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Calm

Scott Gordon--CES Letter: Proof or Propaganda

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Posted (edited)

https://www.fairmormon.org/conference/august-2019/ces-letter-proof-or-propaganda

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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.

I watched the early creation of the CES Letter in 2013 as the author scoured the internet crowdsourcing other like-minded people to contribute questions that they would like to see answered. It has been published online and in book fashion and translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Japanese, German, and they are working on Finish and other languages.

It has become a proselyting tool in attempts to draw people away from the Church and it has been very successful.

Some in the former Latter-day Saint community have posted pictures of writing the link to the document into Book of Mormons in Churches, Marriott Hotels, in Hymn books, and other locations.  In April 2014 it was spam emailed to hundreds of students at the LDS business college in Salt Lake City.[1]....

As I have said, I can’t cover the contents of the entire book in less than one hour. So I will only focus on Chapter 1. As I cover each claim, stated as a question, I will be quoting directly from the book and calling each claim point 1, point 2, and so on....

 

 

Edited by Calm
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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Calm said:

As is often the case, what at first seems a serious problem on further study ceases to vex, and sometimes even bolsters the target of the critic. But when the damage is done, it’s difficult to undo.

I’m reminded of our experience here with One Nation Under Gods by Richard Abanes. A weak member or an uninformed non-member could come away from that book abhorring the Restoration and looking for a rope with which to hang some Mormons. But a closer look revealed it to contain a plethora of misinformation and disinformation. After some careful checking, I came to the conclusion that one could randomly open the book and find at least one howler on the page. That proved to be true. 

To Abanes’ credit, he came here to defend his work and received many well-deserved lumps. He even showed up at a FAIR conference! His second edition was cleaned up a bit, but it was still dismal. He should have paid some residuals for all the free editing and fact checking.

So, has the author of the CES Letter made corrections when confronted by criticism such as this excellent presentation by Scott Gordon (and many others)?

Edited by Bernard Gui
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Posted (edited)
59 minutes ago, Bernard Gui said:

So, has the author of the CES Letter made corrections when confronted by criticism such as this excellent presentation by Scott Gordon (and many others)?

A quick check at his website reveals that Runnels has responded to major criticisms on several occasions, he's responded to the separate criticisms by FAIR, Daniel Peterson, Brian Hauglid, and Kevin Christensen, at least.

Edited by Meadowchik
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I have not read the CES Letter other than looking at its table of contents online.  From discussions that I have read on other boards, it seems many in the post-mormon communities feel that chapter one is the weakest chapter, and that their are some places where Runnells presents his opinion as fact.  It is also common knowledge that the letter has evolved and has expanded from the original letter that was sent to the CES Director.  With that said, here can be no argument that it has, and continues to make an impact, and counter arguments from apologist do not seem to be as effective.  There are many threads on Reddit that discuss the CES letter and how it is being used as a reverse missionary tool.  I take anything from Reddit with a grain of salt, but the shear volume of discussions the CES Letter has generated is impressive.  Apparently it is quite popular.

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1 hour ago, sunstoned said:

I have not read the CES Letter other than looking at its table of contents online.  From discussions that I have read on other boards, it seems many in the post-mormon communities feel that chapter one is the weakest chapter, and that their are some places where Runnells presents his opinion as fact.

I have read that too (about chapter one).  Also, most criticisms about the entire letter usually seem to either attack Jeremy personally or his opinions (or conclusions).  

The letter is still having a big impact and many are still reading it and sharing it with family members and friends.  We may know there are errors (or disagreement with his conclusions stated as facts), but those reading it for the first time are overwhelmed and devastated much of the time.  That’s hard to undo once that happens.

If he gets most things right (presentation, not his opinions) and members check them out and find he’s right, then they tend to accept his conclusions as truth too.  That’s been my experience.

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16 minutes ago, JulieM said:

I have read that too (about chapter one).  Also, most criticisms about the entire letter usually seem to either attack Jeremy personally or his opinions (or conclusions).  

The letter is still having a big impact and many are still reading it and sharing it with family members and friends.  We may know there are errors (or disagreement with his conclusions stated as facts), but those reading it for the first time are overwhelmed and devastated much of the time.  That’s hard to undo once that happens.

If he gets most things right (presentation, not his opinions) and members check them out and find he’s right, then they tend to accept his conclusions as truth too.  That’s been my experience.

 

In my opinion, there is a big difference between factual errors and disagreement with conclusions.  As for stating conclusions as facts, that is just the way we (Americans at least) use the English language.  Newspapers, legal documents, even FairMormon use the same technique.  

