Comments about ‘FAIR changes Mormon defenders website name’

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Published: Monday, Nov. 21 2011 9:00 p.m. MST

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One of Vai's Cousins
DC, Washington

I have often wondered what LDS leaders really think of the work of apologists. I had an experience with LDS apologetics that I later learned was far from uncommon.

Years ago, someone told me Joseph Smith married women who were already legally married and many to men who were strong members of the church. This made me literally laugh. I was in that naive stage as a youth where anything and everything said negative about the church was clearly an anti-Mormon lie. And this one took the cake! I laughingly told my Bishop father what I had heard and he confirmed it was hogwash and just more anti-Mormon garbage.

Fast forward to law school when I started to exercise my critical thinking skills regarding my shelf of anti-Mormon "lies". This time I turned to the LDS apologist who I thought would prop up my shelf but from an intellectual perspective.

To my surprise, the apolgists only confirmed the truth of almost everything that I previously thought and was told were anti-Mormon lies - like JS's polyandry. And they explained or justified them in ways that made them even more strange and difficult to accept.

Fred T

instead self-motivated it should read self-serving
This seems to better apply to apologists in every form.

Olathe, Kansas

*like JS's polyandry*

According to my dictionary, polyandry is the practice of having more than one husband. Somehow I don't think Joseph Smith ever participated in that.

City, Ut

I offer this advise to LDS members who are desirous (or told they should be desirous) of learning all the "truth" about Joseph Smith or early Church history or any hints, from many sources, that there are things you should "know".

When you have really got your own act together, and can say honestly that you are doing everything you should, and have the Spirit at all times and all needs,THEN is the time you should consider deciding about acting on that advise that there are "true things" about Joseph Smith you should know.

Until then, you are only asking to have anything you learn, or think you learn, twisted...

As in LOTR: "But his wisdom failed...and he looked, and was deceived: far too often, I guess. He was too great to be subdued to the will of the Dark Power; he saw nonetheless only those things which the Power permitted him to see...yet the vision that was shown him fed the despair of his heart until it overthrew his mind...He can, by his will choose what things shall be seen by weaker minds, or cause them to mistake the meaning of what they see."

Portland, OR

Instead of saying how apologists only confirm the truth of so-called anti-Mormon lies in regard to events in Church history, go look at the FAIR website and see for yourself how believing apologists handle these issues.

Red Headed Stranger
Billy Bobs, TX

When I first heard about "Mormon Defense League" what first popped into my mind was a comic book style mental image of Dan Peterson in a lycra superhero costume with the letters "CTR" emblazoned on his chest and carrying his "scripture power" hammer. Therefore, I guess the name change was in order.

As for Vai's cousin, as with everything, there are good examples of things and bad examples of things. Apparently it is relatively easy to put out a book, and astonishingly easy to create a blog where anyone and everyone can read it. Even well-intentioned members of the church can get their facts or analysis wrong. At the same time, ill-intentioned people can distort and manipulate facts to put them in the worst possible light. For example, I am sure that you understand the distinction between "sealing" and "marriage". Or put in other words, Joseph had nine children with Emma. Subsequent DNA tests of the descendants of "suspected Smith progeny" listed by Fawn Brodie (and others) have come up as negative. For a really good biography of Joseph Smith, read "Rough Stone Rolling" by Richard Bushman, Emeritus Professor of History at Columbia University.

Red Headed Stranger
Billy Bobs, TX

I should add to my previous comment that we don't always have all information available to us at any particular point. That is why we should speak of 'evidence' and not 'proof'. In my aforementioned comment about DNA testing we may have to revise our beliefs about what went on in Nauvoo if the DNA testing came back as being positive. Apologetics therefore should never take the place of regular scripture study, Christian service and prayer. People tend to make sure to select the facts (and only the facts) that support their world view, and ignore others.

Bill in Nebraska
Maryville, MO

They may have been hard to take but you may find more truth in what the apologists say than in what the anti-mormon propaganda says. You will also see that a lot of Joseph Smith wives were known to Emma Smith, though the critics say otherwise. She knew about them and in the beginning was okay with it. In her older years she would tell her daughter that Joseph Smith did right and she was wrong. She should have followed him.

Layton, UT

Besides sounding like a team of superheroes... the Mormon Defense League sounds a bit too much like the Jewish Defense League, which the FBI described as a terrorist organization... it also sounds a bit like the Anti-Defamation League which is a very aggressive politically motivated, lawyer heavy organization that makes it common practice to be offended by anything and everything that even moderately impacts the Jewish people... positively or negatively, and tends to support openly liberal political causes.

It's a good move to distance oneself from both sorts of organizations, as FAIR (students of the Book of Mormon) in no way would advocate violence, nor the excess uses of lawyers (both of which are frowned upon in the Book of Mormon)... :)

Weber State Graduate
Clearfield, UT

"And they explained or justified them in ways that made them even more strange and difficult to accept."

Unfortunately, this is all too common among LDS apologists. I believe they do a great disservice to the church as they incessantly make clever use of rhetorical patterns that obscure any kind of logical reasoning.

Thinking LDS folk deserve better intellectual respect and much of the nonsense written by several LDS apologists is nothing more than rhetorical doublethink. Such activity actually hurts the church and it can be very offensive for rational LDS people with legitimate and reasonable questions.

