Criticism of Mormonism/Online documents/Letter to a CES Director/Conclusion

Table of Contents

Response to "Letter to a CES Director: Conclusion"

A FairMormon Analysis of: Letter to a CES Director, a work by author: Jeremy Runnells
Googling is not a synonym for seeking.

—Steven C. Harper, Joseph Smith's First Vision: A Guide to the Historical Accounts (2012), 11–12
Chart CES Letter conclusion.png

Response to section "Conclusion"

Summary: The author concludes, "FAIR and these unofficial apologists have done more to destroy my testimony than any anti-Mormon source ever could. I found their version of Mormonism to be alien and foreign to the Chapel Mormonism that I grew up in attending Church, seminary, reading scriptures, General Conferences, EFY, mission, and BYU. Their answers are not only contradictory to the scriptures and teachings I learned through correlated Mormonism…they’re truly bizarre."

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Response to claim: "FairMormon says...'Googling is not a synonym for seeking'...This is like saying, 'The library is not a synonym for seeking'"

The author(s) of "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (also known as "Debunking FairMormon" - from the author of the Letter to a CES Director) (20 July 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

FairMormon says... "Googling is not a synonym for seeking." Google is a search engine. It is simply a tool. It is not a source. It is not a destination. It is not a conclusion. Google is the taxi; not the location. It's the phone; not the conversation. This is like saying, "The library is not a synonym for seeking." The library is just a tool or gathering place of books, papers, works, and sources. FairMormon is now perpetuating the general perception and reputation that the Church and its apologists do not want its members to be balanced researchers or to look up information about the Church and its history on Google.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

It is nonsense to state that FairMormon, an internet-based organization with thousands of online articles that show up in search engines and to which Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is of primary importance, is "perpetuating the general perception and reputation that the Church and its apologists do not want its members to be balanced researchers or to look up information about the Church and its history on Google."

Logical Fallacy: Argument from Ignorance—The author has difficulty understanding the topic, so he or she assumes that it simply must not have any validity.

The author completely fails to comprehend the meaning of Steven Harper's quote.

"Google" is a noun. It is the name of the tool used to search the online "library" of information. "Googling," on the other hand, is a conjugation of a commonly used 21st century verb "to google". It is a 21st century euphemism for the verb "to search."

"Library" is a noun. It is the name of a repository of information, not the tool used to search that library. There is no verb "to library." The author's phrase "The library is not a synonym for seeking" is a non-sequitur.

Response to claim: "Among the first sources I looked to for answers were official Church sources such as Mormon.org and LDS.org. I couldn’t find them."

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

The author states, "When I first discovered that Joseph Smith used a rock in a hat to translate the Book of Mormon, that he was married to 11 other men’s wives, and that the Book of Abraham has absolutely nothing to do with the papyri or facsimiles…I went into a panic. I desperately needed answers and I needed them 3 hours ago. Among the first sources I looked to for answers were official Church sources such as Mormon.org and LDS.org. I couldn’t find them."Note: The Gospel Topics entry was added in 2014 after the Letter to a CES Director was written.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Some of the things that the author claims couldn't be found on LDS.org were actually there. Some of the items have since been added.

Improvement Era (January 1968): "Often the funerary texts contained passages from the 'Book of the Dead,' a book that was to assist in the safe passage of the dead person into the spirit world"

Jay M. Todd, ,"Egyptian Papyri Rediscovered," The Improvement Era (January 1968):

Perhaps no discovery in recent memory is expected to arouse as much widespread interest in the restored gospel as is the recent discovery of some Egyptian papyri, one of which is known to have been used by the prophet Joseph Smith in producing the Book of Abraham.

The papyri, long thought to have been burned in the Chicago fire of 1871, were presented to the Church on November 27, 1967, in New York City by the metropolitan Museum of Art, more than a year after Dr. Aziz S. Atiya, former director of the University of Utah's Middle East Center, had made his startling discovery while browsing through the New York museum's papyri collection.

Included in the collection of 11 manuscripts is one identified as the original document from which Joseph Smith obtained Facsimile 1, which prefaces the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price. Accompanying the manuscripts was a letter dated May 26, 1856, signed by both Emma Smith Bidamon, widow of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and their son, Joseph Smith, attesting that the papyri had been the property of the Prophet.

