in Religion, Uncategorized

CES Reply: THE CONCLUSION!!!

And thus it is that this post shall conclude the serialized reproduction of my lengthy reply to “Letter to a CES Director: Why I Lost My Testimony” by Jeremy Runnells.

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I doubt this is the last I’ll have to say on the subject, but this is the last selection from my original reply, which I’ve been cutting up into bite-sized chunks over the course of the last three months.

You can read the whole thing at once by clicking here.

As always, Jeremy’s original words are in green, the color of life. My words are in black, the color of darkness.

Conclusion:



Oh, thank heaven.



“Mormonism, as it is called, must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a Prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground. If Joseph was a deceiver, who willfully attempted to mislead people, then he should be exposed, his claims should be refuted, and his doctrines shown to be false…”

– President Joseph Fielding Smith



Amen and amen.


When I first discovered that Joseph Smith used a rock in a hat to translate the Book of Mormon,



Play it again, Sam.



that he was married to 11 other men’s wives,



All together now: Sealings, not marriages, no sex.

and that the Book of Abraham has absolutely nothing to do with the papyri or facsimiles…



How can the Book of Abraham have nothing to do with the facsimiles? They are the Book of Abraham.

I went into a panic.  I desperately needed answers and I needed them 3 hours ago.  Among the first sources I looked to for answers were official Church sources such as Mormon.org and LDS.org.  I couldn’t find them.



I then went to FairMormon and Neal A. Maxwell Institute (formerly FARMS).

FairMormon and these unofficial apologists have done more to destroy my testimony than any anti- Mormon source ever could.  I found their version of Mormonism to be alien and foreign to the Chapel Mormonism that I grew up in attending Church, Seminary, reading Scriptures, General Conferences, EFY, mission, and BYU.   Their answers are not only contradictory to the scriptures and teachings I learned through  correlated  Mormonism…they’re  truly  bizarre.

I  was  amazed  to  learn  that,  according  to  these  unofficial  apologists,  translate  doesn’t really  mean translate, horses aren’t really horses (they’re tapirs), chariots aren’t really chariots (since tapirs can’t pull chariots without wheels), steel isn’t really steel, Hill Cumorah isn’t really in New York (it’s possibly in Mesoamerica), Lamanites aren’t really the principal ancestors of the Native  American Indians, marriage isn’t really marriage (if they’re Joseph’s marriages? They’re just mostly non-sexual spiritual sealings),



Hey! There it is! My last “sealings, not marriages, no sex” finally paid off!

Sorry. I’ll let you conclude without further interruption, unless you mention the rock in the hat again.

and prophets aren’t really prophets  (only when they’re heretics teaching today’s false  doctrine).

Why is it that I had to first discover all of this – from the internet – at 31-years-old after 20 years of high activity in the Church? I wasn’t just a seat warmer at Church. I’ve read the scriptures several times. I’ve read hundreds of “approved” Church books. I was an extremely dedicated missionary who voluntarily asked to stay longer in the mission field. I was very interested in and dedicated to the gospel.

How am I supposed to feel about learning about these disturbing facts at 31-years-old?   After making critical life decisions based on trust and faith that the Church was telling me the complete truth about its origins and history?   After many books, Seminary, EFY, Church history tour, mission, BYU,  General  Conferences,  Scriptures,  Ensigns,  and  regular  Church  attendance?

So, putting aside the absolute shock and feeling of betrayal in learning about all of this information that has been kept concealed and hidden from me by the Church my entire life, I am now expected to go back to the drawing board.   Somehow, I’m supposed to rebuild my testimony on new discovered information that is not only bizarre and alien to the Chapel Mormonism I had a testimony of; it’s almost comical.

I’m now supposed to believe that Joseph has the credibility of translating ancient records when the Book of Abraham and the Kinderhook Plates destroy this claim?  That Joseph has the character and integrity to take him at his word after seeing his deliberate deception in hiding and denying polygamy and polyandry for at least 10 years of his adult life?  How he backdated and retrofitted the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood restoration events as if they were in the Book of Commandments all along?  And I’m supposed to believe with a straight face that Joseph using a rock in a hat is totally legit?  Despite this being the exact same method he used to con people out of their money during his treasure hunting days?  Despite this ruining the official story of ancient prophets and Moroni investing all that time and effort into gold plates, which were not used because Joseph’s face was stuffed in a hat?

(At least you didn’t mention the rock. Sorry. Continue.)

I’m supposed to sweep under the rug the inconsistent and contradictory First Vision accounts and just believe anyway?  I’m supposed to believe that these men who have been wrong about so many important things and who have not prophesied, seered, or revealed much in the last 169 or so years are to be sustained as “prophets, seers, and revelators”?

I’m supposed to believe the scriptures have credibility after endorsing so much rampant immorality, violence, and despicable behavior?  When it says that the earth is only 7,000 years old and that there was no death before then? Or that Heavenly Father is sitting on a throne with an erect penis when all evidence points to it really being the pagan Egyptian god of sex, Min? The “most correct book on earth” Book of Mormon going through over 100,000 changes over the years? After  going through so many revisions and still being incorrect? Noah’s ark and the global flood are literal events? Tower of Babel is a literal event? The Book of Mormon containing 1769 King James Version edition translation errors and 1611 King James Version translators’ italics while claiming to be an ancient record?

That there’s actually a polygamous god who revealed a Warren Jeffs style revelation on polygamy that Joseph pointed to as a perverted license to secretly marry other living men’s wives and teenage girls barely out of puberty?  That this crazy god actually threatened Joseph’s life with one of his angels with a sword if a newly married pregnant woman didn’t agree to Joseph’s marriage proposal?  And like the part-time racist schizophrenic god, I’m supposed to believe in a god who was against polygamy before he was for polygamy but decided in 1890 that he was again against it?

I’m told to put these foundational problems on the shelf and wait until I die to get answers? To stop looking at the Church intellectually even though the “glory of God is intelligence”? Ignore and have faith anyway?

I’m sorry, but faith is believing and hoping when there is little evidence for or against something. Delusion is believing when there is an abundance of evidence against something.  To me, it’s absolute insanity to bet my life, my precious time, my money, my heart, and my mind into an organization that has so many serious problematic challenges to its foundational truth claims.

There are just way too many problems.  We’re not just talking about one issue here.  We’re talking about dozens of serious issues that undermine the very foundation of the LDS Church and its truth claims.

The past year was the worst year of my life.  I experienced a betrayal, loss, and sadness unlike anything I’ve ever known. “Do what is right; let the consequence follow” now holds a completely different meaning for me.  I desperately searched for answers to all of the problems.  To me, the answer eventually came but it was not what I expected… or hoped for.

As a child, it seemed so simple;
Every step was clearly marked.
Priesthood, mission, sweetheart, temple;
Bright with hope I soon embarked.
But now I have become a man,
And doubt the promise of the plan.

For the path is growing steeper,
And a slip could mean my death.
Plunging upward, ever deeper,
I can barely catch my breath.
Oh, where within this untamed wild
Is the star that led me as a child?

As I crest the shadowed mountain,
I embrace the endless sky;
The expanse of heaven’s fountain
Now unfolds before my eye.
A thousand stars shine on the land,
The chart drafted by my own hand.

