Defending the Faith: Cherry-picking similarities a powerful way to mislead


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  • coltakashi Richland, WA
    Nov. 8, 2011 7:13 p.m.

    Thank you, Professor Peterson, for responding so well to Michael Youssef. One thing I notriced about his column is that, when he states a "similarity" between Mormons and Muslims, he then throws in something about Muslim beliefs that is clearly offered to offend Evengeliucal Christians, but which has NOTHING to do with Mormonism. But the juxtaposition of the statements smears Mormons with the anti-Muslim statements. This is not only illogical, it is downright deceptive.

    Frankly, I think Youssef is a terrible example of a Christian, since he bears false witness against his neighbors, surely not something that Christ endorsed. He spurs hatred toward religious minorities, and is thus doing the work of Satan, just as surely as any Muslim Jihadist. It is the example of such "Christians" that is causing Evangelical churches like the Southern Baptists to shrink, even as the Mormons grow.

  • tonyloaf New York, NY
    Nov. 6, 2011 9:10 p.m.

    Irony of Youssef's article is that his so-called "Biblical" Christianity has more in common with Islam than does Mormonism.

  • Joggle Clearfield, UT
    Nov. 5, 2011 1:53 p.m.

    @Bill in Nebraska says....If you honestly are seeking the answer it will come.

    The problem with that statement is that you believe the answer should be the same as your answer and that any different answer is wrong. Most people that are seeking an answer do it honestly....including atheists. Seekers often find different answers than you but you disregard the fact that other honest seekers come to different conclusions than you do. You assume your experiences and understanding should work for everybody when obviously it doesn't. Nobody has the one and only recipe for finding answers, Bill. I could read the entire BoM and related texts, the Bible, and sincerely pray my heart out about it and still not find the same answers you have because my seeking includes as much knowledge as I can possibly find about ALL belief. My honest seeking has brought me "my truth". I've found "your truth" very lacking in credibility and probability so I had no choice but to disregard it. We all are honest seekers! Insisting you have the truth doesn't make it truth....it only makes it YOUR personal truth and the truth for others who believe the same!

  • Brahmabull sandy, ut
    Nov. 4, 2011 1:02 p.m.

    Bill - you likewise do the same thing that you accuse others of doing. I quote you parts of the word of wisdom that say you should eat meat sparingly and in times of winter and famine. I would bet my house that you eat meat when it is not winter. So you are breaking the word of wisdom as it was revealed by god to Joseph Smith. That is backed up by scripture, yet you will say that this particular aspect of the word of wisdom is now void. That would be cherry-picking to its fullest. Talks of the leadership of the church that you mention is not scripture. When a prophet speaks it is not scripture. You have said that yourself. Everybody has certain doctrines and teachings they believe and others they don't. They aren't fence sitters, they are honest - something you should try. If you asked doctrinal belief questions to 100 different members you may get 100 different answers. Undoubtedly you would not get 100 of the same answers. Ignorance will not grant eternal life - correct, it is almost as if you were preaching to yourself on that one Bill. Cherry picking to convert people is sad.

  • Bill in Nebraska Maryville, MO
    Nov. 4, 2011 12:11 p.m.

    It is so funny that Brahmabull and others state about cherry picking. Well lets see, they cherry pick what to believe about the Word of Wisdom, about the Book of Mormon, about having a living prophet upon the earth. The question comes back you can't decide what you will believe in, what doctrine is wrong because that is not your place to do so. Everything Mr. Peterson states and I have stated is backed up by scripture and the talks of the leadership of the Church. There is no judgement in this. You can't be ignorant today. You can't sit on the fence and decide well I believe this but don't this. There is no fence sitting. Either you believe or you are striving to believe, but you can't say I don't believe this but believe this.

    Ignorance will not grant you eternal life. We have the Book of Mormon, we have the Doctrine and Covenants, we have the Bible, we have the Pearl of Great Price and we have living prophets on the earth today. The Gospel in its fullness is here for everyone. There is no cherry picking unless you don't believe. Listen to the Prophets.

  • Brahmabull sandy, ut
    Nov. 4, 2011 10:19 a.m.

    Daniel Peterson writing an article about cherry-picking.... now that is funny. Bill in Nebraska will cherry pick to mislead, he claims I cherry pick to mislead, and now Daniel Peterson (who also cherrypicks with almost every article) is accusing another of cherry picking. All too funny.

  • skeptic Phoenix, AZ
    Nov. 4, 2011 8:11 a.m.

