CES Reply: 2018 Foreword

So as part of the Latter-day Saint Survey Project, I’m going to serialize my updated response to the CES Letter, and I’m going to use each post to create a topic and a camp for discussion here at Canonizer.

I begin with my 2018 foreword:

Jeremy Runnells does not like me. And, really, can you blame him?

He has called me “suffocatingly conceited” and has made claims that my family shares his loathing. He insists that my lengthy reply to his CES Letter is nothing but jokes and insults, and if you post a link to it on his Facebook page, you will be summarily blocked and banned.

I’m not alone. He has repeatedly mocked BYU professor Daniel Peterson (who he calls “Danny Boy”) at every opportunity, and just recently, he refused to allow Tarik LaCour, a blogger Jeremy derides as a “dishonest Mormon apologist,” to purchase a paperback copy of his letter.

For a man who is furious about a church supposedly filled with insulting apologists that have suppressed opposing points of view, he’s fast and furious with the insults and fiercely intolerant of opposing points of view.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Jeremy currently makes his living by promoting and defending his CES Letter, and by all accounts, his CES Letter Foundation was an outstanding career move. There is no way to know for sure how much he is pulling in, as he, like the church he criticizes for lack of transparency, refuses to allow his donors to know how much money he’s making. (Two years ago, my sources told me it was in excess of $10,000 per month. Given the upgrades to his site and his whole operation, as well as the continued impact the letter has had in in the intervening years, my guess is that figure remains constant or even grown over time.)

One of Jeremy’s primary criticisms of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that its defenders have too much invested in their membership to have an open mind. Yet if that’s the case, what does that say about Jeremy himself, given that an open mind might result in him having to abandon his current livelihood? As he lashes out at his foes, both real and imaginary, he doesn’t seem to realize that by just about every metric he uses to judge the Church he despises, his own CES Letter Foundation fails miserably.

For my part, I have never met Jeremy Runnells, and I have never spoken to him. I would like that to change, because, as my late father used to say, it’s pretty hard to hate someone once you get to know them. I do not have any personal animus toward Jeremy, and I went out of my way, in initially crafting my reply, to avoid attacking Jeremy personally, although, in this revision, I must admit I now have considerably less patience for his hypocrisy than I did the first time around. People I love have had their faith destroyed because Jeremy Runnells has passed along arguments he himself hasn’t examined and doesn’t seem to understand, and this bad information is splitting up families and damaging lives. That does not sit well with me.

Still, I don’t know him, and I can’t judge his heart. What I do know is that my line-by-line reply has been downloaded and read in excess of 50,000 times since it went online. I also continue to receive kind messages from people who have read it and found it useful.

So, since Jeremy has updated his letter, it’s time for me to update my reply.

That’s something I’ve wanted to do for quite some time, as my original PDF is riddled with typos, and there are many things I think I could have said better the first time around.

I’m also creating a CES Letter topic here at Canonizer, which you can access in the link at the bottom of this post.

The “Super Camp” is for anyone who wants to discuss any aspect of the CES Letter. Its statement reads as follows:

This topic is focused on discussion of “Letter to a CES Director,” also known as the “CES Letter,” written by Jeremy Runnells in 2013 and updated in 2017.

That statement encompasses anyone with any opinion at all about the CES Letter – good, bad, or otherwise.

Underneath the Super Camp, I’ve created a sub-camp titled “Poor scholarship.” Its statement reads as follows:

The CES Letter is bad scholarship making arguments that its own author doesn’t seem to understand, citing sources he hasn’t bothered to read. Overall, its charges do not stand up to scrutiny, and it is possible to confront each and every one of them head on and come out with a strengthened testimony of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ on the other side.

If you agree with that statement, you can simply join the sub-camp and increase its vote totals. If you want to revise the statement, you are welcome to do so, although all members of the camp will have to agree to your revisions. If you disagree, you are welcome to create a competing camp of your own. Or if you agree but want to go in more detail, you can create a supporting camp below the “Poor scholarship” camp to explore the topic even further.

Go on and give it a try. Tomorrow, I’ll post another excerpt from my reply and create another camp to expand the discussion.