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Author of ‘Letter to a CES Director’ out of LDS Church after disciplinary council

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AMERICAN FORK, Utah -- A crowd gathered outside an LDS Church in American Fork Sunday night to show support for Jeremy Runnells, who was attending a disciplinary council that ultimately resulted in the end of his membership in the Mormon faith.

People clapped and cheered, as well as held signs that said, "Thank you Jeremy," to show support.

To them, Runnells was breaking new ground by breaking away from the LDS Church.

"I just really felt like this is history, and I had to be here," said Jerry Byers, who traveled from California for the event. "Nobody's put together something like this."

Jeremy Runnells gained prominence after writing a lengthy piece called "letter to a CES [Church Education System] Director."  Earlier this year, Runnells said he was facing excommunication as a result of his writings questioning some tenets of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In his letter, Runnells raises a number of doubts and questions about the Mormon religion and its history. Some of the topics include Joseph Smith's polygamist practices and the writings in the Book of Mormon.

Runnells said he was promised a response by the CES director, but he said that never came. He said he was then approached by his stake president (a regional leader who oversees several congregations), who he said also promised answers.

"Three years and no answers from the CES director, and a year and a half of no answers from my stake president," he said. "It became very obvious that the church does not have answers."

Runnells said in January, he finally got communication--but it called for disciplinary council.

According to a Mormon resource site, the purpose of a disciplinary council is to discuss sins with the person, pray, and figure out how to move forward.

The results can range from no action, to excommunication.

"This is how the Church is treating people who have questions, people who rise up and say, 'Hey, can you answer this? This doesn't make sense,'" said Steve Holbrook, who helped organize a vigil for Runnells before his disciplinary council meeting.

On the CES Letter website it states Runnells was facing charges of apostasy, but states he feels the letter, "represents Runnells' sincere attempt to obtain answers to legitimate questions and doubts through proper church leadership channels."

Runnells said during disciplinary council he was told it was unacceptable to go public with his concerns and questions.

After his meeting, Runnells came outside and proclaimed: "I have excommunicated the LDS Church." He said he was the one who decided to resign.

Runnells is legally deaf, but the applause that broke out rang loud and clear. Some said this shows the church needs to change, or at least, start answering questions.

Officials with the LDS Church declined to comment on the disciplinary council, saying they are private matters.

208 comments

  • Rory Siwik

    When is it a “SIN” to seek clarification?

    “According to a Mormon resource site, the purpose of a disciplinary council is to discuss sins with the person, pray, and figure out how to move forward.”

    • DSC

      Clearly you haven’t read the letter. It is a diatribe punctuated by question marks. The intent of the letter is clear from the get go.

      • Rory Siwik

        You assumed… wrong.

        I quote from the letter, which per you, I did not read.

        “I’ve decided to lay down just about all the major concerns that I have. I went through my notes
        from my past year of research and compiled them together. It doesn’t make sense for me to just lay
        down 5 concerns while I also have 20 other legitimate concerns that are keeping me from believing
        the truth claims of the LDS Church.”

        Glad this guy put down the koolaid and woke up.

      • Shirts

        You can’t know for sure that was the intent. You can assume based on language or punctuation but my intent has often times been misunderstood and misinterpret based of language, sentence structure, and punctuation. I struggle often with writing my intent. I also have a couple disorders that makes writing things like that more difficult, especially if I’m asking something based off of research.

      • DSC

        So many of his “legitimate” concerns have been answered dozens of times by many people. FAIRMormon has answered almost every single one of these, mostly by pointing to sources that answered these questions long ago. Anyone who had sincere questions and had earnestly done the research would have winnowed the questions down to less than half. The presence of so many easily answered questions without any acknowledgment of those answers makes it clear what his intention was.

    • analogismos

      It’s pretty clear from his phrasing and from his presentation of himself on his website (including attempting to solicit funds in addition to social credibility and importance) That he is seeking “importance” and social relevance more than answers. I do suspect that he initially wanted answers honestly, but that somewhere along the way, that clearly changed. It’s likely that the Church’ delays and unwillingness to provide (all the) answers contributed to that however.

