Every Member an Apologist

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Mormon Times has become an instant sensation on the internet and a regular stop in my surfing patterns. I have enjoyed working with FAIR volunteers and editor Joe Walker to help provide some content for their web page. Today I found a news report about Elder Ballard admonishing BYU-Idaho graduates to use their knowledge to help combat the growing tide of internet anti-Mormonism. The article summarizes and quotes Elder Ballard as follows:

Along with the pornography, the Internet and other media are often used to spread falsehoods, Elder Ballard said.

“Every month there are 60 billion searches for information on the Internet,” he said. “Many are seeking information about the church; and while some are finding the truth, others find anti-Mormon sites that mislead them and defame the church.”

Elder Ballard urged graduates to use their knowledge and testimony of the gospel to influence seekers of truth. He suggested that graduates join in conversations on the Internet to share the gospel and explain the message of the Restoration in simple, clear terms.

I welcome this invitation as it reinforces my own participation in FAIR’s volunteer organization. For me this is a way to consecrate my talents to help build up the Kingdom. On my mission to Oklahoma, I became concerned about members losing their testimonies due to literature critical of the Church of Jesus Christ. A partial reason for low retention rates is that the simple message of the Gospel shared in missionary discussions can leave a new member under-prepared for the sheer weight of all the misinformation available on the internet. And it isn’t just misinformation that is the problem, there are tough and complicated aspects about Mormonism that are difficult to navigate through.

I do worry about turning college grads loose on the internet. Until Mormon Apologetics 101 is taught as an institute class, I think that some percentage of them will be ill equipped to handle the rough and tumble of the various discussion forums. I see a lot of bad apologetics being employed, for example, in comments about articles posted at Deseret News and the Salt Lake Tribune. I advise more discernment about whether it is worthwhile entering an online debate. Remember Bill Hamblin’s three rules of apologetics:

  1. Never argue with a moron.
  2. Never argue with someone who is smarter than you.
  3. Make sure obeying rules 1 and 2 doesn’t amount to the same thing.

So until Mormon Apologetics 101 is offered, I suggest that members who want to respond to Elder Ballard’s call engage in a vigorous self study program. Read the Bloggernacle regularly for insight on contemporary issues that are more likely to surface elsewhere on the internet and in your real life conversations. Occasionally read FAIR articles and FARMS reviews, but not too much all at once, because constantly dealing with criticism against the church you love can be depressing. Read back issues of BYU Studies and the Journal of Mormon History to round out your knowledge. Dialog on the internet can be a great motivation to pursue knowledge. Use Hamblin’s rules to pick your battles, and consider using an internet search on the subject you are addressing to see if you know your stuff as well as you think you do. I apologize if I am coming across as condescending here.

What would you guys advise for enthusiastic novices to internet discussions about Mormonism?

Let me leave you all with a final thought that was the highlight of the last General Conference for me. I am the most long winded blogger in the ‘nacle, so I can’t resist. Elder Oaks said:

We live in a time when some misrepresent the beliefs of those they call Mormons and even revile us because of them. When we encounter such misrepresentations, we have a duty to speak out to clarify our doctrine and what we believe. We should be the ones to state our beliefs rather than allowing others the final word in misrepresenting them. This calls for testimony, which can be expressed privately to an acquaintance or publicly in a small or large meeting. As we testify of the truth we know, we should faithfully follow the caution to speak “in mildness and in meekness” (D&C 38:41). We should never be overbearing, shrill, or reviling. As the Apostle Paul taught, we should speak the truth in love (see Ephesians 4:15). Anyone can disagree with our personal testimony, but no one can refute it.

38 thoughts on “Every Member an Apologist

  1. Keller Post author

    By the way, I am stealing the phrase Every Member an Apologist from Richard. Richard works at the More Good Foundation, an organization that my Mission President, James Engebretsen, helped start up to provide Mormons with technical support for launching faithful web sites.

  2. Seth R.

    “Anyone can disagree with our personal testimony, but no one can refute it.”

    I don’t disagree with Elder Oaks. But I’m afraid that this statement is often taken the wrong way.

