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Letter of apology

Dear Bxxxx Exxxx,

My name is Tom Perry. You probably don’t remember me, but I remember you. A few years ago you lived in my ward (XXXXXX Ward) for a brief period of time. In this ward, I was the Elder’s Quorum President. One evening, you let me and one of my councilors in your home. I went to your home knowing you were inactive with the intentions of being able to help resolve your concerns and potentially reactivate you. I also remember at the time you told us that you were separated from your wife.

There are a few reasons this particular evening has been forever scarred in my memory. Let me try to explain the events from my perspective so you can understand where I’m coming from. First and foremost, I remember you being very warm and welcoming. I remember you showing us your custom arcade machine (which I’m still very impressed about, by the way). Then the conversation slowly changed toward the Church. I remember you specifically responding to the question as to why don’t you attend. It was something like, “I just don’t think the church is what it claims. I don’t think the church is the one and only true church. I think it can be a good thing, I just don’t believe in it anymore.”

I remember being stunned and shocked. I recall asking if you had served a mission. I asked what your feelings were about your spiritual experiences while serving. You responded very politely and said that after much reflection and study you no longer believe those experiences were a direct consequence of the spirit. I seem to recall you said that you thought that the spirit might just be our own personal feelings and emotions, nothing else.

Now let me get to my reason for writing this. Just a few years after our meeting, I went through a crisis of faith of my own. It was completely unrelated to meeting with you, but I can’t help but think that some of your words planted a seed or two in my thoughts. I confronted the historical issue of the Mountain Meadows Massacre and all of its deep conflicts, which I had never fully understood until then. I turned to Apologetics, which only sped up my disaffection. About 18 months later I came to the conclusion that I no longer believe that the church is what it claims to be.

I confronted all those important in my life: spouse, friends and family. I collected my research and wrote a long letter to all of them. I was serving on the High Council at the time. It was a very dark time in my life. I suffered threats, shunning, and my marriage was on very thin ice. Only a very small number of people actually accepted me and my new changes. Long story short, my wife and I have found some common ground to rebuild our relationship from the ground up and are still happily together today. But, I have suffered permanent damage in other relationships, namely with parents and siblings. I do know the importance of good trustworthy friends in a time like that.

So, now that I am a disbeliever who still attends church for the sole reason to keep peace and hold his family together, I can’t help but reflect on that discussion we had that day. If I could go back, this is what I would have liked to have said to you: “Bxxxx, I can’t imagine the pain you are suffering and going through right now. I think it is immensely wrong that you have to suffer the loss of many committed and loved friendships because of your lack of belief in the church. I would like to offer you my friendship. And may I say this one thing. I commend you for your integrity. You stood up for what was honest and truthful, even at the risk and cost of losing relationships. You sir, are a man of honor and integrity. I am proud to say that I have met you and had the chance to have spoken with you.”

So in the end Bxxxx, can I just say one thing? I am truly sorry. I am sorry that I didn’t listen to you. I am sorry I responded exactly the way the church would have wanted me to respond. I’m sorry that I wasn’t a friend for you in that dark time. If only I would have genuinely listened to you instead of dismissing you outright... Who knows.

This letter may seem a bit silly and a bit over reactive, but I needed to say it. That meeting with you has kept me up at night. I’ve been ashamed of my actions that day and I hope that someday you could forgive me. Maybe you hold no resentment towards me, well then maybe all this is just a way where I can begin to forgive myself.

-Tom

17 comments:

Sulli said...

That letter was really touching. Thank you for posting it. (I feel like writing a few letters myself now.)

lifelongguy said...

I didn't serve a mission of my own but wonder if many people who did, and later have to deal with a crisis of faith,have similar thoughts of writing letters to those they taught. I have personally written similar email apologies, offering regrets to two female members who had come to "councils of love" that I participated in. I look back on those evens with regret and embarrassment having heard components of their confessions, helped cause them shame, over very personal things that were none of my business. Period. Regrets.

