Are Mormon Apologetics a Gateway to Ex- or Anti-Mormonism? Or….Why I Support Sunstone

July 4, 2006
By

Last week I was counseling a friend who had left the LDS church. As he recounted to me his story, it was interesting to note that apologetics (FAIR and FARMS in particular) were a precursor to his leaving the church–and a strong source for his abiding anger/resentment, and resistance to returning.

I probably get at least 2-3 emails a week from folks who have left the church–and I’m surprised at how many of these people not only delved into apologetics before they left–but also look back upon their experience w/ apologetics in almost disgust. Is it possible that the general approach/effect of arch-apologists like Dan Peterson and Louis Midgley–is actually NEGATIVE with respect to helping people retain their faith in the LDS Church? I am sure that they get short-term emails expressing gratitude for what they’ve done–so I’m speaking more in the medium-long term.

Recent postings by Lou Midgley and Dan Peterson in the bloggernacle are benign examples of what I mean. If you want the full banana….check out the FAIR Message Boards. Blech. Yuck. I almost feel dirty linking to that post.

I have had some VERY good experiences with a few apologists (John Lynch and Greg Kearny being 2 very important exceptions–these strike me as really sincere, thoughtful, kind-hearted men), and I know that there are others, but overall, I continue to be saddened by how often, when I engage in, or observe an apologist conversation, I end up feeling sick and disappointed. For me, the reasons include:

  • The tendency to attack, denigrate and even mock the individual who disagrees with their view of the world.
  • The tendency towards anger, hatred, sarcasm, and mean-spiritedness.
  • The general unwillingness to express things like, “That’s a valid concern.” or “Yep…that’s a tough one.”
  • The apparent willingess to defend at all costs…sometimes with little trace of a desire to remain objective.
  • The tactic of avoiding the overall “mosaic” of an issue, by delving into obscure details and justifications.
  • In summation, a lack of credibility in the eyes of many of they honest, open, sincere, thoughtful folk I interact with.

Now….one thing that I will openly acknowledge is that many/most anti-Mormons act the same way–which is also very, very disappointing. I will also acknowledge that I am grossly generalizing to a large degree–which is also very dangerous.

Still–these 2 poles testify to me as to why a forum like Sunstone must be supported. Neither of these sides (apologists or anti-LDS) are considered fair, balanced and credible by most of the sincere, humble, good-natured, intelligent folks that I continually interact with on the Internet–and I know for a fact that Sunstone (under Dan Wotherspoon) is working very, very hard to remain a more neutral, credible source for exploring and resolving LDS issues, in the house of faith. Sunstone may have stepped over a line or two years ago–but I find them (along w/ Dialogue) to be the rare voices of faithful objectivity and reason in an otherwise arena of shrill, hateful, negative voices.

Sorry for the rant. Please tell me if you disagree. Do apologists represent their cause well, and are they effective?

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153 Responses to Are Mormon Apologetics a Gateway to Ex- or Anti-Mormonism? Or….Why I Support Sunstone

  1. paula
    July 7, 2006 at 8:43 am

    When this topic comes up, on the FAIR boards or blogs etc, often the excuse is that FAIR people might be sarcastic, etc, but that’s ok because other groups, like “anti-mormons” are worse. But shouldn’t good members be trying to be Christ-like? It seems to me that if FAIR hosts the discussion boards, and allowing a character assassination, etc, they are condoning that behavior. Seems to me that the moderators could provide some patterns and good examples of critiquing other people’s work without getting nasty and personal. I think that ad hominem attacks and general nastiness have become pretty embedded in the public discourse of our country, and I’m sorry that some members of the church don’t seem to even notice this anymore. (Thinking back to sarcastic mean comments that come up in SS or RS.) This talk sums up a lot of what I’m saying :
    http://www.lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,49-1-602-30,00.html

  2. July 7, 2006 at 8:53 am

    Blake,

    A podcast is like a radio interview (think Terry Gross w/ Fresh Air or Doug Fabrizio on RadioWest or Van Hale)–except we get to exceed 1 hour if we want to.

    It’s basically a friendly conversation where we discuss stories and issues. You can listen to all of the podcasts by going here: http://feeds.feedburner.com/MormonStoriesPodcast

    I have no interest in interviewing someone about Palmer. I don’t care if Palmer is never mentioned in the interview.

    I’m looking for a faithful, believing Latter-Day Saint who’s willing to discuss: peep stones/treasure digging, First Vision, BOM translation & historicity, the 3 and 8 witnesses, etc. from a faithful perspective–and can share w/ my listeners how they reconcile these issues w/ a traditional, literalist interpretation of Mormon Origins.

    I am not interested AT ALL in debating, or arguing, or tricking anyone. I’ve interviewed apologists before, and everyone will agree (including the interviewees) that I was respectful and considerate to their concerns…including being willing to edit stuff out if necessary for them to feel ok about the overall interview before it was published.

    So….the invitation is wide open. I sincerely believe that my listeners will benefit from hearing this perspective. I strive for balance on the podcast…..and I’d love for someone to stand up and help tell the other side of the faith story…..

  3. July 7, 2006 at 9:00 am

    Blake,

    That you believe whatever you teach to be the whole story, that anything more would be uninteresting or unimportant, and that the fact that you yourself have taught some degree of extracurricular material to be proof that the church does not and has not made great efforts to gloss-over inconvenient facts, and that to whatever extent your lessons go beyond the manuals to also be the will of the church…

    That you believe this and/or promote it as evidence of a simple lack of perspective on the part of church critics…this is some combination of naiveté and willful equivocation.

