This is my response to the author of “There Are Save Two Churches Only” Christian Markham, a latter-day saint author now parted from the church. I very much enjoyed vol. 1 which showed political conspiracy, I did not enjoy vol. 2 which suggested the church is a part of that conspiracy. In some correspondence with Christian, I wrote this about my feelings on his second volume. A theme of this essay is that we should be skeptical of materials published against the good name of the church and its leaders. Another theme is that focusing on growing & ministering to one’s family is more important than doing research. Possible reasons are considered for various perplexing things like church finance, strange handshakes seen by church leaders, the role of priesthood judges, and God permitting political conspirators to continue at large generally unexposed by the church. For an interesting lecture by brother Markham, see the audio download lectures at latterdayconservative.com
…I’m currently reading the “Crucible of Doubt” by Givens which brings up some interesting ideas of not taking things at face value but praying about their truth on one’s own. I assume you’re well versed in Nibley studies. He seemed to have lots of things against the church yet remained in it and defended its core message, seeing it as gods church even if it had imperfect members. Nibley was a genius with intellect surpassing what I will likely attain in this life. I don’t worship him or call him an authority but I revere his work and have found it intellectually consistent so far as I can tell.
… I like you anxiously anticipate the second coming of Jesus Christ where things can be more transparent and fair for everyone. Until then, i have a very hard time believing half the things I read, especially those critical of the church. People against the church are just as liable to err in data as those in the church. This being said, I’m going with my gut (and every other compass I can conjure) and staying in the church. You likely see this as shortsighted and immature, but it’s all I’ve got, and I believe it is enough.
I used to focus on the nitty gritty of doctrines of church and government. Now my focus is on taking care of my wife and children. I have 5 children and plan to adopt more in the near future. We do foster care and homeschool and find great real need there. They are my focus. They, not my research, are the substance of my life. If I’m to leave any trace of good will towards men on this earth , I’m going to do it in an area I know is important, to me that’s family. I used to want to have a career in teaching seminary or in being a therapist or as a statesman. Now I’ve backed away from those as they are too controversial. I think the real impact is in the home, so I’m trying to establish as big a home as I can. By this I don’t mean square footage, but rather number of children… …I suppose that different people have different life callings so i don’t fault those who chose to more fully devote themselves to research etc.
So far as the church goes, I wish I had more thoughtful things for you and could get into more complex discussions on the details of all this but like I said my focus has shifted from that stuff to my family. When I get interviewed by god after this life I think the conversation is going to be mostly about how I treated my wife and children, what I did to help them be compassionate humans. I still enjoy research, but it now takes the back seat and is more of a hobby. Taking my kids to church helps them make good choices. Giving priesthood blessings to my children seems to help them make more good choices and be of a better disposition. I live in a small town and ward members look out for each other. I feel Gods presence when inside temples, and leave temples with better decision-making capability.
President Thomas S. Monson added helping the poor as a 4th mission of the church, I like that idea of shifting our focus from just spiritual ministry to also temporal ministry (though I reject the idea that we should need to spoil ourselves and others with every convenience) I’m also still struggling through college for my nursing degree so that takes lots of time too. The past 5 years I’ve been at BYU which has been great for research but (in my case) not for career. I know I have a serious duty to both preach the gospel and influence the masses to righteous politics, but that stuff has to be set aside a bit for now. All I can eek out these days is an article now and then. I foresee more time for these things after college.
I don’t want to get into debates or belittle your research, but I will say I think some of the things I found in your vol 2 could have been circumstantial and answered with more insider info. We are spectators with limited info. Perhaps spectators should be able to get their hands-on transparent info, but like the military, it may be wise for some things not to be fully transparent in church government like how I’m not fully transparent with my children because they aren’t ready for full transparency. The handshakes could have been attempts of people shaking the hand to make the church look bad, or an old person misplacing his hand carelessly, or some ignorant appreciation of modern free masonry (or some brotherly gesture given from one person to another in the language they appreciate like that of free masonry).
Perhaps in The wisdom if god, God doesn’t insist on his prophets knowing (or preaching about) all conspiracies, but rather uses them for other general purposes. Perhaps the conspiracies are so large that it is not the goal of the church to simply throw down against conspiracy, bit to rather spend their time telling people to be good as best they can like Daniel in Babylon . Perhaps the conspiracies will only be ended at the coming of Christ with the burning. Perhaps the prophets know of the conspiracies but aren’t allowed to speak of them because we would stone them. Perhaps we are as a people so bad at living gospel basics that God is letting the conspirators rule the world to punish the more wicked of us and to try the faith of the more righteous of us. We live in the most wicked planet and in the most wicked era it’s no wonder that God is very limited as to what he can do even with Israel at this time.
The issues with church finances are far beyond me, though generally speaking I have no issue with the church having loads of cash to eventually be an independent kingdom. Generally speaking, I don’t have an issue with the doctrines of judges in Israel and delegation of authority. Any errors in those scenarios can be cleared up in the next life. It seems that the main work / impact of the church is what happens in local ward’s rather than by general authorities , preaching, or policy.
Also it’s been several years since I read your books, so I don’t have all the points on my mind to speak of today. I don’t and won’t have answers to most of the issues but I’m very skeptical of how cunning people outside of the church can twist statistics and scenarios to frame people/the church. I’m a regular subscriber to Joel Skousen’s world affairs brief, and that has taught me that the level of deceptions used by bad people are almost beyond comprehension. I’m not a master of statistics nor do I have time to drill through the tiny details to find the errors loaded into lots of these studies to see which are true and which are false.
I believe Joseph said that if we stay with the majority of the 12 we won’t be led astray. You likely already have, but i hope you’ve brought your findings to stake presidents, BYU scholars, and church headquarters for discussion. I like you wish things were better , but it is at least enjoyable to speak with a fellow brother and to relish the promises of the plan of salvation.”