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 1 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:

  • Jim’s sincere respect and admiration for Jeremy Runnells.
  • Jim’s early life in the church, wherein he experienced a faith crisis in respond to the movie The Godmakers.
  • How/why to continue believing in God after a Mormon crisis of faith.
  • How/why to continue believing in Jesus after a Mormon crisis of faith.
  • What it means to Jim to be a fallible Mormon prophet.
  • How Jim views the claim that the Mormon church is the “one true church.”
  • Jim’s condemnation of FAIRMormon’s recent YouTube videos attacking Jeremy Runnells and me.

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. Robert Hodge January 2, 2021 at 9:25 am - Reply

    My problem with this commentary is the interviewee’s suggestion that the “Church” never lied …maybe they were just not well “informed”. Well it’s hard to say that Joseph Smith was just not “informed”, when he lied about his practice of polygamy (so did Emma to her sons). See the History of the Church vol 6 at page 411 for the text of the lie. Also, was it not a lie when the church published a disclaimer on polyamorous marriage in early versions of the D&C.? Of course it was a lie. There are many other examples of deception. You can deceive in many ways. Tell lies in speech, or print or be silent about a falsehood, or let a known lie be uncorrected, or tell half truths. There are many examples of this in LDS history.

    However there is a lot of good in this interview as relates to the proper way to deal with such difficult and sensitive issues, to avoid personal animosity engendered because of conflicting viewpoints. Another great contribution here John

  2. Steve January 3, 2021 at 11:36 am - Reply

    First let me apologize for the length of this post. As an active church member listening to this podcast, I have several concerns. I sincerely hope that Bro. Bennett will see this comment, and I invite him to respond if he feels so inclined.

    A concept which is mentioned frequently in this podcast is that of a “culturally based expectation of infallibility of prophets.” Members often quote Elder Holland who admonishes that “imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to him but he deals with it. So should we.” Unfortunately, these expressions effectively mischaracterize the concerns of a growing number of church members. It is not the cultural expectation of infallibility of prophets that is the issue. Rather it is the doctrinally based expectation of infallbility of the Church’s fundamental truth claims. It has to do with what we can trust. Church members don’t care if the prophet was grumpy with his wife at breakfast, or if he swore when he stubbed his toe. They do care that people’s lives have been harmed by doctrines, or practices based on doctrines, that the Church has subsequently renounced as false, or which the Church has silently walked back.

    Members’ expectations regarding the Church’s truth claims, and specifically the revelatory process, have been unequivocally and officially established by both scriptural and prophetic declaration. Yet these “foundational anchors” are often forgotten by faithful members as they find themselves trying to explain or reconcile some of the Church’s doctrinal and historical problems. Because they can be easy to forget, I will review some of these anchors, based solely on reliable Church sources. Please bear with these, as you will subsequently see the reason they are reviewed.

    When I was a missionary, one of the clear and principal messages of the first discussion was “we can trust that God will lead us in truth through a modern prophet.” It is simply not possible to deny that this is one of the fundamental messages of and self-proclaimed reasons for the existence of the Church. LDS scriptures declare this boldly. In D&C 1:38 we read: “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” D&C 3:2 says: “For God doth not walk in crooked paths, neither doth he turn to the right hand nor to the left, neither doth he vary from that which he hath said, therefore his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round.” D&C 21:4-6 says: “Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith. For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.” Note that we are to heed “all” his words and commandments, as if from the mouth of God. Doing so will protect us from the gates of hell.

    The Church actively posts an iconic and oft-quoted talk given by President Ezra Taft Benson at BYU in 1980, when he was president of the Quorum of the Twelve. The talk is entitled “14 Fundamentals in Following the Prophet.” Among the points made are the following: “The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.” “The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.” “The prophet will never lead the Church astray.” “The prophet does not have to say ‘Thus saith the Lord’ to give us scripture.” “The prophet may be involved in civic matters.” “The prophet and the presidency—the living prophet and the First Presidency—follow them and be blessed; reject them and suffer.”

    Thus we see that the basis for expectations of infallibility of the revelatory process are doctrinal, and not just cultural. In the face of the above quotations and an avalanche of others, it is simply not honest to say that these expectations are merely a product of our culture. It is the Church itself which sets the standard of infallibility of the revelatory process through prophets, as well as other fundamental truth claims. The Church defines its own mission and will stand or fall by its own definitions, not by anyone else’s.

