Sunday, June 17, 2012

Destroying testimonies since 1979

John Dehlin, founder of Mormon Stories, recently posted on his Facebook page, "I just want to go on record as saying that 20th and 21st century LDS apologetics (FAIR, FARMS, Maxwell institute) will go down as destroying more testimonies than any other single Mormon influence. That's what happens when you blame the victim, or give very poor and evasive answers to credible issues.

In other words, I think that Daniel Peterson is talking actually writing about himself and his followers in this article."

I read the article, and the part that most stands out to me regarding this is, 
"Alma 'did go about secretly with the sons of Mosiah seeking to destroy the church" (27:10). It's very doubtful, though, that they would have openly admitted that their goal was 'to destroy the church.' Perhaps they wouldn't even have admitted it to themselves."
From some other sources around the interwebs, I have found out that there is apparently a larger dialogue/brouhaha going on here; apparently (apparently) Peterson's article is actually in reference to people like Dehlin, and the Maxwell Institute, from which Peterson was recently fired, has a disparaging article about Dehlin that was going to be published, so this statement by Dehlin wasn't made completely out of the all seems quite complicated. 

So do apologetics do more harm than good?  For me personally, what I have checked out on FAIR has not affected me much, but I am not impressed with the website.  Their defense of some potent criticism strikes me as weak, and I am not satisfied with their answers.  At least they do recognize the criticisms, and I appreciate their efforts in trying to refute them.  Mormon Stories podcasts have been much more helpful and validating to me.  This could be an unfair assessment of FARMS, etc., but MS seems to be more objective, as their intent is "exploring, celebrating and challenging Mormon culture through stories" as opposed to apologetics which definitely have an agenda (i.e. proving that the church is true).

I attended a conference at UVU in March called Mormonism and the Internet with a friend, where John Dehlin (whom I really admire) was one of the speakers.  Author Joanna Brooks also spoke, and after her talk I asked a question during the Q&A session.  My question was about how to properly judge the veracity of texts on the internet, such as quotes that are reportedly by church leaders, and if the general consensus is that the person indeed said it, even if they didn't, is it treated as if they did say it?  In the latter part of the question, the emphasis is more on quotes becoming 'canon' than on being reflections of the leaders who said them—is it an accurate portrayal of what Mormons believe?  For example, even if Brigham Young didn't actually utter the quote about being offended, the way it's bandied about in the church makes it seem like it's a belief even if it wasn't literally spoken by Mr. Young.

Continuing, after I asked my question, a guy in the row in front of me turned around and recommended that I check out FAIR.  Later at the same conference, another man handed me a FAIR business card.  A few weeks later, my bishop also recommended the web site.  These three men seem to have been helped by the website, but I have not.

By the way, on the subject on the veracity of texts on the internet, I always try to find original sources of quotes, hopefully from LDS sources (even if I have to dig).  If I bring up something by Packer that I read on the internet, no one is going to even discuss it because there is no proof that he said it.  On that note, I recently found several LDS sources for a talk Packer gave called "The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect," and I am going to read it now. It's not even that I trust the church's sources more than others'—having it from an LDS source gives it a seal of approval that it's not just made-up 'anti,' and objectively speaking, I'm not going to just trust a transcript of a talk that I find randomly on the internet.  I wouldn't trust it if someone else brought a similar source to me.  

Like I said, it's not even that I trust the church more—they could edit (out) material too.  I mentioned when I responded to Kimball's Love vs. Lust that a quote I had seen that referenced the talk as its source was never mentioned, and I acknowledged that it could have been edited out.  Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that I actually try to find church-approved materials not out of loyalty to the church but out of a desire to find The (objective) Truth and to also be able to use these sources in discussions. 


  1. I commend you for trying to find the original source for things! In the world of the internet where everything gets passed around and added to (or taken away from) that's somewhat of a lofty goal, but I think it's cool that you do it when you can! I wish we all did that!

  2. Snide remark: cause using church-approved materials is 'objective,' lolz. Unfortunately this bit of logic can easily be switched to "cause using non-church-approved materials is objective" and not lose any of its logic.

    The reason FARMSand FAIR work is only when the person going into it wishes to keep their POV, their beliefs, and is willing to believe anything said to them by a Mormon source. I would say that generally Mormon apologetics don't lie, at least by commission, and so for those who go to them they will get a white-washed but albeit mostly factual account of whatever 'dark history/doctrine' they are looking into.

    The main problem arises for people like us who don't wish to just STOP there like so many others. Apologists may give more honest and factual accounts about polygamy, but nearly all of them avoid any discussion of the polyandry (J.S. marrying other men's wives while married ... or away on missions, lolz). They may point out that the church certainly had some odd policies about blacks and the priesthood, but they seem to never #1 apologize for the racism, #2 mention that blacks were withheld many 'blessings' besides the priesthood, like visiting the temple, or #3 that Utah had slaves, B.Y. had slaves, and that teachings of blacks being servants in heaven went well into the 1900s.

    I use the two most basic examples here because, in my experience and most others, everyone has some experience with these topics but rarely ever the enormity and depth that the topics actually cover. The Church white-washes the history and doctrines, and then apologists are left to try to answer for things the Church won't, and yet they still leave out the worst of it so for inquisitive, truth-seekers like you and me, where the Church and the truth actually do matter, we're guaranteed to 'stumble' across the difficult truths and to be disgusted by them.

    Glen Beck is right: ask the car dealership about their car, then go to the opponent and ask them, AND then go back to the dealership and see how they explain it away. The breakdown for the Church is that they won't explain it except to say that "racism and sexism is not pertinent to your eternal salvation." I'm sorry, but I couldn't disagree more.

    And this is completely avoiding the fact of going to people who have used the car, in the analogy.

  3. PS: one of my greatest realizations with looking into 'anti' came from finding out that generally should distrust Evangelical criticism against the Church, and that secular/atheistic criticism is much more 'objective.' I would say that the Tanners, however, probably are the best Evangelical resource I have run into, they try to be as factual as possible and avoid exaggerations.