Criticism of Mormonism/Websites/MormonThink/Overview

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FairMormon's evaluation of the web site MormonThink

A FairMormon Analysis of: MormonThink, a work by author: Anonymous
Give me a Walter Martin anytime, a good stout wolf with his own fur on, instead of those more timid or sly parading around in their ridiculous fleeces with their teeth and tails hanging out. Give me "Ex-Mormons for Jesus" or the Moody Bible Tract Society, who are at least honest about their anti-Mormon agenda, instead of [those] camouflaged as..."Latter-day Saint[s]"....I prefer my anti-Mormons straight up.
—Stephen Robinson [1]
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Overview

The web site MormonThink.com claims to be operated by active members of the Church with an interest in objectively presenting the "truth" about Mormonism. In general, the conclusions reached by the site reflect negatively on the Church.

  • FAIR has received several queries to "Ask the Apologist" from Church members who specifically identify the website MormonThink as having assisted their relatives out of the Church. The quote from "Truthseeker" (MormonThink site administrator, who states that he is an active member of the Church) is from an e-mail that was sent in response to FAIR's inquiry about one such claim. According to "Truthseeker," he remains anonymous in order to avoid excommunication or Church discipline.
  • The site contains repeated accusations that the Church and its leaders are dishonest. The site operators state they "would rather have a somewhat smaller church full of knowledgeable, loyal, full-believing members than a large church full of inactive, semi-believing members."
  • The site is a popular reference for many anti-Mormon sites because it claims to be balanced due to its inclusion of links to a few faith-promoting sites such as FAIR. In fact, answers to questions sent to FAIR's "Ask the Apologist" have been included on the site and used to "support" some of the site's negative conclusions by omitting context and relevant information.
  • The site appears to be attempting to provoke a response from the "official" Church sources, with anything published by FAIR being constantly characterized as "unofficial," "unauthorized," and even "activist."

Sources used

MormonThink considers Wikipedia to be a "neutral source" on LDS topics. It is not. FairMormon analyzes selected LDS-related Wikipedia articles in: Mormonism and Wikipedia.

The MormonThink web site also heavily promotes and incorporates concepts from Grant Palmer's critical work An Insider's View of Mormon Origins. FAIR has analyzed this work and provides an index of claims and corresponding responses, and an examination of the author's use of source material.

For a detailed response, see: A FairMormon Analysis of: An Insider's View of Mormon Origins

The site authors respond to FAIR...they don't like the term "anti-Mormon"

Here is another example of FAIR using the ‘standard LDS tactic’ of spitefully labeling those with whom it disagrees instead of dealing with the issue on its merits. It labels MormonThink as ‘anti-Mormon’ in an attempt to paint MT as untrustworthy and dishonest in the eyes of Latter-day Saints. “Anti-Mormon” is a spiteful label designed to stop critical thinking and obstruct a healthy exchange of ideas.
MormonThink's response to FAIR

FAIR's opinion

  • FAIR considers a web site or a published work to be "anti-Mormon" if its goal is to demote one's faith in the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, particularly when it is run or produced by "active members" of the Church.
  • FAIR's responses to "Ask the Apologist" queries and data from the FAIR Wiki are placed in a context in which they are misrepresented to support the site's negative conclusions. FAIR does not endorse the use of its own material to bolster the negative conclusions drawn by the MormonThink site, or the way in which the site addresses issues of LDS belief, history, and scripture.
  • It is encouraging that a few small changes were made when LDS members pointed out various problems. However, though this seems to enhance the site's veneer of balance, the conclusions and insinuation about the Church, its leaders, and its members remain the same—always negative. MormonThink considers FAIR's response "the kind of snarky reply that drives honest investigators (members and others) away from the church," and that a "spiteful attitude toward honest investigation is unfair." However, the conclusion drawn over and over again on the site is that the Church and its leaders are dishonest and that the truth claims of the church are false.
  • It is ironic that a site which frequently criticizes the Church for a lack of "honesty" or "transparency" claims to be a source operated by faithful and active members who are not forthright about their own identities. Their response is that "[i]nvestigators at MormonThink (MT) do not want to be excommunicated or disciplined by the church for exercising their right to investigate Mormon history, question official versions, think critically, and point out obvious contradictions with a request for clarification."

Why does FAIR not link to the MormonThink website?