    As we try to explain doctrines, practices and events in Church history, there are other key doctrines that are easy for faithful members to temporarily forget. For example, the keys of the priesthood constitute the authority to direct the activities of the priesthood. These activities include conferring of the priesthood as well as the performance and receipt of ordinances. The prophet is the only person on the earth authorized to exercise these keys for the whole church. Sounds familiar, right? But stay tuned. Also, the Church emphasizes the “covenant path.” This path includes not only the first principles and ordinances, but has been defined as including priesthood and temple ordinances, including temple marriage. Again, no disagreement here, right?

    Now let’s apply these concepts to the blacks and the priesthood. Some say the priesthood ban was “just a policy.” But if we apply to this issue the Church’s doctrine on revelation, priesthood keys, and the covenant path, here’s where we are led: For 152 years, the Church’s prophets used their priesthood keys, based on false doctrine, to deny access to key elements of the covenant path to a group of hundreds of millions of God’s children. To those who most firmly believe in this definition of the covenant path, it is difficult to imagine a more egregious way of leading the Church astray. Thus, the Church by its own definitions annihilates several of its most fundamental truth claims in one fell swoop. How does one reconcile the black/priesthood issue with the above-mentioned declarations regarding the role of a prophet, and that we can implicitly trust his words? What does this say about the prophet’s use of the keys of the priesthood? The misuse of priesthood keys by the prophet is by any measure a very serious thing. What does this say about the Church’s claim to knowledge of the plan of salvation, including the pre-existence? What can we trust from the brethren? If it’s somehow OK for them to teach falsehood, why is it not OK for us as members to speak out in public disagreement? How many were excommunicated for speaking out publicly against the Church’s doctrines or practices regarding black people? The Church subsequently renounced its own doctrine, effectively meaning that those people were right. Yet it was OK to excommunicate them?

    Are these just abstract concerns? Just ask any black church member, and you will hear how they have been treated by some church members who still believe that they are “cursed” with dark skin. These falsehoods have serious and widespread consequences.

    There are other equally concerning issues to Church members, where similar doctrinal faux pas have occurred. One example is the LGBTQ issue. But these were not just mere errors. Families have been torn apart, people have been systematically disparaged, and lives have been lost as a result of these doctrines which the Church no longer teaches. How many young gay LDS men have taken their lives after faithfully serving a mission, and then discovering that their homosexuality could not be prayed away, as promised by President Kimball and Elder Packer? You can find accounts of this very thing online, written by their grief-stricken parents. How would you feel looking down into the casket of your son under those conditions? The damage done is enormous—to individuals, families, and to society in general. Today divorces in the Church are occurring because one spouse sees these problems and begins to doubt the Church. Who can quantify the damage done in these homes?

    Is it really OK to dismiss these issues because ‘’prophets aren’t perfect?’’ In the face of the carnage caused by false doctrines, what is our moral imperative? Is it OK to just sweep these things under the rug, just because we may not be personally affected? What is the responsbility of an organization or its members when people are harmed? I would propose that those responsibilities should be met in a very deep, brutally honest, public, comprehensive, and ongoing manner. They should involve openly clarifying that which is false, which is the only way to begin the necessary healing for so many. Clarifying falsehoods, and apologizing for their effects, would be a stunning act of honesty. Yet in order to protect its truth claims, the Church generally shies away from acknowledging its own past false teachings. Likewise, according to President Oaks, it “does not apologize.” I, along with many others, would like to see this change, but I can’t see it coming soon. I personally don’t want to see the Church completely destroyed. But I also believe that we as members ought not to sit silently by, or to say that “there are some things we just don’t yet have an answer to.” This response does not suffice when people are being hurt.

    Brother Bennett, if you have seen this, I hope I have clarified some of the real concerns people have. I hope to raise awareness of the need for more brutal honesty by the Church, which would in turn cause those questioning not to be demonized and shunned by family and friends. Such blunt honesty would be devastating to many faithful members. It could potentially open up a Pandora’s box of legal and physical threats to the Church. But for many, the consequences of falsehood on this scale continue to be devastating and immeasurable.

