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Sarah Allen has been writing a 60+ part series of articles responding to the “CES Letter” at r/lds on Reddit, which is now also being published on the FAIR blog. In this interview with Amber Rothamer, she talks about how she got started and the experiences she’s had over more than a year in writing the rebuttal.
Sarah’s “CES Letter” response series can be found on the FAIR website here:
Sarah Allen is brand new in her affiliation with FAIR. By profession, she works in mortgage compliance and is a freelance copyeditor. A voracious reader, she loves studying the Gospel and the history of the restored Church. After watching some of her lose their testimonies, she became interested in helping others through their faith crises and began sharing what she learned through her studies. She’s grateful to those at FAIR who have given her the opportunity to share her testimony with a wider audience.
Amber Rothamer currently operates as the Project Manager at FAIR, streamlining the volunteer application process and organizing the many operations of FAIR into easy to manage teams led by its volunteer base. Amber has over 5 years experience spearheading marketing campaigns for radio and social media as a social media marketing manager, and specializes in written and visual content creation. She has a Bachelor of Science degree from Brigham Young University Idaho where she majored in Broadcast Journalism with a minor in music and worked for both the school paper and the school radio station. Amber is driven by a passion to connect people through effective communication both professionally and personally. At home she focuses on building her young family of herself, her husband, and infant son, on open and honest communication. When Amber is blessed with free time, she enjoys traveling with her family, family history, and singing songs for her son.
Justin Tillwell says
With all due respect, I have a few comments.
I don’t believe the CES letter is a perfect document… it has flaws to be sure.
However, having another rebuttal in a long line of responses, especially a 60 part rebuttal, goes more to validate many parts of the CES letter than it does to debunk it. If it were as flawed as many people say it was, 1 or 2 well written responses could have easily put the letter to bed.
Furthermore, not discounting Sarah Allen’s knowledge or desire to help, but her qualifications of being in mortgage compliance and a freelance copyeditor or a voracious reader hardly speaks to a qualified response.
I would love to have a balanced and qualified historian addressing the issues raised in the letter. I don’t mind apologists, but their response usually is as biased as Jeremy Runnell’s himself.
Trevor Holyoak says
Based on your comments, you have neither listened to/watched the podcast, nor have you read any of Sarah’s response. I suggest you do both, as your criticisms would be addressed.
Unfortunately, the way the “CES Letter” is set up, it does require some thorough explaining to help explain what’s really going on for those (who are his main targets) that aren’t already familiar with the “issues” Jeremy raises. And to do so, Sarah draws on the work of qualified historians and scholars, which makes her background irrelevant, other than the fact that she’s a good researcher and writer.
Sarah’s response has helped many people find answers and strengthen their testimonies. I suggest you actually spend a little time with it before making criticisms.
Sarah Allen says
I just wanted to say a quick thank you to FAIR for hosting me. It’s always easier for me to write out my thoughts rather than speak them, but I enjoyed the chance to have a conversation with Amber and get to know her a little. I also really appreciate all that FAIR has done to share these posts with a wider audience.
Trevor, as always, thank you for the support and encouragement. You’ve always been in my corner, and you’ve been instrumental in moving this project forward. It means a lot to me, so thank you.
Justin, there are different rebuttals because different people respond to different teaching methods. It’s why we all gravitate toward different speakers at Conference. A response that suits one person’s preferred way of learning will not resonate as well with someone else. If you don’t gravitate toward my style, that’s fine. There are others out there for you to choose from.
Regardless, these particular posts were written to show people that the questions had already been answered many times over, and where/how to find those answers. Sometimes, that requires putting a lot of context back into the argument. Other times, Jeremy makes eight different accusations in one paragraph, and each one needs to be addressed in turn. That takes time to do so thoroughly. With a document ~140 pages long, there are a lot of paragraphs like that.
Regarding my professional credentials, I don’t have any. That’s the point. If an amateur layperson like me can find this much information to rebut the CES Letter’s arguments, anyone can.
