Apologetics & Anti Mormons: Two Sides of the Same Coin? (Straw Men and False Dichotomies)


Most of our readers wouldn’t be surprised that we at The Mormon Chronicle are not fans of anti-Mormon material which is known for its dishonest approach. However, you may be surprised, or even shocked that we would lump some “defenders” of the faith in with such enemies of the Gospel.

Some anti-Mormons begin their arguments with a predetermined conclusion and then pull “evidence” to fit that conclusion, leaving out any evidence that would contradict that predetermined conclusion. Unfortunately, some Mormon apologists have followed those same tactics, the only difference being their motive and predetermined conclusions.

While we must give these Mormon apologists credit for their desire to defend the faith, we believe some of their tactics can be just as damaging to the faith of others as anti-Mormonism. In the interest of expanding faith and knowledge of Christ, we must stand for truth especially when “friends” are the ones disseminating falsehoods.

The apologists, of which we are addressing, sometimes start off on the losing side of the argument with the presupposition that the ideas of the modern world are correct.

What’s wrong with being strange or peculiar? There was an apostasy – of course the understanding of those following apostate traditions will be different than those of a restored Gospel! We need to own-up to our differences. Otherwise we lose credibility as well as the understanding of important aspects of the restoration.

One example of Mormon apologetics vain attempts to “defend the faith” can be seen in the number of articles attempting to debunk the Prophet’s association with what people today equate to occultism and “magic”. The scriptures are full of instances where the Prophets of God use tools such as: water filled goblets, rods, casting lots and-so-on, (see: Gen 30:37–39; Gen 32:24-30; Gen 44:2, 5; Lev 16:8–10; 1 Chr 24:5; 1 Chr 25:8; 1 Chr 26:13; Prov 16:33; 2 Kings 13:21; Acts 19:12; & 1 Nephi 3:11, to name just a few) as a way to receive the will of the Lord. To claim that Joseph Smith, the Prophet of the Restoration, did not use the same tools that ancient Prophets used, is in-fact a disservice to the Prophet and denies his role as restorer.

Some apologists also apply inconsistent principles when defending their position. For example: When the teachings of a past Prophet seem to contradict scripture, some refer to the quote by Harold B. Lee that essentially instructs us to ignore anything that any leader says contradicting modern understanding of scripture. However, if another principle taught appears to contradict scripture, they claim that it is acceptable because we have continuing revelation.

You can’t have it both ways. This greatly diminishes credibility and can actually result in making anti-Mormons appear as a more consistent, and therefore a more accurate, source of information. This does not serve the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord said the truth shall set us free (John 8:32). We have nothing to fear if we adhere to correct and eternal principles. The truth is nothing to be afraid of, it leads to Christ.

This isn’t supposed to be a convincing argument of any point in particular, but an introduction of sorts, to articles on “tough” issues that that we feel have not yet been adequately addressed.

President Boyd K. Packer once explained that he and his friends “…had decided long since that we would live the gospel and not be ashamed of the Church or the history or any part of it.” We are not ashamed, we embrace all the principles of the Restoration of all things.

18 thoughts on “Apologetics & Anti Mormons: Two Sides of the Same Coin? (Straw Men and False Dichotomies)”

  1. Ok, you guys get like a solid B for this post.

    Your assessment of apologists and their intellectual dishonesty is pretty good. Since I’m not much interested in defending apologists, I don’t care if we all take them down a notch.

    “Anti-Mormons” on the other hand I find a much more interesting bunch of people to study, and possibly defend. There’s anti, and then there’s anti. What makes someone an anti-Mormon? Is Grant Palmer anti-Mormon? D. Michael Quinn? Todd Compton? Is Richard Bushman anti? None of these are the Tanners or the Ed Deckers of the world. Each one of them is a scholar that did historical research as a TBM, found unexpected stuff, and published it.

