Debunking FairMormon Scott Gordon John Lynch CES Letter

Brief Summary

BoM Translation

In the CES Letter, I wrote that Joseph Smith used a rock in a hat for translating the Book of Mormon. FairMormon agrees with this statement, but attempts to argue that this method has been described in a variety of sources, as if to suggest that the rock in the hat translation method is common knowledge.

Of course, it is not common knowledge. Of the 8 citations relied on by FairMormon, the dates of which span nearly 40 years, only 6 are official Church sources, and only 2 clearly explain that Joseph Smith: (1) used a rock (2) in a hat (3) to translate the Book of Mormon. FairMormon cites no General Conference addresses or lesson manuals.

Meanwhile, the Church continues to use illustrations of Joseph Smith translating the plates by methods other than using a rock in a hat. These illustrations may be found on the Church’s website, Temple Square, Conference Center, Visitor Centers, LDS Church History Museum, and in various official Church publications. The vast majority of Chapel Mormons today are not familiar with the rock in the hat method of translating the Book of Mormon. They're especially ignorant on Joseph Smith's history of treasure digging and how he used the same method for treasure hunting that he did for translating the religion's keystone Book of Mormon.

In short, the Church’s current representation of the Book of Mormon translation is – as a whole – misleading at best and dishonest at worst.


Donut Chart

BOM Translation

The above donut chart shows percentages of the Book of Mormon Translation section of CES Letter that FairMormon is in agreement, disagreement, and neutral on.

If one assumes that FairMormon's undisputed silence is acceptance of the facts, FairMormon agrees with 100% of the CES Letter's Book of Mormon Translation section.

Breakdown can be found here.

Side note: FairMormon stole my 2014 Donuts idea and created disingenuous and misleading donuts of their own in 2015 after they saw the damage my donuts are doing to their claims.

Official Church Response

BOM Translation Essay

Fortunately, the LDS Church is now making FairMormon and their unofficial opinions, pet theories, and philosophies of men mingled with scripture obsolete.

The Church released in December 2013 its official response on the Book of Mormon translation in its Book of Mormon Translation essay, which can be read here.

A critic's direct analysis and response to the Church's official essay can be read here.

2021 Update:

Here's a clip of Church president Russell M. Nelson "demonstrating" the rock in the hat method:

Source @ 3:25 mark

Notice that President Nelson says "suggestions" when it's a fact that is now accepted by historians and scholars on both sides. Also notice how uncomfortable he is and how he folds and squeezes his hands together as he attempts to disclose a foreign translation process that would shock and surprise the average Chapel Mormon.

After placing the hat near his face, Nelson then awkwardly tries to make the weird seem normal or plausible by taking a page out of Dieter Uchtdorf's playbook in hilariously comparing this process to cell phones.

There's no explanation from Nelson on the discrepancy between what he's now saying versus how the Church indoctrinated generations of Latter-day Saints on the Book of Mormon translation. Also no explanation from Nelson about folk magic treasure digging and how Joseph and his family used the same method in conning people out of their money for buried treasure as he used for "translating" the Book of Mormon.

And just like that, kids, the keystone of our religion literally came out of a hat and we're now being sold the idea that rocks were 19th-century iPhones.



South Park

Before we get into the weeds with FairMormon's nonsense, it's important to remember the big picture here.

I can think of no better concise and succinct statement about the core issue of the rock and the hat Book of Mormon translation problem and the Church's decades of hiding and covering this up than this:

In November 2003, the best place to learn about how the Book of Mormon was really translated was not from the LDS Church but from South Park. Here's the relevant part from South Park's November 2003 "All About Mormons" episode (Season 7 - Episode 12):

Here's some comments from the same above Facebook post screenshot talking about this issue:




Debunking FairMormon

Detailed Response

BoM Translation

Joseph Smith used a rock in a hat for translating the Book of Mormon

CES Letter says...

"'Unlike the story I’ve been taught in Sunday Schools, Priesthood, General Conferences, Seminary, EFY, Ensigns, Church history tour, Missionary Training Center, and BYU…Joseph Smith used a rock in a hat for translating the Book of Mormon.' The author adds that this is confirmed 'in an obscure 1992 talk given by Elder Russell M. Nelson."

FairMormon Agrees

FairMormon says...

Church Response:

Nevertheless, the scribes and others who observed the translation left numerous accounts that give insight into the process. Some accounts indicate that Joseph studied the characters on the plates. Most of the accounts speak of Joseph’s use of the Urim and Thummim (either the interpreters or the seer stone), and many accounts refer to his use of a single stone. 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. The process as described brings to mind a passage from the Book of Mormon that speaks of God preparing “a stone, which shall shine forth in darkness unto light.

