Debunking Jim Bennett CES Letter Reply

CES Letter Introduction

Please Donate

This is such a massive project that is consuming so much of our time. If you've benefited and received value from this rebuttal so far and would like to see us finish everything, please consider paying it forward with a tax-deductible donation. Anything and everything help.

Donations of $75 or more will receive an autographed (with note of appreciation) CES Letter paperback book from Jeremy Runnells personally. Please email [email protected] confirming donation, address and autograph requests.

Brief Summary


This entire section is filled with absolute nonsense and falsehoods on the part of Jim Bennett. 2021 Jim knows that he has made comments and claims in this section that are not true. 2021 Jim has stated that he hasn't been charitable toward me here:

Most of this section is about 2018 Jim's misconceptions about me that 2021 Jim - thanks for our 6-7 hours offline one-on-one conversations and the evidences I presented to him - knows is not accurate or true.

Jim has misled a lot of people these past couple of years about me, my integrity, my character and my motives. In other words, defamation. He has also misled a lot of people on the issues, which I will demonstrate throughout this debunking of Jim's Jim Bennett Mormonism® Manifesto.

There are zero valid points or criticisms made in this entire CES Letter Introduction section by Jim Bennett.

Detailed Response



Jim Bennett says...

The CES Letter is quite different in tone from "The Godmakers" and my old pal Walter, who were making the case that the Church is a Satanic cult, whereas Jeremy is making a more intellectual case that the Church is little more than a clumsy, obvious, and occasionally well-intended fraud. So while Walter Martin wanted to tear down my faith to make me a Christian, Jeremy Runnells just wants to tear down my faith and leave me comfortless in the theological rubble. It's a far bleaker worldview than the one "The Godmakers" was peddling, and it's also, I think, a far more devastating assault on faith in general.

Jeremy's Response

Here's 2021 Jim Bennett acknowledging the problems of his branding attempt in comparing the Godmakers to the CES Letter:

I've told Jim this during our 2019 lunch and I'm going to say it again here. I absolutely resent being put in the same paragraph or universe as the goddamn Godmakers. I get that Godmakers was Jim's 1980s boogeyman and it's his experience but it's beyond exasperating that he's comparing me and the CES Letter to piece of shit Ed Decker and his horrid and dishonest garbage.

Ed Decker, an evangelical Christian, woke up one day conniving on how he was going to lie and manipulate Mormons to the "one and only true Jesus". Truth and honesty be damned. To Decker, Mormons are in a satanic cult and he needs to save them.

I was a lifelong Latter-day Saint and returned missionary who was approached by my grandfather's CES Director friend and asked to share my questions and concerns in hopes of restoring my faith and testimony in the Church. It was a letter intended for the CES Director and it was never intended to become what it has become. It just happened and the dominos fell in a way I could have never imagined or anticipated.

I have no ulterior agenda here. I have no better Jesus to sell you. I'm not banking or getting rich off of this as this has always been primarily a side charity project that I've donated way too much time and energy that I mostly did not have over the years.

I do not care if you stay or leave the LDS Church. It has absolutely zero effect on my life on what your LDS Church status is. I don't know you and I have no idea what is personally best for you and your own life. Only you do. Some people are better off leaving and some people are better off staying. Both are valid decisions.

All I'm asking here is that all of the information be on the LDS table. Not 20% or 50% or 90% but 100%. I am seeing too much disruption and carnage in the lives of LDS individuals and LDS families because the LDS table is missing too much important data and information. Anything less than 100% on the LDS table is an obstruction to the free agency of the member and investigator in making a valid and complete decision as to whether or not they want to devote their lives, money and devotion to Mormonism.

We have a word for this kind of withholding of key vital information in the real world in marriage proposals and sectors like mortgages, insurance and government: fraud.

One of the reasons why I take greater offense at Jim hurling Godmakers my way is that it's personal to me. I lived in La Mirada, California in my teen years where anti-Mormonism was and still is very prevalent. La Mirada is home to BIOLA (Bible Institute of Los Angeles) which is a private evangelical Christian university. I have had unpleasant encounters with anti-Mormon evangelical Christians who harassed me, my father, my friends and my Ward members. My father was the Ward Mission Leader for a few years at the time and we often had missionaries come over to my home for dinner or to stop by. BIOLA and its students were frequently a topic of conversation because of how they were harassing and attacking the missionaries along with disrupting their discussions with investigators. I knew about the Godmakers as far back as the mid-1990s and I resented it for telling me that I needed a better Jesus. I resented it for it being used as a bludgeoning tool against all of us.

These experiences in La Mirada echoed through the decades as when Mormonism collapsed for me, I refused to ever become an evangelical Christian. I kind of automatically and without thinking shifted to non-denominational Christianity for a few months before becoming a deist and then ultimately agnostic atheist...but never evangelical. Not after what I saw and experienced at the hands of evangelical Christians during my youth in La Mirada.

Jim, the 1980s called. They want their anti-Mormon boogeyman back.

We're not in the 1980s anymore and the "anti-Mormonism" of the 21st century is coming from none other than the LDS Church itself via its Gospel Topics essays acknowledging that yesterday's "anti-Mormon lies" are now today's Gospel Topics essay facts.

We're just so beyond the asinine and stupid Godmakers. Your continued smear attempts in rebranding the CES Letter as basically a new Godmakers demonstrates either dishonesty or a fundamental ignorance and misunderstanding of the purpose and background story of the CES Letter along with a misreading of the caliber and quality of the debate / discussion regarding the LDS Church's truth crisis now in the 21st century.

"Jeremy wants to tear down faith and leave people in theological rubble."

Jim Bennett says...

Jeremy Runnells just wants to tear down my faith and leave me comfortless in the theological rubble

Jeremy's Response

I simply share the same exact position as President J. Reuben Clark, who Jim also agrees with:

"If we have the truth, no harm can come from investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed."

