reactivation efforts.

    Also, FWIW, I think it is unfair to discount people’s wishes to not be contacted by saying they should just remove their names from the records. This seems unChristian, in that people who may really just struggling with their faith but do not want to associate with church in an official way at the moment. Having one’s records removed is very serious and has many repercussions that, just because someone wants to take some time to sort things out, may not be ideal.

    Of course, if you want to embrace an “either accept as many visits from us as our local ward mission leader/EQP sees fit, or have your names stricken from the records” approach, that would be okay; I would just suggest including it in the discussions and baptismal interview so that people know what they’re getting into.

  40. annegb
    March 15, 2006 at 10:49 pm

    I keep calling my kids’ bishops because I hope someday someone will reach my kids. You just never know when that might happen. I consistently reach those “lost sheep” in our ward. Some find faith, but all find some validation from me and hopefully some feeling of belonging. I respect those who truly do not want to bothered, but I guess it depends on a person’s definition of bothered.

    Genuine friendship, genuinely extended, is usually genuinely welcomed. I have lots of friends on the periphery of activity and I don’t push them, but I let them know they can call us if they need us.

    And funny thing is, they do. If somebody dies, if they have an accident and end up in the hospital, the church is the first place they call. They call if they want to bless their baby (then will never come again till the next baby). They call if they need money. I’ve called bishops who have then reached out when my kids were in need in another state or town. And thank God. My sister, who left the church, actually called them to help her daughter in another state. And they did!

    Thirty years ago, someone took a call from my husband’s former father in law, sought him and his wife (now former wife) out. They were the right people at the right time. My husband went to the temple and has been faithful ever since. So it’s not always a bad thing. The stalking term might be unfortunate, but I hate for anyone to be lost. In my calling, I truly want them to know they are cared for and about. I never press them to go to church, nor do I encourage the sisters to do so.

    I You just never know.

  41. manaen
    March 16, 2006 at 2:41 am

    A few experiences:

    * In a bishopric meeting, we were discussion, again, whether a certain less-active family had moved out of the ward. After some discussion, again, about who could go by their house to check, again, I picked up the ‘phone during the meeting, called the family, told them I was checking the accuracy of our records — are you still at this address? — thanked them, and hung up. It seemed so easy.

    * When I started a new job in SoCal, I kept my house in Silicon Valley. I stayed with a friend in SoCal and visited my house and renter-roommates some weekends. I finally moved into a house in the same ward as was in my SoCal employer. I was surprised to learn that I already was a member of that ward — my former ward, not knowing whether I had moved out or not (I still owned the house there) or where I was living, had transferred my records to the ward in which I *worked* !

    * After our divorce, my exwife moved to a different county and dropped from Church activity. One of my children then moved to go to school in a different city. Somehow, their ward decided that the whole group had moved, and sent their records to SLC. Church HQ called me a couple times for their current address, which I declined to give even though I fervently hope(d) for their return.

    * When I talked with my ex-wife’s bishop about a certain matter, he told me of a lengthy, acrimonious, one-sided (hers) discussion he’d had with my ex-wife when he tried to visit her and the children to verify their residence. Later, when I tried to talk with him about them, he wouldn’t return my calls.

    * My ex-wife later had her and our children’s names removed from the records of the Church.

  42. annegb
    March 16, 2006 at 11:22 am

    Manaen, I always thought you were female.

  43. manaen
    March 16, 2006 at 11:30 am

    43.
    annegb, really ?!?! I thought I’d talked about my ex-wife before. Hmmmm. I guess you can learn something new every day — if you’re not careful !

  44. JA Benson
    March 16, 2006 at 11:55 am

    A rock and a hard place is where we sometimes find ourselves as members of the Church. A couple of cases in point:
    Several years ago a visiting member came to our ward. She was not happy with us as we had not visited her less active sister. The sister’s name was taken down and the ward clerk set about to find the records of this sister. The visiting sister came again a few months later and again and demanded to know why her sister had not been visited. Apparently it took a long time as the less active sister had been lost shortly after her BYU days some ten or so years earlier. I was assigned to be this less active sister’s visiting teacher. I called and left messages for a couple of months. I probably did something I should not have; I told her that her sister wanted us to visit her. I sent her a couple more monthly cards. Finally she sent me a nice card telling me that she was member of another religion and not to bother her any more. I took the card to the Bishop and soon after this sister’s name was removed from the records. I have not seen the visiting sister again.
    A distant family member was less active and out-of-the-closet-gay. His home teachers called on him every month. He would tell them that he did not want to be visited. The parents of this inactive brother would call the Bishop of every ward he lived in and would demand that he be regularly home taught. The inactive brother did not have his name removed from the records because he did not want to upset his parents.
    As active Church members we can be caught in the middle of these dysfunctional family dynamics in trying to do our duty.

