Letter to my Kids - Final Entry
The Flashlight

Families: Isn't It About Conditional Love?

What follows is a heartrending email I received from an Equality Time reader.  Mike (not his real name), who was a returned missionary, married in the temple, and active member throughout his adult life, became disaffected with the LDS church and sent his family  a respectful letter informing them that he would no longer be an active participant in the LDS church and explaining some of his reasons (doctrinal, historical, logical, etc.)  In response, Mike's father sent an email to all of Mike's brothers and sisters and did not include Mike on the distribution.  Fortunately, one of Mike's siblings forwarded the email to him; otherwise he might never have known his dad's true feelings.

One might expect a church that claims to be the one true church of Jesus Christ  to instill the principle of unconditional love in parents.  Members of the LDS church often point to the "fruits" of the restored gospel as evidence for the church's truthfulness.  Read the following letter Mike's dad sent to Mike's siblings.  Witness the fruits of the gospel in action.  And judge for yourself what they may tell us about the church's truth claims.

Dear Family,

Mike's letter does not come as a surprise to me.  I have been watching him for many years moving towards this point in his life.   In this case, he has allowed his personal mistakes, his frustrations, and his personal weaknesses to cloud his mind.   And as the leader of his family, he has made the biggest mistake that he has ever made in his life. He is wrong. Very wrong. And I couldn't be more disappointed.  Heartbroken beyond comprehension.

To the rest of my children, I want you to know how I feel about it.

Mike made two major mistakes.  One, he never sought nor achieved that conversion of the spirit that is spoken of in Moroni 10:3-5.  "And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things."   Had he ever received that conviction of the Spirit, this would never have come to pass. I could give you instances in Mike's life that shows that he was never truly converted, but that is not necessary.

I received that witness of the Spirit.  And all of you know that I have had many challenges in my life.  Many of which I am ashamed of, because some of them directly impacted you, my beloved children.  But never have I ever doubted that the restored Gospel was true.  Nor will I ever.

Secondly, he got himself involved in anti-Mormon websites and literature. They are slick and written by very learned people.  However, they are evil and misguided.  The Church has never hidden from its past. The most recent book on the Prophet Joseph Smith, "Rough Stone Rolling" is a great example.  Sure there are interesting and unusual events that happened while the Church was forming in its early days.  And yes, there are similarities to other religions and Joseph Smith made some personal choice mistakes, maybe.  But if you do the proper research, and look at it with an open mind and heart, you will see that it is the weaknesses of man that are talked about by the anti-LDS group, not the weaknesses of the Church.

Intelligent, well read scholars have tried since The Book of Mormon was published to disprove it.  No one has been able to.  To the contrary, as historians, language experts, archeologists, etc. continue to discover, the validity of the Book of Mormon continues to be proven time and again. There is a reason as to why it is called the keystone of our religion. Our modern day prophets tell us that if the Book of Mormon is not true, then the Church is not true.  And... if it is true, then the Church is true.  There can be no "in between."  I know personally that it is true, and each time that I read it, I feel that same sweet spirit that testified to me so many years ago as to its truthfulness.

Mike needs our love now more than ever.  He has let go of the iron rod and has fallen victim to and joined the hoards of people pointing and mocking at those that continue along the trek.  We must reach out to him with our love.  However, I exhort each of you to be aware that you should never get too close to a man that is drowning in the oceans' waves.  For if you do, he will grab you in desperation and the two of you will usually drown together.  You only throw life preservers or extend a life saving device, so that you are not caught and become a victim yourself.

I want each and every one of you to know that I love you.  I love my son, Mike, and will always love him.  I disapprove of this action and the subsequent fallout that this action will have on my two grandsons in his care.

I have never doubted the Church.  I have completed years of research into the church, including those anti-Mormon claims.  Each and every claim of those so called scholars is just a smokescreen to divert would be believers.  The vast majority of the claims usually stem from a disillusioned believer who has a personal ax to grind.  Very few, if any, are non-biased scholars.

I have received a personal witness to the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  While I make mistakes, and will most likely continue to make them, I will never doubt. I cannot, for I cannot deny the witness that I have received.  I know that by doing so, I will bring upon me the damnation of eternity.  I also know that by following the Gospel, I will live once again with my family members who have passed before me and who will pass after me that have held onto the iron rod and persevered until the end.  Only those that remain faithful until the end will live with their spouses, their loved ones, their children, and their ancestors together as a family.  And I want to do that.  Don't believe anything to the contrary, and don't believe that because the Lord is loving, that he will make exceptions.  He will not.  He cannot. For he has declared the path and provided us the way.  He cannot make exceptions to the rules that he has provided.

The only true happiness to be found in this life and the next is through the Gospel of Jesus Christ found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.   Life is full of challenges, misery, heartache, questions, and problems.  Let the Gospel be your anchor as it is in mine.

All of you are in my prayers day and night.  Those of you that have children are learning the breadth and depth of love that can be experienced with your own children. You have also learned that it grows every day.  Imagine how much love you will have for your children after it has grown for 30 years.  That is what I feel for each and every one of you.  Mike included.