It was a letter to a CES Director trying to get official answers to resolve my concerns and doubts. Nothing more. Nothing less.

I absolutely reject and resent Jim's attack here and mischaracterization of my motives. In fact, 2021 Jim rejects this (talks specifically about my motives at the 5:15 mark):

I have no ulterior agenda here. I have no better Jesus to sell you. I'm not banking or getting rich off of this as this has always been primarily a side charity project that I've donated way too much time and energy that I mostly did not have over the years.

I do not care what you place your faith in let alone "tearing it down". I really don't. I do not care if you stay in or leave the LDS Church. It has absolutely zero effect on my life on what your LDS Church status is. I don't know you and I have no idea what is personally best for you and your own life. Only you do. Some people are better off leaving and some people are better off staying. Both are equally valid decisions.

In fact, there have been people who I know personally who have asked me about whether or not to go down the rabbit hole and I told them that I felt, based on my knowledge of them personally, they were better off in the Church today and to leave it alone unless circumstances changed and they were no longer happy and fulfilled in the Church.

My own 85-year-old grandfather had bought Rough Stone Rolling and had it on his office shelf when I visited his home. I asked him about it and if he had read it. He said he planned to and asked my thoughts about basically going down the rabbit hole of Church history. I had already spent about two years prior telling him to not read my CES Letter or to watch my Mormon Stories interview and to just ignore me on this topic. Why? Because I love and care about my grandfather very much and I would be damned if I was going to let my elderly, frail and vulnerable grandfather experience a crisis of faith in his mid-80s. I'd rather him believe in the Church's narrative that I'm a lost dark soul who lost my way than for him to personally suffer because of his religion's truth crisis and his leaders' failings to do the right thing.

I have had many LDS missionaries email me over the years. There have been many missionaries that, after discovering their family and background situation along with how many months they've been out on their missions, I felt strongly that it was against their well-being and safety to do a deconstruction of their religion while out in the field. I told them to drop it if they can and to just make the best of their missions. If they felt the need to revisit this when they returned home, they could do so but my advice to them was to dedicate their hearts to the people and to grow personally as much as they can.

So, "Jeremy Runnells just wants to tear down my faith and leave me comfortless"? What a crock of shit. This dishonest and unfair attack makes Jim a hypocrite as it contradicts Jim's claim that you cannot judge the hearts and motives of others that is not charitable toward them. It contradicts 2021 Jim's statements about my motives being honest and exactly what I've stated them to be (above video @ 5:15 mark). 2021 Jim knows better than this and has acknowledged that people don't leave the Church over me but because of Church history questions and concerns:

Look...all I'm asking here is that all of the information be on the LDS table. Not 20% or 50% or 90% but 100%. I am seeing too much disruption and carnage in the lives of LDS individuals and LDS families because the LDS table is missing too much important data and information. Anything less than 100% on the LDS table is an obstruction to the free agency of the member and investigator in making a valid and complete decision as to whether or not they want to devote their lives, money and devotion to Mormonism.

We have a word for this withholding of key vital information in the real world in marriage proposals and sectors like mortgages, insurance and government: fraud.

The bottom line here is that there are legitimate and very real problems to the LDS Church's narrative and truth claims. Full stop. Jim acknowledges a lot of these problems and has even created his own homemade Jim Bennett version of Mormonism as a result of his encounters to the LDS Church's truth crisis. Jim acknowledges that the LDS Church wasn't transparent to its members for decades:

You don't have to take my word for it as LDS scholars and historians have acknowledged the LDS Church's truth crisis:

You don't have to take my word for it as you can read the Church's very own Gospel Topics essays that have destroyed faith and left people "comfortless in the theological rubble", as Jim so poetically describes. And it still does every day.

It is not me who is tearing down faith. It's the LDS Church and its narrative and truth crisis that is doing just that. I didn't create or perpetuate their truth crisis. "Prophets, seers and revelators" since Joseph Smith have. Especially since around 1910 onward when LDS Church leaders began to really see the serious and unsustainable cracks to their theology and foundation.

The real "theological rubble" here sits at the doorstep of the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City. The real people who are leaving members "comfortless" with its "theological rubble" is the pandemic GameStop / Tesla banking First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve who care more about their secret $100 billion dollar slush fund than they do being truly transparent and honest with all of their members about its truth crisis.

It is not my responsibility to "comfort" anyone as I am not responsible for the LDS Church's truth crisis and its "theological rubble". This responsibility and blame rests solely on the LDS Church leadership alone.

What Jim doesn't tell you is that I do mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. Even though I did not cause the truth crisis or perpetuate it, I have donated and given many, many hours in emails and conversations with those devastated and left comfortless by the LDS Church's truth crisis by comforting them and telling them that it's going to be okay. By giving them advice on how to navigate through this while keeping themselves and their family relationships intact. One of them being my own father who I have spent many hours in conversations with for years in helping him to process the Church's truth crisis and to be at peace in his late 60s about the Church and his decades of devotion and service to it.

So, I take offense at this bullshit attack and smear from Jim. I take offense to Jim blaming me for his religion's truth crisis and I take offense to him painting me as this evil person without compassion or kindness who only seeks to destroy and leave people bleeding on their own.

You're just absolutely wrong here, Jim. You're completely and totally barking at the wrong tree. Go bark at that tall building on North Temple instead.

2021 Jim knows that this is not a fair or legitimate personal attack.

Jeremy "insists" CES Director never responded

Jim Bennett says...

Runnells insists that he still hasn't received a reply from the CES director to whom his magnum opus was addressed.

Jeremy's Response

I don't have to insist on anything. Jim is now a Special Witness to the reality and truthfulness of the CES Director and my CES Letter origin claims and that the Director never got back to me.

See for yourself:

Unofficial Apologists & Why listen to Jim Bennett?

Jim Bennett says...

