Dear Son and of course that greeting includes Allison and for sure little Heather - I always was a sucker for cute little girls - cute big girls too, come to think of it.
Your letter was so interesting that I thought I'd have a go at debating a little with you and see how far apart you and I are in our thinking. You might be surprised to learn that I believe pretty much as you do on a lot of religious aspects but I also believe I either have a better imagination or go back a step further than you do. I would love to debate orally but that seems to be impossible for me. I think I have a good vocabulary but the words just won't come to mind when I need them so I wind up using a substitute word that makes me sound like an idiot. I've always admired your gift of being able to explain even complicated things so even we idiots can understand them. Writing is different - if the word doesn't come, I just quit writing 'til it does.
Now, to begin with, I've never been able to understand why science and religion think they are so far apart in their beliefs of how the earth and it's inhabitants came into being. You say it developed because of natural laws - I agree - I think every atom and molecule that make up the earth as we know it today was floating around in space for eons before it became as we know it and I'm sure gravity, centrifugal forces and the assigned atomic weights were all very much in evidence. I just happened to think that some superior power, whether you call it God or super computer or whatever, took all that raw material and guided it into the nice neat little sphere that we live on. I think the chances of anything as perfect as this world and the things in nature just happening by hit and miss are about as likely as winning the Irish sweepstakes without a ticket.
When I say perfect, I'm not talking about man himself - he has a ways to go before he can claim that title, in fact that is one reason for his existence, to improve, advance and try to perfect himself - I'm talking about things like the sun rising exactly at a given time from time in memorial (Natural law, right? Gravity - centrifugal force). I can go along with natural laws holding things in position but I think the system had to have a little help with the original balancing act to keep it from being kinda lop sided or top heavy.
By now you are probably saying "aha, what about the nonsense of doing all this in six days?" It does sound a little far fetched doesn't it? But have you ever read in any scripture that these six days consisted of 24 hours with each hour having 60 minutes and the minutes 60 seconds? I never have. I don't believe anyone knows how much time, as we know it, was involved in those six days the old testament speaks of.
Now put yourself in the Lords place. He's made this nice little world, Adam and Eve have done their apple and snake bit, and have been real busy populating the world. Now the Lord decides he had better get a history going and set of rules written down so there is no mistake about what he expects. He appears to some of his chosen and starts to tell them about building this earth. Right away, some smart alick wants to know how long it took him. Now keep in mind that by our standards, these people are very backward, uneducated and childish. He knows that if he tells them it took 7 eons of 7 Billion years each to form this earth about the only response he will get is "Right Lord! What's an eon?" They wouldn't have the foggiest idea what he was talking about so he told them something they could understand. As long as he got the job done there shouldn't be too much importance attached to the time element and if that smart alick had kept his mouth shut he wouldn't have even had to mention it. He didn't know that 5000 years later, some overeducated atheist would start nit picking about something that wasn't all that important in the first place.
You mentioned in your letter how scientific theory is held up to criticism and is thrown out if the least little thing is found wrong with it. I don't know where in the world you ever got that idea. This may be true in math or something that can be proven definitely by counting it out on your fingers but when they get into hazier things like anthropology or geology where theories are all just reasoning and educated guesses. A scientist with a new theory will kill people to defend it and if he can get a couple of more guys with large brains and narrow minds to agree with him he's just as happy as a Nigger with a new shirt. Look how long the earth was flat according to the great minds of that day. Old professor Darwin's theory of evolution is as full of holes as a swiss cheese but its being taught as fact in our schools today. Strangely enough, I subscribe to his theory to a certain extent. I think everything living is evolving but I think it was created in some life form first. This includes Homo sapiens. I believe he is a unique, created life form that has been evolving since his creation and will continue to. If you can accept a supreme being, capable of building the earth, as fact, then you would have to accept his ability to create life - man can't do it and I don't believe Mortal man will ever be able to. He will do marvelous things with genes and existing life but I think he will always have to depend on the Lord's "life factories" for the creation of life itself.
I might mention here another belief of mine concerning these natural laws you are so fond of. I believe that these laws weren't necessarily always a natural law. I think they were set up by the creator as they were needed to cause the result that he wanted. I think the supreme being passed all these laws and he could just as easily have passed a law that says H20 is salt as he did that it is water. Is my imagination getting away from you? What I'm saying isn't necessarily scripture and maybe wouldn't be sanctioned by the church but I think it is possible. You might say that I get all this information from the Snake River Scrolls! Speaking of perfect things in nature, have you ever seen any of natures colors that clash with each other? What natural law governs that and do you really think that is something that could just haphazardly evolve? There doesn't seem to be any law that says colors can't clash cause humans can sure make it happen but I've never seen it in nature.
I'm afraid I don't agree with you in your defense of scientific proof vrs. Religious vagueness. From my point of view there is more hard fast proof on the side of religion than there is for science. First lets take a look at the bible - both the old and new testaments. These are nothing more nor less than histories written by people who actually lived during those times. Did they dream up all that stuff they wrote? Granted, there are translation errors and perhaps some biased opinions but I think they would be quite minor and the writings are basically true. The new testament especially, is a fairly modern history. Was Christ just a figment of someone's imagination, maybe a fictional hero like Zorro or should we believe the people who actually knew him and recorded his life, words and deeds. If it's miracles you need for belief, he performed them. He taught that he had come here to die for humanity and he did so. There is no hint anywhere that he didn't exist - even the Jews don't deny that he existed. You know his teachings as well or better than I do so we won't dwell on them. But why is it so much harder for people to believe that there was a man Named Jesus Christ walking around trying to save peoples lives than it is to believe that people named Caesar, Brutus and Nero existed about the same time and got their kicks from killing people. The only difference I can see is that the Romans were taught to us in school and Christ is taught to us in church. If it's taught in school it must be true - if it's taught in church it's a fairy story.
