Jim Bennett is the author of “A Faithful Reply to the CES Letter.”  He is also the son of the late Utah U.S. Senator Bob Bennett.

In Part 2 of a multi-part series with Jim, we discuss in-depth his approach to maintaining belief in the Mormon church AFTER exposure to all of the historical and social problems currently vexing the LDS church, as highlighted in Jeremy Runnell’s groundbreaking book “CES Letter: My Search for Answers to my Mormon Doubts.”

Today’s episode covers:

  • The Book of Mormon
  • The Witnesses to the Book of Mormon
  • The Book of Abraham
  • The Kinderhook Plates
  • The First Vision
  • And much, much more!

Also, please do not miss my dear friend Bill Reel’s super in-depth interview with Jim if you happened to miss it.

Download MP3


  1. Daniel J Condie January 2, 2021 at 12:10 am - Reply

    Does anyone know which mound builder book John referred to in the episode?

      • Daniel J Condie January 2, 2021 at 4:18 pm - Reply

        Awesome thank you John!

      • Old Dog August 4, 2021 at 1:14 pm - Reply

        John, this is not about mound builders, but I would like to share with you some other interesting historical facts about Palmyra that may not be well known.

        The first Town Meeting in Palmyra was held in April of 1796 in the home of Gideon Durfee. There was another event, also in 1796, and also in Gideon Durfee’s home, but it was quite unusual. It was a visit by a French prince who had fled his homeland at the age of nineteen after his father was guillotined in 1793. The prince spent twenty years running from country to country, to get away from political enemies, and moved every time his true identity was discovered. He traveled America’s western frontier extensively, living at times with Indians, and had come to Palmyra from Niagara Falls. He was finally able to return home in 1830 and was declared by the French General Assemby, “Louis Phillippe I, King of the French.” [From “Diary of My Travels in America” by Louis Phillippe, translated by Stephen Becker.]

        Twenty years before Louis Phillippe visited Palmyra, France had helped the American colonists to win the Revolutionary War, and Gideon Durfee had fought in that war against England. He was an American soldier from Rhode Island, which was where he was born and lived before moving to Palmyra. [From “The Descendants of Thomas Durfee” on rootsweb.ancestry.com] https://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=charlesldurfee&id=I04134

        In 1833 Louise Phillippe, as King of France, transported an Egyptian obelisk to Paris. It replaced a guillotine that had stood in Concorde Plaza.
        “Supplanting the guillotine is the powerful Obelisk of Luxor, a pink granite monolith that was given to the French in 1829 by the viceroy of Egypt, Mehemet Ali. The edifice, which once marked the entrance to the Amon temple at Luxor, is more than 3,300 years old and is decorated with hieroglyphics portraying the reigns of the pharaohs Ramses II and Ramses III. Gilded images on the pedestal portray the monumental task of transporting the monolith to Paris and erecting it at the square. Installed in 1833, the Obelisk — weighing 230 tons and standing 22.83 meters (75 ft) high in the center of the Place — is flanked on both sides by two fountains constructed during the same period. Having survived more than 33 centuries, the Obelisk has suffered the greatest damage during the past half-century by air pollution from industry and motor vehicles.” [From “Discover France, Place de la Concorde, Oblique de Luxor.”] https://www.discoverfrance.net/France/Paris/Monuments-Paris/Obelisque.shtml

        Palmyra originally had been called Swift’s Landing after General John Swift who was among the first settlers. Soon the Town of Swift became the Town of Tolland. It was called that until Jan. 4, 1796, when the historic name of Palmyra was decided upon. Daniel Sawyer, the brother-in-law of Gen. John Swift, was engaged to Miss Dosha Boughton, the first school teacher in the area. Sawyer decided that since his future wife had been reading about Zenobia, the Queen of Palmyra [in ancient Syria], he thought it proper that she should also have a Palmyra. The name was adopted without any dissent, but it might have just as easily been called Zenobia. [From the Finger Lakes Times by Larry Ann Evans, Jan 19, 2014, “Way Back When in Wayne County”] https://www.fltimes.com/lifestyle/way-back-when-in-wayne-county-before-palmyra-it-was/article_b963de5a-7ee1-11e3-8096-0019bb2963f4.html

