FairMormon is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing well-documented answers to criticisms of LDS doctrine, belief, and practice.
Mormonism and apologetics
Mormonism and apologetics
Jump to Subtopic:
- Question: What is Mormon "apologetics?"
- Question: Why do Mormon apologetics?
- Question: What are the risks of participating in apologetics?
- Question: Do Mormon apologists tell members how "scientists continue to get it wrong"?
- Question: How does the Church view Mormon apologists?
- Question: Are Mormon apologists isolated from other members because of differences in their beliefs?
- Question: Do Latter-day Saint apologists receive compensation for their efforts?
- Question: How does FairMormon respond to criticism?
- Question: What are some common ways that critics attempt to dismiss the work of FairMormon?
Question: What is Mormon "apologetics?"
The word literally means "in defense of the faith"
You can never argue a person into faith; Christian theology and apologetics exist in order to make sense of the world for the believer, but they do not in themselves create that belief
—Gerald Bray, "Man's Righteousness and God's Salvation," Evangel, the British Evangelical Review 10. 2 (1992): 6.
Many people are not familiar with "apologetics," and raise a variety of questions. These include:
- What is apologetics?
- Why are we "apologizing" for our doctrine?
What is apologetics?
The word "apologetic" is not commonly used in the LDS community and may be unfamiliar to many people. The word literally means "in defense of the faith." It is not talking about apologizing to anyone or being sorry for something. (From the FairMormon FAQ.) The word comes from the Greek "apologia" and is used four times in the Greek New Testament, including 1 Peter 3:15.
Question: Why do Mormon apologetics?
Apologists participate for a variety of reasons
Apologists participate for a variety of reasons. They may:
- have an interest in Church history and doctrine
- have a background in the study of ancient languages or other religions which give a useful perspective on the restored gospel
- experience frustration with anti-Mormon authors who ignore the totality of LDS doctrine and thought
- wish to protect others from poorly-reasoned criticisms, thus preventing others from enduring the suffering which anti-Mormon attacks have caused in the apologist's own life, or the lives of friends or family
- want to enhance their own knowledge of Church doctrine or history
- need information to improve their ability to share the gospel with others who have sincere questions or misunderstandings
- enjoy the company of other like-minded Church members, who are interested in the same sorts of issues
- serve in Church leadership positions which require them to address questions
Is it appropriate for a Church member to be involved in apologetics?
C.S. Lewis pointed out that since enemies have invoked 'science' or 'reason' to attack faith, it may now be necessary that someone respond in the same vein:
To be ignorant and simple now—not to be able to meet the enemies on their own ground—would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defense but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered. 
Indeed, the great risk which apologetics seeks to counter is that those unfamiliar with anti-Mormon arguments will assume that there are no good answers to the critics. Elder Neal A. Maxwell warned of the consequences of such a situation:
Let us be articulate for while our defense of the kingdom may not stir all hearers, the absence of thoughtful response may cause fledglings among the faithful to falter. What we assert may not be accepted, but unasserted convictions soon become deserted convictions. 
Since you can't "prove" religion, is apologetics a waste of time?
Dallin H. Oaks spoke to this concern:
The lack of decisive scientific proofs of scriptural truths does not preclude gospel defenders from counterarguments of that nature. When opponents attack the Church or its doctrines with so-called proofs, loyal defenders will counter with material of a comparable nature to defend. 
And, Neal A. Maxwell noted that God would provide fascinating additions to our understanding:
There will be a convergence of discoveries (never enough, mind you, to remove the need for faith) to make plain and plausible what the modern prophets have been saying all along…[I] do not expect incontrovertible proof to come in this way…, but neither will the Church be outdone by hostile or pseudo-scholars. 
Apologetics does not aim to "create belief": It aims only to dispense with the poor reasons given by critics for disbelief
Austen Farrar said, of C.S. Lewis:
Though argument does not create conviction, lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish. 
Apologetics does not aim to "create belief"—it aims only to dispense with the poor reasons given by critics for disbelief. As Elder Maxwell put it, the critics ought not to be permitted "uncontested slam-dunks." 
Question: What are the risks of participating in apologetics?
Apologists often confront the same anti-Mormon arguments again, and again, and again!
