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.

"Ah, yes, the Dan Lafferty approach."

Touche, equality. Touche. I admit that this method can be a "slippery slope," whatever that means. Of course, the mormon rebuttal in me says that Dan Lafferty must not have been in communication with God...

Sister Mary Lisa

If the sorrow is there because a child chooses not to conform to Life According to Mom or Dad, and if such parental sorrow manifests itself in letters like this one, then yes, it's cruel and harmful. And tragic.

Equality

"and my opinion that Mike's dad's letter is not the 'fruits of the gospel.'"

Fair enough, Jordan. It is not, indeed, the fruit of the true gospel. But it is the fruit of people following their leaders and acting in accordance with the teachings found in Mormon scriptures and from the mouths of Mormon prophets, with the full support of mainstream Mormon culture. That you, individually, seem able to pick and choose the good from the bad in Mormon teachings and culture is one of your more admirable qualities. That many members of the church are unable to do the same with equal aplomb is, I think, an indictment of the system of which they are a part.

Jordan F.

ME- of course I can see how others could see it that way. I can also see how each and every one of those things you listed could lead to different conclusions.

The cacophony of opinions here and the various conclusions that can be drawn from different facts make me smile with appreciation for the differences between people (physiologically and religiously) that make this world interesting. For example, ME and I are presented with the exact same list of things that have happened, but draw different conclusions, each based on at least a somewhat rational foundation.

Jordan F.

"if such parental sorrow manifests itself in letters like this one"

and therein lies the key.

Mayan Elephant

huh? whaaaa? you mean, you dont agree with me yet? but, i typed all those words and stuff. i was hoping you would change your ways and mind and be just like me by now. damnitohell.

well, i may not have changed you. but, at least i am right. that will have to be good enough for now.

Jordan F.

"The probability that none of them spoke out about this letter or defended Mike or ripped Daddy Dearest a new one is telling."

It may be telling, but not in the sense you mean it. People in our society generally are conflict-averse, and their silence may be nothing more than a societal (not just LDS church) norm not to raise conflict whenever possible, especially in relationships.

One thing I love about Europe (especially France) is that conflict between families in relationships is embraced and is actually seen as being one of the spices of life. Not so here in America, but that is a fault of society in general.

Jordan F.

But you did not type with the spirit, ME. That is what carries the truth to the hearts of the children of men.... :)

Sister Mary Lisa

No, I think it is telling in Mormon society that such sentiments as those outlined in Mike's letter aren't rejected loud and long. Society in general, as you argue, Jordan, would actually find this letter abhorrent. Mormons would likely see that letter as a father's labor of love and soulful leadership as head of his family for the most part. Mormons would see that letter as a father mourning the loss of his son to the temptations of Satan, and also see it as a valiant effort to keep his other children from doing the same as poor, drowning Mike.

Sister Mary Lisa

I meant to say "Society in general, contrary to your argument, Jordan, would actually find this letter abhorrent."

Jordan F.

I would like to see how you react to this idea:

Mike's father was reacting not to values instilled in him by the LDS church, but by society at large. Think of all the people who are pressured by their parents to, for example, forsake study of the arts and attend law school, med school, business school, to excel in sports they are not interested in, to conform to certain standards in school, etc., etc. When children do not meet these expectations, in our society at large, parents often express extreme disappointment and in very hurtful ways too. Not every parent in our society is beholden to exerting these pressures on our children, of course, but it does seem normal in our society to do so. Especially in our parents' generation.

So couldn't Mike's dad's reaction simply be sympomatic of a larger societal problem, rather than endemic to the LDS church?

Sister Mary Lisa

Jordan, I read this from Mike's dad:

"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."

and answer you, hell no, Mike's dad's reaction is not simply symptomatic of a larger social problem. His letter is FILLED with items endemic to the LDS church.

Jordan F.

"Society in general, as you argue, Jordan, would actually find this letter abhorrent."

I am glad you are optimistic about our society, SML. I actually think that too. But that is not what I said. I acknowledge that society may find it abhorrent. What I said is that our society is conflict-averse so that even if someone felt disgusted, they might not say anything about it, but would instead opt to keep quiet in the interest of preserving the appearance of harmony. That has nothing to do with the underlying disgust, which I agree most in our society would have.

What you said that I challenge, based on our conflict-averse natures in society today, is that people generally would be apt to speak out, "loud and long". I don't think they would, and I don't know that it is fair to hold Mike's siblings to a higher standard than the rest of society, even if they claim to live by one.

Jordan F.