  45. jimbob
    March 16, 2006 at 2:39 pm

    Having been in a number of similar situations to JA Benson over the years, I am always amazed that the family thinks we, as complete strangers, can do more to help their “wayward” family member to be active in a visit than the family has done in a lifetime. I acknowledge that now and again it works out that way. But anecdotally, I have to say it’s pretty rare. (I’ve probably been too frank with some pushy family members in that regard.)

  46. Ginny
    March 16, 2006 at 3:22 pm

    APJ (#39) wrote: “Also, FWIW, I think it is unfair to discount people’s wishes to not be contacted by saying they should just remove their names from the records. This seems unChristian, in that people who may really just struggling with their faith but do not want to associate with church in an official way at the moment.”

    Very true. Maybe I’m applying my own experiences where they don’t fit, but I am a semi-to-inactive, believing member (convert), who has asked to be put on my ward’s Do Not Contact list. It’s not because I don’t believe or because I don’t want to be part of the Church, it’s because – I just don’t want people calling or dropping by, whether they’re from the Church, or from the Acme Traveling Sales corporation, or whomever. My husband is a non-member, and I don’t want him to be bothered with people dropping in or calling looking for me (which was happening quite a lot before I requested DNC). We are both very very private people, who don’t give out our phone number or address to anyone – unless we absolutely have to. When I want contact, I go to church or make the phone call or whatnot. If not – I prefer to be left alone.

    So far, everyone’s been pretty respectful of my wishes. It took a while before it got through to my HT, but otherwise I haven’t had any drop-ins. We do have a new group of missionaries slated to come through soon, though, so we’ll see if my request makes it through the transition.

  47. Emperor Digo
    March 16, 2006 at 4:35 pm

    This morning after seminary there was a commercial on the radio for another church. They said “we have a no stalking policy.� I wonder if they were referring to Mormons. I laughed.

  48. JA Benson
    March 16, 2006 at 5:03 pm

    Jimbob #46 your comment was wonderful. You explained my feelings better that I could have. Also I re-read my comments and they seemed so cold. Lest anyone mistake my intent; I feel for those whose loved ones have gone astray. I just think that sometimes in pushing it makes matters worse.

  49. The Blue Goose
    March 16, 2006 at 8:31 pm

    Privacy Disclosure:

    I think more care should be taken to respect the privacy of information associated with Ward rosters. Lately, the ward roster includes such information as your e-mail account in addition to phone and address information. I’m not sure how many other religious organizations are so freely distributing personal information within their congregation with anyone who gets access to the ward computer to print off a listing. The fact that DNC lists cannot be maintained in the computer system is a serious misgiving. People who do not want to maintain contact should have their wishes respected without the uncharitable threat of “well fill out the excommunication consent form.”

    Local leaders should be able to respect the wishes of those who have expressed the desire to not be contacted. I think we probably spend a lot more time “visiting or stalking” (depending on your perspective) people on our rosters more than other Churchs. Yes we are responsible to “be our brother’s keeper”, but we also should respect the wishes and concerns of others if at that point in their life they do not want to be contacted. The prodigal son was allowed to sew his oats without a random plate of cookies or awkward visit every other month.

  50. jimbob
    March 16, 2006 at 9:06 pm

    I think you miss the point, Blue Goose. It’s not “let us visit you or we will excommunicate you.” Instead, it’s the realization that the visitor can guarantee that s/he will never visit, but cannot guarantee that no one will ever visit unless the visitee actually remove him or herself from the lists. That is, the initiation of how to stop visits forever will almost always come from the less active member (this scenario is what I think is being discussed above). At that point, I’d rather be honest than diplomatic. I’ve seen advice in the Ensign which said to ignore DNC lists (or at least sang praises to one stake that did), so I can’t guarantee that just because I put someone’s name on a memo pad or even the ward’s computer that the visitee won’t still get visits in the future. Accordingly, any other approach, to my mind, is either duplictious or naive.

