Q: Did FairMormon put out a death threat video on John Dehlin?
A: No, of course not. We had nothing to do with the meme video depicting violence against John Dehlin. We did not make it, or know it was being made or posted. We don’t know the person who made or posted it.
While the video was inappropriate, it—and other memes like it—are sometimes used in internet culture to symbolize someone’s sound defeat in argument. It is unlikely to represent a credible threat to anyone. A teenage prank—even one in bad taste—is not a death threat. However, we state again that we find it in bad taste and completely inappropriate.
Furthermore, John Dehlin—an on-line anti-Mormon personality—threatened to contact police, then contacted two of those whom he accused of threatening him. To complain? No, he asked if he could appear on their podcast! Only after this request did he later announce that he had made a police complaint. This suggests he did not truly feel threatened., and was really interested in content for his podcast.
Q: But do you agree with or support the video?
A: No, we do not condone violence in any form—even depictions of imaginary violence. We believe in civilized discourse. We are saddened that such a meme was ever created and state here that it is contrary to the teachings of the Savior and contrary to the mission, goals, and practice of FairMormon. We hope never to see memes or depictions of violence against others, even if those others may be philosophically opposed to us. People who disagree with us are children of God. We will do our best to discourage depictions of violence, even imaginary violence, whenever possible.
Q: Did the Church, the More Good Foundation, or any other group contribute to your videos or pay you to do them?
A: No. Our videos were produced solely by us, and no one and no group was consulted, asked to review them, or was involved in their production.
Q: I heard you get paid to do this by the Church and you bring in tons of money.
A: Neither is true. John Dehlin has made this about money. He has grouped unrelated organizations together to claim they are one organization. A proper investigation would look at FairMormon alone, since FairMormon alone responsible for this content.
FairMormon consists mostly of volunteers, and two part-time paid administrative employees. By combining FairMormon with other organizations, some try to make it appear that we have lots of funding and backers. The truth is that we mostly have small donors.
According to its 2019 federal tax return, John Dehlin’s organization had:
$464,325 in donations.
$236,021 including a $200K base salary and benefits all paid only to John Dehlin, the sole employee (see page 30 and 34 of the tax return).
In contrast, Dehlin’s “2019 Open Stories Foundation Donor Update” says he represents his base salary as executive director as $75,000 in 2018, plus a bonus of “75% of any contributions received directly from the podcasts (subject to a maximum compensation of $125,000).” Thus, it is in his personal financial best interest to stir things up, drawing attention to himself and his podcasts and online organization. In effect, he receives a commission for controversy. Controversy frequently brings more attention than truth.
Compare FairMormon, on the other hand. Its filed 2019 tax returns show:
$144,403 in donations and revenue received (Form 990, page 1, line 12).
$28,975 paid in salaries and benefits to two part-time administrative staff (line 15).
$0 salary of the FairMormon president and directors (who do not work at BYU or for the Church, or for any foundation or organization affiliated with the Church).
On more than one occasion, FairMormon has been financially strapped. While we love answering questions, we are terrible at fundraising. We appreciate those who helped us out of those tight spots in past years, all without any request for control or strings attached.
Q: What is the CES Letter, I have never heard of it?
A: The CES Letter is a document with some questions about the truth claims of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The author of that document claims the “CES Letter is one Latter-Day [sic] Saint’s honest quest to get official answers from the LDS Church on its troubling origins, history, and practices.”
Q: What is the problem with that?
A: First, that statement isn’t true. The author may have meant well in the beginning, and we believe he may have had questions he wanted answered. However, instead of seeking and finding his answers from the Church or scholars, he went to the Internet and asked the ExMormon community to give him more questions. He crowdsourced additional questions that weren’t his own. We watched him. We are first-hand witnesses of this happening. He then packaged those questions as attacks on the truth claims of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, rather than in a form consistent with sincerely seeking answers. So much for an honest, personal quest for truth.
Q Did FairMormon answer the questions in the CES Letter?
A: Yes, we answered his questions, with references. Very few of the attacks are new or original; most of the questions have been raised and answered many times by others for decades. We prepared a point-by-point analysis that addressed the issues and answered the questions, and pointed out the many serious flaws in the CES Letter. You may read it here, with links to other documents, videos, websites, and authoritative sources that cover the issues and questions raised in the CES Letter. We provided speakers at our annual conference that addressed and answered the questions, and dialogued with the audience about these issues.
Q What kind of dishonest tactics are in the CES Letter?
There are many. For example:
- The author deceptively compares different verses between the Book of Mormon and the JST and claims they are the same verse.
- The author claims the Book of Mormon was first published in Vermont to make it appear it has much in common with the book View of the Hebrews, which was published in Vermont. The Book of Mormon was first published in Palmyra, New York, in 1830, and in reality, has very little in common with the book View of the Hebrews. People who claim View of the Hebrews is the source for the Book of Mormon have not read or even skimmed both books.
- The author claims some Book of Mormon place names came from the upstate New York area, even though many of the named locations in New York were settled after the time of Joseph Smith.
- The author claims some Book of Mormon place names came from Captain Kidd novels, when those place names do not even exist in Captain Kidd novels.
- The author claims that school textbooks, which have absolutely nothing in common with the Book of Mormon, are a source of the Book of Mormon.
