Debunking FAIR Conclusion

The above donut chart shows percentages of the entire Letter to a CES Director that FAIR is in agreement, disagreement, and neutral on.

If one assumes that FAIR's undisputed silence is acceptance of the facts, FAIR agrees with 79% of Letter to a CES Director. You’d have a difficult time seeing this by looking at FAIR’s answers. The trick is in the silence; facts in the CES letter that FAIR leave alone and don’t dispute.

Breakdown can be found here.

Agreements:

FAIR agrees with the CES Letter on many of the important issues and problems of Mormonism:

  • Joseph used a rock in a hat to translate the Book of Mormon.
  • There are multiple First Vision accounts.
  • The historical record shows there was no revival in Palmyra in 1820.
  • Joseph had 34 wives.
  • Joseph was married to 11 other living men’s wives.
  • Joseph married teenage girls as young as 14-years-old.
  • Joseph married a mother-daughter set and three sister sets.
  • Joseph translated the fake Kinderhook Plates.
  • There are KJV errors present in the Book of Mormon.
  • There are KJV italics present in the Book of Mormon.
  • DNA evidence that Lamanites are not the principal ancestors of Native American Indians.
  • B.H. Roberts' View of the Hebrews parallels have validity under Church supported Hemispheric Model.
  • The Book of Abraham does not match the papyri used by Joseph Smith.
  • The papyri used by Joseph Smith for translating the Book of Abraham is dated close to 2,000 years after Abraham could have written it.
  • The papyri used by Joseph Smith is a common pagan Egyptian funerary text.
  • Joseph's human headed "Priest of Elkenah" is incorrect and should be the jackal-headed Egyptian god Anubis.
  • Joseph's Facsimile 3 translation is wrong...Osiris is Abraham, Isis as Pharaoh, Maat as Prince of Pharaoh, Anubis as a slave, dead Hor as a waiter, and two females as males.
  • Joseph identified pagan Egyptian God with erect penis, Min, as "God sitting on his throne..."
  • Acknowledges that there are some parallels between Thomas Dick's A Philosophy of a Future State and the Book of Abraham.
  • Brigham Young taught the Adam-God Theory.
  • Brigham Young taught "Blood Atonement".
  • Brigham Young taught "the only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy."
  • Mark Hofmann scammed "prophets, seers, and revelators" and the Church in the 1980s out of close to $900,000 in antiquities and cash.
  • Feelings and spiritual promptings alone are not reliable. They must be "confirmed."
  • "Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery changed the wording of earlier revelations when they compiled the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants.
  • Oliver Cowdery used a Dowsing Rod as a treasure hunter and that he tried translating scripture using this folk magic device.
  • Joseph introduced the LDS endowment ceremony just 7 weeks after his Masonic initiation in the Nauvoo Lodge.
  • Noah's Ark and Global Flood are likely not literal events.
  • Joseph married 6 months pregnant newlywed Zina Huntington Jacobs, who was already married to her husband Henry.

And more.

"Disagreements":

As for the “disagreements” (only 21% of the CES Letter), many of the so-called disagreements are strawmen, agreements disguised as disagreements, or nitpicking.

Examples of this:

  • Joseph Smith didn't explictly state "God the Father" and "Jesus Christ" in his 1838 First Vision account.
  • Larson's Facsimile 1 restoration is slightly different than another Egyptologist's restoration. FAIR fails to tell their readers that Larson and the other Egyptologist both agree that Joseph's restoration of Facsimile 1 is nonsense.
  • "Same funeral scene." It's not a mummy but resurrection of Osiris. FAIR misses the point: whether it's a mummy or Osiris is irrelevant to the discussion. It is not Abraham on an altar as Joseph Smith claimed.
  • Sun borrows light from Kolob vs. sun gets its light from Kolob.
  • City Creek mall costs about $1.5 billion instead of $5 billion. FAIR completely ignores point and argument that the megamall is a moral failure of epic proportions and that lack of financial transparency is a serious problem.
A detailed breakdown of all of the agreements, disagreements, and neutral can be found here.

Errors / Mistakes:

Are there some errors and mistakes in the original CES Letter? Yes.

I acknowledge them, own them, and fixed them. You can see the exact list of errors here. The total errors/mistakes only represented 5% of the entire original CES Letter.

The updated CES Letter (which can be found here) does not contain the mistakes or errors, as I corrected them.

Truth:

Truth just is. It’s self-evident. It’s self-explanatory. As Dan Barker said:

“Truth does not demand belief. Scientists do not join hands every Sunday singing, ‘Yes, gravity is real! I will have faith! I will be strong! I believe in my heart that what goes up, up, up must come down. Amen!” If they did that, we would think they were pretty insecure about it.”

Once you see all the evidence laid out, and your brain snaps together, you just cannot go back to believing in Santa, or Joseph Smith’s religion. You just…know. It doesn’t matter how much it once meant to you, how ferociously you always defended it, or how many sacrifices you made for it – it’s all over.

As Tal Bachman stated:

I think the truth is that the only way Mormonism makes any kind of sense, is when it is assumed to be a very man-made fraud.

