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My Online Conversation with Jeremy Runnells

I have never met Jeremy Runnells, although we have far more mutual friends than I realized when I first started writing my reply to his letter. Let me also say again that I have no interest in attacking Mr. Runnells personally, and that I wish him well in wherever his faith journey takes him.

As I continue to inflict my CES Letter Reply on an unsuspecting world, I’m repeatedly asked about whether or not Jeremy Runnells, author of the CES Letter, has read my response and expressed any opinion about what I’ve had to say.

The answer is that I’m not entirely sure. I know he’s aware of this blog, as he made several comments on this post prior to my writing a response to his letter. Those comments may have escaped the notice of those reading my reply, so I thought I’d take a moment to bring them to your attention.

The piece that drew Mr. Runnells to was titled “True and Living,” and it outlined why I will continue to sustain fallible leaders in a church filled with imperfect people who, even though they occasionally fall short, are doing the best they can to emulate the Savior.

Calling himself simply “J,” but using his CESLetter email address to identify himself, Jeremy wrote, “Very eloquently rationalized. But could you sustain a bishop that wouldn’t be as… Open minded as you?”

I replied, “Very snarkily condemned. (And I can see your email address, you know.) As for sustaining bishops, I could, I have, and I will.”

Here is the rest of the exchange, with Jeremy’s words in green:

Jeremy: It’s really, really hard not to be snarky with people who rationalize the death and suffering of innocents. (Sustaining evil is evil.)

Me: Indeed it is! And sustaining good is good. And since there hasn’t been an organization or a person alive, other than Christ Himself, who was purely one or the other, life doesn’t offer us those kinds of binary decisions. (Although I do think sustaining an organization like yours, whose sole purpose is to destroy the faith of others, is generally a bad idea.)

I think abandoning the Church would result in greater suicides and suffering than staying and trying to improve it. Call that a rationalization if you must, yet I certainly don’t think your approach of looking for every opportunity to tear down genuine faith is a better one.

Jeremy: I just hope you can see why so many people are choosing to leave Mormonism, because they see the injustice and unrighteousness and then choose not to follow it. I hope you make the consciousness choice not to shun them and revile them, the way so many Mormons do.

Me: Shunning/reviling is your current M.O., Mr. Runnells, not mine. I’m both surprised and saddened that you haven’t yet realized that bitterness is a pretty miserable foundation on which to build a life.

For my part, I wrote a post about this a little while back, in which I conclude by saying ‘My point is that I will never shun someone who leaves the Church. I will not cease to care for them. I will not cease to pray for them. This includes both friends and family. If my children grow up and decide to be Jehovah’s Witnesses/atheists/carnival folk, I will adore them and do everything in my power to let them know that their father’s love is unconditional, just as I believe our Heavenly Father’s love for all of us is.”

That still strikes me as a good idea.

Jeremy: Desire for Truth=Bitterness. Got it! I just wish all Mormons were as accepting and non- judgemental as you. (Seriously there is no snark in that second sentence.) Agree to disagree on the rest! I’ll be watching.

Me: You’re really quite big on the binary, Jeremy. You claim your motive for devoting your entire life to tearing down the Church is purely a “desire for truth,” while you attack my motive for sustaining the Church as an attempt to “rationalize the suffering and death of innocents” and a penchant for “sustaining evil.” In the real world, imperfect people struggle with good and evil and are a mixture of both, but people are either all good or all bad in Runnell World. In your scenario, then, an imperfect church that isn’t all good must therefore be all bad. No wonder you lost your faith.

And, yes, there’s tremendous bitterness in such binary thinking, sir. That bitterness is plain to see from the tone of your short comments here, but it drips from every word of your CES letter – not just bitterness, but fury, hatred, and contempt. Your magnum opus is not the product of a dispassionate scholar seeking the truth; it is a strident propaganda piece that picks and chooses what the truth is based solely on what you hate. It gives every church critic the benefit of the doubt and assumes the most diabolical motives possible for every Mormon mistake.

So, yes, I’ll be watching, too.


That exchange was the catalyst that prompted my reply.