    • Desley January 4, 2021 at 6:38 am - Reply

      Steve, you have articulated beautifully the things which concern so many of us. The lies, the deceit, the teaching of false doctrine, the confusion as one tries to engage in the church while at the same time being cognisant of those things which have a capacity to damage lives, the demands on time, the payment of tithes with no disclosure as to how the funds are dispersed. The list goes on. And yet the “all truth” claims prevail. The mental gymnastics required as one tries to make Mormonism work in one’s life is exhausting ….. unless one is able to turn a blind eye to the issues and to allow ignorance to prevail.

      This does not in any way seem to reflect a “Great Plan of Happiness!”

    • Lance Carter January 4, 2021 at 6:53 am - Reply

      Hi Steve. I’m also active in the faith and also have some of the same concerns you have. Have you seen this short presentation by Scott Woodward on prophetic error and how to determine what is doctrine in the church? I believe he is a professor at BYU-I: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpZpcwY0MQo&t=352s

      This video clearly flies in the face of the cultural interpretation of D&C 1:38 (“Whether by my voice or the voice of my servants, it is the same”). The problem is that we have totally misinterpreted that scripture and created a narrative that whenever the apostles speak, it is as if Christ is speaking. That is NOT what this scripture is saying. The scripture is clearly referring to God’s promises being fulfilled. In my mind, it should be read as “My promises shall be fulfilled. Whether they are fulfilled by my voice or the voice of my servants, it is the same.” It is NOT saying “Our apostles are saying the same things that Christ would have said if he were teaching.” Sadly, that narrative is still pushed on LDS.org and has been used by leaders in the past to say that we can ALWAYS trust the prophets. Again, this narrative is harmful because it causes eventual confusion and simply isn’t supported by all of the prophets’ statements in the above video.

      So can the prophet lead us astray? You have to define what you mean by astray. If it means, “can he teach you something false?” then he absolutely CAN lead you astray. So it’s weird and ironic to me to think that they are can actually be viewed as leading us astray in the very moments where they say they can’t lead us astray! I try to find the meaning they are trying to convey instead of the literal interpretation, but at a minimum I don’t think they should ever utter that phrase again unless they clarify what they mean by it.

      All these things said, I still have a strong faith in the gospel. I feel like I can hear the voice of the Lord in a lot of what our leaders speak. Some speak to me more than others (Neal A. Maxwell, Bruce Hafen, Dale Renlund, etc). I maintain my faith because there is just so much good. I actually teach gospel doctrine, and the lessons I follow online from some of these podcasts discussing the scriptures are just amazing! We live in this time where we get to learn from some of the brightest minds and best teachers in the church (Anthony Sweat, Jared Halverson, Terryl Givens, Steven Harper, Hank Smith, etc). When I acknowledge my faith in the gospel, I do understand the problems people have (and continue to have). I think the issues become less of a concern the more we openly acknowledge them, validate the concerns people have, strive our best to repent and correct the wrongs, and celebrate ALL efforts to follow truth. We’ve got to become less concerned with which specific path people are on and more concerned with encouraging and motivating and lifting and blessing ALL people, no matter what path they’re on. I do not believe for a second that God is not going to punish people for following what they truly believe is right in their heart. If it needs to be our path eventually, then God will open that path to their view in his own due time.

      Elder Benson in the April 1972 conference quoted Orson F. Whitney:

      “Perhaps the Lord needs such men on the outside of His Church to help it along,” said the late Elder Orson F. Whitney of the Quorum of the Twelve. “They are among its auxiliaries, and can do more good for the cause where the Lord has placed them, than anywhere else. … Hence, some are drawn into the fold and receive a testimony of the truth; while others remain unconverted … the beauties and glories of the gospel being veiled temporarily from their view, for a wise purpose. The Lord will open their eyes in His own due time. God is using more than one people for the accomplishment of His great and marvelous work. The Latter-day Saints cannot do it all. It is too vast, too arduous for any one people. … We have no quarrel with the Gentiles. They are our partners in a certain sense.”

  3. VFanRJ January 3, 2021 at 3:11 pm - Reply

    I suggest that we have plenty of evidence from Arrigton’s biography, Marlin Jensen, Richard Bushman, Stephen Snow that the Church lies about its history and only admits to as much faith destroying information that it believes it has to. When you seriously consider how being Mormon deeply affects one’s life’s cross road decisions, I suggest that Bennett minimizes the importance of full disclosure over keeping the believers believing.