"and answer you, hell no, Mike's dad's reaction is not simply symptomatic of a larger social problem. His letter is FILLED with items endemic to the LDS church."

If that is true, then why are the shelves full of books addressing the theme of parents dealing with children who choose to move on from the traditions they were raised with? Every canon of literature is full of this theme. We have plays and movies that deal with this theme. It seems to me to be a larger social problem than just policies supposedly taught in some obscure religion practiced by an infinitesimal number of people in comparison to all who have ever lived.

Sister Mary Lisa

If this letter were written to you, Jordan, I'd speak out loud and long on your behalf as well. It's wrong to accept that letter as OK on any level.

Jordan F.

I am glad that you are wired that way, SML. It seems that many people in our society aren't. Most are quite conflict-averse, actually. I believe there have been studies done on this.

Sister Mary Lisa

Did you really just call Mormonism "some obscure religion practiced by an infinitesimal number of people"??? Heh heh.

Mayan Elephant

nice jordan.

i actually like the way you are thinking now. you are making the case for the church being one of many societal messes, rather than the one true church of god. that alone will make it much simpler for your children to choose the church of equalitytime over the one true church.

Jordan F.

Well, that's what it is, right, when you look at it from the perspective of all of the people who have lived on this Earth since there were homo sapiens to inhabit it?

And the LDS scriptures recognize this- that is why we mormons believe we are called to bring the church forth from obscurity.

Equality

"If that is true, then why are the shelves full of books addressing the theme of parents dealing with children who choose to move on from the traditions they were raised with? Every canon of literature is full of this theme. We have plays and movies that deal with this theme. It seems to me to be a larger social problem than just policies supposedly taught in some obscure religion practiced by an infinitesimal number of people in comparison to all who have ever lived."

That Mormonism shares this particular characteristic (intolerance of leaving the faith; putting the church ahead of relationships with those who "fall away") with other dogmatic religions is hardly something to recommend it. That Jehovah's Witnesses and Scientologists might treat their kids in similar fashion is not exactly a ringing endorsement in my view.

Sister Mary Lisa

Bring the church forth from obscurity to all who conform and prove themselves able to not drown too close to others.

-Domokun-

"that is why we mormons believe we are called to bring the church forth from obscurity."

Is that why so many mormons support Mitt Romney? (It couldn't be a base tribal instinct, right?) Because he is doing God's Will to bring mormonism out of obscurity? Personally, I would love to see Romney elected president. Mormonism would be under the microscope for at least four years like it has never been before.

Jordan F.

Well, you can look at it that way, ME. Personally I believe the mormon teaching that LDS church doctrine, properly understood and applied of course, can do more than anything else to help people rise above society's misplaced norms and social morasses. That so many (like Mike's father and the others who react this way) don't choose properly apply it is disappointing.

Sister Mary Lisa

(as SML waits to see what Mayan has to say about the church helping people to rise above society's misplaced norm of treating gays like crap)

Jordan F.

Domo- I am not sure why mormons tend to support Mitt Romney. Personally, if I were a Republican, I would not support Mitt Romney because I would think that there would be no way he could defeat a Hilary or an Obama. I would support someone with more star power and less mormon baggage.

(Yes, it is a sad reflection on our society that Romney's beliefs would be characterized by many as "baggage.")

But I don't think it is to "bring the church forth from obscurity," for the most part. That's why mormons have missionaries, right?

Jordan F.

Well, there is a "properly understood" condition here, SML...

Mike

SML said:

"I'd be curious to know if any other siblings besides the one who forwarded this letter to Mike had any thoughts of abhorrence for this letter. Because if not, that is extremely telling as well just how deeply such sentiments as those in this letter are considered "normal" or "righteous" or "true" in the gospel mindset. The probability that none of them spoke out about this letter or defended Mike or ripped Daddy Dearest a new one is telling."

The only sibling that defended me is my sibling who forwarded me Dad's email. The other siblings were silent on the issue, and one of them defended him with an email of his own.

Jordan F.

Sounds like your family is seriously screwed up, Mike. Sorry you have such a cold, dysfunctional family. It must have been very hard to grow up in such a family- my heart goes out to you.