There have been many other attempts to respond, most notably from FairMormon, which Runnells dismisses as a group of "unofficial apologists." I take from this that only a direct response from the Quorum of the Twelve or the First Presidency would satisfy Runnells as an "official apologist" response. Certainly this response is deeply unofficial – I'm the Second Counselor in the Sunday School Presidency, which is the limited extent of my current ecclesiastical authority. So nothing I write here should be interpreted as anything but the extremely fallible opinion of a rank-and-file church member. One wonders, then, why I would bother to write it at all.

Jeremy's Response

Anyone who has studied the "faithful answers" or Philosophies of Men Mingled With Scripture presented by unofficial apologetic organizations like FairMormon knows how inconsistent, incoherent and incompatible their "answers" are to that of the official doctrines and teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, its correlation and its "prophets, seers and revelators". FairMormon and their buddies preach a Gospel that was/is truly alien and strange to me. The quality of FairMormon's "faithful answers" are so poor and contradictory that they lost all credibility to me. And this has been the case for countless Latter-day Saints whose testimonies FairMormon effectively killed on the spot.

I know this has been my own experience after a year of researching apologetic "faithful answers". So, when the CES Director approached me in March 2013, it was as if the Coast Guard finally found me in the middle of the apologetic ocean and threw me a lifejacket. Finally, a true messenger from Father. FairMormon's "faithful answers" are exactly why I needed the CES Director's response in the first place.

FairMormon and Mormon apologetic organizations are not representatives of the LDS Church. They do not officially speak for the LDS Church. They are basically a Mormon fan club run by dishonest men like John Lynch and Scott Gordon who have been documented spreading blatant lies and smears about myself and other critics.

FairMormon did try to respond several times. The first couple of times in 2014 where they kept deleting their stuff after I debunked their dishonesty in my Debunking FairMormon.

FairMormon is no longer a credible organization - especially after their TITS stunt.

Others have responded to the CES Letter and I have responded to them:

The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve eventually did respond when they released the Gospel Topics essays, which has been confirmed by LDS Church Historians as having been planned, reviewed and approved by both quorums. I accept these essays as official answers of the LDS Church. I'm grateful for the essays because they confirmed to my believing father, for example, that I wasn't making all of this up and that there are legitimate serious problems to the LDS Church's truth claims.

This has likewise been the experience of countless others who were disturbed to discover that the LDS Church is now verifying that yesterday's "anti-Mormon lies" are indeed facts. Some of them were/are disturbed to the point where they believed/believe the Church's website was/is hacked by enemies of the Church.

As for why we should listen to "Second Counselor in the Sunday School Presidency and extremely fallible rank-and-file" Jim Bennett?

I ask myself the same question. Especially considering that Jim does not represent or speak for the LDS Church and more especially because Jim isn't even defending the same church as the LDS Church. Jim is defending Jim Bennett Mormonism®:

Closed-Minded Jeremy

Jim Bennett says...

Nothing I write here has had any impact on the opinion of Jeremy Runnells – he seems to have made up his mind on this stuff – but if there is a single kid, or adult, who reads this and feels a little less frustrated, frightened, or powerless, then writing this will be worth it.

Jeremy's Response

Who said that I fully read your document (since you claim "nothing I write here") when you wrote this back in September 2018, Jim? I hadn't read it why are you making assumptions and claims that are not true?

I know you like to think that you were so important that you captivated my full attention but you didn't. My grandfather passed and I was juggling a lot of personal life plates. I had gone through and meticulously documented an exhausting Kangaroo Court along with debunking a viral blogger before going into a hiatus and almost permanent retirement from all things Mormonism. I didn't start paying attention to you until your 14-hour interview with Bill Reel in March 2019 and it was only a few days later that we had our 3-hour lunch. I didn't start giving your Reply a serious and careful read until 2021 after FairMormon's and Kwaku El's TITS stunt forced me out of Mormon retirement.

Now, three years later after your above statement and after having seriously read your document? You are correct. Your document does not change my conclusion and position that Mormonism is a fraud. It does, however, make me come to the conclusion that Jim Bennett Mormonism® is completely irrational, contradictory and unsustainable. This is not just my opinion. I demonstrate this in this detailed line-by-line debunking of your document.

I made up my mind that Mormonism is a fraud after years of intense research, being in the trenches rebutting line-by-line numerous Mormon apologists (which produced 2,000+ pages of responses) and after going through an extremely eye-opening front row seat Kangaroo Court experience where I saw for myself that God is nowhere to be found in the Mormon Church.

I'm not your average apostate. I've spent an unholy and ungodly number of hours in research and writing on this topic the past 10 years.

So, I reject your hand waving subtle ad hominem dismissal of my "made up my mind" attack implying that I'm a closed-minded person and that I left the Church with a closed mind and with little effort on my part. No, Jim. My mind was never as open as it was during my "faith crisis" when I did everything I could to restore my testimony. I paid my dues and much more.

I did everything I could possibly do to get answers, including going through official channels of the LDS Church. At the end of the day? All I got was a t-shirt with a picture of my Stake President in the high council room along with a framed resignation letter.

Jim, you act as if your document is the antidote and the One True answer to the CES Letter and the LDS Church's truth crisis. I have had many people who read your document walk away disgusted with not just your tone, snarkiness and unreal disrespect toward me but also disturbed with the completely foreign, strange and contradictory Mormonism that you are peddling and selling. A Mormonism that they did not experience nor do they recognize.

Is the CES Director real?

Jim Bennett says...

Well, as is probably clear by this point, I've never met you or your grandfather, and I'm not the CES Director who's name you've had removed. (After all these years, we still don't know who that guy is. Has he come forward? Is he in some kind of witness protection program? Is he hiding in the John Taylor bunker in the Logan Temple?)

