CES Reply: Welcome to Keokuk

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.

7. Book of Mormon Geography: Many Book of Mormon names and places are strikingly similar to many local names and places of the region where Joseph Smith lived. 


No, they’re not. 


I’m genuinely surprised this section is still in your letter. You have frequently admitted online that this is the weakest of all your arguments, and when you were crowdsourcing the writing of your document on Reddit, you said three years ago that you were ”about 90-95% on removing the entire Book of Mormon Geography/Vernal Holley Maps out of the CES Letter.”

Looks like the 5% prevailed, which is too bad. Even in a document riddled with sloppy scholarship, what follows is an exceptionally flimsy argument on your part.

But once more unto the breach…

The following two maps show Book of Mormon geography compared to Joseph Smith’s geography.


(Northeast United States & Southeast Canada)

The first map is the “proposed map,” constructed from internal comparisons in the Book of Mormon.

No, the first map was constructed from comparison with the second map. Or, rather, the first map is the second map, only with Book of Mormon names placed in substitution for real-world locations that have similar-sounding names. The problem is that many of the “proposed” first-map Book of Mormon sites directly contradict their actual geographical references in the Book of Mormon, making the first map pretty much worthless.

For example, there’s Jacobsburg down near the southwest corner of the second map. (Everybody wave. Hi, Jacobsburg!)  But 3 Nephi 7:12 describes Jacob, a wicked man appointed as the king of a secret combination, as he commands his followers “that they should take their flight into the northernmost part of the land, and there build up unto themselves a kingdom,” a kingdom which is identified as Jacobugath in 3 Nephi 9:9. (“And behold, that great city Jacobugath, which was inhabited by the people of king Jacob, have I caused to be burned with fire because of their sins and their wickedness…”)

In what universe can the lower southwest be considered the “northernmost part of the land?”

Alma 22:28 describes the land of Lehi-Nephi as being “on the west of the land of Zarahemla, in the borders by the seashore.” Yet there’s Lehigh County, PA, inconveniently on the eastern, not western, seashore, and not really “on the west” of anything.

Perhaps the most brazen error in Map #1 is the proposed location of “Ramah,” which this map equates with a Canadian town using the same name without an H. But Ether 15:11 identifies Ramah as the Jaredite name for “Cumorah,” a location this map pins in Joseph Smith’s hometown of Palmyra. (“Palmyra” sounds very different from “Cumorah,” but we’ll let it slide for now.) How can Ramah/Cumorah be both in Canada and New York at the same time? And weren’t you previously upset about the possibility of two Cumorahs?

Throughout the Book of Mormon we read of such features as “The Narrow Neck of Land” which was a day and a half’s journey (roughly 30 miles) separating two great seas.

Yes, we do. That makes me wonder why your erroneous map doesn’t bother to identify the narrow neck of land. I can see at least two possible candidates for it, but since most members of the Church in the 19th Century believed in a hemispheric model and assumed this had reference to Panama, I’m not quite sure what your point is here.

We also read about the Hill Onidah and the Hill Ramah – all place names in the land of Joseph Smith’s youth.

A picture from the land of 
Jeremy Runnells’s youth

“All?” You provide only two examples. Don’t you mean “both?” In any case, you can only claim one, as the Rama Indian Reservation didn’t exist until 1836, six years after the Book of Mormon was published. How could that possibly qualify as being in the land of Joseph Smith’s youth?

You grew up in Southern California, and so did I. You were in Whittier; I was in Calabasas. These two cities are separated by a distance of 37 miles. Would you consider Calabasas to be in the land of your youth? Sure, maybe. For my part, I’d probably claim Whittier as one of my youthful lands, as they are both in the SoCal area, although I can’t ever recall spending any time in Whittier as a kid.

But let’s reach out 1,811 miles and see if that description could still apply. See, that’s the distance between Palymra and the tiny Rama Indian Reservation, and it’s also roughly the distance between Whittier, California and Keokuk, Iowa, which is, apparently, one of the lands of Jeremy Runnells’s youth. And what a youth it must have been! You probably have great memories of all those wonderful Keokuk summers, the joint scout camps with Troop 43 (the Keokuk troop) and maybe kissing a girl for the first time outside Keokuk’s old Iowa Movie Theater at 414 Main Street, Keokuk, IA.

Oh, sorry, that theater was torn down in 1975, years before  you were born. But, really, that’s not unlike Joseph Smith stealing the name “Rama” six years before it actually existed.

This gets very silly very quickly.

More silliness tomorrow, as we examine the specific names Jeremy Runnells claims were stolen from the 2,000 mile radius of the “land of Joseph Smith’s youth.”  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!