    People use it as an excuse lazy and sloppy debate tactics.

    How many of you have read an online news article on Mormonism which generates some anti-Mormon comments… and then some Mormon comes on and starts, almost verbatim, doing an online version of what they’d say in Fast and Testimony Meeting?

    Utterly unsuited to the online format and utterly unconvincing and unimpressive. Personal witness-bearing is premised on face-to-face contact and a personal relationship with the person you’re speaking to. All of which is lost online.

    So I know they mean well, but really, this just isn’t effective and makes us look like the ignorant brainwashed dupes some people say we are.

  3. Pingback: More web-windows into LDS hearts « Heart Issues for LDS

  4. Keller

    Seth R.,

    I hear you on the problems of using a F&T-styled testimony as a substitute for engaging the issues.

    I think the reason I like Elder Oaks’ quote is that is that I interpret the act of testifying a little more broadly. I think any time we share knowledge (or some insight) with a conviction that respects the agency of our listeners, it can be said to be a testimony. I will admit that Elder Oaks’ talk and the one before it don’t support my reading.

    What I like most about the talk is the imperative “we have a duty to speak out to clarify our doctrine and what we believe.”

  5. Keller

    Todd,

    I would love to see what you suggest happen. If Ravi and Mouw can speak at the Tabernacle and the Bob and Greg show tour the college and fireside circuit, BYU-I ought to be able to host you in some fashion. I don’t know who to talk to, though, to make it happen.

  6. rowish

    Count me in the mix of people who think that Ballard’s exhortation will cause more problems, in the short term. Now every Mormon who has never heard the word “apologetics” will suddenly think they need to DEFEND, IN BIG BAD BOLD BLOG TERMS, their notion of what cultural tics they think are really Mormonism.

    Or is just my family? Can we get these people to read a book before they start defending their approach to the gospel first?

  7. Matthew B. Brown

    Keller said: “I suggest that members who want to respond to Elder Ballard’s call engage in a vigorous self study program.”

    . . . WHICH SHOULD LAST A LIFETIME.

  8. Keller

    rowish, I think the challenge is wider spread than just your family, given the sheer volume of all the overbearing, underinformed posting that I am observing on the internet. I hope we as a church can overcome the transitional growing pains from “staying above the fray” as Richard Bushman characterized our past strategies of contention avoidance to Elder Ballard’s strategy of “joining the conversation.” I do not want to sweepingly critical my of my fellow saints, but I think we need to do better.

  9. Kerry Shirts

    And I agree with you here also Keller, as well as Matt Brown. This is just one of the reasons why I agreed to restart the School of the Prophets, we call it the “Internet School of the Prophets,” where we are learning Biblical Hebrew as the early Brethren did with Joseph. They had Seixas as their rabbi, we have chosen Rashi as ours for our day. We are just finihsing up the reading aloud of Genesis chapter 1 this weekend, and have a bit of vocabulary we are learning. Next week after finishing Genesis 1, we will begin the reading of Genesis 2. I was asked to start teaching Hebrew and how it sounds when read out loud, so I began it for the many requests I had received. We are making pretty decent progess, and now are jumping onto the grammar of Hebrew as well as more reading. The podcasts are about 1/2 hour each. Joseph Smith gave us the clues, Elder Ballard gave us the shove, we now are giving the Hebrew lessons. Anyone is free to come and learn Hebrew with us, of course. Just come on over to my Backyard Professor Blog, and all the podcasts and lessons are under the Learning Hebrew category.

    Best,
    Kerry

  10. Seth R.

    I’m just worried that most Mormons really don’t know how to venture into the waters Elder Ballard is calling them into. Maybe I’m being patronizing and not giving our people enough credit, but the Internet can be a real minefield for the uninitiated. And there’s a certain way to communicate online that doesn’t always respond well to face-to-face methods.

    We Mormons are used to engaging questions ONLY on our own terms – we want the friend or investigator to follow our script for conversion. The Internet doesn’t stand for that sort of coddling.

