621: Jeremy Runnells, author of “Letter to a CES Director, Threatened with Excommunication (Press Conference)

12694958_931710828099_2021201784767699419_oOn February 8, 2016, Jeremy Runnells (previously interviewed on Mormon Stories) received notice from his stake president, Mark Ivins, that he would face excommunication (an LDS disciplinary council) on February 14, 2016 for publishing his “Letter to a CES Director.”

Jeremy’s original press release, announcing this decision, can be found here.

CES Letter” represents Jeremy’s sincere attempts obtain answers to several questions/doubts he has had over the years regarding LDS church truth claims.  Some of the topics dealt with in CES Letter include Joseph Smith’s multiple and conflicting accounts of the first vision, Joseph Smith’s polygamy (including to 14/15 year olds) and polyandry (marrying other men’s wives), Book of Mormon historicity, Book of Abraham historicity, etc.

This press conference was held in support of Jeremy, detailing various problems with President Mark Ivins’ handling of the process.  The press conference was live-streamed with over 6,000 people viewing.

The morning after this press conference, Jeremy’s disciplinary council was inexplicably postponed until late March, 2016 by Mark Ivins.

This press conference was held at the Club/Cafe at 50 West in downtown Salt Lake City.


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  1. Much ado about nothing, in one sense at least. If an excommunicated member wishes to consider themselves Mormon for the rest of their days, then why care what the official Church says on the matter? A bunch of elderly men in Salt Lake are in no position to determine who is and who is not Mormon.

  2. Jeremy is clearly a decent human being who is being harassed by a church that can’t handle the ugly truth that it’s truth claims are false. Calling it a “kangaroo court” is calling it mildly.

  3. I respect Jeremy and his work so much. I missed the memo about the event, or I totally would have been there. His letter changed my life and made leaving Mormonism easy.

  4. Clearly Jeremy is a decent human being who is being harassed by a church that can’t face the ugly truth that their truth claims are in fact false. Calling it a “kangaroo court” is calling it mildly.

    1. he might get exed but they will still count him as a active member till his 110th birth day..just a lieing sex cult and I am so bam glad that I quit going and paying..its the biest fraud ever pulled on man

  5. Hearing that Jeremy Runnells is being threatened with excommunication gives me the same feeling I get when I hear that some really old actor from the 1950s just died. I say to myself, “What — were they still alive?!”

    I want to say “What — is he still a member?!”

    1. @charles,

      As a non-Mormon who read Mormon history in the 80’s and tried to share it with my Mormon friends – and as one who has thoroughly enjoyed seeing the truth come to light – that’s what I say about any Mormon I run into – “what, is he still a member?”

  6. I was reared in an abusive cult– just a different one. I left and never looked back. Yes, I did experience shunning, but I know those who are inside and shunning outsiders are captives, still enslaved to the traditions that bind the sect’s members. The secrecy and controlling pattern of the cult become powerful evidence that it is not to be trusted.
    I did have my own very disappointing experience with LDS in the course of my research into the life of Sidney Rigdon, in connection with the sesquicentennial celebration in Friendship, N.Y. and a question I placed in the box at the Mormon Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair. The LDS Church organized an actual theft of the files of material I had amassed, through a scheme that unfolded over several months.

      1. Your readers/listeners might find the account of that elaborate scheme quite interesting, at that. Also interesting might be the connection between Rigdon and Friendship, N.Y., as well as the surrounding area, including Allegany County. I believe Nancy Rigdon Smith is buried in Friendship, and her monument is a smaller scale replica of Joseph’s. For a man who was a member of the first presidency, and was the vice-presidential candidate when Joseph Smith was running for president, Rigdon became the forgotten man in Mormon history, didn’t he! He was with Smith in some of those mob attacks and narrow escapes. He became a local mogul in Allegany County, founding grist mills and banks, and building a mansion with bars on the windows and an escape tunnel off from a fake wine cellar: he lived in fear of “night riders” who might come to take back the gold with which he had decamped, with a few supporters, after Brigham Young had been chosen to succeed Smith.

  7. Jeremy’s work was incredibly helpful to my family and me. Not just the initial letter, but the rebuttal of Fair apologists that showed both sides of the argument.

