What We Should Learn from Jeremy Runnells: Some Thoughts on His Departure From the Church

Runnels_MSA disciplinary council for Jeremy Runnells, author of the CES Letter and founder of the non-profit CES Letter Foundation, was held yesterday on charges of apostasy. Leading up to this disciplinary council, which was moved three times, there was some controversy regarding his stake leadership’s unwillingness to accommodate an interpreter due to Jeremy’s hearing impairment (he is legally deaf). When I first came across this news, I will admit that I responded with skepticism, as I have seen Jeremy speak at public events, including a press conference that was hosted by John Dehlin, without any interpretive assistance. I was wrong to make that charge, as it was later confirmed that Jeremy’s hearing had, in fact, further declined since that event; and that an interpreter was also sought for his press conference, and while none could be secured in time, accommodations were made to assist Jeremy. I made an apology to Jeremy both publicly and privately for assuming the worst, although I am still critical of a meme Jeremy generated in connection with his request for accommodation being denied. I feel his meme was opportunistic, particularly given the prominent placement of his CES Letter Foundation logo, and I have expressed as much directly to him.

12993501_1026002184147818_6398536291736214003_nThe conclusion of Jeremy’s church trial was that he, rather than sit through the trial process, elected to resign his membership (or, as he termed it, “I have excommunicated the church.”) I respect Jeremy’s decision to go this route, and think that it was probably the best way to handle the situation. It is obvious that the verdict against him had already been reached and, given his physical discomfort in attending the hearing, there was no reason to belabor the proceeding. In fact, I wish that more severances would happen this way between members who, for whatever reason, have reached a point of impasse with the church.

I have been an open critic of Jeremy’s methods, although I understand that he never set out to be a historian or educator. I have sympathy for the questions that he had about church history and doctrine. I do think that there are satisfactory answers for the majority of his questions, and I do not believe that any of the issues he raised are a “smoking gun” that inevitably leads to the conclusion that the church is false. However, I do not blame Jeremy for having or expressing historical questions. I only wish that he would have spend more time studying the available body of scholarly literature rather than ex-Mormon Reddit, followed by a public tit-for-tat with Mormon apologists, which rarely ends in a change of perspective for either party involved.

I think Jeremy would have been surprised just to see how many of the questions he had have been addressed by historians over the past half-century (for example, the archives to Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought are free and available online, offering over fifty years of thoughtful scholarship). That the CES director he wrote to, who is likely as unaware as most members of the body of scholarly literature, seemingly made no attempt to respond only further pushed Jeremy into the world of apologetic and ex-Mormon debates. However, Jeremy’s insistence to church leaders to simply “show him where his information is wrong” is a false dichotomy. As most who are engaged with Mormon history know, the questions he raises are indeed very real. However, the conclusions he reaches are far from inevitable and his persistent assumption that no satisfactory answers to his questions exist is not well-grounded. His insistence, then, should not be on showing him where his questions are in error, but on where his conclusions about his questions can be challenged, which several have attempted to do (see herehere, here, herehere, here, and here, for a few examples). As I have advised readers of my own work: “Do not let any one particular book, website, blog post, or podcast form your final conclusion on any topic, but remain critically aware that there is probably more to say on any subject of inquiry.”

CES Letter was a compiled document of critical propaganda (this is not to assert that faithful propaganda does not also exist) with no effort to look beyond the prevalent attacks from the ex-Mormon and anti-Mormon circles. This was, from what I understand, a crowd-sourced document where those who have perfected the art of telling one side of the story Runells_Dehlincontributed their “water-tight” criticisms against the claims of the LDS Church. A lack of historical context or exploration of diverse scholarship on any issue makes the CES Letter not only a poor representation of these issues, but also a dangerous one, particularly when members of the church are introduced to it before they have any real grounding in historical issues and suddenly find themselves lead along to Runnell’s conclusion that the church simply cannot be what it claims to be. Many who are critical of Jeremy’s work have also taken issue with his formation of a non-profit organization and his solicitation of funds to continue his exposé work. Many, including myself, took issue with his agreement to hold a press conference regarding his pending excommunication. These efforts are seen as grandstanding, capitalizing, and opportunistic; and they make it difficult to maintain sympathy for Jeremy as “a guy who had some honest question.” What may have began as honest questions has turned into a campaign.

Do I think Jeremy is evil? No. I think he began as a sincerely troubled soul who was quickly swept up in the momentum, championed as a hero by the vocal post-Mormon community in podcasts, blogs, and Facebook groups (and who have organized two vigils in his honor). From the brief interactions that we have had, I actually think Jeremy is a pretty decent fellow and I hold no ill will towards him. I feel for him and think that things may have resolved differently had the CES Director he initially wrote to responded kindly, even if he had no satisfactory answers to offer. My hope is that we can all learn from Jeremy’s story. How can we who are intimately familiar with the historical record be of better service to members? How can we be better at disseminating our research to the public, rather than keeping it within an insular community of scholars and academics? The church has taken some bold measures as of recent to improve the instruction in their Seminary and Institutes. As Elder Ballard recently implored, Seminary and Institute educators no longer have a free pass of not answering historical questions. “Gone are the days,” Ballard observed, “when a student asked an honest question and a teacher responded, ‘Don’t worry about it!'”

For those of us who are actively engaged in Mormon history and social media, and still remain actively-engaged in the Mormon faith, we can all do better at sharing our perspective in a sympathetic and charitable manner. We have nothing to be afraid of with the history of the church, but we should be humble in acknowledging that the history is not always flattering. As the church continues to extend its hand towards the refugees of war-torn nations, let us continue to extend our hand towards those who may feel like refugees of the war between apologists and critics.

Comments

What We Should Learn from Jeremy Runnells: Some Thoughts on His Departure From the Church — 89 Comments

  1. Some people (like me) are going to lose their literal beliefs in the truth claims when they look at the historical record, no matter how much context and pro-LDS research you give them. Can the church make room for these kinds of people? There are progressive Christian congregations who have figured out how to make this work. What if a high-ranking LDS leader said something like this: “Yes, a lot of LDS history is messy, and some will look at it and say I can longer have literal beliefs in the truth claims. That’s OK! We would love to have them still with us, so we can serve together and learn from each other.” The lesson I’ve learned from Jeremy Runnells is there is not yet space for these kinds of people in the LDS church. I hope someday there will be, but right now there isn’t.

  2. As a person with significant hearing loss, I take great issue with your judgments. His meme expresses, in quite a restrained and apt way, the rage that any disabled person–for that matter, any person suffering in any way–will justifiably feel when others deny, ignore, critique, or second-guess their experience. In most situations it is illegal to refuse to accommodate a disability. That the Mormon church won’t is devastating evidence of its moral inadequacy.

  3. Well, Holland, in a sense, from the PBS special.

    [You say] there are stark choices in beliefs about the origins of the book. Explain why there’s no middle way.

    … If someone can find something in the Book of Mormon, anything that they love or respond to or find dear, I applaud that and say more power to you. That’s what I find, too. And that should not in any way discount somebody’s liking a passage here or a passage there or the whole idea of the book, but not agreeing to its origin, its divinity. …

    I think you’d be as aware as I am that that we have many people who are members of the church who do not have some burning conviction as to its origins, who have some other feeling about it that is not as committed to foundational statements and the premises of Mormonism. But we’re not going to invite somebody out of the church over that any more than we would anything else about degrees of belief or steps of hope or steps of conviction. … We would say: “This is the way I see it, and this is the faith I have; this is the foundation on which I’m going forward. If I can help you work toward that I’d be glad to, but I don’t love you less; I don’t distance you more; I don’t say you’re unacceptable to me as a person or even as a Latter-day Saint if you can’t make that step or move to the beat of that drum.” … We really don’t want to sound smug. We don’t want to seem uncompromising and insensitive.

    … There are some things we can’t give away. There are some foundational stones. If you don’t have those, you don’t have anything. So the First Vision, the Book of Mormon, those are pretty basic things. …

  4. “As most who are engaged with Mormon history know, the questions he raises are indeed very real. However, the conclusions he reaches are far from inevitable and his persistent assumption that no satisfactory answers to his questions exist is not well-grounded.”

    It unfortunately seems then that the most the author & other apologists can offer is partial answers and/or rationalizations that MAY BE satisfactory to some questioners … but of course will be unsatisfactory to many others – which of course will lead to many of those leaving the Church, with good reason, since their best judgement and thinking leads them to do so and the logic, which is admittedly sound according to the above article, cannot be reliably countered …

  5. Brian,

    Perhaps it might be better said that the many years of academic literature has addressed the issues satisfactorily *for you*. And perhaps since you have a more nuanced testimony than most, the issues do not threaten you in the same way that these issues affect people with more strictly literal testimonies of LDS history, doctrine and truth claims.

    I do not believe it is possible to honestly explore these issues and retain a testimony that maintains that the events of Mormon history and the development of Mormon doctrine happened exactly as the correlated story states them to be. Something has to give: either I am willing to be open to the possibility that pious deception was part of Church history, or one has to ignore the evidence to maintain a pristine, literal testimony.

    And what of it? Is it essential to maintain a testimony of the literalism of the truth claims? In part, I have come to realize that yes, many church leaders do make literal claims and enforce belief in them.

    So what of Jeremy’s approach? He found no answers in the correlated materials, found no answers from CES, and went to the only sources most people have available to them on the internet. If the sources were completely fabricated and false, I might agree with you that he erred in not looking at the past issues of Dialog, but these were not truly accessible in a way that answered his questions.

