Part 68: CES Letter Conclusion [Section B]
by Sarah Allen
This particular portion of Jeremy’s conclusion starts to get spicy. There will be a lot of questions being asked in a very hostile tone, some of them for the first time in this version of the Letter (he removed an entire section on the Scriptures that was pretty antagonistic, but still references it in his conclusion).
I realize that this relentless antagonism is considered by many to be a feature of the CES Letter, rather than a bug. However, to me, it’s just all very sad. Instead of realizing that just maybe he was wrong in his strident assumptions about the Gospel and allowing the Spirit to teach him something, he let bias and misinformation shatter his own his faith and turn him hostile and angry. Since then, it’s led him to actively destroy the faith of thousands of others while profiting off of their misery. He’s dug a pit for himself and now, the only way out is on his knees. So far, he hasn’t been willing to try that. I genuinely do hope and pray that changes someday, because Alma the Younger told us all exactly what happens when we go down that path without repenting.
Picking up here where we left off last week:
So, putting aside the 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, I am now expected to go back to the drawing board.
Nope. Again, as we went over last week, you cannot accuse the Church of concealing and hiding information from you for your entire life when they have been publishing it in their official publications and in their scriptures, declaring it over the pulpit in General Conference, releasing First Presidency statements addressing it, compiling essays by notable historians and scholars for everyone to access for free, and posting all of the original documents online in high-resolution photographs with included transcripts so that you can verify it for yourself. It’s not the fault of the Church or its leaders if you don’t take advantage of all of the resources they’ve made available.
Nobody is “expected to go back to the drawing board” when they learn new Gospel-related information, either. What we are expected to do is pray to our Heavenly Father and ask Him, in the name of His Son, whether the new information we’ve learned is true or not. And if it is, we’re then expected to reframe our assumptions and move forward in faith—just like we’ve been taught to do since we were in Primary.
Somehow, I am supposed to rebuild my testimony on newly discovered information that is not only bizarre and alien to the Chapel Mormonism I had a testimony of;
I don’t know how much of a testimony Jeremy ever really had if he never understood what the Spirit is, but that is between him, the Savior, and Heavenly Father. No one else can ever really know what was in Jeremy’s heart and mind before his faith crisis.
However, this information may have been “newly discovered” by Jeremy, but it is not new, and none of it was presented for the very first time within the past decade since Jeremy’s faith crisis began. We’ve linked to numerous sources proving that throughout this series. None of it is “bizarre and alien”; only Jeremy’s twisted caricature of the truth meets that definition.
As far as “Chapel Mormonism” goes, it seems to be a strictly literal interpretation of the scriptures and the words of the prophets, not really allowing for much symbolism or nuance, or even simple human error.
We all have different interpretations—that’s normal, and it’s okay if we disagree on whether the Great Flood was global, local, or purely symbolic. There’s room in this Church for all of us, and separating between so-called “Chapel Mormons” and “Internet Mormons” (the group that believes there is more nuance and symbolism at play) is needlessly divisive.
it’s almost comical.
No, nothing about this Letter and the damage it’s done is comical to me. As I said above, it’s very sad. Tragic, even. So many families have been hurt by this Letter’s lies. So many people have fallen victim to its manipulations, half-truths, and mischaracterizations. So many souls are being led away from their Father in Heaven and having their faith destroyed. And Jeremy uses their pain to gain influence, notoriety, and money. There’s nothing funny about any of that.
I’m now supposed to believe that Joseph has the credibility of translating ancient records when the Book of Abraham and the Kinderhook Plates destroy this claim?
We’re not “supposed” to believe anything. We’re invited to believe by the Savior, through the Holy Spirit. He doesn’t force us to. And as far as Joseph’s translating skills go, the beauty of that is that you don’t have to take anyone else’s word for it. The Spirit will tell you whether Joseph was a prophet or not, and whether the scriptures he translated are true works of scripture.
However, the Book of Abraham and the Kinderhook Plates are not the slam dunks Jeremy seems to think they are. To repeat a paragraph in one of my previous posts, if you’re going to claim that Joseph failed in his transaction of the Book of Abraham, you have to explain away all of the things he got right. How does Jeremy explain that the Book of Abraham contains ancient Hebraic writing styles and Egyptian wordplay? Or that it aligns with dozens of extrabiblical Abrahamic accounts that weren’t discovered until after Joseph was dead? Or that it contains a genuine ancient Egyptian word that was only used during the time period in which Abraham lived? Or that Facsimile 3 contains a name that was only found in Egypt during the time periods in which Abraham lived and the papyri were created? Why does Joseph’s definition for the falcon of Horus match the definition given by ancient Israelites for the same image? How did Joseph know that genders were regularly confused in Egyptian artwork from the Greco-Roman time period? How did he know that an upside-down cow meant “the sun”? How did he know that ancient Jews and ancient Egyptians equated Osiris with Abraham? How did he name a city that is now known to have existed in the area he said it did during the time period he said it did? Etc. There are too many bullseyes to just wave them away as lucky guesses. Until Jeremy can explain away all of these things and everything else the Book of Abraham gets right, he can’t say that Joseph “failed the test” in regard to its translation. Simply saying it does not make it true. He has to address the evidence.