  4. Blake
    July 7, 2006 at 9:12 am

    Matt: Look at your first sentence and compare it with what I said. You accuse me of saying something I didn’t say and then you attack it. That is called the straw man technique. My point is simply that the issues are wisely left to the capacity and interest of the individuals who teach, research and discuss issues of church history. Of course I never claimed that what I taught was the “whole story” in the sense that there is nothing more to be said, but in the sense that I don’t leave anything out because it may not jive with some prior view or commitment that is contrary to clear evidence. The fact that you twist the senses of what I said reveals a great deal about “willful equivocation”, but not by me. Further, I didn’t claim that if I didn’t teach it, then it cannot be interesting (and I believe that no fair minded person would read what I said that way.) It is just that I don’t discuss the legal intricacies of the so-called 1826 trial (it clearly wasn’t a trial) with my 12 year old SS class. I do discuss it with my college classes. However, given your penchant for mistatement and twisting of what I said beyond recognition, I don’t really wonder that you have problems with church history.

  5. July 7, 2006 at 9:27 am

    jordan,

    excellent post. No, I was not referring specifically to you; I assumed your bro. knew of your odyssey. Just making the point that there are all sorts of people in the DAMU–many of whom have given many years of blood, sweat, and tears to the COJCOLDS and have struggled mightily with their faith and relationship to the church. What John D. identifies in Mormon apologetics is an attitude that disaffected members are either deceived or desiring to sin. I think it would behoove those who participate on FAIR and in the Bloggernacle to get out of their comfort zone a little and actually try to understand the viewpoints of those in the DAMU. You have done this, and I appreciate it.

    I disagree with you and john f. that the principal difference between disaffected members and TBMs with knowledge of the same set of facts is that disaffected members “choose” to draw negative inferences and TBMs “choose” to draw positive inferences, but that discussion may be better suited for another forum at another time.

    To john f., I will just say that I understand your point of view, having once embraced it wholeheartedly. I even went to BYU Law School in part because of my great admiration for the work of John Welch and because I wanted to take a class from him (which I did). I am very familiar with FARMS and the materials produced by FARMS scholars, some of which are of high quality (the book on the Allegory of the Olive Tree, for example). But overall, I have come to agree with John D. about the current state of Mormon apologetics, at least as it is on display on the FAIR discussion board. IMO, FAIR would do a service to the church by pulling the plug on that board–it does far more harm than good.

    Thank you, John Dehlin, for hosting this site and for all the work you do on the podcasts. And thanks for letting us have this little dustup here. I won’t take up any more of your bandwidth.

  6. July 7, 2006 at 9:35 am

    Blake:
    “When I teach lessons in SS, priesthood etc., the full story gets told because, well, I know the full story.”

    Blake:
    “I believe the issue is really that most members aren’t interested in the details and it is really beside the point..”

    Blake:
    “The charge of cover-up is simply a lack of perspective.”

    Blake:
    “The Church leaves the discussion largely to the individual teachers and those involved in research.”

    Where’s the straw-man? Am I really guilty of misrepresenting what you actually said? Granted, I do make some inference, but I largely take what you write at face value.

    You equivocate when you claim that I should have understood “full story” or “whole story” as something more nuanced than the context warranted. See, you clearly believe that “the whole story”, as in “all that really matters or is interesting” is what gets taught…and that anything more is by exclusion, uninteresting or unimportant.

    I’m really not going too far out on an edge here am I? Certainly not twisting your words…

  7. July 7, 2006 at 9:40 am

    Equality:

    I think I agree that there is more to the difference than a simple choice to believe one set of inferences over another, but also agree that it is a topic for another forum.

  8. Mayan Elephant
    July 7, 2006 at 9:47 am

    “However, given your penchant for mistatement and twisting of what I said beyond recognition, I don’t really wonder that you have problems with church history.”

    and my point, why arent the people who have a problem with church history welcome in the church? its a church for crying out loud. with a wacky history no less. so why cant there be a place at the table for everyone?

    john dehlin, i remember your first slideshow very fondly. it was a presentation that was targeted to family members or leaders of those that became disaffected. you did a fantastic job. i can only imagine that anguish and thought that went into each line and bullet point. i also remember thinking how great it would be for my wifes family to see that and believe it. perhaps they would understand how hard it is for some people to stay in the church. perhaps they would understand that good people may not feel welcome. even someone in their own family.

    the comments by many on this board are symptomatic of the culture and doctrine of this church. and its a damn shame. some disaffected folks are sleepless and ill and feeling shame and guilt, while at the same time they are sensing that they are reclaiming their soul. its impossible to not feel the sharp daggers of judgment and selfclaimed elitism when someone says something as ridiculous as “you just didnt want to know, or you werent looking in the right place, or the biggest sham of all – russell nelson said that in conference.” gimme a break.

    john, keep up the good work. maybe one day my family will stumble across your comments and see what you have done. being from logan, you may have some real credibility with them. though, smithfield is their real home turf.

  9. Blake
    July 7, 2006 at 9:50 am

    Matt: Like I said, only a twisting of the fairly clear meaning of my statements would lead to the conclusions you stated. Further, it is in fact the case that issues for you are not issues that most members care about — those who do have full access to all kinds of materials and discussions without the church trying to hide it.

    Compare what I said with your wildly inaccurate re-statements: (1) Mat: “That you believe whatever you teach to be the whole story,” Blake: “When I teach lessons in SS, priesthood etc., the full story gets told because, well, I know the full story.” It’s pretty obvious that I am saying that I don’t withhold infomation, not that I think that whatever I teach is the whole story. (2) Matt: “that [teaching anything more than you teach} more would be uninteresting or unimportant,” Blake: “I believe the issue is really that most members aren’t interested in the details and it is really beside the point..” You have me saying that only what I teach is interesting — whereas I actually stated that most members just aren’t interested.

