CES Letter: My Search for Answers to my Mormon Doubts, previously known as Letter to a CES Director, is a 135-page book by Jeremy Runnells which was originally intended to simply ask questions to a Mormon church apologist, but later became a tool used for debunking claims of church leaders and the Book of Mormon. It is quite possibly the single largest readily-available source challenging the religion successfully, and has been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Japanese, and German, with a Finnish translation in the works. The book is freely available online at its website and Runnells has since formed a foundation for helping nontraditional and doubting Mormons.:134
The book is sorted into thirteen sections. It's recommended that you read the book to really understand what it discusses, however.
Sections 1-2: Book of Mormon and translation
In these sections, Runnells discusses issues with apparent plagiarism in the Book of Mormon, anachronisms and archaeological falsehoods, and issues with translation.
- The Book of Mormon incorporates mistakes that were also found in Joseph Smith's exact copy of the Bible and quotes the KJV almost verbatim, incorporating the exact stylistic changes to text that were made in the KJV.
- The place names and geography in the Book of Mormon are curiously similar to those of Joseph Smith's immediate area and other well-known features. Perhaps most amusingly, the angel Moroni is alleged to be the guardian of the Book of Mormon, which was buried on the Hill Cumorah (Moroni is the capital of the Comoros, then known as Camora; these were featured in fictional stories which Joseph Smith read as a child).
- The Book of Mormon is extremely similar in plot to a book originally published approximately 7 years prior fairly close to where Joseph Smith lived, entitled View of the Hebrews. Joseph Smith was loosely connected to the author through his cousin, who helped to start the church with Joseph.
- Similarly, The First Book of Napoleon (also published around 10 years prior to the BOM) contains some passages with very similar verbiage to the BOM.
- The Book of Mormon shares some very specific stylistic quirks with a textbook that Joseph Smith may have read in school. This is not necessarily damning, as it's possible that he simply picked up an odd formal writing style from said textbook, but it's at minimum rather strange.
- The Book of Mormon previously implied that indigenous American peoples descended from peoples of the Middle East, including Israelites. Indigenous Americans are widely agreed to have traveled from Siberia and share DNA with Australo-Melanesians.
- The Book of Mormon mentions animals and goods that were not present in pre-Columbian America, where it is alleged to take place.
- No archaeological evidence suggests the presence of tribes discussed in the Book of Mormon or the battles between these tribes that are described, despite the BOM alleging that they numbered in the millions and telling tales of huge wars.
[continue at page 25]
Section 3: First Vision
Section 4: Book of Abraham
Section 5: Polygamy
Section 6: Prophets
Section 7: Kinderhook plates
Section 8: Testimonies
Section 9: Priesthood restoration
Section 10: Witnesses
Section 11: Temples and Freemasonry
Section 12: Science
Section 13: Other concerns
The book has been received extremely well by ex-members of the church; for example, it's linked as one of the main resources in the ex-Mormon subreddit. The letter offers a well-constructed and relatively concise package containing the primary issues with the LDS religion.
However, as one would expect, church members have received it less favorably. Apologist mills for the church have cranked out bizarre websites and falsehood-riddled debunkings. Responses also employ minimizing tactics to argue that the CES Letter's warranted concerns that are difficult for them to account for are frivolous, and the specific example linked also employs the tone argument. Runnells has addressed FairMormon's response, and they wrote a "debunking" of that too. He hasn't responded to their latest attempt, likely because it would go on forever if he did.
- CES Letter's official website
- Jeremy Runnells, Letter to a CES Director
- Los Angeles Times - Native American origins: When the DNA points two ways
- /r/exmormon on Reddit
- The CES Letter: A Closer Look (not to be confused with the Seth Meyers segment)
- FairMormon's response to the CES letter
- Debunking FairMormon - CES Letter