Introduction to apologetics

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What is "apologetics"? Why are you apologizing?

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Question: Does FairMormon provide "official" answers to questions?

FairMormon provides information and opinions, but does not speak for the Church

FairMormon's articles, responses to "Ask the Apologist" queries, etc., contain a disclaimer to the effect that FAIR volunteers and authors are not speaking authoritatively for the Church (or even for FAIR itself) but only giving their personal opinion or perspective on each issue or question.

Why should anyone listen to FairMormon, then, if they can't speak with authority for the Church? To whom can one turn for the authorized, "final answer" on every topic?

FairMormon need not speak with the authority of the Church itself, or be an official representative of the Church, in order to provide a useful resource for people to gain a better understanding of Latter-day Saint history and teachings. Further, it is not necessarily correct for us to expect to turn to our Church leaders, particularly the general authorities, for the answer to every single question on a gospel topic.

On many issues, there is no official Church position, and so there is nothing that an official Church response will provide. In such cases, members are encouraged to use their agency to "study it out in [their] mind" as they seek knowledge and revelation from human and divine sources.

It is important to first recognize that FairMormon is an organization completely independent of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. FairMormon is not owned or endorsed by the Church as an official mouthpiece, so FAIR cannot claim any official status. The FairMormon FAQ article reads:

We try very hard to not give the impression that we are speaking for the Church in any way. We are not affiliated with the Church. We therefore try to avoid doctrinal declarations. Most of the time it isn't an issue as we are discussing things from a historical or scholarly point of view. Occasionally we get into discussions of doctrine when we feel our beliefs as Latter-day Saints have been misrepresented. At those times the writers are speaking from their own experience and beliefs.

This seems to raise two questions in our readers' minds from time to time, which we will address separately below.

Of what value are FairMormon's answers if they lack authority to speak for the Church?

Only the Church's duly authorized agents can speak officially on behalf of the Church or give official pronouncements which establish doctrine that is binding upon the Church. However, is this necessarily a problem when considering answers coming from a group such as FairMormon?

There are many questions that people have, and there is plenty of benefit to having brothers and sisters in the faith "reason together" and learn from one another, and not expect to simply look to someone to give the one, final answer to any question. In this author's opinion, the Lord and Church leaders are wise to leave us to the exercise of working out these things and developing our mental and spiritual capacities to gain more understanding.

While the responses to issues offered by FairMormon volunteers are not official statements by the Church, we believe them to be consistent with the Church's official teachings and are given by faithful, active, believing LDS members. These responses need not carry an official endorsement to be true or helpful in answering questions.

It is important to keep in mind that speaking as an authorized representative is not the same as speaking authoritatively. FairMormon does not present itself as being authorized by the Church to speak on its behalf and declare or clarify points of doctrine and therefore is not an authorized representative of the Church. However, we do attempt to speak authoritatively by providing answers that use the most up-to-date information from LDS and non-LDS sources, and that reference the most authoritative statements from our leadership on a particular subject. As such, FairMormon attempts to speak authoritatively on matters to the best of our ability but specifically disavows any claim of speaking on behalf of the Church.

FairMormon's main mission is to answer criticisms about the Church, and we can certainly do so based on what we know, can study, and reason, as well as what the Spirit guides us to say as we prayerfully consider these issues, without necessarily receiving this as an official calling or going to the First Presidency to speak on each and every issue.

If FairMormon is not an official voice for the Church, to whom do I turn for the official answer to my question?

In the early days of the Church, it was more common for the local members to ask Joseph Smith for his teachings on various matters. Obviously, the logistics involved in running a church of 500 members is rather different than it is with a church of many millions, and it is unreasonable to expect the First Presidency or Quorum of the Twelve to be able to teach all the individual members who have questions. The Church, of course, does make official doctrinal statements, but generally only on significantly important "core" issues. There is much room for all of us to study and learn independently and in local groups.

Beyond that, we do not need a "thus saith the Lord" answer to every question. We at FairMormon sustain and support the leaders of the Church and follow their direction in matters of doctrine and the operation of the Church, but that doesn't mean we must look to someone else to provide us with the answer to every question we have. The Lord Himself commanded us:

For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.

Verily, I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. . . . [1]

Is it a mistake to assume that at least some of these good works that we are to be engaged in include studying the gospel and striving to learn more through the scriptures, personal prayer, discussions with each other, and by reading the best books? We think not.

Along with not expecting us to remain idle until explicitly commanded to do something, the Lord expects us to seek knowledge and learn and grow without simply being told what to think about everything.

Many problems which members encounter often stem from the mistaken belief that what they have been told my someone in the Church is somehow the Church position, or an official stance of the Church. When they encounter problems, they assume that the Church is in error—in fact, the error may be in what others have presumed is the Church's official position—on many issues, the Church has no official position.

Further,

Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.

And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come. [2]

An important part of the process of gaining this knowledge and intelligence is working diligently to study and learn, and not simply hoping someone else will tell us the answers to memorize.

Members of FairMormon, teachers among the membership of the Church, and even our Church leaders have the latitude to hold and express their best understanding of various topics, even to publish books (e.g., Elder Bruce R. McConkie's Mormon Doctrine). Since none of these talks, lessons, papers, blogs, conversations, or books have been accepted into the canon, they are not binding as 'the official word of the Church itself.' Does that mean they are useless to help us gain more understanding? No, there's much we can learn from each other, even if we're imperfect in our understanding along the way.

But if I want an official answer, how do I get it?

Interested parties should realize that for many issues, there simply is no official Church position. On questions of history, for example, the Church has very few official positions or perspectives. While the Church insists that Joseph Smith did see God the Father and Jesus Christ, did translate the Book of Mormon, and did receive the restored priesthood, it has no official doctrine or position on the historical details surrounding these events. The Church will, for example, insist that the priesthood was restored. The Church may not, by contrast, have an official position on where that restoration occurred, what led to it, or even upon which date it happened.

Official doctrine is usually easy to determine. When FairMormon is aware of an official doctrine or position statement, we attempt to provide it, with references so interested readers can check the sources for themselves. In all other cases, we try to describe the spectrum of LDS thought on a given issue, while noting that more than one point of view is held by faithful members of the Church.


Why are you apologizing?

We are not apologizing for our beliefs: Our objective is to defend the faith against those who would attempt to destroy it.

  1. DC 58:26-28
  2. DC 130:18-19