"The CES Letter"

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longbottom
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"The CES Letter"

Post by longbottom » 13 Apr 2018, 08:39

I just last night read the entirety of Runnell's "The CES Letter", and...just wow. It was refreshing to read it, now that I am fully in Stage 4+ thinking. I also read the Fair Mormon rebuttal, and found it weak at best. I haven't read Runnell's rebuttal to the rebuttal yet. Fair Mormon claims "this part of the letter was incorrect" or "that part is propaganda" without actually saying why it is. Weak, just like the apologists' plea to "have more faith, read, pray, etc" and "this information has been around forever and is openly available". Sure. Can we talk about the Essays during Sunday School? Is it ok for me to specifically ask about following the prophet's doctrinal assertions when it is well-established that sometimes the prophet is wrong, and maybe he is this time too? God forbid! There is no mechanism for questioning policy or doctrine in the church that is effective or charitable, in my opinion.

I'm just trying to figure out where in the world my faith transition is leading me, and in a way it's super exciting to me (and it is most definitely liberating from a spiritual point of view), but of course scary because of the unknown (and the fact that my wife is TBM) and who knows what that relationship will look like when the dust settles. In the meantime, I will continue to attend church (I actually do like to go to church still, even though it is exasperating sometimes), and I will keep the commandments that actually are important to feeling God in my life, like chastity, having faith, and prayer. Scriptures are a little questionable for me right now.

It's an entirely liberating concept to me to "own my own decisions", and how I have felt about my new direction itself if a strong testimony-builder that there are more ways than one to grow close to God. The "Primary answer" ways never did help me get there. Only by owning my own choices and life is there true freedom of self. That's my opinion anyway. It can be done in Stage 3, but the black-and-white part gets in the way of true understanding, compassion, and charity.

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LookingHard
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Re: "The CES Letter"

Post by LookingHard » 13 Apr 2018, 09:29

It certainly does sound like your locus of authority has moved internally to you and you are accepting that. I agree it feels good and it can help feel more stable and not so reactionary.

I have never fully read the CES letter. By the time I found out about the CES letter and decided to read it, I was already aware of 95% of the issues. I got bored reading it. But I certainly see how this is quite impactful for someone that doesn't know of any of the issues.

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dande48
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Re: "The CES Letter"

Post by dande48 » 13 Apr 2018, 09:47

Thanks for sharing, LB.

I think one of the best transitions I've made in my faith journey, was learning to judge the doctrines by whether they were useful, and not by whether they are true. For many members, the Church narrative works wonderful! It leads to good morals, and happy, fulfilling lives. It doesn't matter one bit whether or not it is true; it works for them. I would never take away that goodness even if I could. As Gary Harrison (from South Park) put it,
Look, maybe us Mormons do believe in crazy stories that make absolutely no sense, and maybe Joseph Smith did make it all up, but I have a great life, and a great family, and I have the Book of Mormon to thank for that. The truth is, I don't care if Joseph Smith made it all up, because what the church teaches now is loving your family, being nice and helping people. And even though people in this town might think that's stupid, I still choose to believe in it.
Unfortunately, a lot of that happiness depends on "shelf-ing" some of the stickier topics in Church history. And that's also true for many historical figures outside of the Church as well (Christopher Columbus, George Washington, Thomas Edison...). The truth is always a sticky mess. But the gospel shouldn't be.
"The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy. "
-Albert Campus

"Even though there are no ways of knowing for sure, there are ways of knowing for pretty sure."
-Lemony Snicket

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DarkJedi
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Re: "The CES Letter"

Post by DarkJedi » 13 Apr 2018, 11:33

Just some random thoughts as I read through the posts here.

Runnels is an anti and his arguments are in fact just rehashed and consolidated anti arguments that have been around forever. Frankly I do believe Runnels may have been well intentioned at first but lost it along the way. But I also agree that the FairMormon response is weak - as are many apologist arguments. On a personal level there are two things about the CSE letter: 1) by the time I read it, it was all old hat, nothing new; 2) I don't care. I'm not being flippant, my FC was not based on historical stuff like it is for many, but nothing in the CSE letter rattled my cage.

Yes. You can absolutely talk about the essays in Sunday School. There is a FINALLY a new adult SS curriculum due out next year. I am expecting it to be a huge departure from the current very old curriculum, based much more on Teaching in the Savior's Way, and much more in line with the new PH/RS curriculum. But even before that you can absolutely talk about the essays. (With the usual caveat that there's a right way and a wrong way to go about that, and the right way does not entail keeping our mouths shut.)

Agreed, making your own choices about what you believe is very liberating, and I believe that was Joseph Smith's church. I don't believe Joseph would recognize the modern church as the same thing he founded. Let go of the guilt/fear - it does no one any good.
The truth is always a sticky mess. But the gospel shouldn't be.
I don't think the gospel is a mess. I think people make it much more complicated than it really is. And let's never conflate the church and the gospel.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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Curt Sunshine
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Re: "The CES Letter"

Post by Curt Sunshine » 13 Apr 2018, 12:57

I have read so much historical stuff, from all kinds of angles, that the CES letter didn't faze me at all.

