Well we have a topic that I like to talk about–apologetics. Let’s define it so we have an idea of what it is. It comes from the Greek apologia, a translation of which is “defense of the faith.” Now the fun thing about this is (and there’s a reason) is if you are in most Latter-day Saint audiences and you ask what apologetics is about first of all, they want to know why we’re apologizing. Well it doesn’t come from that.
It comes from the Greek apologia, which is defending the faith. But the reason for that is that if you go into circles where there are ministers trained in a ministry on other Christian denominations it’s a very common term because that is a part of their understanding and training and, it is used a lot in many such congregations. In fact, if you put apologia in on Google you’ll get a whole bunch of items that are on how to home school your children from a Christian perspective.
It’s the branch of theology concerned with defending or proving Christian doctrines. Augustine spent thirteen years writing his apologia1 and that is a very foundational traditional Christian set of documents.
An apologist is one who defends or justifies a doctrine, policy or institution. Now what we’re talking about here is from a perspective our missionaries are apologists as they seek to teach the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Probably the greatest modern apologist in Christendom is C.S. Lewis. Now, in a book about him, this statement is sort of a foundational statement that we look at as to ‘Why apologetics?’: “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.”2
True LDS apologists–and I say the word true because, you know what? We are human and we are sometimes subject to the challenges of life and not always do we hold to the true standards but the true standards are to be able to be bold but not contentious; and what I want to do is I always like to keep this in mind from the LDS Topical Guide where it goes into such things as contentions, disputations, hard-heartedness and strife. That is not apologetics. We are not bashers of the faith of others. We don’t seek to diminish what faith others have obtained by the tenets that they follow.
Something that is very important and critical to the understanding is we are not spokespeople for the Church. We supply information, we supply resources, but we are not spokespeople for the Church.
I want to go to a scriptural reference (and it will be on a couple of slides here) that is a part of what we see, what LDS apologists see, as a background for what we do.
Now before going into that I want to just kind of share an anecdote. How did I get into it? Well way back when I was in college I got hit with some anti-Mormon literature and I’m going to tell you I read into it and I had the darkest feeling; I just felt a darkness about reading that and it was confusing. It was like, well you know, if it’s in print this must be true, and I don’t know about these things and yet, where do I go from there?
Now in my particular experience I was at BYU and in attendance at an archaeological Book of Mormon-type symposium. In fact, I spent every class I could get that was anywhere close to Book of Mormon archaeology and still consider myself to be a real amateur but a love for it–but a love for it from a standpoint of never overextending what is there. I think the echoes and evidences are fantastic but sometimes people get exuberant and get carried away. This scripture, “For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it–Therefore, that we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness, wherein we know them; and they are truly manifest from heaven–These should then be attended to with great earnestness. Let no man count them as small things; for there is much which lieth in futurity, pertaining to the saints, which depends upon these things.” (D&C 123:12-15) As an apologist I use that as sort of a background understanding of why I have this enthusiasm.
Now, something that’s really kind of fun (I am not a scholar and in fact I’m not even good enough to be a ‘wannabe scholar’ and I’m certainly not a ‘Nibleyt’ for those who would follow the context of those who have high regard for Hugh Nibley!) But I’ll tell you what: I enjoy it. I have a passion for it. And I didn’t know and I couldn’t get a handle on, when I first became associated with FAIR which was just shortly after its beginning, what is apologetics? So I ended up writing Defending The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint: A Reference Guide to figure out what it was.
Joseph Fielding Smith made the following statement: “Every member of the Church ought to know that it [the Book of Mormon] is true, and we ought to be prepared with an answer to all of those critics who condemn it.”3
Responding to Critics
First of all, a true LDS apologist has to come from ‘What is the motivation?’ My motivation is that having been at that seminar on Book of Mormon archaeology I was handed a great big thick book called Mormonism–Shadow or Reality? by the Tanners–a friend of mine at work was trying to save my soul. And as I went into there I was reading this, you know, bold print underlined, lots of what I’ve learned are called ellipses […] and I came to a point where I came to a point where I, you know, there’s all of this stuff. I mean the book is ‘this’ thick! And then I came across a chapter that was a regurgitation of the seminar that I had been at–I was personally there–and I read it and I said, ‘I was in a different room. Everything that is being said in this book is not what I heard!’ Yes, I saw many of the words and remembered them being said but by the time the emphasis was switched, and a few little ellipses were put in, what was being described was almost diametrically opposed to what I had experienced.
