Another high profile disciplinary council

Some readers may have heard that Jeremy Runnells has announced via a press release that he is facing a disciplinary council.

There are a few points I would like to make:

1)We would not know about this situation if he had not announced it in a press release. Church discipline is private.

2)When the council takes place, we will only hear one side of the story, i.e., Bro. Runnells’.

3)People who are truly interested in repentance usually do not make their disciplinary councils public through press releases. I have known people who faced a disciplinary council with an attitude of understanding and willingness to make changes. They have faced a loving, charitable process that has resulted in true positive progression in their lives. Bro. Runnells’ public statements show he is not interested in counsel from Church leaders.

4)Bro. Runnells’ claims in “Letter to a CES Director” have been thoroughly debunked point by point by FAIR Mormon.

5)Bro. Runnells’ claims had already been debunked by many sources when he wrote them, but he chose to ignore the existing scholarship.

If you have any friends who have been affected by Runnells’ letter, please ask them to read this:

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

34 thoughts on “Another high profile disciplinary council

  1. But . . .

    but . . .

    he was “just asking questions!!!!”

    Maybe Nadine Hansen can write another legal brief to save his bacon.

  2. Great perspective, Geoff.

    Here are some additional resources if you are interested in more thoughts on the CES Letter. There is commentary for those who prefer the 30,000 foot view (like me) or the point and counterpoint rebuttal. This is by no means an exhaustive list.

    Responses to Jeremy Runnells CES Letter:

  3. I’m actually rather surprised that Runnells is still a member. I would not have guessed.

  4. His “Debunking Fair” page is so deceptive. He makes it seem like people can’t trust FairMormon because he has already debunked them. In reality, his “debunking” is just him twisting Fair’s words and taking things out of context while resorting to ridiculous memes to try to prove his point. (Not to mention his pie charts showing that “Fair agrees with 85% of what I say!”… Duh, it’s the last few percentage points that make all the difference. Humans and chimps share 99% of their genes. 1% makes all the difference in the world.)

    For every answer FairMormon gives, Jeremy responds, “I wasn’t ever taught that in church or seminary”. Or, “The mental gymnastics are too much.”

    Church and seminary teach the basics. And it’s not “mental gymnastics”. It’s called reality. Anything that involves real people and real events by default will involve complexity. I would be more concerned if the gospel and history of the Church were as simple as missionary pamphlets.

    FairMormon has debunked Jeremy on every point. The problem is that Jeremy and his followers aren’t interested in answers (and never were). They are only interested in winning the argument.

  5. Jane, thanks for those links. Just a personal observation: I am not the type of person who is persuaded much by the Adam Miller/Jacob (BCC) approach to this issue. I appreciate that there are other people who ARE persuaded, and for these people I salute that approach.

    I tend to be a point-counter point type of person. One person says: “The Book of Mormon mentions horses, there were no horses in Latin America.” The answer is: “who knows what was meant by horses, it could have meant deer, and anyway horse skeletons from before Columbus HAVE been found in the Americas.”

    The point I am trying to make is that I find that type of argument much more persuasive. There have been many studies done to show that people have different ways of receiving and analyzing information, and I am more of a “logical argument” type of person. But I also recognize that my style does not persuade a lot of different kinds of people who are not open to it, so it is good to see a lot of different types of styles being employed.

  6. I think a key point with people like Runnels, Kate Kelly, John Dehlin ie: the loud complainers, is that they do, in fact, have the answers they seek. They, however, don’t like the answers the Church, the scriptures, the leadership gives, so they continue to rebel. Having a tantrum is not going to get them their way, that’s not how the Lord works. It’s very sad too, because they end up taking out a lot of other people with them.

  7. Geoff B…there wasn’t any “corn” in the old world. Nonetheless, it is mentioned in the Bible. What is meant by corn? Examining that issue in the Bible makes similar issues in the Book of Mormon readily explainable.

    Lastly, I won’t believe anything regarding this original post until I read it in the Salt Lake Tribune, with at least 200 comments attached.