– The Journey –

Jeremy T. Runnells
cesletter@gmail.com
www.cesletter.com

 

Well spoken, Jeremy. As of this writing, and as of this Internet posting three months later, you and I have never met, but I hope that changes at some point. I have tremendous respect for your integrity and honesty, even though it has led you outside the boundaries of the Church.

I don’t know if anything I’ve written here will be remotely helpful or persuasive. It breaks my heart that you reached out for information and found nothing to strengthen your faith. But if one person reads this response and is helped the way I was when I read “The Truth About the Godmakers” all those years ago, then this will have been time well spent.

I remember my own feeling of panic when I bumped into the weird Church that “The Godmakers” was telling me was my own. I think, however, that I was coming at it from a different angle. The premise of “The Godmakers” wasn’t so much that it was all a fraud so much as that it was a Satanic deception, and that being a Mormon would consign to an eternal hell because I wasn’t really a Christian.

I can remember on my mission coming across many evangelical Christians who condemned me to hell unless I was willing to accept Jesus into my life. Invariably, I would use the opportunity to, then and there, accept Jesus into my life. I would say whatever little prayer they had printed on their cards or flyers and then look them in the eye and say I agreed with every word in it. It still wasn’t enough. I remember talking to one family at their doorstep, who said I needed to accept Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior.

“Fair enough,” I said. “I cheerfully accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. I recognize that I am helpless without Him, and that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. I invite him into my life, and I know He is the only way to heaven.”

They stood there, flummoxed.

“Is that it?” I said. “Do I have to do anything else?”

“Yes, you do,” the mother said. “You need to repent of your Mormon faith.”

Yeah, okay.

See, that’s the problem. These guys insist that all you have to do is accept Jesus, and, presto, you’re saved. But if you say you accept Jesus and still want to hang with the Mormons, you didn’t do it right. If you press people hard enough on this, they’ll tell you haven’t really accepted Jesus, you’ve accepted some other Jesus. The Godmakers constantly refers to Jesus as being separate from the guy the Mormons worship, who is repeatedly identified as the “Mormon Jesus.” The problem is that the Mormon Jesus is pretty much identical to the other Jesus – he was the Son of God, born to a virgin in Bethlehem; he grew up in Nazareth; he called twelve apostles and taught the Gospel, and then was betrayed and crucified on Calvary. Three days later, He rose from the dead, and He commissioned His apostles to teach his Gospel to all the world. Now, unless the Mormon Jesus did all this same stuff down the street or something, it’s pretty hard to distinguish between the two.

The problem is that Mormons believe Jesus did more than this. The Book of Mormon tells of His visit to the Lost Tribes of Israel, and Joseph Smith and other modern prophets talk of seeing Jesus on several occasions. So what these Christians are saying is that Jesus only did what is chronicled in the New Testament, and only the Mormon Jesus did all this extra, weird stuff.

So, when you get right down to it, the way to hell isn’t a lack of belief in Jesus. Apparently, the danger lies in believing too much about Jesus.

I’m not quite sure what to do about this. I can go into almost any Christian church in the country, and they’ll tell me things about Jesus that I will heartily agree with. I believe He did everything the Bible says He did. But I also believe Jesus is more than just words on a page. I don’t worship the Bible; I worship Jesus, who is not bound like the pages of a book.

I can recall quite vividly one of the first experiences I had that built my own personal witness of Jesus Christ. I was in a pageant at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles called III Nephi, which dramatized Christ’s visit to the New World after His resurrection. I was nine or ten years old, I think. I played one of the children who greets the Savior, and we were taught two songs to sing on that occasion – one was “I Feel My Savior’s Love,” and the other was “The Love of God.” I can recall feeling a very powerful witness that Jesus was real; that He loved me, and that He knew me by name. I can remember a testimony meeting right after the dress rehearsal, where one of the men stood up and said “That which you feel right now is the love of God.” He was right. I knew he was telling the truth, just as surely and plainly as I knew I existed.

The song “I Feel My Savior’s Love” was written for that pageant, and it has since become something of a staple among Mormon children. I’ve heard it a billion times. But I hadn’t heard the song “The Love of God” since the day I last sang it on the stage of the Shrine. That is, until one Easter stake conference, when the stake choir sang it as a counterpoint to “I Know that My Redeemer Lives.” And instantly, I felt that same sweet assurance, the power of the Spirit reminding me of the certainty I learned so long ago.

That which I felt was the love of God.

Maybe that means I’m damned for all eternity. Maybe the Mormon Jesus has deceived me. Maybe, maybe, maybe – but I really don’t think so. There are some things that sink too deeply into your soul to deny them.

I recognize that much of what I believe is too foreign or alien to you, and I think think the best point you make in your letter has to do with the idea of prophetic infallibility. We do a massive disservice to people by implying that the Church is perfect, that prophets never err, and that it’s faithless to recognize that nobody gets their agency extracted, not even prophets.

Discipleship required us to be patient enough with an imperfect church that we were willing to endure error in order to sustain leaders who, unlike a perfect Christ, have weaknesses and blind spots and therefore actually need to be sustained.

And isn’t that a better story anyway? Isn’t it better to imagine a church that develops and grows and learns from its mistakes?

That’s the story, incidentally, that the Lord has always expected us to tell. I don’t think that people who stand up in a testimony meeting to praise this as “the only true church” realize that they’re misquoting the Lord, who never actually said that. What he did say was this was the only true and living church. (See D&C 1:30)

Plenty of other churches have truth in them. Some have gobs of it. But this church is both true and living. It is more than just correct principles; it is the living people doing everything in their power to apply them. And the Church, like all living things, develops, grows, and learns from its mistakes.

I don’t say that to be critical. I love the Church. I love its doctrines, which provide a cohesive and glorious vision of the universe that has no equal in the other religions and philosophies of the world. But I also love the Church in practice, which has repeatedly come to my rescue, temporally and spiritually. 

I will always be grateful for a ward that rallied around my family when my oldest daughter injured her spinal cord in a skiing accident and was left partially paralyzed. They organized a massive, successful fundraiser that covered most of our more-than-significant medical expenses, and they assembled a team of thirty-or-so people who came into our house and scrubbed it from top to bottom. They also fixed broken cabinets, replaced damaged electrical wiring, and installed a new kitchen sink, three new toilets, an entire handicapped-accessible bathroom, and double railings on two stairwells and in our front and back entrances.

Their main focus, however, was completely redecorating my daughter’s bedroom, which now includes an entirely new bedframe and bedding, new furniture, a fresh coat of paint, and a beautiful mural of a flowering tree just above her bed. And just to make sure that my other daughter didn’t feel left out, they entirely redid her room just for good measure, installing a built-in new window seat at the base of her bed.

None of that has any bearing on whether the Book of Abraham is an accurate translation or not, but I think it’s important not to lose sight of what the Church really is on a practical, day-to-day level. On the whole, it makes bad people good and good people better.

This church is also transformative because people have had a genuine, powerful experience with Jesus Christ, often through the Book of Mormon. I have seen, firsthand, what the power of Christ can do, and I have encountered God in this Church in an intimate, personal, and undeniable way. I don’t think those kinds of spiritual experiences require me to abandon reason or stop asking questions, but they keep me from panicking the next time I hear an accusation against Joseph Smith or the Church that I’ve never heard before.

I have found God in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I pray you find Him wherever your faith journey takes you.