If there are factual errors then we should point them out.  However, I think we need to be cautious about broadly painting the CES Letter (or any "anti-Mormon" literature) as full of errors.  Many members have had faith challenges when they found out later that the "Anti-Mormon" literature they were told was full of errors, was actually pretty accurate (even if they might draw different conclusions).  

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have read that too (about chapter one)”

When did you read this?

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8 minutes ago, JulieM said:

I just read some of the presentation.  Here’s an example that would frustrate me if I was given it to counter the CES Letter:

“The CES letter also complains of the lack of Book of Mormon archeology around the current Hill Cumorah area in upstate New York. Many Book of Mormon scholars have a much larger geographical idea of where the Book of Mormon peoples might have lived. This includes the great civilizations of the Americas and Mesoamerica. Certainly, we haven’t found a freeway exit sign to Zarahemla, but we have made some exciting discoveries in the old and new world alike.”

My response is immediately. “Ok, but what discoveries?  Is Jeremy right about there being a lack of BofM archeology around the current Hill Cumorah or not?  How about any physical evidence that these BofM people existed or fought their battles?  Anything anywhere?”

Those would be the questions I’d be searching to hear answers for.  Not what Scott stated.  I’m just being honest with my reaction.

This is what drives me batty about Archaeology, how would someone like myself or Jeremy Runnells even know there was a BOM artifact? I don't and I wonder if he does even read academic journals with the latest and greatest finds, and we all know people disagree where the BOM took place or how many Hill Cumorah's there were. If you don't know what you're looking for and don't know where to find it then quelle surprise....

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17 minutes ago, Calm said:

have read that too (about chapter one)”

When did you read this?

I’ve only read it from discussions online.  I honestly don’t know if that’s right or just some people’s opinion?  

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Posted (edited)
3 minutes ago, Duncan said:

This is what drives me batty about Archaeology, how would someone like myself or Jeremy Runnells even know there was a BOM artifact? 

Really?  I’m sure the leaders would announce it and also have it authenticated and most likely then displayed. They certainly wouldn’t hide it!  

They would at least publish the finding for members to read, imo.

Edited by JulieM
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Posted (edited)
10 minutes ago, Duncan said:

....we all know people disagree where the BOM took place or how many Hill Cumorah's there were. If you don't know what you're looking for and don't know where to find it then quelle surprise....

I don’t think we should assume that “we all know” anything.  If members haven’t studied this topic or kept up, many still believe the Prophet’s statements about the Hill Cumorah in NY being the location.  Then they read what Jeremy writes about no archeological evidence.   Then they do look into that and find he’s correct.  That’s what’s happening with most of what’s in the letter, I think.  So when that happens, many members who read the letter, believe it ALL and are upset and some leave over it.  It’s a problem.

Edited by JulieM
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5 minutes ago, JulieM said:

Really?  I’m sure the leaders would announce it and also have it authenticated and most likely then displayed. They certainly wouldn’t hide it!  

They would at least publish the finding for members to read, imo.

I think some have and have been proven wrong or debated at least, i.e. this whole debate about where the Hill Cumorah is. I wonder if Jeremy Runnells has examined every scrap of whatever, wherever and decided that this isn't BOM evidence it's evidence for something else and therefore no BOM remains exist. I don't think he's done that! nobody has done that! and what is found academics can disagree on what it is and what it is evidence for

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5 minutes ago, JulieM said:

I don’t think we should assume that “we all know” anything.  If members haven’t studied this topic or kept up, many still believe the Prophet’s statements about the Hill Cumorah in NY being the location.  Then they read what Jeremy writes about no archeological evidence.   Then they do look into that and find he’s correct.  That’s what’s happening with most of what’s in the letter, I think.  So when that happens, many members who read the letter, believe it ALL and are upset and some leave over it.  It’s a problem.

that's the thing they shouldn't believe what Runnells says and realize like I did, hmmm maybe he doesn't know what he's talking about and i'll listen to the experts (who probably have never read the BOM anyways so they couldn't make the connections) and for some the jury is still out or don't care about BOM evidences and just live their life

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Posted (edited)
9 minutes ago, Duncan said:

I think some have and have been proven wrong or debated at least, i.e. this whole debate about where the Hill Cumorah is. I wonder if Jeremy Runnells has examined every scrap of whatever, wherever and decided that this isn't BOM evidence it's evidence for something else and therefore no BOM remains exist. I don't think he's done that! nobody has done that! and what is found academics can disagree on what it is and what it is evidence for

But the fact still remains that as members,  we have not received information from our leaders that archeological or physical evidence has been found (from the BofM people or battles, etc.).  It would be announced.    It’s been searched for and is still being searched for, so I have to believe we’d know about any specific discovery.

I’m just giving my reaction to what Scott wrote.  Members are left asking, “Ok, WHAT discoveries?”

And, can you name one?

That’s the point I was making.

