November 2, 2014 Meeting
Between Runnells and Mark Ivins

Transcript

President Ivins: Brother Runnells, how are you?

Jeremy: Good morning, how are you?

President Ivins: Come on in, please. Have a seat, please. (door closing) Has it stopped raining?

Jeremy: I'm sorry?

President Ivins: Has it stopped raining?

Jeremy: Barely.

President Ivins: How's the weather outside?

Jeremy: Ahh, pretty cold. (keys dropping on table) It's actually, uh, I'm surprised it hasn't snowed yet because, like, last year it snowed, like, early October or mid October I think it was.

President Ivins: Yeah. Well, we've had a great fall. We can't complain at all if it turns cold. (chuckles)

Jeremy: Yeah.

President Ivins: How are you doing?

Jeremy: Doing well. How about yourself?

President Ivins: Good. Good, that's good. I read through the entire document.

Jeremy: Cool.

President Ivins: And, uh, also, I haven't had time to read through, you sent a link, said the Church responded. Elder Jensen didn't respond, but members...

Jeremy: Actually, it was, um, it was, I think you're referring to the essays. The only thing that comes from the Church is the essays. They never directly responded to my, uh, letter itself nor has the CES director. It was FairMormon and a few other unofficial apologists. Um, yeah.

President Ivins: Okay.

Jeremy: But, but I appreciate you reading the letter. What did you think? Do you have any, what are your thoughts?

President Ivins: Uh, I didn't get a very good feeling when I read it.

Jeremy: Okay.

President Ivins: And it was dark to me. That's the feeling I got, and I don't think it's correct. I think there's some pieces taken that, out of context.

Jeremy: Okay. You asked me a few questions, um, in our last meeting. I'm sorry we missed, um, last week, but you asked me a few questions and I thought about it and I want to make myself crystal clear.

President Ivins: Okay.

Jeremy: I'm wondering if you can just spend three minutes to read that letter so that we have a productive meeting.

The following is the November 2, 2014 letter Runnells handed to Ivins in the beginning of this meeting (can be read in PDF here) or read below:

Letter to Ivins

November 2, 2014

President Mark Ivins
825 East 500 North
American Fork, Utah 84003

Dear President Ivins,

I am writing this letter to you to make sure that there are no misunderstandings or confusion regarding my response to several of your questions that you presented to me in our first and only October 19, 2014 meeting before today's November 2, 2014 meeting.

1. Regarding my Letter to a CES Director and the website where it is currently posted:

I originally wrote the Letter to a CES Director because the CES Director, a friend of my grandfather, directly requested that I communicate my questions and concerns to him in writing as part of his effort to potentially resolve my questions and concerns with the Church's origins and history.

After sending my letter to the CES Director I never received a response back from him to my questions and concerns, nor did he ever follow through with scheduling a meeting between us.

Prior to sending my 80 page letter to the CES Director, I shared the letter with folks on Facebook and Reddit for editing and feedback purposes in my desire to ensure that the information contained in the letter I was sending to the CES Director was as accurate as possible.

The folks that I shared the letter with online for editing and feedback found value in it for themselves to give to their own family members and friends who were asking them why they had doubts and concerns with the truth claims of the LDS Church. This was the catalyst and beginning of the CES Letter circulating on the Internet.

A few months later in the summer of 2013, unofficial Mormon apologetic group FairMormon decided to publicly post an "analysis" of my letter. Unfortunately, FairMormon made direct personal attacks on me, my integrity and my character in their response. In addition to inaccurate personal ad hominem attacks, FairMormon made outrageously false claims in their attempt to discredit both me and the CES Letter.

At the time I was presented with a choice: Allow FairMormon to continue to unfairly and dishonestly publicly tarnish my name, integrity and character without challenge or to defend myself. I chose to defend myself.

As a direct result of FairMormon's personal attacks and dishonest claims, I found it necessary to create my current website to host my direct rebuttals and responses to FairMormon. The only reason why my website exists in its current form today is because of FairMormon's unethical and hostile attack on me and my letter. The website exists for the purpose of being able to directly respond, in an organized manner, to those who have attacked me and continue to attack me.

The intention of the website should not in any way be construed to exist for the purpose of hurting the Church or its members. This is not and never has been my intention.

