long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche. Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Scott Gordon and the CES Letter

Scott Gordon is the head of FAIRLDS. He's a great guy, faithful, hard-working, etc. But he's also a long-time promoter of M2C and SITH, among other things. 

A few days ago I received his email update, which included this section.

Sarah Allen has been blogging responses to the CES Letter for a year now! We are so grateful she'd share her scholarship, insight and testimony with us here at FAIR! If you haven't taken the opportunity fo read her work, now is a great time! Follow the link to find a list of the posts we have published.

Subscribe to the blog here - you don't want miss a single issue.

You can find the entire series of articles here.

It has always seemed strange to me that CES never responded to Jeremy Runnels' questions. 

Jeremy was entitled to answers to his questions (at least, to his original, non-snarky questions).

Instead, he gets silence from CES and a torrent of sophistry from FAIRLDS and other apologists.

There are simple answers, after all. I started offering some on my blog (https://cesanswers.blogspot.com/) but I soon realized the problem is not the CES Letter.

The problem resides with the LDS apologists who have generated the confusion by repudiating the teachings of the prophets in favor of their academic speculations. 

It serves little purpose for me to offer simple answers based on the teachings of the prophets when our LDS scholars themselves are repudiating what the prophets have taught. (It's even more fun that many of the apologists mischaracterize what I write so they can implement their typical straw man and ad hominem attacks.)

Throughout the CES Letter, Jeremy's questions boil down to this: why do modern LDS scholars repudiate what the prophets have taught?

The CES Letter is the inevitable product of someone who accepted the modern scholars as the authority. 

Looking at it from the opposite perspective, LDS apologists agree with the faulty premises of the CES Letter. They then resort to nuances and sophistry to try to lead people through the thickets of their theories. But it doesn't work well. Their theories are so full of snags that people get stuck at every turn.

By touting themselves as the "Interpreters" to claim superiority over the mere prophets, they've pushed Latter-day Saints (and prospective Latter-day Saints) who have questions toward the CES Letter and similar sources. And by comparison, the CES Letter is clearer and more rational.

The teachings of the prophets are even more clear and rational.

Yet FAIRLDS sticks with the sophistry of the scholars instead.


A good example is the FAIRLDS response to the translation issues.


CES Letter (Jeremy) makes a straightforward observation:

Unlike the story I’ve been taught in Sunday School, Priesthood, General Conferences, Seminary, EFY, Ensigns, Church history tour, Missionary Training Center, and BYU…Joseph Smith used a rock in a hat for translating the Book of Mormon.

The FAIRLDS response by Sarah Allen is nearly 6,000 words of self-contradictory, confusing, and speculative rhetoric that never once even quotes what Joseph and Oliver said on the topic. It's literally unbelievable. 

Sarah starts by questioning whether Jeremy was honest or clear about what he was taught. Maybe that's because Jeremy was taught to believe the scriptures. 

Sarah writes as though she never heard of such basic scriptures as these (which she never cites or quotes):

34 He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants;

35 Also, that there were two stones in silver bows—and these stones, fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim—deposited with the plates; and the possession and use of these stones were what constituted “seers” in ancient or former times; and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book. (Joseph Smith—History 1:34–35)

62 By this timely aid was I enabled to reach the place of my destination in Pennsylvania; and immediately after my arrival there I commenced copying the characters off the plates. I copied a considerable number of them, and by means of the Urim and Thummim I translated some of them, which I did between the time I arrived at the house of my wife’s father, in the month of December, and the February following. (Joseph Smith—History 1:62)

* Oliver Cowdery describes these events thus: “These were days never to be forgotten—to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom! Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated with the Urim and Thummim, or, as the Nephites would have said, ‘Interpreters,’ the history or record called ‘The Book of Mormon.’ 
(Joseph Smith—History, Note, 1)

It would not be surprising that Sarah is unaware of these scriptures, given her affiliation with FAIRLDS. The book Saints, Volume 1, doesn't quote these passages. The Gospel Topics Essay doesn't quote them, either. These verses are part of the "plain and precious things" that our scholars are systematically taking away from Church history.

