LDS Apologetics is Counterproductive
As usual, I have ended up with more to say than I thought and would and therefore, this series will take three posts instead of two.
In part one of this series I pointed out several reasons why I feel that LDS apologetics has been counterproductive. More are on the way.
Of course, one of the main ones is that apologists are running interference for a religious institution that is grossly misrepresenting the truth.
I have mentioned in other posts that the number one priority of apologists should be to defend the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, not an institution run by mortals. they should have the word of God as contained in the scriptures and the Holy Ghost as their foundational measuring yardsticks by which they identify and defend the truth.
Using that as the context for truth, they should applaud the brethren and the church in general to the extent that they are in accordance with the word of God. Conversely, when the brethren and the church are out of the way, they should be just as passionate about bringing those problems to light.
Reason, Logic and Science
Are the gods of this World
Most people, particularly people that are highly educated by the institutions of the world, (including BYU) have been indoctrinated to rely heavily on reason, logic and their own “intellect”. They learn to rely on their own wisdom in conjunction with the accepted institutional teachings of the natural man, ie, “science”.
Modern science often becomes the final authority on determining what truth is when when anti-Mormons are slinging the mud and yet, LDS apologists foolishly play the same game, attempting to use science to support their own claims..
A Babylonian education often seems to breed out not only creativity and the ability to think clearly, but also the ability to discern truth and receive divine inspiration.
I am not saying that all highly educated people are categorically unable to be led by the spirit, however, worldly education is seldom a worthwhile spiritual asset.
I personally know of highly educated people that have not been spiritually neutralized by higher education but they are the exception, not the rule.
There are people that frequent this blog that I have gotten to know who are highly educated and I have huge respect for them because the years of Babylonian brain damage inflicted by the schools of higher learning have not compromised their ability to comprehend light, but again, they are the exception to the rule in my opinion.
Obviously, logic, reason and intellect have a valid purpose and must be used, however, we must to learn to use them in humility under the influence of the Holy Ghost, or they will not produce the desired fruit and will lead us astray.
The fact that most if not all LDS apologists are highly educated people is a huge red flag. Science and the learning of man is the foundational standard upon which many of the so-called scholarly responses by LDS apologists to critiques of the LDS faith is built on.
Frankly, this puts me categorically at odds with the people at FAIR and FARMS that use science in their arguments.
I believe God’s holy and infallible word categorically rejects science and the learning of the natural man as a viable aspect of identifying and confirming truth.
Science is not a Viable Component
of True Christian Apologetics.
True Christian discipleship points people to the mystical faith and mystical teachings contained in the mystical word of God which can only be discerned by the mystical Holy Spirit and the word of God as revealed to living and dead prophets.
A faith-based quest for personal revelation based on what God tells us in scripture and through living prophets (when living prophets are available) is the only possible method for understanding the mystery of Godliness, the mystery of Gods plan of salvation, and the mystery of God’s work among the children of men.
The natural man is an enemy to God and must let go of pride, ego, reliance on uninspired personal intellect and science. He must become as a little child if he is to transcend the deception of Satan’s world that we live in.
A Bias is not Always Bad
I believe one of the great misconceptions of our enlightened time is that an open mind with no preconceived biases is categorically good, and a heart and mind that harbors a an innate preconceived bias is categorically bad.
I don’t think the word of God supports that supposition.
Notice what the Book of Mormon says with regard to the virtue of having a “desire to believe” something good before having a knowledge that it is good and true.
“But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.” (Alma 32:31)
I believe the above passage implies that the elect of God come to this probationary experience with an innate predisposition to “desire to believe“.
The Seed of Light
The rest of that chapter is well worth the read as it likens God’s word to a seed that grows and how the swelling motions validate that the seed is good.
The admonition is that if the recipient of the word will not “resist the spirit of the Lord“, the seed will “enlarge the soul” and “enlighten the mind” and become “delicious” and “increase your faith” and “strengthen your faith” until “your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls… because it is LIGHT“.
How simple minded, unscientific and mystical is that?
God Cannot Be Found in a Testtube
The mystical journey of obtaining a spiritual knowledge has nothing to do with archeological discoveries, carbon dating, or DNA research, etc. Every year science finds out that some of the so-called truths it had previously discovered are no longer valid. Do we really want to put our faith and eternal welfare in false knowledge that is continually being debunked?
