Letter to my kids

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Letter to my kids

Post by Roadrunner » 27 Mar 2020, 13:53

I used to post here frequently but now I come here every few days to read and haven’t posted for months. I’ve mostly come to peace with my participation with the church. I wrote this letter summer 2019 to my kids a couple of months before I expected to be released as a bishop. They all told me they appreciated it but my wife didn’t love it.

I’m posting most of it here in case it helps someone. Long post.

Dear [Child],
I’m writing this letter to my kids and giving each of you (and your Mom) a copy. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time and feel that it’s important that you know what I believe and what I hope for you. Each of you is at the stage of life when you will make some very important decisions and I hope this letter plays some small role in your thinking process. I feel my parents and other adults weren’t totally honest with me about some things, but I have tried to be honest and forthcoming with you. I want to share some things I did well and some things I regret and wish I would have done differently in the hopes that you can learn from my mistakes.

First, I want each of you to know how much I love you. I think about you every day and only want the best for you and for you to be happy. Really, truly that is what I hope for you even if it’s a different path than what I’ve taken. Some of the biggest moments of my life are when I married your Mom and when each of you were born – I remember each of those days with clarity and fondness.

I want to start by talking about my beliefs about God and the church because my job as bishop and bishops counselor has played an oversized role for the last 10 years. I’ve been a bishop or a counselor non-stop since 2009 and it has shaped my thinking and probably has impacted each of you more than we realize. When I was first called as counselor I was very much an orthodox Mormon and conservative in my beliefs. As I worked with people and saw their real world problems I began to understand that people are more important than rules. As I worked with church leaders I saw their strengths, weaknesses, and prejudices and I began to understand that they are no different than me. I also became more mature in my relationship to your Mom. I love her more than anything but I realized that when I married her I didn’t know her as well as I should have and that I didn’t know myself as well as I should have.

All these experiences and thought processes developed over the space of about 3 years until one day in probably in 2012 I no longer believed the LDS church to be the only path to Heavenly Father or the only true church. I say this with some nuance, as I think the church has truth in it and that it helps us to be better people. Depending on the day, I also often seriously question the existence of a benevolent Heavenly Father, although I sincerely hope he is up there somewhere loving us. My faith and my belief system is still changing and developing and it probably will until I die. I do believe that the LDS church is one (of many) true churches and is one of many valid ways that leads back to Heavenly Father. I can’t in good conscience believe that we have a monopoly on goodness or truth. We may have a lot of good things but we also have a lot of crappy things but which we as an LDS people don’t recognize.

I am happy to talk to you in depth about how I reached these conclusions but this letter is not the right way to do that. I fear that the mere fact that I was a bishop will cause you to conclude that I am a strictly orthodox Mormon who endorses everything church leaders have ever said. Far from it. I accepted the calling as bishop hoping that I could serve my fellow man in a meaningful way and hopefully change the local church for the better in my own tiny sphere of influence.

Let me outline a few things I love about the church and a few things in particular that I want you to know that I disagree with.

• Importance of families
• Serving others
• Living a good, productive life
• Taking care of our bodies

• Treatment of women
• Treatment of LGBT people
• Culture of fear and guilt
• Whitewashing troublesome doctrine and history

I think I’m a better person because of my active membership in the church. I have some serious emotional stumbling blocks and regrets that I will struggle with probably until I die because of teachings of my parents, other loved ones, and church leaders. My association with the church is a mixed blessing, but probably for the positive more often than not. So far my decision is to stay active and involved in it.

This is my advice to you: take what you believe to be good and discard the rest. Do not teach others or force yourself to believe in anything that feels or seems contrary to what a decent human being would do. You may (or maybe not) have noticed, but at church I don’t teach about doctrines I don’t believe in. I usually say “I’m thankful for the Gospel” instead of “I know the Gospel is true.” I think Joseph Smith was a prophet but he was incredibly flawed; I think it’s likely he was an adulterer and a sexual predator. I do think he taught some revolutionary ideas about mankind’s relationship with God and in that sense he is a prophet. I think the Book of Mormon is true in that it teaches us to be good people and that Jesus cared about more people than just the Jews. I don’t think the Book of Mormon is a literal history of people living in the Americas. I think the church leaders living in Salt Lake City are good, solid people trying to do their best. But they have their prejudices and weaknesses like I do, and honestly I don’t think they always run this church very well, often more like a business than a church. But if the world as a whole followed our modern LDS prophets the world would generally be a better place.

