Part 1: Manipulations & Dishonesty in the CES Letter
by Sarah Allen
Editor’s Note: This post introduces a long series of rebuttals to the CES Letter. New parts will be forthcoming on this blog. You may notice this post is largely the same as the post that appeared last week. This post is an updated version of the Reddit post specifically updated to appear on this blog. The original Reddit post was loaded inadvertently. We appreciate Sarah’s effort in preparing this excellent rebuttal.
On Reddit, I’m a moderator at the LDS subreddit or forum. While I had heard of the CES Letter and had read it years ago, it wasn’t until recently that I began to realize just how prolific it was. So many of the comments and questions we were seeing on our subreddit were influenced by the Letter. I knew of popular responses to it by Jim Bennett, Michael Ash, Brian Hales, Scott Gordon, and an entire section here at FAIR, and I often referred questioners to those responses. At the same time, I noticed that many of those replies only provided brief overviews of the issues or were somewhat light on cited sources. There was room for a detailed response full of citations and sources showing the readers where to research the answers for themselves. I felt impressed to try my hand at filling that space myself, and also felt that, because the CES Letter was crowdsourced and born on Reddit, a comprehensive reply should also come from Reddit. That’s where I began this series, and FAIR has kindly offered to host them here as well.
When I prayed about how best to start this series, I felt strongly that it should start by highlighting the manipulation techniques and dishonesty of the Letter itself and of the Letter’s author, Jeremy Runnells. I’ll dive into the content of the Letter next week, but this week, I wanted to lay some groundwork.
If you understand that he misrepresented his story and told one thing to the public while saying something completely different to his friends on the Exmormon subreddit, and that he specifically organized the Letter to be as manipulative and overwhelming as possible, it helps you put the Letter’s questions and accusations in the proper context. This first post is not meant to be an attack on Jeremy’s character. It’s merely meant to show that he’s not “just asking questions,” the way he’s claimed. It’s to show that the entire premise the letter, a public cry for help from a floundering member who desperately wanted to save his testimony, was false. In fact, Runnells was already mentally out of the Church, trying to devise the best way to lead away the rest of his family, and actively helping others push their own family and friends out of the Church as well. That information is important because it sets the stage for what follows and helps you gauge the truthfulness of the document itself.
I’d like to start by explaining what the CES Letter is and how it came to be, and then I’ll move into some of the manipulations found in the Letter and in the responses by the Letter’s fans.