    I don’t know… I just have these ugly visions of some of the well-meaning brothers and sisters in some of my wards stepping into the information superhighway and getting the snot kicked out of them.

    Then again, maybe I’m worrying too much and that dormant pioneer spirit will win through in the end…

  11. kevin hinckley

    Great Discussion.

    “A partial reason for low retention rates is that the simple message of the Gospel shared in missionary discussions can leave a new member under-prepared for the sheer weight of all the misinformation available on the internet. And it isn’t just misinformation that is the problem, there are tough and complicated aspects about Mormonism that are difficult to navigate through.”

    This is so true. There is not a place for new members to hear, within the warmth of the spiritual discussion, topics like Blacks and the Priesthood. Any further discussion, after they are give “anti” literature or search is the web can often be met with members/missionaries who stammer a few poorly thought out phrases like, “well just pray about it,” or “don’t worry about. Its not important to your salvation!”

    In other words, we come off sounding like we do have something to hide and new converts are left to wonder what they’ve gotten themselves into.

    Is anyone aware of any Church initiative to try and educate members in the “Difficult Questions”?

  12. Oxnard

    Joe Smith took time off working as a carnival hustler to find 3 gold tablets that only he could see. An angel tells him what it says and so we now have Mormons.

    People are such Morons.

  13. Seth R.

    If this blog is going to allow anti-Mormon comments, isn’t it only fair to the anti-Mormons that the allowed comments not make them sound like complete idiots?

  14. James

    Many members who take Elder Ballard’s advice will likely begin perusing with zeal some of the anti-mormon websites that pop up first with Google. Then they will run to FAIR (which is not bad advice)to try and find answers.
    That is not unlike the path that led me into online apologetics.

    However, I find it likely that many folks will lose interest after a day or two. They are not use to reading criticisms about their faith, and may throw up their hands in frustration and walk away from the whole thing.

    Just brainstorming, perhaps FAIR could put together some type of 101 online study guide for those who are beginning. That would provide a good, safe place for green apologists. Then, it wouldn’t hurt if Elder Ballard mentioned it the next time he brings this subject up.

  15. Seth R.

    I’ve dealt with people on the DAMU for the past year or two, and one thing I’ve found is that apologetics are a mixed bag and you can’t count on the results.

    I’ve encountered people who allegedly left the church because of their study in Mormon apologetics.

    I don’t know how much credence to give those stories really. But I do know my own experience. An entire afternoon spent on the FAIR website is not necessarily a great spiritual experience. FAIR is trying to defend the faith, but its method of doing so is to wade through rivers of anti-Mormon negativity. A person who wants to join FAIR for the ride, is going to have to wade through that negativity too. It’s not faith-affirming. It’s tiring. For some members, I can easily see it simply unnerving them to find out that there are so many criticisms of their religion out there – many of them requiring pretty detailed and involved arguments to successfully refute.

    Depending on the Mormon, this can either support or harm faith.

    Apologetics isn’t for everyone. And it certainly takes a rare breed to go “whole hog” on FAIR and come out without their faith having lost a bit of its luster I think.

    Look, let’s face it, the LDS Church needs to be doing more to inoculate its members in Sunday School. As long as they keep pretending that there are no hard questions to resolve in our religion, that isn’t going to happen. But it needs to happen there – in small, manageable, supportive, and faith-affirming bits over the course of years that a Mormon youth spends in Sunday School.

    Just hitting a snag as an adult, and then diving into FAIR is a bit like a drink from the firehose, and the resulting cognitive dissonance is a real bear.

  16. NoS

    Keller: I do not think that Elder Ballard was instructing BYUH grads to become apologists, nor did he agree with the rules listed. He never used the word apologist, and in reality, he probably does want the grads to offer some balance to some of the discussion. Arguing at all is usually futile, but adding information that has been (purposefully) omitted by an article’s author, or ranted against by some anti-Mormon is helpful. I take umbrage to the idea in the second “rule.” Taking the assumption that arguing is never a good idea, is it ever possible to have a discussion with someone when you either aren’t smarter than them, or them than you?