It can be frustrating to see a new crop of anti-Mormon books, films, pamphlets, and websites trot out the same tired claims, without even attempting to address the LDS responses. Apologists must remain patient, and not become short or irritable with those who have sincere questions just because they have 'heard it all before.'
Cautioned Elder Neal A. Maxwell:
The ability to create a climate around us in which people, as in the case of the man who approached Jesus, feel free enough to say the equivalent of "Lord, help Thou my unbelief," is a critical skill. If we can deal with doubt effectively in its nascent stages, we can assist people by a warmth and love which frees them to share the worries that they may have, and increase the probability of dissolving their doubt. But, if we over-react to dissent or to doubt, we are apt, rather than inculcating confidence in those we serve, to exhibit what, in the eyes of the rebel, may seem to be a flaw in our inner confidence in what we say.
We need to relax to be effective in the process of helping people who are building testimonies. Over-reacting and pressing the panic button when doubt first makes its appearance can render us ineffective. This is one of the reasons why parents are often in a temporarily poorer tactical position to deal effectively with a rebellious son or daughter—the anxiety is too real to relax. In these circumstances, bishops, teachers, and friends can be helpful—not because they are clinically detached, for their love and concern should be honestly communicated—but rather because third parties sometimes can listen a little longer without reacting, can prescribe with a clear-headed assessment, and most of all, can be a fresh voice which conveys care and concern, a voice which has risen above similar challenges. 
An apologist can decide (wrongly) that the issues which excite and concern him must excite everyone. There are many people for whom apologetic issues are of no importance. This implies no defect in them or in those who are concerned about a given issue.
C.S. Lewis remarked:
The intellectual life is not the only road to God, nor the safest, but we find it to be a road, and it may be the appointed road for us. Of course, it will be so only so long as we keep the impulse pure and disinterested. That is the great difficulty. As the author of the Theologia Germanica says, we may come to love knowledge-our knowing-more than the thing known: to delight not in the exercise of our talents but in the fact that they are ours, or even in the reputation they bring us. Every success in a scholar's life increases this danger. If it becomes irresistible, he must give up his scholarly work. The time for plucking out the right eye has arrived. 
And, any field in which one becomes something of an expert is ripe for pride. As Alma cautioned his missionary sons, "See that ye are not lifted up unto pride; yea, see that ye do not boast in your own wisdom, nor of your much strength." Alma 38:11 Such strength can be apologetic or mental as much as physical.
Apologetics does not substitute for faith, prayer, scripture study, Christ-like service, and spiritual renewal. Apologists must remember that their main task is to encourage others to seek a personal witness for themselves; the 'rational' part of apologetics is really a prelude to the important work of conversion. At best, apologetics 'gets someone's attention,' and may help them give a novel or strange idea 'the benefit of the doubt' sufficient to plant the seed of faith (Alma 32).
LDS apologists should never fall into the trap of assuming that logical argument can create belief, or that the 'case' for the gospel of Christ can be made rationally irresistible.
This applies to those for whom we write, but it applies to with even greater force to ourselves.
C.S. Lewis gave an important caution from his own work in Christian apologetics:
I have found that nothing is more dangerous to one's own faith than the work of an apologist. No doctrine of that Faith seems to me so spectral, so unreal as one that I have just successfully defended in a public debate. For a moment, you see, it has seemed to rest on oneself: as a result, when you go away from that debate, it seems no stronger than that weak pillar. That is why we apologists take our lives in our hands and can be saved only by falling back continually from the web of our own arguments, as from our intellectual counters, into the Reality—from Christian apologetics into Christ Himself. That also is why we need one another's continual help—oremus pro invincem [Let us pray for each other]. 
Question: Do Mormon apologists tell members how "scientists continue to get it wrong"?
Many apologists have advanced degrees in many areas of science
Critics often portray apologists as mindless automatons who are unable to think rationally in their attempt to "defend the faith" at all costs. It is assumed by secular critics that Mormonism and science are mutually exclusive. It is not the job of the apologist to discount what science tells us. Many apologists have advanced degrees in many areas of science (see http://mormonscholarstestify.org/). These individuals have found that science and belief are compatible rather than being mutually exclusive.