  8. I too am surprised he is still a member. I would have thought that he would have excused himself from the fold long ago.

    The whole “press release” is rather odd. How does one put out a press release? Can I do one?

    I’d like everyone to know I had a good day at work today and I am looking forward to Spring’s arrival. Does that count?

  9. The crux of that BCC post is…

    “Whether one stays or leaves, the life of the spirit as well as the intellectual life is meant to be challenging, constantly re-inventing, and paradigm-undermining.”

    What a bunch of cowardice masquerading as intellectual thought. I’m sure the author doesn’t see himself as apathetic, but his approach to faith sure is. The church is apparently just a club, you can buy into or not. So long as your brain is challenged and reinvented, it’s all good.

    Not once did I see a spark of testimony in that writing. It’s the last breathe of a dying faith that will not be planted into the hearts and carried on by the next generation.

    This whole talk of the salvation of souls is apparently nothing to worry about (unless it’s lgbt or other issues that undermine the traditional church viewpoint I presume, then maybe the author will get excited).

  10. I think you might be seeing what you want to see, Gerry. I thought the article did a good job at saying that, whether you leave or stay in the Church, the decision should be a lot more complicated than just looking at a list of pro or anti arguments and deciding on that. It seemed to me that he was trying to provide a way out for people who felt like they had to respond to every argument in the CES Letter. He essentially said that faith is based on so much more than whether a list of anti arguments can be refuted, so you don’t need to worry about the letter. I really can’t see where you get the idea that the author thinks that “this whole talk of the salvation of souls is apparently nothing to worry about.” I don’t think he’d bother to write if that were the case.

    Moreover, it seems incredibly unfair and presumptuous to characterize a person’s belief as “the last breathe [sic] of a dying faith” based on one blog post and to imply that they might be more exercised over a progressive issue when, near as I can tell from looking at the author’s post history, he’s never written on LGBT issues or any other topic that could be as “undermin[ing] the traditional church viewpoint.” (Granted, I haven’t read everything he’s ever written, so I could be wrong. But again, it seems wildly unfair to characterize him as such on the basis of a single post.)

  11. I apologize if my earlier comment was too direct or felt to be critical of the blogger or other commenters. If that was the reason my comment earlier today wasn ‘t posted, please let me know so I can gauge what the bounds of an acceptable comment are.

  12. There should be a presumption of intense loyalty to God and his church among faithful members. That loyalty should not be wishy-washy should I stay or should I go. If you want to go, you are damning yourself and very likely your posterity. Maybe I evoke more Brigham on this than Uchtdorf. But I also don’t thing a spiritual twinkie philopshy on faith calls it’s members to consecrate everything up to their very lives.

    Forgive me if you feel that I’ve accused the author of having dead faith though. The intent of my hyperbole is 100% to point out that the sort of wishy-washiness brought to mind in that article will not inspire generations of faith like pioneers who walked with frozen or bleeding feet across the plains.

    If we’re not asked to walk across the plains in our day, at least it would be nice if we could demonstrate the courage and confidence in our faith as though we were supposed to undertake such a sacrifice.

  13. Count me in as another who is surprised that this guy didn’t write “the letter” to his bishop some time ago. When you publish the definitive compilation of classic, anti-mormon arguments (liberally flavored with your own spin and distortions) and subtitle it “Why I Lost My Testimony”, why are you then surprised that the Church takes you at your word.

  14. What Gerry said about the BCC response, one could, more or less, say about the Faith Promoting Rumor response. I’d say the linked-to FPR response to Runnels’ letter was “praising it with faint damnation*.” And perhaps that is what Gerry meant about the BCC link.

    I agree with Gerry’s observation about maintenance of faith across the generations; children raised by cultural Mormons tend to end up not being Mormon at all. It would be interesting to see whether the children of the various cultural or “orthoprax but not orthodox” bloggers remain active in the church beyond their college years.

    There seems to be a golden middle range of orthodoxy and strictness when raising children in the church. Too much control or strictness, in either behavior or beliefs, drives children away. But too much laxity causes children to think it’s not important.