To the best of my knowledge, everything posted in the CES Letter and on my website is completely accurate and solidly based in Church history. My allegiance from the beginning has been to truth, accuracy and transparency. Where I have erred or made mistakes, I have publicly corrected. In the event it is ever brought to my attention that there are any inaccuracies in the CES Letter or on my website, I am totally and completely agreeable and committed to publicly making the corrections.

2. Regarding my membership in the Church and feelings regarding its leaders:

My membership in the Church is valuable and important to me. Although I no longer have a testimony or literal belief in the truth claims of the LDS Church, I have now come to a place where I respect the leaders and many things in the Church. I wish no harm to and only the best for the Church and its leaders. I believe that leaders in the Church are kind, dedicated, loving, caring, well-meaning and very diligent servants to the members.

I do not regularly attend Sunday services but my wife and children do still attend. I am supportive of them and their desires to attend Church on Sunday. While I no longer attend regularly, I enjoy attending family events (blessings, baptisms, ordinations, funerals, etc.). I also attend some of the activities of the Church such as Father and Son outings, Halloween activities, Christmas activities, etc. Additionally, I have asked to remain on the Elder's Quorum email list to be notified of service opportunities and I have given service several times. I plan to continue to render service to members of the Church for the indefinite future.

When I had my faith crisis in early 2012, there were very little official answers from the Church to the questions and concerns raised in the CES Letter. This was why I sought the help of the CES Director. Fortunately, the Church has made inroads toward more transparency since then by publishing its new essays.

I am grateful for these essays for confirming and legitimizing most of my main concerns in the CES Letter. The essays are a welcome step forward in transparency.

It is my position that if the Church seeks to remove my membership, it is committing a grotesque injustice by punishing me for seeking and sharing the truth, most of which truths are now verifiable today through the Church's new essays. This is especially true in light of my verbal and written promise and willingness to publicly correct any mistakes and errors in the CES Letter and website.

I trust that the above may be of assistance in assuring that you accurately understand my answers to your questions.

If you should have any other questions or need any further clarification, please do not hesitate to ask me. My direct contact information is listed below.

Kindest regards,
Jeremy T. Runnells

President Ivins: (Silence from 1:53 to about 3:39, reading) Okay, it says here, "The intention of the website should not in any way be construed to exist for the purpose of hurting the Church or its members."

Jeremy: That's correct.

President Ivins: Now, what if people are leaving the Church because of what you are writing? Doesn't that hurt the members?

Jeremy: If the information is correct and they're leaving ...

President Ivins: But what if it's not?

Jeremy: Show me where it's not.

President Ivins: Okay. All right. See, see we're going to get into this show me, show this. [crosstalk]

Jeremy: I'm asking, like, if you, if you're going to make the claim that it's not correct, show me exactly where it's incorrect and I will list ...

President Ivins: Well, if I, if I had, you know, months and months to do this, I don't, I have to ...

Jeremy: You're threatening my eternal salvation over this [crosstalk] and if you're not going to give me correct...

President Ivins: I'm not, I'm not threatening you in any way.

Jeremy: What is this meeting for?

President Ivins: In any way.

Jeremy: You, you accused me of not sustaining my leaders, correct?

President Ivins: Right.

Jeremy: And you're accusing me of leading people away from the Church.

President Ivins: Right.

Jeremy: So, that's basically apostasy, correct?

President Ivins: Mm hmm (agreement).

Jeremy: And that's grounds for ...

President Ivins: It is apostasy.

Jeremy: ... That's grounds for Church discipline or Church excommunication, correct?

President Ivins: That's correct. That is correct.

Jeremy: So, what am I doing here, then?

President Ivins: You tell me.

Jeremy: No, you tell me. You're the one that invited me here. What am I doing here?

President Ivins: Okay. We, we had the, we had the one meeting. I told you I'd read the document and then we'd meet again. That's why we're meeting today.

Jeremy: Okay.

President Ivins: So, let me, let me finish, let me [crosstalk].

Jeremy: What is the direction that you're seeing?

President Ivins: Let me finish this first.

Jeremy: Okay.

President Ivins: (Silence from about 4:54 to 6:33, reading) Okay, so your, your desire right now is to remain a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

Jeremy: That's correct.

President Ivins: Tell me why?

Jeremy: I see no reason to remove my name, I, it's my heritage, it's, uh, I love the Church. There's still a lot of, a lot of things in the Church - I love the members, um, my family is still in there. My family, my, uh, wife and children still attend. Um, and I support that. Um ...