Jeremy's Response

Jim now knows who the CES Director is and that I'm telling the truth about being approached by the CES Director in March 2013. Jim also knows that I'm telling the truth about the CES Letter origins. I also introduced photos and a video of my late grandfather to verify my grandfather's voicemail to me confirming the CES Director received my letter and that he stated he would respond back to me.

Here's Jim confirming:

Official or Unofficial Apologetics?

CES Letter says...

I'm interested in your thoughts and answers as I have been unable to find official answers from the Church for most of these issues. It is my hope that you're going to have better answers than many of those given by unofficial apologists such as FairMormon and the Neal A . Maxwell Institute (formerly FARMS).

Jim Bennett says...

And right here, I want to stop you and challenge some questionable assumptions right at the outset. You label both FAIR and the Maxwell Institute as "unofficial apologists." This is a charge you repeat several times on your website and in your initial letter. The designation seems appropriate for FAIR, which is an independent organization with no official connection to the Church other than the membership of its researchers, but the Maxwell Institute is funded by BYU, a Church-owned school. Doesn't that give them any cache of officialdom? 

The basic problem here is a fallacious appeal to authority in an attempt to poison the well of anything that FAIR or FARMS may say because it lacks some kind of Church Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. Their arguments, like your arguments, ought to be evaluated solely on their merits rather on the credentials of those making them. Remember, they may be unofficial apologists, but you're an unofficial critic, too. (If you are official, I'm going to need to see some paperwork and two forms of ID.)

Jeremy's Response

Oh, look...a disclaimer on the bottom of Neal A. Maxwell Institute's official homepage:

The views expressed here and in Maxwell Institute publications are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Maxwell Institute, Brigham Young University, or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Jim's above opinion about the Maxwell Institute's "officialdom" is moot and irrelevant.

I would have considered Jim's above opinion as having some merit back in 2012 before I embarked on my research journey with FairMormon and unofficial Mormon apologetics in my attempt to save my Mormon testimony. However, after that year of wading through all of their contradictions and homemade Mormonism at direct odds with the official teachings and doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

And after nearly a decade of being in the trenches doing line-by-line debunkings of FairMormon and Mormon apologetics?

It matters. It really matters who is and who is not speaking officially for the LDS Church. The differentiation is very important and it just matters. Anyone who doesn't think so hasn't hung out with the Church's PR department or Kirton & McConkie.

I normally agree with Jim on judging an argument or claim alone on its merits but this doesn't work in this realm where unofficial Mormon apologetics, which I also classify Jim and his Jim Bennett Mormonism® in, preach their homemade Philosophies of Men Mingled With Scripture that contradict the official teachings and doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Jim's dig at me about being an "unofficial critic" is just stupid and a snarky deflecting attempt from the topic at hand. I don't claim to represent or defend any church or teachings.

If you want to nitpick like Jim often does in his Reply, I represent the CES Letter Foundation as its Executive Director who can show paperwork and two forms of ID. So, I guess that debunks Jim's claim that I'm an "unofficial critic"? I don't think you can get any more "official" than CES Letter Foundation for your "critic" credentials, Jim.

"Nothing new! My testimony is undamaged and rock solid!"

CES Letter says...

You may have new information and/or a new perspective that I may not have heard or considered before. This is why I'm genuinely interested in what your answers and thoughts are to these issues.

Jim Bennett says...

I recognize I don't have any new information or/nor a new perspective, which means that you've heard a number of things you've both heard and considered before, many of which come from those unofficial, disqualified sources you previously mentioned. But by the same token, having already read ahead, nothing you've written is anything I hadn't heard or considered before. Yet somehow, the same information that drove you ought of the Church has not damaged, and in many cases has even strengthened, my own personal faith.

Jeremy's Response

Jim's above 2018 statement claiming that he heard all of the information and that it has "not damaged, and in many cases has even strengthened, my own personal faith" is not true in 2021.

Jim has since learned new facts and experienced new things that he has evolved and changed his views on. I can't speak for everything that Jim has evolved on out of respect to him and our private conversations but I can share what Jim has shared in his public 2021 Mormon Stories interview. Two topics, for example, that Jim has shifted on are the Book of Abraham and the problems of epistemology where Jim is now much more accepting and charitable of others' spiritual experiences and is no longer interested in invalidating them to validate his own LDS spiritual witness like he did when he wrote his Testimony & Spiritual Witness section in his Jim Bennett Mormonism® Manifesto.

Here's 2021 Jim talking about his evolution and change of views on the Book of Abraham:

And here's 2021 Jim talking about his own "faith journey" on his views on Epistemology & Spiritual Experiences:

Jim has since learned what I stated elsewhere: it's not about the "newness" of the information itself but that it's new and disturbing to the individual learning the problems.

So, it's disingenuous for Jim to wave his hand here and say "Nothing new! My testimony is rock solid and even strengthened!" when the reality is much more different and much more complicated.

Jim's above appeal to authority fallacy and attempt to soothe his readers into believing that "All is well in Zion" and that there's "nothing new to see here" is a Thought Stopping tactic used by apologists in high demand religions and cults.

What Jim doesn't tell you is what all these facts and information did to him and his "testimony" since the 1980s. He doesn't tell you about the damage this caused him and which led him to not "have that kind of faith anymore" nor does he tell you that his "strengthened" testimony is not in orthodox correlated Mormonism but rather in the homemade Jim Bennett Mormonism® that he created for himself in direct response to discovering the LDS Church's truth crisis.

The reality for Jim is that his testimony of the Book of Abraham has indeed been damaged and it has changed in light of yes, new information that he learned from BYU Professor Brian Hauglid's disavowal of his life's work with the Book of Abraham among other research.

Jim's "Church is transparent!" & Strawman

Jim Bennett says...

That shouldn't come as a surprise to either of us. In the age of the Internet, it's rather foolish to presume that the Church has any capacity to hide any aspect of its practices or history from the world at large, so it always amazes me when people who are disaffected with the Church, as they fixate on something that church does or did that they don't like, act like they've uncovered something nobody else has ever discovered.