Finally, let me close with a scripture from the Book of Mormon.  It was written by a prophet in 550 BC.  2500 years later it is still true. And 2500 years later, it is as relevant now as it was when it was originally inscribed onto plates of gold, which were then translated by the prophet Joseph Smith through the spirit of the Holy Ghost.

2 Nephi 9:27-29

27 But wo unto him that has the law given, yea, that has all the commandments of God, like unto us, and that transgresseth them, and that wasteth the days of his probation, for awful is his state!

28 O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.

29 But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.

All my love,

Dad

Comments

Jordan F.

Lincoln:

I appreciate the time and thought that obviously went into your response. I will have to take some time to digest what you are saying. It is amazing how two people with such similar experiences can turn out so different in the way they perceive faith and assimilate and piece together that faith with what they see and understand in the world.

There are definitely problems in the institional LDS church: problems similar to those which face many large institutions. Theoretically, as the "only true and living church" on the whole Earth, the LDS Church should rise above these problems, and yet the institution still gets bogged down in them for many, many reasons, some perhaps inspired "from the top," some from "local leadership," and some from "lay members."

Families struggle, as they always have throughout time immemorial, with the seeming dichotomy between the traditions and ways of the older generations, the "faith of the fathers," and increasing knowledge, increasing technology, and general declination in faith. This tension has always existed and probably always will. The LDS Church does need to find more efficient ways of dealing with this tension, and LDS families certainly need to be wary of it and find ways to deal with it as well- ways that don't include the sorts of things Mike's father did, whether influenced by his LDS faith or not.

Individuals struggle with events and evidence that tends to debunk both religious myth and perceived fact, and they learn to reconcile their faith with the changing world around them (or the newfound facts that beguile them). Or else they abandon it and "move on" through the door in that creaky old house of faith, the door written of in other places which some say is bad and should be avoided. The door that is always in the back of one's mind. The door which some have concluded is better left alone, the knob better undisturbed.

The point is that I do get it. I get that the institutional LDS church probably could use an organizational overhaul, and in some areas perhaps a theological lobotomy (to correct any "philosophies of men" which have creeped in unnoticed and cause contention). I have been reading, lurking, and sometimes participating in the DAMU world for over two years now. I do get it, I think.

That said, it is still hard for me to hold the LDS church accountable for the actions of this father. Going against what I said earlier about his being a "jerk," he kind of reminds me of a modern Reb Tevye who is just trying desperately to cling to the traditions of his people. So I can also see "Mike's" point that much of his father's letter had its genesis in this unmistakable angst which was unmistakably caused by his belief in and zealous practice of religion. But for me, it is hard to see why being a member of the LDS church is THE CAUSAL FACTOR for him having written such a letter. I can concede that is certainly is a contributing factor, though.

I'll have to think some more about what Lincoln said.

Jordan F.

Obviously, as a litigation lawyer, I could come up with several arguments as to why the LDS church IS the causal factor, if a party adverse to the LDS church were my client. I could present them in a very convincing way, and be very persuasive. That's what I have been trained to do. So I see your point, and indeed, I even see other reasons for arguing that the LDS church is responsible. But I don't actually believe any of those reasons.

Put a different way, I choose not to believe that the LDS Church is primarily responsible for these sorts of things, that Mike's Dad's letter is not one of the "fruits of the gospel." I choose to give the LDS church the benefit of the doubt. I base that decision on many different things, including but not limited to: "spiritual" experiences I believe to have perceived, especially in relation to the idea of Jesus Christ being a Savior figure; faith, hope, and optimism, based partly on said spiritual experiences, that there is a "celestial kingdom" where unimaginable happiness awaits not only me but everyone; faith in the sincere and good intentions of the leaders of the LDS Church, both local and "general", even when they inadvertently cause offense or succumb to the weaknesses of humanity (by, among other things, incorporating less-than-holy pop culture doctrines into the gospel); a desire to carry on the traditions of my forefathers; etc.

These are the things on which I have based my decision (it was and remains a conscious decision) to believe in the LDS Church (for the most part) and to not assign it too much blame for situations like Mike's father. I am willing to consider that my decision may not have been the right one, but so far I feel good about it. I feel happy, safe, and secure in my decision. And while letters like this can give me the creeps, they are not enough to change my mind. Not yet. And hopefully not ever.

Lincoln

Jordan:

I understand that institutions, families, and individuals struggle through life. I agree with your point that the institutional may need an overhaul. Just think, if Jesus was really running the Church wouldn't he see that too? I am not arguing the point with you, I'm just saying that God would also see the need, and do something about it. As far as my analysis about Mike's dad, I just think the Church mindset creates people who act this way. Maybe as individuals in another organization they would act the same, but my own father is almost identical to Mike's dad, in the way that he has chosen to express himself to me. And I see a direct connection between my dad's behavior and his Church leadership training. It's unmistakable, and it isn't very Christlike. Thanks for the response. It's late.. Bedtime..

Sister Mary Lisa

I had to laugh at your speculation about my abilities to leave my mark, Mayan. I trust that I still have the same aiming skills I practiced so hard to develop as a young girl...