Regarding the Kinderhook Plates, Joseph “translated” one character off them, which he did by consulting the GAEL he and W.W. Phelps had compiled. He never attempted further translation work on them afterward, whether because he realized it was a hoax, whether he wasn’t very interested in pursuing them, or whether he tried and failed, we don’t know. It was the only thing he ever tried to translate by traditional means rather than by revelation, and he failed at it. The fact that he didn’t ever produce a full record is actually evidence that he wasn’t lying. After all, if the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham were frauds, why didn’t he continue the charade by “translating” the full record on the Kinderhook Plates?
That Joseph has the character and integrity to take him at his word after seeing his deliberate deception in hiding and denying polygamy and polyandry for at least 10 years of his adult life?
It wasn’t “at least 10 years.” It was 8 at most, and it wasn’t as simple as Jeremy claims. Few things, if any, are.
Joseph tried on at least one occasion to preach the doctrine of plural marriage to the entirety of the Saints, but they refused to listen. So, it was only taught to his inner circle until they were in Winter Quarters, where it was more openly discussed. As Brian Hales rightfully points out, Joseph never denied celestial plural marriage. He denied adultery, “spiritual wifery,” freelance polygamy, and a community of wives.
And the reason it was being kept quiet was because the situation was dangerous. Anti-LDS newspapers were inciting mob violence against the Saints on a regular basis. Remember, the Nauvoo Expositor situation did not happen in a vacuum, and the Warsaw Signal was openly calling for every Latter-day Saint in Illinois to be slaughtered. This was only just a few short years after Governor Boggs issued his infamous Extermination Order against the Saints in Missouri (an image of the actual document is here).
So, you be the judge. Is being deliberately evasive in order to protect his people as great a sin as standing back and allowing thousands of innocent men, women, and children to be massacred by mob violence?
How he backdated and retrofitted the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood restoration events as if they were in the Book of Commandments all along?
That isn’t what happened. They were talking about the Priesthood restoration events all along. To repeat: In April of 1831, the Articles and Covenants of the Church were published in the Painesville Telegraph declaring that Joseph and Oliver were “called of God and ordained as Apostles.” When you’re being ordained to a new Priesthood office, you have to be ordained by someone who already holds that office or a higher office. That means that apostles have to be ordained by other apostles. No one else can do it. The only possible people who could have ordained them are God the Father, the Savior, John the Revelator, the Three Nephites, or the resurrected Apostles who were ordained in their earthly lives before they died, sent back as heavenly messengers. There are no other options.
The Painesville Telegraph also ran other articles about this. On November 16, 1830, it mentions Oliver as having conversed with angels and says he told them that ordinances hadn’t been performed properly since the days of Christ’s original Apostles. And on December 7, 1830, it reports that Oliver claims he was specially commissioned by Jesus Christ and that he and his associates were the only people on Earth with the proper authority to baptize. On February 14, 1831, the Palmyra Reflector mockingly reported that no one had been authorized to preach the Gospel for 1500 years until Joseph was given that commission by God. And on March 2, 1833, the Reverend Richmond Taggart stated that Joseph, “the great Mormonosity,” had claimed to see Jesus Christ and the Apostles. In Joseph’s own written account in 1832, he also makes mention of it. One of the most striking documents we have is an 1829 copy of The Articles of the Church of Christ written by Oliver, and found online at the Joseph Smith Papers Project. In this, Oliver declares his Apostleship. A letter from Oliver to Hyrum Smith dated June 14, 1829, quotes part of D&C 18 (in which Joseph and Oliver are called as Apostles), showing that the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood had already happened. In December of 1833, Oliver Cowdery recorded a blessing from Joseph which was subsequently published in 1835, and which described the restoration of the Priesthood. So, there are a lot of small evidences it was being discussed.
Beyond that, nobody ever pretended the revelations were in the Book of Commandments all along. Numerous copies of the revelations were being written and passed around, as well as printed in the Evening and Morning Star newspaper, but as the body of the Church grew, they didn’t have the reach they wanted. In 1831, a conference was held in which it was decided that the revelations would be put into a book to be published for the Saints. At that conference, it was decided that Joseph would “correct,” edit, and update the revelations. They knew right from the start, before it ever even happened, that they would be altered revelations. Nobody ever pretended it hadn’t happened.
And I’m supposed to believe with a straight face that Joseph using a rock in a hat is legit?
