Dear Mom & Dad,
I wanted to let you know what has been going on with me over the past year. 3-4 years ago my co-worker (who is LDS) and I got into some lengthy conversations about the church. He basically told me that he didn’t believe in the church anymore and I tried to give him every response I could muster to respond to his concerns. I thought I did pretty well and I remained satisfied with the answers I had come up with to his questions and we ultimately decided to agree to disagree. Well, about a year ago things started to bubble up a little bit for me. On my own, I began formulating questions to things that had been nagging me for some time. Of course, I had become very good at ignoring or putting on the shelf things that were uncomfortable or that did not add up for me. Until one Sunday I was pondering the pictures that had been taken from the Egyptian papyri discovered and printed in the Book of Abraham.
I really sat and pondered those pictures and began to have doubts that they were really representative of the life of Abraham as Joseph Smith had represented. I began to wonder if they might actually have a different meaning. I wondered if there was any other interpretation of the facsimiles and the hieroglyphs contained in them that might go against what Joseph Smith had taught or if he was accurate in his translation. Well, looking through the illustrated book of Egyptian archeology we got for Christmas a few years back (I think from you, actually) the same elements of the pictures in the Book of Abraham have been found in other places in artifacts and what not. I also learned that scholars are now able to read Egyptian with ease thanks to all the historical work done, artifacts unearthed and the discovery of the Rosetta stone back in 1799. What I found was that there was very little accuracy to the translation that Joseph Smith presented in the Book of Abraham of the facsimiles. This discovery, of course, led to questioning the authenticity of the text of the Book of Abraham and to Joseph’s ability to translate altogether. The shadow cast in my mind was very dark and very deep.
Needless to say, this question led me on a quest to find out everything I could to formulate a better understanding of who Joseph Smith really was and whether or not all of the foundational events in church history could be called into question. Well, about a year later, I have ultimately arrived at my answer.
I want to point out that, as you know, I do suffer from an acute case of foot in mouth disease and I certainly do have a tendency to be deliberate and hurtful with my words (as Mrs. Facsimilogos well knows) so I want to mention that even though I would love to convince you of everything I have discovered and try to spell it all out here that I will refrain from doing so. I will refrain because such a work would require volumes to relay my findings, notes, etc. (Not to mention addressing any specific questions or perspectives that would come up as I went along). Instead I want to share with you my feelings and hope that you will begin to understand where I am coming from and that you will not think of me any differently because of a change in my beliefs.
As you can imagine, my new understanding and perspective places me in a very big bind. I am not sure what the future holds, but I know that I am 100% dedicated to my children and to doing whatever it takes to make their lives productive, comfortable and peaceful. I certainly could not see myself out of their lives, nor do I wish to be.
Mrs. Facsimilogos and I do not agree on much of what I believe as she is still very much a strong believer in the church. In fact, it was a conversation with her that has led me to write this letter. You see, she got so fed up with me and my questions one night a few days ago that she called her parents to tell them what I was going through and to ask them for advice. I figured it wasn’t fair that her parents should know where I am at and you not know.
Anyway, my new beliefs cause me to be confronted with tough decisions and to be torn in many directions. With our son’s baptism, he wants me to do it…and I probably will do it, but I now find praying to be an empty, rhetorical experience. I think my mind has been very powerful at helping me to believe what I wanted to believe in the past, but now that I really want some objective experience to latch onto, there is nothing but dead air. I will probably have a hard time hiding my true feelings and will probably not be able to do the expected “special” confirmation blessing, although in thinking about it, I could probably say some nice things that would hopefully be helpful to my son, but they probably wouldn’t fit in with the church’s party line. I may go ahead and ask Mrs. Facsimilogos’ father to be voice for his confirmation, we’ll see. (I ended up confirming my son, but was painfully told later that it was not the blessing my son was "entitled" to)
I now struggle with the thought of whether or not to continue to enforce the belief structure as laid out by the church (even though I don’t believe it is 100% healthy) because it is a good moral foundation for the kids or do I begin to introduce ideas of independent thought that would move them towards non-reliance on the church for their identity. This is a tough call…Hey, where is my parenting manual anyway? Of course, this question is only for me to speculate on in my mind, since Mrs. Facsimilogos continues to insist on bringing the kids up active in the church and I must continue to support that.