I'm enjoying the recent comments here. Tomorrow I will try hard to not drink quite so much Diet Pepsi, which should render me useless in the next pissing match, or at the very least unable to write my initials in the snow.

Sister Mary Lisa

Oh who am I kidding? I gracefully bow out of this pissing match due to the superior biology of my opponents. :)

DinD

Jordan said, “I will say here that I don't have many real "friends." Between family commitments, work, blogging, work, family commitments, work, church, work, etc., I have not had time during the last several years to cultivate real "friendships". Indeed, one of the closest things I have to a real friend (in terms of actually spending one-on-one time with him once in a while) openly mocks me as delusional because of my TBM beliefs”.

I do this in love Jordan; you will experience an awakening at some point. WTF is TBM, (Total Bitch Mormon, Totally Blind MFer, Totally BF’d Mormon)?? Shit, you keep using this expression, I have no idea. Hey, don’t forget your home teaching this month, I like Christmas Cookies with icing.

Jordan F.

I only use the lingo of the blogs, DiD. I did not coin TBM, and I don't even necessarily like the term, but its use is ubiquitous throughout the bloggernacle, the DAMU, and the ex-mormon world. I think TBM = "true believing mormon".

Perhaps I have already experienced my "awakening" and made a different decision than you did when you experienced yours. That said, life is a series of "awakenings" so I hope I have many, many more yet to come.

Equality

"TBM" means "true-believing Mormon" or "true-blue Mormon" (after the famous Joseph F. Smith story, I suppose.) It is not meant to be a pejorative term, merely descriptive of those members of the LDS church who are active believers.

dpc

After reading all the discussion, I still don't see the connection between LDS culture and Mike's dad's reaction. I'll admit that it may have influenced the letter, but I don't think that it was the sole cause of him writing such a letter. I think that any person in similar circumstances might feel the same way, although how each specific person reacts would be different. Herodotus thought that although different cultures did things differently, it was apotheosis of immoral behavior for any person to reject the culture and rules of their upbringing.

If you would allow me to venture into the world of pop psychology, it appears that the father was in the 'anger stage' of the grieving process. I'm sure that he would have written a similar sounding letter had his son decided to convert to Islam and move to Saudi Arabia or divorced his wife, packed up his belongings in a van and drove around the country.

Who here can say that they haven't written an angry letter when things haven't gone their way? I have. I don't send them, but it does help me deal with my feelings.

It seems to me that DAMUs are willing to ascribe any 'failure of human relationships' to inherent systemic problems with Mormon culture and that the faithful are quick to defend the church and blame any problems on individual agency. To paraphrase Humphrey Bogart, the DAMU would slam Gordon B. Hinckley 'if he scratched his ass during the National Anthem.' And for the faithful, the church can do no wrong. Surely, neither of these positions are 100% accurate.

And where does the idea that a family must love its members unconditionally come from? If the argument is "A person that claims to be Christian can only be Christian (and not hypocritical, or worthy of disdain) if and only if it loves all of the members of his unconditionally," then what is that argument premised on? Perhaps those who are arguing on this site have received a revelation that the rest of us aren't privy to? It appears that the disaffected want to hold Mormons to an impossible standard and then decry them when they don't achieve it (or, more properly, can't achieve it).

Equality

dpc,

So, finally someone comes to defend Mike's dad. Nice.

"I'm sure that he would have written a similar sounding letter had his son decided to convert to Islam and move to Saudi Arabia or divorced his wife, packed up his belongings in a van and drove around the country."

Yeah, because leaving Mormonism is just like those other things. Yeesh. I think you just made our point for us, dpc. Mormonism instills in its members the idea that to leave the group is kind of like abandoning your family or moving to Saudi Arabia.

dpc

Equality:

"So, finally someone comes to defend Mike's dad. Nice."

I think that you are distorting what I said. I wasn't trying to defend Mike's dad. Please tell me where I said that he was justified in what he did. I did try to understand what he was doing or why he did it. There is a big difference between trying to understand someone and trying to defend them. How can you criticize someone until you understand them? Unlike others, I prefer to give people a fair shake before I label them 'jerks' or 'pompous blowhards'.

Plus I was disputing the connection between the Dad's actions and 'Mormon culture'. Even if Mike's dads actions were wrong, given human nature, it doesn't mean that they are aberrant or unusual. People of different religious faiths and backgrounds would react similarly. It's like when people watch "Brokendown Palace" and complain about the 'Thai' justice system, when people are wrongly imprisoned in every country. It's not one particular system that can have miscarriages of justice; it's all of them. All religious faiths (atheism included) have instances where family members criticize other family members for their actions and decisions. I'm not sure why you continually single out Mormonism when the finger could be pointed at everybody (Mormonism included).

"Mormonism instills in its members the idea that to leave the group is kind of like abandoning your family or moving to Saudi Arabia."

For all the ink spilled by those who have left Mormonism and their difficulty dealing with the consequences, you would think that the analogy is apt. And considering the fact that I have seen people do the those exact two things with more criticism and heartbreak than a mere e-mail to the rest of the family, I find your dismissal of it to be puzzling.

