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Jim Bennett and Bill Reel and the Issues of the CES Letter Part 2

We sit down with Jim Bennett, son of former Utah Senator Bob Bennett, to discuss Jim’s response to the CES Letter. This interview takes place over several different days and comprises looking at the troublesome issues the CES Letter presents and reviewing where Jeremy Runnells and Jim Bennett disagree. I try to play a mediator between Jim and the ideas of the CES letter. Granting ground where I think Jim offers a reasonable response as well as pushing back where I think the CES Letter presents a credible case.

In part 2 we tackle other issues in the Book of Mormon including the presence of 19th century material in all of Joseph translation productions, the 11 witnesses, and anachronisms. We then start to get into the Book of Abraham and touch on ideas like Prophetic fallibility and Spiritual witness, topics we hope to dive into deeper as we continue the conversation.


19 thoughts on “Jim Bennett and Bill Reel and the Issues of the CES Letter Part 2”

  1. The fact that members or leaders are imperfect is not a problem with me. What is a BIG problem for me is when they demand we revere them and obey and not question their imperfect and most serious problems which go 180 against Christ, bully and abuse members and outsiders and Are 100% pro-Pharisees.

    Commanding us to follow and obey imperfect leaders in their unethical “honesty in their dealings” is blasphemy in my book – just Can’t do that anymore. Jesus warned against it. The BoM warns against it, as does D&C 121 and so many more scriptures. Whom Are we following?

    Also, getting revelations to do away with the real Law of Common Consent and then threatening and punishing members for obeying the real Law of Common Consent, is blasphemous and highly unethical and immoral in my book. When did Jesus change His mind to give us the Law of Common Coercion by Constraint?

    Besides, “Gospel” means “Good News,” not threatening, coercing, punishing, shaming, bullying, abusing, all in His name.

    Anyone pointing out truths and desiring we return to following Jesus is up for being threatened, shamed, bullied, abused, punished and maybe even “Burned at the Stake (center).”

    The Holy Ghost they sold me tells me these truths which disagree with their final word “HG of the Leaders.” So HG version 1.0 which they sold me is defective since it does not agree with Their Holiness contradicting Jesus?

    And it just goes on and on. Refusal to correct course back to Christ is scoffed at because our “imperfect” Leaders are beyond reproach and Christ will punish us for disobeying their commandments contrary to His commandments??? WTH?

    Just sing another hymn of praise to Them? I don’t think so. I’ve graduated from “nursery” and I’m ready to graduate from “Primary” now.

  2. Tom: “The fact that members or leaders are imperfect is not a problem with me. What is a BIG problem for me is when they demand we revere them and obey and not question their imperfect and most serious problems which go 180 against Christ”

    Wow. Very well said Tom.

    I am mostly through episode five of six (still listening as I write this). However with all he’s said, I still wouldn’t be surprised if Jim got a talking to and got in trouble or disciplined or told to leave the choir after all he’s said since lately so many people are being cut off at the knees for anything that brethren would remotely disagree with.

  3. I’m impressed by the amount of “That doesn’t matter to me.” that occurs in this episode. It isn’t like he is thinking through the ramifications.
    Plates were never in the room. Okay. Well, that means that Moroni and Mormon wasted their time with forging plates. The story is now meaningless.
    The story is unbelievable. Well, perhaps we don’t have some info. Well, considering that the translation process went through God, that means maybe God isn’t that great of a filter.
    JST was copied from Clark. Why not? This then just puts JS as a compiler and then starts talking about revelation. I expect something from prophets that the corner preacher can’t accomplish.

    1. Darth Bill-

      Good points. Let me say I really appreciated the time that Jim (and Bill) put into this, and while I’m still only on part 3, I’m left with a couple of overall points.

      One – I like Jim’s vision of Mormonism, but it’s not at all what I experience on a weekly version at church. I experience binary thinking, complete deference to leadership, and immediate push back to any form of thinking that I express that doesn’t line up 100% with the standard narrative. Jim’s Mormonism reminds me of the Bushmans’ Mormonism – it doesn’t exist in the real world. The question I have for folks like Jim (and Richard & Claudia) is how do I as an individual member try to have an open perspective while everyone around me doesn’t?

      Two – I’m also left with a great degree of anger. Not at Jim or Bill, but at the so-called prophets that lead the modern corporation. Look at Jim – it’s not that freaking hard! Show some compassion to individual members who are struggling. Stop pretending you have the answers to everything. Show some humility and vulnerability. But – nope, the church can’t admit to mistakes (and certainly not individual leaders’ mistakes). So while we all wait patiently for the church to “get it right”, real damage is being done to individuals and families.

      Thanks again Bill and Jim – I’m looking forward to finishing the series.

  4. There’s a lot of, “That happened because that’s what God wanted to happen” here. God wanted Joseph Smith to learn from Rigdon. Those aren’t assertions worth discussing because they’re not falsifiable. What can Bill say? What can anyone say other than, “Tautology much?”

