This video discusses why I didn’t do a single video addressing all the issues in the “Letter to a CES Director” (a letter containing many criticism of the church written to a CES director). Everything in the attack has been covered through the collective videos on the channel, but this is also part of the problem – its easy and quick to spew out a long list of attacking questions, but the explanations take time and effort to understand, which is why the attack can be so successful in our world today (research is shared on how the internet is changing our brains, shortening our attention span, and affecting our ability to do in-depth research and critical thinking). Also addressed are effective ways and examples of handling a faith-crises that can arise from these types of attacks.
Okay, so on this video, I want to talk about the CES letter a little bit. The title, Why I Didn’t Do A Video On The CES Letter, is because I did a channel on the CES letter. That’s what all the videos are. Okay. So, the answers videos that I did answering questions, about 40 of them. Did the Evidences series, which is really exciting stuff, but the answering questions, that’s the CES letter, the whole thing.
And that’s part of the problem is there’s just the volume of material to go through. That’s why you could not do a video on it really to address everything in a video, in my opinion anyway, to do a thorough job. But I do want to talk about the CES letter a little bit and also address just the attacks in general and approaches to it.
If you’re not familiar with it, I’m going to share with you a couple of little tidbits from Scott Gordon at the 2019 FairMormon Conference. He’s the president of FairMormon. He presented this. His presentation was CES Letter: Proof or Propaganda?
So here is a quick little summary of some things from the talk. “The CES letter is a letter written to a CES director created in 2013 by the author who scoured the internet looking for like-minded people to contribute questions that they would like answered about the Church. 77 questions, some are off branches or repeats, there’s a lot of that, contained in 13 chapters ending with a conclusion. A long list of old criticisms of the Church presented as if it’s new. A very successful proselyting tool to draw people away from the Church, especially with technology today to be able to get the word out. Published online and in book form, translated in multiple languages, advertised through links which are sometimes handwritten into copies of The Book of Mormon found in chapels, Marriott hotels, even written into hymn books.”
“In April 2014 it was spam emailed to hundreds of students at LDS Business College. Pass-along cards have been created to spread the news. Seemingly distributed by disaffected members with more enthusiasm than copies of The Book of Mormon are distributed by some faithful members. The book challenges the reader to have some answers to the long list of questions right now. But most normal people won’t have a list of answers at their fingertips that counter the list of claims. Each one of the questions requires research and time that most people simply don’t have.” A big, big problem.
“Is the CS letter proof or propaganda? The proof claim is weak at best. His pattern of poorly supported research and misleading facts used in these first 11 points make me skeptical about his claims in the remainder of the book. Given his track record, no claim can be taken at face value. Each must be investigated individually and thoroughly.”
So he took almost an hour to just talk about the first chapter, and in fact, this is Michael Ash did a great job. He wrote this Bamboozled by The CES Letter: An Honest Response to the PDF Pamphlet Entitled Letter to a CES Director. And actually after the very first question, or accusation I should say, he said, “So that was a long answer for a brief accusation, which by the way demonstrates how much ink is spilled to reply to an accusation in comparison to how much ink is used to make an accusation.”
I’m going to continue to talk about that as we go along there. Okay, so if you look on the screen here, here is actually, you’ll find this on the FairMormon website, a chart which attempts to try and categorize the content a bit in the letter. 16% fact, 40% spin, 33% mistakes or errors, and 11% falsehood.
A great companion video to this that I did is called Tactics Used by Critics, I think that’s the name of it. And that is a helpful one because it’s really… There’s a lot of that video you’ll find in the CES letter. Those tactics are being used, which the letter itself is the big list approach and that attack strategy.
And so let me share this with you from Jeff Lindsay. He wrote this on the FairMormon blog here. I’ll share a couple of paragraphs. He says, “One of the challenges in defending one’s faith is coping with critics who use the ‘Big List’ technique in their attack. This involves throwing out numerous arguments to create the impression of an overwhelming barrage that decimates the faith in question.” See he’s got a related post to that.
“The Big List is loaded with barbed questions that weren’t written in search of a real answer. If there is a good defense to these arguments raised at first, nevermind, there are many more to be launched in different directions. As with many topics in fields like history, science and religion, the issues raised in Big List attacks are often complex and may require exploring abundant details to answer questions properly. Even for those who are prepared to answer questions on a wide variety of topics, the time it takes to lay a foundation and properly answer your question can be taken by the instantly impatient critics as an admission of weakness and confirmation that they are right, and then it’s time to move on to the next attack and the next. If reasonable answers are properly provided for some attacks, or if the alleged weaknesses on further examination actually proves to be evidence in favor of the faithful position, the response can be ignored as new attacks from the Big List are hurled out.”