Some of the pieces of papyrus apparently include conventional hieroglyphics (sacred inscriptions, resembling picture-drawing) and hieratic (a cursive shorthand version of hieroglyphics) Egyptian funerary texts, which were commonly buried with Egyptian mummies. Often the funerary texts contained passages from the "Book of the Dead," a book that was to assist in the safe passage of the dead person into the spirit world. It is not known at this time whether the ten other pieces of papyri have a direct connection with the Book of Abraham.[1]


Question: Are there no mentions of the seer stone and/or its use with a hat on LDS.org?

There are a number of references to the seer stone on LDS.org, with more having been added since 2013

We found the following mentions of a seer stone being used to translate the Book of Mormon, with a few mentions of the hat, on lds.org:

  • September 1974 Friend: "To help him with the translation, Joseph found with the gold plates “a curious instrument which the ancients called Urim and Thummim, which consisted of two transparent stones set in a rim of a bow fastened to a breastplate.” Joseph also used an egg-shaped, brown rock for translating called a seer stone."
    —“A Peaceful Heart,” Friend, Sep 1974, 7 off-site
  • September 1977 Ensign: “Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light."
    —Richard Lloyd Anderson, "‘By the Gift and Power of God’," Ensign (Sep 1977), 79, emphasis added. off-site
  • January 1988 Ensign: "Once Martin found a rock closely resembling the seerstone Joseph sometimes used in place of the interpreters and substituted it without the Prophet’s knowledge. When the translation resumed, Joseph paused for a long time and then exclaimed, “Martin, what is the matter, all is as dark as Egypt.” Martin then confessed that he wished to “stop the mouths of fools” who told him that the Prophet memorized sentences and merely repeated them." —Kenneth W. Godfrey, "A New Prophet and a New Scripture: The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon," Ensign (Jan 1988).
  • July 1993 Ensign: "David Whitmer wrote: ' Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine.'"
    —Russell M. Nelson, “A Treasured Testament,” Ensign, Jul 1993, 61. (emphasis added) off-site
  • January 2013 Ensign: "Some of the Prophet Joseph’s earliest revelations came through the same means by which he translated the Book of Mormon from the gold plates. . . .He described the instrument as “spectacles” and referred to it using an Old Testament term, Urim and Thummim. . . . He also sometimes applied the term to other stones he possessed, called “seer stones” because they aided him in receiving revelations as a seer. The Prophet received some early revelations through the use of these seer stones." off-site
  • October 2015 Ensign: "In fact, historical evidence shows that in addition to the two seer stones known as “interpreters,” Joseph Smith used at least one other seer stone in translating the Book of Mormon, often placing it into a hat in order to block out light. According to Joseph’s contemporaries, he did this in order to better view the words on the stone." off-site

We found the following mentions that the Joseph Smith papyri does not contain the text of the Book of Abraham on lds.org:

  • March 1976 Ensign: A Book of Breathings text that closely matches the Joseph Smith version (and there are precious few of them) is the so-called Kerasher Book of Breathings. It too has a frontispiece, only in this case it is the same as our Facsimile No. 3, showing that it too is closely associated with our text."
    —Hugh Nibley, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, Mar. 1976, 34–36 off-site
  • July 1988 Ensign: Why doesn’t the translation of the Egyptian papyri found in 1967 match the text of the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price?
    —Michael D. Rhodes, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, July 1988, 51–53 off-site
  • The following is contained in the online archive of the Improvement Era:
  • August 1968 Improvement Era: The largest part of the papyri in the possession of the Church consists of fragments from the Egyptian Book of the Dead.
    —Hugh Nibley, "A New Look at the Pearl of Great Price," Improvement Era (August 1968), 56–57.


Improvement Era (1946): "Did Joseph Smith Introduce Plural Marriage?...It is also possible, though the Church does not now permit it, to seal two living people for eternity only, with no association on earth"

"Did Joseph Smith Introduce Plural Marriage?," Improvement Era (November 1946):

Several approaches to eternal marriage may be made: Two living persons may be sealed to each other for time and eternity. A living man may be sealed for eternity to a dead woman; or a living woman to a dead man. Two dead persons may be sealed to each other. It is also possible, though the Church does not now permit it, to seal two living people for eternity only, with no association on earth.