People gonna people - from Runnels to Joseph Smith to, pardon me for saying it, Jesus. Expecting people not to people is irrational, and accepting that is the beginning of peace.

Also, there is nothing (absolutely nothing) about Mormonism that is any crazier or more faith-challenging than there is in mainstream Christianity at large. The core of Christianity is, objectively, the foundation of Mormonism's "craziest" beliefs. The only difference is that Mormonism is modern enough that it doesn't get the automatic pass mainstream Christianity gets. Seriously, reread the Bible and tell me with a straight face Mormonism is crazy by comparison. :D
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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nibbler
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Re: "The CES Letter"

Post by nibbler » 13 Apr 2018, 13:50

DarkJedi wrote:
13 Apr 2018, 11:33
There is a FINALLY a new adult SS curriculum due out next year. I am expecting it to be a huge departure from the current very old curriculum, based much more on Teaching in the Savior's Way, ...
YASS!!!!
DarkJedi wrote:
13 Apr 2018, 11:33
...and much more in line with the new PH/RS curriculum.
Wait, does that mean we'll take turns reading conference talks during SS?

;) :angel:
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.
― Rumi

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DarkJedi
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Re: "The CES Letter"

Post by DarkJedi » 13 Apr 2018, 20:42

nibbler wrote:
13 Apr 2018, 13:50
DarkJedi wrote:
13 Apr 2018, 11:33
There is a FINALLY a new adult SS curriculum due out next year. I am expecting it to be a huge departure from the current very old curriculum, based much more on Teaching in the Savior's Way, ...
YASS!!!!
DarkJedi wrote:
13 Apr 2018, 11:33
...and much more in line with the new PH/RS curriculum.
Wait, does that mean we'll take turns reading conference talks during SS?

;) :angel:
Let me rephrase. Much more like PH/RS is supposed to be.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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mom3
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Re: "The CES Letter"

Post by mom3 » 15 Apr 2018, 02:55

My suggestion - Anchor in Jesus Christ. Whether he was merely a Rabbi from Nazareth or truly The Holy Redeemer, you can read, live, and teach his teachings while you let the church history particles float around.

It's an honorable safety net.

Leaving the CES Letter historical insights aside, the LDS church I grew up in is totally different than it is today. The way we meet, the lessons we teach, the callings we extend and how (I am thinking of TR's required for certain leadership), even our focus on the BoM has changed so much. Our hymn book, our cultural activities, our church mission - all of it. Even the temple ceremony has changed. It's the nature of religion. 200 years from now, we won't recognize it.

Be a good person, love your family, be nice to your ward members - and breathe.
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

longbottom
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Re: "The CES Letter"

Post by longbottom » 15 Apr 2018, 09:13

Thanks all. I have been one of those who would never, ever consider looking at anything contrary to what I was being taught. I had no idea about all this church history, and it's very enlightening, but not in a bad way. It just really helps to know the whole story. The fact is, I like going to church, and I like the people, and I mostly like everything the church stands for. But in this new world, there has to be a way to reconcile how I want to live my life with what I actually believe. It's an ongoing challenge.

Roy
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Re: "The CES Letter"

Post by Roy » 15 Apr 2018, 09:52

I believe that many of the items in the CES letter are presented in the most negative, "gotcha" view point possible.

OTOH, Fair Mormon cannot really get into discussing each point because to do so would validate that there is troubling information. Instead of saying that XYZ is mostly correct except that Z is actually an N, they say that XYZ is incorrect. Dismiss the point without getting into precisely why it is wrong and especially how much of it might be true.

I really wish that the church would transition to more of a continuing restoration, revelation, and work in progress mindset. For too long we have been committed to "the church is perfect" and "follow the prophet - he knows the way". I wish we could make room for JS and others to have been wrong about important doctrinal issues (polygamy) while still being the right person at the right time for God to accomplish the task of setting up the church.
dande48 wrote:
13 Apr 2018, 09:47
The truth is always a sticky mess.
longbottom wrote:
13 Apr 2018, 08:39
There is no mechanism for questioning policy or doctrine in the church that is effective or charitable, in my opinion.
I agree. History and people are messy, yet we have a very sanitized and distorted narrative and there does not seem to be any church approved place to have that discussion (although I do believe the church is moving slowly in the right direction with inoculation efforts).

I personally view church history as a "based on real events/true story" movie. These were real people that lived, worked, dreamed, loved, fought, and died. We (as church members), for the purposes of our narrative, have decided who the heroes are and who the villains are. For over 100 years we have been whitewashing and sugarcoating the heroes and painting the villains with the blackest of intentions. What hero could possibly be that pure?

We set ourselves up for a rude awakening and the CES Letter styles itself to be exactly that.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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