"Book of Mormon Translation," Gospel Topics on LDS.org, (2013)



Jeremy's Response

FairMormon is pointing to the Church's new essay that it published on December 30, 2013 confirming the rock in the hat.

A critical analysis of the Church's new Book of Mormon Translation essay can be found here.

FairMormon says...

Correct:

Actually, there is much more than one "obscure" talk in the Ensign by Elder Nelson that mentions this.

For a believer’s perspective on this subject, see: The Spectacles, the Stone, the Hat, and the Book: A Twenty-first Century Believer’s View of the Book of Mormon Translation.

FairMormon deleted their above response. See screenshot.



Jeremy's Response

FairMormon confirms that Joseph Smith used a rock in a hat for translating the Book of Mormon.

Elder Nelson’s talk is obscure. It was a 1992 talk given to new mission presidents in Provo, Utah that was reprinted in the July 1993 Ensign, which was twenty years ago when the “internet” wasn’t a household word and Hammer Pants were in style. This talk is difficult to find unless you know what to specifically search for on LDS.org (“rock in hat”, “seer stone”, etc.).

Let’s take a look at each one of the sources in the “Quotes to consider” section that FairMormon claims prove that the Church is being transparent and open to its members about Joseph’s “rock in a hat” Book of Mormon translation:

May 2014 Update: FairMormon removed most of the following sources from their Book of Mormon Translation page after the release of Debunking FairMormon's Debunking.

FairMormon's BOM Translation Source #1

January 2013 Ensign:

  1. He described the instrument as ‘spectacles’ and referred to it using an Old Testament term, Urim and Thummim
  2. He also sometimes applied the term to other stones he possessed, called ‘seer stones’ because they aided him in receiving revelations as a seer. The Prophet received some early revelations through the use of these seer stones.
  3. Records indicate that soon after the founding of the Church in 1830, the Prophet stopped using the seer stones as a regular means of receiving revelations. Instead, he dictated the revelations after inquiring of the Lord without employing an external instrument.

FairMormon deleted their above response. See screenshot.



Jeremy's Response

The Book of Mormon we have today was not translated with the Urim and Thummim. The Urim and Thummim was used to translate the 116 pages with Martin Harris. The Urim and Thummim was taken from Joseph Smith by the angel Moroni and Joseph instead used a rock he found digging in a neighbor’s backyard in 1822 to translate using a rock and a hat – without the gold plates. So, the above reference to the Urim and Thummim is irrelevant to the way the Book of Mormon that we have today was actually translated.

This source makes no mention of any hat, no mention of Joseph burying his face in a hat, nor does it make any mention of Joseph Smith using a seer stone to translate the Book of Mormon. If anything, this passage is misleading because the first paragraph implies that Joseph Smith used “spectacles” to translate the Book of Mormon, whereas the second paragraph states that Joseph Smith used “seer stones” for “early revelations.” This source also does not mention the rock in the hat replacing the gold plates for the Book of Mormon translation.

In sum, this is not good a source in educating members how the Book of Mormon was really translated.

FairMormon's BOM Translation Source #2

2005 book Opening the Heavens:

In 2005, Opening the Heavens was published jointly by the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History and Deseret Book. As part of this book, at least twenty-nine references to the stone (often with the hat) are included, from both friendly and hostile sources:

p. 112, 129, 130, 135, 136, 137, 138, 142, 146, 148, 149, 150, 151, 152, 153, 154, 155, 156, 157, 158, 164, 166, 168, 178, 184, 185, 187, 192, 193, 196.

FairMormon deleted their above response. See screenshot.



Jeremy's Response

I had to Google this book. I have never heard of this book even as a believing member who voraciously read LDS books. I asked several of my educated believing and active LDS friends if they have heard of and/or read this book. They all stated that they haven’t.

This book was not officially approved by the Church. The Joseph Fielding Smith Institute (JFSI) for Church History was an academic research organization at BYU that was abolished in 2005. Like the Neal A. Maxwell Institute (FARMS) and BYU, JFSI could not and does not officially speak for and behalf of the Church. Ditto for Deseret Book.

This obscure book is not an official source and is not helpful in educating members about the correct Book of Mormon translation method.

FairMormon's BOM Translation Source #3

1997 Ensign:

“Martin Harris related of the seer stone: ‘Sentences would appear and were read by the Prophet and written by Martin”

FairMormon deleted their above response. See screenshot.