Apologetic arguments may evolve as science provides us with new answers about the world that we live in
It is true, however, that apologetic arguments may evolve as science provides us with new answers about the world that we live in. Science is continually changing, and we welcome the new knowledge that it brings to us. When new discoveries are made, apologists will attempt to determine whether this new information fits in with LDS beliefs. It is possible to be an apologist while still understanding that there are many things that science will continue to teach us.
One should exercise caution, however, before immediately incorporating a new discovery into an apologetic argument
One should exercise caution, however, before immediately incorporating a new discovery into an apologetic argument. An example of this occurred with forged documents such as the "Salamander Letter" produced by Mark Hofmann. When these documents were obtained by the church and made publicly available, apologists and critics alike immediately began creating material to explain them. When it was discovered that these documents were forgeries, it became necessary to provide disclaimers on some apologetic material that was written during this period of time. Unfortunately, critics do not issue such disclaimers, and works such as D. Michael Quinn's Early Mormonism and the Magic World View and Grant Palmer's An Insider's View of Mormon Origins, which were heavily influenced by the Hofmann forgeries, continue to be cited as references in modern critical works. In this case, negative apologetics based upon faulty information continues to have ongoing detrimental effects.
Question: How does the Church view Mormon apologists?
The Church and its leaders are rightly cautious about officially endorsing any material that has not been approved by the correlation process of the Church
How does the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints view apologists?How does the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints view apologists?
- Does the Church avoid mentioning the work of LDS apologists in any public forum sponsored by the Church?
- Does the Church avoid endorsing any LDS apologetic scholarship?
Does the Church avoid mentioning the work of LDS apologists in any public forum sponsored by the Church?
No. For example, the work of pioneer apologist Hugh Nibley has been repeatedly cited even in general conference. 
The Church's official website also links to various apologetic individuals and groups. For example, their section on DNA and the Book of Mormon refers to the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, the FARMS Review, and work by Dr. Daniel Peterson, Dr. John Butler, and Dr. Jeff Lindsay.  FairMormon's response to an anti-Mormon DVD was also given prominent attention at lds.org. 
Does the Church avoid endorsing any LDS apologetic scholarship?
The Church and its leaders are rightly cautious about officially endorsing any material that has not been approved by the correlation process of the Church. For most secular undertakings—such as those involving science and history—the Church gives no official endorsement nor takes any official position.
Apologists prefer it this way. For example, FairMormon can and does make mistakes. If they are brought to our attention, we strive to correct them. But, the Church cannot be held responsible for any errors that we, as private members, might make. The Church and its leaders focus on preaching the gospel of Christ and administering the saving ordinances. Interested private members may seek to explain and defend their faith with the best tools at their disposal, but the truth of that faith does not depend on the soundness of their arguments.
Question: Are Mormon apologists isolated from other members because of differences in their beliefs?
LDS apologists do not exist in some special "caste" that sets them apart from the general "non-apologist" church population
LDS apologists do not exist in some special "caste" that sets them apart from the general "non-apologist" church population. This idea has even been characterized as a difference between "Internet Mormons vs. Chapel Mormons". 
Many LDS apologists either have been, or currently are elders quorum presidents, high priest group leaders, Primary and Relief Society presidency members, bishops, high councilmen stake presidents, and even general authorities. Being in positions of leadership such as these hardly isolates the apologist from the general Church membership. If anything, this means that the apologist is in an even better position to assist members when they do seek out answers to difficult questions. The idea that LDS apologists are somehow isolated in their own little self-constructed world of beliefs is an idea that the critics would like to promote, but which is very far from the truth.
Question: Do Latter-day Saint apologists receive compensation for their efforts?
Don't give up your "day job": There are no paid positions in Latter-day Saint apologetics
Those who wish to achieve a substantial level of income would be well advised to avoid LDS apologetics entirely, as it can consume substantial amounts of a person's "off-time." Most LDS apologists perform volunteer work to defend the faith while holding down their normal "day job."
Members of FairMormon are not paid for their efforts
FairMormon is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, and all of its members, with the exception of the part-time Bookstore manager, are unpaid volunteers.
All efforts devoted to FairMormon are performed only after its members spend time with their families, perform their "day job," and fulfill church responsibilities. FairMormon is not, and should not be, the top priority in any of its members' lives. This means that the work sometimes proceeds slowly, but it does proceed forward.
