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

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PERSPECTIVES MEDIA QUESTIONS RESOURCES 2014 CONFERENCE

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

Googling is not a synonym for seeking.

—Steven C. Harper, Joseph Smith's First Vision: A Guide to the Historical Accounts (2012), 11–12
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Overview

The "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."

FairMormon's response

In developing our response, our primary intended audience is not necessarily the author of the Letter nor his associates, but rather those individuals, perhaps faithful Latter-day Saints, perhaps questioning, perhaps once-faithful but now sincerely doubting, who may have come across this Letter and been troubled by its contents. We respond here to the original version of the letter that was actually sent to the CES director and posted on FutureMissionary.com. The author has since made some corrections based upon this analysis and posted an apologetic in defense of his position at http://www.cesletter.com/debunking-fairmormon/

NOTE: FairMormon has previously responded to critical websites using a short summary format with links to full wiki articles. We are now replacing these short summaries with transclusions of the entire linked wiki article. This allows us to use the same responses for different claims made on different critical websites. Answers to individual claims will be much longer than before, but they will now include all citations. There are currently approximately 105 separate wiki articles transcluded into the response to Letter to a CES Director. A comprehensive list of links to all wiki articles responding to claims made by Letter to a CES Director may be found here: Category:Letter to a CES Director

Detailed responses by section are found in linked subarticles below

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 for full article)


FairMormon Blog

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 for full article)


For further information related to this topic


Notes


  1. The PDF version of the letter is located at http://cesletter.com/. A response to FairMormon's initial response is located at http://www.cesletter.com/debunking-fairmormon/ 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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