    Furthermore, I see no reason to believe that the quorum of the 12 apostles see a need for the membership to change their level of education before they define their own beliefs, privately or publicy, before the church or before the world. The testimony of an uneducated person is just as valid as one who considers themself an educated apologist. While their defenses may not be effective (by the standards listed by some at fair) you have to remember there is a difference between counsel from an apostle and suggestions from anyone else (although I may listen to your advice, I see no reason for anyone else to have to).

    The assumption that many “fair apologists” seem to be making is, “One must be an apologist and debate and defend the church.” I think closer to what Elder Ballard meant was, “There are a lot of untrue things being said, and we can’t respond to all of it, so we need church members to take the easy misrepresentations, and correct those.” I’m OK leaving some of the stickier situations to those who’ve been around the block a little longer.

    Seth R.
    You say this sentence as though Mormon’s are the only culture for which it is true: “We Mormons are used to engaging questions ONLY on our own terms – we want the friend or investigator to follow our script for conversion. The Internet doesn’t stand for that sort of coddling.”
    Newsflash, many people are unable to communicate when the prescribed script isn’t present, it’s not a Mormon trademark. Second newsflash. The Mormons I surround myself with don’t ever do that. Please don’t make condescending, generalized ASSumptions about an entire social group. I don’t appreciate it XLDS do it, I don’t appreciate it when BloggerLDS do it either. Seth, you may be projecting too much of yourself onto Mormonism.
    “I don’t know… I just have these ugly visions of some of the well-meaning brothers and sisters in some of my wards stepping into the information superhighway and getting the snot kicked out of them.” Well it’s good to know that Seth’s seership authorization has finally pulled through. Have you informed Salt Lake about your new-found seership properties? (By know, the informed reader will notice that I am demonstrating that sarcasm, like facial impressions, are hard to see on a blog. Are the apologists going to outlaw sarcasm in addition to testimony bearing too? It seems only fair…)

    My observations of the fairblogging community (e.i., card-carrying fairlds members) is that there are still apologists who proof-text, have agenda’s for the topics they cover and don’t appear very honest (See the arhive about punishing the disobedient missionaries in CO). Let’s root out some of those official apologists and set some standards that are kept before punishing the masses of uneducated church members who are just going to hurt themselves on the internet. Is there also a Humility 001 class that we can get the apologists to read? I think the Humility 101 that most members read (ET Benson) is a little too advanced for some apologists. Speaking as an “average” member, I get sick and tired of the “smart” members complaining about the dumb-dead weight they have to carry around.

    I believe strongly enough in the church to KNOW that the truth will set you free. Those who claim they learned something to make them leave the church aren’t being honest. They’ve learned a snippet, which may or may not be true. In the end, the proper context will bear the church out, I know it. Let the arrogant condemnation begin…

  17. Seth R.

    NoS,

    You’ll note that I already said that it’s quite possible I’m being patronizing and not giving the membership enough credit. I didn’t just say it as a mere formality. I actually felt it a real possibility.

    The only points I was trying to make:
    1. Some DAMU people claim that apologetics is the path they took OUT of the Church
    2. Apologetics can involve spiritually negative stuff
    3. For me, it was a tiring experience – although quite helpful
    4. I don’t think it’s for everyone

    That’s it.

    But as for me being pompous and arrogant, thank you for the reminder. It’s a failing I’ve always struggled with.

  18. Clean Cut

    I appreciate this post, and the quotes. It’s something that I’ve been trying to do with a Presbyterian Pastor in Oregon, which I recently posted about and provided links to on my blog. I hope I’ve done it in the right spirit and in a way that would make the church proud. As for the “tough issues” of the church (all churches have them), and educating our own members about them–this is also something that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, especially after reading “Rough Stone Rolling”.