  51. March 16, 2006 at 10:45 pm

    Each time within days the ward missionaries appeared at our door� strikes me as completely alien — utterly out-of-step with anything that I’ve ever seen in any ward in which I’ve ever lived. The commenter might as well be describing the surface of the moon. The world in which she lives is one I’ve simply never seen.

    Same here, I’ve lived a lot of places.

    However, reading some twelve step literature and reading about the incredible levels of resentment and inference that alcoholics and others seem to have, kind of fits with the beliefs and interpretations some people have, regardless of the reality. Almost as if they work and write and comment from a template that has nothing to do with what most of us would recognize.

  52. Dan Richards
    March 17, 2006 at 10:09 am

    I recently visited a graduate student whose name appeared on our records. She kindly explained that she was converting to Judaism to marry her boyfriend, but that she didn’t want to remove her name from the records because her mother would be “devastated” if she did so. She was aware that this decision would mean periodic visits from Church members. We agreed that I could check in periodically by email (once every 6-12 months) to see if she was still in our geographic boundaries, still alive, etc… I imagine most disaffected members could live with this kind of compromise.

  53. annegb
    March 17, 2006 at 10:52 am

    Jimbob, a lot of people who cannot be reached by members of their family are touched by others. For instance, we have a couple in our ward who came from active families and they have been recently activated through friendshipping by members of our elders quorum. It happens.

    I’m careful in the way I contact people and if they say they don’t want any church contact, I totally respect that. But I remain friendly and we are friends otherwise. I can get away with it where others might not because of my history.

    I agree that we need to be cautious, but it’s not fair to characterize families as expecting the church to do what they couldn’t. It’s heartbreaking to have your child in a distant place and we all turn to the church to keep an eye out. I’m okay with it. It’s not stalking, it’s the essence of the gospel.

  54. March 19, 2006 at 6:46 am

    I wouldn’t say that the Church itself as an institution promotes stalking, directly speaking. But get one eager Ward Mission Leader or Relief Society President, and I can see that happening. It’s certainly happened to me in the past, and I’ve moved over 17 times in my 21 years of life.

    I’m not inactive or anything, I’m just staying away from church itself for a while for personal reasons. I asked not to be contacted by anyone for a while, it’s even on church records that I’m not to be contacted for any reason. My parents have kindly informed the Bishopric, Relief Society Presidency, and the Home & Visiting Teaching people in my ward about this. And yet still, people think I’m another “lost sheep”, and they think that if they reach out and try to be nice, the Spirit will touch me and bring me back. Unfortunately that has nothing to do with the situation, and in most cases when I get contacted, even though I try to remember they’re just being nice, it just doesn’t do any good.

    I think the root of the problem is, people in the Church get so into the idea that they individually have the power to invoke the Spirit and convert anyone back to the church. That if they send that cassarole, if they bake those cookies, if they keep sending cards and invitations to ward events, the other person will be so touched and blessed by the Spirit they have imparted, how could they possibly remain inactive? Sadly, it’s not that simple – that’s forgetting that people have free will. Yes, the Spirit is amazingly powerful, but not always by such simple means. Cassaroles & kindness don’t always address complex doubts or concerns about disagreements over doctrine. When people exercise that free will by putting “Do Not Contact” in church records, then that should be repsected. Individual members – no matter what their calling or stewardship – have to realize that by disrespecting the individual’s free will, they’re most likely just stepping on toes and worsening the divide between the inactive and the Church. Let the Lord figure it out and set a plan in motion for that person. By all means, pray for them, but don’t disrespect their God-given free will. Then I think that does approach the border of stalking, or at the very least spiritual harrassment.

  55. jimbob
    March 20, 2006 at 8:49 am

    “I’m not inactive or anything, I’m just staying away from church itself for a while for personal reasons.”

    Isn’t that the definition of inactive?

    “When people exercise that free will by putting “Do Not Contactâ€? in church records, then that should be repsected.”

    There’s no such thing as putting yourself on a DNC list. If it exists at all, it was made by someone at the ward level who’s keeping tabs with a steno pad or word file. Usually, though, it’s just in the Bishop’s head. Thus, there’s no “reasonable expectation” of being put on a DNC list.