President Ivins: Okay. Do your children attend each week?

Jeremy: Um, about every other week.

President Ivins: How come every other week?

Jeremy: Um, personal reasons. Like, we, we compromise, um, you know, have family time one Sunday and Church another Sunday, so ...

President Ivins: Okay. Okay. Is your wife ...

Jeremy: That's a personal thing, but the point is, is that I want to be a member of the Church. I don't see, um, like, I, I want to, I participate in activities, um, Halloween, Christmas, Father/Son's camp outs. Um, I help them, I help serve members. I help them move. Um, I'm still on the Elder's Quorum email list to be notified of service activities. So, and quite frankly [crosstalk] I see no grounds for me to not be a member of the Church.

President Ivins: When was the last time you actually attended Church?

Jeremy: Regularly attended Church? Um, I attended Church probably three months ago in my, um, my family ward in California.

President Ivins: Okay, and prior to that?

Jeremy: Uh, I don't know. I don't keep, keep track, but basically I don't regularly attend.

President Ivins: Okay, so if you're not regularly attending the Church, why, why do you want to be a member of this Church?

Jeremy: There's more to membership in the Church than Sacrament meeting, Priesthood and, and, um, Sunday School. There's more to it. There's, there's, there's, the, the membership, there's the heritage, there's, there's the history, there's the family involvement. Like, um, with all due respect, your, your view of what a member entails seems to be very, um, very, very narrow. Like, there's, there are many members in the Church that define their membership in many different ways.

Some members are in the Church for community reasons. Some members don't even believe, but they still attend. Um, some members don't believe and they just go in inactivity.

Some members attend because, for business reasons. There's all kinds of reasons why people, um, attend the, or believe in the Church or want their name to be on the Church, and I'm one of those people that, um, I think my membership in the Church is, is important, and I've already listed reasons, there are many reasons. There's a history and, but basically the bottom line is that I don't see why, um, my membership should be removed or taken away.

President Ivins: Hmm. Okay. Before we go, okay, so what I'm going to do is I'm going, I'm, like, I, in my personal life I'm going to pray about this. I know I've received keys of the Priesthood for every person in this Stake. I believe those keys are true. I believe those keys are right and they'll be used, and I'll fast and pray about your situation.

Jeremy: Okay.

President Ivins: And then we'll decide from there.

Jeremy: Um, I have a few questions. Um, how did you first learn about me? We've never met before. Um, how did you learn about me?

President Ivins: Bishop [REDACTED] told me.

Jeremy: Uh, Bishop [REDACTED] told you?

President Ivins: Mm hmm. Mm hmm (agreement) He told me about the letter that was posted and I went and read a little bit about it. I didn't read the whole thing as I mentioned before. Then, I had you come in. We met. You told me about the letter.

Jeremy: Okay.

President Ivins: And then I went and read the whole thing like I promised, and I did do that, and I just had a dark feeling when I read it, and I believe that ...

Jeremy: Um, two weeks ago, right before I get to my next thing real quick, um, are your leaders in Salt Lake Headquarters involved in this in any way?

President Ivins: No.

Jeremy: Okay. Um, two weeks ago, you asked me my story and to share the CES letter, like, why I wrote the CES letter.

President Ivins: Mm hmm (agreement).

Jeremy: And I shared several facts about Church History and one of those facts was, uh, you know, two facts, Joseph Smith married 14 year olds and Joseph Smith, um, married other living men's wives. Uh, members of the Church get dark feelings when they learn those facts. It's pretty disturbing information, but the reality is it's facts. When I told you those facts two weeks ago, leaders in the Church and members in the Church consider that information anti-Mormon and, um, incorrect. It was against the teachings of the Church. It's apostasy.

A week-and-a-half ago, the Church confirmed those facts through it's polygamy essay. Like, those facts are now on LDS.org. Um, there's nothing anti-Mormon about it. It's reality. So, how do you reconcile those members and leaders getting those dark feelings about these facts and then finding out that the Church confirms those facts on its own website?

President Ivins: I, I can't speak for other people. I, I can just speak where my feelings are and what my responsibilities are ...

