Since my absence from the ward this Sunday will be visible, I wanted to explain to you what is going on. I do this so I can be completely honest with you, and to minimize any rumors or speculation that may arise.
I have doing some serious thinking, pondering, studying, praying, and soul-searching about the church and Joseph Smith for about 5 years. The concerns about church history that some people dismiss as off-base or wrong since they can be threatening to one's testimony, I researched thoroughly to determine their accuracy. The history caused me some doubt, and I wanted to know the truth since there are discrepancies between the way church history is presented in church and the way it actually happened according to primary sources. I studied with the intention to resolve my doubts and sustain my faith so that I could fully commit myself to the church. I suspended any judgment during my study and let the chips fall where they may.
All my research was done from unbiased historical sources - either from honest historians sympathetic to the church, or from active Mormon historians themselves. Most of the books can be purchased at Deseret Book. The history I studied is based on primary sources (journals, letters, discourses) of the actual participants. This is real history that discusses events as they actually happened, and people as they actually were. I did not use any anti-Mormon sources since these are biased, mean-spirited, and can be untruthful.
I know this is shocking for some to hear, and I understand your feelings since I felt the same way about people who "lose their testimony." But I have concluded that Joseph Smith was a good man and a religious reformer much like Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Wesley, or Huss who tried to reform the religion of their day to what they believed was right. My integrity was too important to stand before you anymore and pretend that I believed Joseph Smith was more than this. I have asked Bishop X and President X to be released from the bishopric. This will occur this Sunday at Church.
This conclusion was extremely painful for me to make, and it was not made hastily. I still believe that our church is good, its teachings are moral, and the people in the church are some of the greatest people in the world, in terms of service to God and man. I cherish our church's emphasis on family and Jesus Christ. I have a testimony of Christ and his gospel and the power of the atonement. I will still look and act like I always have because of all the good the church has taught me. I am not planning on "going off the deep end."
I did not lose my testimony of Joseph Smith because of sin, inactivity, fear to sacrifice for the church, or being offended by anyone. I am not bitter towards the church or anybody in it, including our leaders past and present. I have done nothing wrong which caused me to run from the church, or feel guilty about associating with you or serving in my callings. I have always been very active. I am a fifth-generation member of the church, and plan to stay that way. My story defies the stereotypes, and I don't want you to apply them to me.
The rest of my family will still attend church, and I wouldn't want it any other way. This is obviously difficult for them, and I would ask you to understand and be supportive of them. I don't want to convince my family or any of you what I now believe, since our faith is extremely important and personal. For this reason, I don't make any arguments or list any of the reasons for my conclusions. I don't want to get into a debate, as this just causes people on both sides to become more firmly entrenched and dogmatic.
I am planning in attending church again when it feels appropriate. I know you will accept me with open arms when I decide to come back because that is the kind of great people you are. However, I know I will be judged for my decision by some, and that's okay. I understand. I know my decision will disappoint many people. However, I hope you will accept my decision without trying to convince me I am wrong. I have mulled over this for a long time and have examined the issue from all angles. I am well informed. I feel very strongly I made the right decision, even though I know you feel just as strongly that I didn't.
Maybe someday, people like myself will have the freedom to remain in the church as active participants, but voice different opinions about the founding stories of our faith based on historical fact. However, I don't feel I could do that now. Hugh B. Brown, Counselor in the First Presidency to David O. McKay said the following which summarizes my feelings and hopes. He says:
"I admire men and women who have developed the questing spirit, who are unafraid of new ideas as stepping stones to progress. We should of course respect the opinions of others, but we should also be unafraid to dissent - if we are informed. Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought and in that competition truth emerges triumphant. Only error fears freedom of expression... This free exchange of ideas is not to be deplored as long as men and women remain humble and teachable. Neither fear of consequence or any kind of coercion should ever be used to secure uniformity of thought in the church. People should express their problems and opinions and be unafraid to think without fear of ill consequences. We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it."