That experience put me on a road that said, ‘If this one section is 100 percent wrong what do I think of the rest of the book?’ and that experience I was fortunate to have. There are many, many in the Church that don’t have that experience that get hit with that kind of literature and we’ll talk about that.
So the motivation is one of dedication, of love for the gospel, of being able to say, ‘There are answers to your questions.’ Don’t let something throw you. What we’re doing in this whole area is formulating positive, wonderful great answers to questions that people get hit with on a regular basis out there–not just those who are not members of our Church who might be deterred from listening to the gospel because of what they’ve had but those who never have experienced this who are members of the Church and the effect that it can have on them.
What does it require? It does require responsible scholarship. And I’m excited that we’ve got so many wonderful people that are part of FAIR and that contribute to FAIR and in fact, you know, one of the things that we’re doing is constantly developing answers to particular questions and a lot of people say, ‘You know what? I’ve got one little question that I have researched and researched and researched.’ Wonderful! Come and share it with us and help us put it on our website.
‘Inoculation’ is something that we’re about and that’s kind of like the idea of what do you do with young children who are susceptible to disease, who have no natural deterrent to it? Inoculations. And in part what we’re looking to do and what we do do is to provide that inoculation so that when people get hit with anti-Mormon-type things they have a background. We have some situations where it’s been reported that in some missions for every first lesson, first discussion that’s given, individuals go home put the word ‘Mormon’ in Google and–what is it?–six-seven out of ten come up as anti-Mormon websites and the missionaries come back and they are not interested in hearing the gospel message. So that’s one of the things that we do.
Now, sometimes in things that we have believed over the years or that the Saints in general have believed are not always the case. Now one perspective on that, from my point of view and it’s kind of funny, in the 1960s when I went to BYU and went to Book of Mormon archaeology it was the first time that the what is called ‘limited hemispheric model’ was presented to me. It was not new. They explained and showed things that went back into the 1890s but that that hemispheric model was one in which the Book of Mormon lands were not all of South America and North America with Panama being the narrow neck of land which many of the Saints believed–and for good reason from a superficial review of the Book of Mormon–but as they got into it, it became one, that the possibility is is the Book of Mormon lands and the generally accepted at this point and time perspective of where Book of Mormon lands are at, is perhaps a 600-mile long two to 300-mile wide area from the lower end of the valley of Mexico down through Guatemala City. Now, whether that changes or goes in a different direction time will tell but that was presented in the 1960s. The interesting thing about that is I get a big kick out of some of the discussions on DNA and the Book of Mormon and to make that charge by antis work it really requires us to believe in the whole hemispheric model and not just a limited geography. And they say, ‘Now the Mormons are changing the way that they think. They’ve switched from hemispheric to a limited.’ Well, I don’t know about that switch; that was in 1960 when I was there.
Sometimes we don’t have all the answers. Why does it matter? The hidden struggles that sometimes happen with individuals, and sometimes you’ll see a tip of the iceberg but often if they have not received answers to questions it’s been boiling within them. I’ll give you an experience. Just about four months ago I was at a convention. I had an opportunity to be riding in a bus to the convention with a gentleman that works at BYU and he said, ‘You’re kind of into this apologetics, what do you think about DNA?’ and I had a 20-minute discussion on DNA from my limited experience. And as we got to his hotel, he was to get off first, he turned to me and he said, ‘Wayne, I have been terribly bothered by this issue and in 20 minutes you have just changed my whole perspective. Now I wasn’t about to leave the Church I don’t think but I was really bothered by this issue. You sitting down next to me was not by happenstance. God knew I was looking for something that was troubling my heart and you were there.’
So who does it impact? Husbands, wives, we get–as an apologist and it is so sad, in some cases people have waited too long and those who have decided that the gospel is not what it is have already left–but often we have people that are simply troubled and questioning and we have some great people that respond to them and give them resources, many of the resources on our website, and what it does is you get these letters back; one like, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.’ And of course we do have those where part of that- I believe it was Boyd K. Packer, ‘that can leave it but can’t leave it alone.’ That have to internally be able to justify why they have left the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Now this is not new about apologetics. Junius [F. Wells] was the editor of The Contributor (1891), which is a forerunner of our modern Ensign, “The Latter-day Saints have been so repeatedly and generally misrepresented and maligned, that ordinarily little has been done by way of refutation. Were the people to undertake to meet every lie uttered against them and set it right, they would devote the whole of their lives to it and then die without accomplishing the desired object. But there are times when a refutation is necessary; when the whole people awake in earnestness to deny the misrepresentations of those who purposely and wilfully assail them.”4 A slide that I’m not showing is Parley P. Pratt, in 1838, making similar types of statements although in a little more rough and straightforward manner, as was the nature of Parley P. Pratt, eight years after the Church [was organized] it was in a publication that he put together.