All of you are of the ages that you will be deciding whether to serve a mission soon. If you decide to go, I will support you 100%. If you decide to stay, I will support you 100%. If I were a 19 year old boy right now I don’t know if I would serve a mission. True – I learned a lot about myself during my mission and changed for the better, but at a price of 2 years of college and professional salary and development. If you decide to serve a mission, do it because you want to serve others. Mom has a different opinion about missions than I do, so if you’re thinking about a mission make sure you talk to her also.

As each of you (except for ... who is almost done with school) begins college, I have a few pieces of wisdom to share. I don’t care where you go to college, as long as it’s affordable. BYU is a good school but it’s not for everybody. [State University] is a good school. I’d be happy if my kids go to either school, as well as many others. I’d actually be very happy if any of you decided to go to [local community college]. I used to be a rabid BYU fan, and you all probably remember those years of watching each and every BYU football game, but those days are over.

Regarding what you study: your major matters a lot in some ways but in other ways a major doesn’t matter much. By that I mean few people have careers in the area they studied for a bachelor’s degree – the important thing is that you get a college degree or receive training in a trade that will set you up for success in the future. Grades matter – but really only to the extent that you need to get into a good graduate program like a medical school, business school, engineering school, etc. Try to get good grades but don’t sacrifice your physical or emotional well being to get them.

Along those lines – enjoy your college years. Once you leave your 20s you’ll never be that age again. Have fun, just don’t be stupid, and stay balanced. I studied too hard and now I regret taking college too seriously. That being said, there was an upside because I got good enough grades and studied a rigorous major, enough to be accepted into the #2 rated business school United States. Because of that and because of my comparatively small amount of playing and my large amount of hard work (and a little bit of luck) I have a salary that enables a fair amount of playing now. I got married at 22 years old because that’s what was expected of me, and because I loved your mother. Doing it again I’d wait longer to marry and I would do it differently.

I want to change gears to more forward thinking about the future. My hope is that each of you find a special someone that you love, that you find financial success, that you are healthy, and that your Mom and I have a good relationship with you. I want to talk a little about each of those things.

Finding someone you love. This is a little tricky, but try to find someone who works hard, is not high maintenance, and who you have some things in common with. The best pre-marriage advice I got was to go on a date every single week with your spouse after you’re married. I still do that every week and it’s the highlight of my week.

Financial success. I have lots of opinions on this, but hard work, solid investments, live within your budget, and avoiding debt will generally get you financial stability. I was afraid of investing until I went to business school because my dad taught me the stock market was just like gambling. I learned that it doesn’t have to be. On average my investments have done well and I hope that your Mom and I can retire comfortably and still have some money left over to leave each of you when we die. If you want to talk to me about finances or investing I’m happy to at any time.

Healthy body. When I was about 35 I was overweight and I had borderline high cholesterol. I had difficultly doing some of the things that I love so I changed my diet and my lifestyle. I started eating better and I started exercising. It’s ten years later and I’m probably in the best shape of my life and feel like I can do almost anything I want – it’s very empowering and confidence building. It’s a cliché but it’s true – if you don’t have your health you don’t have anything.

I’m deeply flawed and I hope you ‘ll forgive me for my mistakes. I think about each of you and only want you to be happy, and want you to know you can talk to me at any time about anything.

Dad Roadrunner

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Re: Letter to my kids

Post by mom3 » 27 Mar 2020, 14:54

That is beautiful.

Now that some time has passed what are the family's feelings on it?
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

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Re: Letter to my kids

Post by sknab » 27 Mar 2020, 15:30

Thanks for this - It's great for me to see this perspective and, what I would consider, a level-headed attitude. I realize that it's taken you many years to gain this perspective and attitude. I truly hope I can continue in my growth, as you have, and be as confident in my beliefs so that I can share the same sort of feelings with my family one day. Seriously, thanks for posting this. You've made a difference in my life.