Christ also taught that there is life after this one and that is the only way our existence makes any sense to me. I can't believe there would be that much energy wasted on a dead end. The LDS church is the only one that teaches this in a way that is understandable - that alone would be enough to make me believe it is the only true church. I'm afraid if I believed that I'd never see my family and friends again after this life I'd be a very sad person. Like you, I've had quite a struggle with the Book of Mormon. Among other things in the church, I've found that on some aspects of Mormonism, I get more info from studying church history and especially biographies of early members than I can from the study of scriptures. I have delved quite deep into all the books I can get hold of and from all the evidence, or lack of it, I've been able to come up with, the Book of Mormon is exactly as represented. I do not believe that an uneducated man like Joseph Smith, could possibly have made it up (or even an educated man for that matter) and there is just no evidence at all of any collaboration with anyone else. Even if he were capable, why did he do it. It certainly wasn't for money. He never had a crying dime in his life and didn't seem to have any desire for money. So from factual evidence I'm about forced to accept it at face value. Not a single witness to the golden plates ever denied their existence. In fact they all did exactly the opposite. Even though many of them apostatized and were excommunicated, they all said almost exactly the same thing, "I dare not deny it because I know it was of God". There was an awfully lot of pressure put on these men by enemies of the church to get them to deny it but not one would do it. These men had not lost faith in the church and its truthfulness. Their problem was they got full of self importance and thought they should be allowed to run things to suit themselves without having to listen to the church authorities so they had to be cut off from the church when they refused to conform. Quite a few tried to start their own version of the church and each failed except the re-organized LDS church and it is a far cry from the way Joseph Smith set it up. The way it was organized makes very interesting reading but we won't go into that in this letter.
I would be quite interested in reading the Urantia (?) book you talk about. I would like to try to trace it's history and origin. There are many many books in the world that contain a lot of good sense and good instruction but if it claims divine origin I would like to see a little bit of proof before I took it too literally. About the only thing in our church that I can't understand at all is polygamy. I have never seen anything or heard of anything put out by the church as to the reason for it. Surely something like that would be initiated for some reason other than fun and games. All I've been able to discover is that it was received from the Lord as a commandment and it was mighty unpopular with most of the members of both sexes. Brigham Young had to be personally ordered to take part in it. Altho after he once got his feet wet he seemed to do O.K. If my sources of info are correct, Joseph Smith himself had an exceptionally rough time of it, right up to the time he died. Seems like he never did convince his wife, Emma, that it was the thing to do. The only thing I've ever heard for it that makes any sense is that there was a real shortage of men in the early church and it was initiated in order that all women could be sealed to a priesthood holder in order to gain the Celestial kingdom. Oh well, I guess you just have to take some things on faith.
You say you don't have any faith but I think you do. You are just particular about what you have faith in. I'm sure you have faith that the Roman Empire existed and that some Dago named Columbus sailed across the Atlantic and stumbled on the West Indies - there is no proof of this except someones writing but I'm sure you have faith in it cause it was taught in school. Why is it any harder to have faith in Christ's miracles or the existence of David and Goliath? It is just as well documented and I feel by more trustworthy people, but it's not taught in school. I don't understand the reasoning. I was reading a while back where a group of scientists have decided that the parting of the Red Sea was no miracle at all - it was the result of a unique earthquake action that took place beneath it and caused the water to split for a time. I suppose it's possible that he could be right but wasn't it lucky that it happened just when the Jews needed to cross?
Speaking of miracles, I think you would have a hard time convincing your sister Jeanne that little Kelli isn't a miracle. I don't know how many times the Elders administered to her and unconditionally promised she would live. Each time she responded positively and even after the doctors sent her home to die, they again promised her she would live. Almost immediately her liver began to function until now she is a normal little 9 year old. I've seen things like this happen too often to doubt the power of the priesthood. I'm sure an agnostic would say "oh, she'd have gotten well anyway." I'm afraid I believe otherwise.
Well son, I've been about 2 weeks writing this letter and after reading it over, I wonder why. I'm afraid I lack your ability to explain things as I'd like to have them explained but maybe you will appreciate my groping efforts. Just keep in mind that your Mother and I love you very much and want only good things for you. We are so happy that you have such a fine wife and Allison, if he ever mistreats you, you can always take the baby and come home to us!
Now before I stop entirely I wish you would do me a favor and read the 84th Section of the D&C verses 33 to 44 concerning the obligations and promises of holding the Melchizedek priesthood. If you already know what it says, it wouldn't hurt to refresh your memory anyway. It's always been my idea (and I give myself as an example) that people drift away from religion because it takes too much time and effort to live it and it curtails their worldly pleasures so they chop and change and rationalize until they come up with something that they convince themselves will satisfy God but only takes a few minutes a week and doesn't cost anything. I don't know how long eternity is, it boggles my mind - neither do I know what hell is like but I suspect it's uncomfortable - so I'm just coward enough that if I can do something for the short time I am here on this earth that will keep me from eternal damnation and let me spend eternity with my loved ones, I just don't dare not try my best to do it. The risk isn't worth it especially since everything we are asked to do is good for us both physically and mentally. You don't even have to give up your enjoyment - at least your mother and I have found that its more enjoyable in the church than out of it.
Hope I haven't bored you too much with this little note but I think I've rambled on long enough.