Jeremy T. Runnells
July 29, 2017
For a few years now, former Latter-day Saints have insisted that pro-Mormon literature isn’t worth reading. This attitude appears to be validated by on-going discoveries that the most influential pro-Mormon bloggers and apologists of recent years have been caught spreading blatant lies, misinformation, and half-truths about the real history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and about former members who have had the courage to leave and speak up about their faith transitions.
One of these pro-Mormon bloggers, Dustin Phelps (associated with Happiness-Seekers.com), wrote a blog post entitled Influential Anti-Mormon Caught Spreading Lies About LDS Church (which was renamed "Influential Anti-Mormon Caught Spreading Misinformation About LDS Church" a week later after public backlash) the other day doing just that: spreading blatant lies, misinformation, and half-truths about the real history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the real Joseph Smith, and about a so-called “anti-Mormon” that Dustin is too terrified to name.
Many believing Mormons use these types of blog posts as “gaslighting tools” in the hopes that it will keep their doubting friends and family members well inside the Mormon cage. It is a way for faithful Latter-day Saints to attempt to rescue their faith as they grasp at any reason to fend off doubt and stay.
Dustin’s fleeting success has a lot to do with the way he constructs his arguments.
He frames himself as a well-intentioned Latter-day Saint blogger who knows the real “truth” behind this mysteriously scary “anti-Mormon” who is causing all kinds of problems for the Lord’s “one and only true church.” Dustin admits that I started with a few innocent questions about the Church—questions that I genuinely wanted answers to. He even acknowledges my quote from President J. Reuben Clark, who said:
“If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.”
What Dustin doesn’t do is say my name. It is as if I am now the Mormon Voldemort. The “You-Know-Who” or “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” that Dustin doesn’t trust his Mormon readers enough to directly point them to my document. Instead, he decides to give his own personal “view from ten thousand feet up.”
My name is Jeremy Runnells. I am the author of the CES Letter, which Dustin is too scared to name in his ridiculously asinine and incredibly misleading blog post.
Dustin uses the seemingly innocent narrative that he’s looking out for his readers and has some inside dirt on me while attempting to persuade his limited readership to trust the information and opinion he provides about the CES Letter. Dustin wants to head his readers off at the pass and prevent them from investigating this on their own accord.
Dustin seeks to stifle others from using their free agency to develop their own thoughts and opinions. He shuts down his comments section on the page so that I and others cannot correct him of his lies and deception. He is not interested in providing his readers a balanced view while getting many unsuspecting Latter-day Saints to find him and his claims to be the voice of authority on this matter.
I want to personally thank Dustin for the huge spike in traffic I got to cesletter.com over the past two weeks since he hurled his hit-and-run piece out on the internet. I mentioned elsewhere that the greatest thing to ever happen to the CES Letter was FairMormon’s direct attack on it. Dustin is helping to carry on this wonderful tradition of taking CES Letter to the next level. I get emails every week from folks pointing to FairMormon and apologists like Dustin for the final and complete collapse of their Mormon testimonies. I know this is not what you intend, Dustin, but I’ve seen this happen over and over and over as desperate amateur apologists like you think they’ve got it figured out and they attempt to be the new Mormon Superman who comes in to sweep up and “save” the LDS Church and its members from the evil CES Letter.
You can try all you want to keep your readers from the CES Letter, Dustin, but the reality is that most of them are going to Google their way to it like they did the past few weeks. You tell folks about this mysterious letter and Voldemort-like character while implying that it is causing Mormonism to detract in influence and membership, you sure as hell can be assured they’re going to Google to find out the details. You think you are helping – and you might be for just a little while – but the LDS Church’s truth crisis is bigger than you and your pet theories and the cognitive dissonance in members is too heavy for you and your apologist buddies to ever lift or to help dissipate.
The internet and truth are blowing hard on the house of cards that the LDS Church built and it is tumbling down.
I normally don’t bother responding to individual claims by pro-Mormon bloggers—because for every claim you debunk, another will be invented or repackaged. History shows that amateur apologists are masters at changing the conversation or shifting the goal posts.
However, my mind was changed by a heart-felt letter from a fictional mother with a child sick from lack of nutrition because she spent his food money on tithing.
She helped me realize that by taking on some of the more popular pro-Mormon bloggers (which fail to summarize or address all the claims against the Church) and exposing several blatant lies, I could prove an important point:
If these supposedly honest and sincere Mormon bloggers and apologists have misled you about this, how do you know that they haven’t misled you about other things as well?
After all, the Mormon theology is very clear that believers should believe Amos 3:7 which states “Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.”
Given this, why do the prophets need bloggers and apologists in the first place? Don’t they have the captive ear of members for three hours every Sunday? Don’t they broadcast dozens of hours of new conference talks every year? It doesn’t appear that these bloggers and apologists have any real authority or power. They just offer their opinion and hope that they can muddy the waters enough to keep people in the pews.
It has also recently been shown that many of them receive secret payments from the church to write and promote these posts.
Dustin attempts to do what the Church and its leaders have refused to do. Dustin attempts to answer some of the CES Letter questions with his own teachings mingled with scripture.
Dustin provides a link to a page where he claims that he has “answered” all of my questions. He is not the first to claim this as he follows dozens of other aspiring amateur Mormon apologists over the years who have also made this claim. After reviewing Dustin’s list of links of “answers,” I recognized all of them as I am familiar with each one of them. They all have the same thing in common: They are FairMormon Repackaged®.
For those unfamiliar with FairMormon Repackaged®, FairMormon (an unofficial Mormon apologetic group that the LDS Church refuses to officially endorse) attacked me and the CES Letter in the summer of 2013 with a section of their website devoted to just the CES Letter and myself in hopes of destroying the CES Letter and keeping concerned Mormons in the Mormon cage. In response to the outrageous claims and ad hominem attacks against me, I created Debunking FairMormon’s Debunking in February 2014 in which I did a line-by-line debunking of each one of FairMormon’s claims and “answers” to the CES Letter. I’m talking close to 900-pages of refutations and debunking of FairMormon’s philosophies mingled with scripture and pet theories.
Debunking FairMormon’s Debunking is so devastating to FairMormon that they ended up shortly after my launch taking down their 9-months worth of work to create a new response that they hoped didn’t make them look as ridiculous. Unfortunately for them, I had the foresight to see that they would likely do this and I screenshot all of their pages ahead of time before FairMormon actually went ahead and deleted their stuff in response to my Debunking FairMormon’s Debunking.
I am not alone in the assessment that FairMormon’s brand is now tainted and ruined as other armchair Mormon apologists decided that FairMormon’s front door was effectively destroyed by my Debunking FairMormon’s Debunking and they decided to do their own rebranding of the same debunked nonsense. Notice that Dustin doesn’t even include FairMormon’s CES Letter section of their website in his cute little list. Rather, he includes those who are rebranding and regurgitating FairMormon’s stuff that I’ve already effectively debunked. In fact, several of the sources on his list are FairMormon people and affiliates hiding under different brand names.
Dustin is just doing what has been done on other internet Mormon worlds: repackaging and rebranding FairMormon apologetics that I have already debunked years ago while claiming that it is something new. It’s not new and it is not credible. Quite frankly, it is deceptive and dishonest of Dustin to mislead his readers into thinking that he has something new on me and the CES Letter and that he is presenting original work and new information when he in fact isn’t. The real truth of the matter is that his blog post is clickbait. It’s all in his title but at my expense.
Besides, who the hell is Dustin Phelps? I don’t see his name anywhere among the First Presidency or the Quorum of the Twelve on lds.org. It doesn’t look like he’s a “prophet, seer, and revelator.” Why should I care what this obscure unofficial aspiring amateur Mormon apologist blogger riding on my name and work for his own 15-minutes thinks? Dustin’s philosophies mingled with scripture are unofficial pet theories and claims that are not officially endorsed by the LDS Church and its “prophets, seers, and revelators.” Dustin’s musings are no different than that weird High Priest guy and his pet theories that everyone rolls their eyes to in Sunday School (every ward seems to have one).
The funny irony here? Many of Dustin’s philosophies mingled with scripture and pet theories contradict the LDS Church. Many also contradict other unofficial Mormon apologist pet theories and philosophies mingled with scripture.
This is my story. This is the catalyst for the origins of the CES Letter. I refused to accept the bizarre, unofficial, alien, and contradictory philosophies of men mingled with scripture taught by Internet Mormon apologists and bloggers like Dustin. I wanted “true messengers” and I was grateful for the opportunity to be asked by a CES Director for a list of my concerns and questions. Finally, I had a chance for official answers and explanations from the Church to the problems to its foundational truth claims. Finally, I could escape the bizarre, alien, and contradictory Gospel of the Mormon Apologists™ and return back into the arms of safety.
It is absolutely astounding to me still to this day how an honest search for truth in pursuit of restoring my testimony of the restored gospel has somehow turned me into this Voldemort “anti-Mormon” who is supposedly this leader of the movement. I’m told that I can’t leave the Church alone but the Church and its minions won’t leave me alone. Dustin, for all I know, could be a secret paid blogger for the Church. The reality is that I’m not “anti-Mormon.” I’m happily married to a Mormon, for Zeus' sake. I’m not anti-her or anti-anyone of my Mormon family and friends. I have no problem whatsoever with the Mormon people. These people are not LDS, Inc. and LDS, Inc. are not these people. If I’m “anti” anything, I’m anti-LDS-Inc.-hiding-and-obfuscating-its-truth-crisis-from-investigators-and-tithe-paying-members-who-deserve-to-know-all-of-the-disturbing-information. Whew…that was a mouthful. Also, I’m anti-Justin-Bieber.
So, let's get to it:
Below you will find a list of 6 outright deceptions and lies that Dustin Phelps makes about the CES Letter and me.
As you will see, a shred of truth can be used to misrepresent the whole truth.
And please consider sharing this article. Pro-Mormon blogger claims that misrepresent the LDS Church’s essay-verified facts have been popularized in recent years.
Note: Dustin has deleted and altered a few things on his blog post due to online backlash. Here's a screenshot of the original blog post. Here's a screenshot of his blog post at the time this rebuttal was published online.
What's hilarious is that even though Dustin thought he could escape criticism and counterpoints by simply disabling his comments section of his blog post, he ended getting a ton on social media. Unfortunately, Dustin doesn't like transparency and openness because there are many reports from folks complaining about Dustin Phelps and Happiness-Seekers.com deleting and censoring legitimate comments (no profanity or attacks) offering rebuttals to different claims made on Dustin's blog post.
The changes made to the Book of Mormon over the years have not been significant.
Dustin claims that the Book of Mormon read today is only slightly different from the original manuscript. He claims that any differences are not important. But if they are not important and are insignificant, why make the changes at all? He misdirects his reader into believing that most of the changes were punctuation marks or the addition of chapter headings.
This is a great example of Mormon apologists contradicting each other. FairMormon rejects the Philosophies of Dustin Phelps Mingled With Scripture™ on this one and agrees with my point:
It’s on FairMormon’s website. Here’s the link. Go read it. I’ll wait.
Isn’t it funny how Dustin didn’t include these little annoying facts in his “debunking” of the CES Letter and Jeremy Runnells?
No mention of how many changes there were from Dustin either (over 100,000).
Further, Dustin lies in claiming that they were insignificant when even FairMormon is more honest than Dustin in admitting that yes, some of the 100,000 changes are indeed significant.
So, who’s right, Dustin? Which unofficial Mormon apologist should we believe? Dustin Phelps or FairMormon? We can’t believe you both because you’re both making mutually exclusive claims.
Now you understand, Dear Reader, why I took the CES Director’s offer seriously after angst and frustration of dealing with contradictory unofficial Mormon apologists like FairMormon and guys like Dustin in my desperate search and attempt to restore my testimony after learning about the LDS Church’s truth crisis.
Polygamy is no big deal.
Polygamy is "faith promoting - not faith weakening" once you "get the whole picture".
Dustin offers a red-herring regarding polygamy. He claims that if you can establish that Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy was not driven by lust that any and all other possible claims that a non-believer wants to make in regard to Joseph’s polygamy/polyandry just magically disappears.
He claims to know that what “really bothers” people is that Joseph may have been driven by lust to marry teenagers and other living men’s wives. Yet, in his mind, virtuous Joseph was so pure and busy with all his duties (apparently of woodchopping and running an illegal bank) and child-making with Emma that he barely had time to have sex with only just a few of his child-brides and illicit unions.
Aside from the absurdity that “lust” is the only argument against Joseph’s polygamy, Dustin contradicts his own god who apparently orders Joseph to take these bonus wives in every sense of the word. If Joseph was commanded to raise up seed, then why not have sex with them?
Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, who was pressured into marrying Joseph Smith when she was only 14-years-old explains on page 7 of a pamphlet she published in 1884 titled Why we practice Plural Marriage:
“The principle was established by the Prophet Joseph Smith and all who have entered into it in righteousness, have done so for the purpose of raising a righteous seed.”
The LDS Church has no problem admitting that Joseph’s plural marriages included the “possibility of sexual relations” in its Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo essay.
The Joseph Smith Papers, part of the LDS Church, has no problem with Joseph Smith having sex with any and all of his plural wives:
In fact, the Joseph Smith Papers takes it further by stating that there is nothing in the revelation on plural marriage that provides any doctrinal reason for why any authorized plural marriage could not have included such relations. Contrary to Dustin’s unsubstantiated and unsupported pet theory, there is no divine or scriptural or doctrinal reason for Joseph to tame his sexual appetite or to restrain lust with his plural brides. They were his wives in the very sense of the word. The object of the game was to make babies. This was the fulcrum of Joseph’s “eternal progression” doctrine.
LDS polygamy scholar Todd Compton writes:
“… though it is possible that Joseph had some marriages in which there were no sexual relations, there is no explicit or convincing evidence for this (except, perhaps, in the cases of the older wives, judging from later Mormon polygamy). And in a significant number of marriages, there is evidence for sexual relations.”
- In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Kindle Locations 807-809)
Of course, when we put Joseph’s actions and behavior under the microscope and get into the realm of basic morality, human decency and dignity, what Joseph did was horrible.
Todd Compton again:
On the one hand, it was more than secular, monogamous marriage– it was the new and everlasting covenant, having eternal significance, a restoration from the prophetic, patriarchal milieu of Abraham which gave the participant infinite dominion in the next life. On the other hand, day-to-day practical polygamous living, for many women, was less than monogamous marriage– it was a social system that simply did not work in nineteenth-century America. Polygamous wives often experienced what was essentially acute neglect. Despite the husband’s sincere efforts, he could only give a specific wife a fraction of his time and means. Plural wife Annie Clark Tanner described herself as raising her ten children “alone.” When one of her boys caused trouble, her “frank admission” to a neighbor was: “Well I am alone.” The ambiguous nature of Mormon polygamy, for women, is summed up in a paragraph from Tanner’s moving autobiography: “As a girl I had been proud that my father and mother had obeyed the highest principle in the Church … I was aware now that my mother’s early married life must have been humiliating and joyless on many occasions because of her position as a second wife.”
- In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Kindle Locations 138-146)
“So, even though Joseph had very limited time for sexual relations...”
I'm gonna put this right here:
"It is impossible to accurately determine how often Joseph Smith spent time with his plural wives, either in conjugal visits or otherwise."
- Brian Hales on his website (same source Dustin uses)
Ouch. Getting debunked by your boy Brian Hales on the same source you're using for your own pet theory has got to hurt. I'm guessing, like the CES Letter, you skimmed briefly through Brian's site too, Dustin?
Besides, how does Dustin know how much time Joseph had or didn’t have for sex? Is there such a thing as a man who doesn't have time for sex? What time frame is Dustin talking about here?
Does this include the time that Joseph made for the “transaction” in the barn with Fanny Alger that enraged Emma and Oliver Cowdery?
Does this include the time that Joseph had sex with Emily Partridge, a foster daughter who was living in the Smith home at the time? An affair that infuriated Emma to kick her out of the house?
Does this include the time that Joseph carved out of his “busy schedule” to sleep with another living man’s wife which led her to believe that her daughter, Josephine, was Joseph’s daughter? A secret she finally revealed to Josephine on her deathbed? (Disclosure: recent DNA has concluded that Josephine was not Joseph Smith’s daughter, but the fact is that Sylvia Sessions believed she was because she had sex with Joseph Smith).
Does this include all of the documented plural marriages that included sexual relations, Dustin?