    No, he went to available sources, and those sources turned out to be far more accurate than the LDS church correlated materials. Yes, perhaps they and he made negative, sensational conclusions from the material, but absent any answers from “official sources”, what other conclusion could he make?

    As always, I appreciate you trying to put context on this, to make it so that it doesn’t look so bad. But I’m afraid that as much as you try to polish institutionalized deception so that it looks ok, it still reeks of deception and subterfuge.

  6. What scholarship do you have to refute the plain dishonesty of the Church? What research can alleviate the fact that Joseph F. Smith lied in court while he was the President of the Church? What apologetics can overcome the gap between early prophets’ statements (no priesthood for Blacks, all Amerindians are Lamanites) and current Church positions (Black general authorities, tepid support for Limited Geography Model)? And what about the fact that the Bible is supposed to be the word of God, too? The Bible is a mess!

    Jeremy may be an ass, but he cannot help but state the obvious: the LDS Church cannot be literally true. The faith of our fathers (and I mean that literally, I have Mormon ancestors going back six generations) has long declared itself to be the only true and living church on the face of the earth, but its claims do not square with reality, and its behaviors do not even match its own doctrines. Honest apologetics cannot get around that.

  7. Thanks for the balanced article, Brian.

    Steve Otteson, I sure hope that’s not what the Jeremy Runnells excommunication/resignation saga showed us. I don’t think he was fighting for that space at all. My view is that he was claiming the church was a fraud and damaging to to people and encouraging people to leave it.

  8. I find it interesting that those least likely to lose their heads of Church history are – historians. As Blake Ostler said (paraphrasing) most members lack the academic background to even evaluate the evidence.

    Thank you for taking time to write your thoughts down Brian.

  9. The CES Letter is simply the tip of the iceberg of the LDS issues. Is it really probably that God would have waited as long as he did and put all of the effort into this final restoration plan to have it be so shambolic?

    I say this in all seriousness. Issue after issue after issue materialises in mormonism. So much so that this is no longer a matter of faith, but of complex scholarship just to reach the point where faith is viable (no amount of scholarship will make Mormonism conclusively true). Equally there are no conclusive answers through prayer – if there were then faith would be moot. We wouldn’t be having this discussion. So in the faith of so many challenges, questioning is not only reasonable, it is fully justified and it is the rational thing to do. Not to question in the face of so much historically concerning information would be frankly irrational and likely show a disregard to the importance of the ‘eternal questions’.

    However, all faiths, denominations could make similar claims to being the one truth religion, and even though many face a mountain of questions, the argument could be made that they are the true faith if only the individual would engage in sufficient scholarship in order to ascertain that fact. To be frank, all such arguments lead to the same dead end. There will never be sufficient to prove catholicism, methodism, islam, buddhism, or mormonism. As such, no amount of scholarly research will be able to place one above the other in the truth race. Therefore this argument that if Jeremy had just engaged in a little more reading his concerns would have been set aside has about as much standing as those offering the same claim about the Trinity or the nature of Middle Earth.

    Aside from this sit a host of morality issues. Did God really command Joseph Smith to marry a 14 year old girl. I’ve read all Brian Hales has to say on the matter and aside from his narrative not being credible, it fails to address the fact that if this event was sanctioned by God, then God thinks it is ok for a man in his thirties to marry a 14 year old, which means that such marriages are okay today – so the LDS church’s only grief with Warren Jeff’s must be one of legality not morality. Warren isn’t legally allowed to practice polygamy or take under aged brides, but according to the LDS position, this is merely a legal issue, as there is nothing immoral about marrying a 14 year old, or about having multiple brides.

    In the end, we face the reality that the LDS claim to being the one true church is as indistinguishable as those made by the many other churches and faiths. The concerns so many in number and weight that it is reasonable to assume that any omniscient God would not have gambled the entire eternity on such a plan fraught with problems. It isn’t remotely a fair opportunity when the majority will turn the church aside because concerns about the behaviour of the founder are legitimate, and prevent the plan being listened to.

    The other troubling concern is that any criticism of Smith is treated as apostasy by the LDS Church. It is apparent that a belief in the claims of Smith are vital for salvation. If one does not believe Smith then one cannot be saved, and thus we see Smith is placed on par with Christ. A man cannot be saved unless he first accept and has faith in the account of Joseph Smith. So Christs sacrifice and a belief in Christ is not sufficient for salvation. The church ought to state that Faith in the prophet Joseph Smith is a prerequisite for the salvation of any man on earth, since Smith becomes the gate whereby man finds both God and Christ.

    As you can see, these problems multiply to the point of ridiculousness. The same is true for the pre-existence and the idea of a war in heaven, for the failure to save Satan, etc. One philosophical dilemma after another.

    Don’t get me wrong, as a former member, i am genuinely disappointed. I can honestly say i loved being LDS. I valued the aspiration for a better world, the community, the sense of striving and hope. However all of this is moot if it isn’t founded on truth – at least in terms of faith in the LDS Church. Whilst i retain an optimism as a theist, my trust in church leaders is further sunk by the constant excommunications, and by the obfuscation that has taken place over the last several decades led by the correlation committee. The church is indeed in a bed of its own making, and rather than lead by example by engaging in a pursuit of charity and service to mankind, the church functions like a giant ponzi scheme, a corporate church with corporate investments valued at many multiples of the efforts dedicated to saving lives.

    I may only be an observer now. But as a man who lives in hope, i’m also capable of judgement. I see men casting judgement and condemnation on men like Runnell’s. The same for many other that had the audacity to ask legitimate questions. Shoot the messengers rather than deal with the message. And thus the church marks itself as a parody of truth, a mockery of integrity. The irony being it is now the church that needs to repent, and its leaders indistinguishable from the pharisees that tried and condemned Jesus.

    I doubt history will be kind in its reflections. A true pity.

  10. I deeply apologize if I offended you. It was honestly not my attempt to be insensitive about Jeremy’s disability. In fact, I tried to admit that I was wrong in my assumptions and made an apology. Also, I tried to make it clear that what I found in poor taste about his meme was using it as an advertisement for CES Letter Foundation. Again, my apologies.

  11. Hey Brian. Great article! I pretty much agree with everything you said about Jeremy’s grandstanding. Although I admittedly don’t know Jeremy and have only had very, very limited interactions with him, I interpret his recent actions as grandstanding and at least somewhat financially motivated, although I honor and respect Jeremy’s journey as it is very similar to mine and others. I also acknowledge your point about there being enough scholarly resources to keep someone participating in the church if they really want to, although I looked at those same resources and many others and came to a different conclusion.

    Steve Otterson makes a good point about there not being room for folks who don’t believe in the historicity in the Book of Mormon but who would like to participate anyway. Unlike him, I don’t believe such accommodations will be forthcoming any time soon. If anything, I believe the trend is heading the other way towards neo-fundamentalism.

  12. It is interesting that you suggest that Jeremy could have found answers to his question if he had consulted the journal Dialogue. I have never seen or heard a single General Authority endorse Dialogue as a source for answers regarding church history or doctrine. I have on several occasions heard the opposite, however.

  13. oh Brian Whitney, you silly silly boy. You’ve missed the entire ticket. Literally no amount of sitting in the temple taught you anything.

    You see, Jeremy was waiting for TRUE MESSENGERS from his Father to teach him. Not some charlatan trained only in science and the ways of the world. He demanded that prophets prophesy, that seers see things and revelators reveal what they know.

    No amount of what you’ve done would help. You could pile every evidence in a corner and Jeremy would demand those of the faith to actually own up to your work. If even one prophet had said “Brian Whitney’s work is true. Read it” I think Jeremy’s case would have been blown out of the water. But not one of the top dogs will own you or your friend’s work.

    And thus you are a tinkling cymbal and sounding brass to the issue. You have as much relevance, no matter how accurate, to Jeremy’s point as the umpire of the St. Louis Cardinals does to The 49’ers half-time show. You’re playing the wrong game.

    What you should learn from Jeremy Runnels is that none of you matter until the church officially accepts your work and research. You’re all just irrelevant, puffed up in believing that you matter two cents worth to the top dogs of the church. As Brigham Young said “I can shit a better prophet” than you.

  14. Brian, to what extent does the Internet age impact this? We’ve had institutions like Dialogue and Sunstone that addressed these issues in a variety of ways and I’ve had a sense that as people passed through their trial by fire, they either made peace or they simply left the church, either in spite of or because of those kinds of institutions. But now social media and the web seem to have changed things. Instead of people passing through those institutions, they pass through Facebook groups and it feels like every few months a new person in crisis comes through expecting all of us to be outraged and blown away. “Hey have you guys heard of this Mountain Meadows thing?” isn’t that much of an exaggeration. I find myself torn: I want to be supportive and help people find their own path—after all I went through this— but it’s also, frankly, tiring sometimes. These resources and this information is out there and I wonder if the dynamics have changed so that people don’t seek them out.

  15. You missed my point entirely. I was simply stating that there has been an ongoing discussion among scholars that he has not immersed himself into. I could have used the Journal of Mormon History or BYU Studies Quarterly. I only went with Dialogue because their archived are so easily accessible from their website.

  16. I think I’m clear now: if J. R. had immersed himself in the scholarship found in extra-Church sources, his questions, which official Church publications fail to answer, would have been answered.

    I wonder why the Brethren don’t endorse those sources and that scholarship, and in many cases warn us to stay away from them.