So then he talks about this interaction that he had had with somebody and he then, her answers surprised him. “She says, ‘I don’t care. Even if only 10% of that book is true, that’s enough to prove the Church is false.’ Ah, the fallacy of quantity versus quality. A key tool in the Adversary’s arsenal. Impress them a sheer volume, wear them out with endless attacks, and many will succumb, overwhelmed by the image and impression of strength.”
“A few years ago I received a letter from a former LDS member explaining why he and his wife were leaving the Church. In that letter he acknowledged that there may be excuses to deal with each anti-Mormon argument when taken individually, but that taken together as a whole, the case against the Church is overwhelming.”
“He then listed a barrage of arguments mentioning ‘DNA and the Book of Mormon, anachronisms, 4,000 changes in the Book of Mormon, racism, polygamy, the temple and masonry.'” I’ve done videos on all of these. “Problems that each can be dealt with if one takes the time to understand the issues and examines the assumptions behind them. Even then, one must be willing to recognize that there always will be some gaps in our understanding and that no amount of evidence or study will remove the need for faith or replace the power of a witness from the Holy Ghost. But in many cases, there are answers, sometimes powerful answers, that turn apparent weaknesses in the Book of Mormon, for example, into strong evidence for authenticity. Such insights do not come from a superficial glance at the text and related literature. Sadly, he became another victim of the fallacy of the Big List.”
Okay. Now in addition to my videos, I want to share some written resources. If you want written things there’s several great things. I mentioned Michael Ash’s book. But if you actually go to the website debunking-cesletter.com, there’s actually two responses. You can download them both for free. It’s some great stuff in there.
So, Jim Bennett, a former CES employee, a Faithful Reply to the CES Letter and then Letter to a CES Director: A Closer Look. And so if you look at this next slide, this is an example of what it looks like on Jim Bennett’s the CES employee. He’ll give a short answer and then just a brief synopsis and then the long answer there. I do like this. He says, giving an example here, look what he said for the short answer. “The CES Letter is bad scholarship, making arguments that its own author doesn’t seem to understand citing sources he hasn’t bothered to read. Overall it’s charges do not stand up to scrutiny and it’s possible to confront each and every one of them head on and come out with a strength and testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ on the other side.”
All right, now the other one, Letter to a CES Director: A Closer Look, is actually a joint effort with FairMormon and the Interpreter Foundation. And if you look at the screen here, the way they do it is it’s the actual CES letter on the screen and then you have links that you can address point by point. So it’s really, it’s a very helpful way to approach it. But again, it’s going to take forever to go through it, but that’s the way you can do it and really should to explore it deeply.
If you look at the next screen, this is the table of contents. So if you look at all these topics, let’s look at them. We’ve done videos on every one of these, multiple ones typically. Book of Mormon, Book of Mormon translation, first vision, Book of Abraham, polygamy, prophets, Kinderhook plates, testimony, spiritual witness, priesthood restoration, witnesses, temples and Freemasonry, science, scriptures, other concerns. So that’s the idea of what’s all that’s in there.
Okay. And then this is an example of a page of the science and religion section as an example. So each one of these will branch off into lots of different things. And so like the second one there is talking about evolution, which I did a video on of the science and religion. The one below that is talking about how there couldn’t have been Noah’s flood. And I did a one on the Old Testament issues talking about that as an example. But think about that, just look at this short page and those videos, if you were to watch them both, would be over an hour in length. So again. And that’s kind of the “cliff notes” version. Below the videos they have all the detailed spots if you want to go into the deeper research side or to really get in depth on things.
Now, an additional challenge, there’s like a perfect storm happening here. Technology getting the distribution out, aggressive distribution tactics. But there’s also one interesting challenge that’s going on right now and that is what the internet is doing to our brains. I don’t know if you’ve heard of this book, the New York times bestseller, Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains. It’s getting harder to study in depth today. Very interesting.
Let me share some golden nuggets from this book here. If you look on the page, I’ll just read the highlighted parts. “The more they use the Web, the more they have to fight to stay focused on long pieces of writing. Some worry they’re becoming chronic scatterbrains.”
