(Written as a follow-up to the two Open Letters containing vital questions the Church needs to answer in order to retain credibility & authority).
23rd December 2012
Dear First Presidency & Quorum of Twelve,
I am sorry I am writing this letter.
That is not an apology; it is a plain statement of fact. I sincerely am very sorry. It is regrettable that such a letter as this needs to be written at all.
However, when bishops and stake presidents find themselves unable to answer members’ basic concerns, and the Europe Area Presidency pointedly refuses to respond to crucial questions about the church’s foundational claims, it becomes obvious that something is very worryingly amiss. In such circumstances, what other option is there for troubled truth-seekers, than to refer the same unanswered questions to the fifteen men who are periodically sustained as prophets, seers and revelators, and who are sometimes reverentially termed “the living oracles”?
These matters are profoundly important, potentially influencing the daily lives of millions. Accordingly, answers are required from the governing body of the church. Whatever apologists, (self-appointed or otherwise), may have to say on the subject is irrelevant, unless of course, you, as that governing body, decide to endorse their ideas officially. In other words, a response needs to come directly from the horse’s mouth, and not from the mouth of just any aspiring stable-boy currently left to sweep up; stable-boys are hired and fired, and so their words carry no weight or authority.
You will, I assume, have some familiarity with my two Open Letters which were published earlier this year. If not, then they may be found here:
For the sake of brevity, I will not at this point repeat the full content of those letters, but ask for your considered responses when you have read them. Please answer honestly and openly, and please do so without further undue delay.
We have clearly arrived at an important crossroads in the evolution of the church, and history will almost certainly not judge you kindly if the content of those letters continues to be ignored. They represent the questions of many thousands already conversant with the uncensored historical information which is increasingly available to inquiring minds.
In the UK it is becoming apparent that we are nearing tipping point. The proclamation just published by twelve British members is the clearest evidence that disengagement is well underway. They represent thousands in this land who might now be properly described as “closet doubters”.
And who is to blame for that doubt? Are the members themselves culpable, or the local leaders perhaps? Hardly so. Those now leaving in significant numbers had, in many cases, been stalwart defenders of the faith for many years; they are not luke-warm converts of a few weeks’ duration, who have turned away for lack of understanding of gospel principles or church government. The current local leaders in many cases find themselves placed in the unenviable position of trying to advise men and women who are more knowledgeable than they themselves are about the issues. It is not the bishops’ and stake presidents’ faults that they soon find themselves in retreat, incapable of answering and unable to help. Blame for this situation rests squarely with the institutional church itself.
In an age of rapid information exchange, the practice of serving up sanitized history and empty spiritual placebos to the overworked and under-valued members, is without doubt poisoning the whole body of the church. The physician can hardly blame the patient for this perilous mis-judgment.
The tide is rising rapidly, and millions more who have yet to awaken to the uncomfortable facts, (usually because they have been actively discouraged from looking for them by church leaders and teachers), will before long also find out. And then the fairytale must give way to an era of post-fairytale reality. That means pain, and fear, and a sense of the deepest emptiness for many who are undeserving of such traumas, but it is a process which cannot be halted, because surely the God of Truth has willed it this way.
I am reporting this to you, but presumably you are already more than cognisant of these enormous challenges, and so you will also understand that this situation leaves you with a plain choice: either to continue to lead the people in a state of perpetual denial and ignorance, or to teach them to live by a new-found faith and trust in objectivity, which will permit truth to lead us where it will. It ought not to be too difficult for men of real integrity, men of God, to make an enlightened choice. Have we not sung together many times: “Do what is right, let the consequence follow”? The time is upon us when trust in that admonition needs to be expressed both in word and deed.
It is essential above all else to acknowledge that a brazen denial of the past has never been true faith, but just an avoidance of reality; and stubbornness has never been genuine strength, but just arrogance in disguise. This nettle before you must be grasped; this bullet must be bitten. It is for you to act now if you do not wish to stand condemned, not by history alone, but by all honest men and women throughout the world who value truth.
Take for example the case of the Book of Abraham. Scholars have been in no doubt about its true provenance for well over 40 years. However, the church hierarchy has in effect concealed the known facts from the tithe-paying membership. Why? Why are such vital historical discoveries not taught to the members as a matter of honour and integrity? Why is the myth of the Abrahamic papyrus still perpetuated even though it is proven to be false? After all, we read in church-approved manuals: “When we speak untruths, we are guilty of lying. We can also intentionally deceive others by a gesture or a look, by silence, or by telling only part of the truth. Whenever we lead people in any way to believe something that is not true, we are not being honest.” (p. 181 Priesthood & Relief Society manual, see http://lds.org/manual/gospel-principles/chapter-31-honesty?lang=eng).
Why then the deafening silence over something so radically important to the issue of belief in the prophetic office of Joseph Smith? Brethren, as the manual properly affirms, this kind of concealment is dishonesty; it cannot be called anything else. That fact alone is deeply distressing, but there is worse, for when such dishonesty is coupled with soliciting donations from a membership which lives in fear of spiritual condemnation if it fails to comply, it might perhaps be argued that institutional dishonesty has crossed a line and has become deception with intent to defraud. Or at any rate that is what we would probably call it in the UK. That reflects shamefully on all of us, and so I urge you to address this issue, or risk your names being forever tainted.
