Monday, July 6, 2020

Multiple Versions Of CES Letter History

I almost put this post together a couple years ago, but I was torn. In interviews, Jeremy Runnells comes across as such a nice guy. And yet the very nature of this post calls into question his motives.

I ended up taking a long hiatus from apologetic blogging, mostly because of my struggles with mental health - anxiety and depression.

I've recently returned, and to me it is apparent that Jeremy's influence has expanded. I again asked myself whether I should put this information together.

At the end of the day, a few factors tipped the scales in favor of me putting together this post.

First, Jeremy has repeatedly stated that he believes people should have all the information "on the table," nothing hidden. So, it would seem strange if he were to complain about someone bringing relevant information to light. He says he wants his readers to be aware of all facts.

For example, Jeremy has said: "Few things infuriate me more on this planet than censorship and the obstruction of free flow of information. To censor and to obstruct is to limit and to steal the freedom and free agency of everyone."

Second, Jeremy's narrative manipulates good people and toys with their sacred beliefs. Narrative matters. If a man portrays himself as an objective juror who desperately wants to find a reason to acquit the defendant - but is actually working for the prosecution - the other jurors need to know that. It’s dishonest and underhanded and it taints what they say.

Third, Jeremy is clearly not trying to be honest with his readers. To this day he still claims, falsely, while knowing it is false, that "The first map" in his geography section is "constructed from internal comparisons in the Book of Mormon." He has known for a long time that this claim is false. It has been pointed out to him and demonstrated to him. But his geography argument completely falls apart if his readers know the truth about that statement, so he leaves the false claim in. Then, he turns around and claims that he just wants his readers to know the facts.

In 2015, I took him at his word that he was looking for answers, and I attempted to provide some. In response, he sent me a short message filled with insults and he did not even attempt to address the answers I had tried to help him with. I still chose to give him the benefit of the doubt for a while, but I eventually had to admit to myself that he is not acting in good faith. I did not want to believe that someone so soft-spoken could be the same person that sent me that rude message in response to the work I had gone to in attempting to help him find the answers that I thought he struggled hard to find.

I had honestly believed that the worst case scenario would be him thanking me for the work I had gone to in trying to help but that he didn't find my answers persuasive. Instead, he seemed to resent my attempt at helping.

So, I went ahead and made this post. Of course, the dishonesty of his narrative does not mean that his arguments against the Church are either valid or invalid. This particular post is not attempting to address his list of questions. Before accusing me of the ad hominem fallacy, readers need to understand that Jeremy makes different types of claims. Some are in the context of his narrative, some are miscellaneous commentary, and some are premises for his list of questions. In this blog post, I focus on one of those categories of his claims, and I judge them. This is very different from going out and trying to "dig up dirt." I am addressing a category of statements he has made about himself and his motives. This is only personal because the claims of his which I address are themselves personal.

Defining this post as ad hom would be comparable to a hypothetical situation where an LDS Egyptologist pretends they are not LDS, and you call attention to the fact they are lying about not being LDS, then people accuse you of ad hom and accuse you of trying to avoid the arguments of the Egyptologist. Many critics have in fact said that it does matter whether or not an Egyptologist is LDS. Are they guilty of ad hom?

Honest critics will appreciate the facts I present in this post. But I realize that those who are dishonest will be angry. I'm not thrilled about knowing that some people will be angry at me, but it will be easy to sort out the honest critics from the dishonest ones, based on who blames Jeremy and who blames the messenger. Any anger Jeremy experiences will be due to the fact that everything I say here is true. I'm citing his own words. I hope this realization will lead him to humility and to a more honest course.

If Jeremy responds to this post, his silence on any of these points should be taken as agreement, according to his standard which he established with FairMormon.

Why am I calling Jeremy out by name? Because when people have responded to him without using his name, he says they are "too terrified to name" him. So, to avoid that attack, I use his name at his own request.

I realize Jeremy will try to claim that my research into the history of his letter makes me a "stalker." He has accused others of stalking him when all they did was research some of the real history of his letter. However, Jeremy uses his narrative of the history of his letter as a public selling point and as a way of framing his arguments, and that makes the history of the letter necessary for research. When Jeremy characterizes this as stalking, it will only put his dishonest method of operation on display.

For all his talk of honesty, he has no right to complain about people learning the truth. In his first meeting with his Stake President, Jeremy said, "if I was actually spreading lies and misinformation about the Church, absolutely that's a real problem. That's a problem. And I deserve to be excommunicated." Well, I already mentioned a flat-out lie that to this day he refuses to correct: "constructed from internal comparisons in the Book of Mormon." So, by his own standard, his excommunication was warranted.

There are many other deceptions in the CES Letter, but I use that example because it can be shown to be false in a way that Jeremy can't hide.

Jeremy even had the audacity to tell his Stake President that he has always been 100% honest, while at that very moment he was secretly recording his Stake President, only moments after signing an agreement promising to not record their discussion.

Who makes a promise and then claims to be completely honest while breaking that promise in the same instant?