        The stories of how Palmyra got its name, its first teacher’s interest in ancient civilizations, and how a French prince sought protection there, must have been passed down over the years. This early history would have entertained the townspeople, and sparked the curiosity and imaginations of its school children. When news reached Palmyra thirty-four years after Louis’ visit, that he had returned to France and become King, and another three years after that, when Louis was gifted by the Viceroy of Egypt with the obelisk in appreciation for the translation of its inscriptions, it must have sparked some excitement in Palmyra and created an interest in Egyptology. France was the home of Jean Francois Champollion. In 1824, it was he, the conservator of the Egyptian section of the Louvre Museum in Paris, who broke the Egyptian hieroglyphic code by use of the Rosetta Stone. [From Tour Egypt, “Jean Francios Champollion: The Father of Egyptology”] https://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/champollion.htm

        The Book of Abraham was produced between 1835-1844. It was not canonized by the church as a part of the Pearl of Great Price until 1880. The original papyrus could have been examined and translated by French Egyptologists any time after 1824, but that was never done. The original papyrus was assumed for over a century to have been lost, but in 1966, fragments of it were found in the Church Archives and in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. There was enough left for experts to exam and be able to determine conclusively that it was a funerary scroll having nothing to do with Abraham and not dating to his time period. Independent Egyptologists and those hired by the Church all agreed on this and on the fact that it was indeed the papyrus Joseph had used. As such, it was very important to preserve and the Church Archives or a noted Museum would have been be the proper place for it. It is not clear why it was not well preserved or kept intact, or why much of it was lost. Based on these facts, the most obvious conclusion is that Joseph fabricated the “translation.” I do not think he was as uneducated as the church portrays him, but was self taught, well read, very smart, imaginative, creative, and persuasive.

  2. John Mazanis January 2, 2021 at 9:45 am - Reply

    The ongoing interview with Jim Bennett has been absolutely spectacular and the kind of substantive, engaging, and passionate dialog many of us have been looking for between faithful and questioning positions with regards to Mormon history, doctrine, and culture. It’s an amazing thing that Jeremy Runnels has accomplished with the CES Letter that has reached so many people with similar experiences when engaging the history and has opened a path for the free exchange of ideas on these topics. I cannot express enough gratitude for the tenacity you, John, demonstrate in presenting a fair and balanced engagement of the issues and for the wonderful people that continue to frequent Mormon Stories podcast. This is the kind of respectful debate FairMormon and other apologetic organizations/individuals should be seeking to engender as spokespeople for the church.

    • John Dehlin January 2, 2021 at 9:50 am - Reply

      Wow. Thank you so, so much John! I’m so happy that you and others have enjoyed the interview so far! More to come!!!!

  3. Ariana T. January 3, 2021 at 9:49 am - Reply

    I listened to both of the first two episodes featuring Jim while I was doing the dishes, etc. I think it is fabulous that Jim was willing to engage in this kind of discussion, and I wholeheartedly agree with him that attacking a person’s character if you support a differing view is the weakest kind of apologetic argument. I love that he mentioned he doesn’t support efforts to do so that others have engaged in, I have so much respect for his willingness to publicly say that. *Huge* respect.

    Something I personally would like to see as a former member of the church is more of a top-down cultural shift within the LDS church towards embracing the idea that we can have conversations with people who left without assuming they have suddenly turned into bad people just for doing so. As the conversations between Jim and John highlighted, there are some areas within church history and even the Book of Mormon itself that could cause a person to come to very different conclusions than Jim has. Having come to a different belief about what those historical events mean, etc. doesn’t make either side inherently bad people. I think when we see the good more than the bad in the people around us, we create safer spaces for everyone to feel loved and accepted- regardless of their beliefs.

    That being said, I also have to say as respectfully as I can that I am one who has come to different conclusions, especially as regards the Book of Mormon (which I am very familiar with, having read it all the way through many, many times over my years as a member) with the excerpts that mirror the King James Isaiah sections, and also the presented view that God curses people for wickedness with darker skin. We adopted a sweet little boy with significant disabilities as an infant (before those disabilities had manifested), and I would never want him to feel that the color of his skin meant anything other than he was beautiful, just the way God made him. And each of us are in our own way, for all of our visual differences. But those are my beliefs, I can also see that there are verses extolling and encouraging service to others, loving others, forgiveness and many other desirable traits and that some may prefer to emphasize as regards the spiritual benefits they personally feel from reading those particular verses over the others. Again, I really commend Jim for being willing to engage in this discussion, and I felt like both sides did a good job of keeping it respectful despite their differences in views and focused as much as possible on finding common ground.

