Dear Elder Holland

Dear Elder Holland,

Let me first start by saying that over the years of your membership in the quorum of the twelve, I have taken great insights, great wisdom, and great solace from many of your talks. The times when you have taken a parable, or a passage of scriptures from Christ’s life and expounded upon it, shedding light on the situation and the humanity of those moments, I have found to be deeply profound. So it has been with a heavy heart that I have seen you over the past several years, becoming frustrated, angry and maybe even a little bit hostile with those that may disagree with you or the church.

I saw a link this morning to an amateur recording of a talk that you gave at a Tempe Arizona devotional. The recording was only 15 minutes long and is labeled as ‘part 3′ of the talk. I wasn’t able to find parts 1 and 2 but in the 15 minutes you covered several things, so I believe I understand the context of the remarks that I heard. Like many of your talks, there were moments when you opened the scriptures and pointed out some great truths. You spoke of Christ asleep on the ship while the storm raged. You pointed out what kind of utter exhaustion the Lord must have been feeling in order to sleep through such a squall. You pointed out that his whole life was filled to the brim with people following after him and asking things of him, and how that must have made him deeply exhausted for much of his life as he gave his all, literally his all.

But there were also moments when you spoke of those who have, or those who are, leaving the church. The reason that I listened to the talk in the first place was because of this quote which was highlighted by the person who posted it:

“Don’t you dare bail. I am so furious with people who leave this church. I don’t know whether ‘furious’ is a good apostolic word. But I am. What on earth kind of conviction is that? What kind of patty-cake, taffy-pull experience is that? As if none of this ever mattered, as if nothing in our contemporary life mattered, as if this is all just supposed to be “just exactly the way I want it and answer every one of my questions and pursue this and occupy that and defy this – and then maybe I’ll be a Latter-Day Saint”?! Well, there’s too much Irish in me for that.”

I was taken aback by your fury. I was taken aback by the way that you turned people like me into the butt of your joke. Each time you railed on those who leave the church, it was amid a chorus of laughter from your audience. You suggested that anyone who was ‘on the boat’ and decided to get off was stupid. In the quote above you seem to be suggesting that anyone who leaves the church is weak, without conviction, and selfish. I wonder if you think that it was a taffy-pull experience for me to step away from the church when I knew the damage it would cause. I wonder if you think it was easy for me to let go of years—a life-time worth—of belief and habit and yes, conviction. Do you think I shrug and say, ‘oh well’ when my mother cries for what I’ve done? Do you think I am unhurt by the friendships and community that I have lost?

To leave behind the only community I’ve ever felt a part of outside of my family was something I agonized over. It was gut wrenching to even consider that what I had believed—every comforting thought about my standing before God due to my membership—might not be right.  Or at least that it might not be everything.

You say you are furious. Perhaps then, you might have some empathy for the betrayal and fury that I felt. You may not agree with my decision, but perhaps you can at least understand the emotion. It was no patty-cake, no taffy-pull. It drove a wedge between me and many people I love. Nothing but a belief that I am doing what the Lord would have me do would have incited me to do something so obviously prone to hurt me and those around me.

Perhaps you might consider that the mockery and distain you show toward those of us leaving the church gives us no incentive to return. I for one still have much love and tender feelings toward the church, but it’s difficult to hold on to those when you so openly speak of your disgust for people like me.  Those who join the church against their families wishes are lauded as heroes because of the faith and conviction it took for them to make that choice. So perhaps you might consider some compassion for those of us who desperately want to please our families but have had to choose to please God instead.

We are each on our own journey back to the Lord. We each have different lessons to learn and different paths to tread. So while my journey may be different than yours, I will still wish you God speed, and I would ask you to allow me to go in peace.

You said leaving the boat would be “the dumbest thing you can do.” Perhaps for some of us, this is the sacrifice that the Lord has asked of us. Perhaps we need that experience, that refiners fire as we are tossed on the sea, so that we might gain the faith to walk on water.

God be with you,
Annette

 

Using Logic in the Lord’s Defense

I recently read an article written by someone whose purpose was to help those in a faith crisis, to show through logic that many anti-mormon arguments aren’t as sound as they may seem. I appreciated the article, it was a good defense of the Book of Mormon, of Joseph Smith as a prophet, and of the restoration. I read it because I know that this article was meant for people like me. Many people will consider my journey of late to be a crisis of faith. In a way that’s true. I went through a crisis of faith in the LDS church, and on the other side of it, I realized that my faith was never meant to be put into an organization or church.  However, I could safely put my faith in the gospel of Christ, and rely on Him to receive answers to my many questions.