    %Rockon, I really like your philosopy. And I really wish the world was like that. But unfortunatly it is not and religion is one of the most destructive and deadly endeavors of man. As a society man will have to learn to understand and control religion or it will eventually destroy civilized society for man. There is more fear and enmity over religion in todays world than there is politics. Perhaps, in a small, small way people talking about it, like with these posts, will help for better understanding and hopefully one day a solution to the problem. I would like to see a truth in preaching law like there is in advertising and lending. If it can't be honestly labeled of content and prove of truth, then it can not be sold to the innocent public.

  • RockOn Spanish Fork, UT
    Nov. 4, 2011 12:16 a.m.

    Great article, Dan. It's a simple article and very clear. How people fail to understand is simply they wish to destroy.

    I do not care what anyone believes unless they seek to directly harm others. C'est le vie.

    Everyone take a deep breath and leave everyone else alone. After the handbook on teaching pigs to sing clearly says it is a waste of time. The pig isn't going to sing and you'll just end up annoying the pig.

    Cut the "anti" palaver against every religion and let people enjoy their truth or fantasy so long as it isn't seeking to directly harm you.

    But that's too much to expect in the real world instead of my charmed mental palace.

  • skeptic Phoenix, AZ
    Nov. 3, 2011 10:11 p.m.

    %Bill in Nebraska, I have the feeling that you are a man of good quality who may have found happiness in your goodness and believes. However, I think for the most part you are preaching to the choir here. Most of the posters here are Mormons like yourself. Others, like myself, are people interested in people and their thoughts and wish to learn from other's ideas. If you go outside of your circle you will find true believers as ardent about their faith as you are about yours. Every claim you make to substantiate your believe they use the same rational. Those are the people you need to be preaching to: to see if you do possess something special that they don't have. Myself, I like Mormonism as much as I like most other isms; I have a lot of questions about Joseph Smith. I wonder what kind of world it would be under Mormonism. I guess that is about as good of way as any to judge the desirability of a religion.

  • Full-on double rainbow Bluffdale, UT
    Nov. 3, 2011 9:44 p.m.

    Being a part of God's one and only true church certainly answers some questions to life's mysteries, but it also makes it difficult because you can't apologize that God happens to have one true church and you happen to be one of its members. These are the subjective facts, plain and simple. So I can't fault anyone for speaking boldly about their religion, but I'd sure like to.

  • pmccombs Orem, UT
    Nov. 3, 2011 7:41 p.m.

    @Bill, I think Vanka and krissy are right. You're right too: the spirit doesn't lie. Only... what is truth? Is it the kind that is painted in a masterpiece, sung in an opera, or revealed by a quantifiable, tangible experiment of science? See, the thing is that we all have a hole in our hearts in the shape of God. Blaise Pascal said something like that and I believe it. For many people, though, it's a differently shaped void.

    Sam Keen was awakened one night. He had a powerful burning in his heart; light and understanding coursed through his body. His conversion experience confirmed his agnosticism. I know an atheist who was visited by his diseased ancestors with messages of love. Oddly, his atheism was confirmed. I witnessed a young man who had lived a rough life be baptized into the LDS church. I saw the unmistakable look of joy in his face; he had walked in the desert and finally found living water! I felt it too. I saw the exact same thing happen to a man who finally met the lead singer of a rock band he adored. What do you make of it?

  • Big 'D' San Mateo, CA
    Nov. 3, 2011 7:33 p.m.

    Re: Kazbert

    "It sounds like Peterson is arguing against drawing parallels between Mormonism and Islam mainly because Islam is a religion that many Americans fear."

    Actually, it was Dr Youssef, and not Dr Peterson, who drew parallels between Mormonism and Islam precisely because Islam is a religion that many Americans fear. Youssef operates within the view that Islam is evil (non-Christian), and through guilt by association he wants his readers to classify Mormonism as non-Christian.

    Peterson's article is designed to address Youssef's claims from within Youssef's own framework: Does this alleged set of Mormon/Islamic similarities justify classifying Mormonism as non-Christian (evil)? Peterson simply exposes the deceptions and inaccuracies in Youssef's proposed similarities. His article is not intended to address the underlying fear of Islam.

    People (especially Islamic scholars) who are familiar with Peterson's writings and career know that he has done as much as anyone to build bridges of understanding and trust between Muslims and Mormons.

  • donn layton, UT
    Nov. 3, 2011 7:14 p.m.

    @Bill; There are many similarities between Islam and Mormonism, but also significant differences.

