The CES Letter
A month or so ago my friend Nick had me on his podcast. It was great fun and I got to meet a lot of new friends - people who reached out with encouraging notes and kind words. I also had, to my great amusement, the chance to see what a group of ex-Mormons thought of my interview. According to them I am either mentally ill, being willfully ignorant, or am trying to gain fame. If you're really interested in that part you can see their posts here and here. I am not offended by those comments in the least - they are revealing far more about themselves than about me and I find it all to be rather funny.
But the responses that are anything but funny have come from desperate and heart-broken parents of adult children who read the CES letter, and then left the church. The parents who wrote to me are all asking one thing: What can I tell my adult child to make them come back to the church?
And of course there are no answers that I can give them, so I try to give comfort instead, knowing that it probably won't help.
But here is the thing...the CES letter is petulant. It's childish sulking. The author appears to feel angry that he was not told about certain things when he was a child and teen. He grew up and learned more about church history and got really angry about it because it is not the story he was told all along. Imagine if a couple had a brand new baby and decided to decorate the nursery with a Noah's Ark theme. Millions of babies around the world spent their infancy under pastel murals of Noah and the animals. But when they grow up, if they think about the Noah story again, they might be angry that God allowed so many people and animals to perish in the flood. They might see it as a story of cruelty. Suppose that adult child goes home for a visit and sees a picture of their nursery and notices the Noah's ark theme and says, "Mom and Dad, I cant believe you let me sleep under a mural of that terrible story where so many people died! It's a horrific story and you put it up in my nursery! Were you trying to abuse me in some way?!" Mom and Dad would certainly be taken back. They just wanted a sweet mural for the nursery wall with cute animals. But what was intended as good has now been interpreted as bad. And this is the problem with the CES letter.
The author takes what he was taught as a child and appears to be very angry that he was not taught the entire truth - that he was taught a child's truth. Just like an infant in a nursery is not taught the entire truth about the Noah story. There are things from the scriptures, history, and all aspects of faith that we teach differently depending on the person's developmental level. When the child becomes an adult and learns the darker details, they have a number of ways of dealing with that information. And the worst way possible, at least in my thinking, is to become mad that they were not taught these details as a child. This is why the CES letter had no impact on me.
There are other people who are doing a much more systematic and through job of talking through the issues in the letter. FAIR Mormon's response is one of the best.