Something I want to share when you’re discussing–and I’m going to touch on it just briefly–is what I believe is one of the problems we have sometimes in talking with our Christian neighbors and why we speak past them and that is there are two mindsets. A mindset is an outlook on life and in this case religious matters. The LDS mindset closely resembles that of the biblical Hebrews whereas most of the rest of the Christian community have a Hellenistic European historical Christianity mindset. This is an excellent, excellent article.
I’ll give you just one quick example. When Paul says, “By faith you are saved and not works” you have to understand who he’s speaking to, the mindset that he’s using and you could conclude that when you see the word ‘faith’ in that context it is perhaps better translated or better understood as faithfulness; and of course, the word ‘works’ in that particular context is the Law of Moses. So James (an apostle) and Paul (an apostle), are not in conflict and we are saved by grace and yes if the Lord knows that we have the capability of doing three percent of what it takes he puts in the 97 percent but he does expect us to do the three percent–not four and not something else and there is no way that the numbers are any higher than that. (I think in my case it’s about .5 so, you know, he’s going to put in 99.5 and I’ll have a chance!)
I love this scripture, I found out many years ago from a standpoint that it says what was happening was Paul was in Rome, and he was under house arrest. He had been sent, he calls in the leaders of the Jewish community and he’s talking about well, do you know why I’m here? And they say, you know, we haven’t heard anything- any bad reports about you or anything else, “But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.” (Acts 28:22) Well you come down here to the definition, ‘sect’ is an English translation of the original Greek hairesis a more direct translation could have been heresy. A modern translation equivalent is the word cult. My point? As long as the gospel of Jesus Christ is on the earth there will be those that will call us a cult, there will be those who will defame us and it’s not new.
Critics of the LDS Faith
I just want to kind of talk about a (inaudible). Sometimes we lump everything in together. (1) There are those who are flat-out malicious who deliberately vilify (forged papers, forged pages). (2) There are those that are more- what we call the maligning. (I call this my five M’s.) There are falsehoods, lots of falsehoods in what is written but it’s questionable as to whether they’re malicious. By the way almost everybody in the malicious group is a ‘can leave it but can’t leave it alone individual.’ (3) Then there is misdirected–very negative slant but maybe not- and they really have a true belief that we are misguided and that they are there to help us and to save us. (4) And then you have the misinformed group ostensibly unbiased but they oftentimes quote things from this group which detracts from what they present. (5) And then there’s a miscellaneous group of special-type situations.
The Techniques of the Critics?
Deceit and sloppy scholarship is often a part of it and a part of that is falsehoods and half-truths; I mentioned the use of the ellipsis, you know the three dots […]. It’s amazing what you can do with two paragraphs of what somebody said by dropping out six or seven words and putting in an ellipsis and the paragraph still flows and yet the meaning changes dramatically.
Prejudicial language: cult, non-Christian. Anything to throw off a true discussion of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Factual errors: another area- this whole area of logical fallacies (and by the way there happens to be one website where a person can go to and look at this from and LDS perspective) is that there are a number of logical fallacies that are used that if a person isn’t aware of the concept they’re thrown; and I’m going to use one that’s not here but I’ll call it the ‘true-false fallacy.’ And that is, okay, so-and-so Joseph Smith: true or false? Joseph Smith had multiple wives. True. Joseph Smith had wives that were under the age of 18. True. Joseph Smith had wives that were married to someone else. You have to answer that but you have to understand the whole concept of sealing and what the early brethren and Joseph were so excited about the sealing of all people together and you get that perspective and all of a sudden, but you can’t answer that in a yes/no true/false type of questioning.
On logical fallacies I’m going to give just one concept: missing the point:
- straw man fallacy: attacking an argument different from (and weaker than) the opposition’s best argument;
- begging the question: the truth of the conclusion is assumed by the premise(s).
Well, I’ve listed here a number of others and they go on and on. The point of bringing that up is to just understand that you have to look and those who have at least some experience in logical fallacies understand when they’re going down a road that the conclusion is created by the nature of the structure of how the premise is presented.