Jeremy's Response

True to playing apologetic words games...notice that Jim focuses his claim on "in the age of the internet". Why?

It's because Jim knows that the Church has hid its history in the pre-internet age and this debunks his "Church is honest and transparent!" claim. Rather than being honest to his readers about his acknowledgment that the Church has not always been transparent with its history, Jim plays fast and loose with semantics by conditioning his "Church is honest!" claim to the restricted time window of the "age of the Internet". Jim has even admitted to the Church not being transparent about its history in his Mormon Stories interview below.

The Church has hid its history for decades. One prime example is Joseph Fielding Smith ripping out the 1832 First Vision account out of a journal and keeping it hidden in his safe for decades only to be forced to disclose it after the evil "anti-Mormon" Tanners started banging drums about it.

A foundational pillar of Jim's Jim Bennett Mormonism® framework is his claim that "so many of the challenges and problems of the Church would go away if we charitably interpet the actions of leaders of the Church". In Jim's world, there was never any deliberate fraud or deception from Church leaders in hiding history because, as mentioned above, Jim has "chainsawed" a way to remove the nagging litmus test for true prophets.

Let's see what happens when we take Jim's little Jim Bennett Mormonism® idea for a test drive:

Here's LDS Church scholars and historians discussing how the Church was not transparent to members and how the Information Age has forced its hand to being honest and transparent:

The bottom line here is that the Church has hid things for decades and generations and as former Church Historian Marlin K. Jenson acknowledged in the above video, the things they weren't transparent on have "come home to bite us...".

In the final part of Jim's above statement, Jim creates a strawman about Post Mormons: "it always amazes me when people who are disaffected with the Church, as they fixate on something that church does or did that they don't like, act like they've uncovered something nobody else has ever discovered."

Again, rather than tell the truth to his readers that he acknowledges that the Church wasn't honest or transparent to its members about its history and practices, Jim goes off on a tangent about his Post Mormons strawman and Jim demonstrates that he is either avoiding the issue or just completely misses the point.

The information is new to them, Jim, because they had never heard these troubling facts from the Church. In other words, they're discovering the rest of the story that the Church concealed to them and it's absolutely shocking and new to them. Further, the Church's Gospel Topics Essays verifying yesterday's "anti-Mormon lies" just came out 5-7 years ago and people, including Stake Presidents and Bishops still don't know about them today. It's not about "newness". It's about honesty and transparency.

Not everyone was a rebellious spirit like you were in the 1980s, Jim, when you went against your leaders' admonition not to look at "anti-Mormon" materials. The ones who actually followed the rules and obeyed the rules like they were programmed to didn't get the advantage you got by peeking behind the curtain thanks to your 1980s-style disobedience and thanks to the brave trailblazing "anti-Mormons" who helped made you more informed.

How about extending the grace you often talked about in your Mormon Stories interview to others? How about following the counsel of Richard Bushman in his "dominant narrative is not true, it can't be sustained" video?:

"I think people who have a more progressive view or who are up-to-date on what’s going on...they know “a truer version”...have to be very sympathetic for people having trouble letting go. There just have to be many branches for growth in the Church, we want them to be sympathetic of us as we struggle on. It has to be a brotherly and sisterly act."

Did Jim know these problems?

Jim Bennett says...

Did I know all about the seedy elements of Joseph Smith's polygamy? Well, yes. What about the Kinderhook Plates? Yeah, haven't written about them, but they're no big deal. What about the lack of external evidence for the Book of Mormon? Well, I think there's quite a bit more evidence, both internal and external, than enemies of the church will admit. Didn't get a chance to say any of that, though he [critic Mike Norton] tore through his spiel under the assumption that I'd never heard such things, and I just listened as he recited them as he has likely done dozens, if not hundreds, of times before.

Jeremy's Response

So, let's unpack this:

The reason why you know many of these problems, Jim, is because you learned it through "anti-Mormon" materials and sources in the 1980s. Forbidden sources that you were told not to look at but which you did anyway. Give credit where credit is due. You said it yourself in your Mormon Stories interview about how you felt like a chump for not knowing these issues. You also admit that you didn't learn about the rock in the hat until your mission, which meant that you went through ~19 years of Mormonism oblivious to this fact. You were very lucky to have had an Apostle's son as your mission president to bring the rock in the hat to your awareness albeit incorrectly.

So, let's get that seedy little fact out of the way first.

Jim acknowledges that the Church was not transparent to its members:

Notice that Jim says the Kinderhook Plates are "no big deal" (it is, actually, despite Jim's Jim Bennett Mormonism® attempt to reframe and wave off the issue) but Jim fails to say the same thing about polygamy, for example.

Jim claims that there are "quite a bit more evidence, both internal and external, for the Book of Mormon than 'enemies' of the church will admit". You will get the opportunity in this detailed rebuttal to Jim's Reply to see the kind of quality and validity of the "evidences" that Jim clings onto for the Book of Mormon.

Spoiler alert: it's embarrassing.

Hinckley on CNN

Jim Bennett says...

The oddest complaint he [critic Mike Norton] had, the only one which I have not, in fact, heard from anyone else, was that Gordon B. Hinckley wasn't a prophet because he didn't act like Moses coming down from Sinai when he went on Larry King's CNN show. I had seen that interview, and I found him pleasant and inspiring, but maybe he should have parted some large body of water or something.

Jeremy's Response

What does this have to do with the CES Letter?

I make no claims like this in the CES Letter but it seems as if you're implying that I do, Jim, since you have a pattern of lumping strawmen you make with an entire group of people that you label as "critics".

For the record, I do not "complain" or claim "that Gordon B. Hinckley wasn't a prophet because he didn't act like Moses coming down from Sinai when he went on Larry King's CNN show."