“I now have almost totally lost the ability to read and absorb a longish article on the web or in print. Even a blog post of more than three or four paragraphs is too much to absorb. I skim it. Calm, focused, undistracted. The linear mind is being pushed aside by a new kind of mind that wants and needs to take in and dole out information in short, disjointed, often overlapping bursts, the faster the better. Skittering across webpages. I’m feeling my brain light up. I am feeling like I am getting smarter. Most of us have experienced similar sensations while online. The feelings are intoxicating, so much so that they can distract us from the net’s deeper cognitive consequences.”
Okay. “The very way my brain worked seemed to be changing. It was then that I began worrying about my inability to pay attention to one thing for more than a couple of minutes. Even when I was away from my computer, I yearned to check email, click links, do some Googling. I miss my old brain.”
“The brain has the ability to reprogram itself on the fly, altering the way it functions. The information flowing into our working memory at any given moment is called our cognitive load. When the load exceeds our mind’s ability to store and process the information, we’re unable to retain the information or draw connections with the information already stored in our long-term memory. When our brain is overtaxed, we find distractions more distracting. Experiments indicate that as we reach the limits of our working memory, it becomes hard to distinguish relevant information from irrelevant information, signal from noise. We become mindless consumers of data.”
Very interesting with what we’ve been talking about and this is really scary. Look at this bottom paragraph. “Even when it comes to academic research, as part of a five year study, University College of London examined computer logs documenting the behavior of visitors to two popular research sites. People using the sites exhibited a distinctive form of skimming activity in which they’d hop quickly from one source to another, rarely returning to any source they had already visited. They typically read at most one or two pages of an article or book before bouncing out to another site. It is clear that users are not reading online in the traditional sense. The authors of the study reported ‘It almost seems that they go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense.'”
And the last page here, “There’s absolutely no question that our brains are engaged less directly and more shallowly in the synthesis of information when we use research strategies that are all about efficiency, secondary, and out-of-context referencing and once over lightly. I find my patience with reading long documents is decreasing. I want to skip ahead to the end of the long articles. A screen-based reading behavior is emerging, which is characterized by browsing and scanning, keyword spotting, one-time reading and non-linear reading. Time spent on in-depth reading and concentrated reading is, on the other hand, falling steadily.”
“What is different, and troubling, is that skimming is becoming our dominant mode of reading. Once a means to an end, a way to identify information for deeper study, scanning is becoming your dominant mode of reading. Scanning is becoming an end in itself, our preferred way of gathering and making sense of information of all sorts.” And think about that with the CES letter. You can’t do that. This is not good.
As another example of some of these challenges, check this out. This is from an organization called MindEdge. And they do an annual survey analyzing critical thinking, the ability to think critically. This is their latest report that came out. Read these top two paragraphs. It says here, “The internet is like a fire hose of information. A lot of it is good, a lot is bad, and knowing how to make sense of all that content has never been more important. But MindEdge’s third annual state of Critical Thinking series suggests that digital literacy and critical thinking skills are in surprisingly short supply, even among tech-savvy millennials. While college-educated Americans express a high level of confidence in their critical thinking skills, most could not pass a nine question quiz designed to gauge their ability to detect fake news. Overall, 69% of survey respondents earned a failing grade on the quiz, correctly answering just five or fewer questions.”
Okay. Now I want to talk for a minute about epistemology, which is the study of knowledge, essentially. The study of the nature and scope of knowledge and justified belief. The study of our method of acquiring knowledge essentially.
And in fact this is talked about a lot I want to recommend a Facebook group for really anybody. It’s called Uplift and it’s fantastic. It is global ministering at its finest in my opinion. But it’s for people who want to help others that are maybe going through a faith crisis, or if you’re going through a faith crisis to be on there, or if you’ve gone through a faith crisis and you still need support. It’s faithful members and it’s monitored heavily. And it’s just been a great… There’s thousands of people on there and it’s a wonderful resource. But they talk a lot about this epistemology, and they have some great slides, and I’m going to just show you a couple of them that they’ve got on the site. So I would suggest to go, and it’s a private group. You just have to fill out a few things and get onto the group, but you can get these slides when you’re on the group.