In reading the article, I couldn’t help noticing the logical flaw that the writer was ignoring. The article makes the assumption that if the Book of Mormon is true, if Joseph Smith was a prophet, that means that the LDS church today is “true”.(I’m not sure how a church organization can be true. Points of doctrine can be true, principles can be true, but should an organization be labeled “true”? Is my book club or Walgreens true?)

But I don’t believe that one equals the other. I believe that Brother Joseph was a prophet because he spoke the words of the Lord. He received revelations, recorded them, so that we now have them in the Doctrine and Covenants. He delivered to the world a collection of God’s word. Many who have read it, as well as the Book of Mormon, have received our own witness from the Lord that they are from Him. The Holy Ghost has testified of their truthfulness.

However, saying that this Godly evidence means that the LDS church is true, or has all the Lord’s truth, or is God’s authority on earth, isn’t a logical conclusion. Just because something starts with truth doesn’t mean it retains it. We see evidence of this over and over in the scriptures. The Lord calls His people to repentance through a prophet, some few (and sometimes many) repent and come to Him, but over time—often only a couple generations—that connection with God is lost. We’re not immune to this in our day. We do have a better chance than most  because we have the Book of Mormon, and the Book of Mormon does contain the fullness of the Gospel. But the Book of Mormon also has example after example of the righteous falling into apostasy. We need to take that warning seriously and not just assume that we are safe from it, either individually or collectively.

I know most in the church members believe that we are lead by a modern day prophet, and thus all is well and we cannot be led astray. It’s a comforting thought to be sure. We receive constant reassurance that we are on the right path because we are part of the organization. But is that confidence warranted? How can we know if someone who takes the title of prophet is, in fact, a prophet? I would think that the simplest way would be to ask if they have prophesied? Have they revealed? We know that Joseph Smith DID receive revelation. The members were able to read them and ask the Lord for confirmation that the words printed were His words. These revelations followed the pattern of revelations recorded in the Book of Mormon. They weren’t inspired thoughts, or thoughtful talks on gospel subjects. Joseph gave plenty of those as well, but what we call revelation are the Lord’s words.

“And the Lord said unto me: John, my beloved, what desirest thou? “ (D&C 7:1)

“And the things which I shall tell you are made known unto me by an angel from God. And he said unto me: Awake; and I awoke, and behold he stood before me.” (Mosiah 3:2)

“I, the Lord, am God, and have given these things unto you, my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and have commanded you that you should stand as a witness of these things;“ (D&C 5:2)

“Behold, I am God; give heed unto my word, which is quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword,” (D&C 6:2)

They are direct quotes from God or His angels. Visions are shares in the scriptures with the same clarity. “I have dreamed a dream; or, in other words, I have seen a vision.” (1 Nephi 8:2)

There are wonderful, inspired leaders in many churches that can help others come to Christ if they truly are being lead and inspired by the Lord. But that does not make them prophets, seers, or revelators?

Countless people join the LDS church for very good reason. They read the Book of Mormon, they read or hear the story of the first vision, and the Holy Ghost testified to them that these things are true. Then the church teaches them that because those things are true, everything now taught in the church is true.

Once again, that isn’t actually a logical conclusion. All that proves is that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith had the truth and was a true servant of God.

There are quite a few instances of church teachings contradicting scripture. We are taught that the Word of Wisdom is a commandment, when the revelation reads, “not by commandment or constraint…given for a principle with a promise.” (D&C 89:2-3) We’ve decided not to use wine for the sacrament even though it specifically states in D&C 89:5-6 that we should use wine for the sacrament. It’s even recommended that we make the wine ourselves.

That’s not nearly so worrisome to me as the restrictions that the church has put on baptism. If anyone wishes to be baptized, they must have a testimony that the current church president as a prophet, seer and revelator, (it’s in the baptismal interview) when in the scriptures, the only requirements for baptism are to repent and come to Christ. (3 Nephi 21:6, 3 Nephi 27:20, 3 Nephi 30:2, Moroni 7:34) There are plenty of other restrictions put on baptism by the church, likely all were well intentioned, but that doesn’t change the fact that Jesus laid out the rules for baptism Himself, and we’d do well to follow them.