    I like what Jim says about individuals having both a direct path to deity and a responsibility to establish that relationship. Great. Then what is the purpose of prophets if they’re just as fallible as the rest of us? And what’s the point when the organization sticks dogmatically to mistakes for fear of looking … fallible? Consider that the abolitionist movement that got going in the early nineteenth century was founded in Christianity. Mormonism, which claims to be the only religion that still receives modern revelation, only took another 150 years plus to come around to equality. Makes no sense.

  5. Jim seems to argue that, from the premise that the number of Book of Mormon anachronisms has gone down over time, one can expect the number of anachronisms will continue to go down over time in the future. I don’t see how the fact that particular aspects that are no longer considered anachronisms has anything to do with unrelated other aspects that are still considered anachronisms.

    Moreover, I don’t know how one goes about proving the premise that the number of Book of Mormon anachronisms has gone down. Showing that certain aspects are no longer considered anachronistic with respect to Mesoamerica does not prove the premise that the number of anachronisms has gone down because one has to factor in any other anachronisms that ongoing scholarship discovers. The naked assertion that the number of anachronisms has gone down is not persuasive to me.

    Jim also seems to assert that ongoing analysis of forgeries will result in more, not fewer, anachronisms, over time. How could that be true for all forgeries? Doesn’t that depend upon how much data is initially gathered about the particular forgery and the substance of the particular forgery?

    As more data is gathered about the substance of the forgery and the forgery itself, the number of anachronisms could go up or down. I don’t think an ongoing tally tells one anything.

  6. Jim seems to be making an argument from incredulity that, because he cannot imagine any secular explanation for Joseph’s dictation of the text of the Book of Mormon, the text of the Book of Mormon is a miracle.

    Jim argues further, from the premise that the Book of Mormon is miraculous, criticisms do not matter. As noted above, I think the premise is faulty. In fact, the criticisms are evidence that the Book of Mormon is not as miraculous as alleged in the premise.

  7. Regarding the 19th Century material in the Book of Mormon, John Hamer (MS episodes 1063 to 1065), Dan Vogel (MS episodes 1056 to 1058 and 1066 to 1071) and David Bokovoy (MS episodes 1019 to 1022) have several recent Mormon Stories podcast interviews, some of which discuss Joseph’s dictation of the Book of Mormon and the 19th century content of the Book of Mormon.

    Given Part 1 didn’t go into the details of the 19th century material (rightly so), I would refer listeners to those episodes.

    Also, Jim dismisses Deutero-Isaiah straw mans the scholarship as being merely being an argument about one reference to a later king. David Bokovoy discusses Deutero-Isaiah in his interview.

  8. Emma expressed concerns about gross splats of tobacco on the floor, Joseph inquires of the Lord. In lieu of women’s role in today’s society, Kate Kelly asks today’s prophet, seer, revelator to inquire of the Lord about women’s exclusion from meaningful leadership roles in the Church, not only do they refuse but they excommunicate her. Jim keeps talking about revelation being a response to a question or need. Well, we have one. Where is the revelation? Yes, we do have fallible leaders, but they are the same ones that demand that we sustain them by keeping our mouths shut as they display their arrogance and ignorance. Anyone reading the D&C is struck by the frequency and topics where JS revealed god’s will – Thus saith the Lord. The fact that seership died with Joseph blatant. The only thing left on the table are proclamations and declarations.

  9. Deanna Kessler-Drinkard

    I liken to listening to Jim Bennett’s reasoning to the sensation of scratching my newly manicured fingernails down the Sunday schoolroom chalk board.

  10. Love these discussions, Bill! Thank you! As a musician and professional piano/music theory instructor, I know the power of music! It moves people in all aspects of life. Music is a universal language that crosses all boundaries. Music is deeply inspiring, and our church uses the power of music to move people, without a doubt. I have learned to separate my personal spiritual experiences from testimonies given at a particular meeting. Music bears testimony of itself and its message, be it musical instruments, or with the human voice, the most amazing of all instruments. To me, music is a gift from God, and I believe He speaks to us thru music.

  11. Yes! Each of us need to work out our own personal salvation, so we are all free to decide if we agree with our leaders or not.

  12. Hi Jim. I have a question for you. In part 2 you specifically say, “The Lord will not interfere with our agency. The Lord will not interfere with a prophet’s agency.” You go on to say “Absolutely, 100% the prophet is capable of making a mistake on every subject.”

    Yet, the gospel topic essays specifically state the the Lord did interfere with Joseph’s agency and forced Joseph under threat of death to institute polygamy. If we truly believe that prophets make mistakes shouldn’t we then go back to the nature of God as perfect as Christ defines his Father in Heaven and admit that polygamy was a mistake. Can we admit That God is not a liar and a manipulator, that he truly gave us all agency and allows us to use our agency even to our detriment?

