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127: Adam Miller: Letter to a CES Student


How concerned should we be with Mormonism’s historical truth claims?  Are we missing the point entirely by debating historocity? Today Guest Host Jon Young talks with Adam Miller about his popular post “Letter to a CES Student”, a response to Jeremy Runnels’ “Letter to a CES Director.”  Unlike debunking efforts at FairMormon, Miller’s response is more philosophical than apologetic.   Thanks to Jon Young for putting this together.

Letter to a CES Student

Adam’s book “Letters to a Yong Mormon”


11 thoughts on “127: Adam Miller: Letter to a CES Student”

  1. Ignoring reality is living a lie.
    If leaders of this church are teaching “facts” that are incorrect, where does it stop?
    L-d$,inc scripture states that Satan is the father of all lies – so who is leading the church when they lie about their own history?

  2. This does not seem like an honest or kind position to take. I don’t think it serves anyone well unless they don’t care about truth or about other people’s well-being.

  3. without the church’s historical truth claims (many of which are being proven falsified and admitted to by the church), there is no “baby in the bathwater”. Of course it matters what the foundation of the church is, and whether it’s false or true or been whitewashed! There are quotes by several prophets of the church, stating that if the Book of Mormon (or the church in general) is not true, then the church should crumble. Well, we know a whole lot now about how the BofM was translated, whether folks REALLY saw golden plates, and that facts as stated in the BofM are patently false (horses, steel, etc., etc.); one can draw the logical conclusion.

  4. Can I ask if each of you listened to the podcast or are just going off of the synopsis? I don’t think Adam is at all saying historicity doesn’t matter, rather he is saying by focusing so much on something you can never really get at the heart of, you miss out on grace

  5. I LOVE Adam’s “Letters you a young Mormon” I just love it.

    But I have to admit my mind must be at the level of a “young Mormon” as when I often listen to Adam, my head turns sideways, my forehead scrunches up, and I moan, “huhhh?”. I don’t see myself signing up for Philosophy courses (I did get an A in my undergrad Philosophy course).

    Thanks for the interview.

  6. When Adam speaks I hear the chorus from the movie Frozen playing in the background… “Let it go, Let it go, Let it go!” It works as a philosophical abstraction. But life is lived in the material world. I’m a builder and no mater how much I try to convince myself that the subsoil of a foundation should be compacted to support the building the fact of its compaction must be tested to verify that it is. The difference between the ideal and the actual may be great enough that should the ideal not be met the actual building will fail. And so it is with the truth claims of the LDS church- the consequences of life under auspices of the church are great enough that I will no longer turn a blind eye to the lies.

  7. I love Adam Miller, and I think his is some of the best thinking within the church these days. Here’s where I don’t find his argument very persuasive though. He talks about how if your religion is working then you’ll have this excruciating experience of it crumbling in your hands. I tend to agree with him here, yes, that experience, many experiences like this, condition us. That’s how we grow. But he’s implying that this is a reason to stay in the church, which I disagree with. It’s pretty hollow to suggest that we should seek out torture for the sake of torture.

    It’s like being a kid and believing in Santa Clause. I teach my kids to believe in that stuff even though I know it’s true. Why? Because I had fond memories of my own childhood. I believe that it’s good for them to have this experience, develop their innocence and creativity. But eventually they get to old and it’s time to stop believing in those fairy tales. But that doesn’t mean we should toss the fairy tales out, they served a critical purpose in helping the children develop to a certain point.

    I see this business with the church as being much the same. I very much agree with him that if people have gone through this fiery crucible kind of experience, that’s a very good thing. But in order to learn the right lessons and continue developing past that point, the answer may be to leave the church, to reject plainly false teachings.

    Another way of looking at this is when the institution or things like the history become a stumbling block, it’s time to separate. As Miller says, the ultimate point of the gospel is to become like Christ. We are to become masters of the law through our agency. It’s not about reaching a physical destination but becoming a certain type of person. Morally independent. Spiritually competent.

    The church however does not promote this. For instance if I were to express the belief that I don’t actually think the BOM is true in the sense of being a nonfictional historical record, I’ll get threatened with discipline by my leaders. And on and on and on. And I know this because I’ve been there and done that. The church demands total unquestioned obedience. It subjects me to spiritual slavery. It does not teach people to become independent or self-confident. It teaches them to become passengers in a boat driven by leaders. It should be teaching people how to become their own boat captains. The culture does not foster an environment that allows me to develop spiritually.

    But at the same time, just like with my kids and Santa Clause, I very much thank the church for helping me to develop to a certain point. And for the sake of my dear wife and other family members, all those relationships, I wish the church weren’t so controlling. I believe it has become a very toxic and hollow organization. I have no doubt that if Adam Miller were serving as an apostle things would be much different, but he’s not. We don’t get leaders who think like him, we get guys like Oaks and Bednar. I hear literally nothing at church that inspires me, I just feel myself being held down by the chains of hell. It’s to a point where I feel like the institution is impeding the pure gospel of Christ.

    I totally agree with Miller when it comes to the pure gospel of Christ. I simply don’t see that in the modern LDS church at all. I see bureaucracy. I see busy work. I see unaccountable leadership. I see a narcissistic organization that has become a macroeconomy, which the whole state of UT depends on. Decisions are made not with the welfare of the individual member, the lone sheep, in mind, but for sake of protecting the organization and keeping all its financial dependents fat and happy. Watch the video with Ken Sullivan and his wife, talking about why he left the church. Look at the reports about 32 LGBT suicides in the wake of the infamous “policy” and then read the church’s hollow PR response. I talked with the brother of a current apostle about the deceptive presentation of church history, the flat out lies and obfuscation, and his response was to quote Jack Nickolson, “you can’t handle the truth.” This is an institution that doesn’t care about how it’s behavior impacts people, it cares about mass layoffs in UT if tithing dips 20%. If the church were 100% open and down to earth about what it does and doesn’t know, how it knows what it claims to know, what it believes versus truly knows, why it believes it, came clean about it all, I would happily, joyfully, go back and be active in my ward.

    1. All that said, I do agree with Miller that the CES letter is a bit bad. I find it to be very superficial. It raises a lot of good points, but it deals with them in a very superficial manner, has some very very flawed analysis, engages in a lot of conjecture, and it leaves out so much. I also appreciate Miller’s statement that despite it all, he feels something when he reads the BOM. It moves him in a certain way, and he hasn’t found anything else that would replace his home in the LDS church. I identify with this. I have not found anything better and I’d like the LDS church to be my home, but at the same time it’s not working for me. I keep holding out hope for it to change, even just a little, enough for me to be able to make it work. Not so far. The Snuffer movement is frankly very attractive to me. I don’t think I’d agree with them, like they are very fundamentalist with their belief in the BOM I think, but they seem to be ok with local governance and diversity of belief. It would be nice if LDS leadership would allow us to form our own ward here in the area for skeptics. Or at the very least a sunday school class or something. Blah.

    2. I hear you and grapple with much of the same. That said the gospel is good and I find the church the best vehicle to administer that to me. I also find the church to be dynamic and fun and hence I choose to hope in it.

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