Having a "day job" with a Church sponsored institution does not preclude one from practicing apologetics
Some individuals who practice LDS apologetics happen to be employed by institutions sponsored by the Church: The primary institution being Brigham Young University. In this situation, their "day job" involves researching or teaching subjects which may or may not relate to subjects of interest to apologetics...which ought not to surprise anyone at all. Thus, critics attempt to argue that some LDS apologists, particularly BYU professors, are "paid" for their apologetic efforts. Critics congratulate themselves for achieving a firm understanding of the obvious: Individuals who happen to have a "day job" with a Church sponsored institution receive their paycheck from that same institution. Having a "day job" with a Church sponsored institution does not preclude one from practicing apologetics.
Question: How does FairMormon respond to criticism?
Everyone can be an apologist. But not everyone knows exactly how to. The goal of apologetics is to respond to objections so that people can gain a clearer understanding of Latter-day Saint doctrine and purpose. The goal of apologetics is to provide reasons for belief and clarify the assertions of critics. Its goal is to either push against false information by providing new, supportive information or to incorporate and reconcile the information with an already existing paradigm. It is to sustain (reconcile the information faithfully), defend (push against false information), or build up (substantiate truth claims or perform missionary work for) the kingdom of God. Apologists may be broken into two types, those that practice positive apologetics and those that practice negative apologetics. Positive apologetic provides arguments in support of the Church—substantiating different truth claims through scholarly research and negative apologetics provides responses to criticisms against the Church. Positive apologists generally have education in the field that they are substantiating claims relevant to criticized areas of scripture, history, and science. There are many faithful Latter-day Saints authorities that are highly educated in the fields of history, population genetics, Egyptology, Middle Eastern studies, ancient languages, etc. in order to provide vigorous defenses of the faith. Negative apologists are generally those that cite the experts and are looking to disseminate their findings into a personal sphere of influence.
To practice negative apologetics (which most people practice), one can distill the process into simple steps:
- Seek out criticism – FairMormon volunteers are tapped into a number of different critical websites, form relationships with critical researchers, and try to stay up to date on new research that is being performed in defense of the Church.
- Surface the sources used to substantiate that criticism – what are people reading and, perhaps more importantly, how are they reading those sources in order to provide foundation for their criticism.
- Through logical operation, evaluate how any given critic/number of critics has/have read the source/s.
- Through written response, the apologist will likely indicate where logical fallacy has occurred, surface any hidden assumptions, and attempt to provide a well-reasoned, well-researched response to quiet the argument.
In philosophy, there is a distinction made between a logically coherent response and an intellectually stable response to criticism of particular claims. Logically coherent responses contain little to no logical fallacies and make enough sense to be pleasing to the mind. Intellectually stable responses are those that are supported by documentable evidence. That is why we say we try to provide well-reasoned and well-researched responses to criticism.
In order to provide a well-reasoned response, apologists are very familiar with the language of debate—logical fallacy. FairMormon has provided an introduction to logical fallacy on this page. For anyone that needs to/is interested in practicing apologetics, being familiar with logical fallacy is strongly recommended. It will help you in your own endeavors to sustain and defend the kingdom of God and bless your friends and family. Along with being familiar with logical fallacy, one should know how to effectively communicate findings through persuasive/creative writing. Confirmation bias can at times limit one from correctly interpreting sources, recalling the information, and/or accurately reflecting reality. Being aware of this is crucial to providing a good defense. To provide a well-researched response, any academic endeavor (including religious apologetics) will seek to thoroughly document its argument for truth. FairMormon tries to provide well-documented defenses so that others can evaluate our work and know that our defenses come from those that know the respective fields needed to practice apologetics thoroughly.
Our responses usually follow this process and are then reviewed by other FairMormon volunteers prior to publication and are frequently submitted to critical reviewers as well in order to tease out more nuance. They are then submitted to a team of wiki editors and then published on the site.
Organization of a Response
Since 1997, FairMormon has been writing articles that respond to different criticisms of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. FairMormon articles generally contain the following structure:
Headings that introduce the question asked by the critic
Subheadings that promote main points of the response and
Frequently smaller subheadings that organize the response even more
And text that describes our response.
