Mormonism and apologetics/"ad hominem"/Case study/An attempt to portray Dan Peterson as dishonest and possibly mentally ill

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A case study in "ad hominem": John Dehlin attempts to portray Dan Peterson as dishonest and possibly mentally ill

Daniel Peterson seems to be a pathological deceiver. I don't know how else to explain his behavior. Crazy.

—John Dehlin, webmaster of Mormon Stories[1]
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Dehlin here claims that Peterson has a "pathological" need to lie. This verges on a psychiatric diagnosis, and is given more force by the fact that Dehlin was in a PhD psychology program. He does not, however, prove that Peterson is lying, or provide any evidence that he is. He merely smears Peterson with the label to reduce the likelihood that others will believe Peterson.

This is a text-book example of ad hominem.

He also accuses Peterson of being guilty of "ad hominem"[2] without providing any evidence--this is, ironically, an ad hominem technique.

Added inconsistency

However, days after making this charge about Peterson, Dehlin attempted to portray his hostile Mormon Stories podcast as friendly to the Church, Dehlin's group included Peterson in a group of faithful LDS scholars who had been interviewed n response to “What is the Mormon Stories podcast?”

The audience is told that it

“explore[s] many aspects of Mormonism and has featured leading scholars like Richard Bushman, Daniel Peterson, and Terryl Givens.”[3]

These three are all well-known academics who have defended the truth claims of the Church. None of the critics, ex-Mormons, and hostile voices given a forum by Mormon Stories are mentioned.[4] While he uses an interview with Peterson as a selling-point for his podcasts, only days earlier Dehlin was claiming that Peterson was a pathological liar.

It is inconsistent, and some might consider it hypocritical, to attack Peterson via ad hominem while also trying to leverage his interview as a way to gain legitimacy among believing members.


  1. John Dehlin, “Greg Smith, Dan Peterson, John Dehlin, & Lou Midgley,” (12 May 2012); John Dehlin, “Greg Smith, Dan Peterson, John Dehlin, & Lou,” post on,10 May 2012, (8:56 PM)
  2. Ibid.
  3. Anne Peffer, “Podcast Statement of Purpose,” 19 May 2012, (6:41 PM),
  4. Examples include Grant Palmer (4 episodes), Margaret Merrill Toscano (4 episodes), Paul Toscano (7 episodes), Simon Southerton (nearly 3 hours) and Richard Packham (4 episodes). See,