Inhuman Swill : Mormonism

On November 10 (the same day The Accidental Terrorist was released), I mailed my resignation letter to the LDS Church via USPS Priority Express with delivery confirmation.

You see, unlike in many Christian churches, having your name and records removed from the rolls of Mormonism is not as simple as refraining from church attendance. Mormons are sticklers for records, and unless you do something drastic, they continue to count you as a member whether you want to be counted or not. If you move, your church records will often follow you, whether you want them to or not, and the leaders in your new city will send people out to your house to make sure you get involved in the local congregation. I've heard from former members whose repeated requests to be left alone were completely ignored, to the point where it could be called harassment.

I had not attended a Mormon church in nearly twenty years, and my address had changed eight times, but on May 29, 2014, I nonetheless received an email out of the blue from the local Mormon ward in Astoria, Queens, asking for volunteers to help out with a weekend service project. I still don't know how they knew where I lived, never mind what my email address was.

The point is, the LDS Church (both as an institution and as individual members) is terrible at respecting the boundaries of people who would prefer to be left alone. Because of this, it took at least one lawsuit to establish that people in the United States have the right to easily resign from the church and thereafter be left alone. That's how it should work in theory, anyway. In practice things are often messier.

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On his new comedy tour, Lewis Black has been reading rants submitted by fans at the end of each show. On November 8 in Oklahoma City, he read a rant from 18-year-old Trevor Sepulvida of San Diego, who had just sent in his resignation letter to the Mormon church.

The rant is brilliant, profane, delightful, and irreverent in the extreme. If you're Mormon, it may well singe the ears right off your head. We desire all to receive it. Bow your heads and say "Yes."

People: Video of Political Comedian Lewis Black Reading Teen's Mormon Church Resignation Letter Goes Viral on Social Media

Full entry's Geek's Guide to the Galaxy Podcast
Though it doesn't officially come out until tomorrow, my interview with the Geek's Guide to the Galaxy podcast is now live and available through iTunes and elsewhere.

I really enjoyed doing this interview. Host David Barr Kirtley asked great questions, and we chatted not just about the writing of The Accidental Terrorist, but also how charismatic religious leaders manage to get away with so much and why there are so many Mormon science fiction writers.

Dave does a heroic job with this podcast in general, and if you're not listening to it regularly, you should. In fact, you should listen to a few of the many great past episodes and then help support the show.

Listen below now!

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After years of work, The Accidental Terrorist, my memoir of Mormon missionary life, is out today! And what better way to celebrate than to mail a letter that, honestly, is years if not decades overdue...

10 November 2015

Member Records Division, LDS Church
50 E North Temple Rm 1372
Salt Lake City, UT 84150-5310

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Excerpted from The Accidental Terrorist: Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary by William Shunn, available now!

My mission began around the time the prophet Ezra Taft Benson forcefully reaffirmed Joseph Smith’s declaration that the Book of Mormon was “the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion.” It was the absolute center of our proselytizing efforts, the axis around which all else revolved.

Joseph published the Book of Mormon in 1830, when he was 24 years old, in the wake of a revivalist firestorm that swept through western New York. New religious movements had sprung up left and right, and utopian societies were a dime a dozen. The region was fertile ground for experiments in faith, having already given rise to such charismatic figures as Jemima Wilkinson and Mother Ann Lee. Joseph and his book would go on to eclipse them all.

Joseph Smith, Jr.—named, like I was, after his father—was born into precarious circumstances in Vermont on December 23, 1805. He already had two older brothers and an older sister—another brother had died in childbirth—and his father shuffled the growing brood from one New England town to the next, hounded by bad luck and debt. Joseph’s was a childhood steeped in magic and visions from his father, but also, from his mother, in deep love and reverence for the Bible.

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Excerpted from The Accidental Terrorist: Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary by William Shunn, available now!

Elder Fowler tossed a golf ball lightly in the air as I trailed him up the shady walk. He bobbled the catch, and the ball clacked off the concrete.

“Aw, shit,” he said, lunging for it on the bounce. He snagged it and glanced back at me apologetically. “There I go again. You must think I’m awful.”

I waved him off as best I could while balancing a precarious stack of dark blue books. “Don’t worry about it.”

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Excerpted from The Accidental Terrorist: Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary by William Shunn, available now!

Two years earlier, my father and I were driving back roads somewhere east of Victorville in the California desert when he sprang a terrifying question on me. “Son,” he asked, “do you want to serve a mission?”

I didn’t know what to say. I must have fielded that question hundreds of times growing up, from relatives, family friends, or congregants at church, and the expected “Yes” was always my reflexive answer. But the look on my father’s face told me this time was different.

He wanted a truthful answer. I didn’t know how to give him one.

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Please drop by Reddit tonight, when I'll be hosting an AMA ("Ask Me Anything") in the r/mormon subreddit. I'll field questions about my new memoir, The Accidental Terrorist, and anything else you care to ask.

Note that the posted time, 7:00 to 9:00 pm, is for the Mountain time zone, to accommodate that region's strong interest in the subject matter. But you can, of course, participate from anywhere! Please join in! One random participant will receive a free copy of The Accidental Terrorist just for showing up.

My second Accidental Terrorist giveaway continues to run at Goodreads! If you're a Goodreads member with a mailing address in the U.S. or Canada, you can enter for the chance to win one of ten advance reading copies. The giveaway runs another five days.

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Excerpted from The Accidental Terrorist: Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary by William Shunn, available now!

At the tap on my shoulder I jerked my head. “Elder Shunn, you’re up,” whispered Elder Rosenberg.

Time for my intake interview.

I stood and picked my way through the cluster of folding chairs in the darkened front room. The apes—a.p.’s, or assistants to the president—had drawn the heavy drapes and were nattering on about mission procedures, with transparency sheets and an overhead projector as aids. Elder Fearing and Elder Hardy had cheerfully announced that each of us would have 70 proselytizing hours a week to look forward to, at least eighteen of them knocking on doors. Ten solid Book of Mormon placements would be the minimum weekly goal, along with six first discussions. The monthly goal would be two convert baptisms.

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Excerpted from The Accidental Terrorist: Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary by William Shunn, available now!

23 February 1987

The detective unlocks my tiny room and drags a plastic chair in from the hallway.

“Mister Shunn,” she says, “I’d like to ask you some questions now, if you have a few minutes.”

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