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Jim Bennett and Bill Reel and the Issues of the CES Letter Part 1

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 1 Jim gives us a history of him and his father and the why of his response to Jeremy Runnells CES Letter. We then tackle Joseph Smith’s Treasure Digging, The First Vision, and begin to get into the multiple aspects of the Book of Mormon including Translation and the level of absurdity in some of the narrative’s stories.


4 thoughts on “Jim Bennett and Bill Reel and the Issues of the CES Letter Part 1”

  1. Surprised there are no comments yet….

    I’m coming from the already disaffected group, so I’m probably difficult to convince. Love the back and forth. Wish I could have heard the coherent believing approach 10 years ago, before it was too late.

    I have to disagree with the idea that we shouldn’t EXPECT the church to give the non-flattering side of the issues. I’m 45. I grew up hearing in church that if you want to know about a Ford you wouldn’t ask a Chevrolet dealer. It wasn’t stated that you should go to both, only ask Ford about Ford. I followed that advice until I couldn’t anymore.

  2. On folk magic: I don’t necessarily think it’s a problem that the Smiths were superstitious. I do think it matters if his leading treasure digging expeditions was a con. Is Jim arguing that this was some kind of pious fraud? That Joseph actually believed he was being led by a stone to find these treasures?

    On presentism. Presentism is a real issue in historiography. However, I don’t think it can be argued that claiming to help people find treasures with a stone was only seen as benign by people at the time. There were plenty of folks who viewed Joseph’s activities negatively, and I don’t think you can argue that everyone who felt that way was inherently biased against him.

    It is true that the leaders of the Church who knew better have withheld information from us as members. I think Elder Packer’s infamous statement about “not all truth being useful” is a flat out admission of that. That was not a “cultural aversion to embarassment”. It was clearly intent to hide facts.

    Now that the cat’s out of the bag on a lot of this stuff, it doesn’t look good. At all. Do I think they lied to me? Well, if you want to parse that word, then no. But they were dishonest–even if their motive was good, it was still dishonesty. And I’m with Bill on the deep betrayal a person can feel when they are expected to live with a very high level of integrity (complete with punishments if they don’t…), and yet the Church doesn’t live up to that itself.

    Jim. Of course the Church has refused to answer certain questions! It is a widely cultivated dynamic that these questions are considered taboo, off-limits, whatever you want to call it… And historians who had uncovered these things before the brethren were ready to admit them were punished. Many were excommunicated. Jim’s experience was not typical.

    For me, the First Vision account issue is as important as the Church makes it. By which I mean that I grew up with the carefully cultivated account on which the Restoration is based. The theology certainly seems different between the accounts. But I think that President Joseph Fielding Smith made this all a much bigger issue when he hid the account in a safe so that it wouldn’t get out. That’s dodgy. Why did he do that? Was it just an aversion to embarassment? Or something else?

    This is a great conversation. I love Jim’s dad, and I imagine he is as good a person.

  3. I am only on 1:37:28 in the podcast, but I don’t understand if this is the true and everlasting gospel why won’t Heavenly Father step in at the first and make it right? Why did he let the the true gospel mislead so many?

    Second, is why does this not apply to the church, but it has to apply to its members? “Are you honest in your dealings with your fellowmen?” Withholding information that would make it so I don’t grow up thinking one thing and then finding out later, I was lied by omission or flat out lies to my whole life is upsetting.

    I love though getting the other prespective that Mr. Bennett is suggesting

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