  4. Wade Sillito January 3, 2021 at 3:52 pm - Reply

    I’m sure Jim is a fine person and is well-meaning in his apologetic defense of Mormonism, but he says he is not aware of General Authorities “intentionally” lying about Mormon history or doctrine. It is painfully obvious that the “Brethren” have “knowingly” lied on numerous occasions…..Hinckley condemning polygamy because he thinks it’s not doctrinal while Bringham Young declaring that no man will get to heaven without it, and even the church declares it’s necessity in D&C 132; Joseph Smith lying about his polygamous wives, etc.etc.Jim goes on and on admitting all of the problems the Church; things like their stand on the LGBTQ. His whole defense of the Church appears to be the typical Mormon “feelings” that he gets from things like the Book of Mormon.
    He believes that he has as much right to “revelation” as the Mormon Apostles and that they can be wrong and make mistakes just like he can. So he is basically admitting that Mormonism is a “man made” church, run by men who really don’t get their information from God…..because God doesn’t make those mistakes or “change his mind”. Jim claims the Church to be a “living” church….constantly changing and adapting…..he is absolutely right….that’s Man-Made Mormonism. God is non-changing, from everlasting to everlasting.

  5. Amy January 3, 2021 at 6:41 pm - Reply

    Sorry, Jim, but you have so much privilege in the church due to being a white male with a fine pedigree. You are safe and secure. Until you experience what it’s like to be LGBTQ or black or female or poor or willing to go on a limb and risk membership for the human rights and dignities of others, I don’t think you can truly appreciate the anger and distress of those deeply wounded or harmed by the church’s policies, doctrine, and bad psychology. The church is not the gospel. The gospel is a state of being in oneness with all. Jesus was all about looking after the “least of these” and only directed condemnation toward the self-righteous, self-protective Pharisees. Christian courage is standing up at great risk of losing all to protect and defend those on the margins—-the expendable ones. I don’t condemn you, for I, myself, have not come forward with that courage yet. But let’s not pretend innocence. Until the church can humbly admit its fallibility in human rights violations, it can never be a true haven of love and peace in the world. We can’t tiptoe around their feelings. But I agree we can be compassionate in our critical thought and rhetoric. Community of Christ is decades ahead of us; a great example of humility and repentance and standing for the marginalized. We must do more.

  6. Keith Blonquist January 6, 2021 at 3:30 pm - Reply

    Two Thumbs way up for the reference to the Stone Cutters episode of The Simpsons. “Who keeps the metric system down? We do, we do!” Thanks John and Jim for a great conversation.

  7. Scott January 17, 2021 at 9:19 am - Reply

    The more I listen to apologetics’ mentastics, the clearer it becomes that their mental gymnastics are nothing more than the expression of their tribal mentality. In essence, they say “whether Mormonism is a fraud or not, I don’t care much, because this is the only world that I have known. So I’ll continue to stay in it.”

    I understand that we lose our “cocoon” (or comfort zone or security blanket) when we leave our tribe. That’s why we try to hang on to it. However, being in the cocoon, we won’t be able to see the world beyond our tribal village. To this, some might say “I served my mission out in the world and I know what the world out there is like,” Well, I am not sure if I can agree with them because their Mormon indoctrination and acculturation kept them from seeing the world the same way non-Mormons see the world. Sure, they may have gone out to the world, and may have lived in it physically. But that does not mean that they were capable of understanding the world from different perspectives.

    Ironically, the pandemic of Covid-19 is revealing the illogical and ugly side of religion-based tribalism, particularly that of evangelical religious groups. We see they live in a parallel universe, often interpreting the world based on lies, conspiracy theories, and myths fed by their villagers. They are willfully ignorant and biased when it comes to defending their belief. You name it, cherry picking, sugarcoating, obfuscating, suppressing, gaslighting, etc. But lies are lies no matter how we slice them. I am not sure how believing in the veracity or historicity of BoM is different from believing that the earth is flat or that coronavirus is a hoax, because they all are founded on lies, deceptions and misinformation. For this reason, listening to the apologetics like Jim Bannett and their mental gymnastics is painful.

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