Jeremy: But can you see how dark feelings or relying on your feelings in that scenario I just outlined is unreliable? Because those members and leaders that were relying on those feelings when they first learned those facts thought that, that was the Spirit telling them or, or that was Satan, basically telling them that it's not true, but their feelings led them astray because it is absolutely true. It was confirmed by the Church's website. The Church's new essay. So how do you, so, you're relying on your feelings, your dark feelings on my CES letter. Your, your premise is that my CES letter contains inaccurate information because of your "dark feelings", um, can you see that how your feelings, can be totally unreliable?

President Ivins: Not in this situation. No, I can't.

Jeremy: Not in this situation. What does that mean?

President Ivins: I believe I receive revelation for this Stake. I believe I receive revelation for you and for the things you've written, and I don't believe the things you've written are correct and shouldn't have been published. That's how I feel.

Jeremy: Okay. Can you show me exactly where it's incorrect?

President Ivins: I'm not going to go through line by line. I'm really not.

Jeremy: Um, is my, is my, uh, membership still on the, um, is my membership still at risk? Is it at risk?

President Ivins: I'll find out today.

Jeremy: You'll find out today from the Lord telling you that ...

President Ivins: Mm hmm. (agreement) Absolutely.

Jeremy: Okay. Um ...

President Ivins: And yes, your membership is at risk.

Jeremy: Okay, and so because it's at risk, do you think I am entitled to know exactly what you are taking me to, like, how, what exactly you're punishing me, punishing me for? Like, what inco-, incorrect information. I am offering you to correct any incorrect information.

President Ivins: Okay.

Jeremy: And you're not giving me ...

President Ivins: And I'm not a historian.

Jeremy: But you just said that there's incorrect information. So, what in-, what incorrect information is there? Whether you're a historian or not is completely irrelevant. You're making the claim that there is incorrect information in my CES letter. I am asking you what incorrect information is in my CES letter because you are taking that claim and threatening my membership, [crosstalk] my eternal salvation.

President Ivins: I haven't threatened you at all.

Jeremy: You haven't, but you are in that direction you just, you just made ...

President Ivins: You keep telling me that I am, but I'm not.

Jeremy: You just made the statement, "I am, your membership is at risk." Just a second, like 30 seconds ago.

President Ivins: That's not a threat. It's just fact.

Jeremy: What? What?

President Ivins: It's just fact.

Jeremy: Wow. Okay, um, a few other questions for you, um, so just, uh, what did you think of the other sections, section, the other concerns and questions section in my CES letter?

President Ivins: The other sections and concerns?

Jeremy: My other questions, my other concerns section in the CES letter. What did you think of that section?

President Ivins: I'd have to go back and review it again.

Jeremy: What did you think of, um, my statement in the CES letter about Joseph Fielding Smith, um, his 1961 prophecy, that no man is ever going to land on the moon? And this was eight years before it actually happened. What did you think of that statement?

President Ivins: I think there's a time when a person speaks to us as a prophet and sometimes there's not.

Jeremy: Um, I'm not so sure you, let me ask you a question, let me ask you again. Did you actually read my CES letter, every single page?

President Ivins: I did.

Jeremy: Because that last question I just gave you is not even in the CES letter.

*Awkward Silence*

President Ivins: Okay.

Jeremy: So, what's your response for that?

President Ivins: I read through every page. I can't remember, it was a long document, Brother Runnells.

Jeremy: Then why did you make, why did you answer that question as if I put it in?

President Ivins: Because I've heard that statement before. I've heard that question before.

Jeremy: But it wasn't in the CES letter. I was asking you specifically ...

President Ivins: Okay.

Jeremy: ... about the contents in my CES letter.

President Ivins: Okay.

Jeremy: So, I'm, uh, I'm led to believe that you ...

President Ivins: I did read it. I took the time to read it.

Jeremy: Okay, fine. I will just leave it at that.

President Ivins: Okay.

Jeremy: Um, my next question is basically what mistakes and errors can I fix? But you refuse to give that information to me. Okay, so basically because, I, this is unbelievable to me that you're not going to share with me any incorrect information, but my membership is still at risk for information that you're not going to share. I have a problem with that.

President Ivins: Okay.

Jeremy: I've already outlined to you, um, example of how feelings are unreliable. You're relying on your "dark feeling", on you know, to determine whether, like, you're basically relying on those dark feelings to, um, determine whether or not to take away my membership, to, you know, I, I just, I think that's crazy. I, I, I just demonstrated to you how feelings and "dark feelings" are unreliable. Yesterday's anti-Mormon dark feelings is today's Church essay and you don't see how, you don't see the problem with that. You don't see how, how flawed and unreliable that method is. To me, it's absolute insanity.