    Thank you Jeremy for your hard work!

    Happily out and loving life as post ex-mormons.

    -Bryce and Lisa Buys

    Midvale, UT

  8. Jeremy,

    At one point in your interview you mentioned you would be putting your kindle book on your site. If you want help getting it up on Amazon, I would be happy to help. It’s a pretty simple process, but you would either have to list it for free or put a price on it, so maybe you would not want to go that route. They do not have a donate option. Let me know though if you are interested and I will find a way through John to get you my email. Also, if you need any help in the formatting for kindle with the links, let me know. Sounds like you got it, but just thought I would throw the offer out there just in case. Great interview. keep doing what you are doing!

  9. I know many of you have had a problem with the Church and rightfully so.
    I will say that I have mainly positive experiences in the Church and it has been
    very helpful through some of my most difficult moments. I do feel like there is
    definitely some good in the Church that is often forgotten about and looked
    passed and I hope those of you that have left the Church haven’t forgotten those
    good times, if you had that.

    1. Hi Landon! I can appreciate that there are many people who have had and continue to have wonderful experiences in the church. And you are absolutely right when you say there is some good in the church. There are actually many good things in the church, but there are also many damaging and very bad things in the church. From my experience, those who have good experiences in the church and do well in that environment aren’t as concerned about the issues that cause many people to leave the church, and that is understandable. The problem is that those people have a hard time understanding why anyone would leave the church, without realizing that for some people staying in the church is extremely damaging to them. Additionally, the church claims to be the one and only true church on the earth, so when someone discovers information about the church that brings the truthfulness of the church into question, they are more likely to want to know the truth rather than keep their testimony intact. It seems to me that what one does with disturbing information about the church largely depends on their own experience within the church. I know that there are many people who love the church but leave it because they feel it dishonest to continue to be a part of it if they don’t believe. And a lot of that is due to the culture and teachings about strict obedience and belief. I don’t think many people try to forget the good times they had as members of the church, but when you realize you can no longer be a part of it, those happy memories become a poignant reminder of the time and energy you wasted on an organization that didn’t care enough about its members to be honest about its flaws, past and present.

      1. What does Christianity have to do with “good times” and obsessing over the “flaws” of others both living and dead?

        Some people actually believe Christ is who he says he is, that salvation comes from believing and following him, and that this particular church has the same authority he gave to his apostles with all that implies. Most don’t. Simple. some modern governments and societies allow for that. Move on.

        Why all the hysterical hand wringing???

    2. You know Landon, I think a lot of people would agree with you that we all had a lot of good experiences in the church. Many great friends, many great family, some fantastic moments, some painful, some good, some bad. The thing, since I left, I have had the same. Some great experiences, some even greater than I ever had in the church with groups of friends.

      I have never regretted my time in the church. It is a large part of who I am. However, having spent some great times outside of it, I now know that it does not have a monopoly on happiness. In fact, I was less happy there than I am today. I worried a lot more, shamed myself a lot more, was overly critical of others a lot more. I guess I always just thought, oh yeah, but I have TRUE happiness. No.

      My wife and I have had conversations just in the past year that we would have never felt comfortable having in the church. We have opened up to each other more. I still love some aspects of the church, but I have walked both paths, as a 100% dedicated member, and now outside. I have been in that cave, staring at the shadows on the wall. And I still here the ones in the cave tell me, “it’s safer here, it brings us more comfort, more happiness. You can’t be happy out there.” The problem is, they have never left the cave. So how in the world do they know if its happier, or more comforting? I have stood in both spots. I can only speak for myself, but life is better now. Yes, even during the moments of difficulty.

      1. Not judgmental at all. Now how exactly would you know the life story of everyone that has joined / stayed in the church?

        The only “issue” I have with all you nattering naybobs is that you apply a different standard to the LDS church (as a whole) than you do to any other institutional religion (history, doctrine, founders, leaders, members, etc.). Once your discriminating double standard becomes obvious, one questions the underlying motive and end goal. Be equitable and fair with all religions (as even Jeremy admitted he eventually had to do), and then I’ll start to take you seriously.