    Are you really unable to the see difference between what you state and what I stated? Once again, I don’t wonder that you have such a hard time with church history if you cannot see the differences between what you say and what I say when it is right before your eyes.

  10. July 7, 2006 at 9:55 am

    Mayan,

    I think the only folks who do not welcome those who struggle with the history are those who truly believe that such struggle could only arise from dishonesty. As Blake put it: a “penchant for mistatement and twisting”.

    It’s fully understandable that with this view of others there is little patience for the possibility of honesty.

  11. Blake
    July 7, 2006 at 9:57 am

    Elephant: Who said that people who have a different take on church history are not welcome at church? heck, I have a wildly different take on a lot fo church history but my experience is vastly different than yours. Of course if what you really mean is: “why cannot people who insist on teaching that Joseph wa a liar, cheat and fraud be welcome at church?” Well, that isn’t history, it is a judgment and statement of opinion. I wouldn’t expect someone who insisted on trumpeting that opinion in gospel doctrine to be well received with respect to such opinions. So maybe you could explain just what you mean when you ask: “why arent the people who have a problem with church history welcome in the church?”

  12. Blake
    July 7, 2006 at 10:02 am

    Matt: Wow, you really have a hard time with context, don’t you. My statement for a penchant for mistatement and twisting wasn’t about anyone and church history, it was about your own (mis)treatment of what I wrote here. I don’t hold this view of others, but I hold it of what you have written here. It’s time you got a clue and represented other fairly and accurately.

  13. Abner Doon
    July 7, 2006 at 10:08 am

    Just to clarify, the “Blake” posting here is not Blake Ostler, the LDS author and attorney, right?

  14. FreeAtLast
    July 7, 2006 at 10:11 am

    Mike Parker posted, “…the Church has not attempted to censor them or discipline their authors.” Really? What happened to Dr. D. Michael Quinn in 1993 after publishing various books and papers that significantly conflicted with the church’s propaganda about Joseph Smith and other aspects of early church history? Quinn was ex-communicated. What happened in 2005 to author and former CES Director Grant Palmer because of his book, “An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins” (which also conflicted with church propaganda)? He was disfellowshipped. Sounds like church disciplinary action to me.
    What would happen to a church member today if they started pointing out historical or other type of facts that conflicted with church doctrines or teachings, say, in a Sunday School, Relief Society, or priesthood class? Would they even be allowed to finish speaking, or would the teacher/instructor cut them off? Most likely. Would the quorum president or bishopric member have a ‘talk’ with them afterward, telling them to keep such information to themselves? You bet. If such actions are not censorship, I don’t know what is.
    Assuming at least some readers of this blog/post are ‘active’ church members, I challenge those reader to do some online research and present facts at church (in a class, for example) that conflict with church doctrines and teachings. See how fast those facts are trivialized or condemned, and you’re told to keep such information to yourself and not undermine others’ ‘faith’.
    Mike posted, “There is an enormous difference between choosing what material to put in a Sunday School manual for devotional purposes”. I strongly disagree. Truth is truth; facts are facts. There is no difference. People have the right to know the full truth about Mormonism because it’s the information that they become aware of that they use to judge the LDS Church and religion, Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and other aspects of Mormonism. Their assessment determines whether they join the church or not, whether they participate or not (and the extent of their participation if they choose the latter), whether they make financial contributions to the church or not, etc.
    Who would join the LDS Church knowing facts about Joseph Smith such as his belief in magic, treasure-seeking history using occult methods, use of a ‘seer stone in a hat’ to ‘translate’ ‘golden plates’ (that he failed to produce for any person or organization independent of the religion he started), extra-marital affair with a servant girl who worked in his home, polygamous marriages to dozens of females (including women who were already married and girls as young as 14), preachings about plural marriage, adaptation of Masonic ceremonies to create ‘sacred’ temple rites, failed prophecies, completely erroneous ‘translation’ of Egyptian papyri (the Book of Abraham), etc.? Not many.
    It doesn’t take someone with a degree in marketing to understand the fact that people buy (and buy into) things that they BELIEVE in. The challenge for organizations, including the LDS Church, is to get people to believe what it wants them to believe. Hence, the use of propaganda, information crafted to bolster people’s faith. Is it moral or ethical for the LDS Church to manipulate people’s trust/faith through its systematic use of propaganda? (John – this would be a good topic for a podcast). Many people with experience in Mormonism, including myself, do not think so, which is one of the main reasons why tens of thousands of people each year formally leave the church (according to Grant Palmer in his podcast interview with John). The church’s senior patriarchal leadership clearly believes differently.

  15. FreeAtLast
    July 7, 2006 at 10:13 am

    Mike Parker posted, “…the Church has not attempted to censor them or discipline their authors.” Really? What happened to Dr. D. Michael Quinn in 1993 after publishing various books and papers that significantly conflicted with the church’s propaganda about Joseph Smith and other aspects of early church history? Quinn was ex-communicated. What happened in 2005 to author and former CES Director Grant Palmer because of his book, “An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins” (which also conflicted with church propaganda)? He was disfellowshipped. Sounds like church disciplinary action to me.

    What would happen to a church member today if they started pointing out historical or other type of facts that conflicted with church doctrines or teachings, say, in a Sunday School, Relief Society, or priesthood class? Would they even be allowed to finish speaking, or would the teacher/instructor cut them off? Most likely the latter. Would the quorum president or bishopric member have a ‘talk’ with them afterward, telling them to keep such information to themselves? You bet. If such actions are not censorship, I don’t know what is.

    Assuming at least some readers of this blog/post are ‘active’ church members, I challenge those reader to do some online research and present facts at church (in a class, for example) that conflict with church doctrines and teachings. See how fast those facts are trivialized or condemned, and you’re told to keep such information to yourself and not undermine others’ ‘faith’.