Jeremy's Response

Okay, Joseph read sentences off a seer stone. Where’s the hat? Where’s the seer stone in the hat? Where’s Joseph’s face in the hat? Where’s this rock in the hat replacing the gold plates for the Book of Mormon translation? Where’s the part that Joseph found this seer stone while digging a well in his neighbor Willard Chase’s property in 1822? A year before Moroni even appeared in Joseph’s bedroom?

This is not a clear source in educating members on how the Book of Mormon was actually translated.

FairMormon's BOM Translation Source #4

July 1993 Ensign:

David Whitmer wrote: “Joseph Smith would put the seer stone in a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light.”

FairMormon deleted their above response. See screenshot.



Jeremy's Response

This is a good source. This explains how the seer stone was used. This is the Russell M. Nelson source that I used and talked about in the CES Letter.

Score #1 for the Church being transparent to its members in one talk in July 1993.

FairMormon's BOM Translation Source #5

1998 book by Neal A. Maxwell, Not My Will, But Thine:

“light-shielding hat reportedly used by Joseph Smith during some of the translating of the Book of Mormon.”

FairMormon deleted their above response. See screenshot.



Jeremy's Response

The book’s disclaimer in the acknowledgements page states:

“This is not an official Church publication. Hence, even though I was helped with its preparation, I alone am responsible for the views it expresses."

This is not an official source. And even if it were, the reference to a “light-shielding hat” does not answer anything or provide a meaningful description of the translation process.

FairMormon's BOM Translation Source #6

January 1988 Ensign:

“The scriptures indicate that translation involved sight, power, transcription of the characters, the Urim and Thummim or a seerstone, study, and prayer.”

After returning from a trip to Palmyra to settle his afFairMormons, Martin began to transcribe. From April 12 to June 14, Joseph translated while Martin wrote, with only a curtain between them. On occasion they took breaks from the arduous task, sometimes going to the river and throwing stones. Once Martin found a rock closely resembling the seerstone Joseph sometimes used in place of the interpreters and substituted it without the Prophet’s knowledge. When the translation resumed, Joseph paused for a long time and then exclaimed, ‘Martin, what is the matter, all is as dark as Egypt.’ Martin then confessed that he wished to ‘stop the mouths of fools’ who told him that the Prophet memorized sentences and merely repeated them.”

FairMormon deleted their above response. See screenshot.



Jeremy's Response

Martin found a rock that looks like Joseph’s rock and made a switch to test. Joseph paused for a long time and says, “Martin, what is the matter, all is as dark as Egypt.” Okay? Where’s the hat? Where’s the rock in the hat? Where’s Joseph’s face in the hat? Where’s this rock in the hat replacing the gold plates for the Book of Mormon translation?

This is not a good source.

FairMormon's BOM Translation Source #7

September 1977 Ensign:

“There he gave his most detailed view of ‘the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated’: ‘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.

FairMormon deleted their above response. See screenshot.



Jeremy's Response

This is a good source. It’s important to note that this is the same direct quote from the Book of Mormon witness, David Whitmer that Elder Nelson also quotes in his 1992 talk.

Score #2 for the Church being transparent to its members in September 1977 about how the Book of Mormon was really translated.

FairMormon's BOM Translation Source #8

September 1974 Friend:

“To help him with the translation, Joseph found with the gold plates ‘a curious instrument which the ancients called Urim and Thummim, which consisted of two transparent stones set in a rim of a bow fastened to a breastplate.’ Joseph also used an egg-shaped, brown rock for translating called a seer stone.

FairMormon deleted their above response. See screenshot.



Jeremy's Response

While this article also mentions a stone and that Joseph read sentences off the stone, it mentions nothing about a hat, the stone being placed in the hat, Joseph placing his face into the hat, and that the gold plates were not used in the translation process.

This is not a good source for clearly explaining how the Book of Mormon was really translated.


"What's Art Got To Do With It?"

FairMormon says...

FairMormon attempts to rationalize and justify the Church's Book of Mormon translation art work that does not match the historical record. See their response in red text below and my response.





Jeremy's Response

FairMormon: “One of the strangest attacks on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is an assault on the Church’s art.

What’s strange about pointing out deception and fraud? Whether the fraud is carried out in text or art, it is still fraud.

I posted the following images on the bottom of this webpage but it’s worth posting it here to drive home the point that the Church not only has been deceptive to members in the past about how the Book of Mormon was really translated but they continue to deceive members still in by continuing to hang and insert paintings and art in the Conference Center, Church Museum, Temple Square, Temples, BYU campuses, and publications. They continue to do so while full well knowing that this is not how it happened.