President Ivins: But you're not accepting that I receive, do you believe I receive revelation for this Stake?

Jeremy: Um, I don't bel-, I've already told you many times I don't believe in the concept of relying on your feelings for discerning truth.

President Ivins: There, there's a difference. Do you believe that a stake president receives revelation for his Stake?

Jeremy: Um, I don't.

President Ivins: Okay. See, I do. That's where we disagree.

Jeremy: Okay. Um, so can you de-, can you define for me real quick, um, what the word "apostasy" means to you exactly?

President Ivins: I'll pull it out of the handbook. (zipper, papers shuffling) Okay, apostasy refers to repeatedly act in clear open or deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders. Persist in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine after they have been corrected by their bishop or a higher authority.

*Ivins' demeanor and face immediately shifts after reading last sentence*

Jeremy: I'm asking you to correct me. (chuckles) And you're not doing that.

President Ivins: Well, I'll go back through the document, I, I don't ...

Jeremy: I'm sorry, could you speak a little bit louder. I'm, I'm hard of hearing.

President Ivins: I know. I'll, I'll go back through the document again and I'll ...

Jeremy: Like, can you see that the Church handbook of instructions specifically says that you have to correct me. I'm asking you to correct me.

President Ivins: Okay.

Jeremy: And you are not correcting me.

President Ivins: Then let me ...

Jeremy: So I have a prob- ...

President Ivins: Not, not in thi-, not in this meeting. No, I'm not.

Jeremy: You refu-, it wasn't, I didn't see a time line before. It was, "I am not going to go over this."

President Ivins: Okay, I'll go over it.

Jeremy: Now, you're going to go over it. Okay, wonderful. Um, so, how, okay, great. Um, let's see what else there is. I want to, as I mentioned in my letter I'm making it crystal clear that I see this process, this direction that we're heading where you are trying, where my Church membership is being threatened, I have a problem with that. I see that as a serious injustice.

President Ivins: Okay.

Jeremy: There, there, I'm asking for incorrect information that I can correct in my letter.

President Ivins: Okay.

Jeremy: And I'm not getting it. So, I see this ...

President Ivins: Okay. Not today, not today you're not.

Jeremy: ... I see this as a, I see this process ...

President Ivins: I just finished your letter yesterday, and so, and so ...

Jeremy: You've had, you've had two weeks. You, you promised, you promised me that, I, I appreciate that you read it, but I was just confused at how, like, the previous Sunday, um, we had a scheduled meeting.

President Ivins: No, we didn't. I said as soon as we get the document read, I'll have you come back in. It might be the, that next Sunday. It didn't work out. I didn't get through it, so I didn't bring you back, so that's why I pushed it a week. That was my fault. I'm sorry I didn't get through it the week before. I still have a family to support. I still have other responsibilities. I'm trying my best to get through this. I really am.

Jeremy: Okay. You're correct. You're right. I'm, I apologize on that. Um, but basically I, President, um, what did I do wrong? Like, I, like I loved this Church. It was, it was my, uh, it was everything to me and when I discovered this, these disturbing facts and information, I really did try to get answers from the Church and at that time, there were no official answers to the Church, from the Church on these problems.

President Ivins: Okay.

Jeremy: And I, and the CES Director really did reach out to me and he asked me to write this, write, write an outline of all of my issues and problems.

President Ivins: Mm hmm. (agreement) Okay.

Jeremy: And when I wrote that, it was, um, it was not in the spirit of debate or trying to prove him wrong, it was in the spirit of "Help me. Help me understand where I'm wrong. Help me, um, help me fix this because I'm experiencing cognitive dissonance in my head. I can't reconcile all these contradictions. It's hard for me to continue to believe in the truthfulness of the Church. Help me resolve this."

President Ivins: Okay.

Jeremy: He never got back to me.

President Ivins: Okay.

Jeremy: And as I mentioned in my letter, um, the reason why the CES Letter circulated is because several folks online on Facebook have read it, that I asked to edit and give me feedback on it to ensure that my information was correct so I wasn't wasting my time or the CES Director's time. They circulated it. I never spent one dime, one penny in marketing efforts. Never, PPC, anything to promote this. I never promoted it.