    Mike posted, “There is an enormous difference between choosing what material to put in a Sunday School manual for devotional purposes”. I strongly disagree. Truth is truth; facts are facts. There is no difference. People have the right to know the full truth about Mormonism because it’s the information that they become aware of that they use to judge the LDS Church and religion, Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and other aspects of Mormonism. Their assessment determines whether they join the church or not, whether they participate or not (and the extent of their participation if they choose the latter), whether they make financial contributions to the church or not, etc.

    Who would join the LDS Church knowing facts about Joseph Smith such as his belief in magic, treasure-seeking history using occult methods, use of a ‘seer stone in a hat’ to ‘translate’ ‘golden plates’ (that he failed to produce for any person or organization independent of the religion he started), extra-marital affair with a servant girl who worked in his home, polygamous marriages to dozens of females (including women who were already married and girls as young as 14), preachings about plural marriage, adaptation of Masonic ceremonies to create ‘sacred’ temple rites, failed prophecies, completely erroneous ‘translation’ of Egyptian papyri (the Book of Abraham), etc.? Not many.

    It doesn’t take someone with a degree in marketing to understand the fact that people buy (and buy into) things that they BELIEVE in. The challenge for organizations, including the LDS Church, is to get people to believe what it wants them to believe. Hence, the use of propaganda, information crafted to bolster people’s faith. Is it moral or ethical for the LDS Church to manipulate people’s trust/faith through its systematic use of propaganda? (John – this would be a good topic for a podcast). Many people with experience in Mormonism, including myself, do not think so, which is one of the main reasons why tens of thousands of people each year formally leave the church (according to Grant Palmer in his podcast interview with John). The church’s senior patriarchal leadership clearly believes differently.

  16. July 7, 2006 at 10:16 am

    Yes Blake, I’m able to see the difference now that you point it out, and the difference is one of equivocation.

  17. July 7, 2006 at 10:51 am

    DKL wrote:
    “So I say, screw the apologists. Let’s spend the tithing money that goes to FARMS via BYU on something more productive.”

    Yeah, what he said.

    And I agree with the reasoning behind it. When one dwells in the desert world of intellect without evidence, one must often turn to the role of scavenger and raptor in order to survive. This can be true of apologist and critic alike, but as has been pointed out, it is only the apologist that claims to represent and defend the good mind of god. It’s not unreasonable to expect to get what what you pay for.

  18. Mayan Elephant
    July 7, 2006 at 11:04 am

    johnf,

    my kids got a little bingo game for conference. it has pictures and each time the speaker mentions the pictured item they put a little token on the picture or color it or whatever.

    per your suggestion as to the content of conference material. i shall create for them a new bingo card. it will have peepstones, hats, tapirs, young brides, six shooters, masonic symbols, zelph, kinderhook plates, danites, printing presses, a crown fit for a king, more young brides, a woman with two husbands, a cumom and a massacred family.

    so, ill be sure and tell them to listen closely to nelsons talk. can you only imagine the detail i will include for university student bingo? spectacular.

  19. Mayan Elephant
    July 7, 2006 at 11:14 am

    “Who said that people who have a different take on church history are not welcome at church? heck, I have a wildly different take on a lot fo church history but my experience is vastly different than yours. Of course if what you really mean is: “why cannot people who insist on teaching that Joseph wa a liar, cheat and fraud be welcome at church?”

    Blake, no. i said exactly what i meant. but thanks for the little twist.

    the response to your question has already been offered. see the details on excommunications of authors.

    but more than that. i dont have to go far to find people that are simply not happy at church. who wants to worship where they are forced to self censure? one cannot get a temple recommend without attending within the boundaries of ones own ward at the time prescribed. its not as if people can scramble around and find a gospel doctrine teacher with an edge and join up in that congregation.

    the temple rec interview is another control on these thoughts and responses. there are many controls, including an oppressive culture that makes people feel unwelcome.

    yours and others on here are examples of this pressure. i would not want to see my wife sitting in a meeting with you, where you suggest that a different conclusion based on “facts” is the result of a lack of faith or loss of spirit. i would not want my daughter in a private worthiness interview with anyone who harbored those sentiments, whether they were expressed in that private meeting or not.

    you may very well be a fine person and all, but that is not the expample or the exposure i seek for my children and my hot wife. i want my kids to appreciate their great mother for her expressiveness and willingness to defend herself and her children without reservation, and the church is not a place for that.

  20. texasguy
    July 7, 2006 at 11:20 am

    ME,

    Will you send me the new Bingo card. Send both the children’s edition and serious student edition. I hope this game is at least as exciting as the Conference Bingo I am used to.

  21. July 7, 2006 at 11:31 am

    DKL said: From what I’ve seen of Dan Peterson’s writings, he’s just not intellectually honest… He just doesn’t have the integrity to address things square on.

    …the way that Lou Midgely described John H’s Sunstone career…lead me to immediately despise him…and very strongly too.

    …I was dismayed by the smug dishonesty of their claim that, “Well those are the facts, aren’t they?”

    Does anyone see irony in the above? DKL impunes the integrity of Peterson, despises Midgely, and stereotypes apologists as dishonest.

    Yet, when the apologists have the same problem with Palmer (“those are the facts, aren’t they?”), DKL says

    Isn’t DKL’s analysis and subsequent dismissal the example of Christlike response that John D. and some others here have been asking for? (Yep, we should “screw the apologists.” I remember reading that somewhere in Christ’s words, I just don’t have my scriptures nearby right now.) Should Peterson, Midgely, or other apologists attempt to defend their own actions against what they view as misrepresentation? Should they respond to what they view as Palmer’s misrepresentations or his own history or the Church’s history? Apparently not, for DKL says in the same message:

    “We see this in the analysis of Palmer’s book. It’s not enough that they disagree with his opinions; they’ve got to show that Palmer is an idiot and a rogue. Problem is, Palmer is neither (nearly every thread that I’ve seen about Palmer gets bogged down in issues surrounding his employment at CES–as though there were a question of whether he did something illegal; and then there’s Dan Peterson’s despicable little quip about whether or not Palmer was really an insider). So the bottom line is this: When these apologists argue that Palmer is an idiot or a rogue, they’re displaying a basic lack of intellectual integrity. And this is typical of their overall approach.”