The Church’s “honesty” and “transparency” on display:

What really happened:

What an “honest in its dealings with its fellow men” Church looks like in a parallel universe:

FairMormon attempts to rationalize, justify, and defend the Church’s blatant deception and dishonesty on how the Book of Mormon was really translated by making the following bizarre claims:

    1. Sources! Sure, the art is wrong and misleading but the Church seriously isn’t hiding anything because they’ve talked about the rock in the hat in so-and-so talks and books.
    2. The silly artists got it all wrong.
    3. Religious art, that’s why. Look at all of these other non-LDS religious artists getting it all wrong too!

Sources:

This is actually pretty funny now since FairMormon removed from their webpage, after the release of Debunking FairMormon’s Debunking, most of the sources they claimed backed up their position that the Church is transparent and honest in how the Book of Mormon is translated. Sources that I clearly demonstrate were either unofficial, extremely obscure, or not clearly educating the member and investigator about the rock in the hat translation.

The Silly artists got it all wrong:

It’s never the Church’s fault. It is always someone else's fault. The artists. The members. The investigators.

The issue here is not whether the artists got it wrong. The issue here is that the Church has been wrong to display the misleading art for decades. The issue here is the Church's continued displaying - still in - the incorrect, inaccurate, and deceptive art in its Conference Center, Church History Museum, Temple Square, Missionary publications, and official publications.

It’s not like the art is new. This has been going on for decades. And the Church has known - for decades - that this is not how it happened.

FairMormon can try all they want to spin this and pin this on artists but this does not change the fact that the Church has continued to perpetuate - for decades - the falsehood and fraud of how the Book of Mormon was translated.

Imagine a Mormon artist who is also a believer of Jediism. He creates the above art and presents it to the Church. To the artist, it’s “religious art”. The Church prints it in the front cover of the Ensign and displays it in the Conference Center and Temple Square.

Critics bring up the obvious deception and problem: it does not match the historical record; it’s nonsense. Even worse, the Church knows it does not match the historical record and has known for decades. Yet the Church has displayed it for decades and continues to display it even though it’s nonsense and does not match the historical record.

In FairMormon universe and operating under FairMormon’s standard, the publication in the Ensign and the painting being put on display in the Church’s buildings? Artist’s fault.

Like I said elsewhere regarding the Book of Mormon translation dishonesty and deception: “To these apologists, it is always the fault of the member [artist] and never the Church.”

The point I’m driving home here is how ridiculous FairMormon’s “it’s the artist’s fault” claim really is. The artist can’t print in the Ensign. The artist doesn’t have the magical hammer and nail to hang his painting up in the Conference Center, Temple Square, or the Church History Museum. The artist doesn’t have the suit to print it in the Church’s materials.

The idea that Joseph Smith used gold plates for the Book of Mormon we have today and that he translated while putting his finger over the plates under the glow of a candle light is just as absurd, incorrect, and fictional as Boba Fett appearing to Joseph Smith. Both scenarios are fiction. They never happened.

Yet, in both scenarios, one thing remains the same: The Church knows both stories are fictional but they continue to display the one that doesn’t have Boba Fett in it.

“Non-LDS religious artists got it wrong too!”:

This reminds me of the Q&A session between FairMormon President Scott Gordon and John Dehlin (see video below). Scott tried to defend the Church’s racism by pointing to other Churches that likewise discriminated against blacks at the same time. In other words, it’s not so bad because others were doing it at the same time too!

The LDS Church doesn’t claim to be just another Church. It claims not only that it’s unique but that it operates under “divine authority” and “continuing modern revelation”. It doesn’t matter that the Baptists were racist in 1955. They don’t claim to have a living Prophet and 12 Apostles who speak directly to God.

It doesn’t matter if the “artists got it wrong”. The art was commissioned and approved many times spanning over a period of 40+ years over and over and over again. Prophets and Apostles have seen the art. They have approved the art in not only the Church’s buildings and Temples but in its materials as well. Elder Nelson knew about the rock and the hat as far back as 1993. Elder Maxwell knew at least since 1988 when he published his Not My Will, But Thine. They both knew that the Book of Mormon translation art that the Church was officially publishing and putting up on walls were a fraud.