Sillynut

It's not a dismissal. It's just that people would actually equate leaving a church to abandoning family and country to the degree you put forth.

I left the church. I'm more than willing to talk to my family and be a daughter, sister, in-law, etc. If I had decided to stop being Methodist, I don't think anyone would care. Same with Presbytirian (or however you spell it.) Same with Lutheran. Baptist (though maybe not Southern Baptist, lol.) It would be NO BIG DEAL. But to simply stop attending the LDS church, why I am in the grips of Satan. That's whacked.

Do you know how many "good, Christian, LDSers" are convinced I've sinned my way out, that it got to be too hard, that I was offended, that now I will cheat on my husband, etc? Get real.

Cheeriogal

I'm being lazy here and skimmed the last I don't know how many comments. I had two thoughts.

One was the section of the letter where Mike's dad talks about all the well read scholars who have tried to disprove the Book of Mormon and failed. Stuff like this from believing Mormons always makes me smirk. The vast majority of scholars and even regular people dismiss Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon with very little thought, because it's obviously a scam. "Well read scholars" are spending no more time worrying about the Book of Mormon than they are about Dianetics. This was a major revelation to me as I distanced myself from the church mentally - most people in the world do not care about our silly little church. They're not watching each of us every moment of the day looking for an example to follow, and they don't care what we believe, as long as we leave them alone about it.

Secondly, I wonder how much Jordan F. gives the church credit for the good things that occur in people's lives when they happen to be Mormon. You can't have it both ways. While I agree that some people's actions are completely their own and don't really say anything about the church, this particular example is not some freak occurrence. I had a discussion yesterday with someone who talked about how their extended family treats people who have left the LDS church like they died. Not necessarily in a "you're dead to me!" way, but with a lot of pity, sadness, and wariness.

I personally thanked the Lord the day our old Sunday School teachers moved away, so I would not have to hear their regular references to their daughter, who'd left the church and been subsequently disowned by them. They were never challenged on this, and talked about it quite openly during the 15 months they taught the class. I would agree that there was some dysfunction in that family, but when we see the same dysfunction over and over in LDS families, I don't think it's that strange to look for a common cause. Being taught your whole life that only the church can guarantee your eternal happiness with your family could definitely lead people to act irrationally toward family members who mess up the plan by believing differently.

Equality

dpc said:

"After reading all the discussion, I still don't see the connection between LDS culture and Mike's dad's reaction. I'll admit that it may have influenced the letter, but I don't think that it was the sole cause of him writing such a letter."

Your first sentence answers the second. Influence=connection. Nobody has argued it was the "sole cause" of writing the letter. Jordan originally argued that there was no connection. Eventually, he relented and admitted that there is some connection. I think where he and I might differ is on the degree of causality or, in other words, the proportionality of causation. I would argue that Mike's father's acceptance of Mormon dogma and the influence of his decades-long immersion in Mormon culture are the primary contributing factors to the sentiments expressed in the letter.

dpc: "I wasn't trying to defend Mike's dad."

You compared the letter he wrote to something as benign as scratching one's butt while the national anthem is playing.

dpc: "People of different religious faiths and backgrounds would react similarly."

True, there are other religions that instill the same sort of attitudes and ideas in their members. I can think of several: the Unification church; the Jehovah's Witnesses; the FLDS church; Scientologists; Branch Davidians. Many others do not have teachings and a culture that would inspire a parent to write a letter like the one Mike's dad wrote. I don't think you can find anything similar in Unitarian Universalism, for example.

dpc: "Plus I was disputing the connection between the Dad's actions and 'Mormon culture'."

You may dispute it, but to do so is about as rational as disputing that the earth goes 'round the sun. Mormon culture is all over that letter. Lincoln and Mayan have pointed out some specific examples. I have linked to some others. The idea that apostasy is something so horrible and awful that one must always be on guard against it; that people who leave the church do so because they are under Satan's influence, just like Judas; the idea that we must avoid any ideas or information critical of the church or its leaders, because such things are "anti-Mormon"; that there are no valid criticisms of the church, just ill-informed opinions of people with axes to grind; the black and white thinking that it is "all or nothing" in the church; that people can only be happy in the LDS Church and that anyone outside the LDS church who claims to be happy is self-deluded; that people leave the church only because they are harboring unrepented of sins and just want to sin some more rather than yield to the enticings of the Spirit; that apostates are like contagious diseases and should be avoided (or like drowning men who will only bring you down with them if you get too close); that the only evidence that needs to be evaluated in considering the LDS church's truth claims is the witness of the Spirit, which trumps all else; that learning is evil unless the learning corresponds with whatever the church leaders say. All these things are found in Mike's dad's letter. And they are all found in Mormon teachings and culture. Coincidence?

