Dear Family and Friends,
If you are reading this letter it means I’m already dead…just kidding, I’m not dying. It means you have made the cut as someone important enough in my life to include you in this information. It may seem strange receiving a letter from me out of nowhere. Hopefully it will make sense shortly. I really wanted to get out and make clear everything that I have been thinking and feeling for numerous months now. You may have questions as you continue reading but please read to the end before asking as the letter may help you understand.
The reason I am giving you this is because I no longer believe that the LDS church is the one true church. I realize that this may be an earth-shattering thing to hear, but I have not made this decision lightly. One thing that I need to make clear is the reasons for my decision. But before discussing the reasons why, I want to make clear what did not happen in coming to this conclusion. I am not making this decision because I am lazy and just want to stop attending church because it’s hard to attend. I was not offended. I did not get to this place because I want to sin. I also did not make this decision because of any problems in my personal life or unresolved sin. This was, and is, a very difficult decision that I agonized over for many months and was based on real issues that I have discovered. There are many preconceived notions of why people stop believing in the church and I want to make clear that these things are not part of my decision.
As for what did happen, it started with small doubts. For many years, I have not seen direct blessings from certain aspects of the church. For example, I did not feel energized or recharged from attending church. It was stressful, and I did not feel more blessed by attending. I noticed that people outside the church could be just as happy as people within the church. People that did not pay their tithing were often just as well off as those that did pay tithing. I questioned the idea that I, as a member of the church, was happier or received more blessings than those outside the church. I was open with [my wife] about my feelings and we had many discussions throughout the years. We pushed each other to continue doing the things the church taught, hoping for the peace and happiness that was promised.
Last fall/winter, I reached out to friends about some of my concerns. I approached several faithful members who counselled to continue reading scriptures, praying, and to generally remain faithful. They bore their testimony that the church is true and that things would improve. I renewed my efforts to do these things in the hope that I could find comfort. After a time of not feeling better, I began to question how long I needed to be doing these things without receiving the promised blessings of comfort and the spirit. In time, I also reached out to other active friends who believe that the church has good within it, as well as some truth, but that told me there were difficult issues within church history and doctrines.
Needless to say, I wanted to determine for myself the truth of these things, so I began researching. It began with the LDS Gospel Topics Essays on lds.org that discuss the church’s official position on difficult questions. Some of these include: DNA studies of Native American people, the rock in the hat translation of the Book of Mormon, the several different versions of the First Vision, the actual practice of polygamy, black people not being allowed to receive the priesthood or to be sealed to their families in the temple, and the incorrect translation of the Book of Abraham scrolls. These major issues within the church’s history began to cause a lot of stress and concern.
To try to find faithful answers, I also researched Fair Mormon, which is an unofficial church website made by faithful members that try to give answers to difficult questions about the church. These sources seemed to answer some questions but other difficult questions remained. And upon closer inspection, many answers did not make sense. As the search for answers continued, I researched several sources of information. A book called Rough Stone Rolling, which is an honest biography about Joseph Smith written by Richard Bushman, an active member of the church and a church historian. He stated, “For the Church to remain strong it has to reconstruct its narrative. The dominant narrative is not true; it can’t be sustained.” This statement came from an active member who is a professional in church history! I read a book called An Insiders View of Mormon Origins, which was a summary of 20 years of research began by an active member working for the Church Educational System who eventually lost his testimony because of the things he learned. Mormon Think is a website that attempts to relay the truth about church history and difficult questions based on the best evidence available. The CES letter is a document written by a previous member based on difficult questions that he could not make sense of.
I focused on keeping an open mind when investigating all aspects of the church, both from sources inside and outside the church. I decided that I would determine for myself whether claims were true or not regardless of who made what claim. I would go back and forth between the church answers and the answers from sources outside the church. By looking deeper than what was said in the documents, through researching the actual source material these documents were based on, I determined that the most accurate answers were from the sources external to the church. These answers led me to the conclusion that the church was not what I had believed.
To make a long story short, I stopped believing that the church is the only true church on the earth due to many factors. These factors include concerns with church history, certain past and present doctrines as well as changes to doctrines, actions of past and more modern church leaders, and the belief that a person can learn truth from spiritual feelings alone, among other things. I won’t go into details as it is not my intention to force any information on you or to change anyone’s minds on their beliefs; however, after you finish this letter, if you have any questions to further understand how I got here, please feel free to ask.
I shared my conclusions with [my wife] and it was very upsetting for both of us. During this process it was very important to us to keep communication open as neither of us wanted this to pull our marriage apart, as this is the most challenging thing we have faced in our relationship. We talked, laughed, and did our fair share of crying.
During this process, a statement by President Hinckley kept coming to my mind, “Either the church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the Church and Kingdom of God, or it is nothing.” Another quote that fits my experience is by Martin Luther King Jr.: “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him he is right.” It is my conscience that led me to make this decision and to share this information with you. I agree that I have had many positive experiences in the church. It made me who I am. It led me to my amazing wife and family. I believed that it was true and acknowledge that I have had spiritual experiences, but I had to re-evaluate what those experiences actually meant.
As far as the kids, we have not told them anything. We have not completely decided how to bring them into this situation, so please don’t discuss this with them yet. We realize the importance of doing this in a timely manner, but we just want to figure out the best way to proceed. While [my wife] has some concerns with the church, she believes there are benefits to attending and I support her in this and still attend myself. We feel it is important that we are both open and honest with the kids, so it may end up as a, “Mom believes this, Dad believes this,” but we want our kids to be able to exercise their free agency as to what they choose to believe. Our main concern is to continue to work together to raise our kids to be good people and help them to be happy and healthy individuals.
At this point I want to restate that I did not make this decision lightly. I realize that there is good in the church. I worry that I will be judged for my decision and am somewhat terrified of how people may react. I know how people think and feel about those that stop believing in the church, both because I have witnessed it and because I have judged others myself after they have stopped believing. Please don’t judge me. Please don’t think that I’m weak for taking this path. I can’t express to you so that you would truly understand the feelings of loss, hurt, and betrayal that I have felt for months learning that the church isn’t what I was taught it was. This has been a very painful process. I realize that you can’t understand how I could come to this place and that you believe that I have been deceived. I did not want to end up here. I wanted the church to be true. I wanted life to remain simple. But I cannot ignore what I have learned. There is a saying I’ve read recently that fits perfectly with my situation: “When an honest man discovers he is mistaken, he will either cease being mistaken, or cease being honest.” I feel that I have to stand up and be open to you about my current position as well as how and why I came to this point.
My purpose in writing this letter is not to convince you of anything. I’m not trying to destroy your faith. My reason is to help you understand my process in getting to this place. I respect you enough to give you this information myself rather than you having to hear it from someone else.
I want to make it clear that I want to be involved with you and your family regarding church. I acknowledge the positive aspects of the church that you benefit from. While I don’t agree with everything the church teaches, I am not antagonistic. As I said before, as of this moment I continue to attend. As church leaders have said, I will take whatever good and truth that is there.
Please understand that I am still the same person. I don’t know how life is going to look and it is frightening, but I am still a good person. I am not bad or sinful for looking into these things; I have been seeking truthful answers to difficult questions. I love you guys so much and hope you understand, and I hope my relationship with you and your family remains close and strong.
One final thing, while [my wife] and I realize this may be an uncomfortable topic for you, this has also been very difficult for us as we haven’t had many people to talk about this with. We both feel that having support from those we love by just checking in on how we’re doing instead of ignoring the elephant in the room would help a lot.