    Along with Christians, Muslims believe that God created all that exists ex nihilo (out of nothing). Mormonism is quite different in its cosmology, claiming that God fashioned the universe out of preexisting material. God is eternal in some forms of LDS theology, but so is preexisting matter, including the material used by God to create human beings.

    Mormonism has more in common with ancient pagan religions and ancient Greek philosophy(polytheism) than it does with the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim belief in creation ex nihilo.
    The issue of creation relates to other significant world view issues, such as the source of moral values, the problem of evil, and Gods power. It is important to note that ones belief in creation has significant consequences and, in the case of Mormonism, the solutions are inadequate.

    For instance, is the Mormon God too weak to create ex nihilo? If so, then is he less than omnipotent? In contrast, the Christian explanations of creation ex nihilo, the fall, and redemption offer better explanations of the observable universe and of moral values.

  • krissy Sterling, VA
    Nov. 3, 2011 6:54 p.m.

    I also take offense at the arrogance with which commenters display their truth. Indeed, many of us have sincerely sought answers and got them. It is possible to have faith in God and his Son Jesus Christ and not received Moronis promise. Your interpretation to the Holy Ghost can indeed lie. Talk to any victim of religious persecution. I also refuse to believe that the spirit of the devil is with me when I pray. Thank goodness I dont cherry pick parallels to justify my own faith.

  • Vanka Provo, UT
    Nov. 3, 2011 6:02 p.m.

    There you go again, Bill, calling those of us "dishonest" who have sought, but got a different "truth" than you...

    When will you actually listen to your own prophets: do not judge unrighteously.

  • Bill in Nebraska Maryville, MO
    Nov. 3, 2011 5:15 p.m.

    Skeptic those who have honestly seeked the truth will find it in a way that is different than the norm does. The Holy Ghost/Spirit does not lie, however, the spirit of the Devil does. This is why it really is a matter of having faith in God and his son Jesus Christ that is paramount to receiving the truth. When one experiences the same over and over again through the same manner, it becomes pure knowledge and not a belief. This is the problem that science can not and will not be able to remanufacture regardless what they say. It just won't happen. Just as the scriptures state that the so called wise man is a fool when it comes to the Spirit. Intellectuals for the most part can't and will not be able to understand how or when the spirit is talking to them. Therefore, when they say they receive nothing, it is correct because it takes a MEEK person to understand and listen to the spirit. As someone knows though, not everyone is meek and humble all of the time so there are times when nothing is received or heard. This leaves it to faith.

  • skeptic Phoenix, AZ
    Nov. 3, 2011 4:06 p.m.

    %Bill in Nebraska, Thank you for your thoughts, the problem is that following your outline of methodology of arriving at your conclusion favoring Mormonism isn't any different from other's studies of their religion and arriving at different conclusion from yours; often times diametrically opposed to yours. Therefore, it seems that you really don't know anything more than the others; you like the others, choose to believe what you choose to believe. And that is the extend of it: you beleive, they believe; and you have different believes. Which is probably a good thing, if not, and if there is a god then he would have (could have) made things clear to all. Right. It may just be a matter of what ever makes you happy. Good luck.

  • Kimball Bakersfield, CA
    Nov. 3, 2011 3:34 p.m.

    Beware of people who have little positive to offer but who specialize in criticizing and tearing down other people's beliefs. How is that a Christian approach? Really.

  • Kazbert VAIL, AZ
    Nov. 3, 2011 1:24 p.m.

    A very thought-provoking column on cherry-picking similarities. I have long wished that critical thinking would be a mandatory class in public schools (perhaps in high school). Too much of our thinking is made up of unopposed illogic, and debates carried on with illogic on both sides.

    There is one problematic statement for me:

    plainly intended to subtly demonize the faith of the Latter-day Saints by associating it with a religion that many Americans fear.

    Im confident that it was unintentional on Petersons part (and indeed may perhaps merely be due to my own perceptions), but this phrasing sounds in my ears like an indirect attack on Islam. It sounds like Peterson is arguing against drawing parallels between Mormonism and Islam mainly because Islam is a religion that many Americans fear. That is a valid point, but I think it would have been well to add that the fear is irrational. Leaving it as is sounds like Peterson feels the fear of Islam is justified.

  • Bill in Nebraska Maryville, MO
    Nov. 3, 2011 12:26 p.m.

    As usual the same critics are the first to jump in with their versions to stir up the debate.