    Therein lies the danger of the “inspired but not historical” heresy. If the Book of Mormon is not true, ie, if those events did not really occur, then it’s not accurate, and there is no reason to accept it as scripture.

    It is as if the child goes in the same direction as the parents, but… If the parent goes just one step in the negative direction, the children eventually go two.

    That’s one of the paradoxes of the gospel, you have to work hard just to stay even.

    As I see it (admittedly not having been a parent, just observing) a parent who actively disbelieves the foundational truth claims of the church, but still participates because of culture or because it’s a “nice system” in which to raise kids, will see their children (at some point) leave the church.

    *I don’t remember reading that turn-of-phrase before, but I’m confident that I’m not the first to use it. Seems appropriate to describe some of the liberal heterodox crowd.

  15. Dan wrote: “I’d like everyone to know I had a good day at work today and I am looking forward to Spring’s arrival. Does that count?”

    Best press release I have read in years.

  16. Book,

    You wrote: “I agree with Gerry’s observation about maintenance of faith across the generations; children raised by cultural Mormons tend to end up not being Mormon at all. It would be interesting to see whether the children of the various cultural or “orthoprax but not orthodox” bloggers remain active in the church beyond their college years.”

    Just my personal observation: almost all of the “cultural Mormon” parents I know, including many family members, have not been able to maintain Church activity for their kids. I am talking about literally dozens of people that I know personally, and I cannot think of any children who stay in Church beyond the age of 18. Meanwhile, the more orthodox parents that I know probably have a Church activity rate for their kids approaching 70 to 80 percent.

    So, being an orthodox parent does not, in my opinion, guarantee your kids maintaining Church activity, but it certainly increases the odds.

    D&C 68:25: “And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.”

  17. Gerry and BJohnson, I’m going to channel Rameumptom and Meg a bit.

    “Fragile testimony” and “shaken faith syndrome” are real things. We need to be compassionate towards those with those challenges. (And compassion does not mean agreeing with or caving in to.)

    We should be compassionate towards those who are sincerely questioning, seeking faith, and trying to find answers/resolution to the many _seeming_ contradictions and paradoxes of the gospel. Let’s share our testimony and answers.

    Even when someone crosses the line from “questioning” to “disbelieving”, we should be compassionate. And even engage in outreach if they will let us.

    Even when someone crosses the line from disbelieving to “trying to get others to disbelieve too”, we should be compassionate, even though they are setting more fires for the believers to put out. And with this group we also need to be wise in order to resist and counter their subtlety that they often use. Some of these “lie in wait to deceive.” Bruce Charlton made a good comment recently about moderating such comments.

  18. Book, I agree with your general assessment, and I was also interested in the origins of that phrase and found this:

    “Damn with faint praise”–To compliment so feebly that it amounts to no compliment at all, or even implies condemnation. For example, The reviewer damned the singer with faint praise, admiring her dress but not mentioning her voice. This idea was already expressed in Roman times by Favorinus (c. a.d. 110) but the actual expression comes from Alexander Pope’s Epistle to Doctor Arbuthnot (1733): “Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer, and, without sneering, teach the rest to sneer.”

  19. Tiger, yes, I knew “damn with faint praise” has been a saying for centuries. I thought it went back at least to Shakespeare, but not exactly how far back.

    I turned it around and accused the author of that FPR post of “praising with faint damnation” the JR-CES letter. It is this _reverse_ version of the saying that I do not remember seeing anywhere. But a quick web search shows it has been used.

    IMO, this “praising with faint damnation” is part of the subtlety that I mentioned in another comment above.

  20. Can I just add my comments

    1) People are not being excommunicated merely for “asking questions.” John, Kate, and Jeremy are not merely asking questions or expressing doubt. I don’t know if the critics of the church who promote that narrative truly believe it, or if they knowingly promote a false narrative to confuse people who are vulnerable with doubts or to confuse the lazy media who want to publish a quick story without doing justice to how complex these issues really are.