Sister Mary Lisa

Heck...all I did was email ONE friend to ask her what she thought of Brigham Young's teaching as revelation that Adam was in fact God the Father (she agreed he was the father of us all, being the first man and all), and then tell her the subsequent admonishment from Spencer W. Kimball that any Adam-God theory is false doctrine, after which she informed me immediately she wasn't interested in discussing this further. That prompted the following letter I got the next day in the mail from my High Priest Group Leader, whom I didn't even know very well and whom I had never discussed anything religious with:

"Dearest Lisa,

Last Sunday (your home teacher) asked to speak with me. He was very distraught about something he had said to you at church. He went on to explain what had happened and as to what I felt he should do. I told him to apologize to you. I hope he has done so.

I sense somehow that you have been so offended by his remarks and perhaps others that you have become discouraged and angry. Even to the point of questioning your membership.

Let me just say this. The moment you decided to go to the Temple and take out your endowments, Satan began to attack you. I hope you can look back in your life and see that this is so. He will use others in your life to try to stop your eternal progression. He will beat your house down in every way he can. Do not be surprised at this. He is very clever and very effective at what he does. Please do not be fooled. Please forgive (your home teacher) and others that say hurtful things. Please forgive those that agree with how evil the church is, for they are used as a pawn by Satan to discourage you as well. Please forgive yourself for allowing people to influence what you know to be true. For in your heart of hearts you know the church is true. You have felt the spirit touch you in the past to witness to you that it is true.

My heart is full of love for you and your sweet family. Don't worry about these things of Satan. Love your little ones, love your husband, he is a good man. Be patient with members of the church who don't do well. Take your sorrows and offenses to Heavenly Father and ask Him to heal your broken heart. I promise you now that He will assist you in this quest.

I am so sorry this has happened to you. I am not surprised...at all. God & Christ love you so much AND Satan knows that so he will do everything to stop you. Deny the voices in your head. Say - STOP it! Stop it! Stop it! all the day long. (He underlined that part)

As always I send my love and best personal regards. May you feel the love of Christ in your life. May the angels protect you from Satan's grasp. This too will pass...I promise.

All my love,

Bro. ( )

P.S. Call me if you want to talk about this."

Jordan F.

This letter seems quite different to me than Mike's Dad's letter. For one thing, it was written to the person questioning beliefs (you), rather than behind your back to others without your knowledge. For another, there is no mention in this letter of "not helping a drowning person" or anything like that.

dpc

Comments such as these

"If I had decided to stop being Methodist, I don't think anyone would care. Same with Presbytirian (or however you spell it.) Same with Lutheran. Baptist (though maybe not Southern Baptist, lol.) It would be NO BIG DEAL."

show an utter disrespect and lack of understanding to people espousing those faiths. Contrary to popular belief, non-Mormons do care which religion their children and spouses belong to. I hope that my family cares enough about me that they will be upset with decisions I make. The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference.

"I can think of several: the Unification church; the Jehovah's Witnesses; the FLDS church; Scientologists; Branch Davidians"

Hmmm...seems like your trying to use a guilt by association argument here. I wonder why you omitted 'mainstream' faiths such as Islam, Catholicism and Hinduism. Seems like a rather convenient omission...

"Many others do not have teachings and a culture that would inspire a parent to write a letter like the one Mike's dad wrote. I don't think you can find anything similar in Unitarian Universalism, for example."

Of course, Unitarian Universalism is a perfect religion!! Notwithstanding the fact that many are put off by its seeming lack of doctrine. (On a more serious note, I can't really say anything negative about Unitarian Universalism. I think that it has a lot in common with Mormonism. Both are steeped in nineteenth century religious thought.)

"You compared the letter he wrote to something as benign as scratching one's butt while the national anthem is playing."

On re-reading, it appears that the message I wished to send and the message received were different. What I was trying to convey was this: Those who are disaffected seem to focus on every bad thing while ignoring the good. Something benign as scratching one's butt during the national anthem becomes a lightening rod for criticism. The faithful are guilty of the exact opposite, that is, they focus on the good and ignore or dismiss the bad. I believe that both sides are wrong. Instead of jumping to conclusions, I think we should try to understand first and then make up our minds. My comment was not meant as an endorsement of Mike's dad's letter.

Equality

dpc: "I wonder why you omitted 'mainstream' faiths such as Islam, Catholicism and Hinduism."
I thought about including two of those three. I didn't because in the case of those three faiths, you have very big tents. There are intolerant Catholics, to be sure, and overzealous Muslims. But the problem seems more pronounced in smaller, prophetic, dogmatic religious organizations like the ones I described.

dpc: "Both are steeped in nineteenth century religious thought." Bot have heavy 19th-century influences. I wouldn't describe either as being steeped in 19th-century thought. But that is a little OT. Perhaps another day...

dpc: "On re-reading, it appears that the message I wished to send and the message received were different. . . ." I agree with the rest of the paragraph that follows the quoted material. (Yay! Common ground!)