Hope all is well, Tom.

Tom Perry said...

Sulli, if you do write some letters, maybe you could post one or two on your blog, leaving out specifics of course. I would love to read them! Thanks!

Tom Perry said...

lifelongguy,

I have a tough time dealing with regret and remorse and I figured this letter is more for me and a way for me to continue the healing process rather than something for him necessarily. But I do intend on mailing this letter to him very soon.

GarenT said...

Hey Tom,
I had the chance to sit down with someone and have the opportunity to apologize in person. Very identical situation where a few years ago, I was the EQP and there was a guy in the ward that "needed support". Boy, did I provide it.

It was wonderful to be able to sit down with him, explain where I'm at now, and tell him that I was wrong in the way I thought, treated him, and many other things.

There are probably about 50 people in my life that I would love to have this opportunity with.

A friend put a post on FB this morning that may help.
‎"If you learn from your sufferings, and really come to understand the lesson you were taught, you might be able to help someone else who's now in the phase you may have just completed. Maybe that's what it's all about after all..."

Take care my friend.

Wendi Anderson said...

Excellent post. I certainly felt some deja-vu while reading. An open mind with a little insight sure has a way of humbling us and changing our perspectives. Suddenly, the good is evil and the evil is good. At least for myself, it was a valuable lesson learned in life. One that wouldn’t have had as much impact on me now if I hadn’t gained such a strong testimony in something that turned out to be completely false.

JackUK said...

Tom, a wonderful, thoughtful post; the letter was very moving, many leaders just do not get it do they!!!!
I think I've been where you were and am close to where you are in the journey. Please keep sharing your insight because it really does help...

Swearing Elder said...

Tom - that letter was amazing. It resonated with me on many levels --thanks for sharing.

Christian

Tom Perry said...

GT,

I would love to hear more about that story of you being able to apologize to that guy in person. This letter is one step removed from me accomplishing that goal.

Thanks, G. Keep in touch bro.

Tom Perry said...

Thanks Wendy. So good to know that I'm not the only that has experienced stuff like this.

Jack, Thanks for the comment. Really brings me comfort to know I'm not alone along this painful journey.

Sulli said...

I will definitely post them Tom! :)

Jay Bryner said...

I've got a handful of experiences like this, where I wish I could go back in time and get a do-over. Right on Tom.

Heather said...

Tom, you are awesome.

Tom Perry said...

That is great Sulli! I'll be watching!

Thanks Jay. I have more than a handful of do-over's I would like to go back in time and fix. Course, if I actually did get that chance I would probably end up just stealing Napoleon and eating ice cream with him at a bowling alley. Ziggy Piggy, Ziggy Piggy. :)

Heather, that was undeserved, but thanks anyhow. I hope to talk to you soon.

GarenT said...

Tom,
A bit more on the experience I had. About a year ago, I was in the back of the chapel between meetings and found a guy from a former ward sitting in there reading pages printed off a web site. When I asked him casually what he was reading, he told me it was details MMM. He was blown away with what he'd found out. I tried to help him, and suggested he reach out to you for more details. (This sounding familiar?)

Move ahead a year and the age of MS and other groups on Facebook. I find out a Dehlin listener is in this other ward as well. We end up having a small get together for the 3 of us. The guy from my old ward who was bugged by MMM, this guy I was just meeting who lived in the old ward, and me.
That was the setup for when I could apologize for past behavior by me when I was different than I am now. It felt VERY GOOD. I wish I could do it more.

Ron aka Diogenes said...

Tom, where would I start? 20 years of priesthood leadership starting at a very young age and accompanying zealousness and a platitude for everything. I can hear the replay on the day of judgment--"judge not ...for with that same judgment.." What can I do now?
Maybe I could take out a newspaper ad and provide a public notice apology?

C. L. Hanson said...

This post is in the running for a Brodie award in the category of "Most Interesting Interfaith Interaction". Please go here if you'd like to vote (or campaign) for yourself. :D

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