Dustin then ventures into truly embarrassing territory when he makes the forehead slapping claim that “in an era before birth control, there is no evidence that Joseph Smith ever fathered a child with a woman other than Emma.” In other words, without birth control, we should see children. We see no children (Dustin can’t honestly make this claim yet as we haven’t tested for all children) so therefore Joseph didn’t have sex because there was no birth control. Brilliant logic, right?
This claim speaks more of Dustin Phelp’s naiveté and ignorance of birth control and its accessibility in the 19th-century than it does in validating or excusing Joseph Smith in any way.
Dustin, I bet you never thought an “evil” “anti-Mormon” “liar” would teach you 19th-century birth control but hey, life is full of surprises:
“You hear often that Joseph had no polygamous offspring. The reason of this is very simple. Abortion was practiced on a large scale in Nauvoo. Dr. John C. Bennett, the evil genius of Joseph, brought this abomination into a scientific system. He showed to my husband and me the instruments with which he used to ‘operate for Joseph.’ There was a house in Nauvoo, ‘right across the flat,’ about a mile and a-half from the town, a kind of hospital. They sent the women there, when they showed signs of celestial consequences. Abortion was practiced regularly in this house.”
Source: Sarah Pratt quoted in Wyl, W[ilhem]. [pseud. for Wilhelm Ritter von Wymetal]. Mormon Portraits, or the Truth about Mormon Leaders from 1830 to 1886, Joseph Smith the Prophet, His Family and His Friends: A Study Based on Fact and Documents. Salt Lake City: Tribune Printing and Publishing Co., 1886, 59 (see also 128). (Italics in original.)
At a High Council Trial in 1842 Sarah Miller testified that she was visited by Chauncey Higbee and William Smith (Joseph Smith’s brother and LDS Apostle) for sexual favors and:
"… [Chauncey] continued to press his instructions & arguments until after dark, & until I was inclined to believe, for he called God to witness of the truth, & was so solemn and confident, I yielded to his temptations, having received the stronget assure from him that Joseph app[r]ovd it & would uphold me in it. He also told me that many others were following the same coure of conduct As I still had some doubts near the close of our interview I
- Sarah Miller (Testimonies in Nauvoo High Council cases, 1842 May, MS 24557, Church History Library).
What is interesting is that Apostle William Smith was never held accountable by his older brother Joseph for his participation in these activities. When portions of these proceedings were published by Joseph, they omitted William’s name from them. In some of the documents, William’s name is scratched out.
A Redditor, Aethereus, made the following insightful comment and observation:
The author [Dustin Phelps] was particularly self-contradictory on this issue. He claims to prove that Joseph didn't practice polygamy out of lust by citing the lack of birth control in Joseph's lifetime.
Sex + no birth control = babies. No babies, hence, no sex.
So many problems with this logic:
So, Joseph both did and did not have sex with his wives? Brilliant.
But if Joseph did have sex with these wives and Joseph was so fertile, then why didn't those encounters lead to the birth of children? The only possible answers are 1) Joseph wasn't as fertile as the author thinks, 2) Joseph's wives DID get pregnant but had access to birth control/abortion, and/or 3) Joseph was careful about when/how he had sex.
The fact is, Joseph had sex. The sources show it and the church acknowledges it. Ergo, the lack of babies proves absolutely nothing about WHY Joseph engaged in polygamy. Lust is still on the table.
Back to the DNA stuff. Contrary to Dustin’s desperate leap to perceived victory, the DNA research is still ongoing and it is still inconclusive. Yes, it has ruled out some children but not all of them. Further, there are some children that we just cannot test for various reasons (died in infancy, family line stopped, etc.).
Regardless, the sex is not the main issue here. What Dustin and polygamy defenders like him just do not get in their rabid zeal to shield their beloved Brother Joseph from blatant immorality and adultery is this: it’s a fidelity and honesty and character issue.
Joseph kept many of these marriages, women, girls, and other living men’s wives from the knowledge of Emma. He kept them in the dark and lied about them to Emma, the Saints, and the world for most of his adult life. (For many affidavits about these plural wives, see “Raiders of the Lost Archives: The JFS Affidavit Books,” by Jonathan Streeter).
In fact, just a few weeks before his death and after he married all of these women, girls, and other men's wives in the dark, Joseph had the audacity to make the following lie and denial:
“...What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one. I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers.”
– History of the Church, Vol. 6, Chapter 19, p. 411
In fact, Joseph was married/sealed to at least 22 other women and girls before finally being sealed to his first legal wife, Emma, on May 28, 1843. As mentioned above, Emma was not aware of most of these marriages beforehand. Why was “elect lady” Emma the 23rd wife to be sealed to Joseph?
Dustin makes the unsupported claim that “whatever intimate relations may have occurred – they were pretty close to non-existent” and then he naively uses as a source, the controversial fringe Mormon polygamy defender and apologist Brian Hales as citation. To give you an idea of how fringe and isolated Mormon apologist Brian Hales is within polygamy scholars – both LDS and non-LDS (See FairMormon’s own website):
I highly encourage you to read Brian Hales’ controversial theories and hypotheses that Dustin points to as his foundational framework for Joseph’s polygamy/polyandry. I can’t tell you how many people have told me that it was from reading Brian Hales’ apologetics and unbelievable claims that completely obliterated their testimonies. Here's Hales' website. I’m currently working on a debunking piece on Brian Hales that will be posted on cesletter.org.
Notice that Dustin doesn’t dare go near polyandry (women with multiple husbands) or into deeper detail of Joseph Smith’s polygamy on his blog post but then he touches it lightly in one of the citations (#17 and 18) with an unsupported claim and pet theory. I’m personally not surprised as polyandry is a nuclear bomb. Dustin stays high level with his stupid “no birth control + no kids = Joseph is a good man!” pet theory. Despite Dustin’s attempt to minimize or wave away polygamy, it’s a huge problem and stumbling block for a lot of members of the Church that is not only not going to go away but will worsen as more and more members learn just how truly bad it really is.
“Like that almost half of Joseph’s 'wives' were really just 'eternity only' dealings. Or that the evidence indicates that Joseph’s more controversial 'marriages' never involved intimate relations.”
Since Dustin won’t touch polygamy and polyandry in deeper detail while making the despicably false claim that “once you get the whole picture, polygamy will be faith promoting – not faith weakening,” I will go ahead and share some details and facts on why once you get the whole picture, polygamy is actually very faith-destroying.
It is obvious from Dustin’s claims and sources that he has an elementary understanding of the topic and has probably spent an hour or two one lazy Sunday afternoon visiting 3-4 pages of Mormon polygamy defender and apologist Brian Hales’ website. It is also obvious that Dustin’s polygamy worldview is latched onto the insane Philosophies of Brian Hales Mingled With Scripture™.
Joseph Smith was married to at least 34 women. At least 11 of them were married to other living men (polyandry).
Not a peep from our blogger Dustin about how polyandry is in direct violation to D&C 132:61, which very explicitly condemns polyandry as adultery:
–if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to spouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else.
Facing the serious problem and dilemma of Joseph Smith being an adulterer, the Church and apologists, including Dustin’s above claim, now attempt to justify these polyandrous marriages by theorizing that they probably didn’t include sexual relations and thus were “eternal” or “dynastic” sealings only. How is not having sex with a living man’s wife on earth only to take her away from him in the eternities to be one of your [Joseph Smith] 30+ wives any better or any less immoral? Some of these men were apostles and members of the Church. What right did Joseph have to snatch their wives away from them for the eternities?
In fact, Joseph himself wrote a First Presidency Message in 1842 condemning this (while he was hypocritically secretly marrying other living men’s wives in the dark at the same time) that said:
"And the same should be taught to all the Saints, and not suffer families to be broken up on any account whatever if it be possible to avoid it. Suffer no man to leave his wife because she is an unbeliever, nor any woman to leave her husband because he is an unbeliever. These things are an evil and must be forbidden by the authorities of the church, or they will come under condemnation… Behold this is a wicked generation, full of lyings, and deceit, and craftiness; and the children of the wicked are wiser than the children of light; that is, they are more crafty; and it seems that it has been the case in all ages of the world. And the man who leaves his wife and travels to a foreign nation, has his mind overpowered with darkness, and Satan deceives him and flatters him with the graces of the harlot, and before he is aware he is disgraced forever: and greater is the danger for the woman that leaves her husband, and there are several instances where women have left their husbands, and [pg. 2] come to this place,& in a few weeks, or months, they have found themselves new husbands, and they are living in adultery; and we are obliged to cut them off from the church. I presume There are men also that are quilty of the same crime, as we are credibly informed. We are knowing to their having taken wives here and are credibly informed that they have wives in England."
(See “Brian Hales’ Polygamy: Sylvia Lyons and the 1869 Utah Affidavits”, by Johnny Stephenson, online here)
During the summer of 1841, Joseph Smith tested Helen Mar Kimball’s father, Apostle Heber C. Kimball, by asking Heber to give his wife, Vilate – Helen’s mother – to Joseph:
“...shortly after Heber's return from England, he was introduced to the doctrine of plural marriage directly through a startling test—a sacrifice that shook his very being and challenged his faith to the ultimate. He had already sacrificed homes, possessions, friends, relatives, all worldly rewards, peace, and tranquility for the Restoration. Nothing was left to place on the altar save his life, his children, and his wife. Then came the Abrahamic test. Joseph demanded for himself what to Heber was the unthinkable, his Vilate. Totally crushed spiritually and emotionally, Heber touched neither food nor water for three days and three nights and continually sought confirmation and comfort from God. On the evening of the third day, some kind of assurance came, and Heber took Vilate to the upper room of Joseph's store on Water Street. The Prophet wept at this act of faith, devotion, and obedience. Joseph had never intended to take Vilate. It was all a test.”
– Heber C. Kimball: Mormon Patriarch and Pioneer, p.93
If Joseph’s polygamous/polyandrous marriages are innocuous “dynastic sealings” meant for the afterlife, as the Church and apologists like Dustin are now theorizing, and Joseph wanted to “dynastically link” himself to the Kimball family, why was Apostle Heber C. Kimball so troubled by Joseph’s command for his wife that he “touched neither food nor water for three days and three nights”?
Out of the 34 women that Joseph married, 7 of them were teenage girls as young as 14-years-old. Joseph was 37-years-old when he married 14-year-old Helen Mar Kimball, twenty-three years his junior. Even by 19th century standards, this is shocking.
Joseph took 14-year-old Helen Mar Kimball’s hand in marriage after his disturbing Abrahamic test on her father, Heber, while promising Helen and her family eternal salvation and exaltation if she accepted:
“Just previous to my father’s starting upon his last mission but one, to the Eastern States, he taught me the principle of Celestial marriage, and having a great desire to be connected with the Prophet Joseph, he offered me to him; this I afterwards learned from the Prophet’s own mouth. My father had but one Ewe lamb, but willingly laid her upon the alter: how cruel this seemed to the mother whose heartstrings were already stretched until they were ready to snap asunder, for he had taken Sarah Noon to wife and she thought she had made sufficient sacrifice, but the Lord required more. I will pass over the temptations which I had during the twenty four hours after my father introduced to me the principle and asked me if I would be sealed to Joseph, who came next morning and with my parents I heard him teach and explain the principle of Celestial marriage - after which he said to me, ‘If you will take this step, it will ensure your eternal salvation and exaltation and that of your father’s household and all of your kindred.’
"This promise was so great that I willingly gave myself to purchase so glorious a reward. None but God and angels could see my mother’s bleeding heart – when Joseph asked her if she was willing, she replied, ‘If Helen is willing, I have nothing more to say.’ She had witnessed the sufferings of others, who were older and who better understood the step they were taking, and to see her child, who had scarcely seen her fifteenth summer, following in the same thorny path, in her mind she saw the misery which was as sure to come as the sun was to rise and set; but it was all hidden from me.”
– Helen Mar Kimball Whitney 1881 Autobiography, A Woman’s View, BYU Religious Studies Center, 1997, p.482-487
Why all the agony and anguish if this was an innocuous “Dynastic Linking” and sealing for the afterlife? Why did it seem “cruel” to Vilate, “whose heartstrings were already stretched”?
Joseph was married to several girls included Joseph’s own foster daughters who lived and worked in the Smith home (Lawrence sisters, Partridge sisters, Lucy Walker).
When Joseph Smith married the Partridge sisters, Emma objected and wanted them removed from the house. Here is what Joseph did, according to Emily Partridge:
"When we went in, Joseph was there, his countenance was the perfect picture of despair. I cannot remember all that passed at that time, but she insisted that we should promise to break our covenants that we had made before God. Joseph asked her if we made the promises she required, if she would cease to trouble us, and not persist in our marrying some one else. She made the promise. Joseph came to us and shook hands with us and the understanding was that all was ended between us. I, for one, meant to keep the promise I was forced to make). Some might think that Emma was justified in the course she took. She might have been in some cases, but when the Lord commands, His word is not to be trifled with. … After our interview was over, we went down stairs. Joseph soon came into the room were I was. Said, “How do you feel, Emily?” My heart being still hard, I answered him rather short “that I expected that I felt like anybody would under the circumstances.” He said, “You know my hands are tied.” And he looked as if he would sink into the earth. I knew he spoke truly, and my heart was melted, all my hard feeling was gone in a moment (toward him), but I had no time to speak for he was gone. Emma was on his track, and came in as he went out. She said, “Emily, what did Joseph say to you?” I answered that he had asked me how I felt. She said, “You might as well tell me, for I am determined that a stop shall be put to these things and I want you to tell me what he says to you.” I replied, “I shall not tell you, he can say what he pleases to me, and I shall not report it to you. There has been mischief enough made by doing that. I am as sick of these things as you can be.” I said it in a tone that she knew I meant it. …Emma could not rest until she had gotten us out of the house, and then she was not satisfied, but wanted us to leave the city. She offered to give the money to pay our expenses if we would go. We consulted Joseph, and he said we might make a visit to some of our relatives who were living up the river two or three hundred miles. So we agreed to go, and she gave us ten dollars. Joseph said it was insufficient and for us not to go, so we gave it up and returned the money to Emma."
- (“What I Remember” by Emily Dow Partridge Smith Young, Salt Lake City, Utah, April 7, 1884, MS 5718, Church History Library).
So, Joseph married these two young girls in March, 1843, had sex with them, and then shook their hands and cast them off when it got inconvenient for him in the fall of that same year? Emily later testified that she had sex with Joseph. Emily then wrote:
"I got a place (or Joseph did for me) with a respectable family. The lady [Sylvia Lyon] was very kind to me in some things, and I suppose she meant to be in everything, and I felt very thankful to her, but the work was rather hard. I had to sleep in the same room with her and her husband [Windsor Lyon] in order to be where I could get up nights and tend her baby when it was worrisome. Some nights I would get up several times and have sat before the fire nodding for hours trying to get the baby [Josephine Lyon] to sleep. I made no complaints, but left when I thought I could stand it no longer."
I do not remember of seeing Joseph but once to speak to after I left the Mansion House and that was just before he started for Carthage. (ibid).
Joseph was at that same time married to Sylvia Lyon (Windsor Lyon's wife), yet Emily states that Sylvia was living with her husband Windsor and their baby Josephine, who Sylvia secretly thought was Joseph Smith’s child.
Among the women and girls that Joseph was married to was a mother-daughter set and three sister sets.
If some of these marriages were non-sexual “dynastic” “eternal” sealings only, as theorized by the Church and apologists, why would Joseph need to be sealed to a mother and daughter set? The mother would be sealed to the daughter and would become part of Joseph’s afterlife family through the sealing to her mother.
Further, Joseph died without being sealed to his children or to his parents. If a primary motive of these “sealings” was to be connected in the afterlife, as claimed by the Church and apologists, what does it say about Joseph’s priorities and motives to be sealed to a non-related and already married woman (Patty Sessions) and her 23-year-old already married daughter (Sylvia Sessions) than it was to be sealed to his own parents and to his own children?
The Abrahamic test on Heber C. Kimball for his wife (both Helen Mar Kimball’s parents). The pressure on 14-year-old Helen to marry a 37-year-old man under the pretense of salvation and exaltation for her and her family. The anguish and misery placed upon Helen’s mother, Vilate. The anguish placed on Heber C. Kimball. Telling women that an angel with a sword was threatening him with destruction unless they married him. Joseph marrying other men's wives. Joseph marrying mother-daughter sets. Joseph marrying sister sets. Joseph excommunicating and threatening the reputations of those who dared speak truth about Joseph’s secret polygamy (William Law, Oliver Cowdery, some of the women, etc.).
This is not Warren Jeffs territory, Dustin? You are living in the fantasy world of Brian Hales.
