Monthly Archives: May 2011

Best of FAIR, 5: A Black Man in Zion: Reflections on Race in the Restored Gospel

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Marcus H. Martins was the first Black man to serve a full-time mission after the revelation that extended the priesthood to worthy men with Black African ancestry in 1978. He was also among the first to be ordained a high priest in 1981 and quite possibly–at least outside of Africa–may have been among the first to be ordained a bishop in 1987. Since 1994, he has been the first Black man to work as a religion professor in the Church’s universities: Brigham Young University; then Rick’s College; BYU-Idaho and BYU-Hawaii. In this 2006 FAIR Conference address, he speaks of the burden carried by Latter-day Saints with Black African ancestry, and how he has been able to reconcile the pain he has experienced with his faith in the Church.

Brother Martins is the author of the book Setting the Record Straight – Blacks and the Mormon Priesthood, which can be purchased at the FAIR Bookstore.

The full text of this address can be found at FAIR LDS.

‘American Grace’ and LDS women

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In the April 2011 General Conference, Elder Quentin L. Cook gave the probably most-discussed talk: “LDS Women Are Incredible!” My attention went mostly to a very short line—“The recent highly acclaimed book American Gracenoted that Latter-day Saint women are unique in being overwhelmingly satisfied with their role in Church leadership.”

At the risk of assuming too much, I think that in including that one line Elder Cook was aiming at two related criticisms: First, that the Church’s gender-based organization harms women, and second, that it blunders by not fully acknowledging women’s distress over that issue. Continue reading

FAIR Issues, 7: Challenging Issues and Keeping the Faith Pt 7

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People can experience discomfort, and even distress, when they encounter new information that conflicts with deeply held beliefs. This is called “cognitive dissonance.”  When this happens, we either: (1) reject the new information as false; (2) reject the new information as unimportant; (3) reject old beliefs in favor of the new information; or (4) find new information to validate the original belief. These various ways of resolving cognitive dissonance can be rational, irrational, or extra-rational and are used by faithful members as well as by anti-Mormons alike. The full text of this article can be found at Mormon Times.

Brother Ash is author of the book Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt, as well as the book, of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith. Both books are available for purchase online through the FAIR Bookstore.

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FAIR Issues, 6: Challenging Issues and Keeping the Faith Pt 6

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What happens when the average member of the Church first encounters anti-Mormon literature? Why do some members casually reject it and others become deeply unsettled? In this episode, Michael Ash explores these questions. The complete text of this article can be found at Mormon Times.

Brother Ash is author of the book Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt, as well as the book, of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith. Both books are available for purchase online through the FAIR Bookstore.

Tell your friends about the FAIR-Cast. Share a link on your Facebook page and help increase the popularity of the FAIR-Cast by rating it in iTunes.

FAIR Issues, 5: Challenging Issues and Keeping the Faith Pt 5

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What is an “anti-Mormon?” When did anti-Mormons first appear? Is the term “anti-Mormon” pejorative? In the episode, Michael Ash discusses these issues and sets forth differences between two different types of anti-Mormons: sectarian critics and secular critics. The full text of this article is available at Mormon Times.

Brother Ash is author of the book Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt, as well as the book, of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith. Both books are available for purchase online through the FAIR Bookstore.

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Best of FAIR, Episode 4: Shaken Faith Syndrome

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In this address from the 2008 FAIR Conference, Michael R. Ash discusses “shaken faith syndrome.” He explains that “a shaken faith typically arises from two scenarios—1) Someone loses their faith because of a disaster in their life (such as a death, divorce, or other tragedy.) 2) Someone’s faith is shaken because they are exposed to information that seems to question the truth claims of the Church.” His address focuses on the second category.

Confronting information that seems to question the truth claims of the Church can create cognitive dissonance. “When we encounter cognitive dissonance with weighty issues—such as religious beliefs—we can experience a very uncomfortable and emotional state of mind. This discomfort has been called a “negative drive state” because it causes psychological tension almost like hunger or thirst and requires immediate attention and resolution. Reducing this distress may require a change in belief or behavior. There are at least four ways in which this is generally accomplished, and we are not often consciously aware of doing so. We will either: (1) reject the new information—the competing cognition—as false; (2) reject the new information as unimportant; (3) reject old beliefs in favor of the new information; or (4) add information (additional cognitions) to validate the original belief.”

Ash goes on to explain, “When critical information destroys conclusions based on straw men or false assumptions, some members will lose their entire testimonies. The most common misconceptions that seem to factor into personal apostasy include: (A) Unrealistic Expectations of Prophets (B) Confusing Tradition With Doctrine (C) Imposing Our View on Others (D) Unrealistic Expectations of Science and Scholarship”

He concludes with some thoughts on inoculation against shaken faith syndrome: “While adding cognitions may salvage damaged testimonies, a change in paradigms before encountering challenging issues often serves as an inoculation against shaken faith syndrome. Inoculation, however, can also cause damage on its own.”

The full text of this address can be found at FAIR LDS. You can also watch the video of this presentation on YouTube.

Brother Ash is author of the book Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt, as well as the book, of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith. Both books are available for purchase online through the FAIR Bookstore.

Mebaqqer and Bishop

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In modern Mormonism, the office of Bishop straddles the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods. On the Aaronic side, the ward Bishop presides over the local Aaronic priesthood quorums (the Aaronic priests’ quorum in particular) and manages temporal affairs (ward budgets and the collection and distribution of welfare assistance). The Presiding Bishop of the church does these things on a global scale. On the Melchizedek side, the Bishop oversees much of the spiritual activities of the local congregations. The dual nature of the office makes it somewhat of a puzzle in studying its origins in Early Christianity. Hugh Nibley primarily situated the ancient office on the Aaronic side and saw attempts to elevate it to a Melchizedek status as pretentious. Later LDS writers[1] have been more willing to grant the early Christian office more of a tie in with the mysterious Melchizedek priesthood, especially with a recent upswing in scholarly interest in it. Continue reading

FAIR Issues, Episode 4: Challenging Issues and Keeping the Faith Pt 4

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Michael Ash provides some history and background of some of the organizations that defend the Church, including FARMS (now known as the Neal A. Maxwell Institute), and FAIR. The full text of this episode can be found at Mormon Times.

Brother Ash is author of the book Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt, as well as the book, of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph
Smith. Both books are available for purchase online through the FAIR Bookstore.

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Best of FAIR, Episode 3: Online Apologetics

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Scott Gordon, President of FAIR, provides an insider’s view into the
history of FAIR and the development of online apologetics. He provides
excellent advice on how to be effective in defending the Church on the
internet. Toward the end of the presentation are testimonials from two
women whose lives have been affected by FAIR. Some of the websites he
references include FARMS (now known as the Neal A. Maxwell Institute), Mormonanity, SHIELDS, Mormon Fortress, and, of
course, FAIR LDS. There are numerous other Mormon apologetic sites. Some of these include: Mormon Haven, Mormonism Researched, and Response to Anti-Mormon Critics.

FAIR Issues, Episode 3: Challenging Issues and Keeping the Faith Pt 3

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Does truth need a defense? Who should be an apologist? Why don’t the leaders of the Church engage in apologetics? Michael Ash raises these questions in this episode of FAIR Issues. The full text of this episode can be found at Mormon Times. Brother Ash is author of the book Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt, as well as the book, of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith. Both books are available for purchase online through the FAIR Bookstore.

Tell your friends about the FAIR-Cast. Share a link on your Facebook page and help increase the popularity of the FAIR-Cast by rating it in iTunes.