Edited by JulieM
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2 minutes ago, JulieM said:

But the fact still remains that as members,  we have not received information from our leaders that archeological or physical evidence has been found (from the BofM people or battles, etc.).  It would be announced.    It’s been searched for and is still being searched for, so I have to believe we’d know about any specific discovery.

I’m just giving my reaction to what Scott wrote.  Members are left asking, “Ok, WHAT discoveries?”

And, can you name one?

That’s the point I was making.

Scott Gordon would know what he is talking about when it comes to claims, not me!

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6 minutes ago, Duncan said:

that's the thing they shouldn't believe what Runnells says and realize like I did, hmmm maybe he doesn't know what he's talking about and i'll listen to the experts...

 

But Jeremy was right.  There is no archeological evidence that has been found at the Hill Cumorah in NY.  That’s true.

Now will there be any found in the future?  I hope so!!!  But for now, he’s right.  

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Posted (edited)
3 minutes ago, Duncan said:

Scott Gordon would know what he is talking about when it comes to claims, not me!

Then he should just name even one.   He had time to do that.  Instead he just leaves us hanging and almost joking about it.  But someone coming to this presentation for answers after reading the CES Letter doesn’t want that.  Just name one archeological find to prove Jeremy wrong.  That’s what they are asking, I think. (That’s at least my honest reaction).

Edited by JulieM
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I don't mind some of the points Scott makes.  But the framing of it being proof or propaganda based on a few minor points raised from the first chapter?  Sorry that sounds more propaganda-ish than his trying to make the CES Letter seem to be.  

When I first saw the CES letter I was so underwhelmed I didn't really have much to say about it.  Most of the points raised had been raised millions of times, it felt like.  Based on that it brought nothing new to the table I felt little use for it.  But, there's no doubt it continues to have impact.  I really don't see how this little aside from Scott is going to have much impact against it, other than for those who are already convinced the CES Letter is useless.  

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18 minutes ago, JulieM said:

But Jeremy was right.  There is no archeological evidence that has been found at the Hill Cumorah in NY.  That’s true.

Now will there be any found in the future?  I hope so!!!  But for now, he’s right.  

at that Hill Cumorah, in NY but if there is another one? Does Jeremy Runnells know about this? that their used to be evidence but it's long gone now

https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Question:_What_happened_to_the_stone_box_in_which_gold_plates_were_deposited%3F

so, if Runnells the expert now doesn't know about this or did (but i'd be interested to know how he can spin this not being where the plates laid) and didn't tell anyone, you wonder how much of an BOM evidence expert he really is

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Posted (edited)
19 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

When I first saw the CES letter I was so underwhelmed I didn't really have much to say about it.  Most of the points raised had been raised millions of times, it felt like.  Based on that it brought nothing new to the table I felt little use for it.  

That was my reaction as well.   However, I'd already spent years researching and reading about most of these topics.

But unfortunately, it is "new" for many members who read it for the first time.

And Julie has done an excellent job here of laying out how most of their thought processes are from there.  They are left reeling and wanting answers and hoping someone can prove that the letter is filled with lies.  And it's not.  His conclusions can be attacked or disagreed with....but as Julie stated, they believe those too much of the time when they learn he's stated a fact.

I personally do not care for how Runnells has conducted himself throughout this entire thing, but I will not personally attack him.  I try to discuss the contents of the letter (if I discuss it at all).  I do believe that in the very beginning, Jeremy was earnestly searching for answers just as most members do when they learn about some of the more troubling issues.

Edited by ALarson
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4 minutes ago, Duncan said:

at that Hill Cumorah, in NY but if there is another one?

It still doesn’t change the fact that what Jeremy stated is the truth.  Members take note that he was right.  

And “another” Hill Cumorah is speculation, not fact.

When members are shaken and want answers, it’s the facts they want, imo.

 

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Posted (edited)
15 minutes ago, Kevin Christensen said:

If you are right about the wrong question, you're still wrong.

No, he's still right :)   Also, it's not wrong to ask about archaeological evidence around the Hill Cumorah in NY.  Many of were taught that is where the battles took place that were recorded in the Book of Mormon.  I know others have different theories now, but none of those have been proven yet.  Even the church leaders have no official opinion on where it all took place.  So of course, it's a valid question, IMO.

And that's how members think (for the most part).

A great deal of the membership still believe that the Hill Cumorah is in New York and this is where much of the history recorded took place.  They believe this statement (and others from our leaders about this):

Quote

“Both the Nephite and Jaredite civilizations fought their final great wars of extinction at or near the Hill Cumorah (or Ramah as the Jaredites termed it), which hill is located between Palmyra and Manchester in the western part of the state of New York.”

- Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 175

 

Edited by ALarson
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