What are the people to do when religious leaders abandon all righteousness? What are we to do when they violate the laws of the land, the laws of God, and the principles of their own denomination?
These questions and more will be asked and hopefully answered in this episode.
Apology letter to Bishop Ralphs
2530 Big Canyon Road
Rockland, Idaho 83271
September 18, 2015
Dear Bishop Ralphs,
Over the past few days I have thought a lot about what has occurred between us. For my part, I wish to apologize.
First, through all of this I have allowed myself to become upset because of the accusations and demands that I know to be false. That is no excuse. I deeply wish that I had controlled my emotions better and ask your forgiveness.
Second, I know that you have been offended by my CRP column and that you feel I was malicious in writing it. I can assure you that I wrote it with no ill will. My only objective was to shake people awake and help them see the truth of what they do to themselves, to their country, their children and to God. I pray that you will look again because the consequences of not finding and acting on the truth may be more than you want to bear. Either way, the choice is yours.
Third, I know that I tend to be quite blunt. Sometimes this is offensive to people. For that, I am also sorry.
I have done nothing to harm the church, harm it’s people, harm the valley or violate my covenants. I believe that every word I wrote was absolutely true, 100% verifiable and essential in our world of crumbling morality and decaying liberty. So while I do ask your forgiveness if you found my delivery abrasive, I do not and cannot apologize for the content. I hope you can understand.
At this time, Mindy and I only desire is to retrieve my temple recommend and have our records moved to a ward where we will be accepted. At http://www.libertywrit.com/1/index.php/5/article/1797_–REG/The-Rockland-Letter, I have tried to document the many reasons why this has become necessary.
Mindy and I only want to put Rockland behind us. Please support us in this effort.
I can’t begin to express the sorrow.
Followup letter to Bishop Ralphs
February 18, 2016
Bishop Bart Ralphs,
In the days following the February 9, 2016 meeting with you and Bishop Bitton, Mindy and I have had a number of discussions about this situation. We have made this a matter of prayer.
We have settled on a course of action that is right for us and right before God. It is not easy, but we are determined to not be moved from it. We, and especially I, have confessed and fully accepted the fact that anger, regardless of the cause, was never justified and that any action taken in anger was sinful. We acknowledge our sin and accept full responsibility for it. We desire to repair any portion of this problem that we can. We have asked the Lord for his forgiveness and are awaiting conformation that he has accepted our offering.
We walked out of that last meeting with new reasons to be hurt and angry. We are choosing not to be. It is difficult but we are hopeful and prayerful. I wanted to mention these things during our meeting but the spirit seemed to be whispering, “not now” so I bit my lip and waited. I did mention the hopelessness I feel regarding any resolution in Rockland. What I did not mention, is that you are the primary cause.
We have the following concerns:
1. You opened the meeting by stating the I have been critical of the Brethren. This shocked me because it is an accusation that I have never heard before and it is absolutely not true.
2. You stated that my criticism was because the brethren did or did not discriminate against some class of people. I have no idea to what you are referring. Since I do not discriminate against any class of people and because I despise those who do, I know that this accusation is absolutely not true.
3. You claimed that you only directed me to not speak for the church. In meetings with you and in a meeting with President Lovell you both stated that I am to “not involve the church” in any way. In these meetings I asked specific questions and gave examples of how and when I intended to speak, teach or write of my faith and I was told that I may not do so in any way. In written communication with you, I confirmed again that I was being directed to refrain from any mention of the church at all.
4. If you had indeed directed me to not speak about the church at all, then it makes sense that you would take my recommend over the Benson column. However, if you only directed me to not speak for the church, then my Benson column would not have been in violation. It seems to me that it can be one way or the other. I don’t see how it can be both.
5. You assured me that if I will offer a sincere apology to the people of Rockland that many will respond favorably. Yet, my sincere written apology to you, six months ago, remains unacknowledged. I fail to see how the rank and file in the Rockland ward will respond more favorably than their spiritual leader.
6. You put your arms around Mindy and told her that you love her. You did the same to me. I would argue that love is not possible in the absence of truth and forgiveness.
7. I can also assure you that trust is difficult where truth and forgiveness cannot be found.
I don’t mean to be critical and I don’t mean to rehash these points for they are true and I know it. I only wanted you to understand that these are seven difficult hurdles that Mindy and I face. I think we can forgive but I question that open trust will return if these issues remain unresolved.
What you chose to do or not do is very important to us. What you do or do not do will have no affect on the course we have chosen, from which we will not be moved. Mindy and I are waiting on the Lord. We will remain active in the church because it is our church too, even when it doesn’t seem so. We will continue to keep our covenants. We will continue to do all in our power to not take or give offense and to give anger no place in our hearts. It is not easy. We are working hard to forgive the people of Rockland. It is not easy. We are hopeful, prayerful, hurting.
I have two nephews that will soon be leaving on missions. As I wait for them outside of the temple, I will pray for understanding, peace, forgiveness and the ability to forgive. This will probably be the most difficult obstacle of all. I will do anything to get my recommend back and join these exceptional young men in the House of the Lord, except willingly sin or willingly become an accessory to sin.
There is one encouraging point. A few days ago, I received a phone call from a sister in the Rockland Ward. She has never done anything to hurt us. She does not owe us an apology. She wept as she said that she has been aware of the situation for a long time and expressed her sorrow for the things that have been done to us in this valley. Since she was never a part of the problem, her love did not and could not correct anything. Even so, it was nice to know.
The following came to me yesterday. It is a gift from God that I will share with the world.
Yours in the Love of Jesus Christ,
CC Bishop Bitton
Private Message to Ladd Permann
Letter to the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
Brother Lance Earl
2530 Big Canyon Road
Rockland, Idaho 83271
June 28, 2016
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
Office of the First Presidency
50 E. N. Temple
Salt Lake City, Utah 84150
It is with a strange mix of hope and hopelessness that I write you today.
It has been nearly a year since my Temple Recommend was taken, and still, I am unsure of what I am accused.
Recently, a beloved nephew, who will soon leave to serve a mission in Tonga, entered the Temple of the Lord for the first time. I longed to be with him. I ached to be with him.
Before I explain the circumstances of my current predicament, please allow me to present a little background.
There has been bad blood almost from the instant I moved to Rockland, Idaho some seventeen years ago. Almost immediately, I was falsely accused of stealing. Rumors tend to grow and multiply. One rumor grew into many until it touched every part of my life. Things only became worse and in time, it was whispered that I was a sexual predator. This originated in a ward council meeting. I confirmed this with my bishop and learned that it was he who introduced the subject.
In 2014, when I ran for the Idaho State legislature, these rumors were leveraged against me. I lost that race, but the loss was most significant inside the boundaries of the American Falls Stake where these rumors reduced my name and standing to the lowest level.
This year, another man ran against that same legislator. On that legislator’s Facebook page, members of my ward and stake used all manner of lies to create an imaginary friendship between myself and this man. They actively applied every rumor and every hate they feel for me to this man. A massive print and digital campaign was launched across the stake. Printed cards and text messages made it to virtually every home. The message simply informed the people that I and this other man are friends and asked if the people had had enough. The objective was to apply the false allegations and hate that were once directed to me alone, to this man as well. In the end, he lost his race by a small number of votes. Many who call me brother on Sunday used me as a wrecking ball to destroy the reputation and good standing of a man I barely know. This, for me, was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
With the background in place, I will address the matter at hand.
I am a columnist for the Idaho State Journal. I write about my passions which are faith, family, and the constitutional principles of liberty. Conventional wisdom dictates that civil people never talk about religion or politics. However, I have three great treasures. First is the restored gospel. Second are the men who wrote the founding documents that created a free land where the church could be restored. Third is my family that lives free because of the founding documents and are sealed to me because of the restored Gospel. I feel driven to boldly speak for these truths. I understand that since these are “forbidden topics”, virtually everything I write will be embraced by some and rejected by others.
I know that even truth can be spoken with a spirit that hides all truth and offends good men. I know that the evil men find the truth to be hard and offensive. It has been difficult for me to present challenging topics that balance these two realities. I am at times, less than perfect and cause offense where none is intended.
Bishop Bart Ralphs of the Rockland Idaho Ward, inherited a large farm which he does not farm. Instead, it is primarily enrolled in the CRP program, a farm subsidy.
In the summer of 2015, I wrote a column entitled, “CRP, The Criminal Restoration Policy”. I supported that work with the Constitution and the words of Ezra Taft Benson. As a result, I was called into the office of Bishop Ralphs and told that I could “never involve the church again” or I would lose my Temple Recommend. I questioned that demand and it was confirmed to me that I was to never speak, teach, or write about my faith again.
After careful consideration, I came to recognize that this demand deprived me of free agency, a key and essential gift that makes exaltation possible. It also violated a God-given right that is codified in the First Amendment and which cannot be expanded or contracted by men or government. In a Facebook private message, I relayed my feelings to my Bishop. He responded by unfriending me. There was no other reply.