        1. Hey, i apologize for the offense. Honestly, I am not sure that I wrote anything putting the church down. My experience is that I am happier outside of it. And yes, i have held every religion to the same standard. Mormonism is not a particularly bad religion, certainly not worse than many others.

          I am not sure what I wrote that led to this assumptions that I hold mormon to a higher standard. Actually, i didnt think i was bad mouthing mormonism. The focus of my post was not to down mormonism. However, it seems to have been taken that way. My apologies. You did come to a site though where you should expect to run into some people who do not particularly like the church, so not sure why you should be surprised to find “nattering naybobs” such as myself here.

        2. Why shouldn’t we naybobs hold the LDS church to a different standard? Founder Joseph Smith certainly did by condemning all other churches as the church of Satan, the whore of the Earth and corrupt. Additionally the LDS church claims to be the one and only true church on Earth. Sounds like a “different standard” to me.
          I think the LDS church has placed itself on a different standard–without anyone else’s help.
          Also…who cares who you take seriously.

          A very happy LDS apostate.

        3. LDS is not the only sect that lies about its past and its foundational teachings. But I see not harm in avoiding ALL the sects that do so. There are churches and denominations that do NOT lie about their beginnings. There are churches and denominations that have had members and leaders who were deceptive and corrupt– but have cleaned house, and owned their past failings. The cover-up can be even worse than the original misdeeds.
          It is not necessary to claim that no other churches mislead and are repressive in order to point out that LDS is. I do not have to despise Mormons generally, or all the LDS members I know, to strongly condemn those who deliberately misled me and stole from me.

    3. I agree Landon. I’ve had great moments in the church, but I’ve had horrible experiences too. There is some good in the church. I was always told that ‘the church is true, but the members aren’t’. So I’ve always believed. Then I worked for the LDS church and found out of it’s history and issues (The same as stated in the CES letter) and I started to find out that the church isn’t true also.

    4. Hi Landon, I certainly agree with you that some doctrines and teachings in the church are good. However, it does not mean it is true and many many evidence suggest the opposite. If the church is not true, all the good things on top are just like cover ups. It gives people a dream that it is true and people devote their time, money and family on it. Can you imagine the harm of a person being lied to for their whole life? They could have much better things to do but rather then sacrificing everything to the so called church!

  10. I took a glance at Jeremy’s “Debunking Fair” work and found it to be very impressive. It must have been difficult for somebody with another day job to rebut a group of professional apologists, but Jeremy did it handily. Financial support for Jeremy is money well spent.

  11. What is happening to Jeremy and many others is the LDS Church trying to silence their voices by labeling them as an apostate or a dissenter. If Jeremy is excommunicated, many LDS members will stop reading his material because they have been told to avoid any association with people who oppose the church. It’s even one of the questions they ask during a temple recommend interview. I hope I live to see the day when people just refuse to obey that kind of control.

  12. A wonderful interview. I am so impressed with you Jeremy and what you have done. You also John. The best part of the entire event was the heartfelt testimonies at the end. Those are the type of testimonies that I like to hear. I hope both of you will continue with your important work. You are both the epitome of integrity and courage.

  13. I went to sacrament meeting for the last time about 26 years ago; a few years after that I moved away from Utah (outside the US, actually) and have never once thought about my membership. I’m sure my name is still in the records and if anyone ever seriously examined my life they’d kick me out, though not for the quaint LDS notion of ‘sin’ but rather for apostasy (if that’s what atheism falls under).

    I remain incredibly fascinated by religion and in particular the one I was raised in – Jeremy Runnells’ CES letter was/is an incredible document that all LDS members should have to reckon with at some point in their life. There is not a single item in that letter (that I am aware of) that should give the Church justification for ex-communicating someone who doesn’t wish to be kicked out. How can asking questions be punished like this? If anything in that letter were proven false then maybe…

    Lately I’ve begun to wonder if I should make an effort to resign my membership? It’s honestly something I’ve not cared about enough to waste any energy on since I live far enough away that I’m not harassed by missionaries or anyone. But reading more stories like these and with many of my friends and family back in Utah leaving the church I wonder whether adding my pebble to the pile of those leaving wouldn’t make some kind of difference?