    I found the following quote by President Hinckley helpful in our effort to not ignore the tough issues, but to put them in context:
    “My plea is that as we continue our search for truth, particularly we of the Church, that we look for strength and goodness rather than weakness and failings in those who did so great a work in their time.
    We recognize that our forefathers were human. They doubtless made mistakes. Some of them acknowledged making mistakes. But the mistakes were minor when compared with the marvelous work which they accomplished. To highlight mistakes and cover over the greater good is to draw a caricature. Caricatures are amusing, but they are often ugly and dishonest. A man may have a wart on his cheek and still have a face of beauty and strength, but if the wart is over emphasized in comparison to his other features, the portrait is lacking in integrity.” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Continuing Search for Truth,” Liahona, Feb 1986)

  19. Keller

    Seth R.,

    Thanks for keeping this discussion going over the weekend as I took a little break from the internet. I think we see eye to eye on this issue for the most part. I especially agree heartily with:

    1. Online discussions don’t come close to following the Mormon script.
    2. The current level of Mormon online discourse stands in need of improvement.
    3. Apologetics can involve spiritually negative stuff.
    4. Apologetics should be addressed more in church curricula.

    On the last point I have volunteered to teach an apologetics oriented Sunday School class or firesides, but first the bishopric turned over and then I moved out. I have moved into a family ward now so I am no longer a good candidate to teach a class.

  20. Keller

    NoS,

    I do not think that Elder Ballard was instructing BYUH grads to become apologists, nor did he agree with the rules listed.

    You do have a point here. My post is an attempt to help accomplish his vision of having articulate Mormons represent the Church of Jesus Christ on the internet. I see nothing wrong with observing the current state of things and offering some suggestions or humorous “rules” on how some of my fellow Saints might improve based on my limited experience.

    Taking the assumption that arguing is never a good idea

    Thanks for stating your assumption. I think we are undergoing a transition in our Church community. It is becoming more and more appropriate to “argue” our case. By that I mean using methods of gentle persuasion, critical thinking skills, etc.

    is it ever possible to have a discussion with someone when you either aren’t smarter than them, or them than you?

    This question would only arise it everyone followed Hamblin’s rules, but that isn’t what we see in practice, is it? Until we reach that point, Hamblin’s rules are a very good rule of thumb for deciding whether to participate in a discussion in which there are opposing viewpoints in play.

    I see no reason to believe that the quorum of the 12 apostles see a need for the membership to change their level of education before they define their own beliefs,

    I see a few reasons that the apostles want educated representation on the internet. 1) The audience of Elder Ballard’s remarks are recent college grads. 2) The brethren are always pleading for us self-improve in matters of education, especially about the Gospel.

    I’m OK leaving some of the stickier situations to those who’ve been around the block a little longer.

    Well said. The problem as I see it, is that this doesn’t happen enough in practice. Some members are getting over their heads in some of these internet discussions and the effect is that they are embarrassing the Church and/or getting their testimonies shaken.

    have agenda’s for the topics they cover

    I can only speak for myself, but I certainly have an agenda when I blog on FAIR. I mentioned it earlier “For me this is a way to consecrate my talents to help build up the Kingdom.” FAIR has an agenda as well in engaging in educational apologetics as answers to criticism against the LDS Church.

    Let’s root out some of those official apologists and set some standards that are kept

    I suggest this happens quite a bit in FAIR’s official publications. However, as the copyright disclaimer at the bottom suggests, the content of these blog entries are the sole responsibility of their authors.

  21. Keller

    Is there also a Humility 001 class that we can get the apologists to read? I think the Humility 101 that most members read (ET Benson) is a little too advanced for some apologists.

    Now that was funny. 🙂

    Speaking as an “average” member, I get sick and tired of the “smart” members complaining about the dumb-dead weight they have to carry around.

    I admire the work that the “average” member does. What I am trying to do on this blog entry is humbly provide some constructive criticism and resources so we as a community can rise to the occasion of our apostles’ call.