  56. Hector
    March 20, 2006 at 9:17 pm

    The Stalker? Well I can speak on this topic somewhat intelligently seeing I’ve been the membership clerk in a stake that has the highest turnover in membership records in the United States. Of the seven wards, mine has the highest amount of records coming in and going out. So I have a little bit of experience on this subject.

    The LDS Church does in fact have a department that does nothing but locate people and trying to make sure the correct record is in the correct stake/ward. Many people move out without ever saying a word of “Hey we are moving and this is out new address”. The truth is about 25-40% of members let us know what’s going on, the rest of them I will power search the internet and locate where they have moved too. I move the records out asap though, whether I know where they went or not. If not, it goes to Church headquarters and they do the searching. The records that have been moved will notify the bishop that they have a new member in their ward and please visit them asap, give them a greeting. Many times missionaries will be sent out to work not just non-members, but new members and existing members as well.

    Stalker you say? Well depending on how well organized your past ward is with records will depend on how much “Stalking” you think is occuring, not to mention a bishop who is on top of things.

    One last note, many stakes don’t want bad track records with their records, home teaching/visiting teaching numbers being low. Many of those poor numbers are due to members not even living in their bounds. Sadly, if you don’t want a record at all that follows you then I guess you better make an appointment with the bishop/stake president and have that taken care of.

    If perhaps you just don’t want visits, well that is taken care of on the MSL computer system and no one will bother you, we have such a list and there are many members we don’t bother. Just an FYI.

  57. March 20, 2006 at 10:11 pm

    Admins, is there a post by Hector that got stuck in moderation? Dear Hector is very upset that you have deleted his first ever comment in the bloggernaccle and he assures me that it was not at all snarky. He says that because of stupid forums, he’s never coming back. Is there a way we can fellowship him and coax him into the fold?

  58. Kaimi Wenger
    March 20, 2006 at 11:15 pm

    Sorry bout that, Artemis. Hector’s comment got held up in moderation. All first-time comments get held there — it’s a software feature which prevents a lot of the spam we get each day, but which does result in a slight delay before first-time comments show up.

  59. John Taber
    March 23, 2006 at 4:50 pm

    My current calling is stake membership clerk, and I’ve been some kind of clerk (directly or indirectly involving membership) for six of the past eight years. (All three times I was ward membership clerk I sent off my own record.)

    The things I keep emphasizing with the ward and branch clerks boil down to 1) having a real physical address for each family; 2) having a telephone number for each family (or putting “unlisted”, “unknown”, etc.); 3) respecting members’ privacy by putting only the common first name in the preferred name field (so that their full names aren’t out there for everyone to see), and especially 4) separating adults 18 or over (in most circumstances) from their parents’ household, even if they’re still living there, and find out where they really are. Some wards are gradually catching on – if I’ve learned anything with this calling it’s patience. Others I have to get in their face, either over those things or getting the quarterly report in on time. (And I really don’t like having to do that – it’s not exactly spiritually uplifting.)

    My fantasy was for each ward or branch to get the Individual Ordinance Summary out to each and every member in the unit. Either they’d hand them out on Sunday, or mail them in an envelope with “Return Service Requested” on it, so if they’ve moved the ward has a new address for them. One ward with chronic record accuracy problems, lots of self-declared DNCs, but eager clerks, actually took me up on it. (And they were even planning to send envelopes out to the DNCs!)

    I was hoping they could then share their experience with the rest of the stake, but the stake president put the kibbosh on mailing IOSes out. (At least that’s the last I heard about the project. I did send the stake president an email defending it, but I don’t know what he worked out with that bishop.)

    The other thing I’d like to see is for Salt Lake to send us a list of records sent from the stake to Address Unknown at least a year ago, that are still there. We just might be able to track some of those people down.

  60. queuno
    March 25, 2006 at 11:34 pm

    I think that Kaimi has confirmed something that I’ve always suspected about the ‘nacle: Too many people worrying about inconsequential matters when they could be off visiting the poor, afflicted, and the widows, or at least the average Joes in their ward who might appreciate a visit from their home teacher, even if it’s just to waste time talking about the Sweet Sixteen.

  61. Mike
    March 27, 2006 at 1:21 pm

    What is stalking?

