CES Reply: Where’s the Hat?

This is a serialization of “A Faithful Reply to the CES Letter from a Former CES Employee.”  You can download the whole PDF here, and you can also participate in the Latter-day Saint Survey Project by joining or creating one of the Canonizer camps in the links at the bottom of this post.

This is a line-by-line response to Jeremy Runnells’s October 2017 iteration of the CES Letter. Jeremy’s original text appears in green, the color of life. My response text appears in black, the color of darkness.

The Church later admitted these facts in its October 2015 Ensign , where they include a photograph of the actual rock that Joseph Smith used to place in his hat for the Book of Mormon translation. Additional photos of the rock can be viewed on lds.org

They can also be viewed in this reply. How could the Church later “admit” what they’d already admitted in the essay two years earlier? Admissions are statements that reveal new information. Every mention of the rock in the hat by the Church cannot be defined as an admission.

In this version, you took out the reference to then-Elder Nelson’s 1992 talk about the rock in the hat. that admissions precedes the essay “admission” by nearly two decades. How many times does the Church have to admit – or “re-admit” – this information before you stop acting like each new mention is the first time?

In June 2016, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf posted on his Facebook page comparing the seer stone in the hat Book of Mormon translation to his iPhone . FairMormon posted new Book of Mormon translation artwork showing Joseph Smith’s face in a hat.

So many admissions! If I didn’t know any better, I’d almost believe that the Church isn’t trying to hide this information. (Except for the hat. Where’s the freakin’ hat?!)


“Still portrays” is belied by the fact that these images are all at least a decade old, if not older. (That Ensign is dated 2002.) I could be wrong, but I haven’t seen anything like this since the 2013 essay. 

Indeed, there is accumulating evidence that the Church is no longer trying to downplay the rock and/or the hat at all. The release of Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days demonstrates an openness and candor that is likely to serve the Church well in the days ahead. 

A noteworthy excerpt from Chapter 6 of the first volume:

Meanwhile, Joseph and Oliver started translating. They worked well together, weeks on end, frequently with Emma in the same room going about her daily work. Sometimes Joseph translated by looking through the interpreters and reading in English the characters on the plates.

Often he found a single seer stone to be more convenient. He would put the seer stone in his hat, place his face into the hat to block out the light, and peer at the stone. Light from the stone would shine in the darkness, revealing words that Joseph dictated as Oliver rapidly copied them down.

That account, of course, is more consistent with your next batch of pictures. 


Important correction: these pictures only depict part of how “it actually happened,” as this was not the only method of translation. Accounts suggest that the first 116 pages were done entirely with the Urim and Thummim, which would make the first batch of pictures much less misleading than your heated reaction allows. 

Since learning this disturbing new information and feeling betrayed, I have been attacked and gaslighted by revisionist Mormon apologists claiming that it’s my fault and the fault of anyone else for not knowing this. “The information was there all along,” they say. “You should’ve known this,” they claim.

When you put words in quotes, you are suggesting that these specific words, verbatim, were actually said by another human being, yet you’re obviously paraphrasing. It’s just one more example of sloppy scholarship in a document riddled with them. At this point in your career as a full-time, well-compensated CES Letter apologist, you should probably know better by now.

I also still don’t understand why this information is “disturbing.” There’s nothing morally or ethically problematic about a rock in a hat versus a pair of spectacles attached to a breastplate, and the only reason the second isn’t upsetting to you is that it’s what you expect, and the first isn’t. I would think, to someone with no knowledge of these events, that both scenarios would be equally weird. The picture in your first batch with Joseph using the Urim and Thummim looks stranger to me than any picture in the second batch.

And, again, none of this diminishes the reality of the Book of Mormon, its historicity, or its message.

As for you being “attacked” and “gaslighted,” those are certainly dramatic verbs, but the fact remains that, yes, the information was there all along. That’s a statement of fact. Whether or not you should have known about it is a different question, as I don’t think knowledge of the rock in the hat substantively changes anything about the Book of Mormon’s relevance or its place in Latter-day Saint theology. 

Respected LDS historian and scholar Richard Bushman, as quoted above, understands the problem. 

And yet, as demonstrated by my additional quote above, you fail to understand or accurately represent Richard Bushman’s position on the subject. 

Unlike these gaslighting revisionist apologists, he has compassion, understanding, and empathy for those who are shocked to learn this faith challenging information.

He’s also unlike you, a man who frequently calls his opponents names and flings personal insults. (I’m pretty sure that, contrary to your online assault, my family likes me.)

Alas, we have not yet begun to rock. (In a hat.) In the meantime, take a look at the Canonizer camps below. If you think I’m completely wrong, you can join a camp that says so – or create one of your own!