Preemptive Strike: Author of CES Letter, Jeremy Runnells, Seeks Truth in LDS Disciplinary Council
Jeremy Runnells giving a short speech after his resignation from the church: Image from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFhZswHykuM uploaded by Elder Broomhead.
AMERICAN FORK, Utah:
A leaked video of the ecclesiastical trial of Jeremy Runnells showed his frustration before a council of brethren who stonewalled his questions. “My intention is to get the official answers that I was promised by the CES director (church educational system) three years ago,” he said. “And I still haven’t received any.” [i]
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints summoned Runnells to a disciplinary court on April 17 under the charges of apostasy. Head of the council, [stake] President Ivins, said, “You are reported to be in apostasy and that you have repeatedly acted in clear, open and deliberate public opposition to the church or its leaders.” He continued, “You have, among other things, published materials and have participated in interviews which have attempted to discredit the church, publicly expressed your view that the scriptures are fraudulent, and expressed opposition to church leaders including the prophet Joseph Smith.” [ii]
Runnells, a sixth-generation Mormon, published his concerns regarding church history and doctrine in the document-gone-viral CES Letter (http://cesletter.com/) The 84-page letter doesn’t break new ground in terms of academic Mormon studies, nor does it reveal any new-found evidence, but it does neatly package the overarching arguments against the veracity of the church’s doctrinal and historical claims.
Jeremy's journey began with the search for truth; it ended in disciplinary court.
In his final statement he asked why the 1769 King James Bible errors were in the Book of Mormon translation; he enumerated that Joseph Smith never translated the gold plates, but wrote the Book of Mormon by looking at a rock in a hat; he called into question the Book of Abraham (which modern-day Egyptologists have denounced as the work of someone who is clueless to Egyptology); he mentioned the church's denial of the priesthood to African-Americans prior to 1978; he questioned the inconsistent first vision accounts of Joseph Smith throughout his life.
The Mormon Church, founded in early 19th Century America, believes in free agency and freedom of expression, but Jeremy claims the Church acted in defiance to that. “You can keep your thoughts in your head, but the minute that you exercise your freedom of expression, you get thrown into disciplinary council.” The court accused Jeremy of trying to discredit the church, but Jeremy claims the Letter to a CES Director was largely based on doctrinal teachings from the church’s own publications.
The new face of the Mormon truth movement contested the trial, claiming it was a “kangaroo court.” He expected a debate, but the council answered no questions, stated their accusations and gave Jeremy a half hour for his final statement. The results would be “no action, formal probation, disfellowshipment or excommunication.”[iii]
Jeremy, prepared with the church’s definition of apostasy, asked [stake] President Ivins to read the second half of the definition, which Ivins refused. Jeremy proceeded to quote the Church Handbook which states apostasy is to “act repeatedly in clear, open and deliberate, public opposition to the church or its leaders." He continued, "But, you didn’t read the second one. The second one is [to] persist in teaching that church doctrine information that is not church doctrine after they have been corrected by their bishop or higher authority.” [iv]
Runnells has requested resolutions to his doubts. A three-year search for the truth, extensive meetings with church leaders, and now an official church hearing has made it clear his questions will never be answered. He objected to the charges of apostasy since church high-authorities have never corrected the “errors” in the CES Letter.
Runnells made his statement, rehashed his most poignant arguments and preemptively excommunicated the church, ending the hearing on his terms:
“It is very clear that the church does not have answers to its truth crisis. The church does not like individuals asking questions about its truth claims. So, this is a kangaroo court. I’m done with this court. I am excommunicating the LDS church. I am excommunicating you. And, I am excommunicating this kangaroo court from my life. Here is my resignation letter.” [v]
This case looks at faith and truth. The LDS Church operates under the paradigm of belief, feelings and the spirit. Academia functions under the scientific method of facts and scrutinized interpretation of hard evidence. The Church has battled against facts which has put their truth claims in jeopardy. Jeremy addressed the contradictions of the church's historical and dogmatic claims, and the lack of answers has squeezed the life of his faith.
The Church viewed Jeremy’s questions as apostasy, but he argued he shouldn’t be tried for apostasy when his errors were never corrected. He has stated previously that he would remain a member should his questions be answered, but that yet to happen.
The accessibility of information on the internet has moved troves of people to leave the church. Jeremy represents that group of truth-seekers who will not follow their faith on faith alone.
The LDS Church will have to find answers to the tough questions if it wishes to remain one of the fastest growing churches in the world. The apparent lack of erudition from church leaders will pose a challenge as they experience further scrutiny from truth-seeking members.
See Also: Jeremy Runnells Resigns from the Church: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFhZswHykuM