THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS
OFFICE OF THE AUSTRALIA/NEW ZEALAND AREA PRESIDENCY
December 10, 1998
Brother Simon G. Southerton
10 Stavewood Court
Samford QLD 4520
Dear Brother Southerton:
Thanks so much for your letter. You ask several questions to which I feel a need to respond. One of these is – should you accept the answers which you received from Scott Woodward at B.Y.U? Another question is – should you believe that the Lamanites restricted to Central America have virtually all died out?
Some years back one of the bretheren[sic] counselled President Bruce Mitchell. “From time to time things will come up which seem to discredit the Church, or raise questions in our minds regarding the truthfulness of it. During those times, just exercise faith. Time will vindicate the truth.” And I remember President Romney years ago saying, “Stick with the old ship, it will pull you through.” Your testimony isn’t in what writers have said about the Book of Mormon or what the DNA experts or scientists may say, Scott Woodward, your own research etc., but your testimony of the Book of Mormon should be in the book itself. It is the keystone of our religion. Dr. Victor Frankl, a German Jew psychiatrist reports that during the extremely trying times as a prisoner of war in Germany for over four years, he made an amazing discovery. He compared mens’[sic] lives to an arch, and talked about how significant the keystone of the arch was…that if an arch begins to weaken in order to strengthen it you apply incredible pressure to the keystone. In the future there will be far, far more pressure placed upon the keystone of our religion than all the DNA experts in the world can place upon it. And it will still stand secure and serene and true when all of the intellectuals in the world have tried and failed to prove that it is not true.
As I stated before, absolute truths do not change. President Kimball gave a marvellous talk regarding that subject. He said, to compare the intelligence and knowledge of man with that of God’s is like comparing a grain of sand to the rock of Gibralter[sic]. I doubt whether any DNA expert would ever accept the fact that Enoch, Moses, and the brother of Jared beheld all the inhabitants of the earth, discerning them through their spiritual eyes.. a gift from God. “And Enoch beheld every particle of the earth, and it was not a particle that he did not discern” I am not certain that they would accept supernatural healings as we have seen them in the Church, and as you did in your ministry as bishop. In my short lifetime I have known the lame to walk, the blind to see, and the dead to be raised. We have known in our family many miracles to which family members can bear witness. Because the intellectuals cannot understand these things, nor would they believe them, does not make the truth false, or even suspect. Again, we are talking about absolute truths. The absolute truth is that God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith. And my witness is far more powerful than any knowledge gained by intellectual reading, scientific knowledge, or perception. It is a spiritual witness such as you have had in your life, and which can be rekindled again.
As far as defending yourself with members, you need not do that. In fact, you could simply respond by saying “We are all tried in different ways in the Church; and through those trials comes either increased faith and greater commitment, or a lost faith. I am committed to spending as much time as I need with the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price to get my previous witness back again as it was before.” I cannot imagine anyone thinking less of you with that kind of attitude. In 1st Corinthians, the 10th Chapter and the 13th verse it states: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
I promise you this is a temptation. We have brilliant men at the headquarters of the Church – spiritual and knowledgeable intellectuals, such as Dr. Hugh Nibley who may be as near a lay prophet as we have in the Church. These are men with great, brilliant, minds who have withstood all the tremors and the quakes, and the fiery darts of the adversary, and still hold their testimonies precious and dear. And you can do that also. As for my own testimony, if every single scientist on the earth could prove absolutely through DNA or any other means what has been stated in such publications to which you have referred and discussed with Scott Woodward, it would not effect my testimony one thousandth because my testimony of the Book of Mormon is in the book itself and not from whence came the people. I would not know any more surely, even if I lived there, that the Saviour appeared to the Nephites on the continent in the western world. I have an absolute assurance that King Benjamin lived, that Abinadi was the great prophet we claim him to be, that the brother of Jared was truly an accepted prophet of God. My witness is from the doctrine and the teachings and the spiritual strength, and the ratification from the spirit, rather than from scientific evidence. And the spirit is the more sure word of Christ.
Hopefully that is where you will place your testimony. My good friend, continue to read and study the Book of Mormon equally as much as you study DNA. Read the Doctrine and Covenants, section by section, especially the sections we discussed – the 1st, 19th, 20th, 29th, 42nd, 76th, 84th, 101st, 107th, 109th, 121st, 124th, 132nd and 133rd sections. Your testimony will surely come back.
God bless you. Hopefully you will have a great power in your hands to persuade your wife and your children that all these things are true. What you are doing is more important than what you would dare to believe, and does have eternal consequences. Our prayers are with you. We love you and pray for you.
Vaughn J. Featherstone