FairMormon documents responses so that interested parties can research what they have done in order to respond and check our work if wanted. By clicking on the blue numbers linked to the text....
In longer responses to different critical works, we will usually list the claim from the critic(s) in the heading, provide the exact claim in italic text, point out logical fallacies in subheadings, and then provide text providing a direction for response. Following there will usually be a
- List of articles attached to the claim in blue, hyperlink font
- which people can use to navigate our response to the claim.
Since critics are generally circulating arguments from popular media, FairMormon generally only responds to the popular media.
There are many ways in which critics of the Church seek to deride or weaken faith. Most criticisms that are circulating today are those that have been fomented by more popular media such as books, movies, and online documents. Beneath this, there are hundreds of online forums that will peddle criticisms. FairMormon generally responds only to popular media. This helps us to respond to the arguments of critics and not respond to every critic that makes the argument. That is why the answers are stored on here so as to provide people confronted by any critic a response to their arguments.
FairMormon will change its findings occasionally as each response is the product of a particular state of scholarship, the often unique perspective of an apologist, and often with a particular criticism/rebranding of that criticism in mind
Every criticism/response to a criticism is the product of three things:
- A particular state of scholarship
- (Oftentimes) A unique perspective of an apologist
- A particular criticism/response to a criticism in the mind of the critic/apologist
FairMormon does not guarantee answers as infallible. We will surely can make mistakes in any point of the apologetic process. We may misinterpret sources. We may not translate a response into another language correctly. We may perform faulty operations to support our counterarguments. We may not accurately account for every rebranding of a criticism that comes our way. We may not be aware of new evidence as it arises to support past criticism. Our responses may not resonate perfectly to the concern of the reader with the wording that an apologist provides on an article. Lastly, we may not be aware of new/current/past faithful scholarship that comes/has already come to light and can be used to support old responses to a particular criticism. This is important to emphasize because a) we can sometimes miss helpful details to illuminante something beyond doubt and b) some fields of knowledge are less static than others in how they progress. For instance, our knowledge of Church history progresses more slowly than Egyptology since history is based on a number of source documents that a historian is called to provide a cut (or interpretation) for and the appearance of new evidence (or in this case, source documents) generally slows after a few sources have been located, documented, and treated. Contrast with Egyptology where new understanding is added to the interpretation of hieroglyphs and the understanding of other antiquities very rapidly.
What we do guarantee is that our responses come from our best efforts and that, in many cases, they suffice. However, we expect to have our answers updated as critique helps refine our thoughts and new scholarship comes to light. It should be noted that there are people who do this professionally for the Church. Professors of ancient scripture at BYU and Church Historians spend most of their lives reading this type of material since they have to make good arguments in their work. Academic organizations like the Mormon History Association have been set up so scholars can work on this very type of endeavor--seeking answers to difficult historical questions. FairMormon holds a conference every year to discuss new issues in apologetics and update old scholarship that used to be used in the defense of the kingdom. We seek the help of any faithful member of the church, critic, or other interested parties in helping us do better by pointing us to new information, making helpful suggestions through any personal research, and even write articles and submit them to FairMormon volunteers to be assessed for potential publication on the website. This is important as we have thousands of articles that aim to defend the faith and we can always use help for improving. We also don’t generally have a lot of time on our hands to write responses and appreciate when someone can help with the time that they have. Additionally, a few critics, people that are going through faith crisis, and other interested individuals have felt that when the best answer hasn’t been up on our website in an immediate sense, that the apologetic endeavor in that area is therefore bunk and the Church’s case is weakened. This is often not the case. As we work together truth, faith, and (hopefully) mutual understanding will prevail. We invite all to join us in our effort to sustain, defend, and build up the kingdom of God. If any recommendation can be given, we invite the interested parties to make their comments/queries at this link. We also invite those interested to become volunteers at this link. Once changes are recommended, those volunteers that work with the wiki will make the appropriate updates if deemed necessary to our defense. If a change is made, volunteers will try to transfer the old information/framing of that information to FairMormon Errata. It should be mentioned that most often the claim is simply deleted and not moved to Errata as most of us do this for free and with little time on our hands. It is often more convenient to not have to make the transfer. This is important to stress as some critics have claimed that FairMormon is purposefully dishonest when making changes to arguments and not publishing the changes to the Errata page. This is simply not true. We are simply refining arguments as the apologetic endeavor demands of us at times and doing it with the time that is afforded to us.