Mayan Elephant

"And the LDS scriptures recognize this- that is why we mormons believe we are called to bring the church forth from obscurity."

obscurity my elephant ass. the rare membership is the basis for feeling elite. if anything, otterson and lds.org are trying to mainstream the joint and make it blend into the worlds religions without further scrutiny. rising forth from obscurity would require boldly distinguishing the joint from another, but, i dont know that they teach that anymore. at least they dont market like that.

hey jordan, by the way, when writing about the Church, please follow these guidelines:

* In the first reference, the full name of the Church is preferred: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
* Please avoid the use of “Mormon Church,” “LDS Church” or “the Church of the Latter-day Saints.”
* When a shortened reference is needed, the terms “the Church” or “the Church of Jesus Christ” are encouraged.
* When referring to Church members, the term “Latter-day Saints” is preferred, though “Mormons” is acceptable.
* "Mormon” is correctly used in proper names such as the Book of Mormon, Mormon Tabernacle Choir or Mormon Trail, or when used as an adjective in such expressions as “Mormon pioneers.”
* The term “Mormonism” is acceptable in describing the combination of doctrine, culture and lifestyle unique to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
* When referring to people or organizations that practice polygamy, the terms “Mormons,” “Mormon fundamentalist,” “Mormon dissidents,” etc. are incorrect. The Associated Press Stylebook notes: “The term Mormon is not properly applied to the other ... churches that resulted from the split after [Joseph] Smith’s death.”

and whatever you do, do not call it a damn c***.

Sister Mary Lisa

I'm sorry that happened to you, Mike. That letter is pure bullshit and I wish you had never received it and that your dad had never felt the spirit prompt him to write it.

Jordan F.

If this were official press, I would actually follow those guidelines. But in blog banter, I wax less formal.

Mayan Elephant

well SML, i was going to stick to the church's historical leadership in regarding race and how they were the first to allow blacks into the celestial kingdom. but, yeah, there is that other topic too.

Sister Mary Lisa

And the church fighting ERA for women...that doctrine about women and their abilities and place is pretty properly understood as well, I suppose.

Jordan F.

And there is an argument to be made that the ban on black priesthood holders was not "properly understood or applied church doctrine" but a sorely misplaced societal norm that landed in the church and remained uncorrected until, as mormons believe, it was corrected by the Lord through Kimball (since the other leaders before him may have been too entrenched in their cultural beliefs to listen). Most also agree that Young first instituted the ban, or that, in other words, Smith had properly understood it.

In fact, I think many LDS bloggers, at least, believe this. But that is indeed a digression from Mike's horribly unloving and dysfunctional family.

Sister Mary Lisa

Or...Young was speaking as a man, not as a prophet. And Mike's dad is speaking as an ass, not as a priesthood presider in his family who is worthy to act in God's name even today.

Mike

Jordan said:

"Sounds like your family is seriously screwed up, Mike. Sorry you have such a cold, dysfunctional family. It must have been very hard to grow up in such a family- my heart goes out to you."

Jordan, all families have issues. There are certain dysfunctional elements in my family, to be sure. And although your comment was meant to express empathy, I kind of take offense to it because you don't know my father or my family, and you jump straight to the conclusion of a screwed up family rather than recognizing the responsibility of the church in all of this.

I didn't post this letter to expose the flaws of my father. I posted it to expose the flaws of the system into which he has been indoctrinated. My dad is an otherwise loving father who has always tried very hard to do the best he could for his children. He always attended my extracurricular activities, he was my scoutmaster for a number of years, he supported me in college, and he did his best to fulfill his perceived priesthood role. My family is a loving family, but when faced with issues like this the reaction of some of them is to defend the church over their own children.

Sister Mary Lisa

Equality, will you hire me when I get fired from my job for hanging out here today instead of eliminating this pile of invoices I'm supposed to be entering??

Jordan F.

The ERA is a different matter. That was a proposed constitutional amendment, adding all the complexities of a debate on federalism, the proper role of the constitution, and states' rights. The opposition of various groups within the Church to that proposed constitutional amendment was not doctrinal, it was based on their personal beliefs about the role of the constitution in society and whether such an amendment was proper in light of that role.

There has been a similar debate in today's society with an amendment that fortunately has gained much less traction than the ERA did- an amendment to ban "gay marriage." Such an amendment would have been a further unfortunate erosion of states' rights and an intrusion of the federal government (!!) into a realm where it does not usually tread- the family. And it could have spelled disaster in terms of lost tax incentives, etc., to the LDS church and other like-minded institutions down the road, but that is also quite a digression.

Jordan F.

"My dad is an otherwise loving father who has always tried very hard to do the best he could for his children."

Yes, he sounds very "loving." Indeed. Do SML, ME, and Equality agree on his loving nature?

"My family is a loving family, but when faced with issues like this the reaction of some of them is to defend the church over their own children."

Indeed. I guess that is what a loving family does then- puts their fanciful notions of "the church" over their own children?

I am sorry to have "kind of" offended you here, but why else would you ask Equality to post this letter on the public internet for all to read if not to show how unkind he is and garner sympathy for that unkindness?