In 1837, the fullness of the priesthood was restored, but in a revelation received in 1841, wherein the saints were commanded to finish he Nauvoo temple in a certain amount of time, we are told:   “For there is not a place found on earth that he may come to and restore again that which was lost unto you, or which he hath taken away, even the fulness of the priesthood.” (D&C 124:28) The fullness of the priesthood was lost to the saints, and I have yet to find any record of it being restored again. We retained a portion of it, but the revelation states that Christ must visit the temple in order to restore the fullness. There is no record of him visiting the Nauvoo Temple, in fact it was never fully completed. I ask people about this fairly often and no one seems to be concerned about it. But it very much concerns me.

The church being put under condemnation also concerns me, and is yet another thing that no one talks about. D&C 84:

55 Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.

56 And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.

57And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written—

When was this condemnation lifted?  In Pres. Benson’s April 1986 talk entitled Cleansing the Inner Vessel, he speaks of this condemnation and states that it has not been lifted. I have no reason to believe it’s been lifted since that time either. Why aren’t we more concerned about this?

I don’t say any of this in the hopes that I will destroy someone’s faith. I remember all too well how it felt to have the rug pulled out from under me and to realize that maybe the church wasn’t all it claimed to be. However, on the other side of that, I found my faith in Christ strengthened, and that is something we can all benefit from. My hope is that perhaps there are some out there who are struggling in silence and might find some value in the lessons I’ve learned.

I’ve seen the same droves of people that you have, not only leaving the church, but abandoning their faith in God. We’ve tied the idea of Gospel Truth and church truth so tightly together, that when one recognizes the flaws in the church that claims to be God’s church, they can’t fathom how any of the Lord’s gospel can be true. They throw everything out. If God’s church on earth isn’t telling the whole truth—or is contradicting itself, or is acting in a way that they imagine God would not possibly act—then they throw everything out. Faith in Christ, Faith in God, even the belief in the existence of God.

I was lucky in that I never doubted God’s love or his gospel. I was confused about what was His and what wasn’t, and I’m still trying to figure out a lot of the details, but through my crisis of faith in the church, I never doubted that the Lord was there, that He had restored his gospel and that it was contained in the Book of Mormon. And it hurts to see so many who can’t think of a way to reconcile a fallible organization (including leaders who contradict one another or scripture) with an infallible God.

God can and has spoken for Himself. I personally need to be better at searching out His will and obeying His word.

35 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost. 

36 And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one. 

37 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things. 

38 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. 

39 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them. 

40 And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them. (3 Nephi 11)

*If you’d like to read the article that got me thinking about this topic, it’s here.

