To my LDS family and friends,
I am writing this letter to get a few things off my chest. First of all, yes, I am a doubter. I have encountered some things that do not make sense to me that I grew up being taught as fact from a very young age. You see, I believed that when I was taught that the LDS church represented the “true” church of God on the earth, that it was ACTUALLY the “TRUE” church of God on the earth. I believed that this statement had EVERYTHING backing it up. However, I don't even want to talk about that here. I want to talk about something else. I want to talk about you.
You see, I believed the people that I grew up around, and looked up to very much, in the church were sincerely striving, albeit imperfectly, to live their lives according to the way Jesus taught people to live. I believed they would love and show empathy for those who had struggles in their lives. I believed that they would be the first ones to extend a hand of fellowship and show love and concern for the downtrodden, the poor and, yes, even the wicked that cursed and fought against them. I believed this because this is what Jesus taught. I read the bible and tried to better understand how Jesus would want me to live. I read the part where he said to love those that hate you and spitefully use you. I read those words and I believed them. I believed that those kinds of teachings of love and patience and kindness were, in fact, the most rewarding teachings that I could hope to cultivate in myself.
However, I also had to reconcile this with the other things I was taught in the church. Things like people who are not members of the church are missing out on so much in life or that people who leave the church only do so because they are in Satan's grasp and only want to sin. That or they were just offended and they are the ones that need to just get over themselves.
I think these teachings taught me to look at others in their differences of opinion as wrong. I had the truth, I thought, so the truth I had could cure all of their troubles. I could show these people love and concern and empathy and, as long as I didn’t listen to them in their wicked and Satan influenced manipulations, I could show that love to them and my testimony and belief structure would survive. However, fully trying to live with this knowledge meant that I sometimes had to ignore the really outspoken among this group of people that were critical of the church and sometimes even remove all communication with them if they seemed to push the issue...but, I felt justified in this. I believed this was what God would want me to do. God would want me to remain pure and un-defiled so that I could remain a worthy vessel for His works to be manifest.
I believed that God’s love would somehow show through my attempts to limit communication with these people and my attempts to show love and compassion would ultimately be borne out in what I was doing by cutting off all communication with these people. I believed that eventually God would show them the error of their ways and hopefully they would eventually come to see God’s truth. And, if I could be just a small instrument in bringing that to pass, then all the better. Then I could justify what I had done and even feel good about it. I used this way of thinking to simply abandon a lot of good people and their influence and I am here to tell you that I regret this.
Of course I have always had to temper this way of thinking with the desire to spread the good news of the gospel with all those that would listen. This desire caused me to feel bad about all the doors that were slammed in my face while I served my mission but, what I have only recently come to realize is, perhaps that response to me and my message of “love” for them was deserved in their opinion. Maybe they felt I deserved to be treated that way (slam the door in my face) because I felt OK about treating others that way (or telling them that I had the truth and they did not – no matter how much they thought differently than I did). Maybe all the supposed “hatred” that I perceived to be coming from all those outside my faith was merely a reflection of the hatred I was already showing to those that did not agree with me.
I am here to tell you that this is not just an imagined thought that I have had, it is very real. I have now seen it firsthand. I have now been on the receiving end of some very mean and spiteful communication (not to mention effectual disowning, abandonment and disregard) from people that I dearly love and respect very much (even very close family and friends) because I dared to publicly express my doubt about my faith and seek answers to some very troubling questions. Unfortunately, it seems that the church I was brought up in, and trusted as an absolutely reliable source of divine information, is unable to effectively promote anything other than a stance that does nothing but continue to encourage this kind of thinking. Family members and close friends are still being disenfranchised, disowned and abandoned because they dared to question the beliefs they have always been taught are true and unquestionable.
This needs to stop.
I think this was the message that Dieter F. Uchtdorf was attempting to convey at the last LDS General Conference.
Unfortunately, there are many who will hear that message (and many more messages like them) and still cling to old ways of thinking. While I cannot do anything but express my sincere love for these people, I just hope that you are not one of them. It is profoundly unfortunate in my mind that there are many who will not even get a chance to read this letter because they have already put me out of their minds and lives forever. This makes me so sad.
All I can say now is that I still want to be your friend. I still want to be regarded in the same warm and loving manner that you regard your most loved family members. I hope that eventually forgiveness for the perceived wrongs I have done in your mind will come. I have already forgiven you for shunning me and believe I can honestly say that I hold no ill will towards any of you.
All that I ask is that you accept me for who I am and not who you believe I should be. I don’t know if this is too much to ask, but I hope that my request will be considered. I am open to having conversation. I want to know so much and I am sorry if my questions are perceived as “anti” or not in accordance with church teachings or standards. I am a human being and I am trying to think on my own and make sure I am not being led astray.
Just like you, I imagine that feeling loved and accepted are of the utmost desire to you. I am no different. Granted, I like attempting to explore difficult issues and express difficult questions, but I am human nonetheless. I care about what you think and I care about what you think of me.
I hope we can be friends again.
For you who have not abandoned me, or cut me off, because of my doubting heart, Thank You! You have shown true Christ-like love and compassion and I appreciate it. I think those that have continued dialogue with me, in spite of my questions and doubts, have realized that my questions are not really born out of a desire to just be critical, but of genuine concern and desire to know how things all fit together in the world. I have learned that my criticism can be very pointy and sharp at times, but it is not because I am possessed by the devil, it is because I have so much concern and sometimes feel disappointment over not being able to find better explanations to my questions. I also have the personal issue of not liking the idea of agreeing to disagree, but am coming to realize that sometimes that is the only way friendships can be maintained. I also think that those who have put up with me and my questions have learned to recognize the need for agreeing to disagree in spite of my dislike for it.
Unfortunately, I do not believe my words here will have much effect on those who have already chosen to cut me off and effectively disown me or un-friend me on FaceBook or block my posts. My message here is geared primarily towards those who have seen some of my recent posts and may have the idea that they should un-friend me. I only hope my words here can do something to cause you to reconsider. I just hope you will consider that actions taken to un-friend me are seen as shunning and are hurtful.
If you are going to un-friend me, at least have the wherewithal to let me know what you disagree with me about or what I have posted that has been perceived as attacking you or your faith. Then I can work on being more considerate of those feelings in the future. Again, I have no idea what impact my words may have here, but I suspect they will have very little, if any, impact at all. I can only hope that my attempt to express how I feel here may cause you to reconsider how you treat others. I hope I can make some difference in making the world a more tolerant, loving and accepting place for all of us. I hope this letter can be seen as a small step in that direction.
Thank you for your love, patience and kindness.