Jim Bennett
jim@stallioncornell.com
www.stallioncornell.com


This wasn’t in my original reply, but I want to add a section from my father’s final sermon. In my last conversation with Dad prior to his stroke, he told me had read my reply to you from beginning to end. It may, in fact, be the last thing of any length that he read in this lifetime. So, Jeremy, this was probably not your intent, but your letter gave me a precious and sacred bond with my father in the final days of his life that I will always cherish. I cannot thank you enough for that.

The day before the stroke that took his life, Dad was engaged in a little “unofficial apologetics” of his own, and, as a fireside in Arlington, Virginia, he offered a vigorous defense of the Book of Mormon, addressing many of the issues you raised in your letter. But he concluded with a story from his own mission in Scotland, which I quote below:

When we called on Bill and Marian Proctor for the first meeting, we had left a Book of Mormon with Marian. We had gone tracting that morning, came back that night. He was reading it – Bill Proctor was reading the book by the fire, which I took as a good sign.

And then he stood up and came to me, and he said, “Look, lads, I know why you’re here, and you’re wasting your time. I have no intention of joining your church. But this is an interesting book you have.  So I’ll tell you what let’s do. I’ll buy your book, and you go on your way, and we’ll both save time. Agreed?”

I said, “Agreed. Yep. But as long as we’re here…”

Okay, so as long as we’re here, we sat down, and we gave them the first discussion of the Book of Mormon. And then we asked the magic question – when would be a good time for us to come back? And he gave us an appointment back, and there’s much more to the story, but very powerfully, before I left Scotland – excuse me, I get dewy-eyed at the dedication of a parking lot – before I left Scotland, I said to him, “When did you know? Bill, when did it happen [that you knew] the Book of Mormon was true?”

And he said, “Oh, that first night.” He said, “The Spirit was there overwhelmingly, telling me it was true.”

He didn’t need any internal or external validations, or any intellectual analysis. All he needed was an open heart and the presence of the Holy Ghost, and he knew. The Book of Mormon can survive any attack by any enemy of the Church because the Proctor example has been repeated millions of times, in every culture, in every country, all around the world. The Lord’s wisdom in having Mormon do all that work, and having Moroni deliver those plates to Joseph Smith, and then the translation, is validated again and again. The Book of Mormon is, indeed, another witness of Jesus Christ, and a precious gift that God has given to warn us.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

 

CES Reply: Purging Dissidents? (The Penultimate Installment)
Order of the Arrow Ordeal Secrets: The Final Word

Leave a Reply

  1. Jim, I love having all the old and some new arguments in one place. I love your kind, humorous, faith filled answers. I need what you did because I teach a lot of youth and I like letting them know we have answers. I supervise 80 stake called teachers. I told them all to read your reply. Your influence will be huge.

    I have taught for Seminary and Institute for about 34 years and have some experience with these things. But I am nowhere in your league. It has been my experience that the so called intellectuals and naysayers never read their scriptures. We were told to hold to the rod in Primary. And then when a mist of darkness comes along, people are surprised.

    But, like Elder Ballard just told us, bearing our testimony won’t be enough anymore. Your answers are fair. And what I’m not sure people understand is they only need to be plausible–plausible enough to keep a sincere person open and allow God to settle the issue.

    You write well. You’re smart. I think you’re a great example of how to give a Christlike response. I doubt you will help Jeremy. Although we all pray you do. But you, like your experience with the God Makers, have done a great service for thousands of others.

    I have written a book about some things in The Book of Mormon that are obviously over Joseph Smith’s head. It is just another addition to the mountain of evidence that Jeremy didn’t address. I will not give the title. I’m not promoting anything. I’m just saying we have so many witnesses. And while you’re a defender of the faith, I’m kind of on the offense.

    You are Stallion. I am Star Lord. Glad we’re on the same team. I have to admit I asked my friend who showed me your site “Who would name their kid Stallion? Did they look at their baby boy and was the name just obvious?” Then he told me your real name.

    I offer one extra witness just for fun. The Savior said you would know prophets by their fruits. Here’s a sweet one. I taught Institute for years at our local dental college. I asked my students why there was a disproportionate number of LDS students. One student replied, “I don’t know, but let me tell you what the professor asked me in my application interview. It was four questions, 1. Are you LDS? 2. Are you a returned missionary? 3. Are you an Eagle Scout? And 4. Can you speak Spanish? I said yes to all of those and he said “Do you have any questions for me?”

    We have so many witnesses with the Holy Ghost as well. Thank you for your witness and your dad’s.

    Please don’t take your replies off your site.

    Sincerely,

    Star Lord

    • Jim, this is Steve Fotheringham again. I recently found out I was Jeremy Runnell’s teacher

      We have been talking about that CES letter and Jim Bennett’s most excellent reply at our UNLV Institute. My friend and Institute Director Bruce Hansen remembered that Jeremy Runnells went on our church history tour years ago. We went to his Face Book page to see his picture. While there I saw they were talking about a book by Steven Pinker. So I chimed in.

      Steve Fotheringham With regards to doubting doubts, Steven Pinker, in his book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, quotes “an astute mathematician” who wrote “There is a suggestion, but not a conclusive proof, that mankind has become less warlike since A.D. 1820.” Go figure.
      Like · Reply · 13 September at 17:16

      Jeremy Runnells Hey Steve, how’s the Mormon Tours business?

      Sure wish you had shared about the rock in the hat, multiple contradictory First Vision accounts, Priesthood Restoration backdating, polyandry, smuggled gun/Joseph shot others in Carthage Jail, etc. when I took your tour years ago. Instead I got fed by you guys the dominant narrative that Mormon Historian and scholar Richard Bushman now acknowledges as being false and unsustainable.

      As for your implication that the 1820 “Restoration” has anything to do with the claim that mankind has become less warlike…5 words: Post hoc ergo propter hoc.

      Steve Fotheringham Jeremy I shared with you how troubled I was that Emma was bothered by Joseph’s practice of plural marriage. I shared how I struggled with that for years. I shared that at the well next to where Joseph died. You may recall that was my last testimony to the whole group. I said that although I had doubts I continued faithful to my testimony and eventually received a witness that Joseph died a righteous man. My post was just suggesting that doubt works both ways. If some day you read something like I quoted from Steven Pinker you could possibly question your doubts. And so yes, questioning/analyzing your doubts is a good thing. I love you and wish you well.

      1820 was not the “Restoration” it was the first vision. And yes I’m suggesting that Heavenly Father and his Son appearing to Joseph may have something to do with violence declining. It’s flimsy I know, I just think of all the dates he points to, it was 1820. Coincidence probably. I’m just saying you will run into things all you life that will cause you to doubt your doubts.

      Katelan Brown It’s a bit troubling that you were bothered by Emma being bothered by Joseph’s plural marriage, not in the act itself.

      Kelli Preuitt It makes sense to be troubled by that. The wife is supposed to consent to plural marriage and Emma obviously didn’t so that throws the whole thing on its head just like every other hypocritical aspect of Mormonism.

      Steve Fotheringham Oh I was troubled about the whole thing. But on that day with Jeremy I shared my concern for Emma. My point is I was talking about the ugliest thing in our history–at least for me my biggest challenge to my faith–a lot more troubling than a stone in a hat. But I prayed and actually promised God I would read the entire documentary history of the church if He would let me know if Joseph died a righteous man. And He answered that prayer.