    They all ARE accurate and consistent in their presentation. Not a one of them wrote their book from an anti-Mormon perspective. Quinn in particular, wrote his books to try to inoculate people from the true (uncorrelated) history of the Church.

    So, are they ANTI?

    It is ironic that you would quote Boyd at the end. His statement that “not all truth is useful” makes me nauseous (http://byustudies.byu.edu/PDFLibrary/21.3Packer.pdf). He has stated quite clearly that objective truth is not one of his priorities. He would rather gloss over the uncomfortable parts, and only focus on the correlated, manipulated, official history.

    What does Packer think needs to be hidden? What kind of truth isn’t useful? If you are a judge hearing a case and one of the lawyers asks for evidence to not be admitted because he doesn’t think it is useful, would you take him at his word? Or would you assume that maybe it’s just not useful to his side of the case? Packer’s statement might as well be a neon sign declaring that there is material evidence against the Church’s truth claims.

    Turns out, there is.

    Are you beginning your investigation, as you say antis and apologists do, with the conclusion pre-determined?

    Can anyone dispute the balance of Palmer’s “Insider’s View of Mormon Origins”? Can anyone dispute the information?

    What about Quinn? Can you dispute his information? You actually can’t. Why? Because the Church won’t grant access to anyone who wants to corroborate or deny his research. If he is lying, the Church holds the keys to clear it up. The unwillingness to do so is a pretty clear indicator.

    What about the Book of Abraham? There isn’t even any anti-Mormon to blame. The only person to blame is Joseph for being a fraud. Can you give a non-apologetic answer that acknowledges the truth about fraudulent scripture that the Church still has canonized?
    For fun, let’s actually take one little snippet from your argument here. Joseph used occultism and magic. You think you’re taking a bold approach to just accept it and think that’ll be the end. What happened to eternal truth? If those are legitimate tools for receiving revelation, why don’t we use them today? Where’s your peepstone? Why aren’t we instructed to use a divining rod in General Conference? If they were legitimate tools for receiving revelation, why was Joseph a 100% unsuccessful treasure hunter? If he was using true prophetic tools (as you seem to want to defend) and yet was wrong every time, doesn’t that make him a consistently false prophet before his career even begins? Are you sure you want to defend his treasure hunting as a part of his prophetic calling? When was the last time you had a vision of buried treasure in the hills nearby, slit a chicken’s throat, spilling the blood in a circle, recited some incantations, and then instructed the members of the elder’s quorum to dig, but when they didn’t find the buried treasure, you told them a demon moved it? I mean, if that’s how you roll in your ward, I’d like to come for a visit.

    You seem to think that the truth has an obligation to be uplifting and lead to a conclusion that the Church is true. It doesn’t. The truth only has an obligation to win out over falsehoods. The truth doesn’t have to prove that Santa Claus is real any more than it has to prove that Joseph was a prophet. The truth does not obey our desires, nor conform to our wishes. But the truth will make us free. If we believe false traditions, taught to us by our fathers, when we discover the truth we will be able to leave those false traditions behind.

    As you did in the podcast, where you mischaracterized my NOM friends as a subversive group, you are mischaracterizing so-called anti-Mormons. Anti-Mormons are almost always former true believers who found, to their great dismay, that the story the Church tells about itself ISN’T TRUE. Some of them are still believers (like Quinn and Compton), but even while they want to maintain a testimony of the restoration, the demands of truth force them to acknowledge that the CORRELATED HISTORY OF THE CHURCH IS FALSE.

    Here’s the legitimate question to ask yourself: Do I want to know THAT the Church is true, or do I want to know IF the Church is true?

    1. A+ response. Be courageous in facing the facts like so many of our “anti” friends have done. Attacking these people doesn’t change the facts.

      And yeah, apologists are a joke. Too bad some of the worst offenders are employed by BYU. Why isnt the prophet giving answers to these tough questions instead of farming it out to all these amateurs? He has the phone number to a devine being.