Here's exactly what I wrote in the CES Letter regarding this topic:

I never expected Moses or some magical descent from Sinai (and I doubt Mike Norton did either despite your strawman and mischaracterization of his concerns). I'm just expecting basic honesty and consistency here. What Hinckley stated about polygamy was just 100% dishonest. Period. Full stop.

Jim's little snark, strawman and attempt at humor here is just a deflecting attempt to diminish and to distract his readers from this very real dishonesty from the Prophet on national television about polygamy.

As for the second part of Jim's above paragraph: "I had seen that interview, and I found him pleasant and inspiring, but maybe he should have parted some large body of water or something."

This is disingenuous on the part of Jim. Here's what 2021 Jim said about Hinckley on CNN:

Funny how it went from Jim's above written statement implying that critics are unreasonable about a nothingburger to Jim's above video statement acknowledging that Hinckley "fumbled a little bit" and that Hinckley's statements on Larry King Live troubled people.

Further, notice how Jim activates Jim Bennett Mormonism® by stating that he "doesn't have that kind of faith anymore". While I'm super thrilled for Jim being able to create his own homemade Mormonism that allows him "not to have that kind of faith anymore" and to have found Hinckley's performance "pleasant and inspiring", the reality is that Hinckley's dishonesty in that interview troubles a lot of people in the Church, including my own father. I distinctly remember my dad being bothered by this when he watched the interview in the late 90s but like any good Mormon, he turned the switch off, let it go and placed it on the shelf.

Anyway, this is another example of what frustrates me with Jim's Jim Bennett Mormonism® Manifesto. He deflects through excessive snark and sarcasm and strawmen while omitting key important details and facts that ruin his snarky attacks and arguments.

Big List!

CES Letter says...

I've decided to put down in writing just about all the major concerns that I have. I went through my notes from my past year of research and compiled them together. It doesn't make sense for me to just lay down 5 concerns while also having 20 other concerns that legitimately challenge the truth claims of the LDS Church.

Jim Bennett says...

And you have well exceeded 20, although you repeated yourself a number of times. One of the problems with your letter is that you often reframe an accusation against the Church as if it's a new accusation, seemingly in the hopes that the sheer volume of your complaints will bring someone's "shelf" come crashing down.

Jeremy's Response

Ah yes, I've seen this before. Mormon apologist Daniel Peterson also threw this nonsense attack at me back in 2014 and I believe this is where you got this idea from, Jim.

The basic attack and premise is that the CES Letter is just a "Big List" designed and engineered for the purpose of overwhelming the reader and destroying his or her Mormon testimony.

This "big list" attack is also referred to as "Gish Gallop", which is defined as:

One of the most well-worn apologetic cards is that of misapplying logical fallacies. The "big list" or "Gish Gallop" that apologists refer to is a tactic used in debates to drown out reasoned response because there's a time limit. The shotgun approach is effective at giving an opponent too much to address in their allotted time, and it gives the impression that the attacker has "won" because the response is lacking.

Apologists are incorrect that the CES Letter takes any such approach. The internet is not a formal debate club and Mormon apologists do not have a time limit.

The CES Letter is not a Gish Gallop as it's a list in written form of grievances, questions and concerns to a CES Director who, by the way, requested them. The CES Letter is not a Gish Gallop as there is no time limit to respond to it.

The CES Director requested my list of doubts and concerns. I was not trying to win a debate nor did I think I was in a debate with the CES Director when I wrote the letter. It was not written to overwhelm anyone or to destroy anyone's testimony. I was seeking official answers from the Church to resolve my doubts and to hopefully restore my testimony.

The CES Director asked me to lay down my concerns on the table so I did exactly just that. I wanted his official answers. For Mormon apologists to claim that the letter is a "big list" is more of a testament of their fundamental misunderstanding of the CES Letter's background story and purpose than it is that the CES Letter is a "big list."

CES Director: "Give me a list of your issues and concerns about the Church."

Jeremy: "Sure, here's my list."

Mormon apologists: "Big List! Gish Gallop! Sheer volume of complaints designed to bring someone's 'shelf' crashing down."

The apologists and the CES Director are not being drowned out and have had plenty of time to respond to each issue. In fact, apologists have and I have responded to them. You can see a list of my debunkings here.

What's ironic is accusing the CES Letter of Gish Gallop and "Big List" attack when FairMormon and apologetic sources, including Jim's Jim Bennett Mormonism® Manifesto, can be accused of the exact same thing.

John Dehlin in his interview with Jim Bennett shares his view of apologists using this disingenuous attack against the CES Letter:

The apologetic Gish Gallop attack against the CES Letter is ridiculous. The CES Letter has been online since April 2013. There is no such thing as Gish Gallop online.

There is no timer. The internet is open 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

FairMormon Mormon Daniel C. Peterson <em>CES Letter</em>

"Crowdsourced from Reddit"

Jim Bennett says...

This is also a somewhat disingenuous statement, in that your letter was largely crowdsourced via the exMormon Forum on Reddit. This isn't a compilation of personal notes; it's a large- scale team effort. Perhaps you should give the "scary Internet" a little more credit.

Jeremy's Response

This is a false statement and is outdated as 2021 Jim knows that it's a false statement. Listen to Jim, in his own words, debunk the above falsehood:

In December 2020, Jim and I sat down where I let him access my personal Gmail account and I showed him the email thread between myself and the CES Director. Jim also was able to open up the PDF attachment in the email that I sent to the Director and he looked at every single page.

After this, we went over the Reddit posts that Jim references above and how the dates line up and are congruent to my email timestamps and my story.

I shared my draft of the document on Reddit around this time after I had completed it for feedback to ensure that I wasn't wasting the Director's time but the feedback that I got was superficial and minimal and wasn't anywhere enough to create the document as apologists try to deceive their readers on. I wrote the entire document myself from beginning to end in the span of 3 weeks between March 22 and April 13, 2013.