Jordan F: "This letter seems quite different to me than Mike's Dad's letter." I think the differences you note are far outweighed by the similarities--the use of Mormon doctrine to marginalize the heretic and instill fear, guilt, and shame in the recipient. I suppose you think the HP who wrote SML's letter was not influenced by Mormon doctrine and culture?

fh451

For those who might think that Mike's dad is some kind of anomaly (either Mormon or not), you might find this article interesting: http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/ci_7611152. Bill Dobbs has run the Religious Transitions Group at the South Valley Unitarian church for at least four years, and has met literally hundreds of ex-Mormons. He's heard their experiences and led discussions where people talk about how they are treated and how they deal with their beloved family members when given this kind of treatment. The type of attitude displayed by Mike's dad is NOT uncommon, though fortunately it is not universal. It is displayed by members of many authoritarian religions and stems from and is fed by, IMO, the cultures that are cultivated and even encouraged in those religions, and often supported with doctrine. Mormonism bears responsibility for that. Judaism bears responsibility. Evangelicalism bears responsibility. I don't understand the desire to excuse the church for this attitude of the member when it's pretty clear where a lot of that attitude comes from.

ruoutthere

Sheesh. This is exactly how my Dad is. I feel so bad for "Mike". I know exactly the position he is in. My Dad told my siblings to not engage me in any kind of discussion about the church for fear that I contaminate them. I wouldn't have known about it, except my sister had to stop me from talking to her and when I pestered her for a reason why, she said that "Dad, had instructed all the kids to NOT discuss the church with me."

I recently got family emails that eluded to some letters that were written with family news and events, only to realize that I was left off the address list. It can truly make a person feel like shit.

Families are forever. Rock on ye saints of zion. Make sure your wayward kids don't pervert the truth to the good ones.

Jordan F.

Not all parents are like this, ruot. I am sorry beyond belief that yours are.

anon

RUOT, Mike, and every other person who's parents aren't influenced at all by mormon church doctrine, but are just sanctimonious jerks on their own, my apologies. We now know that everything that is great about someone in the church is because of the church. If they make mistakes it is because they are jerks. The world is black and white. It's either one way or the other. No layers, no onions. All other evidence be damned. It's awesome, you just pick what evidence you want to consider.

ruoutthere

Dad is a former Stake Pres, current Bishop, mom is the Stake RS pres., and they are very proud of our polygamist heritage. They are good people, they just see the world as very black and white. You are either with the church or you are against it. Their entire identity is wrapped up in the church. They truly don't have much else to talk about. In my experience, they are very typical Mo parents.

Larry

Dude, where do yall find the time to bill 2200 hours a year?

Jordan F.

I just re-read this whole thing last night, a few days removed from my initial reactions. As I reread Mike's Dad's letter carefully, I saw something other then a "jerk." Something hit me, and I saw a father who is completely distraught over the possibility of losing one of his precious children in the eternities, not a "sanctimonious jerk." I saw a dad who is concerned over losing his other children to the same fate. Mike's dad sincerely believes that if Mike does not "return to the fold," Mike will be lost to him in the hereafter. This thought is unbearable to a father who dearly loves his son. Thus, I sincerely apologize for my jerky comments.

I still disagree that the actual act of writing the letter and sending it to Mike's siblings behind Mike's back was a "fruit of the gospel." In other words, the form or procedure used by Mike's father to communicate his anguish may not have been ideal according to my personal judgment. As I read through my own (rash) comments again, I realized that this is probably what I was reacting to the most- the idea of the LETTER itself and the way in which it was sent being a "fruit of the gospel"- rather than considering the real substance of the letter.

The substance of the letter to me now conveys a grieving father who is trying the best he can to cope with a situation that causes him great pain, and trying to keep his family together according to his understanding of "eternal families." These sentiments are certainly inspired by, in this case, the LDS Church. It brings to mind the scene in the Book of Mormon of Lehi, "exhorting" his "wayward" sons, Laman and Lemuel, "with all the feelings of a tender parent" (1 Nephi 8:37).

To say that this is endemic to LDS culture, however, would be folly. Surely devout Catholics fear for the eternal souls of their grandchildren when their children decide not to have them baptized. Surely Southern Baptists fear for their "unsaved" children who have not yet "accepted Jesus." And I am sure similar scenes of parents grieving over the loss of faith of their children and worrying that they will not see them again in the eternities, no matter what their comprehension of eternity encompasses, abound in many world religions. Looking at it again now, I see nothing wrong in a parent's heartfelt grief and concern because of a sincerely held belief that something bad will happen to their child, to their family, because of choices made here on Earth. Being a loving parent means being concerned about your children, although those concerns may be based on externally introduced tenets or doctrines. And I can agree, after thinking about it some more, that such tenets or doctrines are largely inspired by religious upbringing, coupled with personal conversion.

So I guess the question is, if such beliefs are really so harmful, why place only the LDS Church in the crosshairs? Why not blast away at religion in general?

Further, it seems to me that the real "fruit of the gospel here" is not erroneous teachings on eternal families or potentially harmful letters, but genuine parental concern. And since when is that a bad thing?

And Larry makes a good point. If I spent every day posting as much as I did on Wednesday, then I would not ever bill time. With that in mind, I don't think I will be posting here very much anymore. I feel like I have crashed Equality's DAMU party far too often for far too long. I know Equality welcomes all viewpoints here and would never ask me to leave, but I get the feeling that my participation is more troll-like than is appreciated and/or tolerated on many blogs, though you all have taken it patiently and well.