  2. did you really just say that the lord uses “casting lots” to reveal his word? Just because nephi and his brothers gambled on who would go get the plates?

    Thats not accurate.

  3. Come on! Joe Smith was convicted of glasslooking. He was a necromancer who used a funky stone in a hat to “translate the BOM.” He used gnostic knowledge from the Masons to create the temple ceremony. It’s all occult. You guys rail about secret societies, yet if you look at Mormonism from the outside, that’s what it’s all about. Read your Church history and you’ll PROUDLY leave the Church like I did. I am A HAPPY APOSTATE who has embraced the Christ of the Bible, NOT some funky impostor who is “Satan’s brother.”

    1. You really don’t know very much about the history of this nation. The “gnostic knowledge” you referred too is really Moorish Science. The Moors are the people who are commonly referred to as: blacks, negroes, coloreds, Indians, etc, etc.

      I don’t think that many of you will be so thrilled with learning the real truth when it is finally revealed, and it will be.

      1. LOL, I love those parting words. Reminds me of recess when a kid yelled “oh yeah? Well wait until I tell my dad! He’s gunna beat you up!”

        Only it’s from who I assume is an adult….who is serious.

        If you want to influence people here, engage the facts with a legit explaination or accept there’s just a lot of BS that exists in Mormonism. Posting stuff like you did does nothing beyond making yourself feel good. No one is scared by your one liner

  4. The same Jesus that spits in dirt and smears it over others’ eyes? The same Jesus who calls women of other races dogs? The same Jesus who said his opponents contained bones and rotting flesh? It is possible to make anyone sound “funky”, even Our Lord and Saviour. Your juvenile post can be turned back on you very easily.

    1. Mr. Fulanito was expressing his opinion. There is no need to say he is juvenile for thinking the way he does. whats up with that. someone offers an opinion you dont like and you say its juvenile? you should probably re-think what you said to him. isnt that the whole idea of “free agency”? to be able to think and express yourself as you see the truth? is that really juvenile? according to your logic, sir, every non mormon who holds a negative view of your beliefs is juvenile.

      1. I was expressing my opinion as well. Shouldn’t your idiosyncratic notion of free agency cut both ways? If I have no right to express a negative opinion of Fulanito’s post, then you have no right to do so with mine, don’t you think?
        Free agency means the right to make a choice. I don’t see how any of us prevented Fulanito from doing so.
        It is possible to hold a negative view of my beliefs without being juvenile. I know a number of individuals who do so reasonably and respectfully.
        When Fulanito chose deliberately insulting, disrespectful and offensive terms to make his point, he was being juvenile.

  5. Joseph Smith taught that all true revelation must be harmonious with itself & the scriptures. He said that if ‘anyone’ among you, teaches anything contrary to that which is in the Book of Mormon, Bible & D&C (1844 version) we are to know it is wrong & that such a person is a ‘dangerous imposter’, who should be shunned.

    So it would be impossible for a Prophet to preach any new ‘true’ doctrine that would contradict previous truths & scripture.

    This is the grand test of how we are to know if a revelation from even a Prophet is true or not. If it ‘contradicts’ the scriptures than we can know for sure it is wrong. This is our safety net. Along with the Holy Spirit, which will tell us the truth of all things.

    More recent Prophets have had to ‘correct’ many past ‘false’ & ‘incorrect’ teachings, doctrines & actions of past Prophets. So it is not true that Prophets can’t lead people astray. They have before & can today, especially by their ‘actions’ even more than their ‘words’. Prophets have the very same vital ‘gift of agency’ to lead people astray as any other human being on earth.

    Heavenly Father requires ‘us’ to be accountable for whether we can be lead astray or not & he even allows others in high positions to test us to see if we can be lead astray or not.

    Heavenly Father has never wanted us to have blind obedience, for such can destroy individuals & families & can never save us.

    The question is ‘can we be lead astray?’