It's in the past...it's behind us:

A statement and argument I've heard from believing members of the Church:

“You’re thinking too much. You’re focused too much on history. Focus on the good that the Church does today. It doesn’t matter what happened in the past. What matters is what is happening now.”

President Hinckley pulled out this card in a Larry King Live interview when asked about polygamy:

“That’s 118 years ago. It’s behind us.”

In a 60 Minutes interview with Mike Wallace:

Mike: Church policy had it that blacks had the mark of Cain. Brigham Young said, “Cain slew his brother, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin.”

Hinckley: It’s behind us. Look, that’s behind us. Don’t worry about those little flecks of history.

Ryan Whitney shared the following analogy that brilliantly illustrates the problems and holes of this defense:

I used to live on the top floor of a tall apartment building. It was a great building, over 184 years old, it had a beautiful facade. The building initially started out small, but new floors had been steadily added on every 10-15 years or so. Things were really great there until rumors began to swirl that the foundations weren’t sound. Actually, they were really weak. One look at them, and at a minimum, you knew that not only the Foundation, but many of the lower floors weren’t nearly as solid as The Management had always described them to us. In fact, there were lots and lots of holes, structural integrity issues, and other problems.

Most of those who lived in the building knew nothing of these discoveries. Management tried to downplay them. Some who did shrugged them off as “well, that is all in the past. I don’t care about that stuff. My devotion to this building has little to do with the original architect or any of the levels below us, because -- hey! Just look at our floor! It’s very nice.”

Management, meanwhile, having always covered up the structural problems, once they were discovered tried to distance themselves from the original architects and builders: “They were fallible and their architectural designs were just theories, subject to the limited knowledge and understanding of their time.”

That was all well and good, but as the building started to wobble, I decided to get the hell out. No matter how many billions of dollars The Management spends making the top floor look good, all the advertising in the world wouldn’t make me want to live in a building completely lacking in structural integrity. Besides, the rent was way too high.

Robert Banks shared the following analogy:

Imagine 150 years into the future. The FLDS Church has adapted to the times, stopped polygamy, and became more mainstream.

Imagine that in their depictions and videos of the Prophet Warren Jeffs, there is no mention of his polygamy. In fact, all of the videos and art show how much he loved his first wife and how devoted he was to her.

Also imagine that the videos depict his trial and incarceration as nothing more than anti-FLDS persecution, with no mention or background of the reason for his arrest. Also imagine FLDS members, upon learning of Jeffs’ polygamy, Jeffs' criminal activities, having sex with girls as young as 12-years-old defending Jeffs’ by stating, “he was just a man” or “he made mistakes” or “God uses imperfect people to accomplish His will” or “he was a ‘rough stone rolling’.”

Imagine these FLDS members of the future looking down on those who doubt Warren Jeffs and the truthfulness of the gospel. These “apostates” who learn the truth about Warren Jeffs have “lost the spirit” or “sinned” or “are lazy” or “are thinking too much” or “are looking for excuses.”

History matters. It especially matters in Mormonism where its foundational truth claims are rooted and grounded into Joseph Smith, his claims, and history. Indeed, as Hinckley stated regarding one of the Church’s foundational claims (First Vision) and its history:

“…without that history we have nothing.”

What if you’re wrong?:

I’ve been asked the following question by Mormons many times:

“What if you’re wrong? What if you end up on the other side to find that Mormonism is true after all?”

My quick answer: What if you’re wrong and you end up condemned to the Islamic hell by Allah? Or the Catholic purgatory? The Egyptian hell? Tartarus? Peklo? Kalichi? Hetgwauge? Mictlan? Or any of the thousands of hells devised by mankind’s religions and gods; past and present?

Dear Believer illustrates this universal problem masterfully.

In the extremely unlikely scenario that Mormonism turns out to be true, I’d imagine the following conversation taking place at the Judgment bar:

“Why did you make your one and only true Church look so much like a clumsy hoax? I used the brain you gave me. I believed you when you said that your glory is intelligence. I believed you when you said “let us reason even as a man reasoneth one with another.” This is my investigation. This is the evidence I’ve discovered. This is my reasoning. This is how I arrived at my conclusions. Help me. Where did I go wrong? What could I have done otherwise?

Did you really expect me to rip out my guts in preserving some very weak form of faith in light of so much damning evidence to the contrary? Is not faith believing and hoping in things when there is little evidence for or against something? And is not delusion believing and hoping in things when there is an abundance of evidence to the contrary?”

And if the Mormon god still sees fit to condemn me? Despite having lived an honorable and good life loving others and being a good husband and father? I will gladly go to a lower kingdom than serve and live “worlds without end” with such a sadistic, unjust, illogical, and unstable god.

Leave the Church alone:

Another question I’ve been asked a few times by believing Mormons:

"Why don’t you leave the Church alone and move on?"

The CES Letter is not the result of my being unable to “leave the Church alone.” The CES Letter is the result of the CES Director asking me to share my concerns and questions about the Church. The CES Letter would not exist had I not received the email request from the CES Director.