      Jeremy Runnells I can appreciate that, Steve. Here’s the problem though: That trip was at least a week long spanning over several states from the Northeast to Missouri. You had many opportunities to tell us about some of the issues but the only time I recalled you bringing up anything was what you mentioned at Carthage about your concern for Emma (which wasn’t very clear as to what exactly your concerns with the polygamy was).

      You shared your concern for Emma but that’s not sharing that Joseph married young teen brides and other men’s wives behind Emma’s back without her knowledge and consent and it violated D&C 132. That’s not sharing that Joseph had a “transaction” in the barn with Fanny Alger which infuriated Emma and disturbed Oliver Cowdery. That’s not sharing all the secrecy and lying on the part of Joseph not once or twice but over a consistent pattern throughout his adult life as he continued grabbing young girls and other living men’s wives.

      That’s not sharing that there are multiple contradictory first vision accounts and that the earliest record of it was in 1832 – 12 years after it supposedly happened. That’s not sharing that Joseph didn’t die like a lamb to the slaughter but rather that he had a gun smuggled in Carthage and he shot men on his way out (I don’t dispute Joseph’s right to self defense but I do dispute the false narrative that he was meek and lowly and just surrendered himself to the cause). That’s not sharing that the Book of Mormon we have today was not “translated” by gold plates but by a weird rock in a hat method that Joseph also used to con people in his treasure hunting activities. The list goes on.

      You claim that god told you that “Joseph died a righteous man”. How did god tell you? How do you know that god told you?

      Eric Moseley Burning Bosom syndrome

      Steve Fotheringham It was like I told you that day. I was sitting in Sacrament meeting and my home teacher, Stan Perry, was talking about the martyrdom of Joseph Smith. When he quoted something Joseph said, I thought ‘cool that’s just like something he wrote in his journal in Kirtland.’ And then I heard five words in my mind, as clear as an audible voice, “He died a righteous man.”

      I didn’t share things I wasn’t sure about. Since I had a testimony of the Book of Mormon I figured I just didn’t know all the facts of those stories. But I allowed that although I knew that book was true, Joseph could have fallen. So one day I was reading in my room the Documentary History of The Church and it seemed like Joseph was a righteous man. So I got on my knees and said “Heavenly Father it seems like Joseph was righteous at this time in his life. But I don’t know that he remained true. I will read the rest of these volumes if you let me know he died a righteous man.” And it was only like a month later I received my answer. And there was no doubt it was from God. Like section 8 He told me in my mind and in my heart. I think you’ll recall I told this story pretty much the same on that day.

      Do you know when Joseph Smith Sr. died? You do, it was June 27, 1844. Trick question. After the Missouri period Joseph Smith Jr. started to be called Sr. I know that because I have been paying my debt–I haven’t finished reading those books. That may be the biggest evidence that I’m telling the truth. They are tedious.

      Jeremy the moment I heard about that CES letter I started praying for you. Then Brother Hansen told me that that letter was from the Jeremy Runnells from our trip. I don’t tell everyone I write to on FB “I love you.” But I realized I cared for you even before I realized it was you. I wish you well.

      Steve Fotheringham I just realized that I’m one of those teachers who you think duped you. So I owe you an apology for not bringing up some things. I will here come clean. I knew about the different versions of the first vision. I learned about them from Brother John Clark at The University of Arizona Institute in about 1986. I guess because I heard about them in Institute I didn’t think we were not supposed to talk about them. I honestly didn’t think they were a big faith destroying issue. I made no conscious decision to not talk about them on our trip.

      I knew about the seer stone. Neil Maxwell wrote about it in the Ensign in Jan 1997. I don’t remember if I read that article or not. But I was aware of it and no one ever told me not to talk about it. Had I thought to share that I would have included the story where Oliver Cowdery played a trick on Joseph and replaced it with a different stone. Joseph couldn’t understand why he couldn’t translate until Oliver fessed up. I think Joseph also once helped Martin Harris find something like a needle in a hay stack with a seer stone.

      I think the only two stories I struggled with at the time of our tour was Fanny Alger and the Kinderhook plates. That’s what I mean when I say I didn’t share them because I didn’t know the whole story. I still don’t understand the Alger story.

      I hadn’t heard about polyandry until after that tour. Frankly that bothers me. But I had that revelation. So I think Joseph understood the sealing power better than I do.

      What I did share with you was how a faithful member responds when he has doubts. I gave you all the tools you needed when you faced a faith shattering moment.

      I did not take money from those tours. I did justify buying a few electronic gadgets and had the Travel Guys cover my phone bill. Our goal was to build faith. To think I undercut yours bothers me a lot. I promise you I meant no ill intent.

      Jeremy Runnells Steve, you mentioned “And then I heard five words in my mind, as clear as an audible voice, ‘He died a righteous man.'” and that god told you “in mind and heart”.

      How do you know? How do you know that it wasn’t Satan since you believe he’s real? How do you know that it wasn’t manufactured in your own mind? How do you know it wasn’t confirmation bias?

      “Prophets, seers, and revelators” for over 130 years pointed to god and prayer that god wanted the Temple ban on the blacks. In the Blacks and Priesthood essay, the church now acknowledges that those guys were wrong even though they testified that the ban was legitimately from god. Now? They were just men of their time and the ban originated from racist Brigham Young.

      Joseph Smith sent Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery to Toronto to sell the copyright of the Book of Mormon. They failed. When they confronted Joseph upon return, they asked how Joseph could receive revelation from god to go to sell the copyright only for it to fail. Joseph “did not know how it was, so he enquired of the Lord about it, and behold the following revelation came through the stone:

      ‘Some revelations are of God; some revelations are of man; and some revelations are of the devil.’ So we see that the revelation to go to Toronto and sell the copyright was not of God, but was of the devil or of the heart of man.”

      Again, how do you know that you weren’t deceived by Satan? How do you know that it wasn’t “of man” or manufactured by your brain as it was in your interest and desire for the church to be true and for Joseph “to be a righteous man”? The “prophet” Joseph Smith himself was fooled. What makes you less gullible?

      I can point you to many other folks of other religions who claim the same thing. God told them that Islam is true. Jehovah’s Witnesses is true. The FLDS Church is true and Warren Jeffs is the true prophet. Heaven’s Gate. The list is a long one.

      Here’s a video demonstrating this. [Called “My LDS Journey” on YouTube.]

      What makes your method more special and unique than those people’s method and testimonies? What makes you fool proof?

      How is faith and asking god a reliable method to truth and reality when faith and asking god is the same method used by billions throughout history to arrive at contradictory gods and contradictory conclusions about what is truth?

      I appreciate your kindness but I have no need for prayers. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. The cognitive dissonance is gone. I don’t have to rationalize or excuse polygamy, polyandry, racism, sexism, infanticide, genocide, bigotry, and other vile nonsense from Mormonism and its scriptures.

      “If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.” – J. Reuben Clark

      I followed this counsel. It was when I stopped assuming that I had the truth that the truth became very obvious. There is no need for mental gymnastics. No need for nonsense apologetics. No need to die to get answers.

      The answer is right there. You just have to be willing to stop assuming that you have the truth.

      Steve Fotheringham “How do you know? How do you know that it wasn’t Satan since you believe he’s real? How do you know that it wasn’t manufactured in your own mind? How do you know it wasn’t confirmation bias?”