    The reality is, that if we refuse to listen to true Prophets & their true teachings, God will allow false Prophets, as he has done before, to come in & teach us the falsehoods we crave. And we will probably never know it.

    For Joseph Smith said that most people usually think ‘false’ prophets are ‘true’ Prophets. I believe this is especially true in the Church. And we have been warned to beware of the many false prophets that will be among us in these last days today, who will deceive even the elect.

    But the ‘elect’ would not likely fall for false ‘non-member’ Prophets, but usually only false ‘LDS’ Prophets.

  6. I totally agree that most apologetics are just as destructive as anti-mormons. They may seem like they are trying to defend the Church but their debate is so often blinded by denial of reality & blind obedience that they can’t be taken seriously by those who understand much about the Church, especially Church history or polygamy.

  7. “Some apologists also apply inconsistent principles when defending their position. For example: When the teachings of a past Prophet seem to contradict scripture, some refer to the quote by Harold B. Lee that essentially instructs us to ignore anything that any leader says contradicting modern understanding of scripture. However, if another principle taught appears to contradict scripture, they claim that it is acceptable because we have continuing revelation.”

    The same principle reason I see when I read “A Marvelous Work and a Wonder”! “Thus we can clearly see in the Bible that…” when it’s supportive, and “Thus we see the need for revelation…” when it’s problematic.

  8. I agree grego.

    It can’t be both ways. ‘Continuing revelation’ doesn’t mean a Prophet can introduce something contradicting of what another Prophet’s true teaching was. Or thus we know one or the other is wrong.

    The reality is that not even a Prophet can say something that contradicts previous scripture or Christ. Joseph Smith said that’s how we can tell falsehoods from truth, even from Prophets. All truth must harmonizes with itself. Doctrine never changes. What is right & true yesterday is right & true today & forever.

    Unfortunately there are a lot of doctrines in the Church that have been changed over the years & members just assume it’s ok for doctrine to change, but it’s not. Contradicting doctrine means one or the other leader was wrong.

  9. It seems like some people here are lumping everyone together rather unfairly. All groups of people are made up of unique individuals who each hold different educational backgrounds, beliefs, and communication abilities. The full truth cannot be known by anyone. All records are incomplete, all histories distorted somewhat, all stories only partially told. Rather than perpetuating the “us vs. them” mindset, it might be nice to write a latitudinarian article which encourages an open and honest investigation of all sources. “But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.” ~ Matthew 5:37. Let’s all stop pretending we know everything, try not to be easily offended, correspond in a non-emotional professional manner, present information as “to the best of my understanding I think…” rather than “these are the unquestionable facts…” attitude with the intent that everyone can alter their perceptions and change their views through the exchange of personal ideas. If anyone is unwilling to honestly change their views on a matter, there is no point in conversing with others. Information should be shared between everyone to increase the understanding of all, and not in the spirit of childish name-calling or condemnation.

  10. The primitive Church quickly had apostate ideas creep in, even when the original apostles were alive, and I am sure that many things were changed by well meaning people in error. The bottom line is this for me: Have I got my own personal spiritual witness that this is the Church of the Saviour Jesus Christ, I received that unmistakeable witness (unexpected as well) 38 years ago and I spend my life serving him in the best way I can. His people have always been backsliders, wicked at times, and sinners. I just hope I can be on His side when the judgement day arrives. I have studied Church History, Joseph Smith made some mistakes, he didn’t always receive inspiration – especially when he was doing worldly stuff, as opposed to Church stuff. Like everyone else he made mistakes. I am entitled to the Holy Ghost to guide me, but I still make mistakes because I don’t always listen, maybe he didn’t always listen. I get whacked when I don’t and I am sure he did. If someone studied my life history they would have a totally different image of me than I do of myself and the image of my friends and family. In the cold light of day, written and about the past and out of historical context, we make judgements comparing them with how things are today. It just does not work correctly to establish the credibility/lack of credibility of a person. JUST Pray and ask if Joseph was a Prophet and just leave it at that.

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