FairMormon aims to be a means to an end primarily
Since we aren't perfect, we aim to be a means to an end primarily. That isn't to say that our responses don't satisfy (on the whole they suffice), though there may be times where someone finds something wanting. That is common. Again, we want to hear from you and improve. But if one is to expect perfection from FairMormon then they will be greatly disappointed. We advise all that are seeking greater understanding of apologetic issues to get familiar with our site. If they feel something missing, they should seek out of the best of books (D&C 88:118) written on the issue that they would like greater understanding for. Often our responses will simply be an introduction to the issue and a point in the right direction for further understanding and confidence. Readers should be aware of this before using our site.
7 Wherefore, confound your enemies; call upon them to meet you both in public and in private; and inasmuch as ye are faithful their shame shall be made manifest.
8 Wherefore, let them bring forth their strong reasons against the Lord.
9 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you—there is no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper;
10 And if any man lift his voice against you he shall be confounded in mine own due time.
Question: What are some common ways that critics attempt to dismiss the work of FairMormon?
There are a few common ways that critics dismiss the work of FairMormon
Critics have a few common ways of dismissing the work of FairMormon. As these have come to the point that they mislead people easily about FairMormon, a response is necessary
“Truth needs no defense”; “Just seeing the table of contents for FairMormon will show you how many problems the Church has”.
Some people assume that the amount of work that has gone into Latter-day Saint apologetics through the FairMormon organization suggests that there are a lot of issues that the Church has to deal with. Others have claimed that “Truth needs no defense. It will fight for itself.” This is utter nonsense for at least four reasons:
- Some people are ignorant of the truth
- Some people know the truth but don’t understand it and/or don’t have the necessary expertise to understand it.
- Some critics misrepresent the truth
- Some critics understand the truth but purposefully lie in order to win influence.
- Sometimes our knowledge of the ancient world or history has changed and we thus need an updated article.
FairMormon has had to respond to every type of criticism and/or adjust to such advancement. This is why we get so many articles.
FairMormon doesn’t acknowledge the issue fully; FairMormon has created a lot of answers out of confirmation bias and isn’t reliable; FairMormon is dishonest and doesn’t include both sides of an argument fairly
Some have claimed that FairMormon, in their responses, aren’t fully honest about issues. It is claimed that FairMormon does not recognize the full extent of problems when they respond, that we create answers full of confirmation bias [citation], and that we purposefully lie about an issue being solved.
- FairMormon gives the reader both the criticism and the answer to it inherent in the article that the reader is perusing. To claim that FM does not acknowledge the issue, or does not deal with it in full is, generally, utter nonsense. When someone reads an article from us, they are both understanding what the criticism is and the way to respond.
- FairMormon may make mistakes in the apologetic process because of confirmation bias. But confirmation bias should be recognized in everyone. Parties should simply study the articles for themselves. If there are any errors then we ask that we be helped in correcting them. That said, the general reliability of articles may be counted on since the authors had to deal with the problem in full at one point in their lives and come up with ways to resolve their questions/concerns. They would generally not feel satisfied if it didn’t completely or mostly help them. These counterbiases should be taken into consideration when evaluating the work of FairMormon.
- FairMormon does not encourage nor tolerate being purposefully deceitful about issues. All articles are written in the best interest of the author, the author’s family and friends, other leaders/members of the Church, and scholars. We have a lot of people to help and we can’t help them nor ourselves with being purposefully dishonest about an issue or allowing our confirmation bias to get in the way of acknowledging and dealing with something.
- To say that FairMormon does not “fully acknowledge the issue” also assumes a lot. Faith is the combination of expectations that we have for something and the data that fills those expectations. Sometimes our expectations for something need to be adjusted. Critics may use this as an excuse for intellectual ignorance or not having to work to understand the faith or achieve a nuanced perspective.
- To make a claim that FairMormon is dishonest in any given response, the critic must assume that A) The apologist who wrote the response was aware of information or logic that contradicted his response B) that they deliberately decided to ignore that information. FairMormon may make mistakes in the apologetic process, but claims of dishonesty are usually just smokescreens that try and divert trust from FairMormon in (ironically) dishonest ways.