Where I Stand on My Journey

     We each are on a journey back to God. Each of us will travel a road unlike anyone else’s because each of us have different things to learn and experience.
     I haven’t been very public about my spiritual journey of late. Many of you know that I no longer attend the LDS church. Many of you probably had no idea. I haven’t attended church since the last Sunday of 2014. My inactivity isn’t something that happened gradually over time. I went every week, every month, to every meeting up until Cameron and I both felt that the Lord had given us permission to step away. It’s not that the time commitment was too much. It’s not that our lives had run aground and we felt unworthy. I realized that in all my experience with church, I was missing a personal relationship with the Lord, and as I started to seek His word and His will and His voice, my experiences at church became more confusing and less satisfying. We had conversations with both our Bishop and Stake President about our thoughts and understanding. Neither felt the need to chastise us, disfellowship us, or take away our recommends. Neither could answer any of the questions that we had about why the church is the way it is now, why it looks so different from what Joseph started.
     We didn’t have our temple recommends revoked, but they’ve since expired, and that’s ok. I appreciate the temple for all that it taught me. I’m grateful for what I learned through its symbolism about how to go to the Lord and converse with Him through the veil in this life. I’m grateful for the symbolic sealing that gave me promises of what the Lord had in store for me and my family if we were able to be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. But I’m surprised that I don’t miss it more. Perhaps realizing that the temple wasn’t the ultimate destination had a lot to do with that.
     We still take the sacrament. We gather with a group of people. We take turns bringing the bread and the wine (and grape juice). We kneel together and bless the Lord’s supper before partaking of it. Using whole perfect loaves of bread and seeing them ripped into pieces has been a profound experience, as has partaking of the wine which is indeed a bitter cup to swallow. I don’t like wine. I don’t get why anyone would, but it’s made partaking of the Lord’s supper a lot more meaningful for me. (For the record, I switched to grape juice as soon as Cameron and I started trying for baby #5.)
     We still pay tithing. Instead of paying it to an organization, we gather it among our little group and use it to help those among us that need assistance. If we have more tithing than we have needs, we are able to help friends or family members even if they don’t meet with us. We do everything by common consent. That’s a challenge at times, but reclaiming the responsibility to make those decisions has been miraculous and edifying, and we’ve seen a tremendous amount of good come from it.
     We gather to study the scriptures for several hours weekly. Other times we will gather for a prayer meeting, or to pray and to give blessings to any that wish it. We try to keep the Lord involved in every aspect of our meetings, and to seek his direction as often as possible.
     The Book of Mormon has become more meaningful to me. I’ve always known it was the word of God, but looking at it now, allowing the words to speak for themselves has helped me better understand what is expected of me. It also seems clear that I should be expecting Godly manifestations. The scriptures are filled with accounts of angels, miracles, and people hearing God’s voice and seeing His face. I am trying to have the faith to really believe that those kinds of Godly interactions can be a real and ever present part of my life.
     I’ve also taken a great interest in the Lectures on Faith. They were once part of the Doctrine and Covenants and are an amazing resource for understand the character, perfections and attributes of God. I’m grateful that those theological lessons taught by Joseph Smith were recorded and preserved for us.
     Cameron and I have changed the way we read scriptures with our kids. Instead of trying to fight through 10 verses or a whole chapter, we will focus on a verse or two or three. We will talk about what all the words mean, and try to help them understand the message of how these verses are directing us back to the Lord. We don’t remember to do this as often as we should. But whenever we do, it’s incredible to see how curious the kids are, how much they really want to know and understand now that we’re willing to slow down and talk about it, and to especially encourage them to ask as many questions as they want.
     I talk about God a lot more than I used to. I can’t figure out why it is that God wasn’t a frequent topic of conversation for me before. I’ve always believed in God, known he was there, known he wanted to talk to me. But somehow I thought that bringing Him into everyday conversation would be preachy or corny or irreverent. I used to give a lot of credit to the church and to my religion, without acknowledging God’s hand. I used to think it was the same thing, but now that I don’t have a church to fall back on and rely on, I see just how much I left the Lord out of my day to day thoughts, thinking that being part of a church was satisfying my need for Godly interaction in my life.
     I really do believe that the only way to salvation is through Christ, and Christ alone. I believe I must follow God’s commandments that he gives me, and in order to do that, I have to have a robust enough communication with God that I know what he is asking of me.
     Leaving the church was in no way comfortable for me. It felt strange, and I was worried about what everyone would think of me. But after fighting to reconcile what it meant to obey God alone, while being told that all I needed to do was just obey the prophets, I finally decided that I could no longer pretend those two things could co-exist.
     Agency. It’s what the war in heaven was fought over. It is essential, it is perhaps the most important thing that the Lord wants us to have. And when we give up our agency to any organization, man, religion, etc… we are forfeiting our greatest gift. The point of this life is to make our own decisions, to learn, to seek God and hopefully come back into his presence. I want to be sure that I maintain my own agency, that I’m not just following the rules and tenants of an organization. That would feel like trusting an organization instead of trusting God. Salvation comes only through Jesus Christ. He is the only way. I have to keep reminding myself of that.
     I say all of this, not to convince anyone that I’m right, but just because I felt like I needed to say it, to claim my own thoughts. This is what I think. This is what I believe. This is why I am where I am. This is an update about me. I am no one. I am nothing. I can only rely on God and hope that he will continue to teach me, to correct me in all my mistakes, misconceptions, and misunderstandings. I have many.
     I don’t know where you are in your life, what you believe, or why you believe it. I might have a general idea, but I’m guessing I don’t know the whole story. For my part, I’ll just say that these things matter to me and I take them very seriously. So, for those that care about me and my welfare, and are interested in the course of my life, whether you agree with me or not, I thought I would put into words where I am.
     In many ways I’m now on the outside, and I’m surprisingly ok with that.

August

I’m not sure if it was because it was nearing the end of summer, but Lessi was having a tough day, really wanting some attention, so after getting mad, I went online and found several little science experiments we could do. This one with the food coloring in milk was really fun.IMG_5297

Lessi made a face out of her ice cream. Those are tiny york peppermint patties and a licorice.IMG_5303

Lessi also went to theater camp at the high school. She was a pirate. She did a great job and it was a cute little play. Nice and short.

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While I was gone one day (can’t remember where I was) Cameron took Eli’s training wheels off. That was all he needed. I don’t think Cameron had to give him any pointers or hold onto the back or anything. He just took off on two wheels.