So this is one on Why Epistemology? “When it comes to seeking truth, epistemology is everything. Epistemology determines all the following: Possible outcomes of our questioning, which voices we are willing to trust, which sources of information we trust. Why do some people lose their faith? Why do some people regain their faith? Why do some people never lose their faith? Why do some people never regain their faith? Why do people looking at the same evidence arrive at different conclusions? Why are people willing to listen to some points of view and unwilling to listen to others? Why do people in disagreement talk past each other? Why do people trust some sources of information and distrust other sources? Epistemology!”
Okay. “Epistemology– Your Mind is a Courtroom. In a courtroom a judge decides which evidence is admissible and which witnesses can testify. A jury decides how much weight to attach to each item of evidence or testimony. A prosecutor leads the presentation of the state’s case. And a defense attorney leads the presentation of the defense against the state’s case.”
And I love this slide. Take a look at this. So, “Epistemology as a Round Table. In your questioning, which voices will you allow at the table? Logic, witness testimony, intuition, ecclesiastical authority, personal revelation, beauty, scholarly authority, experience.” I think that’s just beautiful.
Okay. Now there was a talk given at the 2019 FairMormon Conference that was absolutely fantastic. In fact, I knew I needed to do a video using the parts of this talk right when I heard it. So René Krywult spoke and he actually helped to found the organization of FairMormon in Europe and actually helped produce a number of conferences in Germany. But he went through a faith crisis as a teenager. And so he talks about that in this talk.
It was really powerful. And things that he wished that he had known at that time, and then how he was able to keep his testimony and some key takeaways. So I want to share some great nuggets through there, but I highly recommend, the transcript’s available. Eventually they’ll publish it. You can purchase the streaming today if you want to buy it.
But okay, so take a look at this. So first of all, yeah, let me just share on the left hand side there in italics is, “The author claimed he was an expert.” So he had read this book, this anti-book that he had found and he read it in just a brief period. He says, “The author claimed he was an expert, a former priest of the Church. I read it from cover to cover within two hours. I was devastated. There was so much in the book that I’d never heard of before, and it was all bad. Reading, I felt my heart start to race. I couldn’t breathe. My thoughts raced in circles. Was my new life of faith all built upon lies? Basically, I was in panic. Before I tell you how I dealt with all this and came out stronger, let me show you a few indicators that would have helped me back then, but which I did not know.”
“Number one, overstating of credentials. Like this example, a Mormon priest. In a Latter-day Saint context, an adult who claims he was a priest, is a person who has left the Church before his 18th birthday,” most likely. Okay, factoids. “As long as you have the word count and enough question marks, you will reach your goal. But if the reader really takes apart one argument after the other, nothing remains. This smoke without fire, these ‘lalala’ arguments I call ‘factoids.'” Volume, repeating, that’s like I said, the CES letter is a lot of that too.
“A million pin pricks.” He says, “Text so massive that even looking at the pile of paper, you automatically went into dummy mode, where you didn’t understand anything anymore, not because the text was a problem, but because you were overloaded with the sheer amount of information. Document shock.”
And he told us that the ex-Mormon anthropologist, Manuel Padro, said, “They pressure you with questions. Intentionally luring Latter-day Saints into a situation where they are bombarded with questions they don’t know how to answer is a documented tactic used by these groups. They are trying to coerce you into a situation where they can bombard you with so many doubt-provoking questions that they can cause your resolve to collapse and your identity to fall apart. Inside of that vacuum they hope to impregnate you with their own belief system. If that sounds abusive, it’s because that’s what it is. They can’t torture you, but they can humiliate you and pressure you with questions you don’t have answers to yet. They try to hit you up with too many of these questions to answer because if they don’t, it wouldn’t work. That’s how the CES letter works. It’s garbage, but it’s a common strategy in the anti-Mormon ministry.”
Okay, “Tables, charts and visualizations. When a table is produced, many people count the items on the table but they do not read the words anymore. We see checkmarks in columns and we count the checkmarks, but we do not try to understand what the table or the chart really tells us. Don’t skim over it. Go into detail. Take an invitation to be more careful with the information and not to accept it simply because it is visualized.”
They talked about one-sidedness in the talk. I won’t go into any of these but, “If something is too good to be true, it most likely isn’t. If something is too bad to be true, it most likely isn’t.” He gave great examples of those. Emotions. “Appealing to feelings alone is a very simple way to circumvent our logical brain and go directly to emotional decision making. So listen to your emotions. Are they being manipulated by the text you are reading? How? If you actively take away your emotions, is the text still compelling? Does the author try too hard to raise emotions?” There’s a lot of that that goes on.