  4. Steve H. January 4, 2021 at 1:43 am - Reply

    I think that Bro. Bennett made a couple of untrue claims that went unaddressed in this podcast. Firstly, he claims that the number of anachronisms in the BoM is going down. The only example of this he gives is the presence of large native American cities being found, and that large cities are also described in the BoM but that “no one believed that there were large cities in Joseph’s time.” Mexico and South America were hardly unknown realms in 1830, and the Spanish conquistadors had found large cities some three hundred years before the BoM was written. Indeed, many have pointed out that the BoM/View of the Hebrews were ways for people with a racist mind set to explain the founding of these cities by “savages” away by attributing them to Israelites. And with Bennett’s one example failing, I point to the inclusion of KJV errors and material from deutero-Isaiah as increases in anachronisms found in the BoM, which result from more recent scholarship.

    Secondly, I think it’s odd to state that JS was basically illiterate in 1820. He got the inspiration to pray and receive the first vision from reading the KJV New Testament – hardly light weight reading for a child.

    Lastly, I just wanted to point out that the “Nahom/NHM” claims of a bullseye for the BoM that Bennett mentions is cherry picking a coincidence and not at all the bullseye that the apologists claim.

  5. Sam Lyman January 5, 2021 at 7:47 am - Reply

    It was painful to listen to Mr. Bennett’s apologist defense of the LDS church. His arguments against the CES letter show how starting with confirmation bias can lead otherwise-intelligent people to accept the ridiculous. I am going to have to skip listening to the rest of the episodes with Bennett because doing so hurts my brain!

  6. Robert Ian Williams January 5, 2021 at 1:30 pm - Reply

    I was shocked that Jim asserted that no one knew of the ancient New World civiliszations in 1830…not true.

    Furthermore he mentions that they had an Indian girl living in their family as part of the Indian placement programme.Pity he didnt know of the quote of Apostle Spencer W Kimball who in 1962 stated that the programme was helping change the colour of the Indians!

    Also Mormon leadership were vehemently anti contraception well up to the 1960s and then it was quietly dropped. Where mainline Protestantism did this it opened up the door to homosexuality.

    The tragedy of Mormon apologetics is that they focus on the over statements and false trails of Anti Mormon critics. The best talk on who wrote the Book of Mormon is by Sandra Tanner..on the Ancient paths..available on You tube.She shows the creativity of Smith and his personal stamp o the book which could not have come from Spalding, Rigdon or anyone else.

    • MDJ January 9, 2021 at 10:57 pm - Reply

      I’m not sure why Jim Bennett thinks we should be impressed that Joseph Smith gave the publisher his first draft of the Book of Mormon; considering we know it was riddled with no punctuation, misspellings and terrible grammar. Credible authors know better than to hand in their first draft, when editing is essential before publishing. And Joseph Smith considered himself “Author and Proprietor”.

      By the way Charles Dickens created A Christmas Carol in 6 weeks.

  7. Wade Sillito January 7, 2021 at 1:30 pm - Reply

    It’s hard to know where to begin in commenting on Jim’s incredibly weak defense of Mormon problems as they appear to have more holes than swiss cheese. For starters….Jim passes off Smith’s arrest for “glass-looking” as a one-time event with Josiah Stole that led to Smith’s arrest which Jim says….”was all dismissed”. No Jim….He was arrested and convicted in that trial, which by the way took place three years after his supposed first vision of the Angel Moroni. Maybe Moroni should have suggested he stop that “stone-in-the-hat” trick as it wouldn’t look good for him later in life. Jim’s assertion that Smith simply “grew out of it” as he got older is nonsense. Smith was 20 years old when arrested for the Josiah Stole incident and his criminal actions were well-known throughout his life. One researcher puts the number at approximately thirty criminal actions during his lifetime. Another source reports that he was arrested at least 42 times. Smith was well known in the area as a con-artist, impostor, necromancer, and charlatan. As John so applicably put it….”a pattern was emerging”.