  17. Parker, show me where the Brethren warn us to stay away from faithful and thoughtful scholars like Richard Bushman, Glen Leonard, Terryl Givens, Steven Harper, Alexander Baugh, Mark Ashurst-McGee, Patrick Mason, Paul Reeve, Jill Mulvay Derr, Kathleen Flake, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Mark Staker, Michael McKay, Gerritt Dirkmaat, or the dozens of others that I could list. The problem is a general lack of awareness of the literature, not an admonition to avoid it. In fact, many of these scholars I’ve listed are either employees of the Church History Department or consult on historical projects. However, I do think that these and other scholars should be discussed more, at least at an Institute level. Personally, if anyone graduates Institute without knowing what BYU Studies is or the Journal of Mormon History, I think we haven’t done as much as we could have in educating them about the historical conversation.

  18. Brian, you’ve got me there. I will look forward to hearing some of them speak at the next General Conference.

  19. Parker, what part of “I do think that these and other scholars should be discussed more, at least at an Institute level” did you not read?

  20. Are you saying they the official institute curriculum does not include the work of all of these scholars? If so, why is that?

  21. Parker, “Are you saying they the official institute curriculum does not include the work of all of these scholars? If so, why is that?” I am pretty much saying that, or at least not enough of it. Why is that? Because the curriculum department hasn’t gone to the history department to ask them to write their material. I am saying that a closer relationship between the church historians and the curriculum department could be very beneficial.

  22. In the meantime Jeremy Rumells, and others like him, are suffering (now and presumably in the eternities)because they aren’t aware of this scholarship that addresses their concerns and questions, and thereby waters the tree of faith.

  23. It never ceases to amaze me the number of people who spend so much time and energy to argue against something in which they do not believe. Best wishes to Jeremy in his new found “freedom from Mormonism”. And may God also bless those who choose to believe.

  24. Brian –

    Why don’t you and a few other neutral observers (if that’s possible) compile a document that fairly addresses the nuance, pros, cons, etc. on each of the CES letter issues? Neither Jeremy or FAIR are really neutral. Or, if this has already been done in a comprehensive way, please let us know.

  25. Brian, thank you for being one of the thoughtful faithful. I don’t know that any amount of scholarship could ever lead me to trust the church again, but if there were more such thoughtful people in it I might at least feel less out of place.

    That being said, I have a couple questions.

    1. Jeremy has said that most of his information came from MormonThink. Are the articles on MormonThink oblivious to the scholarship you’re referring to? The articles I’ve read there typically express a willingness to be corrected if they’ve gotten facts wrong or omitted an important perspective. Do we just need MormonThink articles to have a “NOM Position” section in addition to the “LDS Position” and “Critics’ Position” sections they have now?

    2. Do the essays on lds.org adequately represent the scholarship you’re referring to? I confess that I haven’t read several decades-worth of back catalogues from Dialogue and Sunstone. But I have read the essays. I have found them to be far more frustrating than helpful. If they have the best answers available, then I have to agree with Jeremy that there really aren’t any good answers. If the Dialogue answers differ from the essays’ answers, then isn’t the church sending the message that the Dialogue approach is invalid?

  26. Religion is nothing but emotional superstition. Unfortunately Homo sapiens have an undying hunger for transcendence. They fear death so they make up stories. Just look at the Egyptisns the first civilization that canonized the way to avoid death. We don’t believe in “The Book of Breathings” anymore. Old Joe Smith came up with a great story. A little Calvinism, a touch of evangelism, diced with a dream about some angels or Gods in a vision. Sounds great and the real kicker is people WANT to believe it. Do a little dance, sing a little song, and get down tonite. That’s all you have to do, oh and wear the magic underwear, and you got a reservation for the afterlife. Same idea as the Egyptians who believed Anubis, after you died, cut out you heart, presented it to Osiris, and if it weighed less than a feather you went straight to the Celestial Kingdom, no wait what did the Egyptians call heaven? You see what a man wants to be true he chooses to believe. Nobody wants life to end. They just can’t stand the thought. But that may be the way it is. What makes a Mozart symphony any less wonderful just because it ends. And I think it is OK for people to deceive themselves as long as they keep it to themselves. The problem is to keep believing in their personal or tribal superstition they are willing to bother other people by continuing to try and convert them, perhaps ostracize those with other tribal superstitions or worse yet cut your head off if you don’t believe in their god. As a scientist and a realist I don’t want my life cut short being caught in the crossfire between the religious tribes. Say Muslims versus Christians. In the end for any kind of decent peaceful civilization to persist on this planet we must STOP killing each other over arguing about who has the best imaginary friend! Dr. Craig Wilkinson

  27. “I think Jeremy would have been surprised just to see how many of the questions he had have been addressed by historians over the past half-century …”

    Apparently the CES director in question would also have been surprised, as would Jeremy’s Stake President.

    Sorry if that seems snarky, but that’s exactly how the quoted statement makes me feel.

  28. Brent, I appreciate your statement that, “I don’t know that any amount of scholarship could ever lead me to trust the church again, but if there were more such thoughtful people in it I might at least feel less out of place.” I never expect anyone to stay in and simply believe, and I don’t think any amount of scholarship will change that. What it can do, however, is inform you to know that there are multiple conclusions that can be drawn from the historical record; and that anyone, whether faithful or critical, who tells you that there is only one way that the evidence leads, is selling you lakeside property in Nevada. I am not naive enough to believe that there are magical answers to the legitimate questions of history, but I am also not naive enough to think that there is a smoking gun that tells me I am a fool for remaining a committed member.

    1. MormonThink does not offer a consideration of the available literature. Sure, they may tackle the more apologetic work, but they ignore the more even-handed approaches of professional, academic historians who tend to publish with universities and who win awards with historical associations. And I realize the risky position I am taking by seemingly-minimizing the valuable contributions of non-professional historians and non-University publishing imprints. So, let me just state that I am making a broad generalization that really needs to be evaluated on the merits of each published work. But, if this is what Jeremy primarily relied upon as his source, then he is missing a tremendously valuable body of scholarship that could have helped him better understand the ongoing scholarly debate and conversations. It’s not about accuracy of facts as much as it is the varying degrees of interpretation that exists within the Mormon studies community. Let me just provide one example from MormonThink where I think they qualified their information poorly (and I literally just looked this up and pulled it off within the past five minutes). In their discussion of the First Vision, they lay out the “LDS Position” and the “Critics Position.” In the critics position, they correctly state “the general church membership did not receive information about the First Vision until the 1840’s and even then, the story did not hold the prominent place in Mormon thought that it does today.[6]” However, what they are citing is “The Significance of Joseph Smith’’s First Vision” by James B. Allen. Are you going to tell me that James B. Allen is a critic of the church? Not in your lifetime. Then why use him as a source to back up the “critics” position? The problem isn’t with the fact. Anyone who has spent serious time studying the history of the church know that Smith didn’t begin discussing his vision really until he began working on his personal history in Nauvoo. Both faithful and critical scholars acknowledge this. Why not just state that is scholarly consensus over this matter? But, to use Allen as a critical source without giving any attention to the rest of his arguments in that paper is irresponsible. And that was just from a few minutes of looking at one topic.

    2. The essays are valuable, but they are inadequate. If someone were to follow the footnotes, then they may start seeing more fully-developed arguments. But, the essays are designed for inoculation. And while it seems that many commentators think that is what I am calling for, I am not. I am calling for the complicating and problematizing of any narrative that tries to lead you to an inevitable conclusion, and that includes the essays. This is why I recommend the journals: you get a variety of voices and perspectives. You begin to get a sense for how complicated the historian’s craft is, and how there is always more that can be said about nearly any topic.

    What I am suggesting is that if Jeremy had spent time in the journals, or in the available literature, he might possibly have seen how expecting a clear-cut answer on practically anything is probably expecting too much, let alone expecting those answers to come from untrained ecclesiastical leaders. He might have realized that he was asking the wrong group of people, and that those who have dedicated decades of research to the historical topics would have been a better group to approach–but that even then, it us unreasonable to expect that any matter is fully, completely, and irreversibly settled. Now, I stated in my article that I believe there are satisfactory answers…but pair that with how I concluded the article: that we should not be afraid of our history, but should be humble enough to admit that it is not always flattering. The satisfactory answers are not always the flattering ones, and I think that we, as a faith community, need to be okay with that reality.

  29. I started reading this stuff back in the days when Jeremy was still in diapers and before the internet became a household word. Very little of what is found in the CES letter is original material. The difference between Jeremy and myself is that I did not demand that someone else answer the questions for me. I decided to slowly research these questions myself. I am a patient person. I don’t expect answers to complicated things in a day, a week, or a year. There have been issues that took me a long time to figure out in my mind. I can say know that most of the questions that Jeremy has I have answered for myself. The answers that I have got perhaps might not satisfy another person as we are all different but I am at peace with it. Perhaps I am a product of another generation. Someone who does not demand answers immediately. We live in a time where people just want things quickly. Patience is more of a vice these days than a virtue.

  30. “The satisfactory answers are not always the flattering ones, and I think that we, as a faith community, need to be okay with that reality.”

    So tell me: how do you feel about the literal reality of the Noachian flood? Because that’s something that we’re supposed to take literally. It is clearly spelled out in the Standard Works and the declarations of prophets and apostles. It’s also a fiction, a fable that fools took seriously, but sadly for us, we’re supposed to accept these fools as God’s mouthpieces.

    There is no taking literal Christianity seriously, and Mormonism is simply a very esoteric kind of literal Christianity. It can’t be true.

  31. Some of the more difficult issues for Mormons and Christianity is the work of Israel Finkelsten in his book The Bible Unearthed where he argues that archaeological evidence shows that the exodus and conquest did not happen. Also Abraham is a fictional character.If this is true then the Book of Abraham is also fiction.