Besides, isn’t it crueler to take the childbearing capability away from a woman while she is only a 14-year-old girl? By marrying Joseph, her family somehow obtained the highest level of the Celestial kingdom and he avoided destruction from an angel with a sword but if she didn’t even get sex out of the union, what was the benefit to her? The church’s own essay says that marriage of girls this age was common. Was it common though, for a man to take multiple young women as wives? To coerce their parents into agreeing to the unions by holding their eternal salvation over their heads? So, how was it a kindness to her to deprive her of some other loving middle-aged man who would have actually had the decency to sleep with her and give her legitimate children?
By limiting the perceived problems with polygamy to one of “lust” only, Dustin creates his own false-dichotomy. Let’s cut right to the chase on this one. Polygamy does bother a lot of people and the numerous “official” explanations raise more questions than they answer. Lust is not the only problem we have with it, although it is a big one. Frankly, if Joseph Smith were alive today, he would be more at home in Warren Jeffs’ fundamentalist sect than he would be with the modern-day Brighamites and reformed polygamists. Anyone who claims otherwise has not spent enough time studying the early church or the FLDS groups.
The Church also admits on its own website that it repeatedly lied about the depth, breadth, purpose of and existence of polygamy for years. It lied to members and non-members alike. It lied about when it started, who was involved, when it stopped. Again, the Church admits that it has lied about this. Now, however, literally thank our lucky stars for blogger Dustin, he has managed to show up and finally blog the truth for us.
I’m glad Dustin has managed to find a way to be at "peace" with something that lacks a coherent and clear theological purpose. It is no surprise that his answer for polygamy seems to be cobbled together from bits and pieces he’s picked up from the Philosophies of Brian Hales Mingled With Scripture™. Is his testimony strong enough that if the current prophet wanted to marry his wife he would gladly comply? Would his current wife be a willing hand-maiden? Would she sit by quietly and accept her fate as a sister-wife if the Lord wanted to reward all Dustin’s inner-city non-profit work with the blessings of multiple simultaneous matrimony?
"Contrary to the author's assertion, the accounts do not
contradict each other - they enrich one another."
Notice that Dustin doesn’t go into the details. He stays high level as usual. Like polygamy/polyandry, it’s when you get into the details that Dustin’s claims and assertions fall apart.
Here’s the details and contradictions that Dustin fails to share with his readers:
In the only handwritten account by Joseph Smith, penned in 1832, but not publicly published until much later, describes the first vision in an unfamiliar way:
“...and while in the attitude of calling upon the Lord in the 16th year of my age a piller of fire light above the brightness of the sun at noon day come down from above and rested upon me and I was filled with the spirit of god and the Lord opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord and he spake unto me saying Joseph my son thy sins are forgiven thee. Go thy way walk in my statutes and keep my commandments behold I am the Lord of glory I was crucifyed for the world that all those who believe on my name may have Eternal life...”
Here's the blatant contradiction between the first vision accounts that Dustin doesn't share with you:
1832 handwritten account by Joseph Smith:
Official 1838 First Vision account:
So, the "accounts do not contradict each other - they enrich one another," Dustin? Right.
Here is a correction of Dustin's misleading and false Venn diagram:
Late appearance of first vision claims:
No one - including Joseph Smith’s family members and the Saints – had ever heard about the first vision from twelve to twenty-two years after it supposedly occurred. The first and earliest written account of the first vision in Joseph Smith’s journal was 12 years after the spring of 1820. There is absolutely no record of any claimed “first vision” prior to this 1832 account. Despite the emphasis placed on it now, the first vision does not appear to have been widely taught to members of the church until the 1840s, more than a decade after the church was founded, and 20 years after it occurred.
James B. Allen, former BYU Professor and Assistant Church Historian explains:
“There is little if any evidence, however, that by the early 1830’s Joseph Smith was telling the story in public. At least if he were telling it, no one seemed to consider it important enough to have recorded it at the time, and no one was criticizing him for it. Not even in his own history did Joseph Smith mention being criticized in this period for telling the story of the first vision...The fact that none of the available contemporary writings about Joseph Smith in the 1830’s, none of the publications of the Church in that decade, and no contemporary journal or correspondence yet discovered mentions the story of the first vision is convincing evidence that at best it received only limited circulation in those early days.”
Dustin next tries to spin a yarn, again without any power or authority of his own save a nice graphic, that all the contradicting versions of the First Vision shouldn’t matter. Well, the entire story of the First Vision didn’t matter at all to most of the early Saints because they didn’t even know about it. The Church, and Dustin, suffer from a problem not just because of the sheer number of conflicting first vision stories but also of their chronology. They claim that all these versions are just different takes on the same event given to different audiences for different purposes. Some have claimed it is much like how the gospels in the New Testament share different views of Christ’s life. Except the gospels have different views because they have different authors. The relevance to the many versions and the timeline of those versions is because at different times in church history, leaders have sought to hide relevant facts from investigators and members. Missionaries tell a white-washed version of events that is completely out of order.
Dustin claims it would be weird if Joseph gave the exact same account of, according to his theology, the most important event since the death of Christ. How strange it would seem to him, if this event was imprinted so deeply in his brain that he would actually remember if he saw just God or God and Jesus or God and some Angels or just Angels. How weird if he actually remembered why he prayed, why his prayer was answered and who showed up. Dustin absurdly claims that the nine different versions don’t contradict each other and then disproves his own point by offering an unsanctioned graphic that contains a fancy Venn diagram showing some overlap.
His diagram conveniently leaves out at least five of the versions readily available and admitted to by the Church. Yet, as is the nature of Venn diagrams, he shows 7 of the 11 key elements not matching in all versions. These are the elements Dustin chose to include and his own graphic clearly shows things like seeing lots of angels, learning that all existing churches are wrong and the literal presence of Satan. These are the kinds of details that shouldn’t be classified as “minor” yet even Dustin admits they are not shared by all versions.
In each of the versions included, the competing stories do not “enrich” each other as Dustin claims as most of the stories are still not even known by many faithful members. These oh-so enriching competing visions are also not shared with investigators. Any intelligent and reasonable person could go to the church’s own website and see that the official narrative does not match these documents. The church offers this level of transparency to the intellectual curious who go digging for it but it certainly does not promote the rich tapestry of competing visions for the very logical reason that Dustin seems to overlook. Having these many stories that do not back each other up in key details casts doubt on the entire narrative itself.
If having such a wealth of tales to draw upon was actually helpful in creating belief and faith, the Church would talk a lot more about it. It is only in response to those who point out these versions that we get this knee-jerk, smarmy intellectualism that it is all good and right and there is nothing to see here.
If all the versions of the first vision are so cohesive, why did church historian Joseph Fielding Smith intentionally remove the 1832 account (literally tear the page out of the journal) to lock it up in his safe for over 20 years until it was discovered and forced out of the safe in 1965? It’s now taped back into the journal – you can see the tear of the page on the Joseph Smith Papers website.
I wonder if Dustin would provide the same excuses, rationalizations, and mental gymnastics if the multiple conflicting accounts and contradictions were given by L. Ron Hubbard, Warren Jeffs, David Koresh, Marshall Applewhite, or any other leaders. It is always amazing how apologists will pretzel themselves up in desperate attempts to keep a fragile and disprovable belief system intact with duct tape.
Joseph Smith did not hold a Trinitarian view of Godhead
I respond to each one of Dustin’s claims and assertions below.
One of those minor adjustments has really excited anti-Mormons over the years. Why? Because if you remove the relevant context and place it in just the right light, it appears much more controversial than it really is.
So, here’s the change: There are four places where Joseph Smith added “Son of” to the 1837 edition of the Book of Mormon. These are places where Jesus Christ was initially referred to as “God” or “the Eternal Father” but were adjusted to read “Son of God” and “Son of the Eternal Father.”
The author claims that this is proof that Joseph Smith used to see Jesus and Heavenly Father as one personage. He claims that this change to the text was an attempt by Joseph to hide his “evolving” views. He further argues that Joseph’s other early teachings and revelations also reflect this Trinitarian view of the Godhead.
Alright. Let’s unpack this deception of Dustin’s.
First, it’s a strawman fallacy for Dustin to claim that “the author claims that this is proof that Joseph Smith used to see Jesus and Heavenly Father as one personage.” No. I’m saying that this is among a multitude of evidences that demonstrate that Joseph Smith had a view of God that was consistent with the Christian Trinitarian views that contradict the Mormon Godhead theology we have today.
Here’s the screenshot from the CES Letter that shows the list that Dustin is trying to sell us his “minor adjustment” pet theory on:
Take a good look at the above table. Notice that the ONLY changes that have been made between the two editions on these verses is that Joseph added in “the Son of”. These are not mistakes or “minor adjustments.” These are major doctrinal adjustments.
Also, they’re not taken out of context at all. In fact, they fit nicely with the other Book of Mormon verses that Joseph missed in his later clean up and which Dustin is ignoring here:
I further unpack this and go deeper into detail below in response to Dustin's other claims.
#1 The author argues that Joseph saw the Father and the Son as one personage until at least the mid 1830s. But that is demonstrably false:
In 1830, just a few months after the publication of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith received the revelation for the Book of Moses in which we read the following:
“And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.
But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.“
This revelation tells us that the Adversary asked to receive the role of the Son, but then Jesus stepped forward, presenting Himself as an alternative.
It is impossible to read that verse and continue to argue that Joseph’s early view of the Godhead is that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are the same person.
And it’s not just in the Book of Moses. Joseph’s other early teachings and revelations clearly indicate a distinction between the Father and the Son. For proof, click here.
Sigh. Another strawman fallacy from Dustin: “The author argues that Joseph saw the Father and the Son as one personage until at least the mid 1830s.”
No, Dustin. I don’t make the "until at least the mid-1830s" claim. There is nowhere in the CES Letter where I write or claim this. If you had actually read the CES Letter instead of all of the FairMormon Repackaged® links you point to, you wouldn’t have made this strawman. Please stop misrepresenting me and my letter with claims that I do not make. Dustin then goes on to attack an argument that I never even made.
I don’t know exactly when Joseph started changing his views on the nature of God. I don’t make any claims on when he made his changes. I just pointed out the inconsistencies of Joseph’s teachings of the nature of God and how his teachings have evolved from God vs. Gods and Godhead to the CES Director in hopes he could resolve this for me.
The Bible has conflicting statements about the Godhead – yet numerous Christian denominations and Christians see it as describing the trinity. This was especially true in the burned-over district of Joseph’s era.
Since Joseph was copying themes, phrases, and yes, errors from the King James Version Bible, it is no surprise that there are mixed themes in the Book of Mormon as well. The key is to see what changes Joseph made in the Book of Mormon as well as how his teachings outside that scripture evolved over time.
Joseph's evolution of the nature of God appears to have gone through the following sequence:
Trinitarian - Modalism - Polytheism
Joseph’s earliest teaching on God:
Now Zeezrom said: Is there more than one God? And he [Amulek] answered, No … Now Zeezrom saith again unto him: Is the Son of God the very Eternal Father? And Amulek said unto him: Yea, he is the very Eternal Father … Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God.
Joseph’s latest teachings on God (Plurality of Gods Sermon just weeks before his death):
"I will preach on the plurality of Gods. I have selected this text for that express purpose. I wish to declare I have always and in all congregations when I have preached on the subject of the Deity, it has been the plurality of Gods."
"If Abraham reasoned thus—If Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and John discovered that God the Father of Jesus Christ had a Father, you may suppose that He had a Father also. Where was there ever a son without a father? And where was there ever a father without first being a son? Whenever did a tree or anything spring into existence without a progenitor? And everything comes in this way. Paul says that which is earthly is in the likeness of that which is heavenly, Hence if Jesus had a Father, can we not believe that He had a Father also? I despise the idea of being scared to death at such a doctrine, for the Bible is full of it.
I want you to pay particular attention to what I am saying. Jesus said that the Father wrought precisely in the same way as His Father had done before Him. As the Father had done before. He laid down His life, and took it up the same as His Father had done before. He did as He was sent, to lay down His life and take it up again; and then was committed unto Him the keys, &c. I know it is good reasoning."
Additionally, the famous King Follet Sermon also teaches the plurality of Gods.
Since Dustin decided to bring up the Book of Moses in his attack on an claim that I do not even make, I'll bite.
Isn't it interesting how Dustin has to 1) Make a strawman and fake claim that I do not even make while 2) Going outside of the Book of Mormon to another book written after the Book of Mormon to support the claim that the Father and Son are separate personages in the Book of Mormon?
If this doesn't speak volumes to my point that the Book of Mormon is monotheistic/Trinitarian, I don't know what does.
So, the Book of Moses. Dustin points to the Book of Moses as support for separate personages of the Father and Son. He states that "In 1830, just a few months after the publication of the Book of Mormon" that Joseph had this revelation that stated the above scripture and story.
The official narrative states that the end date for the “translation” (dictation) of the Book of Mormon was June 1829. Joseph didn’t begin his “Inspired” Version of the Bible (which later became part of Book of Moses) until June 1830. So, it’s not just a “few months” as claimed by Dustin. It was a whole year. The “material in it was revealed between June 1830 and February 1831” so that’s a year and a half instead of “a few months”.
I want to thank Dustin for bringing the Book of Moses into the discussion here as it's an excellent illustration of Joseph's Monotheism/Trinitarianism (One God) to Plurality (Multiple Gods) evolution. Have a look at the following graphic which shows a side-by-side comparison between the Book of Moses (written earlier in Joseph's evolving theology of god) and the Book of Abraham (written later in Joseph's evolving theology of god).
Pretty fascinating, huh?
I think it's absolutely hilarious that Dustin is trying to discredit me with the Book of Moses (JST) when Joseph Smith himself discredited the Book of Moses by preaching about the first words of the Bible in the King Follet Discourse and presenting something totally different than the JST as the original words: Evaluating Joseph Smith's Hebrew Exegesis.
One of the most astounding things about the JST is that Joseph took a King James Version verse that seemed compatible to the Mormon concept of the Godhead and completely turned it around to make it Monotheistic. For example, Luke 10:22:
King James Version Luke 10:22:
All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.
JST Luke 10:22:
All things are delivered to me of my Father; and no man knoweth that the Son is the Father, and the Father is the Son, but him to whom the Son will reveal it.
In the questions and answers, at the end of each lecture (Lectures of Faith), we find clarification:
Q: What is the Father?
A: He is a personage of glory and of power. (5:2.)…
Q: What is the Son?
A: First, he is a personage of tabernacle. (5:2.)…
Q: Why was he called the Son?
A: Because of the flesh.
Q: Do the Father and the Son possess the same mind?
A: They do.
Q: What is this mind?
A: The Holy Spirit.
"#2 In terms of the Godhead, the Book of Mormon reads very similarly to the Bible which means that depending on which scripture you take out of context, you can support any number of views on the Godhead, including the LDS view. But, just like with the Bible, there are too many verses which indicate a distinction between God, the Father, and Jesus Christ, the Son, to honestly argue that the only way to read the Book of Mormon is from a point of view that holds the Father and the Son to be one and the same."
Maybe this is why you made the ad hominem attack on the “cartoon director” (which you later removed from your blog post). You wanted to “discredit” the “cartoon director” while ignoring his following quote and explaining why his quote is not accurate.
Boyd Kirkland made the following comment that talks about this:
Unlike the Bible, which has gone through numerous hands, translations, and meddling, the Book of Mormon came directly from the Mormon god through a rock in Joseph’s hat. It didn’t go through all of the crap that the Bible went through.
So, why does the Book of Mormon contain monotheist/Trinitarian verses and teachings, Dustin? Why is it adding to the confusion? Why isn’t the Book of Mormon clearing up questions about the Godhead which have raged in Christianity for centuries?
Why did you have to go outside of the Book of Mormon to another book - the Book of Moses – written after the Book of Mormon to show us an example that the Father and Son are separate personages in the Book of Mormon, Dustin?
“#3 In the very first chapter of the Book of Mormon—Lehi’s dream clearly distinguishes God, the Father, and Christ, the Son as separate personages.”
It does, Dustin?
How about we pull out 1 Nephi Chapter 1 to see what it actually says? Here’s the relevant verses:
By the way, I compared this to the 1830 Book of Mormon and they both match.
So…this shows God the Father, and Christ, the Son as separate personages…how?
“God sitting upon his throne.” Okay. Check.
“And it came to pass that he saw One descending out of the midst of heaven…and he also saw twelve other following him.” Okay. Check.
And...? That's it?
My question: how does this demonstrate that they’re separate personages? You know, God can get up from his throne, right? You do get that there’s nothing here stating that this happened all at once and all at the same time, right?