    2) it drives me crazy how the average person believes Jeremy is some authority on any of this stuff. I have seen comments on social media saying that he really has researched his facts and that the church is demonstrably false. They then say that they read the first few pages and were crushed. Jeremy is not a researcher. He is not a historian. His “sources” are often Wikipedia articles or books from critics. I don’t know if he has investigated their underlying claims. He takes all negative information as 100% true and dismisses any alternative explanation or positive information. I’m not saying that people wouldn’t leave the church if they were trained as historians and knew how to review and weigh all sources, but it is frustrating that the Letter caters to people who understand it to present “facts” that are clearly established from the historical record without any distortion or spin of its own.

  21. Thanks Gerry, that helps some. I still think you might be wanting the post to do something it wasn’t designed to do. It seems to me that because the post is “more [Uchtdorf] on this than [Brigham]” you are finding fault with it. But the author is careful to note that his argument won’t work for everyone, and that’s okay. I think he wrote the post precisely because he saw people’s faith being shaken and wanted to help them realize that didn’t have to be the case. Otherwise, what’s the point of writing the post. Alright, he doesn’t have the same particular style of discipleship that others do. I don’t think that makes it “spiritual twinkie philopshy [sic] on faith.”

    “[I]f those events did not really occur, then it’s not accurate, and there is no reason to accept it as scripture.” I think that might be a dangerous criteria to force scripture to adhere to.

  22. My take.

    It’s not that John/Kate/Jeremy have doubts. It’s not that John/Kate/Jeremy are asking questions. It’s not even that John/Kate/Jeremy are proselytizing their disbelief.

    It’s that John/Kate/Jeremy are seeking to crush the Church as an institution because it continues to resist modern notions about gay rights/feminism/I don’t actually know what Runnells’ cause is and am not sure I want to research it.

    In other words, this is ultimately political.

    There is no salvation in politics. But you can find plenty of damnation in politics.

  23. While I appreciate everyone’s frustration, including my own, from the traction and negative influence Jeremy Runnells’ letter has received, I feel that to indicate that all his assertions have been “thoroughly debunked” may be somewhat insensitive to the reality for many people. There are sincere, faithful, intelligent searching members who have read the CES letter and read FAIRMormon’s and responses from others, but have found that for some of the issues the answers are insufficient to resolve the concerns with reason alone. I feel the body of the Church is becoming divided somewhat when those who have more certainty and view things more in black and white deride and act “better than” those members who still believe in the truth claims of the restoration, but may on some issues not have come to the same level of certainty. And Gerry, yes, we want to be able to give our all like the pioneers of old, but I don’t think assertion of certainty in a discrete list of tenents is the primary measure that yields “intense loyalty.” It’s commitment, not certainty, that drives women and men to loyalty and sacrifice. Just ask Laman and Lemuel. A few salient quotes: “The size of your faith or the degree of your knowledge is not the issue—it is the integrity you demonstrate toward the faith you do have and the truth you already know.” –JR Holland Apr. 2013 GC. “If these are your desires, then regardless of your circumstances, your personal history, or the strength of your testimony, there is room for you in this Church. “–DF Uchtdorf Oct 2013 GC. “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a place for people with all kinds of testimonies. There are some members of the Church whose testimony is sure and burns brightly within them. Others are still striving to know for themselves. The Church is a home for all to come together, regardless of the depth or the height of our testimony. I know of no sign on the doors of our meetinghouses that says, ‘Your testimony must be this tall to enter.’” –DF Uchtdorf Oct 2014 GC. See also Sis. Wixom Apr 2015.

  24. J of H,
    “[I]f those events did not really occur, then it’s not accurate, and there is no reason to accept it as scripture.” I think that might be a dangerous criteria to force scripture to adhere to.

    Yeah, there’s a better way of wording that. My point being that if _none_ of those events occurred (avoiding the issue of completeness or accuracy in minor details) it’s a simple logical progression to reject the whole thing, especially for a teenager looking for an excuse to not go to church with mom and dad.

    And, the history of major events in the BoM is intimately entwined with the teachings. The actions described had real life consequences, which illustrate many of the teachings. So my point isn’t about any incompleteness or inaccuracies in the descriptions, but what would be the conclusion, about the teachings, if those events never happened at all?