  32. I have always found the CES letter to be unhelpful for the reasons you cite. But the problem is that the nuanced approach of the professional historian, while clearly an improvement on apologists, ultimately implies that the men claiming to speak for God don’t know what they’re doing. The thoughtful, faithful historian faces an unresolvable catch-22: making sense of the history requires dilution of the Church’s core claims. Accepting the grey area means rejecting the claims of many prophets that the question is black and white, ie, it requires us to accept that the prophets are clueless. This is true across the spectrum of issues: BoM geography and DNA, BoA, priesthood ban, etc. God’s chosen oracles took strong stands on those issues, and you want us to dilute those positions while somehow still believing that those men have God’s authority.

    I’m sorry to see bright minds like yours wasting time and effort making excuses for this fairy tale. “Faithful History” is as much about truth as Tolkien Studies.

    As for Jeremy’s financial activities: I too find them distasteful, but no more distasteful than Tom Monson drawing an undisclosed salary to peddle his wares.

  33. Brian: You can delete me all you want. But you’re still an arrogant ass – whose attitude and approach (like so many other Mormon robots) drive more and more people away. I’m embarrassed by the work of FAIR and many other “so called” experts. Talk about a lot of “puff and blow”. I think we’d be better off as members (and within Mormon society and culture) if we simply admitted that much of Mormon mythology is false and/or misleading; and just go back to emulated Christ and his teaching.

  34. You’re still blaming the members for not reading more, instead of the authorities who are paid (a modest living allowance) to represent the church for not pointing out where truth is.

    Until you see that the leaders have some responsibility in leading I’m not sure how relevant you are.

    Your bias is showing.

  35. Even if you’re right and the Church is “true” in some meaningful sense, it doesn’t make any practical difference. Your approach requires that the leaders are no more associated with deity than you or I. No reasonable God will expect any of us to pay any attention to the leaders, particularly since their record on important moral questions is so appalling (race, gender relations, the LGBT issue, basic honesty, etc.). Informed Mormons face a choice between the Church being false or your view: that the Church is “true” but the leaders are routinely wrong about almost everything.

    Contributing time and money to the Church fuels its efforts to restrict and harm LGBT folks, women, intellectuals, and even garden variety doubters. As such, even if your view is correct, the most ethical thing to do is to encourage people to leave the organization as if it were false. Nobody will be held accountable for it anyway–given the record, we have no reason to believe the Brethren are right about anything now, and even if they are, any reasonable God is not going to expect us to believe them THIS time when they’ve been wrong almost every OTHER time. So there’s nothing noble about making excuses for the institution and encouraging people to continue giving their money to it. There are actual charities out there that could do far more good for the world with the tithes of the rich and middle class than does the Church. As for the poor, well, they should keep their money and try to improve their families’ lives instead of turning it over to a bunch of rich old men claiming to speak for God (which, in your view, they rarely do anyway).

    In short: even if you’re right and Runnels is wrong, so what? It makes no practical difference.

  36. “I do not believe that any of the issues he raised are a “smoking gun” that inevitably leads to the conclusion that the church is false.”

    Let me guess: you’re white, heterosexual, male, born into the church (or converted relatively young), intelligent, well-educated, likely American, and likely with strong ties to Utah (if not from Utah). How many did I get right?

    It just baffles me that the apologetic crowd doesn’t see this pattern. There *absolutely* are smoking guns that lead to the objective conclusion that the church is not true (as it defines “true”). The problem is your background leads you away from that conclusion. You essentially “fit the mold”. Have you seen Dr. Robert Ritner talk about the Book of Abraham? How confident do you think he is that the church isn’t objectively true? Why do you think that is?

    Show me a gay, black, female, late convert who is aware of all the “issues” in detail and still thinks the church is true (as the church defines it, or close to it). I’ll bet there are 0 of them and with a little thought you can figure out why.

  37. Will, I’m not sure if I know any gay, black, female, late converts…but I definitely know many who fit each of those descriptions individually. I have found that, for most of them, the history of the church is not their top concern or priority. Marginalization within our current culture is a more pressing issue. I do agree, however, that being overly-concerned about the church’s history is a reflection of privilege.

  38. Jeremy is but just another wolf in sheep’s clothing set to destroy the church. Is he an enemy to the church? Yes. The sad part of this is that Mormons can side with him.

  39. “Let me guess: you’re white, heterosexual, male, born into the church (or converted relatively young), intelligent, well-educated, likely American, and likely with strong ties to Utah (if not from Utah). How many did I get right?”

    I was able to check off each single one for Jeremy Runnells. I’ll go out on a llimb, and hazard a guess that you could too, though I might be wrong. Are you sure that your essenntialising realll works?

  40. Once you’ve known what I’ll call a “benevolent pathological liar,” Joseph Smith’s behavior is easily understood. FairLDS’s job is to explain why 2+2=5; Jeremy was able to show the implications of the historical data without any rationalization or apologies. This apparent to outsiders just like Mormons are able to see Watch Tower Society as a fraud, but JW’s can see Joseph Smith/Brigham Young as frauds. Both groups are unable to look at the internal organizations with objectivity. Thanks Jeremy for the good work! Mental gymnastics are for cult followers!

  41. Thanks Brian. I appreciate your efforts. However, I believe the majority of church membership is not as agreeable as you are. When someone raises a doubt or claims unbelief, most distance themselves from that individual. The person is seen as broken. Until the body of the church can welcome and embrace the doubter as a brother, the flood of people leaving will continue. Unfortunately, I don’t see that changing soon. It’s in our nature to distance ourselves from those who do not devoutly speak our tribal language.

  42. I wish I thought he was sincere in his initial “questioning” to his CES leader, but I think his comments in some of the ex-Mormon sub-Reddit boards suggest otherwise (see http://www.plonialmonimormon.com/2016/02/ces-letter-author-jeremy-runnells-to.html). It seems to have been a last ditch effort of his father to save his son from the path he was on.

    I do feel sorry for his wife (not to mention Jeremy), who is still a faithful member along with her children as far as I’ve read and understand. So much heartache (present and future, no doubt) could have been avoided with a little effort and patience to research the answers that actually do exist and to have the patience to provide some time for God to teach him. I was introduced to anti-Mormon material in high school, and I’ve spent the remaining decades (starting with the Tanner’s magnum opus way back then before my mission) continuing to learn new things.

    Fortunately, I already had a sure witness and testimony of the gospel before I encountered anti-Mormon material. I knew the gospel was true, even if I didn’t have all the answers immediately, and I was familiar enough with myself and human nature to give others a break for their imperfections or misinterpretation of motives by those who would come later. I’d hate to see my life interpreted after the fact by those who had only fragments left of who I really was. And there’s been no real open opposition to my existence that I can tell (my brothers and, especially, my sisters might have complained at times while growing up–they probably have a completely different take on my life = ), unlike Joseph Smith and many of the early leaders of the Church.

    The more I’ve read of the life of Joseph and others, the more I’ve come to deeply respect what they accomplished for us. I have anti-Mormonism to thank in some significant amount for making me read more thoroughly about their lives through the years than I would have otherwise.

    The facts are the same for all of us. It’s the narratives we choose to surround those facts with (and some not-so-factual things that get promoted) that determines how we see the world, and God is the most important part in getting the actual facts correct in all of that. He’s the only one with the full story.

    [reposted from another thread where this blog link was posted w/ minor changes]

  43. Saying “the answers exist” somewhere in the tens of thousands of pages of “academic and faithful” church literature is NOT the same as providing an answer. I repeat my plea to you, Brian:

    Why don’t you and a group of people just provide the actual answers for us (since they exist, and since you seem familiar with the literature)?

    Related question – why doesn’t an organization worth $40 billion just hire a few full time people to dig through all these journals and provide us the answers?

  44. Brian I have been down the path, read all the footnotes and struggled with the information, pro and con, apologist, anti and neutral (when available) and frankly you are engaging in academic and intellectual self-deception. I myself continue to participate in LDS activity but it is only because of a spiritual feeling I get — emotional/spiritual/heartfelt — not because of intellectual integrity. Frankly, when you walk down the path of history and you truly keep logic and wits about you, you will find that there are no satisfactory answers unless you engage in either intentional self-deception or intentional ignorance. I wish it were different, but it is not.

  45. FGH’s impassioned plea (#45) reminds me of something Hugh Nibley wrote in the 1960s:

    “The critics of the Pearl of Great Price, like those of the Book of Mormon, have always had a weakness for instant solutions. As soon as anyone starts putting a long equation on the blackboard or begins to demonstrate the steps in the solution of an involved problem, these students cry out, ‘Never mind all that–––you are only stalling; give us the answer!’ They would prefer to have the teacher say, ‘Students, I am a mathematician, and the answer is zero because I say so. Class dismissed.’ This has been the ingratiating method of the Pearl of Great Price [and Book of Mormon] critics from the beginning. But it is not enough to tell people what we think the answer is to this particular problem; we want them to see why we believe our answer is right and to understand how it has been derived.”

    Of course, when the Church does “just provide the actual answers” in the form of the Gospel Topics essays (which are essentially the TL;DR versions of the last 50 some odd years of academic work on these topics), then the charge is, “You’re glossing over the issues! Stop being so superficial!”

    Heads I win; tails you lose.

    “Related question – why doesn’t an organization worth $40 billion just hire a few full time people to dig through all these journals and provide us the answers?”

    You mean…kind of like what the Church History Department has been doing for the past little while?

  46. I personally know that Runnells actually received substantive answers to some of his questions but dismissed them or ignored them. His questions show, in some cases, that he was not up to date on current research. Take for example is opening questions on 1769 KJV italics and the B of M. He did not take into account recent critical text work by Skousen, and what his expert conclusions relating to BofM translation mean to that very issue. I explained that to him respectfully and simply and never received a reply. Because of that I have trouble with his insistence that he hasn’t received real answers to his questions.

  47. The flood of Noah is perceived in the minds of most people in terms of the children’s books they read to their kids, with images of the entire planet under miles deep water. What Genesis actually depicts is a regional event, and the additional revelations in the Book of Moses and which Joseph Smith received about Eden being in North America is consistent with Noah’s escape as being another episode of the righteous fleeing from the destruction of the wicked, the Jaredite and Lehite voyages in reverse. The Book of Ether makes an explicit comparison between the Jaredite vessels and Noah’s ship, and the episode of God providing the Jaredites with illumination for their ships corresponds to a rabbinic tradition about similar lighting for Noah’s vessel, which was in fact depicted in the recent Russell Crowe movie. The year long extent of the Jaredite voyage between continents corresponds to the length of Noah’s voyage.

    The same kind of misreading of Genesis takes place when many people read about the creation of the earth. Young Earth Creationists promote a caricature of Genesis 1, not the actual scriptural account.

    So much of what passed for “Mormon history” before 50 years ago was in the category of rhetorical speech rather than careful scholarship. It was in the long tradition of seeking emotional persuasion that typified all of society, including its religious and political realms. It is in the same category as Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. That kind of speech still has a role in society, but it is not the means for creating a better understanding of history, or science, or even many religious topics. Projects like the Joseph Smith Papers do address real understanding.

  48. Mormonism? Weird? Everything doesn’t have a tidy little answer? Hmm. Sounds a lot like CHRISTIANITY (or any other religion for that matter). Virgin birth? Raising people from the dead? Walking on water? Resurrection – actually coming back to life as an immortal!? Atonement? The sketchy and crazy history of the Bible? Explain these Mr. CES Director… My point is that to be a believing Christian of any stripe takes a leap of faith. The historical record of the church and its inconstancies is pure cake when compared to the question of God, Jesus Christ and a concept of a Savior. What are we being saved from? Why is there a need to even be saved at all? To someone who does not believe (and they way out number the believers) Christianity in all of its forms seems like some sort of a fairy tale and a scam on the grandest of scales. I will never understand why believing Christians (pious Mormons included) ever feel like they can criticize another’s belief when they no know good and well that whatever tenant and belief they hold could NEVER be summed up intellectually.

  49. Oh, goodness, Stephen! I know you have the talent to do much better.

    (1) Regarding Nibley – Of course I, like many others, am a fan of his. But the proper analogy here with Nibley would be a math professor declining to place *any* equation on the board, and instead telling his students to read the premier German mathematical journals from the 1800s to see how modern mathematics developed. It’s perfectly fine if the explanations based on mormon journals run to the 100s or 1000s of pages – but you must do the work to show the answers actually exist! Related to mathematics, there is the concept of a proof. Mathematicians can’t just assert that a proof exists based on existing literature – they must actually demonstrate it! To do otherwise would be insufficient, an utter failure. The same concept applies here.

    (2) The Church history department is doing good work. However, it is not providing answers to the kinds of questions Jeremy asked. Nor should they. It’s imperative to allow historians to do their work without also having to be apologists (which would compromise their objectivity). Accordingly, it’s inappropriate to make the blanket statement that the church history department has answered the questions.

    (3) The Gospel Topics essays are a good step in the right direction. But they seem to raise more questions than they answer. I’m not sure why the church decided not to give the public access to the longer ~25 page essays that were purportedly developed.

    Stephen, we actually want the same thing – membership to grow, church members to have answers to their questions, people to come to Christ, etc. I’m not sure why you’re so defensive about requests for the church to do more and to do better.

  50. Mark –

    I think a difference between Mormonism and Christianity is that the claims of the latter are not falsifiable, whereas those of the former potentially are. For example, the Book of Abraham can be shown to either be a true translation of Egyptian, or not. The Book of Mormon really is an ancient document, or it is not. The DNA of ancient americans has Jewish traces, or it does not. Moreover, the historical evidence available to scrutinize Mormonism is vastly larger than the historical evidence available to scrutinize the earliest Christianity. Mormonism has all the potential pitfalls of Christianity, as well as numerous others.

    Miracles, of course, defy naturalistic explanations – and both Mormonism and Christianity have plenty of those. But mormonism simply has bold, recent claims that can potentially be tested historically and scientifically.

  51. It’s funny how those who believe the least in the brethren demand the most of them.

  52. Jack….are you referring to sincere questions, from life long members that have served missions and been faithful for the majority of their lives? Don’t these good people deserve answers from proper authorities, rather than apologists? There is nothing “funny” about this situation. Think it through and show a little empathy. Jeremy and others don’t “demand”, they simply ask for answers. Even if Jeremy, had made up his mind without their answers, there are plenty of other good members that are struggling with these issues, that deserve to hear the truth and not “half truths”. Members are taught to seek, and ask, to find truth….these aren’t demands!…it is the process of learning!

    In the past, before the internet, the Church, thought they could just ignore the tough questions with the policy of “the best thing to do with muddy water, is to let it sit”…or blame it on “anti-Mormon” propaganda. Those days are over, and so they have to come out with the “Essays”, which are a weak attempt of partial facts and leave many things unanswered. Not a single Conference talk covers the issues. Instead we get “doubt your doubts”, “give Joseph a break”, and “leaders have made mistakes”.

    I guess, the struggling members, should just keep quiet, and not make any “demands” on the prophets and seers, so they can prepare profound conference talks like “The Parable of the Pickle”. Unfortunately, many of the “Saints”, have been pickled far to long.

  53. The Church can’t provide “official” answers to history, as there is no such thing. History is interpretation, not facts, or even an accumulation of facts.

    There’s a reason the Church doesn’t substitute history for revelation on Sundays in its curriculum. Even if they tried, the “official answer” would be immediately subject to revision and changing understanding as scholars either discovered new “facts” or when they simply came at the same facts with different understandings or more comprehensive research. That’s never been the domain of faith and revelation.

    There are no facts in history (regardless of how hard historians try to approach it as if they were dealing with one of the hard sciences) because only interpretations of first, but usually second- and third-hand (or worse), accounts that exist only fragmentarily, and they are themselves interpretations of the people observing the actual facts in the world around them, not the facts themselves. History will always be the field of speculation and interpretation and counter-intepretation, not of religion, per se.

    The purpose of the Church is to teach the gospel and revealed truths not available through other means. It’s a fundamentally different enterprise than the work of historians, which can lie nowhere else but scholarship. It is all interpretation of fragments of the past that may or may not be true in and of themselves.

    Church is the place where faith is taught, where the things of the Spirit are taught, and where history only plays a small supporting role (as it should) to fill in some of the background details regarding the origins of our system of belief.

    To insist on “official” answers would be like asking the Catholic church to try to resolve some of the sordid history of the players and their motives, that only God can see, in Christianity’s past, or to resolve the ever-disputed roots of Trinitarian doctrines presided over by (Pagan) emperors who often dictated the outcomes in ecumenical councils, etc., in place of building up the faith of its adherents. Still, one can interpret that as God working through the emperors or as the emperors dictating to God. The problem of “truth” still lies at the foundation, and it will always boil down to the faith one has developed in the first place–actual truths that can be known only by God. It would be a shame to turn either the Mass or Sunday curriculum into historical debate societies.

    That’s not a claim that the Church can’t assist it’s members in understanding history from its faithful perspective (which, if it’s foundational truth claims are real, is real history). But insisting on (or even believing that the Church can provide) a world where black and white answers that resolve all difficulties is something that will never exist and why the Church constantly emphasizes reliance on the Spirit for truth.

    The Church can give historical overviews of scholarly work, as it has done, but it can never give “answers,” unless those answers are based on revelation. And that is precisely where the critics begin their critique.

  54. This all seems to be a game of perception management where the members are seeing a car wreck and being told a multitude of possible explanations by the leadership and apologists to not see the car wreck for what it is and to just move along or keep reading thousands upon thousands of pages until perception is changed. However, the car wreck of the bible bofm and BofA historicity issues, christology, as well as the many other issues clearly show that a car wreck occurred and is still occurring. Mr. Runnells simply seemed to be pointing out the car wreck to the members and was attacked for it.

  55. Pingback: “It’s the members, stupid” | Exploring Mormonism

  56. Not that anyone is going to read this and, let’s face it, those with a chip on their shoulder are going to read into my intentions whatever they want. Those who tell me that I need to stop blaming Jeremy for his historical questions clearly have not read what I wrote closely enough, like where I said I DON’T BLAME HIM FOR HAVING OR EXPRESSING HISTORICAL QUESTIONS, and that THE ISSUES HE RAISES ARE INDEED REAL. I expressed sympathy for Mr. Runnells and anyone else who feels like they have received an inadequate historical education from the church. Really, I don’t expect local lay leaders to be historians, nor do I even expect those who are called and sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators to have all of the answers to historical questions. I am simply stating that YOU ARE ASKING THE WRONG GROUP; and, if you have historical questions, you should…I dunno…maybe consider asking historians…or, maybe, (get ready for my apologetic victim-blaming), pick up a history book or two.

