Overview of the CES Letter

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Overview of the CES Letter


Summary

Written by Jeremy Runnells, the CES Letter (formerly called "Letter to a CES Director") is a list of doubts Runnells has about the history and doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Runnells was a sixth-generation member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a descendant of Utah pioneers. He is a returned missionary and Brigham Young University alumnus, and married in the San Diego Temple. In 2012, Runnells had a crisis of faith, and an LDS Church Education System director asked him to share this concerns. Runnells detailed his questions and doubts about the legitimacy of church history and doctrine into written form in what would later become “Letter to a CES Director.” The book was shared by multiple websites, was downloaded thousands of times, and went viral. It has been translated into multiple languages, and its influence has spread worldwide.[1]

This letter is a frequently cited reason for Church members developing doubts about the Church and subsequently leaving the Church.[2]

Critical Reviews

Some critical reviews of the letter have noted:

The CES Letter is an attempt to create an alternate narrative for the truth claims of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. . . . It has become a proselyting tool in attempts to draw people away from the Church and it has been very successful. . . . Many have gone to great lengths to spread the gospel of the CES letter. While it isn’t the first publication to take a long list of old criticisms of the Church and present is as if it is new, it has become the one with the most unified backing behind it.[3]

The CES Letter makes hundreds upon hundreds of claims. Whether intended or not, sometimes what the Letter does is simply overwhelm readers with so much negative information that they’re thrown into a panic before really taking a deep breath and investigating individual claims. And that’s fairly understandable, as the average person might not know how to go about researching these topics, or may not have the patience for it. Some of the information in the Letter is simply true. Some, as far as I can tell, is patently false (and hopefully those are honest mistakes). And I think some information lacks important nuance or leaves out additional relevant information.[4]

The CES Letter argues that it is "delusional" and "insane" to have faith in the restored gospel and the Church and that a rational, intelligent person would have no part in it. It presents a very long list of common criticisms against the Church and packages it in a way that is designed to provoke negative emotional and intellectual responses in the reader. It does this by mixing selective facts with distortions about the Church and guiding the reader down a path that manipulates them into feelings of anger, shame, and betrayal.[5]

Many individuals have provided responses to portions or all of the letter.[6] The collection of resources in this FAIR wiki provides additional content to answer the questions raised in the letter.

Specific Resources

To find resources about a specific section of the letter, click Expand in the blue bar:

Articles about CES Letter


General Resources

For articles or presentations about the letter generally, see:


Notes

  1. Nancy Van Valkenburg, "Author Jeremy Runnells Resigns From LDS Church At Excommunication Hearing In American Fork," Gephardt Daily, 18 April 2016.
  2. Peggy Fletcher Stack, "In this new era of doubt, will a stronger Mormon faith emerge?" Salt Lake Tribune, 11 March 2016: "More than 1,700 Mormons and former believers . . . responded to The Salt Lake Tribune's outreach to those grappling with a faith crisis. They hailed from across the nation and other countries. Nearly a third have left the LDS Church, many citing a blend of triggers from historical anomalies to contemporary concerns. Even more no longer are practicing Mormons. Dozens cited Jeremy Runnells' 2013 "Letter to a CES [Church Educational System] Director," which outlined numerous questions about Mormonism's past and present."
  3. Scott Gordon, "CES Letter: Proof or Propaganda?" 2019 FairMormon Conference.
  4. David Snell, "What Is the CES Letter?" Saints Unscripted, 24 June 2021.
  5. "CES Letter," Mormonr.org (accessed 2 February 2024).
  6. For a list, see "CES Letter," Mormonr.org (accessed 2 February 2024).