Conclusion in the CES Letter

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Conclusion in the CES Letter


In the conclusion to the CES Letter, Jeremy Runnells summarizes his attempt to find answers to his questions and then summarizes his concerns listed throughout the letter. Because this section of the letter is a summary with some additional notes, below is some commentary on parts of the conclusion.

Study

After describing that he learned many things that went contrary to his presuppositions about Church history, Runnells states, "I went into a panic. I desperately needed answers and I needed them immediately."

Fortunately, because we have the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, we can remain steadfast and immovable even when questions arise. President Jeffrey R. Holland counseled:

In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground is limited. . . . When those moments come and issues surface, the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes. . . . Be as candid about your questions as you need to be; life is full of them on one subject or another. But if you and your family want to be healed, don’t let those questions stand in the way of faith working its miracle. . . .

This is a divine work in process, with the manifestations and blessings of it abounding in every direction, so please don’t hyperventilate if from time to time issues arise that need to be examined, understood, and resolved. They do and they will. In this Church, what we know will always trump what we do not know. And remember, in this world, everyone is to walk by faith.[1]

And on the topic of finding answers, the Prophet Joseph taught: "The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out."[2] Only through diligent study and seeking revelation will we come to fully understand the truths of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and events surrounding His restored Church. This study will certainly take "time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts."

The Church's "Topics and Questions" section on Gospel Library begins with key recommendations on how to seek answers to questions:

Unofficial Apologists

Runnells states that he finds attempts by faithful members to explain Church history and doctrine as "truly bizarre." He includes FAIR among that group, and states that "their version of Mormonism to be alien and foreign to the Chapel Mormonism that I grew up [with]." Runnells then implies that these "apologetics" (which means "defense," as in "defending the faith") are contrary to Church teachings.

At a FAIR conference, Elder Kevin W. Pearson of the Seventy stated:

I want to begin by expressing appreciation to all those who promote faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in His restored Church by providing faithful answers to critical questions, including FairMormon. Independent voices are needed in reaching out to those among us who are struggling to find and sustain faith, and in responding to those who unfairly criticize, misrepresent, distort, and demean the history, doctrine, and leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

More needs to be done to increase awareness of, access to, and confidence in these independent, trusted resources by Latter-day Saints and seekers of truth.[3]

See also Sarah Allen, "The CES Letter Rebuttal — Part 67," FAIR blog, 3 August 2022.

Learning about Church History

Runnells explains his frustration with learning about many aspects of Church history from various internet sources instead of Church-produced materials. He states, "Why is it that I had to first discover all of this – from the internet – at 31-years-old after over 20 years of high activity in the Church? . . . [There was] 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."

It may seem disconcerting to find information about the Church not included in Church manuals. However, this doesn't mean the Church is hiding things. Kate Holbrook, formerly a historian in the Church History Department noted that she learned some things about Church history when she was young, but other things she learned as an adult.

The Church did not hide information from me, but the historical information was not emphasized to me. When I was two years old, in 1974 there was a Friend article about seer stones, but I was two years old, I didn't read that article. What I did learn in my Sunday meetings, in my seminary classes was what the main work of the Church is: I learned to repent, I learned to bring my life into harmony with the gospel of Jesus Christ, I learned how to establish a relationship with my Father in Heaven. And these are the things in my life that I hold most dear.

I also know that for some people . . . it can be really painful to learn about something that you thought you should have known, and that you didn't know.[4]

Matt Grow, another historian in the Church History Department, echoed that sentiment:

Information has been available, especially to those with an interest, and sometimes in Church publications, but some of the more challenging information hasn't been emphasized, hasn't been taught or discussed much, sometimes because it feels uncomfortable and sometimes because the main purpose of Church meetings is to preach the gospel of salvation.

Another thing to keep in mind is that on many of these topics we know a lot more now than did people 30, 40, or 50 years ago. So sometimes what seems that the Church has hidden information is simply a result of the fact that we know more now.[5]

In their messages, Kate Holbrook and Matt Grow also noted that the Church is doing more now to incorporate many of these more obscure issues of Church history into main Church publications.

See also Sarah Allen, "The CES Letter Rebuttal — Part 67," FAIR blog, 3 August 2022; "The CES Letter Rebuttal — Part 68," FAIR blog, 10 August 2022; and "The CES Letter Rebuttal — Part 69," FAIR blog, 17 August 2022.

Staying Focused on Jesus Christ

Brother Milton Camargo of the Sunday School General Presidency reminds us, "My father used to tell me, 'Don’t focus so intensely on your problems that you can’t see the solution.' I testify that the Lord Jesus Christ is the solution to even our most difficult problems."[6]

President Russell M. Nelson taught, "Whatever questions or problems you have, the answer is always found in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Learn more about His Atonement, His love, His mercy, His doctrine, and His restored gospel of healing and progression. Turn to Him! Follow Him!"[7]

Elder Lawrence E. Corbridge of the Seventy explained:

There are primary questions and there are secondary questions. Begin by answering the primary questions first. The primary questions are the most important. There are only a few primary questions. I mention four:

  1. Is there a God who is our Father?
  2. Is Jesus Christ the Son of God, the Savior of the world?
  3. Was Joseph Smith a prophet?
  4. Is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the kingdom of God on earth?

By contrast, the secondary questions are unending. They include questions about Church history, plural marriage, people of African descent and the priesthood, women and the priesthood, the translation of the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, DNA and the Book of Mormon, gay marriage, different accounts of the First Vision, and on and on.

If you answer the primary questions, the secondary questions get answered too, or they pale in significance. Answer the primary questions, and you can deal with things you understand and things you don’t and with things you agree with and things you don’t without jumping ship. . . .

There is a God in heaven who is our Eternal Father. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world. Joseph Smith was a prophet of God who laid the foundation for the Restoration of the kingdom of God. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the kingdom of God on the earth. I know this by my experience—all of it. I know this by the evidence, and the evidence is overwhelming. I know this by study. And, most surely, I know this by the spirit and power of the Holy Ghost.

And with that, I know everything I need to know to stand forever. May we stand on the rock of revelation, particularly in regard to the primary questions. If we do, we will stand forever and never go away.[8]


Notes

  1. Jeffrey R. Holland, "Lord, I Believe," April 2013 general conference.
  2. [https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/teachings-joseph-smith/chapter-22 "Chapter 22: Gaining Knowledge of Eternal Truths," in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith".
  3. Kevin W. Pearson, "A Sacred and Imperative Duty," 2018 FairMormon Conference. Responding to the question "Is the basis of your message borne out of your own personal concerns on this issue or are you sharing the message by assignment?", Elder Pearson stated: "I’m here by assignment. I was invited to come. That invitation went to the assignment committee and the president of the Quorum of the Twelve assigned me to come and speak at this conference. So I’m a representative of the Church." (Q&A section at bottom).
  4. Kate Holbrook, in "Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults: A Face to Face Event with Elder Cook," 9 September 2018, beginning at time index 15:55.
  5. Matt Grow, in "Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults: A Face to Face Event with Elder Cook," 9 September 2018, beginning at time index 17:10.
  6. Milton Camargo, "Focus on Jesus Christ," April 2023 general conference.
  7. Russell M. Nelson, "The Answer Is Always Jesus Christ," April 2023 general conference.
  8. Lawrence E. Corbridge, "Stand on the Rock of Revelation," Ensign, October 2020.