A month later, I wrote and published “The Forgotten Prophet” (attached). On the Sunday it appeared in print, my Temple Recommend was taken. In that meeting with Bishop Ralphs, I became angry and said some things that I later came to regret. In that same meeting, Bishop informed me that he was no longer my friend.
A few days later, on September 18, 2015, I mailed Bishop Ralphs an apology for becoming angry (attached). There was no reply for many months.
I argued successfully, I think, that my free agency, freedom of conscience and my first amendment rights had been violated. Though this has never been admitted, I believe it is true because no one has since demanded that I remain silent regarding my faith. Instead, I have faced a continuous volley of new accusations.
In September of 2015, Mindy, my dear wife, and I began traveling an hour to attend church outside of the American Falls Stake. We desperately needed to be in a place where we can worship the Prince of Peace in a place of peace. We met with Bishop Paul Bitton and Stake President Dye about moving our records to the Chubbuck Idaho 6th ward. President Dye and Bishop Bitton sought council from their regional leader and scheduled a meeting with Bishop Ralphs and President Lovell. Bishop Bitton later reported to me that he and President Dye used all their influence to convince Bishop Ralphs and President Lovell that they had overstepped their appropriate priesthood authority by attempting to quash freedom of conscience, agency, speech and expression. In the end, Bishop Ralphs and President Lovell would not be persuaded.
On October 25, 2015, Mindy and I met with Stake President Garn Lovell and his councilor Larry Lankford. This meeting was immediately adversarial. President Lovell, for over an hour, repeatedly accused me of speaking for the church in my columns. I boldly denied every accusation. I also stated that if there was a column that he was concerned about, we should read and discuss it and if I was found to be in the wrong, I would accept the consequences. He stated again and again that he had the offending columns in his possession but he refused to show me or even identify them. To this day, I have no understanding of his accusations.
Finally, President Lovell accused me of a future sin. He stated that he fully expected to see the details of our meeting in my next column. This was very offensive. I am a serious and principled columnist. I have never and will never publish confidential or off the record information. In this single statement, President Lovell attacked my character, my integrity and my honor.
Mindy is the least confrontational person I know. She is slow to anger and quick to bite her tongue. I was shocked when she looked President Lovell in the eye and stated, “that was completely inappropriate”. Then she stood and walked out the door. I said, “shame on you” and followed my wife.
In this matter, I do feel serious regret for two actions taken. First, I regret having become angry on the day my Temple Recommend was taken. Second, some months after my recommend was taken, there was a group attack on the Rockland Facebook page. This was one of many that have occurred in social media. In response, I published a column that was driven by anger. Anger is never acceptable. As indicated above, I did write an apology to Bishop Ralphs. Since my angry response to the community was in the form of a column, I publicly admitted my guilt and apologized in my next column, What Manner of Man, (attached).
On February 9, 2016, Mindy and I met with Bishop Ralphs and Bishop Bitton. Bishop Ralphs opened the meeting by introducing a new accusation. He stated that I had been critical of you, the general authorities. I boldly and forcefully denied that accusation. Bishop Ralphs immediately dropped that point and has never spoken of it since. On February 18, I sent a follow-up letter to Bishop Ralphs, (attached).
On March 7, 2016, Bishop Ralphs and his first counselor, Keith Miller met with me in my home. At that time, Bishop Ralphs did apologize for multiple occasions when he stated that he was not my friend. I frankly accepted his apology. Then, he stated that he was ready to accept my written apology of six months earlier. Then he criticized and condemned my apology to him and my apology to the community as being inadequate. The message seems unclear when a man simultaneously accepts and rejects an apology.
In this meeting, I asked Bishop Ralphs if he would tell me of what I am accused. It was agreed that he would provide a list of written charges. It has been over 100 days and still no answer has been provided. I don’t know if one of the previous accusations apply to me or if some future accusation will be applied.
Relations are equally difficult with the counselors in the Bishopric.
In the summer of 2015, I wrote, on a Rockland Facebook group page, about the power of the people and described an incident where the rights of one Idaho man had been protected by people who stood together on principle, loving their neighbor as themselves. I was a key player in this event so I had first hand knowledge. First counselor, Keith Miller, weighed in and told the community that I was deceiving them and that the events I described could not have occurred. In the end, the discussion turned to another personal attack against me by nearly 30 adults from my ward. It is interesting to note that several of the major news networks picked up the story and related it exactly as I had.