President Ivins: Okay.

Jeremy: I never put it on my Facebook timeline. "Hi, guys, I wrote the CES letter." It was, it just happened. It just circulated. And, I was ready to move on with my life, a few months later FairMormon came and they personally attacked me. And I had to make a choice then, whether to continue to let them to spread lies about me and my integrity and character or to defend myself, and I made the decision to defend myself, and all of my, all, all of my actions since then have been from a defense posture. It was defending myself from FairMormon, defending myself from Daniel C. Peterson, defending myself from [REDACTED], defending myself from Brian C. Hales, defending myself from [REDACTED].

All of these apologists that are attacking me. It was never an offense. It was never to do everything I can to take members away from the Church. There are members in the Church that know these issues and problems and they, they choose, they choose to still attend and that is perfectly okay. I have no problem with that. The problem I have is that the members do not have their free agency if they are making a decision on whether or not to continue in Mormonism and, and do everything that Mormonism, pay their, their tithing and give their hearts and minds and talents to Mormonism when they're deciding that. And this goes to investigators as well, when they're deciding that, they deserve all of the information on the table.

And the problem is, and this is becoming less of a problem now, thankfully, because of the Church's essays. But at my time, the problem was the information was on the table and I didn't even know about it, so my free agency was, was, was withheld. It was blocked because I was making decisions on incomplete and inaccurate information and that process is still going on right now, and at that time when I had my faith crisis and I was sharing, you know, Joseph Smith married 14-year-olds and Joseph Smith married other men's wives and Joseph Smith didn't use the gold plates and all this information, my family and friends had looked at as "anti-Mormon lies," "I'm getting a dark feelings over this." I've lost friendships. I've lost friendships over this.

President Ivins: Okay.

Jeremy: And lo and behold in 2014, that stuff that I was sharing with them is on the Church's essays on LDS.org. It is now, it is now confirmed. Like, it, it came at a personal cost to me, but imagine if the essays were available then. It would have been a totally different scenario. That's what I wanted. I wanted transparency, honesty, openness. Those are the values that I, I, I give allegiance to. That's, from the very beginning, that's what it was all about. I followed the counsel of my leaders. President Hinckley..."It's either true or it's a fraud."

President Ivins: Right.

Jeremy: I believed that. I believed J. Reuben Clark, "If we have the truth, no harm can come from investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed." And I really believe when I, when I, when I set out to get answers to this, I really believed that the Church was going to win at the end because the Church was true. They had the answers to all of this, and that's, that's all I did. I was a truth seeker. That's how it, that's the Mormonism that I was raised in. The Mormonism I was raised in was not to be afraid of truth, to seek it.

President Ivins: Mm hmm. (agreement)

Jeremy: But the Mormonism that has popped up the last decade it seems, at least in my experience, is it is no longer a Mormonism of seeking truth no matter where it's found, but a Mormonism of obedience, obedience, obedience. Doubt your doubts. Doubt your doubts. Stay in the boat. Doubt your doubts. Obedience. Like, it just blows my mind, and I can understand that, why they're doing that right now, but the point is, is that the Mormonism I was raised in and the Mormonism I was taught and the world view I was taught was to seek truth no matter where it was found and that's exactly what I did, and I came out of that rabbit hole completely blown away.

My mind was blown away. I could not believe, as I mentioned, I, I really believed the Church was, was going to be vindicated at the end of my research, but I was blown away that, like, there was a whole, there was a rest of the story that I never knew about. Um, again, I don't see, I'm not, I'm not guilty of any immorality. I'm not guilty of, I disagree that I'm, uh, I disagree that I, apostasy. I don't see myself as apostate. I'm not doing apostate things. I simply sought and wrote down my journey and never sought to promote it or take people away from the Church.

It's just, it went out there. It circulated. That's what happens on the Internet and it's beyond my control. I can't take it all back and even if I could, I would not because there is no, there is nothing to the best of my knowledge, that is incorrect in my work. And I, my offer still stands for you to correct me where I have erred or made mistakes and I would hope that you would at least take that offer before moving forward in whatever disciplining or excommunication.

President Ivins: Well, how do you feel about the Church as a whole?

Jeremy: I'm sorry?

President Ivins: How do you feel about the Church as a whole?