    When I stated that I believe there are satisfactory answers, that does not imply that those answers are always fluffy, sweet, and faith-promoting. Sometimes the satisfactory answer is less than flattering (which I wrote at the end of my post). Sometimes the satisfactory answer is that BRIGHAM YOUNG WAS A RACIST. That’s how history works. If you are always expecting a pleasing resolution, then your expectations are (here comes more victim-blaming) perhaps a bit naive.

    It is interesting to me that those who seem to have the least amount of problems with the history of the church are those historians who have spent a great deal of time researching and studying it. Of course, there are exceptions. But, there are more faithful, believing, highly-qualified Mormon historians who put out tremendous work through university publishers than there are disbelieving Mormon historians. I guess that they are all naive or are perpetuating the lie. I guess that their obvious bias never gets caught by peer-review because they are just so darn sneaky about it. And you accuse the faithful of mental gymnastics? Give me a break.

    The fact is, the church has given its answers to a good share of the biggest, most recurring, questions that people raise. Whether you agree with the answers is your own deal. The Gospel Topics essays are the culmination of faithful scholarship that has been part of the historical discussion for decades. Are they perfect? No. But they are good (I know I’m going to ruffle some feathers with that), or at least better than anything we’ve ever had from the church (and the Institute manual on church history really wasn’t as terrible as you remember; but, when you are a disinterested teenager, it’s all pretty boring). Now, the “too-little-too-late” crowd can shake their fists all they want, but the essays are there and are being incorporated (thank goodness) into Seminary and Institute instruction–and that is exactly where it belongs. But, outside of those official responses, there are literally thousands of books and articles that people can, if they stopped playing the victim card for ten minutes, immerse themselves in and discover that faithful scholars have been pretty blunt for a long time about many of the issues that CES Letter raises…but that NONE OF IT MANDATES THE CONCLUSION THAT THE CHURCH IS BUILT ON LIES. When I was a teenager, I picked up a copy of Richard Bushman’s _Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism_ from the shelf of a Barnes & Noble. Now, you can say “BUT I WAS TOLD NEVER TO READ ANYTHING THAT WASN’T PRODUCED BY THE CHURCH!” Guess what? Bushman WAS commissioned by Leonard Arrington and President Hunter to write that book. It was available at Deseret Book. Same with James Allen and Glen Leonard’s _The Story of the Latter-day Saints_, which was commissioned by Leonard Arrington acting under the admonition of Howard Hunter to produce an updated single-volume history to Joseph Fielding Smith’s _Essentials in Church History_. I’m sorry that you didn’t know this. YOU ARE RIGHT TO FEEL SHORT-CHANGED BY IGNORANT SEMINARY INSTRUCTORS who instilled fear in to you about reading anything about our history. It’s a shame that you didn’t walk into a Deseret Book Store and ask where the history section is, because you would have found these two books along with many, many others. It perpetually amazes me that people who say that they were warned not to read anything that was not official were often raised in homes that had volumes of Hugh Nibley on their shelves; or, even on the “official” side, the complete set of Journal of Discourses (what an education you would have gotten if you began reading those!). But, I guess I was just privileged to have a bookstore in my town that had a section on religion with a few books about Mormon history.

    Religion, by nature, asks us to believe in extraordinary things; and, just as we are asked to believe in the resurrection of Christ by faith rather than proof, we are asked to exercise faith on matters in more recent time. Using intellectual inquiry, neither you nor I will ever know for certain what happened at the First Vision, or if it happened at all; we will ever know for certain whether Joseph Smith really received gold plates or if he crafted a fraudulent prop; we will never know for certain if God really commanded him to take plural wives, or if it was purely driven by lust for young girls (like the 56 year-old Rhoda Richards). These are issues that are left as matters of belief, as they are supernatural claims…and THERE IS PLENTY OF EVIDENCE BOTH FOR AND AGAINST DIVINE ORIGIN. So, after countless debates, we are left with mysteries that we can only speculate upon, using the historical record both to support or critique these claims (sometimes both).

    While you cannot say that the church has refused to answer any of the questions, you can say that you disagree with their answers. That is your right. But just because you don’t agree with them, does not mean that the church has remained silent. And just because you never went looking for answers, doesn’t mean they weren’t ever there. I’m sorry they weren’t handed to you on a silver platter in 126 characters or less.

  57. “It’s funny how those who believe the least in the brethren demand the most of them.”

    I see that you were fishing around for a clever sounding aphorism. Unfortunately, you settled on a clever sounding truism that says nothing clever at all.

    Of course the serious believers hold the brethren to a lower standard than the skeptics. Duh.

  58. Brian, I am new to your blog and not a disciple of Jeremy or John. I think you would be more effective if you were less patronizing. You (evidently) think that you are smarter and better informed than those who are troubled by the church’s history. See, e.g., comments like “I’m sorry they weren’t handed to you on a silver platter in 126 characters or less” and “It is interesting to me that those who seem to have the least amount of problems with the history of the church are those historians who have spent a great deal of time researching and studying it.” For what it’s worth, I have plenty of education with respect to church history and generally, and I think that the appeal to intellectual authority is the weakest component of your argument. Smart and well-educated people can also be deluded, biased or simply so committed that they are incapable of personally grappling with the implications of historical evidence.

    Why wouldn’t a serious scholar of Mormon history who is also a believer be more compromised from the standpoint of bias than someone who is simply a believer? After all, such a scholar would have additional layers of professional and social responsibilities and expectations to navigate. The historian’s craft of exploiting nuance and reinterpretation to produce interesting academic work would be a particularly useful skill for someone with believer’s bias and a litany of bad facts, and a historian’s aversion for making conclusory statements about “usually second- and third-hand (or worse), accounts that exist only fragmentarily” (credit John Miles) would be a perfect way to avoid coming to uncomfortable conclusions about issues that are sensitive both personally and professionally.

  59. I appreciate your feedback, Jonathan. And forgive me for my imprudence. I would invite you to visit the website I am in the process of creating and seeing how I handle the historical discussion. I think it is important to understand that there is historical debate, but I also think it important for people to read widely.

    http://www.mormonismincontext.org

  60. “I see that you were fishing around for a clever sounding aphorism. Unfortunately, you settled on a clever sounding truism that says nothing clever at all.”

    I’ll take true truisms over empty cleverness any day.

    “Of course the serious believers hold the brethren to a lower standard than the skeptics. Duh.”

    Yes — to a lower *academic* standard, that is. Heck, I’d have no problem at all with the brethren being mere (say) fishermen or farmers or what-have-you.

  61. “Jack….are you referring to sincere questions, from life long members that have served missions and been faithful for the majority of their lives?

    No, I’m referring to critics — both in and out of the church — who believe they have the right to be offended when divinely inspired oracles don’t respond the way they (the critics) think they should.

    That said, I’m one of those folks you describe above. I’ve had my own questions — and I’ve done a lot of digging to find the answers. There’s a lot of fun in digging. I recommend it. It’s very therapeutic. And while you’re digging remember this old chestnut: “There are those who dig and those who carry loaded guns.” If we were told by the brethren every little thing we ought do and believe — well, that just takes the fun right out of digging.

  62. “Heck, I’d have no problem at all with the brethren being mere (say) fishermen or farmers or what-have-you.”

    That’s exactly what I think the brethren are: mere men. So when they presume to speak for God, I think to myself: “These men are no more than men. They have no special connection with God, and they know no more than I do.” And when they claim to have power from on high, I think: “These men are mere men, and they have no more divine power than I do.”

    Or am I interpreting your remark in the wrong way?

  63. The only person who should be disciplined is Jeremy’s Stake President for not attempting to honor a specific request by a member obviously in need. A whole year without the courtesy of a response? Ridiculous and poor, poor performance.

  64. R F Boedy, MD
    You clearly didn’t read the link given above in the comments that documents the fact that Jeremy Runnells had stated he had already left the church and was criticizing it’s leaders mockingly long before he ever wrote CES Letter, which he just cobbled together from a number anti-Mormon sources, asked his anti-Mormon friends to critique and add to it, and only then presented the tome to the CES director that his father, not he, had sought out to help Jeremy. The response was expected from someone who had already decided he didn’t believe in the Church (and his open ridicule of LDS leader’s talks was very telling of his attitude long before he wrote it).

    The stake president also made clear that he would correspond with Runnells in writing as a way to answer questions if done confidentially. Having the discussion in writing and making it confidential would have required that Runnells actually be sincerely interested in getting answers rather than trolling for material to make public and further criticze the Church for. Runnells declined, which was completely foreseeable given his previous actions.

    The point being, Runnells wasn’t interested in answers. He wanted material to further his CESletter agenda. That was clear to anyone watching his bitter response on the hidden camera he brought into the council meeting where he couldn’t get the stake president to engage in a debate with him. He continued to ridicule the Church and history and doctrines, so got the footage for the camera that he wanted and then, at the end of his 45 minute statement, slammed down his resignation on the table and exclaimed he was excommunicating the Church. Coming soon to a theatre near you, no doubt.

  65. Jack, Brian, and other “defenders of the truth”. There are far more life long faithful members, such as myself, that now are drifting away, after “digging” for answers, and praying for many years, than there are “critics in and out of the church”. Perhaps you know some in your own extended families. Some of you come across with a condescending judgement, as if we think we are “victims” and haven’t done enough home work. I must say, that is absolute nonsense, for the vast majority of thinking, feeling and deeply spiritual members.

    Go ahead and make your points, but don’t pretend you know or understand our efforts to strive for truth and to live an honest life. Extraordinary claims, require extraordinary evidence” (Christopher Hitchens). There are many believers of different faiths that “know” they are right. There are so many contented believers in all religions, that are dead set, and are not going to budge. Religious “truths” are not the same as secular or scientific truths…Jeffrey R. Holland, pointed that out in one general conference.