  22. Kerry Shirts

    Above all else, it appears to me thatit will be a challenge for all of us involved no matter what levels we are currently residing at. The average member does have to step up to the plate, and the arrogant, proud, know-it-alls among us have to stay humble – GRIN! The point is, I believe the time has arrived where we all need to elevate ourselves a bit more, take more time to work through the Gospel ideas and know them better, and then learn how to share them better. There are good ways and not so good ways. But there definitely are those out there who would relish the opportunity to absolutely cave your head in and cream your testimony. I have been through it, as has all of our FAIR members. In the long run, it is a strengthening experience…

  23. NoS

    I am firmly in support of all members learning more (in secular and spiritual terms). I have no problems with apologetic work in general. I enjoy reading much of the material found at Fair, and wish I had more time to contribute (somehow). Now that I see that the purpose was more of a call for continued improvement, I can agree with that.

    At the same time, one does not need to be a “trained apologist” to counter such simple arguments as:

    “It is so illogical for Mormons to say they believe the Bible. They say they believe the Bible wholly, except for the scriptures that are not canonized.”

    “More specifically, the portions of Scripture which refute much of the Mormon doctrines? How can you put your faith in something that you do not believe to be wholly true, that has mistakes in it, or needs to be interpreted by prophets for the common man to know?”

    “Statements you made like the following are so deceiving:”
    A true understanding of LDS doctrine points toward the salvation of all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and the only source of our salvation – said by a Mormon.

    “When Mormons say “I believe in Jesus Christ”, you do not mean that He is the ONLY way to heaven as John 14:6 clearly teaches.”
    Yes we do mean that we believe in Jesus Christ, and that He is the Only Way.

    But these are simple. I just don’t want people to sit out when they feel that the question is something that they ARE qualified to respond to. Besides, many of the challenges come from unqualified people. Should we sit on our hands because we’re not as qualified as some while those less qualified spread lies?

    I don’t need to be an apologist to refute that the LDS church practices polygamy.
    I don’t need to be an apologist to say that Mormon’s DO believe in the biblical Jesus.
    I don’t need to be an apologist to say that LDS worship is not the same as FLDS worship (contra Peggy Fletcher Stack).
    But I should know what I’m talking about before saying, “All 19th century polygamy was because there weren’t enough men.”

    The large problem consists when the academics look down on regular people for being regular. “Person A sharing a testimony about how they felt protected on a trip makes her sound very simple.” Here simple was not a positive personality trait. etc.

    I like Kerry’s advice, let’s raise the bar on our scholarship (everyone, everywhere) and increase our humility too. Probably a more effective and diplomatic way of stating it than I did. But I guess that just means I have some stuff to learn too, right?

  24. Kerry Shirts

    You think you were bad? Dude, I was a complete farcical idiot for the first few years on the net. I threw around more hot water than I ever needed to, and made a complete mulekey of myself (that’s a mule and donkey combined). NOW it is much more satisfying, easy, and rather enjoyable to go slow, stay calm, never insult if you can help it, explain things in an even manner. All this, of course, presupposes you are reading a gajillion billion books a week, which I try to do. I never quite make it that far though – GRIN! If we attack and insult, expect it back, and believe you me man, the world has no compunction about getting in YOUR FACE and absolutely slapping you with the crudest words you have ever read, seen, or heard, so apologists BEWARE, talk NICE and it will be returned, get rude, and the world will astonish you at how vile, crude, blasphemous, and downright UGLY it can get, and it hurts. It’s embarrassing, and it racks yer spirit with pain. I, unfortunately speak from miserable experience. But now, being calm and trying, I mean really trying to pretend I am talking to someone I respect, has made absolutely ***ALL*** the difference in a rather pleasant Internet experience.

  25. Kerry Shirts

    Thanks for the heads up Keller. Wow, Perhaps the resurrection of the “School of the Prophets” might actualy help us in appreciating our astonishing and awe-inspiring Israelite heritage after all……… One can only hope. I recently tonight just posted the 5th Hebrew lesson, in which we finish reading Genesis chapter 1 all the way. I am having very favorable responses all the way around, as well as some very good questions. Next week some grammar and beginning to read Genesis chapter 2 out loud in Hebrew on the podcasts.