Why is Joseph using two seer stones worn in a rim like eyeglasses perfectly easy to believe, but him using a single seer stone placed into a hat to block out the light is impossible to believe?
To repeat something I’ve said before, while that seer stone might seem weird to Jeremy, it was not weird to Joseph. It was something familiar that he already knew how to use. Using that method to teach him gave him the confidence he needed to stretch and grow into his calling as a prophet. Remember, Joseph was born in December of 1805 and he received the plates in September, 1827. He was only 21 years old. Most of us don’t know what we’re doing at 21, and the things we’re being asked to do are likely easier than what Joseph was being asked to do. He didn’t know how to be a prophet. He didn’t know how to found a church, or receive sustained, lengthy revelation, or to translate ancient records. He didn’t know what he was doing, and he had to figure it out with the Lord’s help as he went along. Is it any wonder that the Lord used something Joseph was already confident in using to help him learn?
Joseph’s progression shows that that’s exactly what happened. First, he used the supposedly stronger stones provided with the plates. Then, once he was more comfortable with the translation process, he used his own stone that he was more familiar with. Then, once he was more comfortable with receiving revelation in general, he no longer needed any stone at all. Heavenly Father was teaching him how to receive revelation by increments until he could stand on his own alongside the Spirit and receive that revelation without a crutch.
Despite this being the exact same method he used to con people out of their money during his treasure hunting days?
Joseph didn’t con people out of their money. He was charged with fraud by a third party, but the supposed victim of his fraud, Josiah Stowell, testified in Joseph’s defense. So did several of his family members. Stowell later joined the Church, and remained a faithful member until his death.
Despite this ruining the official story of ancient prophets and Moroni investing all of that time and effort into gold plates, which were not used because Joseph’s face was stuffed in a hat?
Nothing is ruined. Joseph didn’t read the Book of Mormon text from the golden plates, that’s true. But the Church at no point ever suggested he did. The details of the translation method were always vague. Joseph couldn’t read Reformed Egyptian, and the Interpreters didn’t magically give him that ability. Why Jeremy keeps insisting that’s what he was always taught is beyond me. The story as he knew it was that Joseph used the Nephite Interpreters for the translation, and that the words appeared in English on the stone while he read them aloud. He did use the Interpreters for part of the translation, and for the rest, he used his personal seer stone once the Interpreters were taken back by Moroni. More importantly, the details of how Joseph used the Interpreters were never given. Whatever Jeremy imagined, it was pure speculation, and now he’s angry that the reality didn’t mirror his imagination. Joseph used the plates. He just didn’t use them the way Jeremy insisted he should have.
I’m supposed to sweep under the rug the inconsistent and contradictory first vision accounts and just believe anyway?
The First Vision accounts aren’t inconsistent or contradictory. They highlight different things and some versions leave certain things out, but they’re remarkably consistent overall. You can compare them for yourselves if you’d like, because they’re all available online:
- Joseph’s handwritten 1832 account
- 1835 account recorded by William Parrish
- 1838 account from the Joseph Smith History
- 1842 Wentworth Letter account
- Secondhand accounts
I’m supposed to believe that these men who have been wrong about so many important things and who have not prophesied, “seered,” or revealed much in the last 170 or so years are to be sustained as “prophets, seers, and revelators”?
“Seered”? And Jeremy accuses defenders of the Church of inventing words? Okay, sure.
To those who say that the Brethren aren’t prophets, I’d like to pass along some words from Elder Maxwell that I find incredibly prescient:
Make no mistake about it, brothers and sisters, in the months and years ahead, events are likely to require each member to decide whether or not he will follow the First Presidency. Members will find it more difficult to halt longer between two opinions. (See 1 Kgs. 18:21)
… We are now entering a time of incredible ironies. Let us cite but one of these ironies which is yet in its subtle stages: We will see a maximum, if indirect, effort made to establish irreligion as the state religion. It is actually a new form of paganism which uses the carefully preserved and cultivated freedoms of western civilization to shrink freedom, even as it rejects the value essence of our rich Judeo-Christian heritage.
… This new irreligious imperialism seeks to disallow certain opinions simply because those opinions grow out of religious convictions. Resistance to abortion will be seen as primitive. Concern over the institution of the family will be viewed as untrendy and unenlightened.
In its mildest form, irreligion will merely be condescending toward those who hold to traditional Judeo-Christian values. In its more harsh forms, as is always the case with those whose dogmatism is blinding, the secular church will do what it can to reduce the influence of those who still worry over standards such as those in the Ten Commandments….
Before the ultimate victory of the forces of righteousness, some skirmishes will be lost. Even in these, however, let us leave a record so that the choices are clear, letting others do as they will in the face of prophetic counsel.
There will also be times, happily, when a minor defeat seems probable, but others will step forward, having been rallied to rightness by what we do. We will know the joy, on occasion, of having awakened a slumbering majority of the decent people of all races and creeds which was, till then, unconscious of itself.