James - a reader from the first post! says
I am incredibly grateful for Sarah’s work. Over the last year, I’ve been able to read each section quite thoroughly. She cites sources, adds full context to quotes, provides historical context to obscure statements from former Church leaders, and most importantly, bears powerful testimony of the Restored Gospel, the Book of Mormon, and the Prophets, both past and present.
It has taken a long time, and I think that’s mainly because she’s doing her due diligence in going line-by-line to address the dishonest gish gallop known today as the CES Letter. I know that these posts will draw to a close soon, but I hope that Sarah continues to share her testimony far and wide. Despite threats, doxxing, and other unkindness from detractors of the Church, Sarah has continued to provide this valuable and thoughtful resource to all, free of charge, and never asking for any kind of monetary reimbursement for her time and work from those she’s shared this with.
By their fruits, ye shall know them, and while I’ll likely never meet Sarah in person, I know that her heart is in the right place, and that the fruits of her labors can bless those who find themselves in need. Thank you, Sarah.
Michael Peterson says
To Justin Tillwell:
No, the CES letter is not only “flawed” – it’s deceitful front to back, every page of it.
Your attempt to disqualify Sarah Allen here falls flat. To the contrary: She’s the perfect person to dissect the letter – a longtime blogger, deep researcher, and writer who understands the perspective of the many who have been brought down spiritually by Runnells’s predatory dishonesty.
And no, her responses, one by one, have left the so-called “ces letter” in the dust. She’s carved up every one of Runnells’s twisted and false claims.
As far as there being something revealing in the fact that there are multiple responses to the “letter” – why not, when the letter itself has morphed and expanded several times since its original publication, as well as Runnells’s antagonistic writings and Church denigration efforts on his website?
And judging from your last sentence, if it had been a Latter-Day Saint with a PhD, you would have negatively labeled him or her an “apologist” too – that’s a form of religious bigotry.
(By the way the “apologist” label is wearing thin, best not use it any longer, it’s been watered down so much by Runnells and his followers, the word is now beyond recognition).
And methinks we hear an echo in your writing of the weak assumption that it is the content of the letter that has not been effectively addressed – instead just Runnells’s bias. But as noted that content has now not only been taken apart in professional, minute detail but every sentence of his essay has been intelligently and effectively refuted. And on top of it, readers have been directed to additional materials that go so deep into the controversial areas that Runnells’s used as fodder for attack as to inoculate all people of faith in the future from him and others who would attempt to steal their faith and testimony.
Jeff Markham says
Justin — I’m curious what you’d list as Jeremy Runnells’ qualifications to write the Letter in the first place? Does he have relevant academic credentials? Would his letter meet any journalistic standards for publication, in your opinion, without significant edits and redactions? Or are “qualifications” only required of those with whom you disagree?
As far as I can tell, Jeremy is an amateur critic with limited a capacity/desire to engage in sincere, intellectually honest discourse. He plays very fast and loose with sources, as Sarah has shown many times. His letter also includes some errors despite their obvious and demonstrable factual inaccuracy. Look no further than where his letter claims the Book of Mormon was first published. This is a basic church history fact which is commonly known to most members, taught openly and without any dispute for almost 200 years. It’s readily searchable on Google. Yet he gets it wrong, and he keeps it wrong in his letter to this day. Why?
You acknowledge the letter is not “perfect.” On that point we can fully agree. 🙂
Here’s why I enjoy Sarah’s posts so much — they’re a reflection of her honest and sincere study. She’s not pulling whatever she can out of context to fit her predetermined narrative. Rather, she’s taking her time and laying out the obvious truth — if a person is willing to take the time to study the issues brought up in the CES Letter, many of the problems it posits simply fade into oblivion. There are many ways to view these topics. Each of us brings assumptions and our own perspectives into the discussion without even knowing it. Jeremy presents the issues as black and white, cut and dried, my way or the highway. Sarah demonstrates that there is context and nuance which is really important before drawing firm, immutable conclusions. Kudos to her.