Okay. “How I kept my testimony.” So he says, “As I said, I was alone and in panic. There was no one to ask. I was all alone.” Which by the way, as just as a segment of… That’s why I think Uplift is so helpful. People don’t need to be alone today when they may be going through a faith crisis. This is great to have these groups online.
He says, “So I did the one thing I could do. I was certain that there is a God who answers prayers. So I knelt and prayed, ‘What shall I do, Father?’ And the answer was, ‘Read a chapter in the Book of Mormon.’ ‘Which one?’ ‘Doesn’t matter.’ I did, and it calmed me down, but it didn’t solve the issue. So I prayed again, ‘What now?’ ‘Take one chapter from the anti-Mormon book and look for things you know about. If the description is true, then the rest may be true too. If not, why would you trust it?’ So that’s what I did. And I found the book wanting. For the moment this solved my problem, but I decided to study all those topics I knew nothing about until I knew. This situation and how I resolved it, started me on a lifelong journey of apologetics or defense of the faith. I decided then to never again be caught unawares, not knowing things about my faith.”
So a couple of key takeaways. He says, “Calm down. While studying, monitor your emotions. Are you all calm? If not, do things that calm the stormy seas. Walk away from the topic for some time. Do things to get your equilibrium back. In my case, it was prayer and reading the Book of Mormon. Of course, you will stay calm longer and regain your equilibrium quicker if you are in a good physical and mental situation to begin with. I do not read anti-Mormon material when I am ill or when I’m tired, hungry or angry.” Interesting.
Okay, “Check what you can check. There was so much in that book I did not know about, but there were things that I knew, and I checked them. This includes checking the sources. What sources are named? Are they all biased in the same direction? How does the text deal with those sources? Is it a fair quote/representation of the source?”
“One point at a time. This is one of the most important steps. When faced with too much information….”, this is, I think, the biggest challenge with the CES letter, the Big List thing is, “When faced with too much information, when in document shock or dummy mode, we will be unable to really appreciate good answers to counteract the 1 million pin pricks technique. Instead of looking at the whole picture, take one claim at the time. Evaluate it. What if it’s true? What if it’s not true? What does it mean? Is it important? Does it even change a thing? Sort the claims by priority and deal with the most important issues first. Analyze it. What is the claim? What are the known facts? Get to the bottom of it. Only after resolving this one issue, go to the next in importance. I once had an issue and it took me three years to solve it. So patience is necessary here.”
And just all those things we talked about. Why we don’t have patience today, it’s a challenge. “Don’t become consumed. It’s easy to become overwhelmed. You have all the time in the world to analyze, to learn and understand. Don’t neglect your duties. Don’t neglect yourself. Don’t neglect your family. Studying all these things takes time. Give it time. The journey has taken a large part of my adult life so far. I’ve learned more about the Book of Mormon than I had believed possible. I’ve learned about history and appreciate the giants on whose shoulders I now stand, the prophets, their wives, my personal heroes of apologetics and scholarship. Studying with diligence and keeping my emotions in check has broadened my understanding of the gospel, of history, and of doctrine. It has brought me to my knees in prayer and strengthened my testimony. I wish you safe journey through the depths of information and the shallows of misinformation.”
Now, some of the things he’s talking about at the very end there. I love the idea of focusing too on the joy of the doctrine that we have that is so unique in the world. It is absolutely… That’s why I love doing those Evidences videos. It’s so powerful.
And I want you just to listen for a minute to a three minute segment of Terryl and Fiona Givens. I have a great fondness for any time they write a book, I make sure I go buy it. So the Crucible of Doubt: Reflections on the Quest for Faith. And they have gone around and done these firesides on faith and faith questions and challenges. Faith challenges they call it.
Latter-day Saints Q&A:
So there was a fireside that FairMormon published on their YouTube channel in 2016. And it’s my number one reference down below. I’d love to just say, please just take an hour, you will not regret it, to listen to it. It’s absolutely fascinating, but they talk about five gems of the Restoration and then how to tackle maybe more challenging issues. But listen to this for just three minutes here.