Second Councilor Ladd Permann called me some months ago. He was angry over something I had written. I assured him that I was willing to speak with him on the matter, but not over the phone and not over the Internet. Things tend to spin out of control when men do not look each other in the eye, so I offered to meet when and where he chose. He stated that he would call me back to schedule a time. I never heard from him again so I reached out a couple of times. While watching the spring, 2016 General Conference, my thoughts turned to Ladd. I sent him a Facebook message. The message follows, “I continue to feel bad that you continue to refuse to speak with me. Silence will only make things worse and more difficult. At the recent school concert, I sadly watched as you locked your eyes to the floor as you passed me. You do the same when you ignore my messages and phone calls. However, honest communication heals. Let it begin with us.” Facebook reported that he saw it within minutes. He never replied.
On these shifting sands, I cannot get my footing. I am currently a man without a ward, without a church. My heart is broken, never could I have imagined this happening to me. But still, I have my faith, my religion and my unmovable testimony of the reality and majesty of my Lord and Savior.
I have been offered an opportunity to regain my Temple Recommend. However, it requires that I bear false witness, that I lie. This I cannot do. I would ask, what power does the temple have to save if I gain entry with a lie?
Up until now, I have been satisfied to prayerfully wait on the Lord. However, when the people used me as a tool to harm another, I was compelled to action.
I know what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is. I know that above all, it is about standing firm and resolute in the face of evil. I know that it is about truth and principle and loving my neighbor. Most of all, I know that it is about following my Savior as best I can. My testimony of him is secure and I have endeavored to keep every covenant. I will never turn from this.
I moved my family to Idaho, literally on the run from a Tacoma gang.
My family endured a season of violence and fear. I cannot describe what it was like to use a car to stop a man with a gun or how it felt to leave him down and broken in the street. But there was hope in that because I was still able to do something. I can’t describe what it was like, just before retiring to bed, to jamb a fork between the top of every door and the door frame and hang a pot on it so that it would fall and warn us if evil men entered our home. But, there was reassurance in that, it was something that I could do. I can’t describe what it feels like to drive an invader from my home with a gun or struggle to stop my voice from shaking for an hour afterward, but at least I was not left helpless and defenseless. I can’t describe what it was like to stand at one end of the hall, gun in hand, while my wife tore our five young children from their beds, pushed then to the floor and covered them with her own body, but at least we could do something.
During that terrible season, I awoke many times during the night to slip my hand under my pillow and touch a loaded pistol. There was an odd sort of peace in confirming again and again that it was there.
But this season of violence was not all bad. It all began when our thirteen year old daughter, Jenny, began to walk a dark path. She was running with these gang members, disappearing sometimes for days at a time. One evening, I was talking with my Mother about our troubles. She offered great and wise council. She reminded me of the brother of Jared, how he had approached the Lord with a plan. Mom told me to stop leaving everything to the Lord, to get a plan and take it to him.
I shared this with my wife. Daily, we prayed that Jenny would see the evil of these people, that she would see and fear their violence, that she would be in danger, that she would be protected, and that she would turn away from sin. The first attack came on the third day.
Through it all, we could clearly see the hand of the Lord. Though there was property damage, we were never harmed. Though the odds were at times, twelve to one, we were protected. Though we could not see them, those that were with us were greater than those that were with them. Of most importance, the Lord granted everything we asked… in ways that we never imagined. Jenny turned away from that dark and evil path.
Today, Jenny is a good wife and mother of four grandchildren that we dearly love. She is a neonatal nurse in Boise. Every day she saves the children of other parents who are praying for a miracle. She often speaks with such love and tenderness about the tiny lives that rely entirely on her gentle care. I always reflect and offer a silent prayer of gratitude. Jenny saves the children of other families who cannot help themselves because a loving Father in Heaven extended his mighty arm and pulled her back when I and my wife were powerless to do so.
I once believed that my season of fear and violence would be the hardest thing I would be asked to endure. I was desperately wrong. These current troubles rob me of my sleep. When I figuratively slide my hand under my pillow, there is nothing there except hopelessness. I remain prayerful and determined to do what is right.
I have come to know and love Helmuth Hübener, a young Mormon boy of incredible courage. I think I understand what troubled him most on the day he was executed in Nazi Germany.
At this time, I respectfully and prayerfully request one of the following. First, that our records be moved to a ward where we can worship in peace. Or second, that a church court be immediately convened wherein I will be formally charged with specific allegations that I can understand and address.
Brother Lance Earl