The owners of MormonThink have repeatedly asked why FAIR does not link to their web site:

MormonThink welcomes the opinions and theories that FAIR offers as evidenced by the numerous links that MT has to FAIR as well as to other pro-LDS web sites. Yet FAIR does not link to MT or to any of the critics’ sites so how can FAIR really be fair?
MormonThink's response to FAIR

The answer is quite simple. The FairMormon Answers Wiki has a policy of not linking to anti-Mormon web sites. The goal of MormonThink, which is further reinforced by a reading of their response to FairMormon's review, is to demonstrate that the truth claims of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are false. It does not matter that the site operators claim to be active members of the Church—the site claims that Joseph Smith was dishonest, that the General Authorities are dishonest, and that the Church is not what it claims to be. This qualifies the site as "anti-Mormon" in our opinion. FAIR's mission, in contrast, is to reinforce the faith of LDS Church members. We do not, and will not, encourage members to visit web sites which attempt to destroy their faith.

What quality of "thinking" is recommended?

The site does not seem to be merely an attempt to "steady the ark" by redirecting the Church according to the vision of its authors, but in some ways it may represent an attempt to actually lead members out of the Church. The site's overall attitude toward religion is best summarized by their link to a routine by the late comedian George Carlin called "Religion is BS". MormonThink comments:

Comedian George Carlin has a 10 minute bit on why all religion is phony. Although comedic (and irreverent), it does make you think.

Thus it seems, in connection with the MormonThink link, that the validity of truth claims of not only the Church, but of any religion, ought to be reevaluated in light of a 10-minute shtick performed by a comedian in which "he also makes some valid observations." This is like recommending that one renegotiate his or her faith after viewing Bill Maher's Religulous. This appears to represent the level of "thinking" that MormonThink wishes readers to engage in.

The former webmaster of MormonThink in his own words

The webmaster of MormonThink posts in several online ex-Mormon message boards under the names "SpongeBob SquareGarments," "mormonthink," and "LDS Truthseeker". The best explanation of his website and its purpose is offered in his own words.

From the admin of MormonThink

As the guy who gets most of the email directed to the MormonThink website, I can say that 19 out of 20 people that read through the website say it changed their minds and they no longer believe in the church and usually write to thank those that helped make the site. But 1 out of 20 is someone that has read most of it, or has read a lot of it, and still believes. I have had ongoing conversations with these people and they continue to believe (at least for now). I think if people really want to believe that something is true, they will find a way to do it - like the apologists who know as much as any of us do. However, my experience is that if you can actually get someone to look at all the facts via a few websites or books, that the majority will stop believing in the church and that 100% of those that viewed everything will at least have a diminished view of the church they thought they knew.

—Posted by SpongeBob SquareGarments on thread "Ever Get a TBM to Read a Book or Website Exposing the Truth About Mormonism?", Recovery from Mormonism, April 20, 2012.


So that is one of the reasons I remain in the church. It gives me greater credibility when I speak about my own religion instead of it being my former religion. We all know as soon as I leave it, I am labeled as someone who left because of morality, tithing or some other issue rather than the historical problems of the church. One reason that Grant Palmer's book has been so successful is that he is a current member (although now disfellowshipped)[2] and not vilified like the Tanners. By subtly mentioning things in meetings I may raise some doubts or by carrying around a copy of ‘An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins’ or Sunstone or Dialogue, I am sometimes asked about them and can gently guide someone to further enlightenment about church history. So you can consider myself one who tries to share the historical problems of the Church from within instead of from outside the Church. It's tough sometimes but I don't take any crap from anyone. I no longer pay tithing or wear garments and blow off callings I don't want but I remain a member because I choose to be one....The hardest challenge for me is to keep some level of integrity. I never lie at church (i.e. give a false testimony) but I play the game to keep membership but don't want to be given callings I don't want. I don't mind going to church (but not all the time) but don't like to be hounded to go to the temple and such. ALSO, it is very hard for me not to stand up and tell the teacher that the manual is wrong or call out some member (a friend) for saying something in error. It is hard to sit though many of the meetings when I know [so] much more truth than any of them do. And I can't just stand up and tell them.....No tithing but I give a fair share to other worthy charities. I'm not a big drinker but I do drink now and then if I want to.....I must admit I am cautious about that. Not so much for me but for my wife so I don't normally drink in public. yeah, I feel like a kid hiding beer at home from my ne[i]ghbors but it's the price I pay.

—Comment posted by "active Mormon" MormonThink webmaster on thread "'I am the webmaster of MormonThink.com AMA'," ex-Mormon reddit, Jan. 2012


OUR OPPORTUNITY GUYS AND GALS: Make sure you call in with a good question or 2 so it will give Grant [Palmer] a reason to bring up something damaging - B[ook] O[f] A[braham], Kinderhook Plates, polyandry, etc.

—Posted by: "SpongeBob SquareGarments" on Recovery from Mormonism on May 18 during a call-in show featuring Grant Palmer.

Notes


  1. Stephen E. Robinson, "Review of The Word of God: Essays on Mormon Scripture by Dan Vogel," FARMS Review of Books 3/1 (1991): 312–318. off-site
  2. It should be noted that Grant Palmer has since resigned his Church membership.