14th January 2011
Notes about interview:
Just got back from an interview with President M________ and P_______.
They were kindly and caring.
They didn’t have the authority to release me from my calling as Bishop!
They gave veiled threats about disciplinary action if I began to publicly advocate my new beliefs about the church.
Then I took the opportunity to share some questions and concerns about the church.
It was like trying to teach blind men what colour is!
Amazing that so many things I brought up just didn’t seem to register in their minds!
None of the major issues about Joseph Smith, the first vision and the Book of Mormon seemed to matter because they have a feeling it’s all true!
I was told there must be some other issues in my life. (Implying sin).
I was told I had got the balance wrong in my life, and should have been focusing on my family, my work and my calling instead of researching this stuff.
I was told science is falable and feelings of the spirit are the only reliable way to know truth.
That I just need to believe! Ignore all the evidence to the contrary.
I’m in limbo now.
Still bishop, yet not believing.
It’s an odd place to be.
17th January 2011
Thanks once again for your kindly approach to me on Friday night. I appreciate your sacrifice in leaving your wife at home on a date night.
I have been thinking about the situation I am in.
For the record may I say, I have on my part, resigned my calling as bishop of Helston Ward. I consider myself released.
At the moment it feels like I’m in limbo. Neither one thing nor another. I still hold the office and calling of Bishop, but I have no testimony of the Church, so cannot function, yet still feel a weight of responsibility. Basically I don’t have closure, and neither can the Ward.
I have suffered an awful lot of emotional stress, turmoil and pain, and it took a lot of courage to tackle this. Just to come to terms with it. Yet when I try to do what I feel is honorable & ask for my release, because I know I can’t carry on without a testimony, it feels like I’m not being taken seriously. So am left in the office and calling for the sake of convenience, so __________and ___________can still function as my counsellors. But they are still coming to me for my counsel and advice as Bishop!
I could have stayed in office for the sake of ward members acceptance and my sense of importance, but took the harder route. Causing myself, family and friends pain. I just want to be free of the responsibility of being a ‘bishop without a testimony’. It is a preposterous position for the church to be in.
In the past President Jolliffe has threatened that he could immediately release bishops who committed certain sins.
What is worse than being an athiest bishop?
When a similar circumstance occurred in Yorkshire when I lived there, the Bishop was released immediately and the Stake Presidency assigned a High Councillor to look after the ward, till a new bishopric was established.
Is there a general policy or does it vary from Stake to Stake? Was President Jolliffe mistaken?
I feel sorry for _______________ and ________________. They are good men, but under a lot of pressure personally, even before church responsibilities.
Whilst I was bishop, in order to take the burden off my counsellors, I tried to limit church meetings to a bare minimum. I care about families being able to spend time together and they were grateful.
After our conversation on Friday, a few things still puzzle me.
I couldn’t work out why you and President Page denied that you were aware of a feeling amongst members that we were somehow ‘special’! I have always been taught it, as have my children. I asked my teenage son about it and he agreed to being taught in all his classes that ‘he was special and chosen by God for the last days’.
Why the denial? I’ve been a member long enough to remember multitudes of talks and lessons which have stressed the way we are different, even a peculiar people, chosen by the lord for the last days.
It is of no significance to the truthfulness of this church, but is definitely a characteristic of how we teach and bring up our children. And as a consequence I, and many others, have trouble relating to other human beings as truly brothers and sisters. And now I am beginning to feel a part of a big human family like never before.
I didn’t think I felt this way when I was a believing Mormon. Just like you, I would have denied it too. It’s just an observation, and since discovering it myself, I have discovered others who have left the church feel the same way, more connected to other human beings.
Sometimes the truth can be strange. But it may be something to consider when the church is teaching our children and youth so as to avoid creating a disconnect with their peers outside the church, unless that is the objective?
In response to your alleging there must be something amiss in my life, can I strongly assert that the one and only reason I have had a change of belief is due to my erroneous beliefs colliding with real truth and been found wanting.
I was as sure of my testimony as the ‘strongest’ member of the Church. Surely my life is testament to that fact.
Yet when that testimony (based on feelings about the unseen) is confronted, first, with indisputable evidence that what I had put my faith in was actually different, like Joseph Smith using a peep stone in a hat and his polygamous relationships with women (some of whom were already married to other living men), that testimony was put under strain. I attest that any honest, decent man would struggle to come to terms with this.
Then, after opening my mind to truly investigate the Church for its credibility, I find that over the years many of our prophets and apostles have “lied for the Lord”, in Brigham Young’s own words. Which Brigham didn’t have a problem with.
