In April 2013 Jeremy T. Runnells published a pdf booklet entitled, “Letter to a CES Director.” This booklet, which is now typically referred to as the “CES Letter,” catalogs Runnells’ concerns and reasons why he left The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). Runnells has worked hard to make his booklet available to people everywhere (and in several languages) and has, unfortunately, been the agent for leading at least a few other believers out of Mormonism.
Sadly, most of those who have been bamboozled by the “CES Letter” are Latter-day Saints who were blind-sided by scholarly-sounding interpretations of challenging data. In my opinion, however, the “CES Letter” creates a caricature of Mormonism. The arguments are fundamentally flawed and do not accurately represent either Mormonism or the only logical interpretations of the data.
Unfortunately, the reason the CES Letter has enjoyed any success is that most Latter-day Saints have never been exposed to some of the more complex matters in early Mormon history. On average, the typical Latter-day Saint has never needed to think outside of the box on Mormon-related philosophical, historical, or scholarly issues.
“Bamboozled by the ‘CES Letter'” explains why these controversial issues need not kill a testimony. Interpretation matters. Many lay-members, as well as educated Mormon scholars, are fully aware of every topic discussed in the “CES Letter” but continue strong in their faith because they recognize that there are logical interpretations which can be integrated with their belief in Mormonism. There are answers to the concerns raised by the “CES Letter,” and those answers can be supported by current scholarship as well as harmonized with the acceptance of Mormon truth claims.