I can understand the natural inclination to defend your own family, but what they did is indefensible, especially according to SML. And they cannot blame any one, or any institution, other than their own unloving and callous selves, for their responses.

Mayan Elephant

jordan,

sure, my sarcasm about the racial thing was perhaps a bit much. it served to point that complete lack of societal leadership by the church. but for hells sake, spare us the horseshit that the ban was anything more than a bunch of lazy jackass white guys being assholes and bigots. mcconkie was clever enough to get the intro to the book of mormon canonized, he could have been clever in stopping the racism rather than perpetuating it.

this is a classic example of how the leaders are given a pass when they are wrong at the core. the leaders are given a free pass and revelation-kimball is holier than my 501 jeans for correcting it. well, he should have punched mcconkie in the mouth while he was at it. he gets no pass for saving the church from litigation and humiliation.

the same excuse is layered into the current leadership labeling people anti-mormon, when they simply tell the truth. its tired.

jordan, its ok to criticize the leaders of the church, even if the criticism is true. i promise to give you a cookie, even if dallin wont.

Jordan F.

That's Elder Dallin, buddy. Or have you forgotten the Mormon Stories episode already?

Sister Mary Lisa

Jordan ~

Except that his father felt completely backed by his church knowledge and his presider status as head of his family to behave in just that way. That did not come from nowhere. It came directly from the church.

That letter is crap. And when his dad colors that letter and his sentiments as coming from his love for Mike, that is crap directly spewed out of the church. You know this is true. I'm sure he feels he showed love in sending that letter to his other children as he stated in that letter, and that he'd tell you he loves Mike if you asked him right now. Just like the church leaders at the top will tell you that you are well-loved and valued even when they tell you you are not allowed to go to the temple to gain eternal life with God if you don't pay 10% of your money to them, I mean to God.

Mayan Elephant

Mormon Matters. Oh shit. I did forget. Yes, Elder Dallin Oats. I wont fuck that up again.

Jordan F.

That letter is crap- crap from a weak father of a dysfunctional family.

Jordan F.

And my heart does go out to Mike for growing up in a home with a father who probably consistently practiced "unrighteous dominion" and exhibits a lack of proper understanding or application of LDS "doctrine."

Sister Mary Lisa

OR crap from a strong father in a typical Mormon family.

Mike, sorry I called your dad an ass. I was projecting my sentiments of my own typical Mormon father who is one often.

Mayan Elephant

touche!

Jordan F.

Don't worry Mike- all you have to do to show your displeasure with your father's domineering ways is to point him to this blog post and the comments. If he has any heart at all left in him, the sight of all this disdain directed towards him and his love letter might well break whatever heart is left. It would be just punishment, right?

(Though not LDS doctrine properly understood or applied... but oh well...)

Jordan F.

To sum up my main points before I actually get some work done:

1. Mike's father's actions were not the "fruits of the gospel" as I understand it. They were the result of an individual decision, arguably informed by a misunderstanding of LDS church doctrine.

2. Mormons believe that families can be forever, but they also believe in loving those families and sticking together in the here and now.

3. My opinion is that Mike's father made an unfortunate choice but, ultimately, it was a PERSONAL decision, not an LDS church-mandated one.

Equality

"Though not LDS doctrine properly understood or applied." Who made you the arbiter of that, Jordan? I thought the apostles had that job. It might not be LDS doctrine according to Jordan properly understood and applied, but I haven't seen you say anything that would cause me to doubt that the letter is in harmony with LDS doctrine and culture as understood by a great many Latter-day Saints. Again I ask, if this letter were posted at some site about religions generally, would it not be obvious which church Mike and his dad belong to? Would anyone confuse this letter as coming from a Presbyterian?

On the question of whether I think Mike's dad loves him, this is what I said in an earlier comment:
"I am not so sure that Mike's dad doesn't love him very much. What I see is a father who simply has his priorities skewed because he believes so strongly the dogma his church teaches. He exalts loyalty to the church above his relationship with his kids. When presented with conflicting loyalties, he chooses the church over his son. You say no church can instill that kind of thing. I wonder."

I don't know Mike's dad. I suspect that he does love his son, but just as many cult members break ties with their families due to misplaced priorities that result from the acceptance of faulty religious ideas, I think Mike's dad's love for his son was subordinated to his desire to be true to the church organization. It is not necessarily that Mike's family is dysfunctional--it's that the church's teachings, when adopted with zeal, lead to the type of thing we see in this letter. That's the reality you seem hellbent on avoiding.

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