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And here’s Jace in his thinking chair again. That blue glow on his tummy is from an iPod. :) And then we have Jace eating yogurt by himself, not so successfully.IMG_5315 IMG_5321

First day of school! I think it was Aug 24th. Sophie in 2nd grade. Lessi in 3rd.IMG_5345 IMG_5346 IMG_5347 IMG_5349

Hanging out in the front yard with Jace. Admiring the pretty view.IMG_5359 IMG_5362

Snuggling with Dad and having a little chat. And then making faces at me. :)IMG_5388 IMG_5390

Bear Lake Reunion July 2014

Once Again, I have a serious lack of pictures! What is going on with me? This is pretty well my favorite 4 days of the year and I took hardly any pics. Sad.

Well, we had another great reunion at Bear Lake with my beautiful family. Jason wasn’t able to come, and he was sorely missed, but everyone else was able to make it for at least part of the time.

The older girls set up the salon on the back patio as they usually do and were almost always available to do hair and nails. Here’s Lessi’s awesome fishtail.

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Piper and Jace were funny to watch together. She’s 6 months older, but I’m fairly certain they weigh the same.

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Fun in the hot tub! It’s like a mini pool for all of the grandkids. IMG_5231 IMG_5234

Me and Cherise, hanging out by the hot tub. I love my smitsters!IMG_5241

Me and my Jacer at the beach. We ended up doing two beach days which was a lot of fun. We created a fabulously massive sand castle. It was more like a sand village. Very impressive. I should bum a picture of that from somebody cause it was awesome.SAMSUNG

We had a little talent show, and Mer was awesome and taught all the girls a cheer routine. Lessi had a blast.

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All the grandkids with my Mom and Dad! We’ve got a big brood going on.IMG_5252

July 2014

Pictures for July were sparse. We took a little trip to Hermiston, Oregon for the fourth of July to visit Katrina and Blair. I gotta say, for a little town, they had an awesome fireworks display. They also had a great outdoor pool with a couple slides and lazy river and whatnot. The only pics I got were of Lessi in the car with her Lala Loopsy (Ella had her Bday party while we were there and it was Lala Loopsy themed.)

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And then I got come pics of Jace in this adorable little chair. Ain’t he cute?IMG_5215 IMG_5220

Random cool picture of the sun being blocked by fog or smog or just really thin clouds, not sure which.

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We did manage to make it down to the Boise River for a float! We went with the Sehers and the Kimball and Christine Larsen crew. It was a lot of fun. The kids would switch from boat to boat at each stop. I’m really sad I didn’t get a picture of Kate and Eli hanging off the front of Lys and Rick’s boat. (haha, as I tried to type Rick, my fingers automatically typed Rhys (hero of my last book)). It was a bit of a challenge trying to help Cameron steer, cause I had Jace on my lap or standing between my knees the whole time. But all in all, we had a lot of fun. Great family adventure.

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Speaking of not taking any pictures. Here’s a picture of Cameron and I when we were in Vegas. Granted we were only there for like 24 hours, but still, I should have pulled out the camera a little more.

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And this is Jace’s favorite hang out spot. We call it his thinking chair. He climbs in and just sits there for a while, chewing on whatever he can find. Though once in a while when he is trying to climb out, he gets his little thigh stuck between the corner of the harth and the top of the bin. He’s gained a few really good bruises that way. But he just keeps at it.IMG_5296

June 2014

Both of the girls were student of the month in may. I did their hair extra fancy for the occasion.IMG_5085IMG_5084IMG_5081IMG_5078IMG_5075IMG_5071IMG_5068

On the last day of school, we all ate lunch outside and said goodbye to teachers.IMG_5099IMG_5095

And then Summer started! And Lessi appointed herself Jace’s babysitter. They had lots of fun hanging out together.

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Super Children.

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Babysat piggy’s bother and sister.

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Fun in the neighbor’s pool.

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Backyard project! We pulled out a whole bunch of grass, and put in a playset instead. We love it.IMG_5123IMG_5189

Jacer loves his walker. He is a happy camper so long as he can cruise around and bump into people’s ankles.

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June 12th was Jace’s first birthday! He’s such a cute kid. We had a big summer birthday bash for all of the family members who had summer birthdays. We rented a blow up slide and a bounce house. We got a giant cake for the kids to eat with their hands. It was impressive. We sat them all around it, then let Jace take a couple bites first and then we said, ready go. The kids all stuck their hands in and pulled them out, and it was pretty much like a disappearing act. The cake was gone. That quick.

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I tried to upload the video of Jace starting to walk, but it was too big. :( But June was the month! He started standing and stumbling forward and was so excited about it. He would throw his head back and giggle, and that would throw him off balance and he would fall. But it was adorable.

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