Criticism of Mormonism/Online documents/Letter to a CES Director

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    A FairMormon Analysis of "Letter to a CES Director: Why I Lost My Testimony" and "Debunking FairMormon"

A FairMormon Analysis of: "Letter to a CES Director: Why I Lost My Testimony" and "Debunking FairMormon"
A work by author: Jeremy Runnells
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Claim Evaluation
Letter to a CES Director
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Recommended: "A Reply from a Former CES Employee" (PDF)

Letter to a CES Director: Why I Lost My Testimony

Letter to a CES Director: Why I Lost My Testimony is an online document which is critical of Latter-day Saint truth claims. The document is comprised of a list of issues that the author states caused him to lose his testimony, and it is hosted on a number of websites which are critical of the Church. [1] The author states that he is "a disaffected member who lost his testimony so it’s no secret which side I’m on at the moment. All this information is a result of over a year of intense research and an absolute rabid obsession with Joseph Smith and Church history. With this said, I’d be pretty arrogant and ignorant to say that I have all the information and that you don’t have answers." A long list of issues follows. The author ultimately concludes that "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."

Debunking FAIR's Debunking or Debunking FairMormon

The online document Debunking FAIR's Debunking or Debunking FairMormon is an apologetic attempt by the CES Letter author to respond to an earlier summary version of FairMormon's CES Letter response. The author incorporates much of the text of FairMormon's original summary responses and then attempts to, in his own words, "debunk" them. Many of his attempts to "debunk" involve the following tactics:

  1. Simply reasserting his original conclusions because he failed to understand the data.
  2. Having to "move the goalpost" on assertions for which he was proven wrong, and then asserting that it was FairMormon that focused on the wrong point.
  3. Speculating on the motives of historical figures for doing what they did without any supporting data, on the presumption that they were lying.

FairMormon's responses to a number of assertions made in this "failure to debunk" are interspersed in the list of claims below.

PDF-based response to the March 31, 2015 revision of the Letter to a CES Director: Why I Lost My Testimony

An alternative response in the form of an annotated PDF of the March 31st revision of the Letter is also available at the following link: "Letter to a CES Director : A Closer Look".

Detailed responses to "Letter to a CES Director" and "Debunking FairMormon" are found in linked subarticles below

The following links respond to individual claims contained in the following documents:

  • Jeremy Runnells, Letter to a CES Director: Why I Lost My Testimony (April 2013)
  • Jeremy Runnells, Debunking FAIR's Debunking (a.k.a. Debunking FairMormon) (July 2014)
  • Jeremy Runnells, Letter to a CES Director: Why I Lost My Testimony (October 2014)
  • Jeremy Runnells, Letter to a CES Director: Why I Lost My Testimony (March 2015)

For further information related to this topic

The Interpreter Foundation responds to these questions

Kevin Christensen,"Eye of the Beholder, Law of the Harvest: Observations on the Inevitable Consequences of the Different Investigative Approaches of Jeremy Runnells and Jeff Lindsay", Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture, 10:175-238 (2014)

In his Letter to a CES Director, Jeremy Runnells explains how a year of obsessive investigation brought about the loss of his testimony. In an LDS FAQ, LDS blogger Jeff Lindsay deals with all of the same questions, and has done so at least twenty years and has not only an intact testimony, but boundless enthusiasm. What makes the difference? In the parable of the Sower, Jesus explained that the same seeds (words) can generate completely different harvests, ranging from nothing to a hundred-fold increase, all depending on the different soil and nurture. This essay looks at how different expectations and inquiries for translation, prophets, key scriptural passages on representative issues can lead to very different outcomes for investigators.

Click here to view the complete article

The FairMormon Blog responds to these questions

Jeff Lindsay,"Coping with the “Big List” of Attacks on the LDS Faith", FairMormon Blog, (May 20, 2014)

One of the challenges in defending one’s faith is coping with critics who use the “Big List” technique in their attack. This involves throwing out numerous arguments to create the impression of an overwhelming barrage that decimates the faith in question (see the related post, “If Only 10% of These Charges Are True…“). The Big List is loaded with barbed questions that weren’t written in search of a real answer. If there is a good defense to the arguments raised at first, never mind, there are many more to be launched in different directions.

As with many topics in fields like history, science, and religion, the issues raised in Big List attacks are often complex and may require exploring abundant details to answer questions properly. Even for those who are prepared to answer questions on a wide variety of topics, the time it takes to lay a foundation and properly answer a question can be taken by the instantly impatient critics as an admission of weakness and confirmation that they are right, and then it’s time to move on to the next attack and the next. If reasonable answers are promptly provided for some attacks, or if the alleged weakness on further examination actually proves to be evidence in favor of the faithful position, the response can be ignored as new attacks from the Big List are hurled out.

Click here to view the complete article

FairMormon Perspectives offers answers to these questions

Daniel C. Peterson"Some Reflections On That Letter To a CES Director," Proceedings of the 2014 FairMormon Conference (8 August 2014)

Some of you don’t know what the “Letter to a CES Director” is. It’s a letter that’s been circulating online for about a year now…a year and a half, I think, as far as I know, that has gotten quite a bit of circulation. It’s a kind of compendium of standard critical arguments against the truth claims of the Church. ....I don’t object to the attempt in the “Letter to a CES Director” to subject the claims of Mormonism to reasoned examination. I just don’t think the effort went nearly far or deep enough.

Click here to view the complete article

This set of articles comprises approximately 580 questions or sources assigned to the response to Letter to a CES Director. A full list of these articles may be found here: Category:Letter to a CES Director. New questions and sources are periodically added to this list.


  1. The PDF version of the letter is located at A response to FairMormon's initial response is located at FairMormon's standing policy is not to link to critical websites. To view these sites, copy and paste the links into your browser.

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