  26. Kerry Shirts

    Um hey you all wonderful LDS apologetic hacks – GRIN! Something just occurred to me. When I first got on the internet (12 years ago) I was so serious, and so serious about things that I took myself far too seriously, and THAT was the root of all my problems. I have no idea how to teach the new folks on the net how NOT to take themselves so serious, nor take the criticisms against the church so serious, but perhaps it was just the combined experiences of absolutely having my arguments shredded to ribbons, and my testimony trampled under foot and hoof that made me more humble, and not so egotistical and always HAVING to be right and correct. Oh my good heavenlies the astounding number of trillions of times I was proven wrong! It is a very sombering and sobering thing to realize that not everyone thinks like we do, and furthermore has as good of arguments as we do, only come to different coclusions! Jesus’ words were never more apt……..for US, yep WE MORMONS. “Love One Another.” That is what changed my dire internet experiences into absolutely delightful ones, and believe it or not, I have actually become friends with what I used to think were vile anti-Mormons, and we are really quite good friends now because I was not the idiot brainwashed schmuck of a Mormon they had supposed, and they were not the insipidly lousy-read, illogical, religious dolts I had judged them to be. I really do believe that the Grace of God stepped in and caused us to stop judging one another, and instead, love one another. It was actually meeting them physically in person that has convinced me we judge anti’s in far too vehemently negative and bad ways. They are human, who have problems in family, health, jobs, marriage, and life, exactly as we do. They have doubts, but also hopes, beliefs, etc., they say prayers (and have them answered! – Yes, I am serious), etc. In other words, we are all in this together, we might as well be friends and get along, because there ain’t none of us getting out of this one alive. We all die…. eventually.

    Just another two cents from a two bit Backyard Professor…..

  27. Keller

    Kerry,
    Your great thoughts and advice brought back memories for me. I am embarrassed that some of my initial forays in representing Mormonism online 11 years ago are still on the net. I wish there was a way to erase it. A mission, a couple of college degrees, experience in various discussion forums, some mentoring by more knowledgeable apologists, etc. has really changed my outlook, I think for the better.

  28. Kerry Shirts

    LOL! I have thought of the embarrassment more than once. On the other hand, someone can see the change and growth in us as we matured. Well hey, I always try to put a positive outlook on things.

  29. Seth R.

    At least your embarrassments are in the distant past. Mine have happened in the past few months. After a few reads of Blake Ostler, and stuff, I got a full head of steam and waded into some mainline Christian blogs.

    I quickly discovered that those were still Blake’s ideas and arguments, and I hadn’t even come close to earning them or understanding what went into them. And all the certainties and confidences I had earlier entertained didn’t seem quite so impressive when I had several theology doctorates, and divinity school professors staring at me from the other side of the table.

    I was properly horse-whipped.

  30. Mel

    I noticed that the first thing the writer jumped at was “Elder Ballard wants us to argue.” Contention is hardly the answer, I think. Correcting people’s false ideas is what he’s thinking of.

    Also, the idea that apologetics can hurt members is a true one. While I’m still a member of the church, I had no idea there where any problems with the Book of Abraham translation, in terms of the real content of the papyri, until I read about it in a FARMS publication. It was such and over-the-top illogical apologetic screed that I just had to do more research. Now, I find myself wondering what other mines I’ll step on if I continue to read LDS-published history (never mind the actual anti- stuff).

  31. Keller

    Mel,

    I clarified what I mean by the term “argue” in my response to NoS above. I use the word in a sense entirely consistent with D&C 121:41-45. You seem to be looking at things a little differently as in 3 Nephi 11, which is a different situation entirely than is typically encountered in online discussions and debates.

    I am not sure what you are claiming about the BoA apologetics you encountered. Do you consider yourself better off not knowing the problems and possible solutions, or do just wish that such information could have been broken to you more gently?

    When I talk about bad apologetics I have singled out two problems, being underinformed and being overbearing. The FARMS Review has generally set the standard for good apologetics and its tone has improved over time. So I am curious what you considered illogic. Does it make more sense to you now?

  32. Robert Fields

    I am not LDS, but a member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now named Community of Christ). I find i have to rely on FAIR Wiki a lot to answer issues that i will never have the skill to answer. So i link to the FAIR Wiki and FAIR Topical Guide articles a lot.

