Monday, 16 March 2009

An Open Letter to Mormon Church Leaders

This letter has appeared on the internet recently. It is very unusual and, since it is anonymous, it might be easy to dismiss. Many years experience as a Mormon and involved in ministry to Mormons I can vouchsafe that the circumstances described here are accurate to life, the struggle with family, church and conscience very real for very many Mormons and the controlling nature of the Mormon Church real. Why do Reachout do what we do? This is why.

Dear Elder (Name):

As one who suffers from within, I write this letter to inform you of the magnitude of a growing problem. I am fully active, fully worthy, and fully apostate. I remain active solely for the sake of immediate and extended family unity, and to preserve my marriage. The fact that I cannot act upon my knowledge about fraudulent church history and doctrine has created a considerable dilemma for both the church and myself. The church is filled with people like me, and if you do not address this dilemma, the church will collapse from within. This letter, therefore, is an appeal for your consideration of my personal dilemma, and to serve as a witness against you if you fail to act.

I am writing this letter anonymously because I fear the power of your unrighteous dominion. It is not acceptable for you to claim that you personally would not wish for those like me to suffer or fear. The “Strengthening Church Members Committee” has proven its reach in the true style of “1984 Thought-Crime” investigations and “Ministry (councils) of Love” discipline. Yes, I fear you, I loath your tactics and I forcibly serve you. If you doubt my claim of forced servitude, then you would be wise to withhold your assessment until the end of this letter. I am writing with the futile hope that you (or anyone) will care enough to resolve this growing and unavoidable tragedy within the church; the tragedy of those who know the truth and cannot act upon it without destroying their families.

I come from 1837-convert lineage. I grew up in the Mormon Colonies in Mexico; I was hyper-valiant in my youth; I completed reading the full set of scriptures by the age of 16; I had all the missionary discussions and missionary scriptures memorized before even getting my call to serve; I served a very successful mission in Mexico; I attended BYU; I married in the temple; I served in four different bishoprics, high council, stake executive secretary, gospel doctrine instructor, young men’s president, high priest group leader, and various other callings; I was a student of the gospel, and was known for my answers to difficult historical and doctrinal questions; I have attended the temple more than 800 times, and virtually have the whole thing (all ordinances) memorized; I am a set-apart ordinance worker; I am currently serving in three ward and stake callings; IN OTHER WORDS: I deserve your respect, and am not engaged in any unworthy activity, so before you categorize me into some convenient slot, think again.

I have five children, two returned-missionary-temple-married, one attending BYU, and two active in the youth program. My wife and I have lived our nearly 25 years of marriage completely united in our commitment to a gospel oriented home. My wife is one of the most valiant, unquestioning, devoted members you will ever meet. Our happiness in marriage was centered in the gospel. We have faithfully performed all of the home-strengthening practices (FHE, daily prayer and scripture study, etc) throughout our married years. Our children are strong in the church because we as parents gave them that foundation. We are your typical success story.

This changed approximately two years ago. The story about how it changed is long, complicated, and spans years of personal study, personal observation, and experience. Rather than rehearse the entire journey, I will only summarize the end results. Suffice it to say that I have discovered reliable unchallenged facts about church history, church operations, church doctrine, and church culture that have brought me to the undeniable conclusion that the church is not true. Not only is the church not true (meaning that it is not what it claims to be), but the church purposefully withholds (even denies) vital information that would lead ANY thinking person to the same conclusion. Finally, church leaders even boast about the moral and ethical justification for acting this way. This is the behavior pattern of a cult; it is inconsistent with the church’s own articles of faith; and it is the central reason for the growing groundswell of revolt from within. To ignore this fact is the height of arrogance. You are either stupid or you are devious; whichever you choose, you lose.

I have a feeling (since I cannot imagine a different possibility) that you already know about this problem. You already know that the church is not what it claims to be; you already know that Native Americans are not the Lamanites of the Book of Mormon; you already know that the whole story of the BOM is not accurate or historical or even a translation of gold plates; you already know that the Book of Abraham is not a translation of the papyri that it claims to be; you already know that the first vision account is not reliable or accurate; you already know that church history is a warped version of real history and real history paints a pretty bleak picture of church origins and behavior; you already know that spiritual “special witness” experiences are not what the average member believes them to be; and you already know that as prophets, seers, and revelators, you do not possess any such gifts as they are understood by the average member. You receive and even encourage unqualified trust in your special abilities, and you know very well that those abilities are not special at all. You may be talented administrators, but you are not prophets, seers, and revelators, and you know it. Yet you allow members to revere and honor you as such. You are either self-deceived or you are willing deceivers. You know that members believe and teach that you have had personal physical visitations from Jesus Christ, and you know that you have not had this experience. Yet, you are willing to allow members to perpetuate this myth for unknown but unavoidably dishonest reasons. This is a pattern, not an anomaly. You know you are not what you claim to be (or what church culture teaches about you); and you allow this false perception to continue. What does that say about you and your integrity?

