FairMormon is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing well-documented answers to criticisms of LDS doctrine, belief and practice.
Question: How does FairMormon respond to criticism?
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.
- interested parties can see citations to the documents used to provide the response.