THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS
OFFICE OF THE AUSTRALIA/NEW ZEALAND AREA PRESIDENCY

October 15, 1998

Brother Simon G. Southerton
Foggs Road
Mount Samson QLD 4520

Dear Brother Southerton:

It has grieved the Area Presidency to learn of your decision to withdraw from the Church in view of research of DNA experts and the peoples in the Book of Mormon.  You will recall that one of the world-renowned experts in this field is Scott Woodward at Brigham Young University.  Elder Hafen put you in touch with him.  We hope that this will help you to put aside your feelings regarding what other “experts” have stated.  It is spiritual immaturity to cast aside all you hold precious and dear because of what you assume are proofs contrary to the Book of Mormon.

            In 2nd Nephi Ch. 9, v.28-29 there is a great scripture that applies at this time in your life:

“O, that cunning plan of the evil one!  O the vainess, and frailties, and foolishness of men!  When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not.  And they shall perish.  “But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.”

            We can promise you that the answer to your question is not in the findings of DNA experts or in the great scientists of the world.  The answer to your concerns is in the Book of Mormon.  Go back and re-read it from cover to cover, praying and pondering over every page.  It does not matter what the experts say, the Book of Mormon is true.  You have put thousands of hours into your testimony in the Church, you surely should not throw it over for a few hours of researching regarding DNA.  If I were in your place I would want to read Jeffrey R. Holland’s new book A NEW WITNESS FOR CHRIST.  It is a profound and a marvellous volume.  In that book he states about the Book of Mormon:-

“What if your literary piece created enemies for you?  What if it were left in the public arena, open to the criticism of your most hostile and learned opponents for more than 150 years.  What if it were pulled apart and minutely examined and held up to the light of history, literature, anthropology, and religion with no other purpose than to discredit it and denounce you?  Could what you have written be that good?  Would you still be willing to say that it was an inspired piece of work, let alone hold to your assertion that it was divinely revealed and that its contents were eternally important – that in a very real sense the whole future of the world was linked to your little volume?  By this time would either you or your piece still be standing?  Would anyone still be reading it?  If Joseph Smith did not translate the Book of Mormon as a work of ancient origin, then I would move heaven and earth to meet the “real” nineteenth-century author.  After one hundred and fifty years, no one can come up with a credible alternative candidate, but if the book were false, surely there must be someone willing to step forward – if no one else, at least the descendants of the “real” author – claiming credit for such a remarkable document and all that has transpired in its wake.  After all, a writer that can move millions can make millions.  Shouldn’t someone have come forth then or now to cashier the whole phenomenon?”

Remember the priceless things the gospel has given to you and your family through your own diligence and the fine example of your wonderful, dedicated parents.  Your father had a tremendous faith and was a great leader of men, and your mother is a sweet and gracious lady who loves the gospel with all her heart, and has a firm testimony of its truthfulness.  You have received the Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God, you have been endowed in the temple, and have been sealed to your family for time and all eternity.  You have the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ in your life.  You understand the Three Degrees of Glory from the 76th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants.  There is constant revelation coming to the Church through a modern prophet and twelve living apostles.  The church with the same organisation which was had during the meridian of times.  In this dispensation of the fullness of times there is much evil in the world, and many things that will happen to cause men to question the truth.  But, again, as I stated, it is spiritual immaturity to abandon that which we know by the spirit to be true. 

            True science will always vindicate the truth of the gospel.  We are not only concerned about you but about your family and others who have great confidence in you.  If you set aside the gospel for what you now suppose is truth, you will be throwing away the pearl of great price for ‘a mess of pottage.’  There will be nothing to replace the great faith, the marvellous principles, the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ in the latter day, and all we hold precious and dear.

            I would plead with you to go back, re-read the Book of Mormon, ponder and pray over every page.  Read the Doctrine and Covenants again, and the Pearl of Great Price.  Bring your testimony back.  Surely it is worth any effort you could make on your part to have that witness and truth of the gospel reaffirmed in your heart.

            President Heber J. Grant said, “If you get on a hobby horse it will ride you right out of the Church.”  It doesn’t matter what the hobby horse is, it does matter that we keep a balance in all things.  I cannot imagine what it would be in my life to put aside everything I hold precious and dear.  I would give my life for the Book of Mormon, for this Kingdom.  I cannot imagine what it would be to take off the garments or to surrender my temple recommend or not ever again be able to enter the temple because I had lost faith in what was true.  There is only one true and living Church on the face of the earth and it is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and deep down in your heart that witness still burns.  I promise you that you will be held accountable before God if your children, family and other associates in and out of the Church are led away from the Church because of your supposed discovered scientific truths.  If I were there I would get down on my knees and plead you to reconsider your position.  It is more important than you would ever dare to believe, not only in your own life but in the lives of your loved ones, and maybe a posterity yet unborn.

            President Kimball gave a marvellous talk entitled ABSOLUTE TRUTH and there are absolute truths in the world, and one of those absolute truths is that this Church of Jesus Christ is the only true church on the face of the earth.  Should you remove yourself from the Church there will seem to be a relief from many pressures in your life.  Certainly you will be able to keep your tithing money, there will no longer be the restraints regarding moral purity unless you have those firmly in your own personal life, there will be no need to live the word of wisdom, and you will find that your life will seem easier and less complicated because you will no longer have Satan and his scores of angels anxiously attempting to lead you away from the Church and the principles of the gospel, as they would already have succeeded in their evil designs.  Leaders in the Church are vulnerable and Satan knows it.

            However, you will become a hollow shell of the man that you once were when you were active and loved the Church with all of your heart.  President Kimball compared the wisdom of the intellectuals to a grain of sand compared to the Rock of Gibraltar, as we think of man’s intellectuality compared to that of God.

            Again, with all my heart and soul I hope you will reconsider your position.  It is more important than you would ever dare to suppose.  I would not have taken time to draft this lengthy letter except I feel that you have been a shepherd of the sheep.  It is a tragic thing to lose the sheep, and even more tragic to lose the shepherd.  We do not want to lose you or your family, and we are confident that if you follow the counsel given in this letter your testimony will return and you will again find the great peace of mind in living the gospel which you formerly held so dear.

            God bless you always.

Sincerely,
Vaughn J. Featherstone
Area President