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints follow the biblical references much more closely than others Christian sects do. This has been proven by many polls that although most members are can not site scripture and verse they can relate the stories and the meanings far better than most other Christians. Some critics go even so far as to say many members don't know their own history and thus are naive in their faith. The problem is that every area that most of the critics have questioned, so have many LDS members. The fact is that the answers we have given back coincide a lot with that of the Leadership of the LDS Church. Is this based on blind faith. NO it is because many times we have searched, researched, searched again and then in the end ask our Heavenly Father if that answer is true. As is the case most often the Spirit (Holy Ghost) has confirmed that belief. There comes a time where belief will and does become pure knowledge of said statements.

  • AndyMac Edmonton, Alberta
    Nov. 3, 2011 10:54 a.m.

    This article does exactly what it is supposed to do; show the other side of the coin that Youssef blatantly ignores. Youssef has picked only the certain elements of certain ideas (ie. scripture outside of the Bible) that are similar between Mormons & Muslims, & disregarded the essential differences between the elements of those same ideas (ie. the Qur'an denying the divinity of Christ as the Son of God, & the Book of Mormon's affirmation of the Biblical doctrine of Christ's divine Sonship). Youssef has made every connection he can between the Mormons & Muslims while failing to acknowledge the overwhelming differences between them, while simultaneously denying the overwhelming similarities between Mormonism's version of Christianity & his own version of Christianity. Youssef has one eye shut. The issue isn't about who's right or wrong; it's about giving an accurate & fair portrayal of Islam vs. Mormon Christianity vs. Baptist Christianity.

    And using the same book of scripture (ie. The Bible) & interpreting it's doctrines differently is not "cherry-picking"; the accusations against Mormon apologists being guilty of the same hypocrisy Youssef has shown is not a fair comparison.

  • pmccombs Orem, UT
    Nov. 3, 2011 10:43 a.m.

    Vanka, I think you have a good point. Finding "parallels" is a favorite technique of apologists. I have seen the technique used, fore example, to demonstrate how modern doctrines or practices in Mormonism existed in ancient Christianity. Once a sufficient body of data has been collected, it is usually possible to find at least some points that seem to support a variety of hypotheses. These points are gathered together and (in a manner of speaking) a "bulls-eye" is drawn around them to lend credibility to a particular claim.

    In fact, we all do this. We need this sort of thinking in order to make sense of the world and to feel confident with our beliefs. I have sometimes heard this referred to as "confirmation bias." Yes, it is selective cherry-picking of the evidence. We take what makes sense to us and leave behind what does not, at least until we come up with some way of weaving it into our own narrative.

  • welcomethemall Nampa, ID
    Nov. 3, 2011 10:40 a.m.

    Youssef's conclusion seems to be based on the premise that Islam is deep, daaaark, and terrible... ooooooo... spoooky (careful, there may be an Islamist under your bed children). Mormonism is like Islam. Therefore it is also spoooky. What a syllogism.

    First of all, I do not share Youssef's premise that Islam is bad. Frankly, there are many things I appreciate about my Abrahamic brothers (and Sisters). Their reverence for their prophet resonates with my soul. I love how seriously they take the name of Allah - that they speak of him with an abiding sense of holiness and of his influence in their lives. Having read an english translation of the Qu'ran, the tenets of Islam seem to me matters of peace, reverence, honor and respect.

    And frankly, I don't balk at favorable comparisons to Islam, any more than I worry about positive correlations to "orthodox" Christianity. But I am also very happy to call out the differences.

    Pagan, you are correct - I do not expect my faith to prove the truth of my faith to you. I do hope my behavior is an appropriate expression of my faith.

  • Jax Bountiful, UT
    Nov. 3, 2011 10:33 a.m.

    "Cherry-picking similarities while failing to mention major differences is a powerful way to misrepresent and mislead."

    What about cherry-picking consistencies while failing to mention major inconsistencies? That is also a powerful way to mislead. Yet Peterson himself did just that in last week's column. See "Book of Mormon's consistency, complexity still amaze" An apologist's job could be defined as cherry picking only the supportive material, and Peterson has made a career out of it. So, I don't think he should be the one to critique Youssef.

  • atl134 Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 3, 2011 10:23 a.m.

    "Furthermore, the famous scripture in Revelations about "not adding" applies to man, not God"

    More specifically the "add to the prophecy of this book" clearly refers to John's prophecy in the Book of Revelation. So basically, it's "don't mess with altering the wods in the Book of Revelation.

  • Joan Watson TWIN FALLS, ID
    Nov. 3, 2011 9:56 a.m.

    It seems that Youssef is added to a long list of so called intelligent/knowledgeable people who are more comfortable seeking to live in a world dark with shadow and falsehoods than in the bright sun light of truth.