To understand his deliberate methods, consider this. Jeremy's Stake President had expressed concern about the presence of an ASL interpreter during Jeremy's disciplinary court, due to the confidential nature of their meeting. The Stake President offered to communicate with Jeremy through writing. In a March 7, 2016 letter to his Stake President, Jeremy stated: "As my interpreter is a professional interpreter, he is bound by confidentiality so I have zero concerns." In reality, Jeremy had no intention of keeping their meeting confidential. He had recorded every single meeting they had over the years, and he went on to record that one as well (even after signing an agreement in which Jeremy promised to not electronically record the meeting). What is telling is that Jeremy pretended that he was on the same page as his Stake President, saying that his interpreter is bound by confidentiality so therefore Jeremy had "zero concerns." Note the calculated methodology behind Jeremy's deception. His entire CES Letter follows this sort of deceptive tactic.

Jeremy's Different Versions of CES Letter History

"Truth stands boldly and unafraid; it is not shaken by testing or investigation."
 - Jeremy Runnells

[Although I don't want to link to the exmormon reddit, you can find the posts in question here]

On September 17, 2013, a Reddit user publicly opined that the CES Letter should begin with discussing Joseph Smith instead of starting with the Book of Mormon.

In response, Jeremy revealed the reason why he put the Book of Mormon issues first, saying: "Joseph Smith this and Joseph Smith that can easily be dismissed in the TBM mind as 'anti-Mormon lies'. I felt starting out with Joseph Smith being a fraud/womanizer/pedophile/whatever would doom my letter from the start ... Why are there 1769 KJV errors in the Book of Mormon? Why are there 17th century italics in there? Why are there KJV text in there that Joseph later fixed in his inspired version? All of the above cannot easily be dismissed as 'anti-Mormon lies'. They can pull out the scriptures to compare the italics. They can compare to the inspired version and see the problems for themselves. If I'm going to have someone read 77 pages? They're going to get hooked immediately. This was my 'hook'. I go into the Joseph Smith stuff later but the foundation has to be laid and what better foundation than the very 'keystone of our religion'?"

Keep in mind that when Jeremy made the choice which he's referring to (to start his letter off with Book of Mormon issues), he had not yet even shared his letter. So, according to Jeremy, the reason he wanted to start his letter with Book of Mormon issues was so he could "hook" the reader, and he felt "starting out with Joseph Smith" would "doom" his letter "from the start" because people can dismiss those arguments as "anti-Mormon lies" unless a "foundation" is laid first.

Okay. Now let's look at what Jeremy tells visitors to his website:

"The reason why the letter is a list of questions and problems is because it was a letter - which the CES Director requested - with questions and concerns for the CES Director to answer. It was not written to overwhelm anyone or to destroy anyone's testimony. I was seeking official answers  from the Church to resolve my doubts and to hopefully restore my  testimony."

And, on the same page: "...I was doing everything I could to restore my testimony and to try to make the LDS Church true. The CES Letter is just a letter to a  CES Director. Nothing more. Nothing less. It was a document 'laying it all out' in hopes that the director could resolve my questions and concerns."

Okay. So, in this version, Jeremy was doing everything he could to restore his testimony. No mention of trying to hook the reader, and he says it was only written for the CES Director: "Nothing more. Nothing less."

So, are we to believe then that when Jeremy said he wanted them to be able to "see the problems for themselves" that he was referring to the CES Director in the plural, as "themselves?" Remember, he supposedly wrote it as "just a letter to a CES Director. Nothing more. Nothing less."

He admits strategically organizing the letter with the intention to "hook" the readers, to pull them in and prevent them from dismissing his arguments. Yet, at the same time, he supposedly was not at all trying to "destroy anyone's testimony," but was actually "doing everything I could to restore my testimony and to try to make the LDS Church true."

Of course, there's ordinarily nothing wrong with a writer trying to "hook" the reader. The point here however is that it would be strange for Jeremy to think he was at risk of scaring off the CES Director. Yet, before he even sent the letter to the director, Jeremy had already tried to organize it in a way that would get the reader to read it. So, when he said starting out with other issues would "doom" his letter "from the start," - the question is, what does that mean? Is he saying it would cause the CES Director to set the letter down and not read it?

Jeremy later would explain that he targets the vulnerable. On November 2, 2015: "The target audience are the fence sitters." This was more than 5 months before he was excommunicated, and after this he still maintained to his Stake President that he was only ever looking for answers and stated that he never wanted to hurt anyone's testimony.

In a letter to his Stake President, dated March 7, 2016, Jeremy stood by his statement from a 2014 letter he had written: "The intention of the website should not in any way be construed to exist for the purpose of hurting the Church or its members. This is not and never has been my intention."

Another version. Jeremy said on April 23, 2013: "I didn't write this for the CES guy. I'm not under any illusion that I'm going to change his mind. It's not going to happen. I wrote this for my kids who one day are going to ask their dad why he left the faith."