      • Brian

        Judging by that it seems because he wasn’t getting answers that he actually trying to gain attention and a bigger voice. If you’re constantly getting ignored and not answered one way to do so is have a lot more people asking the same questions and to become noticeable where those questions get noticed. To me, I would do it not to destroy but to have a stronger voice in hopes it becomes where you can’t ignore it and address the questions.

  • Tommy

    I find it hard to believe Jeremy is sincerely looking for truthful answers when there is a giant donate monthly section on his web site. I read his letter and it didn’t do much for me, I just can’t get over how gross it is for him to seek a public spotlight and attack peoples beliefs, and then ask money for it.

    • Belial (@Son0fPerdition)

      Hosting a website is expensive. Especially one that has several hundred thousand downloads. Also, his site started without a donation feature, but after it was added he has been crystal clear with his finances that have come from it. A clear and honest accounting of every penny is something the LDS Church won’t entertain for even one moment.

  • BOB

    How long would anybody expect to remain an employee in the Salt Lake City’s lesbian mayor’s administration if they challenged her lesbian attraction? Even if their questions were “sincere”?

  • BOB

    I’m sure any employee in Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski’s administration would keep their job if they went public with their “sincere” questions about her lesbian lifestyle. Yeah, Right!!!

  • BOB

    @Regina
    I’m sure any employee in Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski’s administration would keep their job if they went public with their “sincere” questions about her lesbian lifestyle. Right Regina?

    People are free to attack the Mormons publically …. they just can’t plan on keeping their membership if they do.

  • Jason

    I think the fact that the church would kick out its members for asking questions, and the fact that other members are defending that by comparing it to a business, reinforces this simple fact: Membership or acceptance into this church has nothing to do whatsoever with a persons spirituality, their spiritual trajectory, weather or not they get into the C kingdom, their worth as a person, or any other item of spiritual nature. This church is a good ol boys club, with no authority or real ability to affect ones spiritual life. If the church was what it claimed, and its members were who they say they are, they would never let a mans entire spiritual future and glory be taken away for asking questions. Its a classic egotistical, corporate move by the church, and has no bearing on reality whatsoever. More people need to take their own power back.

    • BOB

      The Mormons don’t kick out members for asking questions. They will however excommunicate members who publish challenges to their beliefs. Sincere members know they can ask questions. Insincere members take their questions to the public.

      • Rory Siwik

        And BYU would never compromise a rape investigation and start an inquisition on the victim riiiight 😉 Check last weeks news. corporation of bologna and smoke is more like it.

      • Jason

        Sorry bob, i dont buy that God will damn his child to hell and eternal torment for asking questions publically – perfectly valid questions i may add, that the church has now been forced to address in its own essays. Since God is the same today and yesterday, he must be ok with people questioning for example the blacks in the priesthood issue, since the church now admits it was racism and not revelation. However when Jeremy questioned it they hadnt yet admitted it. So what else has the church not yet admitted? Like i said, this chirch has no authority over items of a spiritual nature. Only one man can save you, and it isnt Tommy.

      • Gomez

        Does the church not make it’s claims in public?Then it should answer questions about those claims in public.

      • Gomez

        You might as well have said;

        “North Korea does not put people in prison for asking questions. Kim Jong Un will however send those to labor camps for further education if they publicly challenge his beliefs. Sincere citizens know they can ask questions. Insincere citizens take their questions to the public & need to be re-educated.”

        Can’t you see how cultish this is?

    • lefthandloafer55

      Got to agree here. I find it really disingenuous when folks get all lathered up and attempt to “split hairs” in regards to asking a question publically or privately. It’s a “freaking” question? What is the LDS Church and so many of it’s people afraid of? The more they try to shut people up – the sillier and more petulant they appear. I’m pretty ashamed of them , really!