Further, under a divine command to the Prophet Joseph Smith, it was possible for one man to be sealed to more than one woman for time and eternity. Thus came plural marriage among the Latter-day Saints. By another divine command, to Wilford Woodruff, a successor to Joseph Smith, this order of marriage was withdrawn in 1890. Since that time the Church has not sanctioned plural marriages. Anyone who enters into them now is married unlawfully, and is excommunicated from the Church.[2]

"Did Joseph Smith Introduce Plural Marriage?," Improvement Era (November 1946)


Gospel Topics on LDS.org: "Joseph Smith was sealed to a number of women who were already married. Neither these women nor Joseph explained much about these sealings, though several women said they were for eternity alone"

"Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo," Gospel Topics on LDS.org (October 2014):[3]

Following his marriage to Louisa Beaman and before he married other single women, Joseph Smith was sealed to a number of women who were already married.[4] Neither these women nor Joseph explained much about these sealings, though several women said they were for eternity alone.[5] Other women left no records, making it unknown whether their sealings were for time and eternity or were for eternity alone.

There are several possible explanations for this practice. These sealings may have provided a way to create an eternal bond or link between Joseph’s family and other families within the Church.[6] These ties extended both vertically, from parent to child, and horizontally, from one family to another. Today such eternal bonds are achieved through the temple marriages of individuals who are also sealed to their own birth families, in this way linking families together. Joseph Smith’s sealings to women already married may have been an early version of linking one family to another. In Nauvoo, most if not all of the first husbands seem to have continued living in the same household with their wives during Joseph’s lifetime, and complaints about these sealings with Joseph Smith are virtually absent from the documentary record.[7]

These sealings may also be explained by Joseph’s reluctance to enter plural marriage because of the sorrow it would bring to his wife Emma. He may have believed that sealings to married women would comply with the Lord’s command without requiring him to have normal marriage relationships.[8] This could explain why, according to Lorenzo Snow, the angel reprimanded Joseph for having “demurred” on plural marriage even after he had entered into the practice.34 After this rebuke, according to this interpretation, Joseph returned primarily to sealings with single women.


Response to claim: "FAIR and these unofficial apologists have done more to destroy my testimony than any anti-Mormon source ever could"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

The author claims, "FAIR and these unofficial apologists have done more to destroy my testimony than any anti-Mormon source ever could. I found their version of Mormonism to be alien and foreign to the Chapel Mormonism that I grew up in attending Church, seminary, reading scriptures, General Conferences, EFY, mission, and BYU. Their answers are not only contradictory to the scriptures and teachings I learned through correlated Mormonism…they’re truly bizarre."
See also the followup(s) to this claim from "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (20 July 2014 revision):
Response to claim: "Once again, Google delivers where the Church does not"
Response to claim: "If one assumes that FAIR's undisputed silence is acceptance of the facts..."

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The author was examining anti-Mormon sources long before he looked at FairMormon. It is clear from his statements online (shown below) that he went to MormonThink and online discussion boards first. It is also evident that the author is only familiar with selected quotes from a variety of primary sources (including lds.org) that are included on critical websites.



Christensen (2014): "His Letter and his response to FairMormon works from an assumption that LDS leadership should display no weakness, have no common manner of language, never err in their statements, never need to seek wisdom since they should already have it all on the shelf"

Kevin Christensen, "Eye of the Beholder, Law of the Harvest: Observations on the Inevitable Consequences of the Different Investigative Approaches of Jeremy Runnells and Jeff Lindsay":

A large portion of the complaints that Runnells makes both in his Letter and his response to FairMormon works from an assumption that LDS leadership should display no weakness, have no common manner of language, never err in their statements, never need to seek wisdom since they should already have it all on the shelf, never sin and therefore never need to repent, and have all knowledge from the start so that no one, especially not Runnells, might ever need to change their thinking on any subject, no matter how trivial, especially not after having attended EFY, read some “approved” books, and served a mission.[9]


Question: Did FairMormon do "more to destroy" the testimony of the author of the "Letter to a CES Director" than any "anti-Mormon" source?