So, after coming to this awful realization that things are not what they claim to be within the church, what are my options? This journey was so disruptive and internally tumultuous that I chose to travel it alone. I was absolutely certain that there were solid faith sustaining answers to each disturbing fact. Finally, after I had absorbed the magnitude of the truth, I tried to share it with my wife. To her horror, she saw that her husband had gone into the unthinkable realm of “apostasy”. At first, she resented me for even looking; then she denied the possibility that any of it could be true; then she tried to stand on the shaky ground that even if it was true it did not lead to the conclusions I had made; finally, she clings to the defensive posture that I cannot be smarter than you (how can so many good men be wrong and her imperfect husband be right?). This is where you come into the picture. This is where the church comes between me and my wife in our marriage relationship. This is where the damage is done in countless other relationships. Do you think that you can escape responsibility for this damage? Do you doubt your complicity in creating this wedge? Can you understand how people like me come to a point of powerless resentment against the church? I suspect that you cannot understand such things, because if you did you would use your influence to make necessary changes.

There is nothing more ironic than the saying that “A man can leave the church, but he can never leave it alone.” The truth is that “A man can leave the church but only if he leaves ‘alone’”, or “A man can leave the church but the church can never leave him alone.” You would gladly split up my family rather than allow my knowledge to draw them away from the church. You have proven such intent in both policy and practice.

I am trapped in the church; of that there can be no doubt. And yet I perceive that you do indeed doubt such an idea. It seems foreign to you that I would claim to be trapped in an institution that glorifies agency. But surely you can see the cultural elements (which you support) that limit my options. Extended family relationships are high-pressure control mechanisms. My leaving the church for doctrinal or historical reasons would have a devastating and disruptive impact on the entire family network. You glorify those who leave their families to join our church and at the same time you demonize those who would leave the church for whatever reason. You stereotype those who obtain damaging “truth” as intellectuals and apostates. You encourage an atmosphere of exclusion against those who have information that would damage faith, even when that faith is founded upon false data.

Your efforts of withholding and denying truth have had the result of destroying personal integrity. I know things that I cannot openly speak about, even with those closest to me. I lie in temple recommend interviews so I can go to the temple to see my own children get married, and because my wife is comforted by the image of a temple worthy husband. I lie to my children when they question an aspect of church history or doctrine, because the truth would place them in the same pressure cooker I am in. I lie to my wife because she finds the truth so disturbing. I lie because telling the truth is more painful than a comforting lie. And I learned to lie from you. You are lying to the membership by your silence (and denial) regarding information that is vital to faith. People base their faith on incorrect information; you know this; and you remain silent. You lie for the same reason that I lie; because people prefer a comforting lie over a disturbing truth. I am trapped here because of the culture you have created, and I am reduced to using the same tactics you use at the expense of personal integrity.

Your understanding of the culture you created and perpetuate through established programs is dismal. You preach adherence to the guidance of the brethren; you promise blessings for obedience to programs and leaders; you build a structure of dependence and hierarchical authoritarianism; you inculcate an environment of conformance without regard to individuality; and you do all of this with the stated intent of blessing and improving lives, relationships and family bonds. Your programs have evolved into a culture with the opposite effect than the one you intended; members feel constantly inadequate regardless of their effort; families pressure struggling children with bad advice that comes from your talks and books; you raise the bar, a blatant slap in the face to those who do not fit within your misguided program. Programs flounder not because of poor execution but because they are poor programs. When such negative results reach your ears, you are saddened that the poor members just do not see the vision; that they cannot learn the vital lessons. It never occurs to you that your inspiration and leadership is the flawed element. Either you are uninspired or uninformed, but your leadership is causing more suffering than blessings. But this is not really about bad programs. Rather, it is about faulty foundations. I do not expect you to acknowledge that the church is not what it claims to be, but I demand that you acknowledge your part in the failures. Stop blaming failure on the members. It is cheap and dishonest.

So, I am angry to the point of despair. I do not expect you to do anything with this information, except try to track me down and deal with me through your secret “committees”. I would resign today if I thought my family could remain intact. But I will continue to coax my family closer to the truth with longsuffering and gentle persuasion, and when they can see the real story without demonizing their father, son, and husband, then I will relish our departure and be rid of you and your unrighteous dominion. Someday I will not be so afraid of your influence, and I will confront your abuse of power directly.
Your success is over. You had a small window of opportunity to be forthcoming and open, and you have missed it. History is against you. Science is against you. TRUTH is against you. As you become more closed and protective, you will appear more ridiculous from the outside. Even though you will probably interpret this result to be “prophecy fulfilled,” the result will be the same. Enjoy your last breath of illusory comfort, because it will not last.

I am not alone. I am part of a growing community of knowledgeable members who will not be silenced for long. You have no idea how to deal with us because you fear our power. You fear it because you know that truth is on our side. I would feel pity for you except for the inexpiable arrogance that you currently display without remorse. The law of the harvest will be your undoing. You have sown seeds of benevolent deception; you shall reap a harvest of faithful rebellion.