This evening we would like to speak to you about two things. We want to speak a little bit about faith and we want to speak a little bit about faith challenges, also known as doubt. And I’m going to begin with an illustration that comes from the Chartres Cathedral. And this is the rose window of Chartres Cathedral. And my wife and I found ourselves in Chartres, I think two summers ago, and they were in the midst of a massive restoration.
And as we stood before the rose window, I found myself feeling, once again, that this is perhaps one of the most beautiful sites that we can experience as mortals upon this earth, is to stand in the midst of one of these great medieval cathedrals with the sun blazing through and showering us with all the various colors of the rainbow coming through this gorgeous work of faith and devotion preserved since the middle ages.
A few minutes later we found ourselves on the outside of Chartres Cathedral, just walking around the exterior and it took me a few minutes to realize that as we stood before this portion of cathedral, we were actually looking at the same window. And I couldn’t help but reflect upon what to my mind was a fairly dramatic contrast between that view and this one.
And as I reflected upon it, it occurred to me that this is rather like our experience along life’s journey of faith. And that sometimes we feel ourselves in the presence of something magnificent and beautiful and full of glory and splendor. And at other times we find ourselves before something or in the midst of something that seems rather dull or pedestrian or uninspiring.
And what I was reminded of this day in Chartres Cathedral was that the only thing that has changed is our perspective and not the source of the beauty or splendor. And so today, Fiona and I want to share with you five reasons, or five gems of the Restoration, as we call them, that we find when we focus on these, we feel ourselves in the midst of something beautiful and divine and inspired. And then in the second half of our presentation, we’re going to talk a little bit about reasons why we sometimes find ourselves cut off from the source of goodness and beauty, troubled by doubts or obstacles along the way.
Latter-day Saints Q&A:
Okay, so these five gems of the Restoration, here they are on the screen. “God’s heart beats in sympathy with ours, feeling our joy and sharing our pain. Two, we lived with our Heavenly Father and Mother as eternal spirits. Three, life is not a tragic fall, but an educative ascent. Four, Father has a desire and capacity to save the entire human family. And five, heaven is eternal relationships with those we love.”
This stuff is very unique doctrine and is worth celebrating in a very dramatic way, especially if we’re studying challenging things. Focus on these at the same time. That’s why I did those evidences videos at the same time. And this book, one of my favorite from Terryl and Fiona Givens, The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life. They wrote this a number of years ago, but this idea, the number one thing there, “God’s heart beats in sympathy with ours, feeling our joy and sharing our pain.”
The Protestants, part of their creed that was adopted was this Westminster Confession of Faith that the articles of faith were built upon for many of these Protestants, of God not having body parts and passions. And so Fiona talks in this fireside about passions and how the Restoration … we flip that on its head dramatically. The God Who Weeps, Enoch saw Heavenly Father himself weeping. And this was amazing.
And then we think about the allegory of the olive tree in Jacob 5 and how all this work that was going on to each individual tree and weeping once again in there. And how this just powerful, love this stuff. Okay, so then they talk about asking, so how can we find ourselves back on track if we’re struggling with faith? So some of the things they mention in the fireside, one, asking the right questions. Maybe is there incorrect framing that might be going on? Is there incorrect assumptions? That’s a big deal in a lot of the videos I’ve done.
Two, heroes and hero worship. Three, the role and function of the Church. Four, find your own watering place, Proverbs 5:15. And I just want to share one brief example of something that I thought was interesting about assumptions and then even evidences as to how these almost tie together. It was the Book of Abraham. So when I did that video on the Book of Abraham, I talked about there always could be this potential for a missing scroll that we don’t have, that was lost in the fire or whatever. Who knows? That could be a possibility, but also very much could be that the scrolls were just simply a catalyst for Joseph to receive revelation. There was precedence for this. Think about what we get from the Book of Moses and Enoch, all that stuff from just reading some verses in the Bible.
So these catalysts that Joseph had had at times that he experienced. So here’s what’s interesting is, so then you see all of these fascinating things that we now discover. So I did the Evidences video on all these ancient Egyptian ties now that are there. So how did that happen? And I think of it, I like to say the divine fingerprints. So these are evidences of Joseph’s prophetic call. Nothing to do with translation of any kind of Egyptian scroll maybe that was even happening.
