On February 7, 2014, we wrote the Mormon Open Letter addressed to Thomas S. Monson. The church had already started publishing essays in the Gospel Topics section of LDS.org. These essays introduced and attempted to explain some of the troubling historical events and doctrinal issues (e.g. translation of the Book of Mormon, Blacks and the Priesthood, multiple versions of the First Vision, etc) that have troubled so many of us.
We wanted to create a forum where both former and active Latter-day Saints could ask the church for still more transparency. In our letter, we applauded church leaders for the publication of the essays and asked the church to become even more candid and forthcoming in several key areas. We expressed our concern over the impact of the churchâ€™s negative rhetoric when discussing those who have questions about doctrine and history. We were also disturbed by the harm the churchâ€™s profound lack of transparency and openness inflicted on individuals, families, and relationships.
Our concerns have only increased since then!
We are currently seeing numerous people called in and threatened with discipline ranging from being released from callings, having their temple recommends taken away, or even excommunication. Some of these stories have become very public. Many remain private, as the culture surrounding this situation is often laden with guilt and shame. The message is being sent that if you publicly discuss, blog, or write about your doubts and concerns, you are contradicting and disobeying church leaders and doctrine.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints bequeaths to us a legacy of thoughtful engagement with the world. It is precisely because they recognize and value that legacy that so many Latter-day Saints, active or otherwise, now insist on participating in difficult but necessary conversations about problems in the church.
People of great integrity and honesty are being told to shut their mouths, to acquiesce, to accept the status quoâ€”not merely as the way things are, but as the way God wants them. They are being told that itâ€™s not acceptable to discuss aspects of the church that cause pain, harm, and confusion. Itâ€™s not acceptable to ask for more transparency and historically accurate information. Itâ€™s not acceptable to question current religious policies even when accurate historical information demonstrates the legitimacy of the questions and concerns.
The world is watching. How the church deals with this crisis will greatly affect future conversations in and about the church. Greater repression and intolerance will harm, not help, missionary efforts and the ability of Latter-day Saints to work with others outside the church.
We, the authors of the Mormon Open Letter, reach out again to ask people to read what weâ€™ve written. To consider whether this is something they can support. To consider whether itâ€™s not only right but crucial to publicly ask the church for actions that we feel will make the church, individuals and families healthier. Our hope is the church will take proactive steps demonstrating openness and compassion, in order to mend the rift that is widening.
We also ask for the support of those (many of whom are in the news for being brought into church councils) who have engaged for years in these difficult but necessary conversations not merely about the churchâ€™s past, but about its future. We request that as members discuss the current climate in the church, they also discuss this letter. Please share it with the media. In forums where these topics come up, please link to the MormonOpenLetter. There is power in numbers and in raising our voices together. Please join us in our respectful request that the church help both members and non-members understand the church, its history, its mission, and its course for the future.
Please sign. Please join us, along with more than 3,400 other peopleâ€”including hundreds of bishops, stake presidents, Elders quorum presidents, Relief Society presidents, Young Womenâ€™s and Young Menâ€™s presidents Primary presidents, teachers from every auxiliary in the church, and thousands of returned missionariesâ€”who have already signed, with love and hope for all that we might move toward greater shared understanding and compassion.
Melanie Hall, Nathan Hesson, Melisa Hesson, Matthew Hildebrand, Steve Holbrook, D. William Johnson, Alison Udall and Holly Welker