Dear Russell M. Nelson, president and prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,
Consider this my open letter to you and your First Presidency. You did not respond directly to me when I resigned from your church, and no one asked me why I resigned. I have been told multiple times that I resigned because of a desire to sin or to hurt others. I have been labeled an apostate and heretic for resigning. However, this letter’s purpose is to provide the precise reason for my resignation from your church. I hope you will receive this letter in the same spirit in which I have written it. I love my God and my people, and so many of these people and our ideas of God are similar. How can they not be? I was an active, participating, and contributing LDS member for almost 40 years.
When I attended the temple for the first time in 1986, I did so with limited information as a young 19 yr old, attempting to serve a mission in Japan. I knew I would make covenants with God, and the experience would be sacred and holy. I knew that I would receive new underwear that I would wear night and day to remind me of those covenants. I knew that I would promise God my loyalty and service.
Instead of feeling a sacred and holy experience in your temples, I was traumatized by an extremely violent threat acted out in the most serious and holy and somber environment of the temple. I was told that someone from the church would take my life, that I would LOSE my life in a violent ritualistic murder that would require the slicing of my throat, chest, and stomach. Execution by knife, sword… something.
The temple rites include the miming and reenacting of this murder in gruesome and frightening detail… I mimed my own execution as instructed in those private, sacred and secret rooms. I performed this execution dozens and dozens of times over the years. The experience left a lasting and damaging impression.
That moment scared me. It made a lasting and permanent impression, an impression that made me have insomnia for 40 years, a threat that made me hyper vigilant and somber and serious as a Mormon member, a threat that has since caused horrible anxiety and trauma for myself and family.
I avoided the temple for years, but I attended to comply with local ward and stake and even prophetic counsel. I did my duty, each time making covenants on behalf of the dead, and always ending with a threat of complete secrecy with a punishment of murder for myself. I BELIEVED IT. I BELIEVED.
Now that I have self-selected out of the church for this exact reason — being a victim of emotional, mental, spiritual, and social abuse — I am a survivor not a victim. I left my abuser, the LDS church and its leadership, which includes you and the current presidency, counselors, and supporting “apostles” that support you and the LDS church.
I grew up in violence. I joined the LDS church as a young person so that I could escape violence, so that I could live and function among peaceful people. In the temple, I learned that peace and prosperity come with a price. The price was ABSOLUTE obedience to all rules, written, spoken or otherwise… anything asked by God is a commandment. And I believed… I believed.
Mr. Nelson, you are not my personal enemy. I believe that. However, you and your male leadership have abused my trust, my belief, and my faith. The LDS church itself, with its violent threats against me have established a pattern in my own brain that makes me afraid for my own life because I have apostasized. I have left the church, and by definition I am an apostate, a heretic. As an apostate, I am subject to the exact penalties that you and other leaders prescribe for me: ritualized execution by slicing mt throat, chest, and stomach.
Could you please let me know whether I should continue to worry about your church’s covenant with me? Upon reflection, I recall that most of all of these sacred and secret promises were made to your church and leadership, not God. I have spoken to God, at least to what I think is God in my own life. God and I are good… However, I don’t know whether I am still in harm’s way with you personally. I am not your enemy, nor anyone else in your church.
This letter formally requests your personal response by letter or direct meeting. Do you or an elected, ordained representative
intend to execute me for my crime of leaving the church? I’d like to know so that I can stop worrying.
John O’Conner, Lost Mormon