    It seems that church leaders go on and on about Joseph making mistakes, yet we do not specifically qualify anything by Joseph as a mistake. Instead we excuse whatever Joseph did as the will of God.Mormon doctrine actually allows for God to be a liar and a manipulative rather than calling out actions byJoseoh that go against the doctrine of Christ. Why does Mormonism value the reputation of Joseph more than the doctrine of Christ?

  13. This episode frustrated me because of the lack of rational response Jim Bennett gave. I applaud him for sticking in there but the fact is the explanations provided by any Mormon apologist simply ends up that God did not want us to know or that it doesn’t matter.

  14. I find Mr. Bennett’s replies here to be horribly disappointing. I won’t pretend to have a lot of hope left that “the church is true”, but Jim’s claim to have produced a meaningful response to the evil CES Letter got me a little excited, because what I have thus far seen has not been helpful. And sadly, Jim’s responses here suggest his “reply” is nothing but more of the same.

    The constant repetition of “I don’t see anything wrong with that” whether it be regarding the Clark commentary or the Book of Moses being a copy of the NT, just gets old, and one and a half episodes in I don’t know if I can stand any more.

    This is much of why I so dislike Mormon apologetics. If a JW or a Catholic has no problem with any criticisms of their religion, that’s no different from this. Jim has no problem with all these problems because he chooses to believe anyway. No issue or criticism will matter, he’s a Mormon, and “a Mormon just believes”.

    Contrary to that, a rational person doesn’t rationalize again and again, over and over, and not eventually reach the conclusion that there is something seriously wrong. An irrational person rationalized and excuses, yet concludes that nothing is wrong. Meanwhile the very obvious reality is that the irrational person sees nothing wrong simply because they want nothing to be wrong and is incapable of objective evaluation of the issue.

  15. I’m late to this party but I’m really bothered by Jim’s justification that the prophet can make mistakes.

    Well, of course the prophet can make mistakes, he’s right about that. But weren’t we always told that the Lord would strike down any prophet that would lead the church astray? Follow the Prophet, don’t go astray is what we teach the children.

    I guess I just don’t see the point of following any prophet who is just as likely to make a mistake as me! If I have just as much access, why do I need that guy? Why do I need to pay 10 percent to be in this church if it doesn’t offer anything that I can’t get myself? If you lose the claim that this is “the one true” church and that the prophet “speaks to God”, then you really should just throw that baby out with the bath water.

    God doesn’t make mistakes, right? if this is God’s church, he needs to get it together and take some things more seriously, maybe get a little more hands-on.

    Or… maybe… just maybe… it’s run by a bunch of regular dudes and started by a world-class Bullshitter.

  16. My issue with the truth claims are the regular stuff, but I still believed in jesus, the idea of a savior I still liked, it was like a diamond in a pile of rubbish, I had to get into the bible and decide if faith can be rational.
    The different books in the bible have complicated issues, genesis seems to be responding to cuneiform creation myths that had been read and believed for generations if not thousands of years, and that’s just to chapter 12. After that the real narrative begins, abraham is selected to reveal the god that’s been attributed in the previous chapters to be unique and alone in his attributes, the creator of everything including the other gods that this is speaking against.
    This continues in a complex story that is amazing in it’s coherency, the descendants of abraham vs the rest of the known world, the god of abraham vs the pantheons of the world, the underlying story is their sin and loyalty awaiting an anointed one. The messiah comes but doesn’t come as they expected, jesus does the most unexpected thing, he dies.
    There’s an underlying story here to, the mission of christ is not to defeat Rome.
    he is fighting what Paul called principalitys, the pantheon, knowing the geography and old testament is the key to really understand his ministry.
    This story is so amazing with the context and begs the question, is there also a supernatural aspect to our reality, an afterlife we should be worried about?
    When I wrapped my mind around this bigger story, true or myth, it’s very clear that joseph smith has no clue what’s going on, he operates on a very different worldview, his ideas are not coherent, his god is not coherent with what’s come before, if there is any truth to the bible the lds church is on a different path with a different god at the helm, the validity of smiths claims no longer matter, he’s not even talking about the god of the bible, from a religious perspective, nephites or no,he’s promoting a different path than what jesus provided, the restored gospel depends on the previous one being wrong, and also the history that precedes it being changed.
    Everyone points to all the ways it looks as if he was making it up as he went along, I do believe there’s more to me than my aging body, I want to know the truth and challenge presuppositions, if your reading this and you identify as a latter day saint, please know there’s people that wanna talk and reason and listen, giving up joseph smith isn’t betraying your savior, its the first step in discovering him.

  17. Great Pod, Bill and Jim.

    So Jim believes that God prompted his child to blowout his diaper in the night, so that he would end up walking out to his garbage can that he had burned to the ground and might have caused further damage to his house….

    God is supremely worried about Jim’s Mormon house… Which is insured…

    And at the same time every day roughly 10,000 women in the world are raped… God could simply diminish each perpetrator’s libido/criminality by, say 5 or 10% to avoid the rape, but GOD DOESN’T GIVE A.F. about those women.

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