    With the Book of Abraham i am not always a fan of FARMS scholarship. FAIR is doing much better especially with its FAIR Wiki format. I finally bough FARMS Abraham, Papyrus, and Covenant. I find my entusiasm towards the book of Abraham great enough to defend it. I have read many of the top Book of Abraham critics. I find i like knowing the con and pro arguments, so critics can’t hit me with nothing i had never heard.

    I have read deep stuff on Mormon, history, doctrine and practice for many years. I know of nothing anybody should be leaving the LDS church over. What i have felt needed for several years was a hefty three volume set commenting on critics technical issues. I would put it online until money can be gathered to get it published in print. I would take a book like Mormonism: Shadow or Reality? and review its technical issues into the ground. The Truth about the Godmakers format by Gilbert Schwarffs would be a good format to follow.

    The disadvantage i find i have in apologetics is sometimes i have technical issues i have limited technical answers to link to. Mormonism 201 by FAIR is good if FAIR is just aiming at holding its own with books like Mormonism 101 by Bill Mckeever and Eric Johnson. But even with that response MRM put an online rebuttal to FAIR’s resonse. Without FAIR doing a response to the response i could not hold my own with the response to the FAIR response.

    I see bad apologetics as not precisely answering the technical concern behind the anti-Mormon question. I see certain FAIR Wiki articles that do well on breaking down technical critics First Vision Issues. But in some cases i see LDS apologists giving answers who have not carefully sat down with anti-Mormon materials on the topic. So i usually mentally contrast the answer with the best critics presentation of their objection. If i feel the critic can honestly say the answer is not good enough for valid reasons i see that answer as flawed.

    I see two LDS apologetics books as needed for my off internet discussion with critics. A hefty Anti-Mormonism: Truth or Deception? book would be nice as an equivelant to Mormonism: Shadow or reality? and a FAIR Mormonism 201 book replete with dialogues would be nice. On the internet FAIR and FAIR Wiki formats are a good start.

    FAIR’s You Tube Channel is also a great idea. Although the public is sensationalism happy and i think sensationalistic videos draw more attention. I would put up a Lifting the Veil of polygamy film maybe calling it Mormon Polygamy Unveiled not to steal LHM title. With FLDS being in the news constantly since Warren Jeffs got into trouble FAIR was unwise not to rip into that groups authority claims. The public thinks Warren Jeffs and Joseph Smith was alike and LDS arn’t getting their propeganda side out.

    The MADB board which FAIR abandoned over to new management gets hit with polyandry and Joseph Smith issues constantly. If FAIR Wishes to defend Joseph Smith it has to defend him against the charge he comitted adultury with 11 married women. I have been able to do this many times, but FAIR wiki has not put up an article on it. And it needs to be up to the task. I see a lot of LDS apologists on that board as being stumped on how to handle the topic because they have not made an in-depth study of books like In Sacred lonliness. I pick on Compton’s conclusions all the time, so i find i can hold my own on the polyandry subject.

    To me basic apologetics come’s down to being able to hold your own with intellectual bullies.

  33. Rich Knapton

    In my handy dandy little red dictionary (yah I got a Mac) states that an apologist is “a person who offers an argument in defense of something controversial.”

    I don’t think that’s what Elder Ballard meant. He was telling those that had gained knowledge to use that knowledge to set the records straight. Almost every member can do this. And if they find they don’t have the information they can always say “I’ll have to look that up and get back to you.” I think members get into trouble when they attempt to argue in defense of something controversial. If you think you have the skill and knowledge, go for it. If you don’t stay away from it. The gospel advances when it’s principles are clearly articulated. I don’t believe discussions in defense of something controversial helps the Church at all. I think those who engage in these types of discussion do it for the shear enjoyment they receive from it. I think that’s as good a reason as any. If you have the skill to do it, and like doing it, go for it.

    As for me, I don’t have the skill. After all, what do you expect, I still play with toy soldiers.

    Rich

  34. Pingback: Why Mormon Apologetics and How to Broaden the Field

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