Further, some of the non-LDS religious art that FairMormon uses to demonstrate their point that religious art is often inaccurate and incorrect misses the other point: they’re not being officially used by the “one true and only true Church” being led by God himself for official purposes to teach and convey a story and message to both members and investigators. It’s fraud. It’s a fraud because the Church knows it didn’t happen this way but they continue to display still in 2014 these deceptive images for millions of their members and investigators to see and assume that this is how it happened.

FairMormon: "Elder Neal A. Maxwell went so far as to use Joseph's hat as a parable; this is hardly the act of someone trying to "hide the truth":

Jacob censured the "stiffnecked" Jews for "looking beyond the mark" (Jacob 4:14). We are looking beyond the mark today, for example, if we are more interested in the physical dimensions of the cross than in what Jesus achieved thereon; or when we neglect Alma's words on faith because we are too fascinated by the light-shielding hat reportedly used by Joseph Smith during some of the translating of the Book of Mormon. To neglect substance while focusing on process is another form of unsubmissively looking beyond the mark.[15]

Those who criticize the Church based on its artwork should perhaps take Elder Maxwell's caution to heart."

I’m sorry, but when you’re making a claim to an investigator, who is trying to decide on whether or not to spend his life as a 10% tithing paying Mormon, that the Book of Mormon was translated this way while displaying the deceptive art? When the Church knows that this isn’t how it happened and isn’t doing anything to correct this by removing the art and replacing it with correct art? It’s fraud. All this “parable” and “looking beyond the mark” and “it’s religious art” stuff is irrelevant nonsense when fraud and deception is being used as a primary means in converting both members and investigators alike to a fictional story.

Showing the true art and story matters. If an investigator or member were to learn that Joseph Smith looked into his hat with a common rock he found in his neighbor’s backyard to “translate” the Book of Mormon? The same rock he used as a treasure hunter conning his neighbors out of their money? It could be a critical factor in their decision process in whether or not to continue in Mormonism. The Church knows this and this is why they’ve obscured this fact for decades and this is why they’re continuing to obscure it. They’d much rather perpetuate a false account than show the true bizarre account in fear of the repercussions.

FairMormon: "The hat detail causes problems for the critical theory that Joseph cheated with notes while dictating. With a curtain in place, it is much easier to postulate that Joseph used notes or a Bible in the translation process. With the stone and the hat, however, witnesses were able to view the entire process, thus highlighting the total lack of notes or Bible in the translation process. Note also that in Parson's painting, with it's open setting, the cheat-notes theory can't get any traction.”

In FairMormon’s response in the Book of Mormon section, they concede that Joseph Smith may very well have consulted the King James Version text to explain why there are 1769 KJV errors and italics in the supposedly ancient Book of Mormon text.

Now, FairMormon flip flops and throws this position out by stating that Joseph couldn’t have “cheated” by using notes or a Bible.

FairMormon: “One needs to consider the impressive witness testimonies of the plates' reality…

One needs to consider the unimpressive witness testimonies in light of all of the problems, inconsistencies, “second sight”, and magical worldviews of the witnesses. Details can be found here.


Conclusion

Okay, so let’s take a step back here and look at the numbers:

  • Out of 8 9 (adding in the Church's December 2013 Book of Mormon Translation essay) sources spanning nearly 40 years, only 6 7 (adding in Church's December 2013 essay) are official.
  • Out of those 7 official articles, only 3 articles clearly explain the rock in the hat Book of Mormon translation process to the members.
  • The Church officially brings up the rock in the hat Book of Mormon translation process in the Ensign in September 1977 and July 1993 as well as in its new December 2013 Book of Mormon Translation essay.
  • Prior to December 2013, The Church has only officially mentioned – a single sentence each time – the peep stone in the hat Book of Mormon translation process twice in 40 years. That’s one peep (no pun intended) every 20 years.

This is one example of why, as I mentioned in the CES Letter, FairMormon and these unofficial apologists have done more to destroy my testimony than any anti-Mormon source ever could.

The President of FairMormon, Scott Gordon, pulled this same stunt in his “Mormonism and the Internet” presentation in March 2012 at Utah Valley University (as shown in the video below). “Tactics of a Mormon Apologist,” is well worth watching as it shows how FairMormon and other unofficial apologists point to obscure, unrelated, unclear, and sometimes unofficial sources in their attempt to paint the LDS Church as transparent and honest to its members about its origins and history:

Shortly after Scott Gordon’s presentation, there was a Q&A session held with Scott Gordon and John Dehlin of Mormon Stories. In the Q&A session, John Dehlin specifically brings up his objection with this part of Scott’s presentation. It’s worth watching the exchange below between John Dehlin and Scott Gordon over the Church’s lack of transparency with polygamy, polyandry, the Book of Mormon translation, and other issues:

Source @ 37:33 mark

I once saw the following meme on Facebook posted by a Mormon apologetic group:

So what, right? My experience with Mormon apologists on the issue of the Book of Mormon translation is smug and condescending arrogance followed by unrelenting gaslighting attacks on the members:

“What? You didn’t know that Joseph didn’t really use the gold plates and that he used a rock in a hat instead? Your ignorance is your problem; not the Church’s. The Church is honest and transparent to the members.”