Also, if you want to try to plug in your current Mormon Godhead paradigm into this 1830 scripture verse and claim that God the Father couldn’t descend from his throne because he had a resurrected physical body…I hate to break the news to you:
The Lectures of Faith 1835:
Later on April 2, 1843, Joseph contradicts himself with D&C 130:22, which would eventually become the new foundational Mormon theology of the Godhead:
22. The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Spirit has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage
An integral part of the original Doctrine and Covenants was the Lectures of Faith. While these lectures were removed from canonized scripture in 1921 and no longer form the ‘Doctrine’ part of the D&C, the seven lectures were once deemed the very foundation of Church doctrine. Following them being taught in the School of the Prophets, they were actually supposed to be memorized, such as their doctrinal significance. Lecture Fifth in particular, became an embarrassment for the Church and although still available today, the lectures are seldom referred to and are now largely ignored and conveniently forgotten.
The reason the lectures were deleted is because they confirm that when written, Smith still believed God was a spirit without a body.
Why all of this contradiction and confusion about the nature of God and that God is a spirit - wait, no, God has a tangible body? Didn't Joseph supposedly see God the Father and Jesus Christ in the sacred grove in 1820? Separate and distinct beings with resurrected bodies? If so, we shouldn't see all of this contradictory and confusing mess about the nature of god.
So, Dustin, your claim that the “very first chapter of the Book of Mormon…distinguishes God, the Father, and Christ, the Son as separate personages” is misleading and false.
"#4 If the author had actually bothered to open the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon, he might have noticed that Alma and Amulek spend almost 30 verses explaining that the Zoramite view of a singular God is incorrect.
It’s actually one of the most masterful sermons in the Book of Mormon. They use stunning clarity to teach that Jesus is the Son of God and is distinct from the Father.
To launch the sermon, Alma quotes the prophet Zenos and then asks the Zoramites if they noticed that when Zenos was praying to God he said the following: 'And it is because of thy Son that thou hast been merciful unto me…'
That scripture clearly distinguishes the Father and the Son from one another. And it is that same scripture that Alma and Amulek use to passionately teach the Zoramites about it the true nature of the Godhead (Alma 33:11-23; 34:1-15)."
Now Zeezrom said: Is there more than one God? And he [Amulek] answered, No … Now Zeezrom saith again unto him: Is the Son of God the very Eternal Father? And Amulek said unto him: Yea, he is the very Eternal Father … Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God.
How come you didn’t mention this too, Dustin?
What Dustin doesn't get:
The KJV Bible also contains verses that can be interpreted as distinguishing the Father and Son as separate personages. Such as:
“And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
- Matthew 3:17
“And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will but as thou wilt.”
- Matthew 26:39
Yet Christian denominations and folks in Joseph’s era still held Monotheistic/Trinitarian views of God. There are still to this day Christian denominations and Christians holding a Trinitarian view of God.
It’s not surprising that the Book of Mormon adds to the Bible in creating confusion on the nature of God as Joseph - evident of the 1769 KJV edition errors in the Book of Mormon – copied from the KJV Bible many verses, elements, and themes. Unless you want to turn your god into an imbecile and claim that he instead was the one who gave Joseph Smith the 1769 KJV edition errors to put into the Book of Mormon?
“Still not convinced? How about 3 Nephi 11 where God introduces Christ by saying:
'This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him.'"
Right. I touched on this above.
This is also in the KJV Bible – you know, the same bible that Joseph copied the 1769 KJV edition errors into the Book of Mormon from:
“And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
- Matthew 3:17
Yet, despite this and stuff like Jesus praying to the Father in Gethsemane in the New Testament, Christian folks still held (and still do) a monotheistic/Trinitarian view of the Christian god.
The bottom line:
"Or, better yet, Mosiah 15:7 where the Book of Mormon introduces a striking delineation between the Father and the Son: 'Yea, he shall be led, crucified, and slain, the flesh becoming subject even unto death, the will of the Son being swallowed up in the will of the Father.'”
I love that you point to this verse, Dustin. This is another excellent example of how the Book of Mormon is Trinitarian.
Let's put this into context. How come you didn't give us the verses before Mosiah 15:7, Dustin? Let's have a look!
God himself...because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God...being the Father and the Son...The Father because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son...they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father...Son to the Father, being one God...
This is Trinitarian, bro.
“Those 4 little clarifications Joseph made were just that—clarifications. They certainly don’t equate a doctrinal transformation. Our doctrine of the Godhead was already there. Jesus was already referred to as the “Son of God” and the “Son of the Most High” all throughout the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon.”
No, Dustin, the current plurality Mormon concept of the Godhead is not present in the Book of Mormon as it did not develop until later after the printing of the Book of Mormon. These are not "little clarifications". They are major doctrinal shifts.
Dustin says: ""Jesus was already referred to as the “Son of God” and the “Son of the Most High” all throughout the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon."
Let's pull up the so-called "4 little clarifications" again:
There's two things that are special about these 3 spots missing "Son of" verses: they're next to "Mother of God" and "Eternal Father".
When you search the entire 1830 edition Book of Mormon for "Mother of", guess how many relevant results you get? (counting out all the mother of harlots, mother of abominations, mother of 2,000 warriors, etc.)? 2. You get 1 Nephi 11:18 like above and you get another Trinitarian verse:
And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of Heaven and Earth, the creator of all things, from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary.
- Mosiah 3:8 (page 160 in 1830 Book of Mormon)
When we look into "Eternal Father", we get 7 results. Out of 7, 4 of them are explicitly Trinitarian. The remaining 3 are "in the name of Christ" prayers (Sacrament and Moroni's Promise) and can still be interpreted as Trinitarian (they do not show Father and Son are separate personages).
The 4 of them are:
And the angel said unto me; Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the the Eternal Father!
- 1 Nephi 3 (p.25)
These last records...shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world
- 1 Nephi 3 (p.32)
And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth.
…teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, which is the very Eternal Father. Amen
The Book of Mormon has a Trinitarian view of God.
“The reason is perhaps because the author deceptively uses an 'LDS Scholar' to make the claim seem unquestionable. As it turns out, however, that 'LDS Scholar' is a cartoon movie director whose profession and education provide no academic expertise.”
Note: Dustin deleted this on 7.25.17
This is an ad hominem attack on Mr. Boyd Kirkland, who passed away in 2011. This is a common attack used by apologists against those who take a position that the apologists do not like. When you're on their team defending the LDS Church? No big deal what your qualifications are. But if you're critic? "You have no academic expertise." Mormon apologist Daniel Peterson did the same thing with Thomas S. Ferguson in attempting to diminish Ferguson's work and contributions because Mr. Ferguson had an awakening to the LDS Church's truth crisis later in his life.
What Dustin doesn't tell you about this "cartoon movie director" (who was a god, by the way, as he was behind X-Men: Evolution and Batman the Animated series!) is that he was educated on these issues.
Mr. Kirkland had his work and research published in Sunstone Magazine, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, and chapters of Line Upon Line: Essays on Mormon Doctrine.
I think we can both agree that there are extremely knowledgeable individuals in and out of Mormonism who are very educated on Mormon history but who haven't completed degrees in history or theology. To claim that only those with degrees can have a monopoly in the marketplace of and exchange of ideas or have credibility for their contributions on the subject is ridiculous.
Here's Mr. Kirkland's quote that I use in the CES Letter that Dustin ignores and doesn't discuss while attacking Mr. Kirkland personally:
After major backlash online, Dustin deleted his
comment from his blog post on July 25, 2017.
All those other books that are similar to the Book of Mormon don’t matter.
I respond to each one of Dustin's claims and assertions below.
The First Book of Napoleon
“There are many misleading parts of the author’s document, but this may be the most misleading of all.
Let’s start with the Book of Napoleon. You won’t believe this one.
The author of the anti-Mormon document we are discussing shows a couple of verses from the Book of Mormon and then compares them with a 'paragraph' from the Book of Napoleon. What he doesn’t tell the reader is that this 'paragraph'”' is actually a combination of words and phrases over the course of 25 pages.
How convenient. Using that approach, I might just be able to make the argument that the Book of Mormon was really plagiarized from the Quran. Or that it was retroactively plagiarized from some book written a decade after the Book of Mormon was first printed."
Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill (and it's not even a molehill!).
Here's a screenshot of exactly what Dustin is referring to in the CES Letter:
How can you possibly see a direct paragraph in this? Makes me wonder if you've even read the Book of Mormon as that's obviously not a Book of Mormon paragraph.
I think any reasonable and honest person will look at this and see that Dustin is desperate and grasping at straws here.
I'm sorry to disappoint you, Dustin, but there's no conspiracy here. There's no mustache twirling.
It is simply comparing selected phrases that the Book of Mormon is known for from the beginning portion of the book with the same order from the beginning portion of The First Book of Napoleon.
And it's pretty sobering.
I'm laughing at how flat your ridiculous buildup and "anticipation" has become: "There are many misleading parts of the author's document, but this may be the most misleading of all...you won't believe this one"
How is this misleading? Do you know what ellipses are and what purpose they serve? Do you see any quotation marks? If I was trying to deceive, I would've done a better job by inserting quotation marks at the beginning and end while somehow making these completely different phrases uh...flow together somehow to really make it look somewhat of a real paragraph.
And this is the "most misleading of all"? I take this as a compliment that the CES Letter is pretty airtight.
Between giving you a lesson on basic birth control and a lesson on basic English punctuation, I'm starting to really worry, man.
Notice that Dustin doesn't show how it's inaccurate or incorrect. He just distracts you with theatrics by creating a conspiracy that's just not there all while keeping your attention away from the actual claim that is being made.
As an act of good faith and to help those like Dustin who need a little extra help, I'm adding the bolded sentence in the upcoming updated version of the CES Letter:
The following is a side-by-side comparison of selected phrases the Book of Mormon is known for from the beginning portion of the Book of Mormon with the same order in the beginning portion of The First Book of Napoleon (note: these are not direct paragraphs):
"If you actually read through the Book of Napoleon, you will quickly realize how baseless the author’s claim is."
Dustin is so confident that the Book of Napoleon is "baseless" that he gives you the direct link to the book for you to read and to decide for yourself without relying on his opinion.
Wait, no link from Dustin...
Well, I want you to read it, Dear Reader, and to come to your own conclusion. Here's the link.
Read it. Start with the first chapter. Keep the above phrases in mind as you read. Decide for yourself on just how "baseless" it is.
Let's see what else you got, Dustin.
The Late War
"Next, The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain.
Let me first say that no one should be surprised to learn that books other than the BoM use KJV style English or other terminology associated with Joseph’s day. The English language is in a state of constant flux, so what style of English should the Lord have chosen? Which style would satisfy the critics?"
Let me get this straight, Dustin...your god had prophets write in "Reformed Egyptian" on plates that weren't used so that 19th-century Joseph could read off words from your god on a rock in his hat - word for word (and word by word) - 17th-century Jacobean English, including 1769 KJV edition errors?
Errors - significant and insignificant - that required over 100,000 changes/corrections to the Book of Mormon?
To think God would use and communicate in 17th-century English, simply because of a common English version of the Bible best known to Joseph (out of the many translations of ancient text) is just absurd. God's words were always spoken and written in the language of the day. In today's world, something like Young's Literal Translation gives a better rendering on what many scriptures were actually meant to convey than the KJV ever could in Joseph's generation. Hence, so many new translations to help modern people understand them more fully. Equally, given that Joseph chose this route, to then have the Mormon god not even understand Early Modern English well enough to correctly speak it (so Joseph and his scribes could write it down properly) makes the whole idea even less convincing.
Whilst it may have been a more impressive approach in Joseph's day, he did himself no favors for the future. Joseph's terrible attempts at the use of the language render his god an imbecile, as Joseph was completely ignorant of 17th-century language structure and usage. Had the Mormon god actually been speaking, and had he really for some bizarre reason chosen to speak in such an archaic fashion, he would at least have spoken it beautifully, not to mention correctly, so as to leave us breathless by its quality and content.
Instead, Joseph would have us believe that these are some of God's own words, via Joseph's rock in his hat, where the words actually appeared exactly this way. Joseph read them out loud so they could be written down. The dictation would not continue on unless it was written down correctly. These are then the Lord's own choice of words, which He dictated exactly, one at a time; they are not Joseph's choice of words:
And they were led by a man whose name was Coriantumr; and he was a descendant of Zarahemla; and he was a dissenter from among the Nephites; and he was a large and mighty man; therefore the king of the Lamanites, whose name was Tubaloth, who was the son of Ammoron. Now Tubaloth supposing that Coriantumr, he being a mighty man, could stand against the Nephites, insomuch with his strength, and also with his great wisdom, that by sending him forth, he should gain power over the Nephites; therefore he did stir them up to anger, and he did gather together his armies, and he did appoint Coriantumr to be their leader, and did cause that they should march down to the land of Zarahemla, to battle against the Nephites. And it came to pass that because of so much contention and so much difficulty in the government, that they had not kept sufficient guards in the land of Zarahemla; for they had supposed that the Lamanites durst not come into the heart of their lands to attack that great city Zarahemla.
- (1830 Book of Mormon, p. 408-409, which now comprises Helaman 1:15-18).
The Book of Mormon is full of examples of extremely bad wording such as this (which was picked completely at random) from the 1830 first edition. In case there is cause (when reading the above) to presume any errors in the above copying from the 1830 edition, please be assured that there are none. It really was that bad. In addition to the later addition of verse numbers, in an attempt to make sense of this passage, the current version includes quite a number of changes in the punctuation, five words have been removed and three word added to the original text (of the most correct book) as the Mormon god (or Joseph) didn't get it right the first time.
The point here is that this is how the Mormon god revealed the book to Joseph, word for word, and word by word, in his hat. This is how Joseph's god speaks (or at least makes words appear, on rocks, in hats).
"An article completely debunking the 'parallels' between the BoM and the Late War can be found here."
This requires a whole new webpage to give it the in-depth rebuttal and debunking that it needs. I'm talking with the Johnson brothers about doing a collaboration project.
Meanwhile, I highly encourage you to go to each website and study each side to decide for yourself if Dustin's "completely debunks" claim is accurate.
View of the Hebrews
"This book was written by Ethan Smith who was the pastor of a congregation which Oliver Cowdery attended for several years. An early Church critic, Woodbridge Riley, was perhaps the first to claim that the book’s similarities with the Book of Mormon had to be more than “mere coincidence.”
Church Historian and General Authority B.H. Roberts didn’t think it was a “mere coincidence.”
Joseph Smith biographer and Church critic, Fawn Brodie, said:
“It may never be proved that Joseph saw View of the Hebrews before writing the Book of Mormon but the striking parallelisms between the two books hardly leave a case for mere coincidence.”
- No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, p.47
Dustin, where is your source for your claim that Woodbridge Riley stated that the books’ similarities are “mere coincidence”? I've Googled extensively. I've searched all over Mr. Riley’s book, The Founder of Mormonism. I do not see it anywhere.
After your stunts, including the dishonest one below that you make a quote appear to be from B.H. Roberts in 1933, maybe you can appreciate my deep distrust and skepticism of you and your claims.
With no sources or evidence, I’m forced to dismiss Dustin’s above quote and attribution to Woodbridge Riley.
"The anti-Mormon document we are discussing lists 36 parallels between Ethan Smith’s book and the Book of Mormon. Almost all of them are silly or completely disingenuous. When you actually go and read the View of the Hebrews, you realize what a stretch the author is making. I discuss this in more detail, here.
There is really only one parallel that initially seems striking—if you remove all of the necessary context (read more about that, here)."
It is obvious that Dustin is not educated on this topic because the 36 parallels do not come from a so-called “anti-Mormon document” but rather from Elder B.H. Roberts himself. It is not my work. It’s Elder B.H. Roberts’ work.
Dustin thinks “almost all of” Elder Roberts’ parallels “are silly or completely disingenuous” but Elder B.H. Roberts sure didn’t. Here’s the list of Elder Roberts’ “silly” and “disingenuous” 36 View of the Hebrews parallels (which Dustin doesn’t refute with evidence):
Dustin makes the claim: “When you actually go and read the View of the Hebrews, you realize what a stretch the author is making.”
Exactly what “stretch” am I making here, Dustin? See below in the next red box for exactly what I wrote on this in the CES Letter and why your “stretch” claim is nonsense.
Here…let me type this out in big letters for Dustin:
The 36 View of the Hebrews Parallels are not Jeremy’s parallels. They are Elder B.H. Roberts’ parallels.