      This is like saying “How do you know your wife told you to pick up Joey after school? How do you know that wasn’t your evil neighbor? Maybe you just manufactured that thought. You know you love your son. Maybe you just subconsciously wanted to pick him up.” Jeremy, if you had my experience you would realize how silly those questions are.

      I think your question should be, “I prayed. I read. Why didn’t I get that sure witness?” I wonder the same thing. All I can say is I know God is kind.

      But regarding my witness, I am not assuming I know. I know. I don’t need to die to find out. I prayed for you because I know. You think you’re free. Talk about tricks of the mind. After Cain killed his brother he said the same thing (Mosses 5:33). You think your untethered life is happiness. Well you’re exactly right. The Savior put it this way,

      “But if it be not built upon my gospel, and is built upon the works of men, or upon the works of the devil, verily I say unto you they have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return ” 3 Nephi 27:11).

      But if you think you damaged what we think is true. You are greatly mistaken. You have done the church a great service. I have sent the link to your letter and Bennett’s reply to all my colleagues in Nevada and Arizona. We all supervise hundreds of Stake called teachers. So most of Arizona and all of Nevada (with regards to Seminary and Institute students) is covered. You amassed all of the old and some new arguments into one place. And Bennett gave reasonable replies. We want our students to see this. We don’t want them to experience what you experienced. Because of you they won’t.

      Thank you for not ridiculing my testimony. I felt like your questions were fair.

      Jeremy Runnells Steve, I see that I missed your comment before your last so I’m going to quickly respond to that one first before responding to your last comment:

      You’ve been honest and vulnerable with me in this thread and I sincerely appreciate it. I don’t think you duped me or that you had ill intent. I think you’re a victim of the institution where you’re put in a place where you have had to give the faithful dominant narrative while fearing about whether or not to share the lesser known truthful narratives.

      It looks like you started working for Institute in 1982…just a year after Boyd Packer shut down the Camelot years by removing the Church Historian position and relocating Leonard Arrington to BYU. In 1981, Packer gave a disturbing talk to the CES system where he threatened teachers not to teach true history because it’s not faith promoting. “Some things that are true are not very useful,” he said.

      I think it should be very disturbing to you as a career institute teacher since 1982 to not have known the true history like the polyandry and Kinderhook Plates and rock in the hat, Fanny Alger, etc. until much later in your career. The church has known about this stuff since the 1960s and 1970s. Why haven’t they educated you on the real Joseph Smith and the real history of what really happened? As Richard Bushman has stated…the dominant narrative is just not true. It can’t be sustained. The church needs to demolish its fake Disney version of events and reconstruct its narrative (“fake Disney version” my words not his).

      With all due respect, I tried your approach when faced with doubts in the early days of discovering the church’s truth crisis. I needed the church to be true. I wanted the church to be true. I prayed. I fasted. I went to the temple. I tried apologetics. I read the scriptures. It came to a point where I realized that I just wasn’t being honest with myself and that if the church was really true, it could stand to scrutiny and logic and reason. To my dismay at the time, it didn’t and when I stopped assuming that I had the truth, the truth became ridiculously obvious.

      As for your tours? I wish you made a lot of money. That’s not a problem to me. You left your family to provide value to others for over a week. There should be an exchange of value for energy.

      I don’t have regrets going on the trip. It was a special time right before I went to the MTC with my dad and brothers traveling all those states. I learned a lot. I got to see amazing things and history – not all of it Mormon…Boston, NY, PA, etc. Thank you guys for providing that opportunity and great memories.

      Lastly with your comment before your last comment: It’s not your fault. You didn’t undercut my faith. It really had nothing to do with you. It had to do with my greater experience in the church growing up, seminary, EFY, mission, all those priesthood and Sunday school classes. I agree that you had no ill intent. It’s all good with us.

      I’m going to respond to your last comment below.

      Jeremy Runnells In regards to your last comment:

      Yes, we know that you “know” but you’re not addressing the problem: there are billions of other people who also KNOW that their contradictory gods and contradictory religions are true. God told them.

      Did you watch the video? The folks sharing their experiences and knowledge are extremely real to them. In fact, the Heaven’s Gate followers killed themselves because they just knew they had the truth. The FLDS just know that Warren Jeffs is the true prophet and they see him being persecuted by the federal government. They’re following him to destruction.

      What makes you fool proof? What makes you more special than them?

      Just as it would be arrogant of them to say that your experience and “knowledge” is bs, it would also be arrogant of you to deny them their experiences and knowledge.

      Who’s right? Who is to say that they’re right? Why is this method leading so many people astray? Why is the ask god method producing so many contradictory answers and conclusions? How can this method possibly be a reliable method to truth and reality?

      With all due respect, you have not address this problem. Faith and feelings and this method are not reliable methods to truth and reality.

      Also with respect, I find your last comments about “you think you’re free” and “you think your untethered life is happiness” to be extremely arrogant and condescending. It’s this arrogance that is contributing to the continuous decline of Mormonism and religion in general.

      I’ve been in the trenches for the last few years and I have seen all of the “reasonable answers” to the problems lol. They’re not reasonable. They’re apologetic nonsense. As you know, it’s called “Inoculation”. What do you inoculate against? Viruses and diseases. So, what are you guys really “inoculating” your students against? The ugly faith destroying truth.

      The answers that matter are the official Gospel Topics essays that were stamped by the FP and Q12. The essays have singularly been the most damaging sources for so many people’s testimonies. My dad was extremely disturbed by the Blacks and the Priesthood essay, among others. He, along with my grandpa, were the ones who tried to rescue me but thanks to the essays, my dad went on a journey that eventually led to him sending in his resignation a few months ago. Like me, he’s very happy and free now. 🙂

      Steve Fotheringham “arrogant and condescending” guilty. Those were the two verses that came to mind. I think equating you with Cain was particularly low. Sorry, in my mind it was a friendly warning but you’re right. Sorry.

      As for other’s experiences I can’t speak for them. That doesn’t bother me as much as you asked and didn’t get an answer. Take care.

      Jeremy Runnells Thanks for apology. You’re a good guy, Steve.

      As you know, this process leads to the foundation of a Mormon testimony. If its reliability is so questionable and problematic, how can Mormons know that they’re not deceived or fooled like all those other billions of believers?

      When exposed to the light of science, zoology, archeology, biology, astrophysics, astronomy, egyptology, history, morality, logic and reason, Mormonism collapses.

      The last frontier of faith and feelings that Mormons often run to when overwhelmed by the evidence is in itself epistemologically problematic and shaky.

      Again, the truth is easy to see when you stop assuming you have it. Take care, friend.

      ————————————

      We went on and it was more of the same. I had watched that video and responded but he said “Unfortunately, you still haven’t resolved the problem.”

      This is my attempt to resolve that problem. But since I gave Jeremy the last word I can’t send this to him. It would do no good anyway. But if anyone runs into that video I did some research that might help.

      The video had one confused Mormon who got a witness of The Book Mormon and he felt the same witness from a fraudulent book. I suggested that when you’re confused you need to press forward.

      The video had a few splinter (off our church) groups who bore testimonies that sounded similar to ours. Since they have a Book of Mormon that can testify of truth, that could be possible. I’m not sure of their experience enough to address it. But Jeremy kept saying “billions.” Here’s his quote, “Billions of other people – past and present – have asked god if their religion, prophet, books and ideologies are true. They will tell you through tears that god answered their prayer and that their abc or xyz is the only true (insert here).”