  • Pagan Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 3, 2011 9:25 a.m.

    'Offering an example, he observes that "They both have their own book of 'sacred scripture.' " Which is true, of course. In fact, Mormonism has four such books. And while those Mormon books don't include the Qur'an, they do include the Bible a fact that Youssef somehow omits. Islam doesn't accept the Bible as authoritative scripture, but Mormonism emphatically does.' - Article

    This article dosen't make sense to me.

    On the one hand, it ACKNOWLEDGES the similarities then...

    claims they are different.

    In this paragraph for example. This author in this article agrees with the previous author about the 'book of scripture.' A factual statement.

    Then, this author tries to make the distiction by relying on the BELIEF OF said faith to seperate the two books of scripture.

    'And while those Mormon books don't include the Qur'an, they do include the Bible a fact that Youssef somehow omits.'

    Youssef was NOT trying to say Mulsims believe Jesus Christ is the savior, he was still...

    citing books of scripture.

    Relying on your faith, to support your faith is self-fulling prophecy.

    As, anyone who agrees with you, belives as you do.

    Others, will not be swayed.

  • RG Buena Vista, VA
    Nov. 3, 2011 8:38 a.m.

    How are grapes like elephants? They're both purple, except for the elephant. As a regular reader of Townhall, I read Youseff's column. He's a good guy but this column was poorly thought. I'm tired of people claiming LDS are not Christian because we believe in extra-Biblical scripture. A local columnist recently made the same charge in the weekly paper, and in my published rebuttal I noted that the Bible doesn't contain the word "Bible," or claim that all scriptures are in the Bible, or that there cannot be any more. Furthermore, the famous scripture in Revelations about "not adding" applies to man, not God; and when it was written, there was no Bible. It is a coincidence that Revelations happened to be the last book. Just because the Bible is the only book of scripture the world has known about for centuries does not mean there can't be more, although people who are so used to the idea that the Bible and the "word of God" are one and the same sometimes have a hard time thinking outside the box. Modern revelation existed throughout Biblical times; therefore Biblical Christians are those who accept modern revelation.

  • Fender Bender Saint George, UT
    Nov. 3, 2011 8:23 a.m.

    Mormonism and Islam may not be all that similar in terms of doctrine, but the two faiths do share some things in common.

    There are many people who make fun of Muslim clothing, protest the building of mosques, claim that Muslims are all terrorists, inaccurately demonize and misrepresent Islamic teachings, preach that a devout Muslim cannot be a loyal American citizen, and suggest that Muslims should be consigned to second-class status in the American political arena.

    These are usually the same people who make fun of LDS garments, protest the building of LDS temples, claim that Mormons are all racists, inaccurately demonize and misrepresent LDS teachings, preach that a Mormon president would answer to the LDS prophet instead of answering to the Constitution, and suggest that Mormons should be consigned to second-class status in the American political arena.

    It is particularly sad to see some Mormons, who defend Mormonism against unfair and inaccurate attacks, have no qualms with perpetuating bigoted and stereotypical attacks on Muslims. Intolerance should be frowned upon, whether it is aimed against us Mormons or against anyone else.

  • J-TX Allen, TX
    Nov. 3, 2011 8:17 a.m.

    18 Hours ago, Justin Hart called him out on his deception in a piece entitled, "Mormonism and Islam: Another Look" on the Town Hall website.

  • megen Truth or Consequences, NM
    Nov. 3, 2011 7:57 a.m.

    Cherry picking similarities is a powerful way to mislead. It goes both ways. Comparing Mromonism to Islam puts Mormonism in a bad light. However, some Mormons compare their religion to "traditional" Christian beliefs in a similar way.

    They say they believe that Jesus is their Savior. What they don't say is that they believe that salvation to them does not exactly mean what it means to other Christians, who believe that salvation means spending eternity in the presence of Heavenly Father. Instead they believe that "that type" of salvation isn't given by Christ but awarded by works. In this way that religion appears to be the same as evangelical Christianity, when in fact it is not.

  • Vanka Provo, UT
    Nov. 3, 2011 7:08 a.m.

    With all the "cherry-picking parallels" being used by FAIR, Maxwell Institute, and other apologists, Daniel Peterson has the gumption to call out an evangelical preacher for doing it?

    Matt. 15:7-9

  • Timj South Jordan, UT
    Nov. 3, 2011 6:14 a.m.

    Early apostles of the LDS church did make comparisons between Islam and Mormons, but their comparisons were much more respectful of both religions. And, unlike this Youssef guy, they actually knew enough about both religions to know what they were talking about.