    DKL can say that Peterson is intellectually dishonest, Midgely is to be despised, and all the other apologists are dishonest–all based on the behavior that DKL observes–yet if those folks point out questionable behavior by Palmer, that is wrong. The irony, of course, is in the unrecognized double standard being applied. Pot, meet kettle.

  22. Blake
    July 7, 2006 at 11:46 am

    First, yes I am an author and attorney. Don’thold it against me, I just enjoy doing both.

    Elephant: Here is the problem — I haven’t once suggested that your different take on issues is due to a lack of faith or loss of spirit. I grant that people who TEACH in church what you suggest would not be well received — neither should it be. Those who believe meet to worship together and share faith. You simply don’t share that faith (don’t turn that into you just don’t have any faith at all please). However, any person willing to come and share without attempting to teach opinions (and that is all that they are) will do just fine. I have a friend who isn’t a believer at all but has a fine time at church. On the other hand, if you’re just not happy at church, don’t go (last I looked, no one was forcing anyone). However, there are benefits and blessings for attendance that you won’t reap — and you won’t have to sit thru any boring lessons or lessons with which you just disagree.

    AtLast: I offerred a challenge about your opinions about the Book of Abraham and Book of Mormon. You have ignored it (as I suspected you would). Just what do you claim that Joseph mistranslated? I don’t see any attempt to translate any of the facsimiles or any of the text, but he does give us a wonderful exampleof what the Jews who wrote about Abrham’s visions using the Book of the Dead (of which the Book of Breathings is a variant) to illustrate and comment on Abraham’s visions.

    I suspect that you are correct that starting out with your version of church history wouldn’t sell in Peoria. However, you first have to recognize that church history: (a) isn’t an exact science like physics but a lot of conjecture ann judgment(alness); (2) is different than a faith story.

    So you issue a challenge about presenting facts that “conflicted with church doctrines or teachings, say, in a Sunday School, Relief Society, or priesthood class.” Well first, you’ll have to point out such historical facts that conflict with church doctrine. While you’re at it, point out how some historical fact or supposed “fact” (since there are no bare or objective facts as such) that could possibly conflict with church doctrine given the different logical status of such assertions. You laid down a challenge — it time to actually respond to mine to explain those facets of the BofM and BofAbr. that I mentioned. Don’t ignore it, because unless you can explain such ancient aspects all you are doing is selctively choosing which “facts” to focus on.

    The biggest problem I have with your view of history and facts is the first level naivte (in Ricour’s sense) that there is somehow an objective history made up on objective facts and that anyone who disagrees with your take on these facts is just uninformed and/or deceptive. I suppose that is why you suppose that anyone who disagrees with you has to do research on the net (and wow isn’t that a reliable source of objective facts).

    Further, I disagree that the church discipline is from believing a certain view of history; rather, it is for attemtping to persuade and argue affirmatively for a view that a rejection of Joseph’s prophetic calling. There is a difference — and it is a vast one. For example, the things you mention don’t bother me much at this point in my life, but I wouldn’t focus on them in teaching an investigator. If an investigator asked questions that brought up the issue, then I would certainly give my best take on it. But I guarantee that my view of the so-called “facts” is different than yours.

    Matt: Sorry for being such a curmudgeon.

  23. Steve EM
    July 7, 2006 at 11:48 am

    awyatt,
    I’ve had my run-ins with DKL, but you completely twisted what he said. Go read his comments again. BTW, DKL is a believer, albeit an unorthodox one, like a lot of us.

  24. Mayan Elephant
    July 7, 2006 at 12:02 pm

    “I grant that people who TEACH in church what you suggest would not be well received — neither should it be.”

    i suppose that would include those that TEACH their own children. there you have it. we are all teachers at some point, and i couldnt agree with you more, some “teachers” are not well received. I also agree with you that it is the position of most leaders in the church that they shouldnt be well recieved. sadly, that divides families.

    i think we have travelled a winding path, but arrived at concensus here with your last comments. you can believe and conclude anything, and even attend – without attempting to teach opinions (and that is all that they are) [in which case, one] will do just fine.

    that aint a warm welcome, but i agree that it is true. unfortunately, the same is true about the dinner tables and family reunions of many mormons. came as you are, but shutup about your differences, love [insert family relationship here].

  25. July 7, 2006 at 12:02 pm

    OK. I went and read them again. Tell me where I misunderstood what he was saying about apologists and about Peterson and Midgely in particular. (How, exactly, should one understand “screw the apologists?”)

  26. July 7, 2006 at 12:10 pm

    Blake wrote:
    “Sorry for being such a curmudgeon.”

    No problem. We are two of a kind, and the fact that you interject this is enough proof for me that your heart is good.

  27. July 7, 2006 at 12:29 pm

    Blake said:
    “AtLast: I offerred a challenge about your opinions about the Book of Abraham and Book of Mormon. You have ignored it (as I suspected you would). Just what do you claim that Joseph mistranslated? I don’t see any attempt to translate any of the facsimiles or any of the text, but he does give us a wonderful exampleof what the Jews who wrote about Abrham’s visions using the Book of the Dead (of which the Book of Breathings is a variant) to illustrate and comment on Abraham’s visions.”

