My Thoughts and Feelings to Stake President just prior to official release

Expressed in a letter to the Stake President a few weeks after my resignation and on my official release as bishop.

Dear ___________

Thank you for your kind email expressing your love and concern for us.

We really appreciate your thoughts and the time you have taken to mention us specifically in your prayers.

I would be delighted to attend for my release tomorrow. Thank you for your kindly invite.

We are doing really well thank you. The business is booming and we as a family are closer than ever. My relationship with my children has deepened since resigning, which I never expected. They feel more at ease talking with me.

We’ve been able to spend more quality time together and that has been a great blessing.

I do worry for the family who will be taking over the leadership of Helston Ward. Although I saw it as a blessing whilst still a believer, in reality it put a very big strain on our family. I never realised that till now. It certainly wasn’t a reason behind my decision to resign, because it never occurred to me till after resigning. We are all so willing to sacrifice for God and the expectation of future blessings. Even though we, and those around us, may suffer now. Yet so many families struggle! I’ve seen it all my life in the Church.

Like many things that I’ve realised since making my decision, as Church members we tend to put many difficult questions and concerns on a metaphorical shelf to ‘deal with later’, because to do so now would mean we would be doubting our “faith”. Faith can be dangerous in that it allows us to carry on ‘in good faith’, expecting an answer to come in ‘the Lord’s time’, or believing that even though we don’t know the answers we have confidence that the Lord does. Yet we never really deal with the issues and never get answers. In the mean time our families suffer from not seeing their dad, our wives from not spending precious time together. Then we also tend to do and say things which we have no evidence for, but just act on faith, believing that in this we are justified, when really faith is belief in the absence of evidence or the expectation of evidence.

In its perfect form this is what those men demonstrated on September 11. They suspended evidence in favour of belief and produced a devastating outcome for all the world to see.

In reality I’ve been happier since my change of belief. I did not expect this. I actually anticipated it would be worse for me as a non-believer. This is what I had been taught to expect all my Church life.

I now feel like my life is more authentic. Based on reality rather than fantasy. It’s a good feeling!

I’ve been amazed by how wonderful it feels to begin to think freely. To use rational thought and reason. I have begun to recognise the Church’s negative influence on our psychology. How gradually and subtly Church members thought processes are altered till we find it difficult to ever imagine any other possible way of thinking. As believing members we cannot ever imagine that we are in this situation. It’s impossible!

Yet now, looking back, I can see how the Church had taken control of my mind. It’s a miracle I ever looked outside of the Church for truth, so that my mind could be freed.

If you ever want to talk about it, I’ll be please to discuss the things I’ve learned.

I’ve learned so much since my resignation about the nature of belief itself, the psychology of belief and epistimology (how we come to know things), about cognitive dissonance and how we are taught in the Church to interpret mental confusion and bad feelings as coming from the devil, yet psychologists recognise this in all human beings as just a normal response to conflicting beliefs etc.

It’s interesting to consider the nature of our testimonies and how millions of people around the world also have testimonies about their religion.

Since not being a believer I have become aware that many Helston Ward members do not have the same level of faith, testimony and commitment to the truthfulness of the Church as I did up until December last year. My faith and commitment were total! Yet several members have confided in me since my resignation that they never believed the totality of the Church teachings as I did. It seems many just take from the Church what they want and leave the rest. I will not reveal who they are, but there are many in this Ward and Stake. Some in leadership positions.

If I knew when I was bishop what I know now about those members they probably wouldn’t have temple recommends.

I’ve learned that my ‘power of discernment’ as bishop was a sham. The same as members of several Stake Presidencies and General Authorities over the years who were never able to detect that ______________was a serial paedophile, yet he was called, set-apart and fulfilled successful roles as Branch President and District President. Our family became emotionally and physically divided because of our belief in ________________as a righteous priesthood holder and so couldn’t believe in the victims’ stories till much, much later.

This is just a couple of examples of how we cannot trust ‘feelings to be a good interpretation of reality’.

I am so glad to have at last recognized this fact. I hope many others will eventually see reality too.

I value this ‘one life’ that I have so much more than I ever did as a believing member. I don’t want to waste my time here on earth preparing for an after-life that may never happen, I want to focus on the only life I ‘know’ I have. It’s been really liberating to suddenly refocus on what is most important, which is this life, and my relationships. And to focus on the difference I can make in the world, so that I can leave the world a better place for me having lived in it.

Thank you for all the loving humanity and compassion which you have shown me over the years which I see as truly coming from you. _________ the man. You have tremendous ability to love and teach.

With my love to you, and best wishes for a wonderful future for all of us

Steve

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