  • Dusty

    Who gets “famous ” for discrediting the church? He had questions. The church blew him off. So he took it to the next level. They can’t answer his questions. Easiest thing is to accuse him for going against the church. Now no one has to answer those questions.

  • Kari McDonald

    Many very important questions have been asked by many members…..An ex Bishop and his wife of the LDS church even while going through the temple had questions but afraid to ask them. Why would you not have questions answered rather than hidden faith…..
    Asking a question was finally done by email in this one case. Unanswered questions still -go to your bishop for answers was the reply. There is no written policy?! It’s a matter of opinion from the bishops history to privately give you there private answers. Wrong roads are followed with those supposed answers in many cases…….I have to add when it comes to safety of a child the answers should be simply clear as to what you should do…DO NOT MAKE AN ERROR…All our vulnerable families count even though certain ugly things are not happening in your family- I ask if your children were screaming for help.?!?! All our Children matter

  • rob

    If you like tradition over truth keep your eyes shut. If you think the letter is a lie go prove it wrong.
    Don’t be scared
    “If we have the truth, it
    cannot be harmed by investigation.
    If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.”

    President J. Reuben Clark

  • Shirtsy

    My question in response to The idea that his intent was to destroy the LDS church or pull people away and why he made it public and kept it private is, if you were having such a massive spiritual crisis daunted by fear and massive emotional distress built on the possibility everything you love, believed, taught, and built your life around looked like it was based on a lie full of deception, would you not do everything you can to get attention to those questions in hope of having them answered? If you sent your concern and heard they will answer but make no effort to do so and you already have feelings Of doubt and deception would you not feel they ignored your concern? Would you no feel that your faith crisis is not important to this church? Would you not desperately seak a way for your voice and concern be louder? Desperation, fear, and emotional crisis can cause people to do whatever they can to be addressed. Sharing it and bringing a large body of attention to it would it not bring attention to those he is seeking answers from? When can easily assume his intent is to destroy but can we know that for certain at this point? Can we not consider the idea of doing anything he can to build attention, even risking discipline and excommunication to get answers to deeply internally troubling questions? He gained attention and it was addressed and he didn’t get answers so he chose to leave. Listen to his speak, it doesn’t sound angry but more hurt but that’s mere speculation. We can assume his intent and see what we want to see by his language and his drawing attention to it but we can also assume he did that desperately to get attention because he so desperately wanted answers to questions that were being ignored.

  • Cody Quirk

    “In his letter, Runnells raises a number of doubts and questions about the Mormon religion and its history. Some of the topics include Joseph Smith’s polygamist practices and the writings in the Book of Mormon.
    Runnells said he was promised a response by the CES director, but he said that never came. He said he was then approached by his stake president (a regional leader who oversees several congregations), who he said also promised answers.”

    If Runnells was a sincere church member that simply had questions that he wanted answered, then explain this-

    http://en.fairmormon.org/Criticism_of_Mormonism/Online_documents/Letter_to_a_CES_Director/Debunking_FairMormon

    It’s obvious that Runnells is not who he says he is, and has a serious ax to grind against the LDS Church and was quite unwilling to accept any kind of answer to his ‘questions’.

  • BOB

    In the days of Noah the people alll had “questions” and they didn’t like Noah’s answers and so they blew him off.

  • BOB

    @BOB
    Your comments remind me of why Mother Nature created AIDS. There is nothing gay about being a homosexual Bob.

  • Gomez

    Much is being made of him making his questions and concerns public. Are not the claims made by the church made public? If a claim is made in public then it is only fair that questions about it be answered in public, otherwise you might just as well keep it to yourself.

    • BOB

      No GOMEZ, if you’d read the article you would have seen that, and I quote, “Officials with the LDS Church declined to comment on the disciplinary council, saying they are private matters”.

      You did read that GOMEZ didn’t you?

      • Gomez

        I read it. The claims I was talking about were the claims that the church makes publicly on a daily basis & are the claims that Runnells had questions about.