  14. Jeremy
    Thank you so much for the volume of work you accomplished originating with the original CES Letter. In listening to your previous interview on MS it is obvious that your questions came from a thoughtful and deeply centered place of thought, love and trust. And this is how you are treated? How simple it would have been over the past couple years to have given you simple answers, right? But as we all know now and you did not know at the time…there are no answers. The story we were taught had been rewritten and continues to be. What is taught is not based on fact but fiction. No one will ever get the answers no matter how many times they ask because there are none that withstand the scrutiny of light. Just like in Joseph Smith’s time people were excommunicated on the spot if he did not get his way.
    I know you realize this but it is patheticis that you are being made a public example to divert attention away from the questions. It is an act of cowardice and conspiracy. If the result is excommunication then you will be branded an apostate and the Church will use this to dissuade people from reading or believing what you say. They are putting out fires and using their (wait a minute, the members money) to abuse people who do not stay in line. What is expected? Blind obedience, no speaking, no questioning, no opinions, shunning, told what to read, what to watch on TV and the Movies & Internet, what clothes to wear-, down to your underwear no less, what to do with your time, and your money. Hmmm So what are we actually losing? Nothing! Just inviting FREEDOM into our lives, minds and hearts.
    Know that many people all over the world are thinking of you and sending you love during this time. You are standing as a spokesman for so many. You will probably be 10 fold better studied on the matters than anyone in the room. Please feel the appreciation and love felt by so many people for your work, integrity and sacrifices,
    And John, thank you for your efforts in being there for Jeremy and supporting him with Mormon Stories and your public contacts.

  15. I may be a bit unfeeling, but when everyone knows what you believe, andTBM’s know you don’t believe the church is true, and they know you think the BofM is false and that JS was a fraud; why worry about staying. Just resign already! TBM’s don’t want you teaching their kids or even allowing you to come in contact with them, so why worry about your name on a roll? It seems like a waste of time and energy.

    Jeremy, you are a great guy and I love what you have done and the Letter is amazing, and John is amazing too; but when the church is nothing but a trademark owned by some corporation, why worry about staying in the cult/club? 99% of the TBM’s don’t want you there anyway, so why worry about staying? I just don’t get it.

    Instead of making such a big deal of it all, you both should have just resigned a long time ago. Jesus said let the dead bury the dead. I believe you both have made a huge mountain out of a molehill. It has become a big soap opera, fun to listen to, but a waste of time and energy. Maybe we should try to live by our own advice and quit feeling, feeling, feeling so badly about what the church is or isn’t doing.

    And on the FairMormon battle, those guys don’t even deserver your attention. Who cares what they say. It has been shown over and over again that they are of a lesser intelligent crowd. Those who like what they say and like to listen to them deserve what they get.

    I’m way more interested in Mormon Studies, but Brent doesn’t seem to be too very involved with it at the moment. Someone needs to light a fire under him.

  16. I’m finally reading Fawn Brodie’s book on JS. This pattern of silencing anyone that goes public with doubts is a pattern created by JS, followed by BY and is continuing now with Jeremy. Great job with the CES letter.

    JS and the church he created have to be propped up at all costs. Whether it was William Law that went public about JS or Jeremy or John, they must be pushed out. Going public about JS and the consequences of church discipline will never be an honest process. It can’t be, because the church has no real legit answers to the points in documents like the CES letter. All they can do is to chase away the “squeaky wheel”, excommunicate them and then tell the remaining believing flock that the apostate is the evil one. Don’t read anything that this person says because it is of the devil and you might lose your salvation.

    The pattern is just repeating itself once again. I feel bad for you Jeremy and how you have been treated.

  17. I have listened to both of Jeremy’s Mormon Stories interviews and appreciate his insight and honesty. The one thing that struck me about Jeremy and many other men who become disenchanted with the church is the absolute sense of shock over polyandry. Women in the Mormon church have had to deal with sharing a husband for the entire history of the church. The talk bout JS “stealing other men’s wives,” struck me as incredibly hypocritical.