    If you add up all the problems and challenges to the truth claims of the church, besides just the History, you may begin to have an increased empathy and understanding to why people are leaving the church.

    You defenders of the church keep emphasizing History as the biggest concern of the good members, that the church is losing. History is a small part of the big picture. B.H.Roberts, who was an honest thinker and one the greatest Church Historians, approached the Apostles with serious questions, and he received no answers. Did he not do enough studying and “digging” into the information available? His wonderful books on the Book of Mormon, are now out of print, most likely, thanks to leaders that also didn’t like the direction Leonard J. Arrington, was taking church history….most likely because their version of the history and facts “were not so useful”.

    Please don’t come across as if the church is being so honest and transparent, when, for just one example, they still put out art, approved by the top leaders, showing Joseph Smith, translating the Book of Mormon, with one hand on the Gold Plates, and a quill pen in his other hand, writing down the translation, by candlelight. Half-truths, are alive and well.

    As a side note, this is the first time I have seen or participated in this blog. I will conclude, that it is true that all of our decisions in life cannot all be based on the so called facts and research, but should require intuition, strong feelings, personal inspiration, spiritual impressions, prayer, etc. As an example, how many good and strong believing people, that have gone through the Temple, have left that experience with a profound emptiness and disturbed feeling, that something was seriously wrong with the ritual. Many will suppress the feeling, and minimize going, to avoid the cognitive dissonance. That problem, has nothing to do with church history.

    Over the years in the church, I, like many, have had to suppress so many feelings besides the above experience. We suppress our feelings about how wrong the “Blacks and the Priesthood” ban was. We suppress our feelings about Polygamy. One other example: If you went on a mission as I did, in the early 70’s, we proudly showed a film called “Ancient America Speaks”, thinking that the church had discovered all this marvelous evidence for the
    Book of Mormon. I think you know why that film or similar films are no longer used by the church. And now, today, we are suppose to be excited about “sharing the gospel”, while we witness friends and family in the church be pulled apart, by these issues. Be honest, “brothers and sisters”….how do you really feel about having to tell younger brothers and sisters, and other relatives and friends, that they can’t attend your Temple Wedding, and years later tell the same people (if they are still alive) along with some of your younger children, that they can’t attend the wedding of their older brother of sister. Most members don’t even know, this doctrine came after Joseph Smith. According to Joseph Smith, (until it was later removed from the D&C) a wedding in the church, was to be a public celebration, with the ceremony having the bride and groom standing and facing each other, surrounded by friends and family. Not only did the wedding ceremony get changed, but the Word of Wisdom as well…”not a commandment or constraint, but a Word of Wisdom”. All these problems have nothing to do with history that is too hard to figure out.

    So please, stop putting all your argument eggs in the one basket of history.

  66. E. Thompson, you may be surprised to hear that I agree with many of your thoughts. History is not the only issue that people have with the church. In fact, I would venture to say that history isn’t event the main issue that most “disaffected” people have with the church. It is often used as further justification for their reasons for detaching themselves.

    While I do not assume for a second that history is the main issue, it is Jeremy’s main issue in the CES Letter…and that is what this post happens to be about. Jeremy has made his main arguments against the church historical, so that is what I am responding to. If he were to say that his main disagreements with the church were social/cultural/political, then the conversation would be entirely different. Believe me, I understand when people feel, as Patrick Mason put it, “squeezed out” because they don’t fit in with the church’s cultural and political ideologies.

  67. Brian, thank you for your response and appreciation for the “big picture” in regards to religion and reality. I”m not sure you’ve framed Jeremy’s concerns fairly. After listening to his story, on Mormon Stories, and questions in the CES letter, Jeremy, was referencing all of the issues…”the whole forest”, icluding questions/conflicts in regards to the science not matching up with the truth claims of the church. I don’t need to review all of those now, especially in regards to the Book of Mormon. I will simply say, the CES letter does address non-historical issues with the Book of Mormon, and Book of Abraham. The letter speaks to many of our concerns that are non-historical, such as the “literary grand theft”(the view of one past Mormon scholar) and plagiarism, from primarily the Bible as well as other possible sources. Even on my mission, back in the 70’s I began to question all the Bible sounding quotes from a people who existed long before the Bible did. Wasn’t the Seer Stone capable of having the real words of an ancient people appear, rather than Joseph’s homogenized interpretation of the words in the language he was so familiar with (King James Bible language)?

    I can’t judge what others feel about what seems like a reworking of the Bible stories, in a New World setting, but my impressions did not come from “anti-Mormon” literature. My impressions have come from reading the Book of Mormon. “A Bible, a Bible, we’ve got a Bible”….really? Those words are suppose to be a true translation from an ancient people that existed long before the creation of the Bible. I have already heard the spin of apologists, and I don’t buy it. It sound more like Joseph Smith, was already providing damage control to the coming forth of his story. Sort of a Back to the Future dynamic. How hard or profound is it for this “voice from the dust” speak about our times, when the “author and proprietor” is living in the very times he is writing about?

    It is difficult (for me) to express the feeling, when you think you have found an original verse in the Book of Mormon, that may have actually come from the mind of an early American, only later to find the same verse in the Bible….such as “I know that when you raise up a child in the way he should go, that later in life he will not depart from it”, or, the scripture that refers to the gospel, “as an Anchor to your soul”. These are two that meant a lot to me, but also became part of many other scriptures that can be included, in the borrowed inspiration. For me, the “corner-stone” of our religion has serious problems beyond historicity for Jeremy Runnells, and many good, honest, truth seeking people.

    All great man-made works, are created and inspired by the work of their predecessors, whether in science, literature, music, art, and religion. For example, the world just lost Prince. If you love music like me, you can see in his work, influences from James Brown, Michael Jackson and Jimi Hendrix. The genius, is inspired by the work of others, and builds from there. As Jeremy as stated and perhaps quoted from another, that the new creation, becomes a “remix”. There is no doubt, that Joseph Smith, was at minimum, a genius story teller, although Mark Twain, considered the Book of Mormon, “chloroform in print”. I have often wondered, if when growing up, Joseph would have been exposed more to than just religion and farming. What if there had been a musical parent, with a guitar or piano in his home? What if he had lived in Europe and been exposed to the art renaissance taking place there, or had some paints and brushes in his own home? He did have a King James Bible, and as his mother stated, that he knew more about the Bible, than any of the preachers of his time. Joseph wanted to escape the life of farming and was certainly courageous and had big plans for himself, as he declared at one time, “I shall be a Muhammad, unto this generation”!

    I conclude by expressing my own feelings as many others in regards to the church, with a B.B.King song title and lyric: “The Thrill is Gone”, as far as wanting to share our message with others. I will continue to embrace the good principles that I have learned from the church and the importance of a searching spirit to find good, as stated in the 13th Article of Faith. I will always show respect, “for the religion of my fathers”. So many are living for the “afterlife” and missing the point, that we supposedly “shouted for joy” to have Experience, rather than go through life with our noses stuck in the guide book (the scriptures, rehashing conference talks in meetings, etc.) It seems to me, that we have “guilded the lilly” of faith, and the basic simple principles of religion. May I suggest, that we all spend more time “Finding Joy in the Journey” (My favorite talk by Pres. Monson).

    Brian, thanks again for your efforts, and providing this discussion, which provides a valuable outlet that we certainly don’t have at church. Make the most of this wonderful life!

  68. “Extraordinary claims, require extraordinary evidence” (Christopher Hitchens).”

    This is the sort of extraordinary and fuzzy claim made by people who are not terribly verses in logic and constructing arguments.

  69. Allen, lets try a little bit more logic that you seem uncomfortable with, that aligns with Hitchen’s statement. Extraordinary sports teams require extraordinary athletes. Extraordinary orchestras have extraordinary musicians, extraordinary scientific discoveries have required extraordinary minds….hopefully you get the drift. Would you prefer extraordinary claims require just a leap of faith…the type of logic, that has created so many religions and even different sects, within the religions?

    You, most likely, know very little about Christopher Hitchens, who was one of the great thinkers, writers, and debaters, of our time, and one of the best at “constructing arguments”. Just yesterday, a prominent LDS figure, Glen Beck, was speaking about the “late” Hitchens, on his radio show. Beck was promoting a new book about Hitchens (an athiest), written by a Christian author. The book is titled, The Faith of Christopher Hitchens. You really should get to know people a little more, before you put them down.

  70. E Thompson, regarding your reply to me. I would contend that things like Biblical passages in the Book of Mormon are still historical issues, as they are questions about how Joseph Smith produced the Book of Mormon, and whether or not it is an ancient historical text that Joseph translated through spiritual means, or a 19th century text that Joseph crafted. I tried to be candid about the arguments both for and against its historicity among scholars who are critics of the Book of Mormon and scholars who are believers in the Book of Mormon on my website: https://mormonismincontext.org/2016/04/21/the-book-of-mormon/

    I think we need to acknowledge what both sides say (something sorely missing from CES Letter) and let people decide for themselves what the more compelling argument is. I fully recognize that, for many, the more compelling argument may not align with my own feelings on the matter.

  71. I find it deeply saddening that there are those whose faith has failed the test of time. I have grown up in the church, fallen away, came back but never had my faith waivered on the Book of Mormon. I read all of Jeremys claims and fibd absolutely nothing solud to base his opinions on. I see a lot of bad conjecture and many faithless attempts to discredit Joseph Smith, a man whom Jeremy knows nothing about nor yas ever dealt with.
    Speaking purely on the Book of Mormons validity, I can assure those of you questioning it, it will stand the test of time and folks like Runnels will wither away and be nothing more than a testimony of the faithless.