    Blake, is this really the appropriate forum to go off onto a tangent on the sunstantive issues regarding the Book of Abraham translation? You imply (or am I just making an unreaosnable negative inference) that the reason FaL has not answered your challenge is because he is unable to do so and his silence therefore vindicates your position. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. There are ample resources available to those who are interested in the issues regarding the Book of Abraham, and I suspect you are familiar with them, so I do wonder what the purpose of your “challenge” was. For starters, go to my blog where I have a post summarizing the anachronisms in the text of the BoA and where I have links to several sites (including an apologetic site) on the BoA. It need not all be rehashed here.

  28. Steve EM, an equal opportunity rottweiler
    July 7, 2006 at 12:38 pm

    awyatt,
    Peterson, Midgely, Nibley, BRM, BKP, whatever are all embarrassments to any thinking LDS person. DKL’s comments regarding the apologists are on the money. What disgusts many of us about the apologists is they use the same intellectually dishonest methods as the antis, and even when called on it. apologist or anti, they all just keep going (note FreeAtLast above). Peterson and Midgely are to the antis what Marcos was to communism, the best friends their opposition ever had. These are all smart people who know when they’re dealing from the bottom of the deck and they insult the intelligence of many of us when they think we can’t see their games. Perhaps they’re opposition plants; all I know is our side could do much better than these dishonest clowns. I second DKL’s motion: screw em!

  29. Blake
    July 7, 2006 at 12:41 pm

    Equality: You are right, I know all about those anachronisms and I have presented a theory as to why such anachronisms are inevitable especially in a text revealed/translated thru revelation. Surely you’re aware that I have dealt with that issue?

  30. Blake
    July 7, 2006 at 12:45 pm

    Steve: I could hardly disagree more. You have taken an unjustified pot-shot at my friends and colleagues. I’m an apologist — just where are the dishonest and or dishonest methods do I use? What dishonest methods are you referring to (at least give us something to justify what is legally slander and libel). How have I insulted your intelligence? Surely a stern apology and retraction is in order. Peronally, I won’t stand for you calling these people dishonest or dishonest clowns. Who do you think you are?

  31. Mayan Elephant
    July 7, 2006 at 1:00 pm

    “On the other hand, if you’re just not happy at church, don’t go (last I looked, no one was forcing anyone). ”

    Blake, we may be beating this cache valley horse to its millers oblivion, or do they only take beef?

    you are very very very very very wrong on this. so wrong in fact, i wonder if we are even talking about the same church.

    specifically, no one is forcing me. i do not go to church anymore. that is true.

    generally, you are blinded by the light. you have no clue how many spouses are sitting in the church because the cost of not going is too severe. you have no clue how many youth are going to church or on missions, not out of sincerity, but loyalty to family over self. or how many gay men and women sit in those pews and listen, full of self hatred, because they cant dissappoint a dear parent.

    siblings are monitored by other siblings. parents by their own children. its not so simple, and your suggestion makes my heart pound, not so good for someone who has had an infarction already.

    please blake. wake up on this topic. there are folks suffering every sunday in the pews and even in the choir seats. they dont believe all that is allowed to be taught. and yet, they show up. because the consequences of not doing so rip their choices from their hands and heart.

    this is why i love john’s work so much. perhaps he can change the reaction of one spouse, one mother, one parent. that matters. digging in with loyal unsympathetic apologetics is harmful.

    i have been on NOM which i am sure you know. john hosted a moderator from NOM on his podcasts. i am personally aware of a serious situation that was intercepted by a few people on NOM. one that involved real people, lives, families etc. the intervention by a few qualified people led to someone getting key medical and professional care. and believe it or not, much of it had to do with the stress of confessing to ones spouse that they didnt agree with the apologists point of view on some key issues. and yes, that person had been referred to farms for some of his questions.

    so blake. i am not insulting you here. just begging for you to get informed. whether the number of people who cant just stop going to church is one, or millions, it doesnt matter. its not zero. and you should have equal space in your heart for that one, as you would for many. try it out. i would bet anything there is someone sitting at your family reunion who would appreciate some space in your heart.

  32. pete
    July 7, 2006 at 1:00 pm

    Mayan Elephant (and anyone else who may be interested):

    This thread has travelled a winding path. For me, it has been very interesting. I can definitely understand your beefs with church history–I don’t agree with them, but I would not say that it is completely unreasonable to have issues with church history.

    On the other hand, it does seem unreasonable to be bothered that the Church would not heartily welcome those who insist on openly teaching opinions that have a tendancy to denigrate the ideological foundations of the church (the divine mission of JS and the divine status of the BOM). What church, family (as you posited), or any other organization affirmatively welcomes open conflict within its ranks regarding its very purpose or mission?

    Even assuming that the objective truth is that the Church is merely a sociological human tradition in a Godless universe and that JS invented the Mormon religion, why the dismay that the church doesn’t want you telling them that such is the case? Moreover, why participate at all in the church or associate with it or “allow” your family to do so–especially if it is truly harmful as many of the critics would suggest?

  33. Blake
    July 7, 2006 at 1:00 pm

    Equality: Are you Kevin Mathie?

  34. Blake
    July 7, 2006 at 1:03 pm

    Elephant: My solution for your complaint: get real and get a backbone and don’t be inauthentic by sitting in church to placate someone else (even family). The cost is too high. On the other hand, maybe you could learn something by being there and you could choose to be grateful for the experience and the love of those around you. Your choice.

  35. pete
    July 7, 2006 at 1:06 pm

    Mayan:

    Sorry I missed your response to Blake before posting.

    I am still left wondering what you mean by “can’t stop going to church”. Don’t you think it is important for people to stand up for the undeniable truth? If it is the case that reasonable people can’t disagree that there are serious problems with church history that prevent us from concluding that neither JS nor the BOM are divinely inspired, don’t we need to act on that and save millions of people from following a harmful terrible lie?!

