|Hilary Putnam, one of my philosophical idols|
Now on to my post. As you know, I have been doing a series of rebuttals to the claims made in Letter to a CES Director by Jeremy Runnells. The series I started is not yet complete; the next instillation will be a guest post by my friend, Neal Rappleye, on the Kinderhook Plates, an issue on which he is something of an expert. I look forward to hearing his response, and I am sure that you will like it as well. His recent presentation at the FairMormon Conference was fantastic.
However, this post is not a response to the letter. Rather, this post is for those people who have read the letter and left the Church, those who have read it and have questions, and those who have not read it but nonetheless have questions.
First, questioning is a good thing. It is a sign that you are thinking about issues and that they are important to you. Without questions, we would never get answers. Likewise, doubt and skepticism are also good things. They are a sign of curiosity and independent thinking. Having said that, it is not good to have questions, doubts, or have a skeptical attitude without also a willingness to search for answers. This is one of my main criticisms of the CES Letter because the author brings up questions but does not address anyone who answers them. For example, when he talks about the Book of Mormon archaeology and anthropology, he never addresses the work of Brant Gardner or John Sorenson. He treats it as though it does not exist, which is sign of not taking the subject matter seriously. While his asking questions are fine and welcome, his acting as though there are no plausible answers is very troubling. Do not follow that example. Study arguments on both sides, weigh the evidence, make a decision, and go from there.
Second, your questions deserve to be answered. It does not matter if the question is a small one or a large one; if the question is sincere, an answer should be given. Keep in mind that a perfectly acceptable answer is "I don't know." In science, that is an answer we often give because when we make a new discovery, new questions immediately emerge and it takes time to get answers. Having said that, just because one person does know an answer to a certain question does not falsify an idea or a theory. There are many puzzles to be solved in evolutionary biology for instance; that does not show the theory of evolution to to be false. Keep asking until you get an answer, and be skeptical of anyone who thinks your question is not valid. I repeat, if the question is sincere, it deserves to be answered.
Last of all, do not think of those who are orthodox believers as your enemies. In truth, we are in the same boat as you are. I myself have many questions, but I am confident that they will eventually be answered because my other questions have been. I also have many acquaintances and friends who have left the Church, and I realize that the reasons they left were sincere rather than cop-outs. However, questions or lack of belief are not reasons to end a friendship. If you were my friend as a believer, you will be one as a non-believer.
In closing, if you have questions, ask. If you find the answers unsatisfactory, continue to question and search. I am confident that there are answers to all or most questions. If you feel you have to leave, do not lose the good things that the Church has taught you. And know that you have my full support regardless of your choice. Keep the faith!