That, coupled again with the fact that I have indeed wasted way too much time posting largely irrelevant comments, leads me to a decision and a new commitment to not comment here anymore. You should have your community to freely bash whatever you feel is wrong with LDS culture without arguments and/or input from believing Latter-day Saints. So keep on keeping on. And thanks for a fun and rocky ride.

Equality

Jordan,

When I say thanks for commenting here, I really mean it. I appreciate your thoughts and ideas, and I like to be challenged on my opinions. If you want to back off because of work or family time commitments, I fully understand and support your decision. I just don't want you to feel unwelcome to post here. Your comments are not the least bit trollish. I truly welcome divergent viewpoints, though, of course, you may not want to post here when you are in the decided minority of commenters. Looking back, there was a lot of piling on the other day. It's not much fun to be in a debate where the odds are stacked 10-1 against you. Anyway, you are welcome here, as is dpc and others who may disagree.

On the substance of your comment, I think Mormonism is in the crosshairs here because that is the religion I and my readers are most familiar with, and that is the religion that Mike and his dad belong to. My criticisms are equally applicable to other religious groups (though not all), as I indicated in earlier comments.

"Further, it seems to me that the real "fruit of the gospel here" is not erroneous teachings on eternal families or potentially harmful letters, but genuine parental concern. And since when is that a bad thing?"

Genuine parental concern is not a bad thing, nor would the expression of that concern be a bad thing. What is a bad thing is making false attributions to explain behavior with which the parent disagrees and discouraging family members from getting too close to the child the parent is concerned about. A parent may be disappointed in the choice a child makes, and even be concerned about the eternal ramifications of the child's choice. But Mike's dad's letter goes way beyond that. And the going beyond is clearly linked to Mormon doctrine and culture. That's the problem as I see it.

wry catcher

Hey Jordan F. - the thought of "troll" never crossed my mind about you, for whatever the hell that's worth. I like when you comment and participate. Again, for whatever the hell THAT's worth.

I recently *may* have made a zinger (meant in good fun, I promise) comment in response to a certain sock puppet on a certain forum, wherein I might have mentioned a certain blog. I didn't mean to be so cheeky or cause any trouble -- and I was also totally shooting in the dark, based on my own personal guessing-ness. If you have secrets amongst the DAMU, they are safe *from( me, and I'm pretty hooked into the DAMU (well, not among the boy DAMUs, they don't like to play with girls so much ;-), I'm not in Equality's Crew of Backslappers or whatever it's called. Hmph. But I digress. So anyhow, if you think there are secrets about you running through the DAMU, I'm thinking I would know them. And I don't know them, any of them.

But if you want to tell me, I'm listening. I like secrets.

:-)

Equality

"I'm not in Equality's Crew of Backslappers or whatever it's called."

Well, this is the most distressing thing I have heard in a long time. I'll have to talk to the membership director and see if we can get you signed up, wry.

wry catcher

Hmm, that should've read *from* me, not *from( me. I am old skool and can't stop the asterisks, (Pine anyone?) but apparently can't type them right anymore either. Plus I left out a close paren. AROUND LAWYERS!! I must edit more closely.

Equality, what's the hazing like?

Equality

wry asked: "Equality, what's the hazing like?"

Answer: "First, the spankings, then the or . . ." oh, wait that's for a different club.

Sister Mary Lisa

Jordan ~

Please don't goooo! I'm reading back as well, and realize that I played a huge role in the earlier debates with you and I want you to know that I wouldn't want you to leave on my account. Truth is, you're fun to debate with, and not troll-like at all, and you actually kind of feel like a friend.

So please continue to bring your perspective here, and I for one will try to be more friendly and civil toward you and your viewpoint. I have felt exactly as you do before so I understand.

Hugs!

dpc

On the whole, I think I'd rather experience a cold shoulder from my family members than what this woman is experiencing

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=500087

Sillynut

For what it's worth, I have the same problem when people are stoned in Islam for leaving the faith. Or when people are ostrasized or whatnot with any other religion. I just have issues with people thinking they know what is best for another person's life, period. Though I spose I could have just stopped at "I have issues."

I don't come here often Jordan. But you haven't bothered me. I figure we really are just looking at the same thing in 2 totally different ways. Which is a very common thing. The trick is realizing that BOTH viewpoints are valid, even if yours is not MY reality.

Equality

dpc,

I just read the article you linked to. It looks to me like that woman's parents are very "concerned" for their daughter's eternal welfare, being as they are "faithful" believers in the Koran. I wonder why we never hear stories like this about, say, secular humanist parents vis-a-vis their grown children?

dpc

Equality:

Three words: Liberal media bias ;)

We may not hear about death threats from the parents, but we do hear about children like John Walker Lindh.

Although I think you make a valid point, I don't think secular humanists make better parents than religious parents. Any stories like the one I gave the link for are, at least in North America, the exception rather than the rule. To wit, I can't say that I've heard a similar story about Mormon parents. Mormon scripture clearly states that you can't kill apostates or take their property. I think it's in D & C 134 (though I could be wrong). The juxtaposition of a nasty e-mail to death threats is one that I had to point out.