FairMormon's responses are full of logical fallacies and especially adhominem attacks
It has been claimed by a few critics that FairMormon's answers are "full of logical fallacies" and that apologists in general "attack with ad hominem more than anyone." FairMormon's answers are not "riddled with fallacies" as the critics might think through caricature. There may be fallacies in arguments that we hope will be pointed out to us so that we can improve. It should be noted that just having a fallacy in an argument does not invalidate it completely. This is known as the "fallacy fallacy". Fallacies generally point out some weaknesses in arguments. Some invalidate the argument completely. The answers should be evaluated carefully. If there is room for improvement, we gladly welcome recommendations at the link provided below. But fallacies don't invalidate the argument automatically.
Regarding ad-hominem specifically. Some assume that an ad-hominem is an applicable fallacy when it is often not. Additionally, everyone may be guilty of ad-hominem. A common ad-hominem attack from critics is: "The BYU professors that FairMormon cites are just paid apologists and have to defend the Church to keep their paychecks." That is trying to poison the well and not address the actual argument made. It is a common hand-waving tactic of critics.
Readers should be careful to watch out for these dismissals in others and themselves. FairMormon does acknowledge the humanity of each of its volunteers and, again asks, that any questions or concerns be directed to FairMormon volunteers at this link.
FairMormon simply obfuscates the issues.
It is frequently claimed that FairMormon simply "obfuscates" the issues. This happens nearly every time FairMormon provides evidence that refutes the criticism of tries to at least add nuance to the critical belief. Every answer should have hard data and solid documentation to back up claims which people can evaluate. People are free to disagree with our responses but they shouldn't simply dismiss our work through hand-waving exercises such as these.
The act of gaslighting is to manipulate someone through psychological means so that they question everything including their own existence. This is usually used in an emotionally manipulative way in order to paint FairMormon in the most negative light possible and has virtually no truth to it.
Critics may claim this when we deny an accusation that seems so obvious to them but we apparently don’t see. The problem may be in the critics’ faulty expectations for the data. This should be considered before accusations of gaslighting are leveled.
FairMormon simply is trying to justify a pre-existing position—being unable to see the forest from the trees.
This accusation is sometimes heard from critics who are trying to make emotionally swaying points. They make dramatic statements in order to distract people. Ironically, the critics are often doing the same thing they accuse FairMormon of—trying to justify a pre-determined conclusion. If any paradigm is true, then there should be meaningful ways to defend it. Critics who try to use this are doing so hypocritically. Everyone has a bias.
FairMormon uses biased scholarship to substantiate their views. Unbiased scholars don't accept the Book of Mormon nor Book of Abraham as factual or historical. Unbiased historians acknowledge Joseph Smith's history as deeply problematic. You can't trust any of FairMormon's apologetic scholarship
Some people try to dismiss the scholarship we cite as biased and thus likely to be false. They have done this with regards to all scholarship done on the history of the Church or the historicity of the scriptures. It is a common way of handwaving some of the amazing, positive, and fully substantiated claims of faithful scholarship. A few points need to be made:
- All scholarship is biased. No one is absolutely free of bias. All of us want to substantiate the positions we already hold. This is called Confirmation Bias--the tendency to look for, interpret, and recall information in a way that already confirms our current position. Interest in anything is a form of bias since one usually has questions that they want to answer in a particular way. Anyone who becomes interested in Mormon Studies is someone who does so because they want to answer questions in a way that confirms what they already believe. Scholars have set up tools such as speaking in "evidence" instead of "proof", "explanatory power" instead of "proof", and so on. They have set up things like peer-review which allows their work to be reviewed by someone of the same scholarly plane that will be critical of assertions that don't stand up to scrutiny and provide helpful feedback for improvement or be honest enough to suggest scrapping a project all together. Even then we have to be sure that scholars have all the evidence that is necessary to make a fully qualified judgement as to the truthfulness of falsity of a claim or set of claims. People who claim that faithful scholars are the only ones who are biased are guilty of wishful thinking.