Since blogger Dustin doesn’t give his readers a direct link to the View of the Hebrews to read and decide for themselves on why Elder B.H. Roberts struggled with the book and the 36 parallels he discovered, I will go ahead and provide a direct link: View of the Hebrews.
Go read it and decide for yourself.
Blogger Dustin then posts two links offering “evidence” on why Elder B.H. Roberts’ parallels (which he mistakenly thinks are my parallels) are “silly” and “disingenuous”.
Link #1: "Stretched Parallels". Dustin says:
The CES Letter includes an enormous list of 36 “parallels” between the View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon. Most of the items on the list are silly, to say the least. Some examples are: “pride is denounced” and “religion is a motivating factor” and “the destruction of Jerusalem.” …Things that you would expect to be found in many religious texts, particularly ones that discuss the Jews and their history.
Even some of the parallels that seem a bit more shocking turn out to be disingenuous. For example, he tries to make it seem as though Ethan’s book has a story that is strikingly similar to Samuel the Lamanite. When you go and read the story in the book, you find out what a stretch that claim is.
Click here, to read the parallel in View of the Hebrews that the author compares with Samuel the Lamanite.
Dustin…you do realize that these 36 View of the Hebrews parallels are not mine, right? They’re Elder B.H. Roberts’ 36 parallels. All you are doing here is attacking Elder B.H. Roberts’ work as "silly" and "disingenuous".
The link you posted on this page is to page 20 of the View of the Hebrews. Funny enough, this is the exact same link and page that I have on the 36 Parallels table in the CES Letter for my readers to read for themselves. Did you grab that link from my CES Letter to put in your little blog page to “debunk” the CES Letter, Dustin? That's cute.
Link #2: Dustin links to Philosophies of FairMormon Mingled With Scriptures™ website here.
This page and its claims are stupid. Here’s exactly why:
FairMormon makes the following claim on this page that Dustin links to for "support":
“Many of the criticisms proposed are based upon B.H. Roberts’ list of parallels, which only had validity if one applied a hemispheric geography model to the Book of Mormon.”
Did you get that? Read it again slowly.
In other words, B.H. Roberts’ parallels are correct and valid and troubling…UNLESS you act quickly today and pick up your phone to subscribe to FairMormon’s “Limited Geography” pet theory while rejecting Joseph Smith’s and the LDS Church’s Hemispheric Model (aka Heartland). You know, the Hemispheric model that has been taught to members for over 185 years? The model that the Hill Cumorah visitor center and pageants in Palmyra, New York every year is based on?
FairMormon wants you to jump ship to their special pet theory bandwagon known as “Limited Geography”. Buckle up, boys and girls, because you’re going on a very bumpy adventure into the World of Conflicting Mormon Apologetics™.
There’s two type of Mormon apologists on this topic: There’s the Heartlanders (North America only) and there’s the Limited Geographers (Mesoamerica).
The Limited Geographers believe that the Book of Mormon events and setting took place south of the border in Mesoamerica (Central Mexico to Belize to Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and northern Costa Rica). People and groups in this camp include John Sorenson, Daniel C. Peterson, and FairMormon.
With me so far? Okay, great. Now, you’re going to love this about the Limited Geographers: They love doubles. In-N-Out? Double cheeseburger. Cold Stone? A cone for each hand. Only one Hill Cumorah? Nope. Two Hill Cumorahs! One in Central America and one in Palmyra, New York.
Here’s a quick read and rundown of the war between the two camps: Critique of a Limited Geography for Book of Mormon Events.
My response to Daniel C. Peterson’s Limited Geography claim and attacks on CES Letter can be found here.
Anyway, back to the main point and summary:
Dustin says Elder B.H. Roberts’ 36 View of the Hebrews parallels are crap. Dustin points to Limited Geographers FairMormon for his “debunking” of Elder B.H. Roberts’ 36 View of the Hebrews parallels.
Limited Geographers FairMormon says what? “Yeah, the parallels are valid and problematic for us unless you change the Book of Mormon setting to our fringe and unsupported pet theory idea that it took place in Mesoamerica instead.”
This is what Dustin means when he wrote, "There is really only one parallel that initially seems striking—if you remove all of the necessary context." The "context" = changing the Book of Mormon setting to the the discredited and unsupported "Limited Geography" pet theory being peddled by FairMormon.
Dustin hasn’t answered anything. Dustin hasn’t debunked anything. All he has offered are his unsupported personal opinions and philosophies while leaning on unsupported fringe Limited Geographers FairMormon for support of his unsupported claims and attacks of Elder B.H. Roberts’ 36 View of the Hebrews parallels.
"But once again, to bolster his claim, the author tries to create a false feeling of support from LDS sources.
He repeatedly implies that a former General Authority and Church Historian, BH Roberts, agrees with his theory and even quotes him to that effect."
What are you talking about, Dustin?
Read the following words very slowly and very carefully:
Everything that I state in the CES Letter on this is Elder B.H. Roberts’ own work and words. I do not add any opinions or claims on top of the facts coming from Elder Roberts himself.
The 36 View of the Hebrews parallels? Elder B.H. Roberts' work.
The quote? From Elder B.H. Roberts.
I don't "imply" anything. The only "implying" and "false feeling" going on here is in Dustin's own mind. Dustin knows that I make no claim about B.H. Roberts "agreeing" to anything, let alone some imaginary "theory" he claims I'm pushing, so Dustin has to invent strawmen and completely make up stuff like that I'm "implying". It's ridiculous.
The following is exactly what I've put in the CES Letter on B.H. Roberts, Ethan Smith, and View of the Hebrews:
There was a book published in 1825 Vermont entitled View of the Hebrews. View of the Hebrews compared to the Book of Mormon:
Reverend Ethan Smith was the author of View of the Hebrews. Ethan Smith was a pastor in Poultney, Vermont when he wrote and published the book. Oliver Cowdery – also a Poultney, Vermont resident – was a member of Ethan’s congregation during this time and before he went to New York to join his cousin (third cousins) Joseph Smith. As you know, Oliver Cowdery played an instrumental role in bringing forth the Book of Mormon.
LDS General Authority and scholar Elder B.H. Roberts privately researched the link between the Book of Mormon, the View of the Hebrews, Joseph’s father having the same dream in 1811 as Lehi’s dream, etc. that were available to Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris and others before the publication of the Book of Mormon. Elder Roberts’ private research was meant only for the eyes of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve and was never intended to be 15 available to the public. Roberts’ work was later published in 1985 as Studies of the Book of Mormon. At the conclusion of his research, Elder B.H. Roberts came to the following conclusion:
So, exactly what I am "stretching" and "implying" in the above screenshot from the CES Letter, Dustin? Exactly what is not factually correct with the above?
Again, this is all Elder B. H. Roberts' stuff!
"The problem? The author is drawing from a series of unfinished essays, wherein BH Roberts is not making his own arguments—he is summarizing unfounded anti-Mormon claims (which had already been made or might be made in the future) which he thought the Church may want to consider answering."
What B.H. Roberts actually said about the essays is this:
“Let me say once and for all, so as to avoid what might otherwise call for repeated explanation, that what is herein set forth does not represent any conclusions of mine.“
No, Dustin. The real problem here is that you are wrong and you are spreading misinformation with your ignorance on this topic.
It is clearly obvious that you have not read Studies of the Book of Mormon and that you are regurgitating FairMormon and FairMormon Repackaged®. If you had actually read Studies of the Book of Mormon and you had a copy of it in your hands, like I do right now, you would not have made such an incredibly deceptive and easily debunkable claim like you just did.
My experience with apologists on this topic is that they’re betting on the fact that the majority of folks out there do not have their own copies of Studies of the Book of Mormon and/or they’re betting that most people aren’t going to do the research like I’ve done and/or they’re betting that those who know the apologist’s deception – like I do – won’t bother taking the time to write it out and put it on a website like I’m doing right now.
There is a reason why apologists hate me so much, people.
Here are the facts:
Timeline matters here. Context matters here. I’m going to give both to my readers so that they can see exactly what Dustin did.
Studies of the Book of Mormon presents 3 essays written by Elder B.H. Roberts.
Essay #1: Book of Mormon Difficulties: A Study (January 1922)
The first essay is "Book of Mormon Difficulties: A Study”. It was originally 141 typed pages. It was presented to the General Authorities of the LDS Church on January 4, 5, and 26, 1922.
This essay was initially written in response to an assignment given to B.H. Roberts by Elder Talmage in 1921. In this paper, B.H. Roberts points out the difficulties he ran into as he was responding to five questions asked about the Book of Mormon by a Mr. Couch from Washington, D.C.
Essay #2: A Book of Mormon Study (May 1922)
“A Book of Mormon Study” is the second essay. It’s divided into two parts. Part I was originally 170 typed pages; Part II was 114 typed pages. The decision by Roberts not to present this additional material to the General Authorities of the Church is acknowledged in Roberts’ October 24, 1927 letter to Apostle Richard R. Lyman (you can read this letter down below); according to the Lloyd journal he later sent to President Heber J. Grant.
Essay #3: A Parallel (October 24, 1927)
The final essay presented in Studies of the Book of Mormon is “A Parallel,” which was originally 18 typed pages. It presents similarities between the View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon and is arranged in parallel columns. It was presented to Apostle Richard R. Lyman as recorded in the Lyman letter of October 24, 1927. “A Parallel” circulated in the Mormon underground during the late 1920s and through the early 1940s.
Source: Studies of Book of Mormon, “The Documents”, p.3 (New Mormon Studies CD-ROM)
A quote from Studies of Book of Mormon that provides further context:
B.H. Roberts was not satisfied with his brief answers to the five questions propounded by Mr. Couch; he prepared a much more detailed analysis of the Book of Mormon, of 141 typed pages, [Essay #1: Book of Mormon Difficulties: A Study] which he submitted to President Heber J. Grant and Counsellors, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and his own Council of Seventy in January 1922. This examination, compiled in the rather short period of about three months, from October 1921 to January 1922, raised so many questions for Roberts that he decided to seek help from Heber J. Grant, the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator of the Church, and from his brethren in the presiding councils. As the correspondence indicates, Roberts was not satisfied with what he conceived to be a rather superficial reaction to his report during the first two days of meetings with the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles, although some of his colleagues were evidently quite shaken by his disclosures. When a third meeting with President Grant plus some evening sessions with a select few of the apostles were also unsatisfactory, Roberts then embarked upon a rather prolonged study and a new approach to a possible explanation of the origin of the Book of Mormon, comparing it with Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews.
Okay, still with me so far? So, we have three different essays and works of Elder B.H. Roberts written at different time periods. This foundation is important and matters.
Here is Dustin’s B.H. Roberts quote:
“Let me say once and for all, so as to avoid what might otherwise call for repeated explanation, that what is herein set forth does not represent any conclusions of mine.”
And here is my B.H. Roberts quote that I use in the CES Letter that Dustin claims is deceptive:
Dustin’s quote comes from a March 15, 1923 letter to Apostle Heber J. Grant. It’s a letter following up to the meeting that B.H. Roberts had with the Brethren in January 1922. In the letter, Elder Roberts refers to his Essay #1: Book of Mormon Difficulties: A Study (January 1922), which he presented in his meeting with the Brethren. It is this essay (Essay #1) that B.H. Roberts refers to when he wrote, “…what is herein set forth does not represent any conclusions of mine.” (Source: Studies of the Book of Mormon, p. 61 – New Mormon Studies CD-ROM)
Now, my quote has nothing to do whatsoever with Dustin’s quote. They are dated 4.5 years apart. They each refer to completely different essays. It is incredibly deceptive of Dustin to try to tie these two unrelated things together in an attempt to diminish or destroy B.H. Roberts' damning quote.
My quote is taken from the Essay #3: A Parallel (October 24, 1927). It comes after a lot more (4 years!) research had been done comparing the two books (View of the Hebrews and Book of Mormon).
The timeline is as follows:
Dustin’s quote is from between #3 and #5 in the above timeline. It’s after Essay #2 but it’s before Essay #3, which my quote comes out of. The time difference between Essay #2 and Essay #3 (Parallels) is around 4 years.
On October 24, 1927, Elder Roberts wrote a fascinating and very insightful letter to Apostle Richard R. Lyman. I’m including it below because its relevance.
B. H. Roberts Letter to Richard R. Lyman
October 24, 1927
Dear Brother Lyman:
You perhaps will recall our conversation of a few days ago in relation to the inquiry we had before the Council of the Twelve Apostles on some problems associated with the Book of Mormon, just previous to my commencing my mission in the Eastern States,1(141) and how I reminded you that on the former occassion here alluded to I announced that what I had presented did not constitute all our B. of M. problems, that there were others. You then asked, "Well, will these help solve our present problems or will it increase our difficulties?" to which I replied, "It would very greatly increase our problems." At which you said (and I thought rather lightly) "Well, I don't see why we should bother with them then." To this I answered that I should go on with my studies nevertheless. And the other day I told you, if you remember, that I had continued my investigations and had drawn up a somewhat lengthy report for the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve. Then came my call to the Eastern States and the matter was dropped, but my report was drawn up nevertheless together with a letter that I had intended should accompany it, but in the hurry of getting away and the impossibility at that time of having my report considered, I dropped the matter, and have not yet decided whether I shall present that report to the First Presidency or not. But since I mentioned this matter to you the other day, and also because you took considerable interest on the former occasion of more than five years ago and wrote letter to Professor Chamberlain and Dr. Middleton and others about the subject, I thought I would submit in sort of tabloid form a few pages of matter pointing out a possible theory of the Origin of the Book of Mormon that is quite unique and never seems to have occurred to anyone to employ, largely on account of the obscurity of the material on which it might be based, but which in the hands of a skillful opponent could be made, in my judgment, very embarrassing.
I submit it in the form of a Parallel between some main outline facts pertaining to the Book of Mormon and matter that was published in Ethan Smith's "View of the Hebrews" which preceded the Book of Mormon, the first edition by eight years, and the second edition by five years, 1823-5 respectively.2(142) It was published in Vermont and in the adjoining county in which the Smith Family lived in the Prophet Joseph's boyhood days, so that it could be urged that the family doubtless had this book in their possession, as the book in two editions flooded the New England States and New York.
In addition to this publication of such matter Josiah Priest published at Rochester, N.Y., twenty miles from Palmyra his first work on American Antiquities, under the title of "The Wonders of Nature and Providence."3(143) This in 1824, six years before the publication of the Book of Mormon and within twenty miles of Palmyra. And in this book Mr. Priest quotes very copiously from the "View of the Hebrews" and quite extensively from Humboldt's "New Spain" which was published in translation into English, and largely circulated throughout the United States in 1811.
Necessarily the matter presented is rather large in volume, but I hope its interest will excuse its length, will ask you to consider it from this view point. Suppose it to be submitted to you as a question in this form:
"The Origin of the Book of Mormon:—Did Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews, published eight and five years before Joseph Smith's Book of Mormon, Supply the Structural Outline and some of the Subject Matter of the Alleged Nephite Record?"
Such a question as that may possibly arise some day, and if it does, it would be greatly to the advantage of our future Defenders of the Faith, if they had in hand a thorough digest of the subject matter. I submit it to you and if you are sufficiently interested you may submit it to others of your Council. Let me say also, that the Parallel that I send to you is not one fourth part of what can be presented in this form, and the unpresented part is quite as striking as this that I submit.4(144)
Very truly yours,
"Devil's Advocate" Claim:
Dustin says: “…essays, wherein BH Roberts is not making his own arguments – he is summarizing unfounded anti-Mormon claims…which he thought the Church may want to consider answering.”
This is an apologetic pet theory that was first proposed by author Truman G. Madsen, who wrote a 1980 biography of B.H. Roberts entitled Defender of the Faith. From the Studies of the Book of Mormon:
“Madsen argued in a paper published in 1979 that in “A Book of Mormon Study” Roberts was simply playing the role of the “devil’s advocate.” “The report,” according to Madsen, “was not intended to be balanced. A kind of lawyer’s brief of one side of a case written to stimulate discussion in preparation of the defense of a work already accepted to be true, the manuscript was anything but a careful presentation of Roberts’ thoughts about the Book of Mormon or of his own convictions.