2021 Jim knows all of this as he's seen the evidence for himself. He has even stated in our sit down then that attacking me by claiming that I crowdsourced the letter on Reddit is a backdoor ad hominem attack that distracts from the core arguments and questions in the CES Letter.

The reason why Mormon apologists were able to find these Reddit posts is because it's still recorded in my Reddit profile history. It has been since 2013. I never deleted it. If this was some big conspiracy and hoax to deceive people, why did I leave these Reddit posts on my Reddit profile history for apologists to view and to use against me, as they have?

2021 Jim knows all of this and has publicly come to my defense on this issue in expressing that he saw all the evidence and that he's satisfied that I'm telling the truth.

Elder Jensen Nitpicking

CES Letter says...

In February of 2012, I was reading the news online when I came across the following news article: Mormonism Besieged by the Modern Age 1. In the article was information about a Q&A meeting at Utah State University that LDS Church Historian and General Authority, Elder Marlin K. Jensen, gave in late 2011. He was asked his thoughts regarding the effects of Google on membership and people who are "leaving in droves" over Church history.

Jim Bennett says...

That quote from Elder Jensen has infamously made him the most quoted General Authority on anti-Mormon sites and has been the source of much mischief, especially since it's usually cited by people who claim that Elder Jensen himself made the claim that people were "leaving in droves." To cite one example, John Dehlin's website links to the article with the following description of Elder Jensen's remarks:

This year, Elder Marlin Jensen, the Mormon Church‘s outgoing official historian, acknowledged that members are defecting from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints "in droves" and that the pace is increasing.

The problem is that Elder Jensen said no such thing. The "leaving in droves" premise came from the questioner, not Elder Jensen. Perhaps Elder Jensen should have corrected the questioner in his answer – i.e. "I don't think it's accurate to say people are ‘leaving in droves,' buddy. And just how much is a ‘drove,' anyway?" – but I'm betting he didn't realize that he would be attributed with the designation of droves from then to forevermore.

It's also dishonest to say, as Dehlin's site does, that Jensen claimed "the pace [of drove leavers] is increasing." He said no such thing. He's later clarified his statement by saying "To say we are experiencing some Titanic-like wave of apostasy is inaccurate." That statement would appear to contradict both the droves and the increasing pace, but it's a statement that's generally given short shrift when critics cite Jensen as proof of the Church's implosion.

To your credit, you make the proper attribution of droves to the questioner and not to the General Authority, but since so many others do not, I thought this issue bears mentioning here. It's also worth reading all of Elder Jensen's answer, which, in context, described the great lengths to which the church is now going in order to provide greater access to historical information. You can read the full answer here at this unofficial apologetic website.

Jeremy's Response

This is nitpicking. It's also an attempt to diminish and deflect from the real weight of Elder Jensen's words.

Here's what the article I'm referencing states:

"Did the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints know that members are "leaving in droves?" a woman asked.

"We are aware," said Jensen, according to a tape recording of his unscripted remarks. "And I'm speaking of the 15 men that are above me in the hierarchy of the church. They really do know and they really care," he said.

Later in the article:

"I think we are at a time of challenge, but it isn't apocalyptic," he said.

"Maybe since Kirtland, we've never had a period of - I'll call it apostasy, like we're having now," he told the group in Logan.

Notice what Elder Jensen says after the lady's "leaving in droves?" question:

"We are aware."

Elder Jensen didn't dispute the "leaving in droves?" framing and his response not only acknowledged her "leaving in droves?" phrasing but accepted it. Jim tries to distract from this by interjecting his own personal opinion that Elder Jensen should have "corrected the questioner" or that Jim "bets" that Jensen didn't realize he would be quoted by those evil "anti-Mormons".

With all due respect, Jim, it's not about you and what you think Jensen should and should not have said and that he should have corrected the questioner and this and that and that and this. How about we just let Elder Jensen speak and let his words and actions stand on their own?

This criticism on Jim's part is just a stupid nothingburger filler of what Jim Bennett thinks Jensen should have said and done instead. It doesn't take away or discredit what Elder Jensen said and what I wrote about this event in the CES Letter.

As for Jensen's "titanic-like wave of apostasy is inaccurate" comment? I think it's dishonest of Jim to imply that all was well in Zion and there's no acceleration in disaffection or any problems with retaining members as Jim is trying to imply here. Again...Elder Jensen very clearly and explicitly said:

"we've never had a period of - I'll call it apostasy, like we're having now."

Jim creates a strawman in claiming that critics are pointing to Jensen as proof of the "Church's implosion". I don't claim "implosion" and I don't know others who use that language. However, you're living under a rock if you don't see that the Church has and is experiencing disaffection in its membership on a large scale.

There was obviously something going on on a big enough scale that concerned the Church and its leadership enough to produce and release a short time later damaging and embarrassing Gospel Topics essays that undermined the Church's truth claims and narrative but which made sense from a legal perspective in claiming plausible deniability.

Obviously, the Church wasn't and isn't going to admit details of its loss in membership but we can clearly see in hindsight in 2021 all the telltale clues of accelerating apostasy this past decade or so.

Richard Bushman & Rough Stone Rolling

CES Letter says...

I started doing research and reading books like LDS historian and scholar Richard Bushman's Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling and many others to try to better understand what was happening.

Jim Bennett says...

And good for you! I adore Rough Stone Rolling and heartily recommend it to all readers, both LDS and not. A terrific read, thoroughly researched, and one that vastly increased my testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Jeremy's Response

While I'm so glad that Rough Stone Rolling has "vastly increased" Jim Bennett's testimony of Joseph Smith and Jim had a terrific experience, it's unfortunate that Jim's "heartily" recommendation didn't work for folks like this member of a bishopric who shared his plea on Reddit Mormon:

Another individual shared how Rough Stone Rolling "started the fracture in my faith".