- The faithful scholars working in Gospel scholarship generally are familiar with both positive and negative claims and try to make the best arguments by first evaluating both sides and arguing in favor of their position. They do this by offering responses to potential critical claims of their positions. Good academic work will seek to address counterclaims as thoroughly as possible. Faithful scholars are also good to cite non-LDS sources when making an assertion of fact. Readers should seek this out in the work they decide to browse.
- Just because someone has a bias, it does not mean that someone is incapable of making a true claim. Scholars cite the documentation that substantiates their position. To claim that Latter-day Saint scholars are so biased and so fallible that they simply cannot state a true claim is simply ludicrous. They have their academic reputations to uphold, their faith and the faith of their coreligionists to sustain, and they can't do that by doing shoddy work. They may make a mistake from time to time but it does nothing to invalidate the rest of their work. The entire body of their work has to be evaluated before making any claims of dishonesty or unreliability.
- Latter-day Saint scholars that FairMormon cites on here generally all have academic training in the field that they utilize to substantiate claims. For instance, Dr. John Gee has his PhD in Egyptology from Yale. John Gee wrote:
According to Oxford University’s and the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München’s Online Egyptological Bibliography, I am already in the top 4 percent of Egyptologists historically in terms of number of Egyptological publications.[. . .] In 2018 I served as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities.
5. The scholars that FairMormon cites generally have been studying apologetic issues for years. Brian Hales began work on early Mormon polygamy back in the early 1990's. Ugo Perego has been studying issues surrounding DNA since the mid 2000's. John Gee has researched issues surrounding the Book of Abraham since the 80s. Their research has seen a lot of refinement and will continue to be refined as scholars studying various issues will continue to find data that will need to be accounted for.
Thus, this criticism rings generally shallow. It is of course the case that faithful scholars are biased, but critics who wish to use this as some springboard to state ipso facto their scholarship can't be trusted at all are risibly hypocritical.
- C. S. Lewis, "Learning in War-Time," in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (New York: Macmillan, 1965), 27-28; cited by James S. Jardine, “Consecration and Learning,” in On Becoming a Disciple-Scholar, edited by Henry B. Eying (Bookcraft, Salt Lake, 1995), 77.
- Neal A. Maxwell, "'All Hell Is Moved," in 1977 Devotional Speeches of the Year (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1977), 179.
- Dallin H. Oaks, The Lord’s Way, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1991), 92.
- Neal A. Maxwell, Deposition of a Disciple (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), 49.
- Cited by Neal A. Maxwell, "Discipleship and Scholarship," Brigham Young University Studies 32 no. 3 (1992), 5. PDF link
- Neal A. Maxwell, cited in Gilbert W. Scharffs, "Some people say it is best to leave alone materials that claim to 'expose' the Church and its teachings. What counsel has been given on this? How do we respond when a friend comes to us with questions found in such materials?," Ensign (January 1995), 60 (scroll half-way down). off-site
- Neal A Maxwell, A More Excellent Way: Essays on Leadership for Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1967), 62.
- C. S. Lewis, "Learning in War-Time," in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (New York: Macmillan, 1965), 27-28; cited by James S. Jardine, “Consecration and Learning,” in On Becoming a Disciple-Scholar, edited by Henry B. Eying (Bookcraft, Salt Lake, 1995), 77.
- C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, edited by Walter Hooper, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), 103.
- See, for example: Gordon B. Hinckley, "Come and Partake," Ensign (May 1986), 46. off-site; D. Todd Christofferson, "The Redemption of the Dead and the Testimony of Jesus," Ensign (November 2000), 9–11. off-site; Boyd K. Packer, "We Believe All That God Has Revealed," Ensign (May 1974), 93. off-site. Other references to Nibley can be found by searching the on-line database.
- "DNA and the Book of Mormon," lds.org (16 February 2006). off-site.
- "Response to DVD," lds.org (29 March 2007). off-site. The FairMormon response is at the top of the column on the left.
- The terms were originated by Jason Gallentine, who identifies himself as "Dr. Shades" on a critical discussion board.
- interested parties can see citations to the documents used to provide the response.
- John Gee, "John Gee - WILLIAM (BILL) GAY RESEARCH CHAIR, SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW" in 2018 Annual Report for the BYU Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship <https://mi.byu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/2018-Maxwell-Institute-Annual-Report-small.pdf> pg. 47-8 (accessed 30 May 2019)