Author of ‘Letter to a CES Director’ out of LDS Church after disciplinary council

Posted at 9:22 PM, Apr 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-18 12:19:16-04

AMERICAN FORK, Utah -- A crowd gathered outside an LDS Church in American Fork Sunday night to show support for Jeremy Runnells, who was attending a disciplinary council that ultimately resulted in the end of his membership in the Mormon faith.

People clapped and cheered, as well as held signs that said, "Thank you Jeremy," to show support.

To them, Runnells was breaking new ground by breaking away from the LDS Church.

"I just really felt like this is history, and I had to be here," said Jerry Byers, who traveled from California for the event. "Nobody's put together something like this."

Jeremy Runnells gained prominence after writing a lengthy piece called "letter to a CES [Church Education System] Director."  Earlier this year, Runnells said he was facing excommunication as a result of his writings questioning some tenets of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In his letter, Runnells raises a number of doubts and questions about the Mormon religion and its history. Some of the topics include Joseph Smith's polygamist practices and the writings in the Book of Mormon.

Runnells said he was promised a response by the CES director, but he said that never came. He said he was then approached by his stake president (a regional leader who oversees several congregations), who he said also promised answers.

"Three years and no answers from the CES director, and a year and a half of no answers from my stake president," he said. "It became very obvious that the church does not have answers."

Runnells said in January, he finally got communication--but it called for disciplinary council.

According to a Mormon resource site, the purpose of a disciplinary council is to discuss sins with the person, pray, and figure out how to move forward.

The results can range from no action, to excommunication.

"This is how the Church is treating people who have questions, people who rise up and say, 'Hey, can you answer this? This doesn't make sense,'" said Steve Holbrook, who helped organize a vigil for Runnells before his disciplinary council meeting.

On the CES Letter website it states Runnells was facing charges of apostasy, but states he feels the letter, "represents Runnells' sincere attempt to obtain answers to legitimate questions and doubts through proper church leadership channels."

Runnells said during disciplinary council he was told it was unacceptable to go public with his concerns and questions.

After his meeting, Runnells came outside and proclaimed: "I have excommunicated the LDS Church." He said he was the one who decided to resign.

Runnells is legally deaf, but the applause that broke out rang loud and clear. Some said this shows the church needs to change, or at least, start answering questions.

Officials with the LDS Church declined to comment on the disciplinary council, saying they are private matters.