      I admit I hadn’t answered that problem because I didn’t feel qualified to speak for billions. I now am.

      The video had six Muslims saying they got revelation from God that Islam is the true religion. I think that’s where Jeremy got his “Billions” because I know of no main stream Christian religion that teaches if you ask God he will tell you their church is true.

      So I went and talked to an Imam (Islamic Scholar). I asked him if he believed Allah would reveal to people that Islam is true. He said Allah only reveals things to his prophets. Mohammad was his last messenger. Allah spoke to him. Muslims get Allah’s message from his prophets. “If someone tells you he got a revelation from Allah, he is not Muslim.”

      Muslims do feel peace. Islam is a religion of peace. It is all about being good. Surely if someone tries to be good he will feel peace. And some in that video said they felt peace. But that is a far cry different than “Allah told me.”

      I asked “How do you know Islam is true?” He said because of the miracles fulfilled in the Quran.” Call your local Imam. He will verify everything I’m saying. And my Muslim friend said no sect in Islam would teach otherwise.

      That video said something like, “Here’s just a few examples,” (implying that billions of Muslims are having a similar experience to Mormons). There is not a Muslim on the planet that can truthfully (at least if they understand their religion) say “Allah revealed to me my religion is true.” That would be like saying “God revealed to me he doesn’t reveal things.” Here’s what they did say.

      I made supplication, Allah guide me to the truth. If you guide me to the truth I’ll never leave it. And I knew in my heart Allah was telling me in my heart that Islam that this is true. I knew right there it was the correct religion.

      I suppose this could have happened but he would have learned once he got to his religion that whoever was talking to his heart wasn’t Allah.

      2. And at that point I had this feeling of just peace. That’s how I describe it just peace everywhere within me the outside. It gets me a bit now. I had this, it was a completely different feeling for me and it changed my life since that day and I haven’t looked back since.

      I think Muslims would say that is totally possible and we would wholeheartedly agree.

      3. It came with such clarity, with such power that I could understand it as nothing else but an invitation from God. Then the T.V. commentator said “In fact she says it was Jesus himself that led her to Islam.”

      I don’t know what to make of this? A prophet (that’s what they believe Jesus was) who was superseded by Mohamed, gave a revelation? But only prophets get revelation?

      4. I started praying to truly to find the truth. It took a long time to find out that Islam is the truth and there can’t be any other religion in the world.

      Muslims do believe Islam is the only true religion. But this person is not claiming any revelation. We do not have “Allah told me” here.

      5. I could not stop reading it. It was like feeding me. That’s when I knew I wanted to become Muslim.

      Sounds legit. Again that isn’t “Allah told me.”

      6. And I said please God. You are the one who always listens. Please who do I have to follow to come to you directly? Genesis (I’m not sure on this word she may have said Jesus) or the Muslims? I was a hundred percent sure that God answered my question. What is the right way? The only right way to come to God? Islam.

      I wonder what she thought when she learned that her God doesn’t answer questions? “If someone tells you he got a revelation from Allah, he is not Muslim.”

      Now I’m not discounting their experiences. But it is a more than a little disingenuous to suggest this means billions of Muslims are having the LDS testimony experience. People have feelings but they also have minds. And “I feel that the God who doesn’t speak spoke to me” doesn’t work.

      Those who made that video could have also called an Imam. Are we to believe they didn’t? Having a Muslim scholar say “We believe Allah will tell you Islam is true” would have really made their case. And if it is the case why didn’t we see one? How many Muslims did they have to sift through before they found six that sounded like they got revelation? Are we to believe that no Muslims shared with them what is to them an article of their faith?

      Let’s give them the benefit of a doubt. Let’s suppose the first six Muslims they spoke to all claimed revelation or at least no one told them what Muslims really believe. Would they not even be more encouraged to get an official Imam to chime in? What religion loving Imam wouldn’t want to tell the world that Allah will tell the sincere supplicant that Islam is the only true religion? And since they didn’t find one, because if they had we would have seen him, they must have run into the truth. And what would a truthful video sound like? “These six individuals claim to have received a witness that Islam is true. They sound just like Mormons. But we called an Imam who said that’s not possible in their religion. But this still shows you can’t trust your feelings.”

      Instead we got a video that implies billions of Muslims are having an experience that their religion teaches they can’t have. Really?

      “Yea, he [Satan] saith unto them: Deceive and lie in wait to catch, that ye may destroy; behold, this is no harm. And thus he flattereth them, and telleth them that it is no sin to lie that they may catch a man in a lie, that they may destroy him.” (D&C 10:25).

      Oh look, another witness.

      Now what about the billions of Christians claiming God told them their church or book or person is true? They may be claiming they know Jesus or the Bible is true. But none, or next to none, are saying their church is true.

      I once had a non-member student that I challenged to read The Book of Mormon. He said “Well all churches teach they’re the true church.” I said “I don’t think so. I think the Jehovah Witnesses and the Seventh Day Adventist and maybe the Catholics do. But it is not a common claim. Get a phone book and call all the churches you can and ask them if they believe they’re the only true church. If they say “Yes” then ask “How can I know?”

      He came back a few days later and, to my surprise, said he had made those calls. He said “None of them claim to be the true church.”

      I just (9/21/2016) called a Seventh Day Adventist pastor. I asked him if they claimed they were the only true church. He said “No, We study the Bible. Through understanding the Hebrew, Greek we know what the Bible means. We do the archeology, we know the Bible. We believe we have the correct interpretation of the Bible.”
      “Could I be saved if I went to a Baptist church?” I asked,
      “It doesn’t matter what church you attend. We are saved by the grace of Christ.”
      “So you don’t believe you’re the only true church?” “No we don’t talk that way.”

      We have a Catholic center next to the Institute at UNLV. I walked over today (9/23/2016) and talked with Father Daniel. I wrote than had him read the following so I wasn’t misinterpreting him.

      After talking to Father Daniel, I believe the following represents how they see other Christian churches in relation to the Catholic Church.

      I represented that Mormons believe that the Holy Ghost can reveal to a person that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church on the face of the earth.

      Father Daniel represented that Catholics believe that God can and will guide a person to the truth. They believe a person learns truth by study and also by faith. They believe truth must be consistent with the scriptures, the apostolic creeds and the apostles. They believe that truth is always true and it will stand the test of time. They believe that pure reliance on revelation can lead to error because people can claim to get revelations that are contradictory.

      Catholics do not believe they are the only true church. They believe they have a fullness (the largest amount) of truth. They believe other churches also have truth. They believe that a good Baptist or Methodist, if baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, can be saved. They accept other church’s baptisms.

      Catholics do not accept baptisms from the Mormon church because the Mormons do not believe in the Trinity like traditional Christianity.

      I showed this to Father Daniel. He is not an official spokesman for his church. But he says this is a fair representation of the Catholic belief.

      There is a Kingdom Hall about a block from my house so I asked (9/24/2016) a Jehovah Witnesses, “Is your church the only true church on the face of the earth?”

      She said “Well we believe we are the only church that truly follows the Bible.”

      I said “The Seventh Day Adventists just told me the same thing.”

      “Do they go door to door?”

      “No. But the Mormons do.”