Jeremy: How do I feel about the Church at what?

President Ivins: As a whole.

Jeremy: As a whole?

President Ivins: Mm hmm. (agreement)

Jeremy: Um, I think, I think there are good things in the Church, like, I'm a product of Mormonism. I don't think I'm a bad person. I, I, I, you know, honesty, loving others, being kind to others, service. Um, my mission (sighs) Excuse me. Uh, it was, uh, it was one of the best two years, like I lost myself.

President Ivins: Where did you serve?

Jeremy: In New York City.

President Ivins: Downtown?

Jeremy: Uh, Manhattan and the South Bronx.

President Ivins: Wow.

Jeremy: So, I lost myself, um, you know, I was an, I was a, you know, 19-year-old that, I could have stayed in California and did stupid things with my friends, but I was out there totally dedicated to other people.

President Ivins: You were a great missionary, weren't you?

Jeremy: Yeah, I, I, um ...

President Ivins: I can tell you were.

Jeremy: Huh?

President Ivins: I can tell you were.

Jeremy: Yeah. Excuse me. So, [inaudible] so there are good things in the Church. Are there some bad things? Yeah. We could be more honest about our history. That's all I want. Um, is just be honest. I almost lost my marriage over this.

President Ivins: Mm hmm. (agreement)

Jeremy: As I mentioned, yesterday's anti-Mormon lies are today's essays, and I almost lost my marriage because the essays weren't there yet. My wife didn't get the memo about this stuff. To her it was all anti-Mormon and I didn't have the Church, a Church essay to go to, to save me.

President Ivins: Okay.

Jeremy: So, um ...

President Ivins: How do you feel about your Savior?

Jeremy: I loved my Savior when, uh, (blows nose) I had a great love for the Savior as a missionary and as a member, um, right now, uh, the way that Mormonism is set up, as you know, is that it's either true or it's false. It's the one and only true Church on the face of the earth. All these other Christian religions are false, they're just, uh, a form, they're just apostate. They're not, they don't have the truth. They have some truth, but they don't have all the truth. Um, the experience of many members who first, when Mormonism collapses for them, uh, many of them tend to go, uh, atheist or agnostic because they were just raised in, you know, Mormonism is the only true paradigm.

President Ivins: Mm hmm. (agreement)

Jeremy: So, I, I guess the short answer is I don't, I, uh, I did research in early Christianity, foundational Christianity and the New Testament and so forth and, I, uh, I didn't like what I found. Um, I don't, I don't, uh, I, I believe it's possible that a man by the name of Jesus Christ lived at that time, but I'm not so sure I believe in, you know ...

President Ivins: You, you do believe Jesus Christ came to the earth?

Jeremy: Well, I believe there was a man by the name of Jesus Christ, possibly. I don't know. It, it's 2000 years ago. It's not like Mormonism where everything's documented and it's fairly new.

President Ivins: Okay.

Jeremy: Um, but I, I don't, uh, I don't really hold a belief in Jesus Christ as, you know ...

President Ivins: A Savior.

Jeremy: ... the Savior or the Son of God or whatever, but ...

President Ivins: Okay.

Jeremy: I, I, I believe that there are new tea-, there are, you know, good teachings in the New Testament. You know, loving others, do unto others what you would have them do unto you and so forth.

President Ivins: Okay. How do you feel about Thomas Monson?

Jeremy: I think he's a good man. He really dedicated his life, uh, to serving others. I don't think he's evil or sinister. I don't think he's trying to, I think he's doing the best he can. Um, I've been told that he's, uh, suffering from, um, dementia, uh, a form of Alzheimer's. I, obviously that's, uh, what I've heard, I can't verify that, but, um, I just uh, I just think he's a good man that served a, that did a lot of, a lot of good things in his life. I mean, he's just, uh, you obviously know, like, his stories with helping the widows and all that, so ...

President Ivins: Mm hmm. (agreement)

Jeremy: Um ...

President Ivins: Do you believe he's a prophet?

Jeremy: Well, what is a, what does a prophet mean exactly?

President Ivins: A prophet, seer and revelator. He, he provides revelation for the Church.

Jeremy: Well, I'm not seeing any prophesying or revealing or seeing. The only thing I'm seeing that they removed the ban on blacks that Brigham Young started in 1978, but I'm not seeing a whole lot of "Thus saith the Lord." Any, I mean, when was the last time that we had a real revelation besides 1978 when the Lord revealed that blacks can have the priesthood and black families can go to the temple now?