Madsen held that Roberts was employing an essentially pedagogical technique to bring attention to problems that should be faced by the Church and by students of the Book of Mormon. In this he had the support of Roberts’ letters, written in the context of controversy over his manuscript, but he did not adduce evidence for his interpretation from the manuscript itself. Although he quoted Roberts’ statement of faith in his March 15, 1923 letter to the president of the Church, Madsen did not provide his readers with any of the many crucial statements in Roberts’ study that appear to a typical reader to throw serious doubt on the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, or at the least on Roberts’ belief in its authenticity. The Roberts study was not available to the general reader who might be interested in it, and, except for listing the issues with which the study was concerned, Madsen made none of its contents known in his paper. Roberts’ argument and conclusions were not mentioned. Madsen devoted little attention to Roberts’ views on the Book of Mormon in his 1980 book and referred to publications that had appeared prior to 1910. “A Book of Mormon Study” was not mentioned, nor was there any indication of the important and interesting controversy that it had generated.”
Source: Studies of Book of Mormon, p.8-9 (New Mormon Studies CD-ROM)
Okay, so what this is saying is that Madsen was basically an apologist (ignored a lot of the evidence that contradicted his views) who made the “devil’s advocate” claim without support. Madsen ignored Roberts’ above essays in his book and instead referred to publications over a decade or two prior.
Dustin’s above “devil’s advocate” claim is not supported by the evidence. In fact, it’s not only not supported but is contracted by statements made by Elder Roberts in his letters.
Only in Dustin’s mind are the issues and evidences that Elder Roberts wrestled and struggled with “unfounded”.
And years later in 1933…
“Ethan Smith played no part in the formation of the Book of Mormon.”
This is so deceptive and dishonest. As usual, our Blogger Dustin does not provide specific sources for statements and claims. Here’s why you don’t see the source:
It’s an extremely late recollection quote from an interview that took place on April 25, 1979 by a supposed missionary who served under B.H. Roberts when he was a mission president. 46 years after the supposed conversation took place!
Dustin is doing here exactly what he falsely accuses me of doing in my work. Look at his above quote. It looks like a quote from B.H. Roberts himself in 1933 but it’s not. It’s a supposed quote from one of B.H. Roberts’ supposed missionaries who was interviewed 46 years later in 1979.
The source for this quote is claimed on LDS apologist Jeff Lindsay’s website:
“These facts help place in context what the old fighter was feeling that day as he conversed with his young friend. After that conversation, Elder Roberts went to Chicago to represent the Church at a world conference of religious leaders. He also told Jack Christensen (another of his missionaries), sometime around I September 1933, "Ethan Smith played no part in the formation of the Book of Mormon. You accept Joseph Smith and all the scriptures!" 21
Footnote reads: “Jack Christensen was interviewed by Truman Madsen, 25 April 1979.”
So, we're supposed to accept that Elder B.H. Roberts made the above statement in 1933 because a supposed missionary of his gave an interview 46 years later?
On August 7, 1933 - Six weeks before Elder B.H. Roberts' death - Elder Roberts had a conversation with Wesley Lloyd, one of his former missionaries, where he discussed several issues such as a complaint about the Brethren's "severe criticism" of his The Way, The Truth, The Life book, a Church policy regarding missionaries, and about Brigham Young. Finally, he turned to the Book of Mormon, complaining that back in 1922 a "crisis had arisen where revelation was necessary" but that no answer had been forthcoming.
Aside from all of this, this is a strawman and misrepresentation of the issue. It’s not Ethan Smith who is claimed to have played a part in the formation of the Book of Mormon. It’s his book, View of the Hebrews, its parallels and themes, which B.H. Roberts wrestled and struggled with - that played a part in the formation of the Book of Mormon.
Nice try, Dustin.
"To learn more about the clear evidence that View of the Hebrews had no influence on the Book of Mormon, click here."
Dustin again links to that stupid Limited Geographers FairMormon page that I debunked above. The most damning statement on that whole page:
“Many of the criticisms proposed are based upon B.H. Roberts’ list of parallels, which only had validity if one applied a hemispheric geography model to the Book of Mormon.”
If this isn’t an endorsement of Elder B.H. Roberts’ work and his 36 View of the Hebrews parallels, I don’t know what is. It is so damning that FairMormon is asking you to reject the LDS Church’s Hemispheric model for their debunked Limited Geography model.
Just let that sink in.
“Several of the towns on this author’s list were not even in existence at the printing of the Book of Mormon. Other locations were remote villages hundreds of miles away in places like Canada—hardly the land of Joseph’s youth.”
"Several of the towns on this author's list were not even in existence at the printing of the Book of Mormon." This was true in the original CES Letter that I wrote 4 years ago, which I immediately corrected when the errors came to my attention. It is not true for the updated and revised CES Letter today. So, that’s a false and misleading claim and statement from Dustin.
I have already done a thorough line-by-line detailed response and rebuttal on this. I have already gone through this with FairMormon and I revised the list based on evidence. You can find my response here: http://cesletter.com/debunking-fairmormon/book-of-mormon.html#8
An important concept to understand on this topic:
In the 1980s, I lived in Diamond Bar, California. In the early 20th century, it was known as “Diamond Bar Ranch,” and it was at the time one of the largest working cattle ranches in the western United States. In the 1950s, it was acquired by Transamerica Corporation for the purpose of developing one of the nation’s first master-planned communities. It was after Transamerica’s acquisition that it gave the “Diamond Bar” name to its new master-planned community.
So, what does this mean for this discussion? Fast forward into the distant future, 150 years from now. The only information that you have about Diamond Bar is that it was a city in California and that it was incorporated as a city on April 18, 1989. Your first natural assumption would be that prior to 1989, Diamond Bar didn’t exist, at least not under the name “Diamond Bar.” However, this assumption would be false, as the name goes back to the early 20th century, as I explained above.
One of the apologist’s strategies and arguments for many of the names is to pull in the dates from Wikipedia and other sources of when the towns were incorporated so as to say, “See?! This town wasn’t incorporated until so-and-so, which is so-and-so years after the publication of the Book of Mormon!” The problem with this strategy and approach is that the date of incorporation does not always mean that the town and its name did not exist for decades before its incorporation, as was the case of Diamond Bar.
Here are more examples of Date Settled vs. Incorporated as a Town/City, this one focused on towns in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Notice the gap between settlement and incorporation dates of some of the towns are 100+ years.
Another important note I want to make here is that Vernal Holley is dead. We can’t contact him to find out exactly where he got his sources. FairMormon, for example, made the strawman that these towns/cities were discovered only through maps may not be fair as to how Holley found some of the towns. He may have used letters, newspapers, post office records, obituaries, local city/county library records, etc. in which records and books are not accessible online. We do not know.
This is evident in the "Jerusalem" claim. FairMormon claimed that Jerusalem, Ohio does not show up on a 1822 map. If one searches on the internet for when Jerusalem was first settled, they won't find any information. So, the logical conclusion would be to assume that Jerusalem wasn't established before the publication of the Book of Mormon. However, this would be incorrect as there is evidence that the first house in Jerusalem, Ohio was built in 1825. I was able to locate a resident who volunteered to go to the Monroe County Public Library in Woodsfield, Ohio and search for the information. She found it an offline book entitled Monroe County, Ohio: A History. Simply doing a Google search may not show the whole picture. There are still numerous local books and records that are hidden offline awaiting digitization.
There have been several times where FairMormon, for example, claimed that a town was debunked when I showed evidence that this wasn’t the case. As I mentioned above, I went through each one of the towns with FairMormon and kept those that have evidence support while abandoning those that do not have evidence support.
As you can see from the above Debunking Fairmormon link, I have corrected errors and the CES Letter no longer contains those errors. Many apologists like to hold onto my very first letter while ignoring my latest versions with the corrections made. I’m wrong forever regardless of my correcting my errors and mistakes in newer CES Letter versions.
Contrary to Dustin’s claim, the updated and corrected maps have not been debunked.
The video below gives a good overview on this topic along with sources, which can be found here.
“Plus, almost half of the names or locations are also found in the Bible—including Biblical names that few are aware of such as Lehi, Boaz, Ramah, and Sidon.”
Dustin attempts to dismiss some of these town names because they’re included in the Bible as well. Yes, some names are in the Bible, but that's beside the point. The fact that it also existed as a geographical place in Joseph’s time and place and in a setting that Joseph taught early on to be the geographical site of the Book of Mormon is the point.
A number of future Book of Mormon names appeared within alphabetized lists in common household reference works of young Joseph Smith’s time and place (published primary in conjunction with Bibles and dictionaries).
There was a book published in 1791 by John Walker entitled, A Key to the Classical Pronunciation of Greek, Latin, and Scripture Proper Names. In this book are a number of future Book of Mormon names, which appeared within alphabetized lists. This book was a common household reference in young Joseph Smith’s time and place. According to Larry Porter, “Walker’s Dictionary” was suggested for the curriculum in the Colesville, New York schools by the local commissioners in the fall of 1826.
Any of the names in the above screenshots of Walker's Dictionary look familiar?
This link does a side by side comparison between Book of Mormon names and Walker's Key Dictionary.
“The author is trying to achieve the impossible: make a Book of Mormon fraud seem believable.”
Impossible? Dustin is clueless on just how serious the threats to the claims of the Book of Mormon really is.
Explain this, Dustin:
What are 1769 KJV edition errors doing in the Book of Mormon? A supposed ancient text?
Joseph didn’t translate the Book of Mormon. He put his face in his hat looking at his peep stone and the words appeared. The Mormon god was in effect dictating the words to Joseph.
“Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery…when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear.”
– Russell M. Nelson quoting Book of Mormon witness David Whitmer in A Treasured Testament, New Ensign 1993.
In the LDS Church’s Book of Mormon Translation essay, they write:
“According to these accounts, Joseph placed either the interpreters or the seer stone in a hat, pressed his face into the hat to block out extraneous light, and read aloud the English words that appeared on the instrument.”
Later in the same essay, they write:
“Another scribe, Martin Harris sat across the table from Joseph Smith and wrote down the words Joseph dictated. Harris later related that as Joseph used the seer stone to translate, sentences appeared. Joseph read those sentences aloud, and after penning the words, Harris would say, “Written.”
This is a tight dictation. There is no room in this tight process for 1769 KJV edition errors to show up or for all the problems that later required over 100,000 changes to the book (significant and insignificant). It was a “word-by-word, we’re not moving along unless you get it right” dictation from the Mormon god himself.
Since the Mormon god was dictating to Joseph in his hat “word-by-word, we’re not moving along unless you get it right” dictation, it should be perfectly accurate and the original Book of Mormon should therefore be the perfect literary document. In other words, it should be just as Joseph claimed it was: “the most correct of any book on earth.”
But it’s not.
In reality, the original text and current text of the Book of Mormon is a mixture of nineteenth-century nonsense, plagiarism, and selected existing KJV scripture verses including its 1769 KJV edition errors as well as 17th century italics made by 17th century translators. The Book of Mormon is now the product of over 100,000 changes over the years – some insignificant and some significant.
These facts establish clear evidence of the absolute impossibility of divine involvement in the work whatsoever. Either that or the Mormon god is a completely illiterate imbecile.
We haven’t even touched the long list of other problems with the book. It is laughable for Dustin to think the book is impenetrable to the host of evidences against it.
“He frames himself as a well-intentioned Latter-day Saint who merely has a few innocent questions about the Church…”
This is a blatant lie and misrepresentation of Jeremy Runnells by Dustin. If Dustin had actually read the CES Letter, he would know that this isn’t true as I state in the beginning (introduction) of the letter:
”Obviously I’m a disaffected member who lost his testimony so it’s no secret which side I’m on at the moment.”
Further, I have a page on my website that clearly shows that I resigned from the LDS Church after 4 years of trying to get official answers through official Church channels to the LDS Church's truth crisis.
I have never pretended to be anything that I’m not. I have been honest and transparent of my goals and intentions (to get official answers through official church channels to the issues and problems) since the very beginning.
“But explaining the coming forth of the Book of Mormon at the hands of a 24-year-old farm boy will continue to elude even the most devoted anti-Mormons”
This strawman made me laugh. Only in a fanatically devoted Mormon mind like Dustin’s is his 24-year-old prophet a “boy.”
When Joseph is 24-years-old, he’s a “boy.” When Joseph marries a 14-year-old, it’s okay because “women got married at that age back then.”
It appears that you've been thoroughly indoctrinated in the lie that your prophet was an "uneducated farm boy" and thus it's "impossible" for the Book of Mormon to have been written by him and/or his associates. Joseph's father was a teacher. Joseph's brother, Hyrum, was educated at Dartsmouth College. Oliver Cowdery was a teacher. As stated in the September 1979 Ensign:
"Schooling. Despite limited schooling Joseph Smith loved to study and learn. In part he was influenced by schoolteacher associates. His father once taught school. His maternal grandmother, a schoolteacher, taught his mother the rudiments of “sums, ‘write-o-hand’ and spelling.” Joseph’s wife was a schoolteacher, “a woman of liberal culture and insistent on education.” And his primary scribe during the translating of the Book of Mormon was schoolteacher Oliver Cowdery."
This link debunks the "uneducated farm boy" myth that the LDS Church indoctrinates its members, including Dustin, on.
I hate to break the news to you, Dustin, but the Book of Mormon is not special. It's not unique. Mormons think it's special because they're programmed to equating feelings (aka "spiritual experiences") as evidence that the book has divine origins. They have to do this while completely ignoring the epistemological problems associated with this unreliable method and process.
Additionally, Mormons like Dustin think there's "evidences" for the book such as chiasmus (False), that it was "translated in record time" (False), and that no one else has produced scripture like Joseph has (False).
You think the Book of Mormon is a literary masterpiece that just couldn't have been written by Joseph Smith or any man. If this is the case, your god is an illiterate imbecile. There is just no way around it if you're going to stick with this claim.
“Bottom Line: It’s not the Church we should be skeptical about.”
This is how a programmed cult member thinks and talks. This is an extremely dangerous mindset and worldview.
Maybe putting this in the following context will help give you a glimpse on how insane your statement and claim is, Dustin:
In the Post Church Essays world we live in today, it is absolutely delusional to make the claim that “it’s not the Church we should be skeptical about.”
Go read the essays. Really read each one of them carefully. Read the footnotes. Follow the footnotes to their sources. See how they’re changing the foundational narrative right before your very own eyes. See how they're still trying to diminsh, excuse, obfuscate, and apology their way through the landmines.
Then watch this:
This man is Richard Bushman. He’s a Mormon historian, scholar, and patriarch. He wrote Rough Stone Rolling and a few other books. He’s one of the pro-LDS sources that Dustin points to.
In this private meeting, Mr. Bushman was asked about the LDS Church’s dominant narrative changing over the past few years (mostly due to its essays) and how this affects the membership and the future. Mr. Bushman’s response:
“The dominant narrative is not true. It can’t be sustained.”
This exploded on social media and in an attempt to do damage control, Mr. Bushman released this statement claiming that he is still a believer. However, his statement doesn't dispute or take away from the above statement that he made about the LDS Church's dominant narrative.
Current Church Historian Elder Snow has acknowledged the Church has not been forthcoming and transparent to its members:
“I think in the past there was a tendency to keep a lot of the records closed or at least not give access to information. But the world has changed in the last generation—with the access to information on the Internet, we can’t continue that pattern; I think we need to continue to be more open.”
For Dustin to make such a false and delusional statement like this today after the Church has admitted it has lied while still obfuscating its history, again demonstrates that truth and reality are not among Dustin’s top values and focus at the moment.
So, what's the verdict? Did Dustin succeed in debunking the CES Letter? Is Jeremy Runnells an "anti-Mormon" "liar" out spreading falsehoods and deception?
When I began writing my response, I made the decision to respond to 100% of Dustin's blog post. I'm pretty sure that I have. Dustin, if I missed anything at all, I want you to let me know. My email is [email protected]
Here’s a thought for you to consider: These so-called “5 lies” Dustin showcases represent only about 15% of the CES Letter, if that (this is generous). Does this mean that the other 85% in the 80-page CES Letter are accepted facts and truths? If not, and they’re just as blatant “lies” as Dustin claims with his list of 5, why not include them and shoot them down to further discredit the CES Letter? Why stop at 5? Why not 10? 20? 30? 40?
Is this the best you can do, Dustin? This is it? The 5 “lies” are really the best that you have against the CES Letter? Why didn’t you talk about any of the following on your blog post?
How come you didn’t talk about the Book of Abraham facsimiles and the discredited Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language (GAEL), Dustin? And how the LDS Church admits in its essay that it has nothing to do with Abraham as Joseph Smith claimed it did?
Or why there are 1769 KJV edition errors in the Book of Mormon? A supposed ancient text?
Or about the Kinderhook Plates?
Or the backdating and retrofitting of the Priesthood restoration? How Joseph backdated and retrofitted the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood restoration events into the 1835 D&C as if they were in the Book of Commandments all along?