    1. Although a bit off topic thank you for mentioning this fact. It stood out glaringly to me when I heard both John and Jeremy’s comments but I was just going to let it slide. The good part is men having such a visceral repugnance of polyandry gives them an opportunity for a small glimpse into the reality of a Mormon woman’s life and the message she has been spoon fed from infancy of her eternal destiny. Men are irate over polyandry but somehow polygamy can simmer. Just shows you what careful conditioning will do. Hopefully this shocking awareness of Joseph’s exploits will encourage more compassion and understanding for the heavy mental and emotional burden placed on the wome they love.

  18. I’ve watched the interview and read the letter. Every point and question in the letter is valid. He’s obviously a truth seeker and just wants answers. As far as I know he’s never been given any. Interesting how the church would rather discipline him than answer his questions. I thought the 15 dudes were supposed to be really smart and know what they’re doing. Clearly they don’t understand that church discipline doesn’t answer the questions and serves to further validate Jeremy’s points.

  19. My favorite point is that people are leaving the church because of the information in the essays. The Church is reaping what it has sown. Of course this is beside the point as sharing this information in a manner that implicates shortcomings of the institution or its leadership is verbotten. Thus the court of love.

  20. Jeremy will probably be excommunicated as the church needs him to be an example. The church will use its oldest weapon, fear on its members so they stop looking for answers. Manipulation and control are the oldest tools and anytime someone publicly questions the organization, the organization must make an example out of them.

    1. Well, as a man, I certainly do not think polyandry is worse than polygamy. I do not have a single friend that thinks that either. An almost 15 year old being pressured into marrying a 37 year old prophet by her own dad is by FAR more repugnant to most males.

      I guess though when you hear the shock from polyandry, its not because most men, at least that I know, think its worse. It’s because they really were conditioned very carefully about polygamy. I personally thought there were all these rules about polygamy and that the men didnt want to practice it and etc. And then it had this basis from the bible, and the idea that it was to raise up seed seemed to make sense to my TBM self in weird way that I never investigated. When i started having my suspicions that things were perhaps not lining up with that narrative, it was polyandry that sealed that suspicion. Sending a man on a mission and taking his wife, well, that was biblical alright. Straight in line with David sending a man to war so he could have his wife. It just dissolved all the defenses i was trying to create and it helped me also see polygamy for what it was. It opened the door for me to doubt further, then start to wonder what it must have been like to be a woman in 1830 with no power or equality, no where to turn, and to be told you need to marry this guy that has 20 wives so you and your family’s eternal welfare can be secured. Anyway, just the way I saw it. Certainly at no time at all have I ever thought polyandry was worse than pressuring a teenager into a relationship, no, not even close. I can’t speak for John or Jeremy, but I doubt they mean to say that polyandry is worse than polygamy, its just that polyandry proposed a different perspective on how the information is presented and how it affects you. My wife and I have discussed this many times too, and she agrees that the polyandry was different, not worse, but a clear indication that some dark crap was going down in Nauvoo.

      1. Hey, I really appreciate your reply. I guess I hadn’t considered the conditioning factor. I believe in the gospel, but I am no longer orthodox and I do not believe that polygamy or polyandry are part of the gospel. Wrong is wrong! Thanks again for clarifying!

  21. I don’t mean to be rude but I found it interesting that you two men cited “polyandry” as being one of your main shelf-breakers. We’ve all known about polygamy for forever (and I guess being promised a million wives isn’t such a bad deal to men and therefore is not “shelf-breaking”), and women have had to carry the heavy burden of it throughout our lives… But it seems like to men, having multiple wives isn’t quite as bad as being one of many husbands (and therefore having to share your wife rather than her having to share you). Haha. I guess that until it hits home, it is hard to fully understand what we women have been dealing with. As a disclaimer, I understand that polyandry involved marrying people who were already married which is disgusting on another level, but I assume you get my point!

  22. “CES Letter represents Jeremy’s sincere attempts obtain answers to several questions/doubts he has had over the years regarding LDS church truth claims.” That may have been how the CES letter originated, but that is not the current story. To say that he is being disciplined for “asking questions” is ridiculous, and entirely dishonest. This seriously lessons the integrity of Jeremy Runnels in my mind, and if John Dehlin supports this view then this lessons his integrity as well. It sounds good in a press release, making the Church look like a big bad wolf eating everyone with questions. But that is not honest, this Letter is not simply asking questions. It has become the main pamphlet for those looking for reasons to leave, or a pamphlet to give to spouses when the other leaves the church. That is not simply asking questions.