His fraud is in plain sight. He frames it in terms of whether or not he would be able to change the CES Director's mind. Which is a far cry from what he tells people on his website: "I was doing everything I could to restore my testimony and to try to make the LDS Church true. The CES Letter is just a letter to a  CES Director. Nothing more. Nothing less." And yet, at the same time he sent off the letter - April 2013 - he told Reddit that he didn't write it for "the CES guy."

Whatever happened to it being "just a letter to a CES Director. Nothing more. Nothing less?"

On February 5, 2015, Jeremy stated that he emailed it to the CES Director in "late April 2013" - yet on April 23, 2013, he said he didn't write it for the "CES guy," and is not "under any illusion" about changing the director's mind.

On March 26, 2013, the very same day Jeremy first shared his letter on Reddit, Jeremy posted in the comments: "I will also be including a Word copy so that you and anyone can make the document your own. I stand on the shoulders of giants and all I've done was compiled many of their work and put it in my own style and narrative."

He tells the general public, however: "Unbeknownst to me at the time, a lot of people liked it and started sharing it with family and friends."

In a letter to his Stake President, dated March 7, 2016, Jeremy maintains: "the CES Letter went viral online because of other people who also share the same questions and concerns I do, independent of my involvement."

Independent of Jeremy's involvement? He's the one who was encouraging people to "make it their own" on the very first day he shared it on Reddit.

Jeremy repeatedly claims that all his work on his website is from a "defense posture." But on May 16, 2014, he said on Reddit: "My biggest desire right now is to get translation in Spanish as Spanish is the second biggest language in the Church, I believe."

Are we to believe people were attacking him in Spanish and he felt a need to defend himself in Spanish?

Compare this with what he told his Stake President. In his March 7, 2016 letter, Jeremy stated: "The only reason why I’m offering translations is because volunteers have given me translations of the CES Letter in their own languages."

Notice the deception. The "only" reason is that people just gave them to him, as though he never asked for translations, never sought translators and never organized the process. All the while, Jeremy swears up and down that he is 100% honest, transparent and forthcoming.

Which brings me to a chilling statement. On December 8, 2017, Jeremy advised a teenager on Reddit who had lost his testimony and wanted to share the CES Letter with his parents (who had asked him why he stopped believing). The teen's post said: "Sort of a bit of explanation: I'm currently living with my parents (almost out of high school), and they are both extremely TBM. They know that I'm out of TSCC, and they've expressed interest in finding out why I stopped believing. I feel like laying it out with words would be much to difficult and would result almost immediately in an argument that would go nowhere.... So fellow Exmo's, would buying my parents a copy of the CES Letter be a good idea? Is there something else I should do instead/along with? ... Also, yes I have read the CES Letter, and it's one of the resources that led my shelf to shatter."

Jeremy first mentions that he ordinarily would not advise it, but since the parents asked, then that created an opportunity. Then Jeremy said: "The key here is to not be the direct bearer of bad news. Do not be the guy telling them about polyandry this, Book of Abraham that, Kinderhook Plates this. Let the Church and me be that guy. I'd introduce them to the Church essays first.... Once that door is opened, feel free to share CES Letter with them. The power with doing this is that it protects you from being the 'anti-Mormon out fighting the church'. You just point to me and my questions and ask them to help you resolve them because you can't get those questions out of your mind."

Did you catch that? Jeremy advised this young man, who clearly indicated he had lost his testimony, to pretend that he wanted his parents to help him resolve the issues, playing on their parental instincts to help him because he "can't get those questions out of his mind" - all in order to manipulate his parents into getting sucked down the rabbit hole.

That sounds eerily like the story Jeremy uses to draw people in - complete with "I just need help resolving these concerns" under the guise of wanting to "restore his testimony." This hits me personally, because, as I mentioned earlier, I fell for the ruse and tried to help Jeremy find answers, only to have him message me with insults.

Remember what Jeremy says on his website: "I was doing everything I could to restore my testimony and to try to make the LDS Church true. The CES Letter is just a letter to a  CES Director. Nothing more. Nothing less. It was a document 'laying it all out' in hopes that the director could resolve my questions and concerns."

Now compare that with what he told the young man: "ask them to help you resolve them because you can't get those questions out of your mind."

Just shameless.

The examples in this post are by no means exhaustive. But I lost the most respect for Jeremy when I read the following.

Regarding the Temple, here's what he tells the general public:  "In my last Temple attendance in the Salt Lake Temple during my faith crisis/transition, I stood on the stairs in the Celestial room in tears as I looked around the near empty room (having been the last person in the session still standing) because I knew that it was going to be the last time I would ever be in a Temple again. It was like saying goodbye to a friend on his deathbed."

And here's what he said to his friends on Reddit on March 25, 2014: "I'd imagine that it just takes 10 minutes of watching the Temple video for an investigator to go into WTF mode and realize they were getting themselves into something deeper and creepier than what the missionaries are presenting to them."

Jeremy tells website visitors that the Temple is like an old friend he had a hard time saying goodbye to. He doesn't tell them that he approves of hidden cameras being used by blatantly dishonest people who lie their way into the Temple in order to create footage for propaganda purposes. And he doesnt' tell them that he views the Holy Temple as something "creepy."

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