To these apologists, it is always the fault of the member and never the Church.

The Church’s “honesty” and “transparency” on display:

What really happened:

What an “honest in its dealings with its fellow men” Church looks like in a parallel universe:

2021 Update:

Here's a clip of Church president Russell M. Nelson "demonstrating" the rock in the hat method:

Source @ 3:25 mark

Notice that President Nelson says "suggestions" when it's a fact that is now accepted by historians and scholars on both sides. Also notice how uncomfortable he is and how he folds and squeezes his hands together as he attempts to disclose a foreign translation process that would shock and surprise the average Chapel Mormon.

After placing the hat near his face, Nelson then tries to make the weird seem normal or plausible by taking a page out of Dieter Uchtdorf's playbook in hilariously comparing this process to cell phones.

There's no explanation from Nelson on the discrepancy between what he's now saying versus how the Church indoctrinated generations of Latter-day Saints on the Book of Mormon translation. Also no explanation from Nelson about folk magic treasure digging and how Joseph and his family used the same method in conning people out of their money for buried treasure as he used for "translating" the Book of Mormon.

And just like that, kids, the keystone of our religion literally came out of a hat and we're now being sold the idea that rocks were 19th-century iPhones.

Here's a screenshot of the recent January 2021 Liahona in how the Book of Mormon was translated:

Source: January 2021 Liahona, page 29

Notice no rock in the hat. Just the same fictitious plates on a table translation process the Church deceived its members for generations. They are misleading members of the Church about the truth of the Book of Mormon translation process still in 2021.

So, yes, while the Church will occasionally release essays and videos that go over these troubling historical issues (rock in the hat Book of Mormon translation, etc.), the reality is that when they are mass producing materials for members who aren't asking questions, such as the Liahona magazine, the Church continues to fall back on incorrect and long disproven images and sources.

This tells you everything you need to know about the Church's confidence that if they ever told members the real history, including how the Book of Mormon was really translated, on whether the members would continue to stay in the Church.

The Church has been and continues to be dishonest about how the Book of Mormon was really translated. LDS historian and scholar Richard Bushman agrees:

I will begin by saying that we still have pictures on our Ward bulletin boards of Joseph Smith with the Gold Plates in front of him. That has become an irksome point and I think it is something the church should pay attention to. Because anyone who studies the history knows that is not what happened. There is no church historian who says that is what happened and yet it is being propagated by the church and it feeds into the notion that the church is trying to cover up embarrassing episodes and is sort of prettifying its own history.

So I think we should just stop that immediately. I am not sure we need a lot of pictures of Joseph looking into his hat, but we certainly should tell our children that is how it worked. It’s weird. It’s a weird picture. It implies it’s like darkening a room when we show slides. It implies that there is an image appearing in that stone and the light would make it more difficult to see that image. So, that implies a translation that’s a reading and so gives a little clue about the whole translation process. It also raises the strange question, what in the world are the plates for? Why do we need them on the table if they are just wrapped up into a cloth while he looks into a seer stone?

- Richard Bushman, LDS Scholar, FAIR Podcast, Episode 3: Richard L. Bushman p.1, 47:25

At the end of the day, the rock in the hat translation method is less credible than the traditional gold plates story, which may be one of the reasons why the Church has failed to adequately educate its membership and the world at large.

In any event, the Church’s approach – taken as a whole – is disingenuous and misleading.




Debunking FairMormon Home


About the Author

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.

“I believe that members and investigators deserve to have all of the facts and information on the table, to be able to make a fully-informed and balanced decision as to whether or not they want to commit their hearts, minds, time, talents, income, and lives to Mormonism.”

Jeremy T. Runnells


FAQs & Common Attacks

Interview with Mormon Stories

Part 1 On Growing Up Mormon and the Genesis of the CES Letter 
Part 2 Jeremy Discusses the CES Letter in Detail 
Part 3 Rapid Firing Round, Reaction to the Letter 
Debunking Mormon Apologists CES Letter