      “No they don’t. I’ve never seen them.”

      “Really, you’ve never seen those missionaries on bikes and white shirts? They have like 80,000 missionaries that serve full time for two years.”

      “Well I live in a gated community.” I’m not making this up.

      “Can a Baptist be saved?”

      “If they follow the Bible completely.”

      “But you don’t believe they follow the Bible completely.”

      “That’s correct.”

      “So can I ask God and he’ll tell me what church is true?”

      “Oh no, we do not believe God speaks directly to us. He speaks to us through the Bible.”

      “So could I ever hear His voice?”

      “Oh no.”

      I’m not finding billions. With regards to the only true church can be known by revelation, I’ve found none, except a couple testimonies from splinter groups that believe in The Book of Mormon. There’s a pattern here.

      So if you belong to a Mormon splinter group and you pray about the book the Spirit will (in all likelihood) tell you it’s true. So hold to it. Now remember this (The Book of Mormon) testifies of that (the Bible). Both of those books repeatedly testify that the church will grow. Well you’ve got this Mormon church also in Utah that is growing like crazy and your church isn’t. Now you’re at a mist of darkness. Keep reading. Then you see like the Jehovah Witnesses that the true church goes door to door and your church doesn’t. Hold on. Then you research keys as taught by your original prophet Joseph Smith and you realize you don’t have them. Keep praying. If you are sincere God will lead you along and by the power of the Holy Ghost you can know the truth of all things.

      That video had a group that believed their prophet was an alien and a guy who claimed he was Jesus. Their followers prayed and felt they were getting answers from God. Hang on to the light you receive. But if your prophet tells you to kill yourself and you are confused keep praying for understanding.

      Joseph Smith gave a great discourse on all of this. He spoke of Irvinites who were getting revelations. The Shakers in his day were also getting revelations–or at least feeling something. Actually many churches were claiming fantastic spiritual accounts. In one of those first vision accounts Joseph said something like “I wanted feel and shout like the others but I couldn’t feel it.” But those churches and spirits were contrary to scripture. So those churches dissolved. It’s not just a feeling thing. It’s not just reading the Bible thing. It is both mind and heart. Joseph once said “It is a sad commentary on this generation that thinks every spiritual experience must be of God.”

      Some revelations are of the Devil. I was at the gym the other night and a cute girl walked by. I the thought came to me, ‘ponder that.’ I didn’t, but that thought wasn’t from God. If Joseph did make that statement it would probably be because it is true. But that wasn’t an admission that that mission was inspired by Satan. It could have been just Joseph’s well intended thoughts.

      How do you know? Continue on. Joseph once thought a treasure in Boston was an answer to an earlier revelation wherein God told him he would handle their debts. So he continued on and the Lord said “that was stupid” (see D&C 111). That’s right there in our scriptures. Joseph was wrong. But he continued on and got Section 111 which we are sure is from God. How do we know? because it cleared up a misunderstanding.

      That Gospel essay doesn’t say anything about anyone following a false revelation. We still don’t know if Brigham was inspired or not. When President McKay prayed earnestly on the issue he got no answer and so he said he wouldn’t change that policy until he got understanding. He continued on.

      Some leaders of the church spoke out of line as to why the ban. They were confused. But these were men trying to understand a policy that seemed unfair. They continued on. And then they got a huge witness after the trial of their faith.

      I’ve had thoughts that I thought were of God and they didn’t pan out. I don’t think Joseph was immune to that. But I have heard the voice of God (actually twice) and I received a powerful witness that the Book of Mormon is true and they were unmistakable–much more clear than an inkling or a nudge.

      The first time I had seven words come into my mind. It was right before my mission. And that is so different than my regular (even my inspired) thoughts. Those words also gave me intelligence on something I was struggling with. But I did not fully understand them for 10 years. They led to more and more understanding. Those words (not wise to share them here) were like “Isaiah take a pen and witnesses and write you are going to have a son.” So when it was a son (no sonograms back then) that was a second witness. Mine was like that. So don’t tell me I assume.

      In the following verses God addresses the the possibility of Joseph getting a revelation from a wrong source.

      “And then received ye spirits which ye could not understand, and received them to be of God; and in this are ye justified?” (D&C 50:15).

      The answer is obviously “No.” But He then gives the keys for perfect understanding.

      “Therefore, why is it that ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth?

      Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.

      And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness.

      That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (D&C 50:21-24).

      Continue on. Don’t chuck everything you know because of something you don’t understand.

      Some Christian churches may teach you’ll feel peace, God will guide you to truth or even (in the case of the J.W.’s) that their church is true. But none teach “God will tell you our church is true.” Why not? Because he won’t. That in itself is another witness. But if you think he has, continue until you receive more light.

      But a video implying that billions are receiving revelations about their church being the only true church is lying. They acted like this was a documentary. Like they did the research. Well if they did why didn’t they say “Actually the Catholics and the Seventh Day Adventists and the Jehovah Witnesses don’t believe in trusting revelation.”

      In that video people claimed to believe in an alien and a Christ. They can receive spirits that are hard to understand. But the only ones claiming their religion was true (other than Book of Mormon religions) were Muslims and the J.W.’s and we’ve covered that. From that scanty evidence we are led to believe that billions are receiving revelations just like the Mormons. The truth is few, if any, even claim “that their abc or xyz is the only true (insert here).” And none of them, not billions, none of them believe or teach God will tell you so.

      Regardless, we never claimed we know by one solitary experience. When the Spirit tells us the rod is true we’re not done. All we know is we should cling to it. As we do we run into a mist of darkness, just like it said we would. Even the darkness is a witness. We might begin by reading about a pillar of fire dwelling on a rock (1 Nephi 1:6). We could use a such a pillar in that darkness. So we ask how is that pillar like Christ? because that’s what the book tells us to ask (see 2 Nephi 11:4). If we list all we know about pillars of fire, we might come up with they are most likely bright, strong, big, warm, hot, light, powerful. There was one in the Exodus. For some it was light. For others it was darkness. We see the one Lehi sees precedes his journey through the wilderness. We know there will be one at the Second Coming. That pillar (like Christ) leads the way. It (He) is helpful, then zing (maybe at this point) the Spirit confirms he is helpful. We knew that but now we really know that, it comes with power, like an epiphany. Something we already know now comes in like it’s a new thought, that’s deeper understanding, that’s the Spirit. We think ‘Wow He really is kind.’ And then the next thought is perfectly predictable. ‘Oh I’m not.’

      We know we have come unto Jesus because we see our weaknesses (Ether 12:27). And then we fall down and partake of the fruit of the tree just like Lehi described (1 Nephi 8:30). And it really does make us happy (1 Nephi 8:10). Now is not this real? It’s just like the scriptures said it would be. And even those pointing the finger of scorn offer a witness.

      “Wherefore, we search the prophets, and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy; and having all these witnesses we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea. (Jacob 4:6).

      We can’t even get past the sixth verse in the book without it giving us a witness. That book can indeed bring us nearer to God. And we are still yet to consider that rock.

      So why didn’t God just appear to Lehi? Why the type? I once heard that a Hebrew scholar observed, “God seldom sends to earth a truth not clothed in symbolism.” With four years of seminary and four years of Institute and two years of a mission and thirty-four years of teaching, I never saw or thought of that. But that seems to be true. “And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me” (Moses 5:6). That rock has God’s fingerprints all over it.