Or why Moroni and all those prophets (including Nephi cutting Laban’s head off) went through all that painstaking work and hassles to create, abridge, store, transport and protect the plates (and Moroni to come back as a resurrected angel to give Joseph the plates)…only for Joseph to end up not using them because his face was stuffed in a hat instead? The same rock and hat he used for treasure hunting? About how this ruins the official narrative?
Or why “elect lady” Emma was sealed as Joseph’s 23rd wife in 1843? After all those women, girls, and other men’s wives that she mostly didn’t know about? How come you don’t talk about the fidelity problem of polygamy and polyandry?
Or why your “prophets, seers, and revelators” have any ounce of credibility after banning black individuals and black families from the saving ordinances of the temple for 130 years under the divine mantle of revelation? For throwing yesterday’s prophets under the bus by “disavowing” their “theories” in their 2013 Race and the Priesthood essay? Or how the essay's claim of no "divine disfavor or curse" contradicts 2 Nephi 5:21?
Or why your god would send an angel with a drawn sword to threaten Joseph into polygamy while contradictorily claiming your god is a champion of free agency?
The long list goes on and on and on:
Why did you pick the easy parts, Dustin?
All you’ve done is cherry-pick the easiest 15% in the CES Letter that I can debunk you on (like I just did) while blatantly ignoring the other 85% that are even more damning to your religion’s foundational truth claims. The fact that you lied to and misled your readers about the 15% stuff as evident above while ignoring the other 85% of the CES Letter demonstrates that you are not interested in intellectual honesty and truth nor are you interested in giving your readers a balanced view of the real facts and problems with the LDS Church’s foundational truth crisis.
So, who’s the real liar here? Who’s the real “anti-Mormon” spreading lies and misinformation that contradict real Mormon history and the real Joseph Smith?
I resent being called a liar, Dustin. I’m human. I’ve made mistakes and I publicly corrected my mistakes for all to see unlike FairMormon and some of the other despicable apologist characters I’ve dealt with. I don’t have any problems adding more to the list if they’re valid. After all, what’s another mistake to the list? I am only interested in truth and accurate information. Where I am wrong, I am happy to publicly correct because truth and accurate information is the currency that matters at the end of the day.
As I have asked my former Stake President over and over and over and over (he never answered):
“What errors or mistakes are there in the CES Letter that I can publicly correct?”
The CES Letter is a living document because of my commitment to keeping it as accurate and error-free as possible.
Point out the errors. Point out the mistakes. If they’re valid, I will shake your hand in gratitude because you will have made the CES Letter better and more accurate. You will have provided a service and value to all seekers of truth. I cannot dispute this.
But to call me a liar, Dustin? To question my integrity? On completely baseless, weak, and unsupported charges and accusations? To slander and defame my name? To paint me as this sinister and evil “anti-Mormon” out to destroy lives on willful lies and deception? While closing down your comments section so that I cannot defend myself from your slander and lies to your readers? That’s just beyond the pale. You should be ashamed of yourself.
Here’s a chance for you to somewhat redeem yourself, Dustin: Put a direct link to this response on your blog post for your future readers to be able to read on what my response is to your charges and claims. I’m linking to your blog post here as well as on cesletter.org. I’m not afraid of letting my readers see what you have to say. Will you do the same? If not, why? What are you so afraid of?
Be honest. Be transparent. Give your readers the full information by linking my response to your blog post. We’re all watching to see what you will do as this will provide insight on what your real values and motives are.
I can’t tell you how many people have come to me gloating about the many unofficial responses and apologetics to the questions I raise in my CES Letter. This gas lighting has kept people frozen in place not because they have a testimony of the church but because they think it might possibly still be true because of the silly arguments these unofficial apologists make.
The critics ask why we call it “Ridiculous Apologetics to Mormon Questions.” They say it’s just faith based answers by knowledgeable members who feel a burning need to step in and explain things in a better way than God’s servants could. They argue that former Latter-day Saints simply lack the faith they possess, are too lazy to obtain the special knowledge they’ve been given, are offended by some leader somewhere or are simply looking to sin by drinking coffee or have a porn addiction.
We call it “Ridiculous Apologetics to Mormon Questions” because it consists of twisting “the facts”, fabricating “the facts”, decontextualizing “the facts”, and dehumanizing anyone who dares to challenge whatever official standard narrative is currently being peddled.
We’re not afraid of the truth, but we are cautious about the way that unofficial Mormon Apologists have shamelessly misrepresented the truth since Day 1 of the so-called Restoration.
What we know is that people can be so blinded by their prison of faith that they completely shut off their reason and intellect. A leap of faith is only to be made once you’ve reached the end of evidence. You shouldn’t have to jump over a steaming pile of contradicting facts to make that jump. What is also clear, any believer of any theology who closes their mind to logic and reason may lack actual knowledge or truth but they make up for it in blind devotion and confidence that their god is the actual real and only one god.
Always remember this, if the Church actually thought it would help retain members by engaging directly with former members, they certainly wouldn’t need bloggers to do it for them. There is a reason they keep their silence and pay others to do their dirty work.
If your deity requires the services of armchair apologists and bloggers to counter the Voldemortian threat of a regular deaf dude like me who asks a lot of questions that haven’t been answered in an official and meaningful way, maybe your god really isn’t worthy of your devotion and worship in the first place.
For those bloggers who are still pro-Mormon, understand that we on the other side totally get where you are at. We’ve been there where you are now desperately trying to hold onto the tattered shreds of your testimonies as actual history and real truth rip through your correlated sails.
Like butterflies looking fondly back at caterpillars entering their chrysalis, we do understand you more than you know. Nestle in that cocoon tightly because it’s going to get a lot bumpier before it gets better. Also know, the more you promote me and make the CES Letter notorious, the more others will find out about it. The more you “help” with your philosophies and pet theories mingled with scripture, the more members you will wake up to the LDS Church’s truth crisis.
The truth is easy to see when you stop assuming that you have it.
The following are my responses to Dustin’s so-called “answers” to the “rest” of the CES Letter on his “Answers to the Rest of the Author’s Claims” page.
See my responses in red inside the graphic below:
Claim #1: The Temple Ceremony has Links to Freemasonry
Church critics argue that since similarities exist between Free Mason ceremonies and parts of the Temple ceremony then clearly Joseph stole the ceremony from the masons and didn’t receive it by way of revelation.
The truth, however, the rituals found in the Temple predate Freemasonry. Very similar practices can be found in ancient Egypt, among Coptic Christians, and even in ancient Israel.
Clearly there is a third, more ancient source, that both the Temple ceremonies and some Mason ceremonies are both drawing from.
Read the following article to learn more.
An online comment by a Jonathan in response to this embarrassing claim:
“Dustin’s argument is so stupid. They are saying, ‘Well, because there are vestments and ritual and chanting in Temple ceremony and there’s also that stuff in some degree in ancient pagan ceremonies, the LDS endowment ceremony must therefore be ancient and legit! You would think that Dustin would reject the idea that the LDS endowment ceremony has elements of occult pagan crap.”
Dustin points to a single document (shocker: another Mormon apologist) to “support” his claim. Do you have any non-apologist/credible sources to support your claim, Dustin?
The takeaway from Dustin’s argument is that he does not dispute my position that the LDS endowment has Masonic elements and similarities. Instead, Dustin wanders off in an unsupported tangent about the ancient world, occult pagan religions too wore robes and chanted, yada, yada, yada so that must mean that they’re the originators of freemasonry.
Dustin also doesn’t directly challenge or dispute the following facts I’ve made in the CES Letter or give us explanations as to why they're "wrong":
"Just seven weeks after Joseph’s March 1842 Masonic initiation, Joseph introduced the LDS endowment ceremony in May 1842."
"If Masonry had the original temple ceremony but became distorted over time, why doesn’t the LDS ceremony more closely resemble an earlier form of Masonry, which would be more correct rather than the exact version that Joseph Smith was exposed to in his March 1842 Nauvoo, Illinois initiation?"
"Why did the Church remove the blood oath penalties and the 5 Points of Fellowship at the veil from the endowment ceremony in 1990? Both of these were 100% Masonic rituals. What does this say about the Temple and the endowment ceremony if 100% pagan Masonic rituals were in it from its inception? What does it say about the Church if it removed something that Joseph Smith said he restored and which would never again be taken away from the earth?"
I hate to break the news to you, Dustin, but you’re contradicted by your fellow apologists. This is on FairMormon’s website:
“It is clear that Freemasonry and its traditions played a role in the development of the endowment ritual…”
- Similarities Between Masonic and Mormon Temple Ritual
“Unfortunately, there is no historical evidence to support a continuous functioning line from Solomon’s Temple to the present. We know what went on in Solomon’s Temple; it’s the ritualistic slaughter of animals.”
- The Message and the Messenger: Latter-day Saints and Freemasonry
This is another example of apologists contradicting each other. Contrary to the Philosophies of Dustin Philips Mingled With Scripture™, FairMormon disagrees. Who should we believe, Dustin? You or FairMormon?
It used to be that the argument was that the LDS endowment ceremony was the real Freemasonry and that it had its ties to Solomon’s temple. Well, that got debunked and apologists are left with the bag in trying to explain why there are clearly Masonic elements in the LDS endowment ceremony without admitting the truth that Master Mason Joseph Smith drew from Freemasonry for his new endowment ceremony just a few weeks after he was initiated in the Nauvoo Lodge.
Instead of pointing to Solomon’s Temple like Mormons used to, they’re now pointing to bizarre ancient, apostate, occult pagan religions like Dustin is pointing to.
Pointing to false, apostate, and pagan occult religions as possible origins for the LDS endowment ceremony reminds me of the cringe-inducing President Uchtdorf’s comparing his iPhone to Joseph’s rock that he dug up out of his neighbor's well and used for occult purposes before using it to "dictate" the Book of Mormon.
Claim #2: The Book of Abraham
Latter-day Saints certainly have to reevaluate the way we have traditionally thought that the Book of Abraham was translated. However, there’s a lot of key information that most people don’t know. For example, did you know that after Joseph’s death researchers discovered that many ancient Egyptian texts discuss Abraham? No one knew that when Joseph revealed the Book of Abraham.
And that’s just the beginning. Check out the following from the Church’s essay on the Book of Abraham.
The Book of Abraham and the Ancient World
A careful study of the book of Abraham provides a better measure of the book’s merits than any hypothesis that treats the text as a conventional translation. Evidence suggests that elements of the book of Abraham fit comfortably in the ancient world and supports the claim that the book of Abraham is an authentic record.
The book of Abraham speaks disapprovingly of human sacrifice offered on an altar in Chaldea. Some victims were placed on the altar as sacrifices because they rejected the idols worshipped by their leaders.35Recent scholarship has found instances of such punishment dating to Abraham’s time. People who challenged the standing religious order, either in Egypt or in the regions over which it had influence (such as Canaan), could and did suffer execution for their offenses.36 The conflict over the religion of Pharaoh, as described in Abraham 1:11–12, is an example of punishment now known to have been meted out during the Abrahamic era.
The book of Abraham contains other details that are consistent with modern discoveries about the ancient world. The book speaks of “the plain of Olishem,” a name not mentioned in the Bible. An ancient inscription, not discovered and translated until the 20th century, mentions a town called “Ulisum,” located in northwestern Syria.37 Further, Abraham 3:22–23 is written in a poetic structure more characteristic of Near Eastern languages than early American writing style.38
Joseph Smith’s explanations of the facsimiles of the book of Abraham contain additional earmarks of the ancient world. Facsimile 1 and Abraham 1:17 mention the idolatrous god Elkenah. This deity is not mentioned in the Bible, yet modern scholars have identified it as being among the gods worshipped by ancient Mesopotamians.39 Joseph Smith represented the four figures in figure 6 of facsimile 2 as “this earth in its four quarters.” A similar interpretation has been argued by scholars who study identical figures in other ancient Egyptian texts.40 Facsimile 1 contains a crocodile deity swimming in what Joseph Smith called “the firmament over our heads.” This interpretation makes sense in light of scholarship that identifies Egyptian conceptions of heaven with “a heavenly ocean.”41
The book of Abraham is consistent with various details found in nonbiblical stories about Abraham that circulated in the ancient world around the time the papyri were likely created. In the book of Abraham, God teaches Abraham about the sun, the moon, and the stars. “I show these things unto thee before ye go into Egypt,” the Lord says, “that ye may declare all these words.”42 Ancient texts repeatedly refer to Abraham instructing the Egyptians in knowledge of the heavens. For example, Eupolemus, who lived under Egyptian rule in the second century B.C.E., wrote that Abraham taught astronomy and other sciences to the Egyptian priests.43 A third-century papyrus from an Egyptian temple library connects Abraham with an illustration similar to facsimile 1 in the book of Abraham.44 A later Egyptian text, discovered in the 20th century, tells how the Pharaoh tried to sacrifice Abraham, only to be foiled when Abraham was delivered by an angel. Later, according to this text, Abraham taught members of the Pharaoh’s court through astronomy.45 All these details are found in the book of Abraham.
Other details in the book of Abraham are found in ancient traditions located across the Near East. These include Terah, Abraham’s father, being an idolator; a famine striking Abraham’s homeland; Abraham’s familiarity with Egyptian idols; and Abraham’s being younger than 75 years old when he left Haran, as the biblical account states. Some of these extrabiblical elements were available in apocryphal books or biblical commentaries in Joseph Smith’s lifetime, but others were confined to nonbiblical traditions inaccessible or unknown to 19th-century Americans.46
Read more at Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham
Did you get that? Dustin says:
“Latter-day Saints certainly have to reevaluate the way we have traditionally thought that the Book of Abraham was translated.”
Why do Latter-day Saints have to “reevaluate the way we have traditionally thought that the Book of Abraham was translated,” Dustin?
Exactly what’s wrong with how we traditionally thought it was translated? Why did we think it was literally translated? What exactly makes the way “we have traditionally thought” incorrect today?
Is it that the evidence is so damning and conclusive that Joseph’s translation claims are wrong? That he mistranslated the facsimiles? That his Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language (GAEL) is gibberish nonsense? That he constructed missing sections of the papyri for the facsimiles in the scriptures in an embarrassing way? That he claimed papyrus scrolls contained the writings of Abraham but it actually is instead an Egyptian funerary document for a man named Hor between third century B.C.E and the first century C.E.? Thousands of years after Abraham?
Notice that Dustin avoids all of these questions and quickly tries to distract you away from the damning evidence to apologetic nonsense and “parallels” about the ancient world that has nothing to do with the damning evidence that discredits Joseph Smith and the LDS Church’s truth claims.
Also notice that Dustin skips the damning admission in the same Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham church essay he quotes from above:
“None of the characters on the papyrus fragments mentioned Abraham’s name or any of the events recorded in the book of Abraham. Mormon and non-Mormon Egyptologists agree that the characters on the fragments do not match the translation given in the book of Abraham, though there is not unanimity, even among non-Mormon scholars, about the proper interpretation of the vignettes on these fragments. Scholars have identified the papyrus fragments as parts of standard funerary texts that were deposited with mummified bodies. These fragments date to between the third century B.C.E. and the first century C.E., long after Abraham lived.”
- LDS Church's Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham essay
In case you haven’t noticed by now, Dustin skips a lot of things. Dustin ignores a lot of details. Dustin ignores a lot of contradictions.
Dustin wants you to look at this tree over there while keeping your eyes and attention away from the forest of problems. Mormon apologists do not want you to see the forest. This is why they hate the CES Letter and me so much. This is why I am now the Mormon "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named" with a "You-Know-What-Letter". I show you the entire forest with just 2-hours of reading (what used to take people in the past, weeks and months to accomplish the same thing on their own). Instead of 1-5 problems that they can contain for a member awakening to the LDS Church's truth crisis, they have to address 80-pages worth of problems they wish you didn't know about. They want you to stay lost in the trees focusing on one tree at a time within the unreliable and unsupportable lens of “faith.”
The Book of Abraham fraud is the smoking gun of Mormonism. It is the fraud that conclusively debunks Joseph Smith and his translator claims.
The evidence is so damning and so bad that the LDS Church and apologists can’t distance themselves from it fast enough. You see this with Dustin’s “we have to reevaluate how the Book of Abraham was translated since what the Church told us is not true” statement. You see this with the Church and apologists attempting to sell us the unsupported “catalyst theory” (it wasn’t a literal translation but rather a “revelation” instead) despite it contradicting the evidence.
Your job, Dear Reader, is to look at the details on what the LDS Church and Dustin do not want you to see. It’s not difficult. Contrary to what some apologists say, you do not need a PhD in Egyptology. You have today all of the resources you need to see the fraud for yourself.