There has been a growing change among some Christians to at least re-evaluate their position in relationship to the Latter-day Saints. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t still vigorously working to prove their point and to prove that what we believe in is not the fulness of the gospel; but this one I’d like to share. Richard Mouw is the President and a Professor of Christian Philosophy, Fuller Theological Seminary; he also happens to be a part of this particular book, “As an Evangelical I must confess that I am ashamed of our record in relating to the Mormon community. . . . By bearing false witness against our LDS neighbors, we evangelicals as have often sinned not just against Mormons, but against the God who calls us to be truth-tellers.”5
What is Needed?
Faith and faithfulness; real scholarship including scriptural studies and including what is happening in science, and what about history, and bringing them into a perspective. You know, there will be somebody that will, for example, make the statement, we’ve heard this one, that ‘at the last conference Gordon B. Hinckley denounced Brigham Young as a prophet. Well he said anyone who is a racist really doesn’t hold the priesthood.’ Well, you know what, if you go back into the time frame of what was occurring and what Christian denominations generally and where they were at, what you find is that Brigham Young was a liberal! But you put it into the sensitivities that we know now and he said some things that we’d all probably like to ask him to clarify and he’d probably say, ‘I need to clarify those.’
One of the things that we get caught up in or that some Latter-day Saints get caught up in is those who attack will say, ‘well, Brigham Young said this, such-and-such said that, Parley P. Pratt wrote this book, Orson Pratt wrote that book, and we’ve got this problem or we’ve got that problem.’ One of the understandings is that the only official beliefs, background tenets, is the standard works and official declarations of the First Presidency and the Twelve and nothing more. So when someone says, ‘well if Brigham Young was a prophet and he said “X” the Church is obviously false.’ Well, first of all, you’ve got to go into a ton of stuff like on the Discourses of Brigham Young, how they took shorthand, how they presented things, what the meaning of certain words were then vs. now to get a total perspective and then you have to look through all the discourses and see what Brigham Young said 930 times vs. four times when he said something that seems to be in contrast.
The FAIR Approach
Research. Some of the brightest minds in the Church contribute and I have to say that; including a lot of individuals that are a part of BYU and we appreciate all of their–there are some really talented people that contribute. The website,6 invaluable information in a language you can understand; publications; books and journals; you can (on our website) ask an apologist; firesides; presentations; and FAIR Conferences.
The FAIR website; and there’s a whole bunch of them–another one that I’m kind of partial to is SHIELDS7 and there are many others; and various reference listings and the things that we’re doing on our website to be able to catalogue and for a person to be able to come in and go to the Topical Guide and say, ‘Okay, I’m concerned about “this.”‘ And if you find that a particular concern, as I mentioned before, is not there and is not presented, and you want to know more ask about it because one of the things is that in responding we’re collecting our own responses and refining them so that we can have a whole wide range of Topical Guide-type capabilities. Now it’s to a point where oftentimes someone will ask a question and the response will be, and it’s always couched this way, ‘I’m speaking for myself, I don’t represent FAIR, I don’t represent the Church, here are my thoughts.’ But oftentimes now it says, ‘This topic has been discussed and there are four papers on it if you’ll click here,’ and it takes them to that point on our website.
In conclusion I’d like to share these three scriptures and then a final one:
From 1 Timothy 4:1-2 “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron.
And then one that is so true in so many things that we face today, Isaiah 5:20 “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”
And 2 Chronicles 22:20, how much does it represent things today, “. . . Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.”
About two months ago, I was going to work (or home from work) and I’m one of those ones that I listen to the scriptures on CD and a scripture popped out at me that to me describes- it’s Paul speaking, but it describes where Wayne Arnett is coming from and where I believe apologetics is coming from and that is as true today as it was in the days of Paul: “But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets.” (Acts 24:14)
1 The City of God, online at < http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1201.htm >.
2 Austin Farrar, “Grete Clerk,” in Jocelyn Gibb, comp., Light on C. S. Lewis, p. 26.
3 “The Book of Mormon, A Divine Record,” Improvement Era, Dec. 1961, 925.
4 The Contributor, vol. 13 (November 1891-October 1892), Vol. xiii. November, 1891. No. 1. 52. (Available on GospeLink.)
5 The New Mormon Challenge: responding to the latest defenses of a fast-growing movement / Francis J. Beckwith, Carl Mosser, Paul Owen, general eds. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2002), p. 11.
6 < http://www.fairlds.org > See also: < http://www.fairlds.org/links.html >
7 < http://www.shields-research.org >