- The author constructs a paragraph using excerpts from various phrases from the first three chapters of the Book of Mormon. That final made-up paragraph doesn’t exist anywhere. He then creates a second paragraph from phrases taken from the first 25 pages of the Book of Napoleon. That paragraph also doesn’t exist. Then he claims that since the two paragraphs are so much alike it proves that a book about Napoleon is the source of the Book of Mormon.
- The author claims that a book about the war of 1812 is the source for the Book of Mormon and that a description of a torpedo is really the description of the Liahona.
- The author claims the witnesses never really saw the gold plates. The witnesses by their own testimony state that they not only saw the pates, but some of they them hefted and handled them, and felt the engravings. None of the 11 witnesses ever denied or recanted their testimony, even after they left the Church for personal reasons!
Every chapter of the CES Letter has false claims, and false or misleading assertions. Nowhere does the CES Letter say that the Book of Mormon is so obviously untrue, and false, that one could just read it and know that it is false. The contrary is true: by reading the Book of Mormon and praying sincerely about it, anyone may know that the Book of Mormon is true.
For a more detailed explanation, look at this response in the FairWiki, this conference talk by Rene Krywult, this conference talk by Scott Gordon, this conference talk by Dan Peterson, this blog post by Brian Hales, and this podcast by Hanna Seariac.
Q: Has the CES Letter caused problems?
A: Yes, unfortunately it has. Some—whether believers or nonbelievers of the Church—who only read it, and don’t consider or investigate its assertions have been harmed, deceived, and mislead. The CES Letter is a disingenuous document that is at least misleading, and in many instances false, in its claims and assertions (see above).
An ex-Latter-day Saint anthropologist of religion has described the CES Letter’s tactics in these terms:
The CES letter is just accumulated propaganda that has been weaponized to be an effective tool in doubt-bombing Latter-Day [sic] Saints.
Doubt-bombing is an abusive proselytizing strategy. ….
By bombarding the subject with doubt provoking material the doubt-bomber hopes to cause an identity crisis. …This is an artificially induced identity-crisis whose sole purpose is to sever the victim’s past completely by vilifying and stigmatizing their roots, heritage and past self. …
They can humiliate you and pressure you with questions you don’t have an answer to yet. They try to hit you up with too many of these questions to answer, because if they don’t it wouldn’t work. That’s how the CES Letter works. It’s garbage but it’s a common strategy in the anti-[M]ormon ministry. …
Mormon Stories [John Dehlin’s anti-Mormon effort]…and a number of other groups are all relying on the same abusive tactic. They are trying to coerce you into a situation where they can bombard you with so many doubt-provoking questions that they can cause your resolve to collapse and your identity to fall apart. Inside of that vacuum, created by an act of psychological rape, they hope to impregnate you with their own belief system.
If that sounds abusive, it’s because that’s what it is. …
We ask everyone opposed to abusive behavior and deceptive tactics to remove it, and denounce it as the scurrilous work it is.
Q: Why did you put out these new videos?
A: While we have many answers to the issues raised by the CES Letter and other criticisms, our answers were not reaching some intended audiences, such as youth. We have one excellent video that had zero views from people under the age of 25. One person called us “boring old people.” We decided to try something to reach the youth audience.
Q: Where did you get the name for the videos?
A: Originally, it was simply titled “The Show.” But with a hat tip to Brigham Young’s quote “This is the Place,” it was called “This is the Show.” The initials for the Show, TS, or any other variation have no intended meaning.
Q: But what if I don’t like these videos?
A: Then watch something else. These videos are targeted to a younger audience that isn’t typically engaged, or engaged for long, by scholarly articles. You may not find the humor appealing. This type of humor sometimes captures the same type of mocking tone coming from the ExMormon community at the Church and its doctrines. Remember, the ExMormon community calls the Church, “The So-Called Church,” or “TSCC.” and puts up podcasts attacking the apostles, calling their words “dangerous.” Not everyone will like this style, but when abusive tactics are used, sometimes they need to be called out unmistakably in a language its targets will recognize.
Q Aren’t you doing more harm than good?
We hope not. While the videos are certainly not for everyone, they have had well over 121,000 views (combined count). Many people loved the videos. We also received many messages highlighting the needs for improvements. It was a start. It was created by younger people for younger people. One young man sat down with his family and watched all 16 videos. He said, “Man, the CES Letter is SO DUMB!” He gets it.
Q: Is this the new direction of FairMormon?
A: No. We see this as an extension of our efforts into an untapped audience. We aren’t moving away from our production of scholarly answers. Our “This is the Show” video series isn’t a change in our course. It’s our first attempt to support young people—using means, methods, and media commonly familiar to them—in their efforts to understand sincere and insincere questions or defend against attacks on their faith and beliefs.
We are simply adding a new media method to reach some who are vulnerable to abusive tactics because they don’t know about or aren’t experienced in them. Certainly, we hope to improve. It’s a first try. We hope to get better and to be even more helpful—and always accurate—in the truths taught.
Q: Where can I find these “This is the Show” videos?
A: You can find them at this link.
 This citation is from one of Padro’s articles. See https://www.quora.com/Would-providing-Mormon-missionaries-a-copy-of-the-CES-letter-assist-them-in-making-better-informed-decisions-about-the-lives-they-are-affecting/answer/Manu-Padro-1.