Faithful Apostate


Evangel said...

Both my parents became Mormons when I was at college. The first time I came home afterwards two missionaries called, saying that they were just passing and thought they would drop in. However, almost immediately they asked me if I would mind if they asked a few questions. I had very little Biblical knowledge. My parents had never been churchgoers and in fact my father had been hostile towards Christianity. However, without meaning to, I managed to irritate one of the missionaries, who eventually told me that my answers were stupid. My mother became very upset, telling him that I was now lost. He disagreed but soon after they left and did not come back to see me again. Years later, I discovered that these missionaries do not make social calls on people they have successfully brought into Mormonism. Their job is to go out looking for more converts. Their visit to me had been pre-arranged without my knowledge with my parents.

When my parents were in their seventies, my father asked for my help in learning how to use a computer. I asked him why he needed to know and he said that he and my mother had been given the task by their bishop of entering family history records onto computer and were going to have to travel down to Surrey on a regular basis for training. Neither of them had touched a computer before and I could tell that he was quite stressed about the prospect. Not long afterwards, he had a two heart attacks only six weeks apart and I think he realised he did not have long to live. It was obvious to me that he was very frightened. This surprised me, since he believed he was a member of the ‘only true church’, paid his tithes, was temple-worthy and an Aaronic priest and I thought that he would be confident as to his eternal destiny. He died soon afterwards.

His death had an effect on me. It was the first time I had lost someone so close and I began to think about life after death, which I confess I had not done before. My husband was also thinking along the same lines and we began looking for a good church. On our first visit, there was a testimony time and a lady suffering from cancer went out to the front and said that she had been told her chances of a full recovery were not good. In spite of her situation, she radiated peace and joy, telling us that God, not the doctors would decide her future. The contrast between her reaction to impending death and my father’s was so great that we began going regularly and soon afterwards both became Christians. I also began to look into Mormonism.

I soon discovered that being temple-worthy is very important to Mormons, as it is said to be a route to godhood, and that the temple recommend comes from the bishop. He can withhold the recommend if, among other things, a Mormon refuses a job given to him by the bishop, since he is supposed to have divine guidance on these decisions. My mother could be very vague if I asked her any probing questions, so I didn’t find out until after her death, by reading the Journal she left behind, that she had asked the bishop why he had sent my father to be trained for a job which he knew he would not live to take up. His reply was that he had done it to test her faith

The more I found out about the origins of the LDS church, the more concerned I became about my mother and her eternal destiny. I also discovered that her church had no scruples about owning a company which sold alcohol and tobacco, setting up brothels in 1885 in Salt Lake City and with members owning many of the gambling casinos and massage parlours today in Las Vegas. I asked my mother about this and she said that it was all perfectly OK for Mormons to make money out of ‘Gentile sin’, so long as they themselves do not indulge. It seemed as though there was a veil over her mind. She could not see the contrast between the teachings and actions of her church and the Christian gospel. Where in the words or actions of Jesus and the early apostles can we find justification for tempting non-Christians to sin for our own profit? I felt at times that she was afraid of discovering her beliefs were false, after thirty years spending a great deal of time and money in devotion to the LDS.

In her eighties my mother developed cancer and one day my husband was at her home doing a few repairs when the LDS bishop and another man came to visit. My husband, who was working at the top of the stairs could not help but overhear the conversation. Although my mother was still able to live independently, she had just been given the news that her condition was terminal and my husband was shocked to hear that the men, instead of comforting her, were only interested in whether or not she was keeping up to date with her designated readings and studies. My mother was always careful to follow all the commands and instructions laid down by the LDS, but during one of many conversations, I once asked her if she had any assurance as to her eternal destiny. She said that she did not. Their hold over her was so strong, however, that she refused to take on board anything we said to her until, just a few hours before she died, and unable to speak, she nodded when I asked her if we could pray for the Lord to forgive her sins and give her the assurance she lacked.

Over the years I met several other Mormons, who were genuinely nice people, and with whom my parents had become good friends but the church itself has come across to me as legalistic, demanding, lacking in compassion and unable to give its members any assurance of their eternal destiny. If they could have such a strong hold over my parents, who had no other family within the LDS, I can understand the predicament of the writer of this letter, who finds himself with so much to lose if he leaves. I pray that the true God of the Bible will break through to him and his family and bring about their release from this deception.

Mike's 4 Tea said...

Thanks for your comment Evangel.It is truly worrying the incredible hold the Mormon Church has on people and tragic how it places itself between them and their Saviour.

I am glad that your mother consented to have you pray for her before she died. Your Father's story is especially moving and a dreadful indictment against the bishop. It is well to remember that our final destiny rest on our relationship with God and we none of us can know on behalf of anyone else how that person stands or what can happen between dying and death. Consdier the thief on the Cross.

Bless you for sharing your story.