Jesus said that when the fig trees put forth their leaves, “summer is nigh” (Matt. 24:32). Thus warned that summer is upon us, let us not then complain of the heat!
That talk was given in October, 1978, 43 years ago. And what are we seeing today? Some members fighting against the counsel of the Brethren because of influence from the world, and a society that laughs at the idea that the family institution is in danger, considers anti-abortion beliefs to be primitive, tries to restrict our freedoms, and discounts any opinions that stem from religious convictions. We are seeing exactly what he told us nearly half a century ago that we would see. If that’s not prophetic, I don’t know what is.
I’m supposed to believe the scriptures have credibility after endorsing so much rampant immorality, violence, and despicable behavior?
That the Bible includes those things does not mean the Bible is endorsing those things. Newsflash: people aren’t perfect, including those who are trying to follow the commandments. Shocking, right?
When it says that the earth is only 7,000 years old and that there was no death before then?
That’s not what the scriptures say. D&C 77 says that the temporal age of the Earth is 7,000 years—meaning, the time since the Fall. The scriptures also don’t say there was no death of any kind before the Fall anywhere in the world. They say there was no physical death inside the Garden of Eden. There are other types of death, including spiritual, which humans would not have had the capacity to experience prior to the Fall because there wasn’t knowledge of good and evil before then.
Or that Heavenly Father is sitting on a throne with an erect penis when all evidence points to it being the pagan Egyptian god of sex, Min?
Min wasn’t the “pagan Egyptian god of sex.” Min was an Egyptian god of fertility and the harvest. However, in some hypocephali, ancient Egyptians actually identified this figure not as Min but as things like, “the Great God,” the “Lord of Life,” and the “Lord of All.” The “Great God” who is the “Lord of All” sounds a lot like Heavenly Father to me.
And again, as I’ve pointed out before, Joseph Smith didn’t draw this image. Ancient Egyptians did. Joseph also didn’t say that Heavenly Father sits on His throne with His anatomy on display like this. Many ancient cultures depict male figures and especially gods or warriors with visible phalluses. It’s so common, there’s even a word for it, “ithyphallic.” That’s the way that ancient Egyptians depicted this particular god in their artwork. It has no bearing on what God the Father actually looks like or what He actually does on His throne.
And just because Jeremy doesn’t like the picture being used does not mean that Joseph was incorrect in labeling it as our Father in Heaven. He wasn’t. He was 100% correct in that designation, as pointed out above.
The “most correct book on earth” Book of Mormon going through over 100,000 changes over the years? After going through so many revisions and still being incorrect?
Again, the Book of Mormon is the most doctrinally correct book on earth. It is not talking about punctuation and grammar which, as Jeremy’s own source points out, make up the vast majority of the changes made. When a book is submitted to the publisher without any punctuation at all, the way the printer’s manuscript was, a lot of changes have to be made to it.
Also, “most correct” does not mean it is perfect. It just means it is more correct than other books.
Noah’s ark and the global flood are literal events? Tower of Babel is a literal event?
That Noah existed is something we know for sure. He is the Angel Gabriel, and Joseph Smith saw him and heard his voice. Beyond that, we don’t really know much. He certainly didn’t collect two of every animal in the entire world and put them on a single boat, but that’s really all we can say with any degree of certainty about the man himself. The exact nature of the Flood is unknown. It could have been global, though that seems to be unlikely by current scientific findings; it could have been local, which scholars such as Hugh Nibley seem to believe; or it could have been largely symbolic, as Ben Spackman posits. Heavenly Father clearly feels that the exact details are less important than the lessons we can learn from this story, and He hasn’t seen fit to clarify the matter.
There are massive ziggurats and their ruins all over Mesopotamia even today, including an especially large one in what was once ancient Babylon, and one of them easily could have been the Tower of Babel. So, just like the Flood, the confusion of languages at the tower could have been a localized event (the Hebrew word for “earth” that was used in that story also could have meant “land”). It also could have been symbolic. The only things that we know for certain is that it was not a worldwide confusion of languages, and that the Jaredites fled from the Tower so that their own language would not be corrupted.
Anyway, I was hoping to wrap this up entirely this week, but it just didn’t happen. We are very nearly done, though, and next week will be the official last post in this series. I will be finishing up the last few paragraphs of Jeremy’s conclusion, and then I’ll add my own concluding thoughts. Until then, thank you all so much for sticking with me this far. It’s been a very long road, and it means a lot to me that you were willing to ride out this journey with me.
Sources in this entry:
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.
Just an observation. We actually don’t know that the language of the Jaredites wasn’t changed. They spoke with and understood their friends and family. A change, if there had been one, would have been completely transparent and not observable except by an outside party. (Not that it really matters)