    These statements are not honest. Those statement are blatant lies. Congrats on Mormon Stories for promoting lies.

    1. Adam respectfully you are missing the point. Jeremy would like to stay. His intent was not to create what is as you imply the de facto treatise on the falseness of mormonism. If you are dealing with questions of law, accountability, or tort intention plays a major role. The fact is the Heritage of the church is still meaningful to Jeremy, his wife, as well as his extended family. We are not to play the role of judge, jury and executioner.

  23. Wow! What an awakening. Jeremy and John thank you for all you have done to help me with finding the answers to so Many Many questions. May I say your work is SO SO compelling and thoughtful. Please one suggestion to all sincere people in helping educate many of us. When telling of your knowledge and experiences try very hard not to come off smug, condescending or comical as it is a serious serious subject to those that are not educated or new to this information. While so much compassion is shown 90% of the time it is the small percent if heard by the new learners that give them a reason to be haters. I think it is needed to be emphasized in every talk that everyone deals with things differently and it is with sincere intent and human imperfection that this information or knowledge is given. Just a thought how it only takes a root of hate to infest the whole tree. Thanks again for all you have done and are doing….sincerely!!

  24. Jeremy,
    thank you, thank you, thank you! For bringing my wife back to me.
    Your letter made all the difference for my wife when the truth claims of the church was splitting us apart.

  25. Wondering Wanderer

    Thanks, Jeremy and John, for challenging the powers that be, for insisting upon being heard, for pushing back against the church’s attempts to silence and defame you, for clearing up the confusion caused by the omissions and obfuscation in church essays and media releases, for the support you provide to so many others out here who now know that they are not alone in their concerns, for putting it all on the table. What a breath of fresh air to hear words that are direct, to the point, and free of “religious correctness.” The bits of comic relief are also greatly appreciated and needed.

  26. I, too was reared in a cult, and many of my relatives are still trapped in it. Not the same cult, but similar in many ways. It is extremely secretive, and very mysterious about its beginnings, and really creative about hiding its assets and denying its actual practices and beliefs. Whenever I have an opportunity I help people “escape.”
    Many discussions similar to Mormon Stories blogs take place when anyone commits the breach of etiquette of discussion the cult. There’s the old refrain, “Most of the people are so nice!” or “They are good family people.” Then there’s the business about how tight knit the group is, connected to each other by mail and phone and email and social media. There’s the argument that “they are happy, so no one else should find any fault with their system.” Well, no, they are not all happy, as we know from those who have managed to get out (known as the Bitter Exes, by those still inside). If that is the best argument, then it comes down to being an organization that provides SOCIAL benefits to its people. The other side of that coin is the withdrawal of social contact if they leave, and the shunning by family and supposed friends. People like to be insiders in an exclusive club. They like having secret knowledge, something their alone, not available to outsiders. They feel superior. They like the underground aspects of their group.
    None of that “superiority” is based on actual special access to God. From what I can see, that cult’s adherents do not really base their loyalty on spiritual matters or on deep faith. As the Mafia feels safe and comfortable having “our thing,” cult members have “their thing” and this makes them special. They reinforce one another in their specialness. As for their history, their foundational myths, those may or may not be literally true, but it DOESN’T MATTER to a “true believer, because they like their system and would be afraid of leaving it and losing most of the relationships that are important to them. One cult can learn all about Ellen White but find many reasons for staying in that cult. Another can learn abut the beginnings of their group, and why they are called Russellites, but that was then, and the deceptions practiced by leaders, back then, are not being practiced now. Or at least not in the same way. There are favorite passages of scripture used to prove their authenticity and their claims to being the one, true way– scripture wrenched from context, and misinterpreted, but clung to mindlessly and used to bash “doubters” and the people in “false churches.”
    Over and over there is the claim of being harmless, even if the original basis for belief might be open to serious question, or even proven to be untrue. But no, such cults are NOT harmless. The benefits claimed for them come at the cost of the imprisonment of minds, and sometimes tacit acceptances of seriously abusive practices.

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