  72. “Go ahead and make your points, but don’t pretend you know or understand our efforts to strive for truth and to live an honest life.”

    Listen, friend, I’m only saying that you’re not going to get all the answers you’d like by appealing to the brethren. *They* don’t have all the answers. But they may offer general counsel that might be useful in helping us ask the *right* questions.

  73. “That’s exactly what I think the brethren are: mere men … They have no special connection with God, and they know no more than I do.”

    “Or am I interpreting your remark in the wrong way?”

    Yes, that would be the wrong way. When I say they might be merely fishermen or farmers I’m suggesting that they need not have a high degree of academic training to be the Lord’s anointed.

  74. Brian, thanks for your reply. You are quite right that we all see and feel things differently, not only in regards to religion, but in many aspects of life. Sometimes, we force the differences more than we need to, in the debate over history vs non-historical issues. Often the two subjects overlap and are connected, in view of the big picture or greater context.

    There are cases or arguments related to history, that could be enlightened and possibly ended much faster, if science was not dismissed, or twisted to avoid the truth of the matter. We can certainly learn a lot from history about this subject. Consider the scientists of past days, who were either excommunicated or put to death, for going against God’s “living oracles” or “the Lord’s anointed” of their times…because they proclaimed that the world was not flat, and that the universe did not revolve around the earth.
    We can learn from the humility, and courage of scientists and many “free-thinkers”, that welcome and celebrate new discoveries, that get closer to truths in nature and the universe, and in some cases correct false religious views. In many ways, the scientist apply the admonition of “ask, seek, and knock”, more than many rigid thinking souls immovable in their faith.

  75. In response to comment 76, by Jack.

    Jack, I agree with you, that the prophets and seers, “don’t have all the answers”. I know that this isn’t “news” to you, but most of the people that are leaving the church, are not doing so, because they didn’t get their questions answered from general authorities. Most of their answers have come from faithful study, critical thinking, and praying, and even internet searches beyond old conference talks and genealogy work.

    The only reference I made in regards to “asking the brethren for answers” was the comment about B.H.Roberts, the great Church Historian, going to the top leaders, in hopes of some clarification to his troubling questions, from years of research.

    As for myself, and many others, who are more independent thinkers and searchers, we tend to prefer “that the power is in us, when we are agents unto ourselves”.

    All the best to you.

  76. Brian,

    As the designer and copywriter of the graphic you’re attacking, I have a word to say concerning your blog post.

    I speak for myself and not for Jeremy or the CES Letter Foundation. But I believe in its mission and stand by the work that I’ve done.

    It interesting that you’ll apologize for making incorrect assumptions about Jeremy’s hearing while demonizing the method in which you learned of and formed your assumptions. Now that all of the communication has been released, it proves that the church was in the wrong.

    Could it be that even with all of your education and historical analyses, you’re stuck in a victim-blaming mindset? That “the gospel is perfect, but the people are not”? Are you stuck on “there must be something evil going on with Jeremy’s motives” or those who help him?

    Have you considered that, in all of your efforts of contextualizing history, you’ve lost the bigger picture? Have you considered that when people begin to doubt because they discover information, they worry that their life is about to collapse? Divorce, separation, wedges between the trust of family, all because it’s become apparent that the church has lied and has made obvious efforts to whitewash its history?

    This is just like JR Holland getting up in conference and saying, “look at what you’re doing to your mother!” when the fact is, you are the ones creating this problem, by promising things you don’t know anything about like eternal families which is ultimately a snake oil sales pitch, because either A) people already have that as a part of their religious belief outside of mormonism or B) it’s a non-issue because they’re not religious. So these promises and “dire consequences” of NOT following the program cause a lot of pain for families.

    So typical of apologists… when you’ve exhausted all other criticism, blame the attitude because the substance of the issue is impenetrable.

  77. Craig: “So typical of apologists… when you’ve exhausted all other criticism, blame the attitude because the substance of the issue is impenetrable.”

    That last statement made me chuckle. Insert “anti-Mormon” before “apologists” in your quote and you’ll get the humor of it (perhaps–being a victim all the time might make that hard; pretty sure I see a trend). At some point, the critics need to take responsibility for the narrative they surround the facts with, as the “facts” have never been the problem. You, alone, are responsible for it, which is where most anti-Mormon apologists miss the mark.

  78. I reject the term “Anti-Mormon.” It’s a flimsy attempt to poison the well. People think it’s ok to throw around because they feel some connection to Judaism, a borrowing of “anti-semite”?

    There is no racism against Mormons. To try and equate what Jews have gone through with Mormonism is really, really weird. Persecution is the not the same as exposure-and-dissemination-of historical facts.

    If Mormons collectively agree to refer to the Book of Mormon as “anti-catholic” then I’ll accept “anti-mormon.” That’s only fair, right?

    1 Nephi 13:5
    “And the angel said unto me: Behold the formation of a church which is most abominable above all other churches…”
    https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/1-ne/13?lang=eng

  79. #40 Allen, sorry for the late reply, I forgot about this conversation.

    I too am white, heterosexual, yadda yadda yadda. But you miss my point. I’m not saying all of those types stay in the church. I’m saying of the crowd that is fully aware of church history and problematic truth claims, pretty much the only ones still defending it fit that mold. There are very, very few exceptions. You might occasionally get a person of color or a homosexual who still defends the church, but it’s not the same as someone who “fits the mold” perfectly. You’ll notice that the less-privileged defenders of the faith spend a lot of time talking about the issues that most affect them, and that people like them are far more likely to leave the church (or at least become some brand of cafeteria Mormon). They don’t have the capacity to delve into the Book of Abraham because they’re too busy trying to figure out how to fit a square peg into a round hole.

  80. As a lapsed born-raised Mormon I’m fascinated by this sort of thing. I cannot for one single solitary moment, humor anybody’s beliefs. It’s false. The idea of an adult, returned missionary, BYU alumnus, having a faith crisis isn’t exactly me. Me, I knew at 14 years old or so, that I was surrounded by morons. And I don’t just mean the Mormons, I mean all of you. I don’t particularly admire anti-Mormons. I think Runnells has made a tough journey, though he will never reach the end of that journey if what he wants is for somebody to tell him something that is true.

  81. The fact that someone could complete an entire LDS mission and never encounter any of this “material” baffles me. Did Runnells never read any of the evangelical pamphlets?

    Perhaps those pamphlets aren’t out there in the numbers that they were in a pre-internet world or perhaps he didn’t have internet for some reason until recently.

    I would think most millenials encounter these (old) arguments in the same online world where they find the entire temple ceremony. They will have their doubts long before they reach missionary age.

    Here is what I learn from the story of Runnells:

    1) Doubting the literacy of the LDS church claims is normal confronted with any of this well crafted argument.
    2) CES directors historically have either feigned ignorance or lacked empathy with those seeking answers to questions raised from “anti-mormon literature.”
    3) Excommunication from the LDS church for these “high profile” individuals has nothing to do about their “questions.” My brothers and I have both grappled with the same questions since our teenage years. We have found different personal answers resulting in one of us remaining active and the others not. None of us have been excommunicated. The dissemination of this information in a proselytizing manner is where the problem lies. Most individuals are asked to stop long before their “court” and refuse to do so.
    4) If LDS parents hope to keep their children active in the church, they better be prepared to have real answers to these historical facts. Sadly, many probably have not invested the time needed and as stated earlier don’t have access to the scholarly material that is out there.
    5) While it could be argued that the LDS church works diligently to “protect” its members from this historical information, the truth is it no longer tries to squelch it. RL Bushman clearly details his angst anticipating church leadership reactions to RSR in his follow up book, and was suprised by the warm reaction it received.
    6) I don’t think we are going to get much more insight about what happened in the early days of an almost 200 year old church that originated in rural NY. I don’t think the CES directors have any more access to new research than we the common internet users have.
    7) I bet if Runnell really wanted the CES director’s thoughts on this collaborative effort of the entire anti-LDS community, he probably could have called him up and asked for an appointment to talk with him…

  82. #87 Jaque, your #7 is what’s baffling. Are you serious?

    You’ve apparently learned nothing about Jeremy’s story. Do you not believe people should do what they say they’re going to do? Especially after it became obvious that answers to these question would help a lot of people, including the person he promised to help, the CES director continues to sit in radio silence?? And you say it’s ultimately Jeremy’s fault because he didn’t just call him up??

    You must be joking.

  83. Of course people should do what they say. All we have is Runnell’s word that the guy never back in touch with him. I see a few possible scenarios:

    1) The “CES Director” realized that the “letter” was in fact the cumulative anti-mormom dialogues from the past several decades compiled in a compelling pdf. He realized that any written response would likely end up in the same place that the CES letter did… on the internet to be debated and picked apart in forums like this one. Not being an official representative of the church he decided not to answer in a written form. Who’s to say he never tried to setup a meeting in person?

    2. The guy completely forgot or never got to it. Have you ever tried to hire a contractor? If you really want the work done you expect to call the contractor several times and expect the first 2-3 are never going to follow through. You try another contractor until you get what you want.

    3. None of this interaction ever happened. If Joe Smith can lie, why is Jeremey not allowed to? Why not release the name of this CES director so we can ask him?

    I think the bottom line is Runnells had his mind set up well in advance of this letter being written.

    Most who remain active in the LDS church after truly digesting these powerful arguments, at first feel like the floor has been pulled out from under them, and then procede to seek answers. They can be found on a very personal level for some…