The author states that FairMormon confirmed what he had learned in the Ensign about the stone and the hat, then reverses himself by stating that FairMormon's "version of Mormonism" is "alien and foreign"

The author, after noting that he was troubled by Elder Nelson's talk in the Ensign which mentioned Joseph's use of a stone in a hat, said that "FAIR confirms polyandry and the rock in the hat translation. Both of these issues usually cause severe cog dis in members. They did with me." One should not reasonably expect FairMormon to deny things that are printed in the Ensign, such as Elder Nelson's talk which mentions the stone in the hat, yet the author claims that he found FairMormon's "version of Mormonism to be alien and foreign." This raises the question: How, then, did FairMormon do "more to destroy" the author's testimony than any anti-Mormon source ever could? (This actually reflects a popular and common meme among online ex-Mormons that tries to cast FairMormon as an "anti-Mormon" site. The promotion of this idea is well represented in "A Letter to a CES Editor.")

The author stopped believing in the Church prior to October 2012, and didn't consult FairMormon until April 2013, seven months later

It is clear from the author's statements online (shown below) that he went to MormonThink and online discussion boards well before looking at FairMormon. It is also evident that the author is only familiar with selected quotes from a variety of primary sources (including lds.org) that are included on critical websites.

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  • The author of "A Letter to a CES Director" said on October 2, 2012

Brigham Young said "The only men who become Gods, even the sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy" (Journal of Discourses 11:269). Last I checked, Journal of Discourses is not anti-mormon.

....Respected LDS Historian and "Rough Stone Rolling" author Richard Bushman totally lied and deceived me....Elder Russell M. Nelson also endorsed this stone in hat method of translation of the Book of Mormon in his July 1993 Ensign "A Treasured Testament" talk. You might want to have a quick chat with him to get his talk corrected. Like, pronto....Joseph Smith's own journals have obviously been tampered with....LDS-owned FamilySearch.org listing Joseph's teen brides....he, according to FAIR, FARMS, FamilySearch.org and LDS historians, really did practice polygamy....that lie is in the Journal of Discourses...might want to delete it pronto....

  • The author of "A Letter to a CES Director" said on October 11, 2012

Because the "Ouija Board" that he used to con people in his treasure hunting days is the same "Ouija Board" that he used to bring forth the Book of Mormon. Additionally, the church's spin on how the BOM came to be vs. how it actually happened are universes apart.

  • The author of "A Letter to a CES Director" said on November 11, 2012

A person has to do their own convincing. Your dad is doing the research and is asking questions. Let it take its course. Hopefully you pointed him to the right resources (MormonThink.com, etc.)

  • The author of "A Letter to a CES Director" said on November 15, 2012

I'm BIC, RM, Temple Married who left the church a few months ago (haven't resigned yet)....I have a TBM wife who still takes kids to church. I want to know the most effective way to save them from Mormonism so they won't have to go through what I went through.

  • The author of "A Letter to a CES Director" said on February 19, 2013

Yeah, reading "The Mormon Murders" and other stuff about the Mark Hoffman disaster did really did some damage on how I look at Hinckley and the modern church. Specifically, the buying and hiding the embarrassing forgeries along with the lack of discernment.

  • The author of "A Letter to a CES Director" said on February 22, 2013

http://www.lds.org/ensign/1993/07/a-treasured-testament?lang=eng He [Elder Russell M. Nelson] quotes David Whitmer's testimony of rock in the hat translation method.

  • The author of "A Letter to a CES Director" said on March 26, 2013

Need Feedback! My TBM grandpa asked me to speak to his CES Director friend, about my concerns. CES guy offered to talk to me. This PDF is a rough draft of what I'm sending over to both CES guy and grandpa. Need your feedback/advice, guys. Thanks!

  • The author of "A Letter to a CES Director" said on April 12, 2013

Final draft of letter is done! Let me know what you guys think before I send.

  • The author of "A Letter to a CES Director" said on April 30, 2013

FAIR confirms polyandry and the rock in the hat translation. Both of these issues usually cause severe cog dis in members. They did with me. I mean, once the rock in the hat story was confirmed, the whole thing collapsed because the rock in the hat ruins the official story of ancient prophets creating gold plates for Joseph and the testimony of the witnesses of the gold plates (since Joseph never used the plates anyway).