To learn more about what Dustin doesn’t want you to see about the problems of the Book of Abraham, here are some good starter videos and links:
See the Book of Abraham chapter in the CES Letter.
See my line-by-line debunking of apologetics in the Book of Abraham section of Debunking FairMormon.
Read respected and renowned Egyptologist Dr. Robert Ritner's epic takedown of the LDS Church's Book of Abraham essay.
Read this brief document that summarizes things in a way that anybody can understand: Problems with the Book of Abraham.
And of course, Brother Jake. Brother Jake will clear up all the confusion:
Claim #3: Kinderhook Plates Controversy
The following resources pretty thoroughly answer any of the misunderstandings that people have had about this issue:
I’ve already responded to and debunked apologetic claims about the Kinderhook Plates made in the links Dustin gives above. You can see my thorough line-by-line debunking at https://cesletter.org/debunking-fairmormon/kinderhook-plates.html
A great place to start on learning the Kinderhook Plates problem and how it threatens Joseph’s claims and credibility of being a translator of ancient text and languages:
"Go to the 'extraordinary resources on polygamy' link in the article for responses to polygamy claims."
This is just Philosophies of Brian Hales Mingled With Scripture™. The heart of Philosophies of Brian Hales Mingled With Scripture™ is that most of the marriages were “non-sexual eternity only sealings”.
I’ve debunked this nonsense claim in the Polygamy section above here as well as on Debunking FairMormon website at www.cesletter.com/debunking-fairmormon/polygamy.html.
"Apologists have the unfortunate job of using lots of words to explain why words don't mean what they actually mean."
Dustin, you don't realize it yet but Mormon apologists have lost the war years ago. You're on the losing team. In fact, Mormon apologists are now in the Cannibalism stage. There is a civil war and infighting going on between different flavors of Mormon apologists of differing pet theories and philosophies mingled with scripture.
We are now witnessing the collapse of your brand of apologetics. Apologists and organizations like Brian Hales (people cannot stomach his insane pet theories and justification of vile/immoral polygamy/polyandry), Daniel Peterson (who was fired by BYU’s Neal A. Maxwell Institute in 2012), FairMormon, Mormon Interpreter).
We are witnessing the rise of the apologetics of Terryl Givens, Patrick Mason, and Grant Hardy.
This article discusses the tension between the two camps and their model of Mormonism and the world.
I don’t envy you or apologists. You are trying to create a Mormonism that does not exist. You are trying to invent a Mormonism that the Brethren will not stand behind. You are creating a homemade Mormonism that the average Chapel Mormon would frown upon and experience a violent gag reflex over.
You cannot stop the Mormon train wreck that is inevitable for an organization that has an inconsistent, incoherent, and false narrative of its truth claims. You cannot stop the collusion course that the LDS Church now finds itself on with the release of its essays. The cats are out of the bag and they're not going back in.
I hate your brand of apologetics because it’s delusional, dishonest, and deceptive. It lacks of compassion and empathy for those who awaken to the LDS Church’s truth crisis. You guys gas light and slander the hell out of people (similar to what you did with your blog post on me).
I also hate the Givens, Mason, and Hardy brand of apologetics because it’s likewise delusional, dishonest, and deceptive. They likewise invent a Mormon Church and history that has never existed and which does not exist. A milder form of gas lighting exists here but not as harsh as your brand of apologetics, Dustin.
However, the Givens, Mason, and Hardy brand of apologetics is more compassionate and more kind to those who awaken to the LDS Church’s truth crisis. They’re more honest than your brand of apologetics in acknowledging that not all is well in Zion and that there are some serious problems.
In complete contradiction to what you say and claim, Dustin, and what your McDonald’s quality apologetics says about the CES Letter and myself, Patrick Mason showed integrity and courage when he said the following about my letter and me:
"The [CES Letter] is nearly a perfect inverse of the version of Mormonism it is reacting to. Jeremy Runnells may have written the letter, but it was actually an inevitability — someone, sometime, somewhere was going to write that letter, because it was the obvious response to a certain style, tone, and mode of Mormonism that culminated in the highly doctrinaire, no-retreat-no-surrender positions taken by certain church leaders and members especially in the second half of the twentieth century. I would actually agree with the CES Letter’s basic notion, that the Mormonism it is responding to is unsustainable. Where I disagree is that I don’t think the Mormonism it is responding to is actually the real, only, or inevitable Mormonism. Certainly, that was some people’s Mormonism, but it’s not my Mormonism, and I don’t think it’s the Mormonism that is going to endure in future decades and centuries."
- LDS Scholar Patrick Mason
The Courage of Our Convictions: Embracing Mormonism in a Secular Age
Aside from Mr. Mason's fantasy that there's another Mormonism in the LDS Church other than the one peddled by the Brethren and their Correlation, Mr. Mason gets it about the CES Letter, Dustin. It’s really unfortunate that you don’t.
Hear my story. Hear my voice. Learn about my journey. My struggles. My pain. My overcoming.
I am not this “anti-Mormon” monster. I am not "anti-Mormon" either (I reject this vague, loaded, and Orwellian label). I am not this evil villain that Dustin and his apologist buddies are desperately trying to paint me as in their dishonest attempts to discredit the CES Letter.
I just wanted the truth. The CES Director approached me first. He asked me to share my questions and concerns with him. Seeing a glimmer of hope that he might have official answers that were better than the unofficial Mormon apologetic crap I was frustrated with, I took his offer seriously. I wrote a letter to him. I emailed it to him. He read it and stated that it was "very well-written" and that he would give me a response. Days turned to weeks, and weeks turned to months, and months turned to years. I never heard back from him again.
Prior to sending off the letter to the CES Director, I shared my draft in a closed Facebook group as well as on Reddit. I wanted feedback to ensure that it was as accurate as it can be so that I didn't waste the director's time or mine. Unbeknownst to me at the time, a lot of people liked it and started sharing it with family and friends. This is how it started going viral on the internet. Next thing I know, the document is listed on MormonThink.com and things take off. Then FairMormon attacked it a few months later and I found myself pulled into this current that I never sought or wanted.
When FairMormon started attacking me, they made a lot of false claims and ad hominems about me and the letter. Further, a few mistakes came to my attention that I corrected in the letter. I needed a centralized place to defend myself from FairMormon's attacks as well as to provide the latest update of the letter to ensure that accurate information was floating around. When the LDS Church started releasing its essays, I included the essays in the letter in a spirit of transparency for my readers. This is how www.cesletter.com was born. My primary motives were for the above reasons. Not because I wanted to destroy Mormonism or any of the similar claims that apologists make up.
As time went on, things just kept blowing up and the letter kept going more and more viral. A lot of questions were being asked about the author of the letter and what his motives were. I was invited by John Dehlin of Mormon Stories in the spring of 2014 to come on his podcast and share my story. This was extremely uncomfortable for me and was very much outside my comfort zone but I did it because it needed to be done and I needed to share about the background story of the origins and development of the CES Letter. I needed to share why I wrote it.
As the letter went more viral, I was slandered and villianized more and more by Mormon apologists. I started seeing labels like "liar" and "anti-Mormon" being thrown around against my name. It blew my mind. It still does to this day.
In the fall of 2014, I was approached by my Stake President. This began a circus that ultimately ended on April 17, 2016 when I - out of disgust for the LDS Church's truth crisis, censorship, silence, and attempt to slander my name and reputation - excommunicated the LDS Church from my life (resignation). All of this is recorded and documented and no one has to take my word on anything. See www.cesletter.org/resign.
I did it their way for years. I sought official answers to the LDS Church's truth crisis through official channels. In the end, I've learned for myself that the LDS Church not only does not have answers to its truth crisis but they will attempt to punish you if you openly ask the questions they don't like being asked.
I've set up a nonprofit called CES Letter Foundation under the advice of my attorneys for various reasons. One of them to separate myself legally from the CES Letter for protection. I have been hypocritically attacked by apologists (they accept donations too!) for accepting donations despite the fact that all of my work is absolutely free. It has been very difficult for myself and my family over the years in all the moonlighting and weekends spent defending myself from FairMormon and other Mormon apologetic attacks, like this one. I just want to go quietly into the night. It's hard to do this when I'm being attacked by guys like Dustin Phelps wanting to make a name for themselves and their blog at my expense with their lies.
Combining all of the money and donations I've received over the last 5 years relating to the CES Letter lined up with all of the thousands of hours of time, all of the energy, all of the research, all of the writing and typing, all of the coding, etc.? It's well below minimum wage. Compared to my skills and value in the market? It's nothing. Individuals making the claim that I'm in this for the money just do not have a clue. No money is worth this. All of the insane barage of abuse, character assassinations, hassles and attacks that I've experienced for the donations I've received? No way. I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy. If this was a job, I would've quit a long time ago.
And for "fame"? Anyone who knows me personally knows that I'm an introvert who squirms in the spotlight. Given a choice between a party and a quiet evening of books, movies, or games with my wife and kids? I'm picking the latter. I'm embarrassed when people come up to me at Costco or Rubio's (for some reason, it's always at Rubio's) or that Nevada Indian Reservation that sells fireworks (true story). The times that I have put myself out there in the spotlight, I did it for the greater good. For example, before my Mormon Stories interview, people envisioned an angry and loud anti-Mormon out to destroy the Church with his letter but were surprised to see a soft-spoken deaf guy who mispronounced a few words along the way.
The honest truth is that I do this because so many good people, in and out of the Church, are looking for help. They just want the truth about the LDS Church's truth crisis. They want to pick up the pieces and heal their hearts and lives. They want to save their relationships. They want to preserve their dignity. And I'm in a position to help them with my talents, knowledge, and experience. I get a lot of joy in alleviating despair and suffering.
I'm just a regular dude who is doing the best I can with the resources I have. I'm beyond amazed and flabbergasted at all of the attention and energy being devoted toward me by guys like Brian Hales, Dustin, and entire organizations like FairMormon. All of the time and energy being spent demonizing me and the CES Letter. It would be flattering if it wasn't so insane and bizarre.
At the end of the day? What matters most to me is how I feel about myself in the quiet hours of the night laying in bed or when I see myself in the mirror in the morning.
I like what I see and I sleep like a baby.
I have a clear conscience. I know in my heart that I have done what is right and I'd do it all over again.
Are you still a member?
No. I resigned my membership during my Kangaroo Court in April 2016. You can find all of the facts and details here.
How do you label yourself? "Ex Mormon"? "Anti-Mormon"?
I label myself "Jeremy". "Human". "Husband". "Father". "Friend".
I no longer consider myself Mormon or Ex Mormon. I'm just Jeremy. A fellow human. A fellow seeker. A fellow wanderer and explorer in this vast and amazing universe we all find ourselves in.
Inspired by a comment made by a friend, Scott, I'm borrowing and altering his words to drive home this point:
For me, having been a Mormon is like the other stages of my life. It’s something that I was, and it’s something that I did. It had its positives and negatives. But my current self is not defined by my former relationship to that church. I lived in New York City – I’m not an ex-New Yorker. I attended and graduated from BYU but I’m not ex-BYU.
I’ve graduated from Mormonism. It’s a part of my past but it no longer is a part of my present and future. To me, it’s something like my missionary journals…I’m reminded of my past from time to time seeing the journals on my bookshelf but it no longer has much power or much influence over my present life and my future.
Are you the leader of the Ex Mormon movement?
No. I have a hard enough time being the leader of Jeremy Runnells and his life.
I was accused by a General Authority of being the "leader of the anti-Mormon religion," which I find absolutely hysterical. The truth is that the movement - if you can call it that as it's not organized - has no leader. Nor should it have any leader. As I tell folks who might see me as a leader:
"Stop following others. Lead yourselves. Never give away your own power and authority."
Why are you doing this? Why can't you leave the Church alone?
Why am I doing what? Defending myself?
Everything that I have done has been from a defense posture. The only reason why the CES Letter exists is because the CES Director requested it. I didn't make it go viral - the folks I asked for feedback input did. The only reason why Debunking FairMormon exists is because FairMormon went out of their way to attack me with lies. There were errors and mistakes in the original CES Letter and I needed a centralized place for people to download the correct and accurate CES Letter as well as a home for my defense against FairMormon and other apologetic attacks. Hence, why the website was born. I created the CES Letter Foundation to personally separate myself legally from the letter and to create a board that I can hopefully one day hand over the keys to.
The only reason why I've written this page is because Dustin decided to attack my integrity as well as to make incredibly misleading claims about the CES Letter.
The Church and its minions won't leave me alone. They won't let members leave its organization with their dignity intact. They can't stop talking about us without throwing in words like "lost the light", "deceived by Satan", "porn", "disobedience", and "weak" in the same sentence.
The "mistake" I made was to do what I was programmed in Mormonism to do: to seek truth at all costs while letting the consequences follow. To my surprise, doing exactly just that has eventually led me to somehow become this Voldemortian "anti-Mormon." I'm still floored on how things have taken a life of its own.
I don't want to do this anymore. I want to quietly go into the night. Focus on raising my family. Go to Disneyland. Explore the world. I don't want to talk about or write about Mormonism anymore. I got my answers (spoiler: it's not true) and I'm moving on with my life.
Are you "Anti-Mormon"?
No. I reject this vague, loaded, and Orwellian term. It's used by the LDS Church and programmed into its members to turn off exposure to "the rest of the story" that the Church does not want its members to know. It's a "turn it off" switch that also kills off critical thinking in members relating to the LDS Church's truth crisis.
Critic? Fine. Anti-Mormon? No.
I have many dear Mormon family and friends that I love. I have zero problems with the Mormon people. I am not anti-them. A real life analogy that illustrates this is that a family member of mine recently went through the temple with her family to get sealed with her family members. I, of course, didn't go but she needed photos taken after with a high-quality camera and I happened to have one. I got in my car after they were done and went on the Temple grounds and even into the lobby. I took the pictures (and luckily succeeded as one of them hangs on the wall in their home). I don't believe in Temples and what goes on in there. I had a lot of other places I'd rather be at the time. But I did it because I love and care for the Mormons in my life and if that means doing things I don't like - like going to a place that does not welcome me - I'm gonna do it to support my Mormon family and friends.
If I'm anti anything, I'm "anti-LDS, Inc.-hiding-and-obfuscating-its-truth-crisis-to-investigators-and-tithe-paying-members". Also, I'm anti-Justin Bieber.
What's your religion now? What do you believe?
Despite being accused by my former Stake President in the Kangaroo Court of being a Buddhist (I'm not and never have been), I subscribe to no gods or religions. By the way, the Buddhist thing came from a comment I made in my Mormon Stories interview where I basically said that if a gun was pointed to my head and I was forced to join a religion, I'd probably join Buddhism as I like some of their zen teachings. Of course, this somehow morphed into me being a Buddhist in one of the false charges and accusations made against me by the Stake President.
I believe in love. Kindness. Empathy. Compassion. Respect.
This is the life that we know for sure that we have. We may or may not have anything after this. We don't know but it's stupid to sacrifice today and what we have for sure for a "maybe". I believe in today and this very moment. I believe in life before death.
I believe in evidence. I believe in asking questions. I really like the scientific method. Faith and feelings are not reliable pathways to truth as anyone can use faith and feelings to support any conclusion they create.
Interview with Jeremy
You can hear my own story in my own words here:
Experience my frustration and exasperation in trying to get answers from my Stake President:
(click on graphic)
Born and raised in Southern California, Jeremy is a seventh generation Mormon of Pioneer heritage who reached every Mormon youth milestone. An Eagle Scout, Returned Missionary, BYU alumnus, Jeremy was married in the San Diego Temple with expectations and plans of living Mormonism for the rest of his life.
In February 2012, Jeremy experienced an awakening to the LDS Church's truth crisis, which subsequently led to a faith transition that summer. In the spring of 2013, Jeremy was approached and asked by a CES Director to share his questions and concerns about the LDS Church's origins, history, and current practices. In response, Jeremy wrote what later became publicly known as the CES Letter (originally titled Letter to a CES Director).
The CES Director responded that he read the "very well written" letter and that he would provide Jeremy with a response. No response ever came.
It takes a lot of time, effort, and money to provide quality information in a quality way. It also takes a lot of resources to help those who have questions and who are trying to liberate themselves and their loved ones, while keeping their dignities intact. We want to be in the position to help, and you can help make that possible.
Your generous donations are tax deductible and will go a long way in helping us to continue to help the honest-in-heart seekers.
CES Letter Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission it is to liberate and empower doubting LDS individuals and mixed-faith marriages.