Those who promote the SITH (stone-in-the-hat) narrative avoid these scriptures, except when they resort to sophistry to explain away their plain meaning.

These passages from Joseph Smith-History are not the only times when Joseph and Oliver explained that Joseph translated the plates with the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates, but you won't find those accounts in the SITH narratives either. 

Bottom line: Joseph and Oliver were consistent and reliable. Neither of them ever once suggested or implied, let alone taught, that Joseph used a seer stone he found in a well to produce the Book of Mormon. Neither of them ever suggested, implied, or taught that Joseph didn't use the plates.

Why, then, does Jeremy assert that "Joseph Smith used a rock in a hat for translating the Book of Mormon" in his letter?

Because of the work of our LDS apologists and the revisionist historians.

As we saw at the outset, Jeremy's question is legitimate. What he's really asking is, why do modern LDS scholars repudiate what the prophets have taught?

It's a good question that Sarah doesn't even address. Instead, as she's been trained to do by FAIRLDS and the rest of the SITH citation cartel, she tries to pretend the prophets (and the scriptures) never taught what we can all see they did, actually, teach.


The SITH narrative arose from what others (the SITH sayers, such as David Whitmer) claimed. 

Some people think the SITH sayers were all liars. 

Others, such as Sarah and FAIRLDS, think the SITH sayers were honest and accurate, even though they contradicted what Joseph and Oliver said about the Urim and Thummim.

The scholars Sarah and FAIRLDS rely upon have tried to reconcile the apparent conflict between the two narratives (SITH vs U&T) by claiming the stone Joseph found in the well was actually the Urim and Thummim to which Joseph and Oliver referred. As Sarah shows in her article, the scholars have successfully persuaded their gullible followers to accept SITH by omitting the scriptures and other contemporary sources, such as Mormonism Unvailed, which unambiguously distinguished between the "peep stone" and the Urim and Thummim. 

Despite the efforts of the SITH apologists, there is no need to ignore or reject the scriptures to reconcile the historical accounts. In my view, for all the reasons I've explained elsewhere, the SITH sayers probably told the truth about what they observed, but as witnesses commonly do, they mingled their observations with their own assumptions and inferences. In other words, whatever Joseph did with the stone in the hat, it was not translating the Book of Mormon. That should be clear from the scriptures and from the testimonies of Joseph's contemporaries and successors in Church leadership.  

After all, Joseph was expressly commanded not to display the plates or the Urim and Thummim until after the translation was completed (at which point he showed the items to the designated witnesses). That commandment was superfluous if Joseph didn't use the plates or U&T to produce the Book of Mormon. There would have been no reason for Joseph to even relate that commandment in the first place except to explain why no one (other than his scribes behind a curtain or screen) saw him translate. 


This is a fairly straightforward example of the problem that arises from LDS apologists rejecting the teachings of the prophets in favor of their own theories. 

The most notorious example is the way FAIRLDS and the rest of the M2C citation cartel has repudiated the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah. That has led to all kinds of mischief and confusion, not the least of which is the CES Letter.

As I wrote above, Jeremy was entitled to answers to his questions. 

Instead, he gets silence from CES and a torrent of sophistry from FAIRLDS and other apologists.


A few months ago I visited Scott Gordon at the new offices of FAIRLDS. Apparently they needed to have a physical location to qualify as an organization that can have missionaries assigned to help out. Which is another topic to discuss someday.

I told Scott I'd like to work with him to upgrade FAIRLDS. While I can't realistically expect them to jettison years of apologetic efforts to promote M2C and SITH, I do expect them to represent the full range of faithful views.

So far, Scott has refused to do that.

As a result, we end up with these convoluted, confused responses to the CES Letter.

So I'll ask again, and anyone who knows Scott can relay the message.

How about expanding FAIRLDS to include all faithful approaches to the issues?

How about making FAIRLDS inclusive instead of exclusive?

And how about finding a way for FAIRLDS to corroborate, rather than repudiate, the teachings of the prophets?


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