To my knowledge, Jeremy has not returned to this blog. If he has, he hasn’t left a comment. I received a second-hand account that Jeremy, on another blog, said, “Jim Bennett didn’t answer the questions. Instead, he danced around and made jokes and borderline ad hominem attacks.”

I haven’t been able to find this statement myself to verify it. If anyone has a link to it, or to any other reference to my reply that Jeremy has made, I’d be grateful if you’d be willing to share it.

I do know that many have tried to bring my reply to his attention. At least two people, to my knowledge, have tried to post a link to the reply on Jeremy’s FB page in threads where Jeremy insists that nobody has answered his questions. Their comments were quickly deleted, and the people were banned from being able to even view Jeremy’s page.

It may well be, then, that our brief exchange in my comments section may be the entirety of our direct interaction. I hope that doesn’t remain the case.


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  1. On Randall Bowen’s Facebook page I have posted links to your Reply to the CES LETTER several times, as Jeremy’s letter is a periodic topic. Several times I’ve specifically encouraged those who personally know Jeremy to have him comment relative to Jim Bennett’s Reply to the CES LETTER. The silence has been and still is deafening. In a direct encounter with Jeremy 1-2 before his resignation, I personally asked Jeremy about the answers you provided. His response was as you suggested above. Jeremy generally refused to answer my questions, usually responding that my assumptions were off and “nice try.” I’ll look through Randall’s threads and see if I can find Jeremy’s comments. To my knowledge, Jim, nobody has written such a morecomprehensive reply to Jeremy Runnell’s (than you). In my opinion, he’s overwhelmed by your analysis. So much of his letter’s content, as you rightly articulate, is based on false, cynical assumptions. And if he’d understand 2 things — rock/hat and prophet fallibility — Jeremy’s letter would have been 20% it’s original length…

  2. Now that Jeremy’s livelihood is derived from the CES LETTER this has reached a new level. If you discredit some, many, or all his points, Jim, Jeremy’s got a real problem. I don’t think Jeremy wants direct engagement. Not with you, at least, Jim. Just a gut feeling. Peterson’s response got Jeremy sympathy. I don’t think your letter does the same thing. Your answers, though fun and lively, are substantive. No denying that. And why is Jeremy — the truth seeker — avoiding your answers? So, Jeremy’s in more of a pickle with your long REPLY to the CES LETTER. I believe in a short period of time virtually all will forget about Jeremy and other currently loud critics. Jeremy will likely need to go back to previous employment. In a simple biological sense, as soon as new critics arise and take the microphone (perhaps with new topics and a new letter with a catchy title) the critics’ niche (one will always exist next to the LDS Church, capitalizing on any infrequent real or perceived misstep) will bump Jeremy out for someone new and exciting. Simple evolution by natural selection. All the above are my opinions. Could be wrong on everything, of course…

  3. Go to a blog called :

    The guy that owns it has not written anything for two years. He goes by cd host. He was a Christian turned Atheist. His knowledge of all things religious and the Bible is astounding. About three years ago I saw his comments on an anti Mormon blog. He came to the rescue of a Mormon commenter. The anti Mormons got so mad they refused to engage him after a while. That is how I discovered him. I wish he was still writing the blog.

    He wrote about the Adam God teaching on March 10, 2012. I don’t remember the title exactly, something like ‘That Thing About Mormons” or ” That Thing About Adam God”. It has a photo of Brittney Spears with her whole body painted.
    Please go to the site and read what he wrote. It will all make sense. After reading his article I did some searching about the subject. Not much information on the Web. I need access to a very large library. What I did find was that I had a hard time comprehending the information. The Adam God teaching goes way back to very ancient Judaism. CD Host says Joseph Smith was right. It does makes sense to me. I think the early members were not interested, or failed to comprehend, or Brigham was not explaining it very well. Who knows.
    Brigham Young did not teach blasphemy, or anything wrong. Read very carefully what President Kimball said about it. The church does not denounce it. It is a teaching that we are not ready for, and really, it is not important to our Salvation. We can’t even follow what we have now.