But that’s the assumption we always have made. Right. So that’s attacked by critics on here now that we can see some of these scrolls that were found in the 60s. And we know how to translate Egyptian now and so that’s where the attack comes. But you can see how this kind of all comes together, and it’s fascinating how I think the Lord says, nope, I’m going to give you some powerful witnesses here along the way.
Okay. Now I want to share a couple other things. So Tad Callister wrote a great piece, this was in the Church News. The title of it caught my attention, How the Church Ruins its Members for Any Other Church. So this was kind of in this theme of what the Givens spoke about too.
Listen to what he said. He says, “While serving on an assignment in the Pacific, a mission president contacted me about meeting with a missionary who wanted to go home early. Evidently the missionary had read some anti-Church literature and felt he no longer had a sufficient testimony to teach the gospel. I met with the missionary and asked him if I might ask him a few questions. He consented. The questioning went essentially as follows: Do you believe in the pre-mortal existence, that we lived with God as His children before we came to this earth? He replied that such doctrine was taught in the Bible and he believed it.
“Do you believe in the doctrine of the spirit world, that everybody will have a fair chance to hear the gospel in its fullness either on earth or in the spirit world before they are judged? He said that it seemed fair and right to him. Do you believe then in baptisms for the dead? ‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘That’s in the Bible.’ Contrary to the doctrine of the Trinity as taught by most of the Christian world, do you believe that God, the Father and His son, Jesus Christ, are two separate personages with glorified bodies of flesh and bones? He replied in the affirmative.”
“Do you believe in one heaven and one hell as taught by most of the Christian world or do you believe in the three degrees of glory? He replied, ‘Three degrees of glory.’ Do you believe in the eternal nature of families? He said he’d always believed in such a doctrine. Do you believe that Christ’s Church today should have Apostles just as existed in Christ’s mortal ministry? He replied that that seemed right to him. Do you believe in ongoing revelation today or believe that it ceased at the time the Bible ended and thereafter God left us on our own? ‘No,’ he said, ‘I believe we should have revelation today.'”
He said, “About 10-12 questions were discussed. I then asked this fine young missionary, ‘Can you think of any Church that teaches one, let alone all of these doctrinal principles?’ I will never forget his a response: ‘I hadn’t thought of that before.’ In truth, this Church ruins its members for any other Church because, like this missionary, they know too much. If people leave this Church, they will usually end up traveling down one of two paths. Either they will become a Church unto themselves because they will never find another church that has more truth than they already have, or they will head down the road of agnosticism.”
“Recognizing this, I asked the missionary, ‘Are you willing to give up all this doctrine you know to be true, to throw it all away because you have a few questions you can’t answer?’ It reminds one of the observation, ‘Don’t lose faith in the many things you know because of a few things you don’t know.'”
Okay, so now I got to conclude with one of the greatest devotionals ever given at BYU was given in January 2019 by Elder Lawrence Corbridge. It was entitled Stand Forever and this is a great way to conclude this. I’ve pulled together some of my top quotes from that. So he talks a lot about primary questions and secondary questions.
He says, “Begin by answering the primary questions. There are primary questions and there are secondary questions. Answer the primary questions first. Not all questions are equal and not all truths are equal. The primary questions are the most important. Everything else is subordinate. There are only a few primary questions. I will mention four of them. Is there a God who is our father? Is Jesus Christ the Son of God, the Savior of the world? Was Joseph Smith a prophet? Is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the kingdom of God on the earth?”
“By contrast, the secondary questions are unending. They include questions about Church history, polygamy, people of African descent and the priesthood, women and the priesthood, how the Book of Mormon was translated, the Pearl of Great Price, DNA and the Book of Mormon, gay marriage, the different accounts of the First Vision, and on and on.” Done videos on all of those.
“If you answer the primary questions, the secondary questions get answered too, or they pale in significance and you can deal with things you understand and things you don’t and things you agree with and things you don’t without jumping ship all together.”
Okay. “Different ways of learning. How can we know the answers? There are different methods of learning, including the scientific, analytical, academic, and divine methods. The divine method of learning incorporates elements of the other three, but ultimately trumps everything else by tapping into the powers of heaven. All four methods are necessary to know the truth.” Interesting phraseology.
“They all began the same way, with a question. Questions are important, especially the primary questions. Pay whatever price you must pay, bear whatever burden you must bear, and make whatever sacrifice you must make to get and keep in your life the spirit and power of the Holy Ghost. Every good thing depends on getting and keeping the power of the Holy Ghost in your life. Everything depends on that.”