In the UK, most members pay their donations with added tax relief, and that resulting relief is additionally solicited by the church. This means that if deception with intent to defraud were ever to be proved, the long list of victims would not be limited just to the donors, but might also include the UK government, and therefore, in some way, each citizen of the UK. Assuming that UK offerings annually amount to a conservative £50m, it seems likely that the UK government is surrendering £10m per annum to the church as a corollary of the process. How much, therefore, has the average UK citizen unwittingly “donated” to the church over the last 40 years? This must be viewed as a potentially significant issue.
For most of us though, the deepest concern goes well beyond the earnings we have handed over under questionable circumstances. It is the devaluing of our standing in the eyes of our families and friends, which is most injurious to us, and it seems to occur whenever we place honesty above ecclesiastical loyalties.
I have a son I love and cherish as much as anything God has given me. I know he loves me too, but following my sincere attempt to be open with him about real church history, he concluded I had “lost the spirit”, and that I was no longer the person I had once been, the one he had always looked up to for advice and moral support. That wounded me deeply.
Why would he take such a view? Am I less honest, less charitable, less moral today than I was when I taught him at an early age to “follow the brethren”, and encouraged him to prepare to serve a mission for the church? Not at all. I am sure I am as much the person I ought to be now, as I ever have been. I have not really changed, even though my understanding of reality has. His respect for me has waned because you, (and those who formerly occupied your seats at General Conference), have consistently failed us. It is not his fault that he is afraid to look at the historical evidences which have opened my eyes. Nor is it his fault that he lives in fear of losing his own precious little eternal family if he should discover that my concerns are actually well founded. You have taught him throughout his life to fear the consequences of discovering the truth, and now he and we suffer daily for it.
It grieves me to know that he undoubtedly lives in a state of constant sorrow over what he sees as the disaffection of his parents and his siblings from the only divinely approved vehicle of salvation there is in this world. His life is needlessly streaked with unhappiness because of the fear of uncorrelated spiritual discovery you have sown in him since he first attended Primary. The demonstrably false tenet that God will not permit you, the Brethren, to lead the church astray has insidiously interpolated itself between us and his full trust, and so we are all condemned to suffer, as he doggedly tries to live an existence of false hope, vainly longing for things to be as they once were, but not knowing, (and, through fear, not wanting to know), the scale of the problems you have kept from him.
Having striven always to be honest with my fellow men, and having constantly held up that kind of example to our children, I find that a hidden wedge, (sometimes referred to by others as the “invisible elephant in the room”), has now resulted, and I am sure it is because he cannot prevent himself from measuring my worth by my unwillingness to pay you lip-service allegiance. As I no longer feel able to be supportive of your chosen ethos, he perceives that the fault is in me, for he has been thoroughly persuaded that you would not lead him astray. This is ironic on multiple levels, isn’t it?
We are more fortunate than many however, who, finding themselves in similar circumstances, are no longer even able to bring themselves to speak civilly to one another, for so great is the animosity arising from this issue of leadership infallibility. Tragically, Voltaire has been proven correct many times over in his observation that “Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices”.
Many LDS families have suffered and continue to suffer such injustices because of this infallibility belief first promulgated by Wilford Woodruff. It is time therefore to de-commission that pernicious and destructive teaching, which is currently instrumental in destroying so many kin relationships and friendships throughout the world.
There is a great need instead to re-enthrone the liberating principle of honest inquiry that all may freely discover the facts for themselves. This has been advocated by various leaders in the past, such as James E. Talmage, who stated:
“The man who cannot listen to an argument which opposes his views either has a weak position or is a weak defender of it. No opinion that cannot stand discussion or criticism is worth holding… In general it is true that nothing which cannot stand up under discussion or criticism is worth defending”
and J. Reuben Clark, who said:
“If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed”
and Hugh B. Brown, who observed:
“Only error fears freedom of expression.”
This current “control neurosis” should cease. It is time to do as Jesus would do, and teach a gospel of inclusiveness once more, which emphasizes that nobody should ever be considered a lesser person for pursuing ultimate truth, even if their quest leads them in due course to the conclusion that such truth is not found within Mormonism.
As you consider the humble origins of this church, and of Joseph Smith junior its founder, on this his 207th birthday, please don’t allow yourselves to be deceived into thinking that the finery and sophistry purchased with accumulated wealth in recent times, will ever be sufficient to cover up the sins of the past. The eventual cost of misleading the people at this crossroads would prove far greater than any price you would pay for championing transparency and inclusiveness. And if your courage begins to fail you as you stand upon this momentous brink, then please exercise full faith, and do not attempt to count the cost as you cast off the worn and torn rags of misrepresentation which, to be truthful, have adorned Joseph Smith’s church throughout its history.
Provided your intentions are worthy ones, we, the many disillusioned members, are ready to help in every possible way if you will only begin to speak to us, and also listen to what we have to say, just as Elder Holland promised he would do on BBC television earlier this year.
However, your desire for realignment must be full and sincere. Half-truths will no longer do, for they are also half-falsehoods, and will be found out. The searing light of truth must be shone upon every concern. Full disclosure is the only hope there is that the patient may be healed of his otherwise terminal condition.
The time has come; this moment of opportunity may never return.