    Jim states at the beginning of this interview that his basic conviction of the Book of Mormon’s truthfulness lies in the wonderful “feelings he gets that give him that “connection to God”. Never mind the hundreds of inaccuracies, contradictions, and changes to the book. I personally cannot see how changing “God” to “Son of God” wouldn’t make a huge difference to one’s testimony of the book. And yet later when John sums up Jim’s connection to God is based on some book of questionable origin, Jim immediately backs away from that concept saying John is inaccurate and decides that his connection is based on his faith promoting experiences in life….his daughter, etc., etc. He even suggests that if he had to give his own personal testimony of his journey in faith he would not mention the Book of Abraham, Kinderhook plates, etc. He does not care that there are numerous explanations for the coming forth of the Book of Mormon…..whether Smith used the Bible, the View of the Hebrews, The Late War, Spalding’s writings, etc. Jim only cares that it speaks to his personal connection with God. And there is nothing wrong with that. But if he knows that Smith supposed wrote the Book of Mormon by sticking his head in a head and reading “word for word” written on a stone, then why does he believe that Joseph Smith’s vocabulary throughout the Book of Mormon…”makes perfect sense”…to him? He keeps stating that he would never “throw the baby out with the bath water.” So apparently he feels the “bath water” is all of the unexplainable truths he wants to get rid of and the “baby” is his personal “feelings” of connection to God. And yet he admits that these feelings and connections to God can be obtained through Catholicism, Buddhism, Protestantism, etc. In doing so he pretty much admits that Mormonism is not the “only true church” but one of many other man-made churches in which a person can obtain “spiritual feelings” and still return back to our Father in Heaven.
    I bottom line is Jim Bennett is another Mormon apologist who has far too much invested in Mormonism to be “throwing the baby out with the bath water.” His ancestry on both his mother’s and father’s side are heavy in the blood of Mormonism. And he would never throw this father under the bus. Like so many other Mormons and apologists it’s just too comfortable remaining with his “tribe” (as John put it). It’s kind of like the woman who stays in a bad abusive relationship….who tells herself that “he only beats me once in a while”….”how can I live without him, he provides for me and my children”….”it will get better in time”. No, it won’t. History cannot be changed….you can ignore it, you can deny it, or you can try to “rationalize” it like Jim Bennett. But you simply cannot change it……facts are facts are facts. As Mormons and Ex-Mormons we all need to learn how to live with FACTS!

  8. MDJ January 10, 2021 at 12:58 am - Reply

    Speaking of the Trinity. In my opinion Joseph Smith was confused as to how to understand the trinity because the Book of Mormon does have passages that describe the trinity but also passages that describe modalism. For example 2 Nephi 31:21, Mormon 7:7 and 3 Nephi 11:25 all describe the trinity. But Ether 3:14 which says “…Behold, I am Jesus Christ, I am the Father and the Son…”, that is modalism not trinitarianism. The trinity is very specific that the Son is only the Son and never the Father or the Holy Spirit. All 3 persons of the trinity are distinct from each other, and all 3 persons are God, individually and collectively.

    So Jim Bennett is wrong on how he describes trinitarianism.

  9. Jacob Seamus January 20, 2021 at 6:46 am - Reply

    Brother Bennett has done a strong job of defending his beliefs. He has demonstrated research, unbiased scrutinizing the sources, and drawing sound conclusions.

    Brother Bennett could do much better if he relied on the witness of The Holy Ghost much more AND allowed The Lord to inspire and lead his investigation much more.

    John Dehlin demonstrated enormous weakness in academic standards of research. John showed bare bias in his pock shots at the Restoration.

    If Brother Bennett relied on The Spirit, The Spirit would have taught him that no one’s skin changed color, but their spirituality symbolized as garments did. Brother Bennett would also have summarily taken down the impoverished linguistic arguments of Dehlin-Runnells.

    Interesting, but these interviews show only that the onely thing we need to do is the one thing these guys refuse to do: Ask The Lord. But don’t lazy ask; ask The Father to lead you on the quest. And don’t selfish ask; ask The Father to help you help your brethren strengthen their faith.

    • Cory Jorgensen February 11, 2021 at 1:56 pm - Reply

      “Ask the Lord to help you defy logic, and refuse to use your brain lest the rational answer make sense.”

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