In 2009, as a newly licensed attorney, I was given a gift by a Ward member: Richard Bushman's Rough Stone Rolling - which was heralded by the Church as the seminal biography of Joseph Smith. Many LDS folks considered the book a must-read by many Mormon historians, scholars and regular members of the Church.

I started reading it as part of my daily personal gospel study. Little did I know there was very little gospel (at least, as I had been taught) to be found in those pages.

Very early in the book, I learned of a 16 year old girl named Frances Ward Alger (commonly known as "Fanny Alger"). She was working as a housemaid in Joseph and Emma's home in Kirtland, Ohio. As the history goes, Joseph began a sexual relationship with Fanny (while still married to Emma, and before any revelation regarding plural marriage). Joseph hid the intimate nature of this relationship from Emma and everyone else in his sphere. Until he was caught.

In 1838, one of Jospeh's closest confidants, Oliver Cowdery, called him out on this. Rightfully so. Oliver was one of the 3 witnesses to the BoM, the first baptized member of the Church, the 2nd Elder of the Church, and the Assistant to the President (Joseph). He wasn't some unknown / obscure character. The foundation of the LDS faith lays partially on his shoulders. Keep in mind that "plural marriage" was not made official until April 1841, and (according to the Church) Joseph's first polygamous bride was Louisa Beaman.

Very soon after Oliver challenged Joseph for having sex with Fanny, a Church court was called to excommunicate him. He resigned before they could enact the brutality of this "court of love."

Here's the kicker - Bushman's analysis of these events: Smith "never denied a relationship with Alger, but insisted it was not adulterous. He wanted it on record that he had never confessed to such a sin." The best statement Smith could obtain from Cowdery was an affirmation that Smith had never acknowledged himself to have been guilty of adultery. "That," wrote Bushman, "was all Joseph wanted: an admission that he had not termed the Alger affair adulterous."


It was a lawyerly answer about having sex with a 16 year old house maid. A technicality in the law. Which is great, when you are writing the law and the doctrine as you go, to correlate with and legitimize your behavior.

I was stunned!

I was convinced I was mistaken. Surely I had misread this. Maybe I misunderstood the context. Why would the Church (and Bushman) be ok with this type of a response?

Historian Lawrence Foster disputed this conclusion, arguing that although "contemporary evidence strongly suggests" that Smith and Alger engaged in sexual relations, the evidence does not indicate that the relationship was "viewed either by Smith himself or by his associates at the time as a 'marriage.'"

There are many stories like these in how Rough Stone Rolling dented and destroyed tender Mormon testimonies. I've gotten emails for years from various folks sharing how Rough Stone Rolling opened the door to their discovering the LDS Church's truth crisis. Mormon Stories John Dehlin also has the same experience:

Here's a video that shares details of disturbing and eye-opening content in Rough Stone Rolling:

While it is true that there are individuals like Jim who claim the book has "strengthened" (although Jim is the very first one that I've seen to use the dramatic "vastly" word) their testimony of Joseph Smith, it is also true that the book has done the complete opposite: it annihilated Mormon testimonies.

By the way, here's Richard Bushman, the author of Rough Stone Rolling, in a private fireside on June 12, 2016 conceding that the "dominant narrative is not true; it can't be sustained":

Droves comment & graphic

CES Letter says...

The following issues are among my main concerns.

Jim Bennett says...

All right, here we go – incoming droves of stuff on the horizon:

Jeremy's Response

After having already fine-tooth combed through Jim's entire 372-page diatribe, I'm really disheartened and exhausted with the obscene barrage of constant disrespect and belittling comments and attacks by Jim Bennett in his document.

Disheartened and exhausted not because Jim's claims and arguments are irrefutable (they're not) but rather just the constant spewing of juvenile snark and digs at my expense. I mean, Jesus...I can't even get through a simple J. Reuben Clark quote that Jim and I both agree on without snark let alone a benign single personal introductory page to the Director expressing appreciation of his invitation and a quick background of my own story and experience.

I recognize and know this behavior extremely well because I've had to deal with bullies my entire childhood thanks to my deafness and hearing aids.

This was a very serious letter to a CES Director. A cry for help in providing official answers to serious problems, questions and concerns in hopes that I could restore my testimony and return to full activity in the LDS Church.

I was being vulnerable, open and transparent with the CES Director and I took this letter, its contents and the Director's invitation very seriously. I've invested a lot of time and effort in writing it.

What does Jim do? He constantly mocks me and belittles my legitimate questions while attempting to distract and diminish their weight and importance with unreal amounts of juvenile snark and sarcasm. It's jarring and tinnitus or scratching the chalkboard. I get that Jim is trying to be a comedian here and feels he needs to add a dog and pony show on every page to get people through his mind numbing 372-page document but I mean...

Jim claims that he is not attacking me or using ad hominem in his Reply but he does. I've actually gone through every word of his Reply (which I deserve a Gold medal for) and it is my absolute position that he uses ad hominem. In his Facebook post responding to FairMormon's TITS videos, Jim wrote:

"...the most frequent criticism leveled against my own CES Letter reply, which is that it is too snarky and jokey, a criticism that, in hindsight, I find to be largely justified. I still maintain that my reply never attacks CES Letter author Jeremy Runnells ad hominem and reserves its snark for his arguments rather than his person, but I recognize that for many, this is a distinction without a difference."

I'm sorry but it's just extremely difficult to take Jim's document seriously with non-stop stupid juvenile stuff like the above graphic and comment designed to belittle and diminish facts that rocked my world.

Please Donate

This is such a massive project that is consuming so much of our time. If you've benefited and received value from this rebuttal so far and would like to see us finish everything, please consider paying it forward with a tax-deductible donation. Anything and everything help.

Donations of $75 or more will receive an autographed (with note of appreciation) CES Letter paperback book from Jeremy Runnells personally. Please email [email protected] confirming donation, address and autograph requests.

Debunking Mormon Apologists CES Letter