Getting to where I am at was not easy and will continue to present challenges; HOWEVER, I can honestly say that I am at peace and feel renewed and refreshed in my conscience. The feeling is so exhilarating, yet also troubling when confronted with the reality of what family and friends think because of where it is that I have come from and was brought up with. This is probably the most difficult part; however, most people in the church take solace in just figuring it is a phase I am going through and that I will come back eventually. I don’t see this as being the case, but I guess anything could happen. On the other hand, I think it is unfortunate that this idea of the lost sheep eventually coming back into the fold has been taught over the pulpit. The arrogance of the leaders of the church and their viewpoint surrounding the choices of others does not cease to astound me. In my opinion, people should be encouraged to do what they feel is right for them (even if it is something outside of the church) and not have to be condemned at every turn for deciding their own happiness.
This is where I am at; I go to sacrament meeting to be with the family, but that is about it. I didn’t go for a while, but it was too much for me to handle. I skip out of Sunday school and priesthood because I can’t stand it (that and it is so boring and nobody wants to hear what I now think). I won’t accept a calling (because I can’t in good conscience) and I don’t pay tithing. Of course, it goes without saying that I don’t have a temple recommend. I have been in to talk with the bishop so he knows where I am at, but as far as helping me, he tried for a little bit, but then sort of gave up on me telling me how he had a good friend who left the church to go be a polygamous fundamentalist. He said the church is still good because of what it does to keep kids from doing bad stuff later in life and that is essentially why he still supports it. However, from what I have seen from our family, church activity is no guarantee that kids will never do anything bad. In my opinion, kids are going to do what they want to do and all I can do as a parent is teach them right from wrong as best I can and trust that they will do the right thing…that and continue to love them unconditionally, right? As far as requesting to have my name removed from the church, I don’t see any point. I don’t care if people from church contact me and I think it would probably be the final nail in the coffin for my marriage if I did make that request. I also continue to wear garments because it helps give Mrs. Facsimilogos something to hang onto. Of course they are pretty worn out, so I am going to need to do something about that one of these days.
You may think that my confession here means that I don’t want to talk about the church any further; however, nothing could be further from the truth. My mind is more open now than it ever has been in the past. I am just drawing conclusions based on my life’s experience and what I think I know. I am open for discourse and would welcome any and all rebuttals to my points. Of course, you should remember that I can be quite belligerent and always think I am right so there’s that to deal with. I hope we can talk about things going forward and I welcome any thoughts or questions you may have.
I hope this isn’t going to rock you to your core(s). I hope it does not make you want to give up all hope in me and my ability to do the right things. I am still that person, I just have an expanded view of the world and I am taking it all in. I am still forming my viewpoints and learning new things all the time. Unfortunately, it is true that the more I reject the teachings of the church the more I see error and fallibility in the things that are taught. Don’t get me wrong, the church is filled with really good people that I really admire, I just wish so much that more people could open their eyes and see what I now see. I will openly condemn any organization that teaches obedience to a hierarchy over independent thought and individual accountability. Boyd K. Packer taught in an infamous address that there are things from the church’s history that, while they may be true, are not very useful. I reject the notion that my exposure to events from church history necessitates being screened and edited until they become faith promoting and useful. The result is lies that are intended to deceive and increase the power and influence of the church. As Gordon B. Hinckley said, it is either all true or all false, there is no middle ground. I accept that and have pretty much concluded it is all based on the ideas of men…granted they may be considered by many to be some pretty good ideas, but they are the ideas of men nevertheless.
I’ll close by telling you that I am sorry to be telling you all of this, but I think it is better to get it out in the open instead of continuing to allude to it all the time when we get together. Please forgive me and don’t hesitate to talk to me. I am still very open to seeing the error of my ways. Thanks in advance for your patience and any advice you can offer. I would really value your feedback.
I hope things find you well. Thanks for your love.