Response to claim: "Once again, Google delivers where the Church does not"

The author(s) of "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (also known as "Debunking FairMormon" - from the author of the Letter to a CES Director) (20 July 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

You cannot find this on lds.org or on any official Church website. In fact, you have to hunt it down on the internet. Once again, Google delivers where the Church does not. FAIR states: “The following is contained in the online archive of the Improvement Era." FAIR doesn’t tell the reader that this “online archive” is a non-LDS website archive.org that you have to do a Google search to locate. In other words, it’s archived and hidden off the official LDS websites and servers.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

No, Google did not "deliver where the Church does not." The back issues of the Improvement Era were scanned and placed on Archive.org by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Google can be used to locate these articles only because the Church scanned and uploaded them.



The back issues of the Improvement Era were scanned by the Church and placed on Archive.org

Improvement Era - Online Index

Response to claim: "If one assumes that FAIR's undisputed silence is acceptance of the facts..."

The author(s) of "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (also known as "Debunking FairMormon" - from the author of the Letter to a CES Director) (20 July 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

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

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

This claim is untrue. FairMormon consists of unpaid volunteers, who choose to work on its materials in their spare time, and only when they are not otherwise busy with their families, their day jobs, and church responsibilities. All of those things take priority over providing additional responses to claims made in the CES Letter. As a result, some claims have not yet been addressed. However, additional responses have been slowly added over time by FairMormon volunteers, and they will continue to be added for years to come.



Question: Do Latter-day Saint apologists receive compensation for their efforts?

Don't give up your "day job": There are no paid positions in Latter-day Saint apologetics

Those who wish to achieve a substantial level of income would be well advised to avoid LDS apologetics entirely, as it can consume substantial amounts of a person's "off-time." Most LDS apologists perform volunteer work to defend the faith while holding down their normal "day job."

Members of FairMormon are not paid for their efforts

FairMormon is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, and all of its members, with the exception of the part-time Bookstore manager, are unpaid volunteers.

All efforts devoted to FairMormon are performed only after its members spend time with their families, perform their "day job," and fulfill church responsibilities. FairMormon is not, and should not be, the top priority in any of its members' lives. This means that the work sometimes proceeds slowly, but it does proceed forward.

Having a "day job" with a Church sponsored institution does not preclude one from practicing apologetics

Some individuals who practice LDS apologetics happen to be employed by institutions sponsored by the Church: The primary institution being Brigham Young University. In this situation, their "day job" involves researching or teaching subjects which may or may not relate to subjects of interest to apologetics...which ought not to surprise anyone at all. Thus, critics attempt to argue that some LDS apologists, particularly BYU professors, are "paid" for their apologetic efforts. Critics congratulate themselves for achieving a firm understanding of the obvious: Individuals who happen to have a "day job" with a Church sponsored institution receive their paycheck from that same institution. Having a "day job" with a Church sponsored institution does not preclude one from practicing apologetics.


Notes

  1. Jay M. Todd, ,"Egyptian Papyri Rediscovered," The Improvement Era (January 1968)
  2. "Did Joseph Smith Introduce Plural Marriage?," Improvement Era (November 1946)
  3. "Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo," Gospel Topics on LDS.org (October 2014).
  4. From "Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo": Estimates of the number of these sealings range from 12 to 14. (See Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997], 4, 6; Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, 1:253–76, 303–48.) For an early summary of this practice, see John A. Widtsoe, “Evidences and Reconciliations: Did Joseph Smith Introduce Plural Marriage?” Improvement Era 49, no. 11 (Nov. 1946): 766–67.
  5. Brian Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, 1:421–37. Polyandry, the marriage of one woman to more than one man, typically involves shared financial, residential, and sexual resources, and children are often raised communally. There is no evidence that Joseph Smith’s sealings functioned in this way, and much evidence works against that view.
  6. Rex Eugene Cooper, Promises Made to the Fathers: Mormon Covenant Organization (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1990), 138–45; Jonathan A. Stapley, “Adoptive Sealing Ritual in Mormonism,” Journal of Mormon History 37, no. 3 (Summer 2011): 53–117.
  7. For a review of the evidence, see Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, 1:390–96.
  8. Richard Lyman Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 440.
  9. Kevin Christensen, "Eye of the Beholder, Law of the Harvest: Observations on the Inevitable Consequences of the Different Investigative Approaches of Jeremy Runnells and Jeff Lindsay", Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 10:175-238 (2014).
  10. Jeremy Runnells, "Open Letter" to Elder Quentin L. Cook posted on the ex-Mormon subreddit on October 9, 2012.


A FairMormon Analysis of:
Letter to a CES Director
A work by author: Jeremy Runnells