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Re: Letter to my kids

Post by Katzpur » 27 Mar 2020, 17:36

Wow, Roadrunner! What a beautiful letter! You ought to feel a great satisfaction in showing your kids what true love and true integrity are.
"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself." ~Rudyard Kipling ~

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Re: Letter to my kids

Post by nibbler » 27 Mar 2020, 17:39

To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.
― Mark Twain

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Re: Letter to my kids

Post by Roadrunner » 27 Mar 2020, 19:42

mom3 wrote:
27 Mar 2020, 14:54
Now that some time has passed what are the family's feelings on it?
Hi Mom3. My two oldest daughters have brought it up a couple of times. My oldest daughter is engaged to a good Muslim man and has said she appreciates the open-mindedness. Her fiancé thanked me for the sentiments also. Interestingly he’s said that he can’t find anything in LDS theology that isn’t covered in Islam...

My second daughter just came home from her mission today after being out for three months. Sent home from oversees because of Covid 19. She’s a BYU student but the most liberal out of my kids and I think she needed to have some support in her beliefs.

My wife puts up with me. She’s pretty orthodox and has said “why can’t you just believe??” But we get along really well most of the time.

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Re: Letter to my kids

Post by Minyan Man » 27 Mar 2020, 20:34

Nicely done, Roadrunner.
It has been my experience that when we are honest & open with our family members, they likely to do the same in return.
You are a good example of both.

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Re: Letter to my kids

Post by mom3 » 28 Mar 2020, 15:47


That is beautiful. I am so excited for your oldest daughter and her future husband. May they have a long and happy marriage.

Congrats on getting your daughter home. My nephew is remaining out. Even though he is oversea's. It's hard to know what to wish for. I have a daughter oversea's, not on a mission, we really struggled with the decision of leaving her there or bringing her home. Ultimately she decided she wanted to stick it out. So we are using liberal facetime connections. Ironically finding Social Media a Godsend. Who would have thought?

As to marriage - well, though I don't believe as I once did, I find all religions have acres of holes and failings. Part of me is fully ready, guilt free to walk. The other part of me is sitting in a sweet position right now and I believe it helps the world, so I bide my time. When the calling is done. I am likely done. In the meantime my husband asks the reverse of your wife, "why are you still connected." So I hear you.

It's a tremendous well done letter.
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

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Re: Letter to my kids

Post by harmon-y » 29 Mar 2020, 10:42

First, it is a beautiful and comprehensive letter. Well done!!
Second, I am hoping to highjack the post a little and get some help on a specific sentence in your letter. You talked about how as a bishop you got discouraged by the church caring more for rules than people (to that affect). My husband is really struggling with that right now. A member of our branch has lung issues and is now in an induced coma. He is a father and husband and semi active in the church. Like several members of our branch, he is not legally in the US. My husband, who is his ministering brother, asked about how to give real help to this brother and the others who will be getting no relief from the government. They are in a uniquely difficult position. He said when he brought it up at counsel, everyone got really cagey and said we have channels in the church and moved past the subject. We decided to help them ourselves with cash but it has really hurt his testimony. I know this is how the church operates and try to just do what I think is right regardless. Any insights on how I can help him not get as jaded?

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Re: Letter to my kids

Post by Roadrunner » 29 Mar 2020, 13:18

Hi Harmon-y,
A couple of thoughts. The church doesn’t require one to be in the country legally for the ward to provide assistance. I’m not sure why exactly they didn’t want to help. I live in Arizona where a few years ago a prominent member of the church who was in the state legislature sponsored a bill that harmed illegal immigrants and was viewed by many as racist. The law was eventually removed but some Mexican American members of the church left because they thought it was endorsed by the church.

There is a rule of thumb - I don’t remember if it’s formally in the handbook - that the church doesn’t pay for medical expenses simply because they are too expensive. Even a simple surgery might cost many thousands of dollars. That sort of makes sense to me but on one occasion I did write a check (with fast offering dollars) for several thousand dollars to pay for a surgery. It’s a hard decision.

I don’t have many suggestions for how not to be jaded. My wife sometimes says that I’m cynical when it comes to the church but I think it’s realistic to understand that normal people run the church, they have real and strong biases, and that God doesn’t speak to them. I give them the benefit of the doubt and I believe most leaders do their best, but sometimes it’s difficult to see, especially when people get hurt. We just have to do our best, which is what you’re doing by providing your own assistance in spite of what the branch does.

Hang in there. There are good days and bad days.

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