In fact, I wrote the CES Letter with just the CES Director, my family, my children, and a few dozen crowdsourcing internet strangers in mind. This is why you see the raw emotion in the letter. It was personal to me and I wrote believing only the CES Director, a few dozen crowdsourcing internet strangers, and the eyes of loved ones would read it. Never in a million years would I have imagined that so many thousands of people all over the world would read the letter. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined getting all the numerous heartfelt emails and forum posts from my readers like I have. Had I known beforehand that it would have exploded as it did? I probably would have written a less personal and emotional letter.

Debunking FAIR’s Debunking is not the result of my being unable to “leave the Church alone.” It’s the direct result of FAIR’s hit piece attacking the CES letter, my integrity, and my character. This was a massive project in terms of not only writing and research but in web and graphic design and coding as well. It was not something I wanted to do but something I was compelled to do in defense of my work, integrity, honor, and character.

Besides, the common Mormon mantra of "They can leave the Church but they can't leave it alone" is ridiculous. Mormon Expressions John Larsen said it best near the very end of this podcast:

They leave the church but they can't leave it alone. Well, frankly, we couldn't leave it alone when we were in the church [a reference to the large amounts of time and rules the church requires of members] so we're just taking that with us. That's a huge amount of time. Not only your faith and your identity and all that stuff - suddenly goes poof.

What kind of weird psychopath could just walk away from that and just forget about it? "That was a fun 35 years, what's next?"

People who use this mantra do not understand the trauma associated with leaving Mormonism. Unlike most other things in life, there is no graceful way to resign or leave Mormonism. There's no "Thanks for 35 years of your life and 2 of those full-time as a missionary! We wish you the best!" To members of the Church, you're leaving only because it's you who is broken or it's you with the problem. You're leaving because you want to sin, or you're lazy, or you never really believed, or you didn't pray hard enough.

No, I'm disaffected for the same reason I don't tell Santa what I want for Christmas or why I no longer anticipate the Easter Bunny's visit: I no longer believe it. Once I peered behind the curtain and saw the facts and problems, I could never go back to believing or accepting Mormonism's truth claims.

The Church is not a meek little lamb that gets persecuted. The Church actively interferes with the lives of individuals and families who are no longer interested in the Church. Harassing the so-called “less actives” or “inactives” who specifically ask to be left alone in their disbelief is one example. Looking down and disparaging those who doubt or who leave the Church is another example. Knocking on doors with “No Soliciting” signs all over the world is another example. If the Church is going to claim that it is the “one and only true Church” that has the “fullness of truth”? And put itself out there with Fortune 500 budget advertising campaigns and an 80,000+ iPad missionary army teaching such bold claims about its product? They’re fair game for scrutiny and debate on their claims. Indeed, if their product is as advertised, they should be unafraid of scrutiny, debate, or criticism; they should welcome it.

Conclusion:

I want to sincerely thank FAIR for doing their analysis on the CES Letter. We have our agreements. We have our disagreements. At the end of the day? While I’m not thrilled with having to deal with FAIR's strawmen and ad hominem attacks, they’ve put my letter to the test. They’ve challenged it. They’ve acknowledged most of the facts. They pointed out the errors. They did what the CES Director didn’t do. They’ve given readers the opportunity to see a balanced debate over the issues and problems of Mormonism.

As I told the CES Director in the beginning of my letter: “Like you, I put my pants on one leg at a time and I see through a glass darkly.” I’ve done the best I could. I’m sincere in my research and work. I accept and own the mistakes of my original letter and I’ve corrected them. If there are mistakes or errors I’ve missed, I want to hear about them.

As time has passed and things have calmed down from my faith crisis and transition, I’ve come to accept and embrace the truth that Mormonism will always be a part of me. It’s in my DNA. It’s my past. It’s my heritage. It’s what made me who I am today. Without Mormonism, I would not have my unmatchable beautiful wife whom I met at BYU. Without Mormonism and BYU helping me to find my amazing wife, my awesome and hilarious children just wouldn’t be the same. I'm at peace with my past.

Mormonism is the canoe that got me over a raging river. I’m now on the other side of the river with mountains, valleys, and deserts to travel. The canoe no longer serves me in my journey but I will always be grateful for the river it helped me cross.

Where do I go from here?

Resources




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


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

Several unofficial Mormon apologists, including FairMormon, have provided responses to CES Letter:

Jeremy's response to FairMormon:

The only official response, to date, is the series of recent essays by the LDS Church, which is available on the Church’s own lds.org website.

A comprehensive critique of each essay is available here on MormonThink.com.

Jeremy’s rebuttals to other Mormon apologist arguments:

A Zombie’s Reflections on That Mormon Apologist’s Reflections

Jeremy’s rebuttal to Daniel C. Peterson’s FairMormon Some Reflections on That Letter to a CES Director presentation.

The Book of Abraham: “Except for Those Willfully Blind, the Case is Closed”

Jeremy’s rebuttal to Brian M. Hauglid’s Jeremy Runnells and the Book of Abraham essay.

The Sky is Falling – Part 1

Jeremy’s rebuttal to FairMormon’s Kevin Christensen’s Eye of the Beholder essay.