  36. Mayan Elephant
    July 7, 2006 at 1:16 pm

    “On the other hand, it does seem unreasonable to be bothered that the Church would not heartily welcome those who insist on openly teaching opinions that have a tendancy to denigrate the ideological foundations of the church (the divine mission of JS and the divine status of the BOM). What church, family (as you posited), or any other organization affirmatively welcomes open conflict within its ranks regarding its very purpose or mission?”

    if it was so simple. goodness. i have a friend. he told his parents he didnt agree with some stuff. granted, the guy has a temple recommend and recently attended. when he told his parents about his issues, they offered to help his wife if she decided to leave him. some church.

    stop pretending its all black and white and people can just up and walk. its shades of gray and its complicated.

    Blake. i have a backbone. i stood for something. i realized this was not a place for me and i quit. i resigned. but thanks for your judgement however. believe me, it wasnt easy. its my heritage. how now do i explain my mission and my position as a high councilman on the church courts and crap like that. it aint easy brother. believe me.

    blake man, i aint asking for much. the church can claim anything it wants. all i ask, is that some parents, spouses and siblings, take some pity on those that disagree with your apologetics. cut them some slack, and stop pretending that they really have a choice in the matter. its complicated.

  37. July 7, 2006 at 1:18 pm

    awyatt,
    Peterson, Midgely, Nibley, BRM, BKP, whatever are all embarrassments to any thinking LDS person. DKL’s comments regarding the apologists are on the money. What disgusts many of us about the apologists is they use the same intellectually dishonest methods as the antis, and even when called on it. apologist or anti, they all just keep going (note FreeAtLast above). Peterson and Midgely are to the antis what Marcos was to communism, the best friends their opposition ever had. These are all smart people who know when they’re dealing from the bottom of the deck and they insult the intelligence of many of us when they think we can’t see their games. Perhaps they’re opposition plants; all I know is our side could do much better than these dishonest clowns. I second DKL’s motion: screw em!

    Comment by Steve EM, an equal opportunity rottweiler — July 7, 2006

    I see. So now you are saying, despite your first comment, that I didn’t misunderstand DKL. That’s good to know, particularly since you apparently lump folks like me (and Blake) into the “nonthinking LDS” category.

    Nice discussion technique.

    (I also find it interesting that John D. isn’t calling for a kinder, gentler, more Christ-like tone from some on this thread. Perhaps the mote is only visible when it is in someone else’s eye.)

  38. Mayan Elephant
    July 7, 2006 at 1:22 pm

    “Elephant: My solution for your complaint: get real and get a backbone and don’t be inauthentic by sitting in church to placate someone else (even family).”

    dont sicken me further. even family? i know people that would sacrifice more than a sunday for their family. you make me sick. i have friends that sit on the bench just to help with the children so their spouse can have some quiet time. you are a sick creature, to judge me or anyone else for the things they would do for family.

    and more, that you consider them unwelcome to make that sacrifice for their family, disgusts me. families can be together forever eh? i hope you arent in my family, mate. i really hope you are not.

  39. July 7, 2006 at 1:24 pm

    Blake said: “Equality: Are you Kevin Mathie?”

    No. I do, however, link to his excellent work on the Book of Abraham on my blog. BTW, thanks for visiting and commenting there. I am not at the moment producing any new material for my blog but appreciate any thoughtful comments and discussions on the material I have previously posted there. The reason for my hiatus has something to do with the point Mayan Elephant was making about the social pressures at work in the church on those who “get out of line.” I must say I agree with Mayan on that score. Leaving Mormonism ain’t exactly like leaving Episcopalianism is it?

  40. Blake
    July 7, 2006 at 1:30 pm

    Elephant: quit blaming everyone else for your anger because your wife made you go to church. Don’t you get tired of wining and snivelling? Come on — your anger comes thru loud and clear even in your posts … but personal lack of integrity is just too high of a price to pay. If I sicken you, so be it. Time to stop blaming and complaining.

  41. Mayan Elephant
    July 7, 2006 at 1:40 pm

    poor blake,

    my wife is the greatest woman alive. she has done more for this world and this church than you will ever know. you are sooooooooooooooo uninformed, i am laughing inside and out. she is amazing and if you knew her and what she has done you would agree.

    she has NEVER made me go to church. perhaps i was the one making her go. your suggestion is laughable. oh my blake. this is funny. oh, she doesnt go to church now either. but her reasons for not going are very different than mine.

  42. -Domokun-
    July 7, 2006 at 1:52 pm

    Blake, I know Mayan Elephant and his wife, and believe me, his wife was not forcing him to do anything. In fact, it’s hard for me to think of a married couple more loving and understanding of each than Mayan and his wife. What they each have sacrificed for each other would blow your mind. Seriously.

    Also, I was the friend he mentioned above. Yes, I have a current temple recommend, and even went to a session a few weeks ago. I told my parents recently that much of the church’s history is troubling, and that I don’t believe the church’s official version of many historical events. I thought of all people who would love me and support me, it would be my own parents. Guess what? A couple of days later, my mom called my wife (during the day, when I was at work, natch) and offered her a place to live, money to travel halfway across the country to get there, and money and support when she got there. Mayan paints it nicer than it really happened. Yes, solely because I expressed doubts about the church’s official history, my mother secretly tried to get my wife and kids to leave me. Luckily for me, my wife loves me and turned down the offer.

    THAT is the kind of social and family pressure Mayan is talking about whne he says it ain’t easy to just get up and walk away.;

    Think about it, what if one day, your wife came to you and said, “I have just joined the {insert name of any religion you think is wacky} church, and if you don’t join, I’m divorcing you and taking our kids with me. Oh, and your parents joined with me, so don’t expect any consolation or help from them, either.” The logical inverse of this happens all the time. I know, because I have (almost) experienced it myself.