      I wanted to say to Jeremy “You gave 90 pages of doubts. I will give you a hundred pages of evidences.” But it felt like pride. That is why I will not send any of this to him. It would do not good and it may be contentious. I mean saying that video is a lie is pretty harsh. But it is a lie. Anyway I do have the hundred pages. I wrote a little book called “All Those Who Have Dwindled in Unbelief Shall not be Forgotten.” It is packed with evidences that that book was over Joseph Smith’s head. It is on Amazon because that is an easy way to share it. I make $0.33 per book, meaning I will never even recoup the cost of the cover. The only thing I am promoting is that rod of iron. If anyone is interested I believe I can show you something in that book you haven’t noticed.

      Here’s another cool witness. It is in one of our Institute foundation courses. Jesus said, “Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath a joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6). Now consider Ecclesiastes 3:14 “I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever.” Who reads Ecclesiastes? But how cool.

      And everywhere we look, Zoology, biology, morality, the motion of planets, the various forces in the universe, all testify of Christ. My favorite lately is watermelon. Lions just eat meat–boring. Cows eat grass–yum. But God gave us watermelon that meets no evolutionary need. People who don’t like watermelon can still survive, although I can’t imagine how. I think I got this thought from Given’s book The God who Weeps. Surely our God gave us watermelons because he figured we’d like them, and flowers in their variety and so much more that seems to be unnecessary for survival.

      Another witness: The Lord revealed that light equals power and time is relative (D&C 88) seventy five years before Einstein published his theory. Our God not only understands light. He is light.

      I spent 25 years proving Section 1 is the greatest scriptural framework on planet earth. It is so overwhelmingly brilliant and it offers so many more witnesses. That is part of that little book.

      Section 2 was given to Joseph by an angel at age 17. It just happens to encapsulate the purpose of life. And we have considerable evidence Joseph didn’t understand that for at least 16 years afterwards.

      Section 3 made it clear right from the get-go that Joseph wasn’t perfect.

      A good number of proselytizing churches (I hear there’s only one) could benefit from Section 4–you need to be kind. In all fairness that lady this morning was very kind. But I do live right down the road from their Kingdom Hall. And some of them, after I complemented them for caring about my soul, were down right rude to me “Yeah,” they said, “And it’s not just for two years.”

      Section 5 tells us the enemies of Joseph would not believe any of this.

      Section 6 through 11 tells us revelation is more than just a feeling of peace or a burning in the bosom.

      It is fascinating that even our enemies provide so many witnesses. Years ago I saw Madelyn Murry O’hare (America’s most renown atheist) on a talk show. Her arguments were just like Korihor’s. The same was true of Christopher Hitchins. Telling them that “every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength; and whatsoever a man did was no crime” (Alma 30:17).

      Dissenters in our day do what The Book of Mormon says dissenters do. They really do point the finger of scorn. They try to shake us. They are more hardened than at first. They receive less of the word (why do so many who leave our church become atheists?) They say “there is no devil.” “Behold the house of Israel (those dissenters) hath gathered together (on the Internet) to fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb (1 Nephi 11:35). You’d think they’d read the book to avoid confirming it.

      My friend on the board of a professional school, once said of the entrance committee, “They hate our church but they love our students.” One on the committee interviewed one of my students with; “Are you Mormon? Did you serve a mission? Are you an Eagle Scout? Can you speak Spanish?” My student said “Yes” to each question and the professor said “Do you have any questions for me?

      Joseph the evil prophet sure churns out a good kid. Merely check out the number of LDS kids who are on the student council near you. This is more obvious in Las Vegas.

      My cousin has been in the anti-Mormon trenches for about 25 years. I once asked him “Then how do you account for The Book of Mormon?” He said, “I can’t.”

      Why are we not done? Why is that not enough? What more proof do we need? Lazarus is raised and all they can think about is killing him. And yet we have more. All the different attempts to explain away that book only prove it’s true. If there was an obvious evil source for the book it would be obvious. But multiple explanations are like “He stole the gun from the closet, or maybe the store, or then again from his neighbor, or rather his brother, or he found it.” What kind of case is that?

      On the other hand we have a mountain of witnesses that are like, “This is the gun. It has his fingerprints on it. There’s a record of his purchase at the gun shop. The owner can testify that the defendant purchased it. We have a video of him throwing it in the lake. The bullet has it’s markings. He confessed.” With a thousand witnesses like that someone will still say “Well how could their be fingerprints if it was in a lake?” Maybe he had waterproof paint on his fingers before he tossed it. So here we go. Surely that’s why on top of all these witnesses we have the sure witness of the Holy Ghost and no video from hell will prevail against it.

      To some it is given to know. To others it is given to believe on their words. Fiona and Terryl Givens in their book The God Who Weeps, argue that belief may be the better gift. But I know. I know without any question Joseph died a righteous man. I’m about half way through the History of The Church. It’s a debt I’ll gladly pay.

      Star Lord

      • Steve,

        That was quite the interaction with Jeremy. I especially appreciated what you found relative to other churches. They don’t believe they’re the “true” church. Neither do they believe God speaks to them. Mormons (& associated splinter groups) are quite unique, indeed.

        I’ve bumped into Jeremy myself on the internet a few times, too. He rattles off much of what he did with you. One of his final lines to you was that Science proves the Church isn’t true. Richard Dawkins agrees with Jeremy. But many other Nobel Prize winning scientists disagree. God and our faith can’t be proven. Jeremy’s bought into a narrative, a flawed interpretation, of our history. Tough to change his views. He’ll have to do that on his own.

        So much of the Church’s history has been hiding in plain site. Anyone interested could have learned about all the Church’s warts (JS polygamy, multiple versions of 1st vision, seer stones, etc) in past decades. In the 80s and 90s Ed Decker aired out all our dirty laundry in the book/movie “The Godmakers.” The Anti-Defamation League classified “The Godmakers” as religious pornography. The same can be said for Jeremy Runnells opus.

        Answers by faithful members were available to those who struggled in the past. I was one who read “The Truth about the Godmakers” in 2001 (available on FAIR’s site here: http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/publications/the-truth-about-the-god-makers). Even after reading, “The Truth about the Godmakers (TATG)” I’ve continued to have lots of questions that I’m attempting to answer as the years pass. It’s not a puzzle that’s quick to solve. A journey combining the best of faith and reason. I wish Jeremy had been exposed to that (TATG) book before he had his crisis. But, that and other information may have only deepened his crisis. Innoculation doesn’t work for everyone, not even with medical innoculation.

        Indeed, Decker’s “the Godmakers” (and it’s associated faithful response) might have precipitated Jeremy’s departure out of the Church if he lived 20 years earlier. The critics all start w/ Fawn Brodie. Everyone since Brodie primarily copies, pastes, and claims the Church isn’t transparent and lied.

        All we can do is help all we can. Keep fighting the good fight.

        Take care!

        Neal

  2. Thank you so much for responding to the CES Letter. Hopefully it will help answer questions that are troubling many people. All the new information that is coming out is causing many people to lose their faith. It is so sad. Like you none of it has affected my testimony of the church. The Essays caused my daughter to leave the church and the CES Letter didn’t help. All I can do is love her and pray she will come back. I pray your cousin will also find her way back. Thanks again for the many hours you put in to answering this letter.