Okay then he talks about… let me tell you, he talks about how as a part of his role as a general authority was he had to go in and study all this anti-literature that’s out there. He says, “There’s probably nothing out there that I haven’t read.” So what was the gloom I felt several years ago while reading antagonistic material? Some would say the thought that everything one has believed and been taught may be wrong, particularly with nothing better to take it’s place, is a gloomy and disturbing thought indeed. But the gloom I experienced as I listened to the dark choir voices raised against the Prophet Joseph Smith and the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ, the gloom that came as I waded chest deep through the swamp of the secondary questions, is different.”
“That gloom is not belief bias and it is not a fear of being in error. It is the absence of the Spirit of God. That is what it is. It is the condition of man when left unto himself. It is the gloom of darkness and the stupor of thought. The Lord said, ‘And that which doth not edify is not of God and is darkness. That which is of God is light and he that receiveth light and continueth in God, receiveth more light and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.'”
“I spent a lifetime seeking to hear the word of the Lord and learning to recognize and follow the Spirit of God, and the spirit associated with the dark voices that assail the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon and the Restoration is not a spirit of light, intelligence and truth. The Spirit of God is not in those voices. I don’t know much, but I do know the voice of the Lord, and His voice is not in that dark choir. Not at all in that choir.”
In stark contrast to the gloom and sickening stupor of thought that pervades the swamp of doubt is the spirit of light, intelligence, peace, and truth that attends the events and the glorious doctrine of the Restoration, especially the scriptures revealed to the world through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Just read them and ask yourself and ask God if they are the words of lies, deceit, delusion, or truth.”
He says, “You can’t learn the truth by elimination. There are some who are afraid that the Church may not be true and who spend their time and attention slogging through the swamp of the secondary questions. They mistakenly try to learn the truth by process of elimination, by attempting to eliminate every doubt. That is always a bad idea. It will never work. That approach only works in the game of Clue.”
“There are unlimited claims and opinions leveled against the truth. Each time you track down an answer to any one, there is another one staring you in the face. You can spend a lifetime desperately tracking down the answer to every claim leveled against the Church and never come to a knowledge of the most important truths. Answers to the primary questions do not come by answering the secondary questions. There are answers to the secondary questions, but you cannot prove a positive by disproving every negative. You cannot prove the Church is true by disproving every claim made against it. That will never work. It’s a flawed strategy. Ultimately there has to be affirmative proof, and with the things of God, affirmative proof finally and surely comes by revelation through the spirit and power of the Holy Ghost.”
“The Church of Jesus Christ is grounded on the rock of revelation and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. We are the Church. You and I are the Church. We must be grounded on the rock of revelation, and although we may not know the answers to every question, we must know the answers to the primary questions. And if we do, the gates of hell shall not prevail against us and we will stand forever.” That, my friends, could not be a better way to finish this video. Hope you enjoyed. Thanks.
Bamboozled by the CES Letter by Michael Ash
A Faithful Reply to the CES Letter from a Former CES Employee (free download at debunking-cesletter.com) by Jim Bennett
The CES Letter – A Closer Look (free download at debunking-cesletter.com) by FairMormon and Interpreter Foundation
The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains by Nicholas Carr
YouTube video (the Given’s fireside highlighted in the video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJadf…
Elder Lawrence Corbridge, BYU Devotional, Stand Forever (highlighted in the video): https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/lawren…
Keeping the Faith Faircast – Terryl Givens, Letter to a Doubter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kG6Q…
Dan Peterson, 2014 Fairmormon Conference, Some Reflections on That Letter to a CES Director: https://www.fairmormon.org/conference…
Scott Gordon, 2019 Fairmormon Conference, CES Letter: Proof or Propaganda?: https://www.fairmormon.org/conference…
René Krywult, 2019 Fairmormon Conference, Fear Leads to the Dark Side – Navigating the Shallows of (Mis)Information: https://www.fairmormon.org/conference…
Additional Fairmormon Resources: https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Cr…
Facebook Group (mentioned in the video): Uplift Community of Faith
Latter-day Saints’ Q&A is a video series not produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but by me, an ordinary member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an independent voice, with a passion for studying Church history and defending the faith. In this series, I provide evidences for the restoration, and address tough questions posed by critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, offering faithful answers based on accurate research and historical references which will be posted at the end of each video.