    It’s actually two-pronged. One, the BoM as “_inspired_ fiction” is logically untenable on it’s own, and is logically incompatible with the restoration. If there were no Lehites, then either Moroni lied to Joseph, or else Joseph lied about Moroni. (Didn’t Joseph also say he met the resurrected Nephi? I think I heard/read that somewhere.)

    Two, is the generational creep. If the parent says to the child “it’s a good book to believe in, but there really weren’t Lehites”, then the child will say “if there really weren’t Lehites, then I’m not going to believe in it.”

  25. Mac,
    People are not being excommunicated merely for “asking questions.” John, Kate, and Jeremy are not merely asking questions or expressing doubt. I don’t know if the critics of the church who promote that narrative truly believe it, or if they knowingly promote a false narrative to ….”

    The latter. They are trying to change the church from within. Chelsea Shields spilled the beans in her TED talk here:

    If they get ex’ed, that hampers their “change from within” narrative.

    After getting exed, JD started advertising (giving links to) other churches or “communities” set up specifically for ex mormons, from his web site.

    Overall, the progressive agenda is not to just change chuches, but to destroy them. The tabulations are in: All churches that adopt progressivism/liberalism/PC decline in membership, quickly. There is a track record now.

  26. If someone with active doubts or merely ‘social’ membership stays in the Church there is always the chance that something will be done or said that ignites their faith. I believe it is for this hope that the bar is not set higher. On the other hand there is a risk that they will infect others with their doubts, particularly if they teach the youth and children. I have witnessed groups of Relief Society sisters being seduced by cunning words into affirming anti-gospel concepts or behaviors. I have heard reports of such things taking place in Elders and High Priests quorums. Fortunately in such instances that I’ve heard of someone contradicts and disputes the errant arguments. I suppose there are other times that there is no one with the gumption to stand up for the truth.
    We must have compassion for those who are faltering in faith, but true love wants the best outcome, which is never apostasy.

  27. When I read these bromides, such as the Letter to a CES Director and others, I am always struck at how homogeneous they are in comparison with similar manifestos or litanies that have been published, promulgated, expounded, etc. They always bring up the same stuff: the same old canards, they same red herrings, they same issues that have been dealt with for decades now.

    I can appreciate a fellow Saint struggling with his or her testimony. That happens all the time because we are not robots and we are trying to make our way through an often spiritually and emotionally treacherous world. Bad stuff happens. You have to put up with a jackass bishop. Your home teachers never show up. Plenty of stuff out there to cause you to look within.

    But the stuff that the Rennells and the Kellys and the Dehlins peddle is not honest questioning. They are subversives in the very worst way.

  28. Yawn. It seems ages since I checked out M*. Apologies.

    This dude is only now getting his chance to claim he’s been excommunicated? That’s somewhat amazing.

    All pale in comparison to Dr. Bennett. And yet I see in the historical record a hint that Dr. Bennett attempted to repent, foiled in life in that goal by Joseph’s death and the fact that everyone else loathed him with a passion.

    It would be delightful if those who have battled against God and His Church would repent in this life. If not, I certainly hope they repent in the next life. I would be very sad if they went before the judgement bar steeped in their current rhetoric.

  29. @Michael Towns,
    Yes, I’ve noticed the same trend. No sin is harder to repent of than the sin of slavish imitation. I suppose to speaks to some issue of insecurity. It is as if they are shouting from the rooftops “Look everyone, I’m just like everyone else who has attacked Mormons. In fact, I am so much like them, I can’t even develop and convey a single original thought.” Pretty pathetic when you think about it.

    I’ve seen some horror stories in the Church during my time… but I have also noticed that there are usually members who do quietly step in – those unsung heroes of the kingdom- who bind wounds, offer shoulders of support and dose out copious quantities of the balm of Gilead. We often spend a lot of time praising the Brethren, but in reality this Church has only been able to accomplish its purposes because of the true discipleship exemplified by these Saints.

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