        It’s dishonest to make claims in public and then refuse to answer legitimate questions about those claims in public.

      • BOB

        Just as any other apostate Jeremy Runnells is now free to say whatever he wants without regard to loss of his membership. He want to leave, and he got his wish. Works for me.

      • Gomez

        “Just as any other apostate Jeremy Runnells is now free to say whatever he wants without regard to loss of his membership.”

        Do you have any idea how childish & silly this sort of threat sounds? You might as well be telling a child that Santa is not going to bring him presents any more if he doesn’t stop asking questions. Really, it’s infantile. So they kick him out of a superstitious, homophobic magic club, so what? : )

      • BOB

        People who professed to believe in God hung His Son on a cross ….. and felt justified. In the days of Noah people had “sincere” questions and didn’t like Noah’s answers. Do you have any idea how childish & silly they thought Noah’s threats sounded?

      • Gomez

        “In the days of Noah people had “sincere” questions and didn’t like Noah’s answers. Do you have any idea how childish & silly they thought Noah’s threats sounded?”

        You know those are just stories, don’t you? That no evidence exists for either a world wide flood or that it is possible to put 2 of each living species on a boat. They are mythology, folk tales created by the elders of a tribe in an attempt to bring sense to their natural world & to control people with fear of retribution. Sorry,for most those threats no longer work.

        Try again. : )

    • HaroldTheCat

      Being a member of the church is like two football teams on the gridiron playing by different rules. Church leaders don’t play by the rules they expect the general membership to abide by.

  • Sarah

    He wasn’t only asking questions. He wrote an OPEN LETTER. When someone writes an open letter, they don’t do it for the purpose of communication with the person who the letter is said to be directed toward. The purpose of an open letter is to publicly criticize. If people really want answers about the church, attend a meeting, talk with missionaries, read the book of mormon or church history papers. There’s a lot of information out there.

    • Gomez

      “He wrote an OPEN LETTER. When someone writes an open letter, they don’t do it for the purpose of communication with the person who the letter is said to be directed toward. The purpose of an open letter is to publicly criticize.”

      The church’s claims are all public and in the OPEN.. So public & in the open, in fact, that a couple young men knocked on my door a few months ago to tell me about them.

      You know that there is a god & you know what he wants of us & you are going to state that publicly for all to hear? Then be prepared to answer questions about your claims publicly as well IMO.

    • Gomez

      If believers could keep their personal faith beliefs to themselves then you’d have a point. We all know that you can’t do that though, don’t we? Mormons in particular are always trying to worm their personal faith beliefs into our schools, laws, government & public policy. When you start keeping your personal religious beliefs to yourself, then you won’t hear a peep from me.

      You know that there is a god & you know what he wants of us? Prove it. I dare you. I double dare you.

      PS. If you were able to you’d be the first person in the history of mankind to be able to do so.

      • Stewart McDonald

        There was a time when the world’s best scientists could see atoms, and there was no way at the time to prove their existence. What you need is patience Gomez. The time when you will know that the God you deny today exists ….. or perhaps you can prove otherwise?

      • Gomez

        Well how about until then you just keep your faith belief yourself, otherwise don’t whine & complain if asked to provide evidence. You are the one making the assertive claim, inconvenient as it may be, the burden of proof lies with you. : )

      • Gomez

        Take two (I wish this forum had an edit feature!) : )

        “What you need is patience Gomez.”

        Well how about until then you just keep your personal faith beliefs to yourself? Otherwise don’t whine & complain when asked to provide evidence. You are the one making the assertive claim. Inconvenient as it may be, the burden of proof lies with you. : )

      • Gomez

        You’ve never really had this sort of discussion before, have you? : )

        Prove to me that Mohamed was not the one true prophet. Prove to me that Thor does not exist. Prove to me that leprechauns are not real. Prove to me that I do not have an invisible unicorn living in a magic hat in my garage. If you are not able to disprove my claims, that would mean they are true, right?