Parents disown children all the time. I know of parents who disown their children for their children's lifestyle choices wholly apart from religion. Just ask any estate planners if they have ever encountered a parent who wanted a child left out of a will or trust for what appeared to be a rather trivial thing. I'm not sure why a religious reason for disowning a child is worse than any other reason.

fh451

dpc: "To wit, I can't say that I've heard a similar story about Mormon parents." Maybe not death threats, but what about the case of the Julia and Lemual Redd? http://deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,695216741,00.html
Do you not think that had religious motivation?

dpc: "So I guess the question is, if such beliefs are really so harmful, why place only the LDS Church in the crosshairs? Why not blast away at religion in general?"

More than happy to oblige! Any belief system that causes people to behave in such a manner deserves criticism. I heard another religious example just last week on NPR's "Speaking of Faith" that really made me angry. Jim Wallis, Evangelical and founder of "Sojouners" told the story of what happened to him as a six-year-old. Apparently his parents were concerned that he had not yet been "saved" at the ripe old age of six, and placed him on the front row at a fire-and-brimstone preacher's revival-type meeting with all the other "unsaved" children. This preacher proceeded to tell them, pointing right at the kids on the front row, that if they did not accept Jesus and be saved, that if Jesus came tomorrow they would be left behind while their parents were taken away to heaven. It scared the hell (so to speak) out of him! What kind of people do that to young children? Threatening them with separation from their parents? But within the context of their theology, that is absolutely the truth! If they don't accept Jesus and be saved, they would be left alone (or burned to a crisp) when the rapture occurred and the rest of their saved family members would go to heaven without them. This is just plain psychological abuse and manipulation, made "necessary," in their minds, by their theology. This man later became a minister himself, and has internalized that message and accepts it as the truth. It's downright scary!

What are parents willing to do to make sure their children join them in their version of Heaven in the afterlife? What is justified? If you accept the theology of many different religions as literally true, one might logically draw the conclusion that it is better to kill your children to ensure their salvation before they can commit some grevious sin (like disbelief). Some might view such sacrifice by consigning themselves to hell to make sure their kids got to heaven as nobile. Most people wouldn't do that, but every so often you have someone go nutso and throw their children off the balcony of a hotel (as happened in Salt Lake City 30 or so years ago) to save their souls. I place the blame for this squarely at the feet of religionists who continue to propagate their particular brand of bullshit and exclusivity as "truth and reality." Some people take it to a logical conclusion that may not have been intended, but is justified once one accepts some tenets as iron-clad truths.

fh451

Kathy

Sadly, not so long ago we were counseled by our bishop that because our 11 yr old son is "very bright," we had better not continue to teach him to "think." We were told that we had better reevaluate what we teach at home so that it will align with what he would soon be taught by his YM leaders at church. We were told that we need to make sure that we do this so "he won't question." And not to imply that he didn't want our son to not question anything in particular, but simply that we should hope that our son would simply not question - that he would simply accept whatever he was going to be taught.

Perhaps this bishop is rare. Perhaps the majority would encourage thoughtful consideration and evaluation of things being taught. My experience has, unfortunately, been otherwise.

I can understand how "Mike's" father may have written his letter with the best of intentions, but those intentions seem steeped in cultural dogma that insists that the ONLY way (to Happiness) is to follow the proscribed plan (that he was taught). From that, it might be easy to conclude that if "Mike" is not on the path as his father sees it, that he must be on a path to hell.

Unfortunately, the path that "Mike's" father seems to want to follow does not allow for alternate paths to the same destination, and seems very much to follow the plan that 2/3s rejected. What of following the plan of Love? What of teaching (through/with) Love rather than fear? The fear dogma is constraining. Love is empowering and Truthful. I believe that "Mike's" father is focusing through fear-rimmed glasses. By not celebrating or acknowledging "Mike's" inherent goodness, by casting "Mike" aside as lost, he proves that he is not yet mature enough to embrace the destination - but merely the path (that he believes is the only one available).

"Mike" I would encourage you to live the Gospel. Continue to behave in a loving and respectful manner to your extended family. Continue to search for Truth - it is available to all who seek it. I would also respectfully disagree with Equality in the implication that your father's love is only conditional. I believe that though he may have betrayed you in this letter, his intentions were likely, in his mind at least, good. Beyond that, I believe he betrayed himself so much more. It appears as though he has been a great student of the Church and of the culture. Unfortunately, it seems that he has not studied or learned much about the Gospel. It seems as though he has not yet arrived at a point where he has much understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Be patient. Eventually, I would guess that he will recognize his lack (because his desire seems to be there - but it is not what drives him currently) and come to recognize how poorly he lived as a disciple of Christ and of His Gospel of Love. Best of luck!

MoHoHawaii

I am really bothered by the divisive nature of religious belief.

Here's a link to a similar letter sent by an LDS mother to her gay son-- http://thestrippingwarrior.blogspot.com/2008/02/unfortunate-metaphorical-rodents.html

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