President Ivins: Well, I, I believe when I listen to General Conference and I hear President Monson speak, he's speaking as a prophet.

Jeremy: So, when he's sharing nice motivational stories, that's, that's speaking as a prophet?

President Ivins: That's, I think that's supporting what we're trying to do as a Church as a whole.

Jeremy: Okay. Well, I'm not seeing any prophesying and seeing any re-, re-, revealing and ...

President Ivins: Okay.

Jeremy: ... but to me it's, it goes back to Joseph Smith and the early foundation of the Church.

President Ivins: Okay.

Jeremy: And there's all kinds of messes down there, and if that stuff didn't happen. If the First Vision didn't happen, the priesthood restoration didn't happen, all of those things didn't happen, it, it doesn't, you know, like, the foun-, there is no prophet, seer or revelator today. Like, these men succeeded Joseph Smith.

President Ivins: Right.

Jeremy: Um, so that's my position. I think he's a good man. I have no problem with him. I'm not out to go against him. I'm not, whatever, you know.

President Ivins: Okay. But you don't believe in the First Vision anymore, is that correct?

Jeremy: Um, I did as a member and a missionary we taught that, but, um, after reading the multiple first vision accounts, there, there are contradictions in the accounts. Um, it, the way the story has evolved, the way that it's told, it's, it's as if somebody is making it up as they go along. And Joseph Smith claimed that the first vision happened in 1820 due to, you know, a revival and, like, he was confused about these different churches and so forth, you know the story, but there was no revival in the, in the Palmy-, Palmyra area in 1820. There was a revival in 1817 and there was a revival in 1824 and, um, Joseph's mother and brother, um, stated that Joseph Smith joined Presbyterianism after his brother's death, Alvin's death. Alvin died in 1823.

So, I mean you look at the, not just the multiple first vision accounts how they contradict each other, but you look at the, the history of that time and place, it doesn't line up. It doesn't match. Um, and then Joseph's behavior after that, I mean, after seeing, you know, two of, two, perhaps two of the holiest beings in the universe in 1820, I mean, his actions after that. I mean, he, he, he sought to join a Methodist Sunday School in 1828 after being told in 1820 that everythi-, all, all these churches are an abomination.

Um, his activities of treasure hunting, looking in a hat and a rock and telling customers where they could find gold and silver, um, that's, that's fraud. That, like, he was taken to court on charges of fraud by these, by one of these customers, uh, his nephew who, who asserted that he was, uh, he, he, he was committing fraud and, you know, like, his, these actions don't line up, the multiple first vision accounts don't line up, it doesn't, the history is not there, like, there was no revival in 1820, uh, you know, Joseph, it, all this stuff ...

President Ivins: So, so let's, let's, let's get back to, I didn't mean to cut you off, but I'm just trying to get to a yes or no.

Jeremy: Okay, um, I'm pretty thorough so I have to, like, give you a background, but basically the answer is, no, I don't believe the first vision happened.

President Ivins: Okay. Do you believe even though that you and I have differences, I have a love for you?

Jeremy: Likewise, I think you're a good man. I have no problem with you and there's just nothing, uh ...

President Ivins: Because I, because I do love and appreciate you and I hope you know that.

Jeremy: I'm sorry?

President Ivins: I do love and appreciate you. I hope you know that.

Jeremy: I, I, I believe that.

President Ivins: Okay, and I will, I don't know what the game plan is going forward, but we'll be, if we can meet again, would that be all right?

Jeremy: It would be all right.

President Ivins: Okay. All right. I, I need to, because I appreciate what you've told me today and I appreciate, um, uh, that you know that I'm not a historian and that I'm going to have to pull, I'm not sure other people, but we, we got to come up with a game plan here because I want to help.

Jeremy: Okay.

President Ivins: I really do, and I want to make sure that we do the right things at the right time.

Jeremy: Okay.

President Ivins: That's my job. Okay?

Jeremy: Thank you very much.

President Ivins: Okay, thanks for coming over. (keys jingling) [inaudible] There we go.

Jeremy: Thank you.

President Ivins: Have a good day.

Jeremy: You too.

President Ivins: Okay.

(Door opening, people talking in background, walking footsteps)

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.