Weber State Graduate
Clearfield, UT

"I offer this advise to LDS members who are desirous (or told they should be desirous) of learning all the "truth" ..."

Perpetuating a fear of all truth is an effective and dangerous tool used by the unscrupulous who seek unconditional power and control over others. Only a fool would close their eyes and ears to truth, however unpleasant that truth may be. More importantly, those who declare they have the truth and simultaneously fail to acknowledge untruths cannot presume to claim a monopoly on absolute truth.

Henry Drummond
San Jose, CA

I have looked at Mormon apologetics over the years. It does look like they are moving in a more positive direction than in times past. Personal attacks are not as prevalent and it does look like they are attempting to come to grips with difficult aspects of Mormon history and doctrine rather than trying to deny factual information. I hope this name change signals a more positive approach at this organization.

Salt Lake City, UT

I have read both the apologists' and critics' accounts of Joseph Smith and his plural marriages. Critics bring out the worst of it and throw in a lot of speculation and assumptions, making the mistake of assuming things when Joseph is not here to answer these questions. Critics claim that Joseph was only interested in a libertine lifestyle. The truth is that Joseph believed he was commanded to do it, and believed that it would lead to the exaltation of himself and those women who agreed to it. Even if you reject that Joseph was commanded by God to do it, at least that is what one must conclude was Joseph's motivation - yet critics refuse to see it that way - they bring all kinds of accusations that simply are not true. Yet the historical records are overwhelming that this is what Joseph believed and did. My own honest analysis has come to the conclusion that a more correct and honest assessment is done by the Mormon apologists and scholars. Too many assumptions that are not rooted in facts are made by critics.

Allen, TX

I have read 3 biographies of Joseph - one very anti, one very pro, and one in the middle. I acknowledge Joseph was a very flawed individual. But the work the Lord did through him was tuly miraculous, especially considering his warts. All the more miraculous because of his flaws.

I encourage all LDS to read from various sources, but do so with prayer and fasting, in the open, consulting with others along the way.

You will come to a stronger testimony of the divinity of the work done buy the Lord through Joseph and his unworthy peers, and feel more hope in your ability to overcome your own weaknesses and trials, for having seen Joseph overcome his.

sandy, ut

Midway - you really can't claim to know what Joseph Smith believed. That would require you being in operation of his mind. All we know is what Joseph wrote, said, did, etc. We can never say what the true motivations were, we can have our guesses, but when you say "Joseph believed" this, or that you do a disservice to him. He could have said one thing, and believed another. We simply don't know. You said that "Joseph smith believed he was commanded to do it"... All we know is that Joseph Smith said he believed he was commanded to do it. Big difference.

West Valley, UT

@Weber State Grad: Doesn't all religion make use of rhetorical patterns to obscure logic and reasoning?

Tooele, UT

@One of Vai's Cousins 12:10

Anyone who would say, "...anything and everything said negative about the church was clearly an anti-Mormon lie," is doing a disservice to themselves and those whom they preside over.

To some degree I understand the mindset. For example, many LDS Church members look at Ed Decker's book and movie, "The Godmakers," along with the sequel (which has been widely attacked for its vulgar distortions, even by other LDS critics such as Gerald and Sandra Tanner) and assume all videos and literature attacking the LDS Church are equally dishonest.

But it's been my experience that the most effective criticisms of the LDS Church comes from those who are completely honest in what they have to say. They just often omit a lot of facts and at times present their findings using loaded, sensationalized language.

Some of those who write for FAIR and FARMS can at times fall under the same trap however, which is why, more than anything else, I rely on the Holy Spirit to teach me and guide me in my life.

Bill in Nebraska
Maryville, MO

To Brahmabull: Midway is right in his answer and conclusions. The reason is that Joseph Smith has stated all along that the practice of polgamy was revealed to him. The critics blast this as not being true that it had to deal with something else. They alse declare that he was no prophet. All of the publications either refute he had direct communications or not with God.

If Midway's conclusion is that Joseph Smith is and was a prophet of God as he has noted then the conclusion that Joseph Smith did believe that the practice of polgamy did come from God is a valid conclusion. He doesn't need to know the man himself but one comes to know the Prophet Joseph through his writings, the writings of others and the testimonies of those who knew him best, his people. In the end the conclusion to say what he believed was said to Joseph and his own believes gives one the only conclusion at that point that Joseph believed all that he stated.

The critics disagree with him and that is fine but in the end for those who revere Joseph Smith will come to that conclusion.

John Pack Lambert of Michigan
Ypsilanti, MI

The people at FAIR provide help and work there almost entirely on a volunteer basis. The claim that they are "self serving" just does not stand up to the fact that they are unpaid volunteers.

John Pack Lambert of Michigan
Ypsilanti, MI

Bushman argues that many of Joseph Smith's marriages were about connecting people together. Bushman I think convincingly argues that there is no evidence that Joseph Smith had sexual relations with any wife who was de facto the wife of someone else. There may have been one case with someone who was de jure the wife of someone else, but seperating and remarrying without divorcing was much more common in the 19th century and we need to not judge them by our standards.

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