  43. pete
    July 7, 2006 at 1:55 pm

    Mayan E.:

    I am truly sorry that you have been made to feel so badly about things–it does not sound fun and I empathize with the heartache and misery.

    But I still don’t understand why not walk away completely from the terrible organization that has caused you and your family so much trouble and heartache? Why hang around on Mormon blogs if the religion is all fundamentally based on lies?

    Why not, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all–or if you are going to say something, say it loud and clear and consistently?

    I would really like a nutshell explanation of what is so “complicated” about walking away from something that is obviously untrue and unhealthy.

  44. Blake
    July 7, 2006 at 2:10 pm

    Mayan: Just what is your beef? You complain that you have to go to church for family? Which family member(s)(your wife was just an example of family pressure like in Domokun’s case — of course I have no idea what the real pressure is and that is my point, you’re so vague it is maddening)? What is it you think is lost if you are honest and refuse to go to church? Who is bringing the pressure? Quit complaining and get real. Frankly, I just wonder what the heck you’re carping about. For dokokun, he offered his wife a choice and she offered him one — every day the choice is the same: will we stay in relationship? Of course I don’t recommend the disfunction response from Domokun’s mother, but it seems to me that has nothing to do with Mormonism. It has to do with family dynamics. Fill in the blank — “unless you do ___, I’m leaving. If you do __, I’ll persuade your wife to leave.”

    If you don’t want to go, it is really simple — don’t go. If you go, then that is really what you wanted to do for whatever reason. Quit making it look like the church has blackmailed you and take some responsibility for your actions and choices. Quit making it appear as if the mean, big, bad church is forcing you do something.

  45. July 7, 2006 at 2:22 pm

    “but it seems to me that has nothing to do with Mormonism. ” Aye, there’s the rub, eh?

  46. Mayan Elephant
    July 7, 2006 at 2:25 pm

    blake, what are you talking about? seriously.

    i never complained the I have to go to church. i dont go. i never complained about my wife. she is the most wonderful human on this earth, you would be lucky to even know her name. i feel lucky.

    i am complaining that some people that do go to church for family are attending a place where they are really not welcome.

    this church isnt forcing me to do anything, it is however, forcing my family to do some crazy things that i dont agree with. and, quite frankly, like many other folks, i am facing a choice between the mormon life with family, or walking away from church and having my family walk away from my children.

    i agree with you, its a simple choice. walk away from the church let the consequence follow. battle for freedom. extended family is the casualty in my case. for some, its immediate.

    is that clear?

    blake. ill try again.

    some people choose to leave the church. and as a consequence their family tells them goodbye.

    some people want to leave the church, but they stay, because they dont want their family to say goodbye.

    and more blake. you are wrong about this: “Of course I don’t recommend the disfunction response from Domokun’s mother, but it seems to me that has nothing to do with Mormonism. It has to do with family dynamics.”

    you are wrong. it has everything to do with mormonism in that case. judge not.

  47. -Domokun-
    July 7, 2006 at 2:34 pm

    Blake, you just don’t get it. The “disfunction response from Domokun’s mother” is completely related to the church. She has been a saint to me my whole life. She is one of the nicest people in the world. She’s a temple worker. In many ways my mother is the epitome of Christlike living, but the instant I express doubt about the church, she tries to get my wife and kids to leave me? The church’s influence over my mother’s thinking is the ONLY explanation for her recent change in behavior towards me. Just try to go against that kind of deeply ingrained social and family culture. And please don’t give me the old chesnut of “The church is perfect but the people aren’t.” Please, just admit to yourself that you have no idea of the depts of personal anguish that many good people go through, whose only “sin” is that they don’t buy the correlated version of church history hook, line, and sinker.

  48. texasguy
    July 7, 2006 at 2:39 pm

    Elephant: My solution for your complaint: get real and get a backbone and don’t be inauthentic by sitting in church to placate someone else (even family). The cost is too high. On the other hand, maybe you could learn something by being there and you could choose to be grateful for the experience and the love of those around you. Your choice.

    Blake, this is the most black/white uninformed opinion I have ever heard. The biggest reason it is hard to quit is because loved ones are lead to believe that this is the “ONE AND ONLY TRUE CHURCH.” Because of this belief they try every pressure imaginable and think that the loved one or spouse is headed for a different place.

    This theory of the one and only true church is the most pompous and egocentric idea that ever came from Joseph Smith. I say look at the family heartache, prozac use, lack of empathy for those who are: black, gay, or think, and say “by their fruits you shall know them.”

  49. texasguy
    July 7, 2006 at 2:44 pm

    pete said: “Why not, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all–or if you are going to say something, say it loud and clear and consistently?”

    I sure wish the church leaders would be consistent. I have trouble remembering which things to ignore and which to embrace.

  50. Steve EM, an equal opportunity rottweiler
    July 7, 2006 at 2:59 pm

    One has to wonder if much of this will die down when BKP passes on to his reward.

  51. July 7, 2006 at 3:42 pm

    Hey All! Sorry to have missed so much of this thread. As I mentioned earlier, I’m on vacation, so I’m only able to check things out once a day.

    I’m gonna go ahead and close the thread now, because I think it’s perhaps served its purpose, and the thread is quite mature. If any of you wish to continue the conversation, I’m happy to broker email addresses, or whatever.

    Thanks for everyone’s willingness to engage. As I mentioned to John Lynch last night–part of FAIR’s problem is simply the volume of activity on its boards. As this thread bears out, the more the posters and the greater # of comments, the harder it is to control/monitor the conversation.

    Thanks again, and take care.

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