You may not at this time be able to accept this. Neither would I for a long time. But eventually cognitive dissonance becomes so powerful you have to deal with it, either by rationalizing or justifying based on the philosophy that the end justifies the means, or just ignoring it and hoping it will go away, or be ‘answered in the next life.’
I’ve been through this process. I know how hard it is to accept uncomfortable truths. I had to painfully admit to myself I was wrong about the Church. I had, in fact, born false witness as I had born my testimony to ‘facts’ that are not true.
Since when is it right to bear ‘false witness’ in testimony meetings? This happens every Fast Sunday as members bear testimony to the truthfulness of something they know nothing about. They bear testimony to something completely different from the true Joseph Smith, because they don’t know about what actually happened. How could they, when they are taught the ‘sanitized’ version!
Feelings are not a reliable way of knowing truth! That’s why latter-day saints in Utah are the easiest group to con, according to statistics about members falling foul of fraudulent financial investment schemes in Utah. The General Authorities were so concerned about it a few years ago they issued a warning to members not to get involved with these schemes. Members of the Church are trained to make judgements based on feelings, which often let them down badly.
If feelings (of the spirit) are the best way to judge truth how do we account for other religions having those feelings too. Many devout people from other faiths have born their testimonies to me in the past and they often gained their testimonies in exactly the way I did. They know their church is true. I felt uncomfortable and powerless as a missionary to dispute they had a testimony. So powerful are their testimonies that they sacrifice as much, if not more, than latter-day saints. Some are even willing to give up their lives for their beliefs.
A more extreme example of how feelings gave someone power over others is during the Nazi regime of Germany in 1939. Adolf Hitler knew the power of feelings in winning over the German people. He said “Reason can treacherously deceive a man, but emotion is always sure and never leaves him.” And Rudolf Hess said “Do not seek Adolph Hitler with your brains, you will find him with your hearts.” Extreme and kind of scary that that possibility exists.
Is this why people follow the Prophet?
Could there be another explanation for what a testimony really is?
If you are ever interested then it will pay you to research epistemology. (The way we know things). There are well recognised and understood reasons why people get involved in ‘mind control cults’. When you understand how the mind works it is easy to explain why so many people get involved in these organisations and find it so hard, and emotionally traumatic to leave. The Church is no different in this regard, as difficult as it was for me to come to terms with.
It is difficult when you are in the Church mindset to imagine or comprehend anything else could be true. It’s too easy to dismiss my change of beliefs as arising due to satanic influences, or due to sin, or weakness or being offended. As a church member that was my response. I expect no other from you or any other member.
But when I discovered evidence of a cover-up by the Church regarding things in its past which were deemed not ‘faith promoting’ I was shocked because it seems the Church expects a higher standard of honesty from me than it does of itself. ‘Protecting the Church’ is more important than the truth!
By the way, President Hinckley did lie on TV several times about different things the Church is embarrassed about. He openly admitted the Church practiced polygamy in the past, upto 1890 (he used that word, polygamy, not ‘plural marriage’) and then went on to say it was no longer doctrinal! The date, 1890, was a lie too; there are records in the Church archives of polygamous marriages being solemnized upto 10 years later, and children were born in those polygamous families. Please tell me why it is okay for my beloved prophet Gordon B Hinckley to lie on TV?
He also said we don’t believe or teach that ‘God was once a man’ (again on TV). Yet it is taught in Gospel Principles, lesson 47 of the new manual. As well as many other places.
These examples are just a few of many that have shocked me. How can a prophet of God lie so blatantly? You say it was to avoid a confrontation on TV. Does that make it right? How did he answer the temple recommend question about honesty?
Can I lie in an awkward situation to avoid confrontation? Or do I have to be a General Authority?
Don’t get me wrong, the Brethren say and do some wonderful things. But are they exempt from God’s laws? Would God lie? Ever? From what I believe I’ve been taught about God he cannot lie or he would cease to be God.
Of all the things I’ve discovered, I think discovering the Brethren have lied over the history of the Church since Joseph Smith has hurt the most.
President, as a Church leader, I know you must fulfill a role. Paul, as a human being, and someone I consider a friend, I urge you to look at ALL the evidence with an open mind.
Do not be deceived like I once was.
President J Reuben Clark said “If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.”
Use your sense of reason and conscience to avoid rationalizing and justifying the behaviour of the Brethren.
You are a good man. But remember, “good men do good things, bad men do bad things, but it takes religion to make good men do bad things.”
I wish you all the best in your search for truth. The truth certainly can make us free!
Love and respect