        See how silly that is? The person making the claim (in this case being you) ALWAYS has the burden of proof.

        Try again. I can do this all day.

      • Moderator

        You should know better than argue with Bob the LDS Troll. Thats all he does is troll these pages looking to force his LDS opinions on everybody. He actually does more harm than good by revealing his Arrogant bigotry. Which is also rampant in the church.

  • Bob

    I dont need to prove anything. I will be in heaven, while the rest of you non LDS will go somewhere else. Dont believe me. Just ask President Monson. I will be glorious. All LDS and no Homosexuals.

    • Gomez

      “I will be in heaven, while the rest of you non LDS will go somewhere else. ”
      You’re a funny guy Bob. The self delusion & denial of reality you have is pretty amazing.
      I’m guessing that the reason you are declining to provide evidence for your claims is because you know that YOU CAN’T. When presented with uncomfortable or difficult questions about your faith you literally stick your fingers in your ears & go “LALALALAA!!” Like I said, you’re a funny guy. : )

      • Gomez

        Attempting to shift our attention or redirect the conversation won’t work Bob.
        Again, please provide proof for your claims that there is a god & you know what he wants of us.
        PS. It’s really obvious to all here that you’re dancing around this issue & that it’s making you uncomfortable. My advise? If you’re already in a hole put down your shovel & stop digging.You’re only making yourself look foolish.

    • Skyler Harrison

      Will Joseph Smith be there? Being that he is a rapist. Will Brigham Young be there? Being that he taught about the Adam-God concept which modern LDS leaders say was false doctrine.

      • Gomez

        “Better take Bob’s advice and read Luke 6:37. I wouldn’t want you to burn in hell.”

        Veiled threats will not change my mind. Evidence will. Try again.

  • Bob

    Luke 6:37
    “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

  • Skyler Harrison

    I left mormonism in my teen years for my own reasons. I recently read and re read multiple times “Letter to a CES director”. My mind was blown! I have never became so entranced in a piece of literature in my entire life. Everything that I was taught as a child about the church seemed so whitewashed and edited. I already knew that the book of Abraham has some serious flaws, but nothing like how it was described in the letter.

    I would like to invite everyone, both non Mormon and Mormons alike to take the time to read this letter and not just take the authors word for it, but go do your own research and investigating. I promise you, that you will find the origins of Mormonism deeply flawed and very questionable.

  • BOB

    And Joe wonders why decent society has no tolerance for sexual deviants. When it comes to self respect Joe doesn’t even understand the concept. Probably why I love it when Mother Nature removes them from the gene pool.

    • KindFoodFarm

      “Tragically persecuted martyr” is not something Jeremy or any of his supporters have called him, and as for Fox13 painting him as one? Not by a long shot. Way to set up a stupid little strawman so you could knock it down.

  • KindFoodFarm

    Talk about burying the lead! Jeremy excommunicated the church, not the other way around, as the headline and most of the article implies. After President Ivins refused to follow the church handbook of instructions to allow for quesions and answers and for half of the council to support/defend him, it became clear to Jeremy that there was no other reasonable course but resignation. Brilliant! Now they can’t excommunicate him, and they’ve just drawn that much more attention to CESletter.com.

  • Eric Lopez

    I’m bringing to light Mr. Runnel’s open letter to Quentin L. Cook. I hope Cook can respond to the entirely mature and reasonable questions found therein.

    http://en.fairmormon.org/Criticism_of_Mormonism/Online_documents/Letter_to_a_CES_Director/An_%22open_letter%22_to_Elder_Quentin_L._Cook#cite_note-1

    And since I already know that Jeremy is going to cry ad hominem here (it is his standard response to anyone who ever questions his account of things), let me point out, paraphrasing him (as quoted by Fox News):

    “I asked questions (about his current version of the story), I shared my concerns (with its accuracy), and I shared facts and information that are backed by his own statements and actions. So if sharing the truth, and publicly, is ad hominem, then I think that’s a problem.”

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