    Take chasing a pretty girl for example. If she likes you, then it isn’t stalking. You can dress up like a flowering plant and follow her around and play pranks on her for days and sneak into her dorm room in the middle of the night to deliver an invitation to a dance and run away with the sheets and commit a variety of petty criminal acts in the process and if she likes you she thinks it’s cute. It only becomes stalking when she doesn’t like it. When she feels threatened by it.

    I think it is more the way we do things than the details of exactly what we do. If we are genuinely friendly and not arrogant with people and honest and try to inject a little humor, they will not percieve it as stalking. This is suppose to be service and what people perceive it to be is more important than what our motives are, even if they are pure. If the best thing for them is to leave them alone then without rancor we should be able to figure that out and give them what they need if we really cared about them. We have a long history of obnoxious uncharitable visits in the past in most wards .

    The inactives have two words for most of our visits -“LOVE BOMB.” This is an act of apparent kindness on the surface but with strings of manipulation attached. (Love bombs are inconsistent with 1 Cor. 13). People can often tell if we are doing it because we care about them as a person; or whether we are doing it to satisfy some institutional requirement, and thereby hope to get some reward from the institution down the line. We all have to look within ourselves and ask: Why am I visiting this person? Do I really care and how do I communicate that? Have I dropped any love bombs?

    Another part of this problem that just kills me is this: My ward spends so much time and energy on these long lists of people who really need to just be left alone for a while, that they NEGLECT THEIR DUTY TO THOSE WHO SHOW UP AT CHURCH EVERY WEEK. They treat the members of the ward with the same sweet arrogance and desire to manipulate and control them that leads those who are not with us to resent them and call them stalkers and hallucinate mafia style harassment. But the faithful at church seem willing to forgive and ignore it.

    Recently one of my teenagers made the perplexing discovery, that she is treated much better at church when she drags one of her non-LDS friends along with her. Our ward treats non-LDS visitors noticely better than we treat our own youth. My DD calls it “protection.” These women working with the youth are supposedly among the best women in our ward and a few of them have to “shape up” when a non-LDS girl is present? Is it these same well-meaning people who are unloading the love bombs on those not with us and who are also requiring our youth to bring “protection” to church?

    I believe in a “field of dreams” approach to church. Build a really warm friendly spiritual Christ-centered and genuinely charitable ward and many of these so called inactives and dissenters (and whatever mean little label you might put on them) will eventually come back. Stop the focus on things you can not control, and start to focus on the people who are there and listening and willing. Specifically, shift the focus away from HT/VT and away from lists and assignments to go stalking. Focus on better music, better lessons, better talks and better prepared teachers, more activities and service projects that really benefit.All of these are within the walls of the church and do not require stalking.

    *************

    Recently I was reading one of the gospels in the Nag Hamadi. (For the few who might not know, the Nag is a collection of sleep inducing 4th century gnostic works considered heresy). A version of the parable of the lost sheep had one additional word in it that completely flips the meaning of the parable. The shepard left the 99 faithful obedient sheep to go out and find the one lost BIG sheep. The shepard is no longer the Lord, but an imposter and he cares more about his pride in having this one big sheep than about 99 good normal sheep. Two average good sheep provide more wool than one big sheep. But not more pride. So he exposes the rest of the flock to danger and when he gets the big sheep back he has more joy over it than over the fact that he got lucky and didn’t loose the entire flock to wolves.

    What is the Big Sheep for the modern LDS church? Is it the “fact” that we grew from 1 million to 12 million? Is not this the reason we are all out chasing the big sheep when the reality is that most of that growth was not sustainable and it came at a steep price. We are left with the soul of the church in worse shape in many ways than when we numbered only 1 million members.

    Parables are not historical events but stories told to teach a lesson. I agree with the parable of the lost sheep as preserved in the cannon of scriptures and that there are times we need to put extra effort forward for those who are lost. But I also think this other heretic version has much wisdom. We can not neglect the 99 as a matter of routine or soon we will be leaving one sheep to search for 99 lost sheep. My ward is about 80-90% of the way there.

  62. April 28, 2006 at 5:48 pm

    On my mission in Norway, the ward in Oslo asked us to track down inactive members. We went around to their last known address, asked neighbors if they knew where they moved, about 1/3 of them we actually tracked down at their new addresses.

Comments are closed.