The physical world around us is seldom what it appears to be, and to muddy the waters even more, both God and Satan can alter the appearances of this world during this probationary process.
We are here to become as a child and exercise faith.
This is what leads to the mystical spiritual rebirth.
Reason, logic and intellect is but a distraction when a person is void of the spirit of God.
I am not saying that the acquisition of facts and knowledge is categorically wrong, only that it must be faith based and viewed under the influence of the Holy Ghost.
The simple, mindless, blind faith that many church members rely on will fail them when they are tried in the refiners fire.
Eternal Life is about belief. It is about accepting Christ’s atonement and the acquisition of spiritual knowledge and the baptism of water, fire and the Holy Ghost.
The acquisition of true spiritual knowledge cannot be conducted from a test tube, a microscope or from carbon dating technology.
As tempting as it is for men to try to use logic, reason, their intellect and the teachings of science to validate spiritual truth, it cannot be done.
It is contrary to the laws of heaven for the uninspired learning and wisdom of men in Satan’s world to identify and validate truth.
As if to summarize the seed-to-light parable in Alma 32, modern revelation reminds us that “every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation“.
The great test of this life is to humble ourselves and learn how to discern and acquire LIGHT by the Holy Ghost. By doing so, our logic, reason and intellect can be illuminated with true intelligence and the eyes of our spiritual understanding can be opened.
Modern science and uninspired intellect is a soul destroying distraction and misdirection.
First Seek to Obtain my Word
Once Hyrum Smith began to be aware that the truth was springing forth, he was anxious to “thrust in his sickle and reap”. He wanted to seek to bring forth and establish Zion by preaching the gospel to his fellow man.
The Lord acknowledges that Hyrum’s desire is the active ingredient in doing much good in this generation.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, even as you desire of me so it shall be done unto you; and, if you desire, you shall be the means of doing much good in this generation…”
The Lord points out that Hyrum needs to keep the commandments:
“Behold, this is your work, to keep my commandments, yea, with all your might, mind and strength.”
Then the Lord counsels Hyrum that before declaring God’s word, Hyrum needs to obtain it. Following that, we get to the bottom-line of what missionary work, including apologetics, should be about-
“Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men.”
The only two things that can ever convince anybody about the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the “Spirit of God” and the “word of God”
Why does the acquisition of truth always have to be about God?
Why does it have be to limited to His Spirit and His Word?
After all, reason, logic, intellect and science is so much fun!
Why can’t we acquire truth and find our way into the strait gate using logic, reason, intellect, and science?
I guess it is a mystery.
“And again, the elders, priests and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, in the which is the fulness of the gospel.
13 And they shall observe the covenants and church articles to do them, and these shall be their teachings, as they shall be directed by the Spirit.
14 And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach.”( section 42:12-14)
The Bible and the Book of Mormon are Adequate
Why do we need to limit ourselves to the mystical teachings contained in the Bible and the Book of Mormon and other scriptures containing God’s word?
Why must we be directed by the “spirit”?
If we are not willing to limit our source material to the word of God and be directed by his spirit, we cannot teach?
No wonder LDS apologetics is such an epic disaster!
“I am called by his Holy Spirit to Teach”
33 And king Lamoni said: I believe all these things which thou hast spoken. Art thou sent from God?
34 Ammon said unto him: I am a man; and man in the beginning was created after the image of God, and I am called by his Holy Spirit to teach these things unto this people, that they may be brought to a knowledge of that which is just and true;
35 And a portion of that Spirit dwelleth in me, which giveth me knowledge, and also power according to my faith and desires which are in God. Alma 18:33-35
Why didn’t King Lamoni ask for scientific evidence of what Ammon was telling him?
Wasn’t he being somewhat simple minded to just believe?
And what about Ammon?
Had he been sufficiently trained for the ministry like “Hugh” and all of the other LDS apologists?
Did he have multiple degrees from reputable universities?
Where was his source material?
Didn’t he have access to lots of “published papers” from “credible scholars” that had subjected themselves to a “peer review” before being published in a “distinguished journal”?
Why didn’t he provide scientific data to support what he was teaching?
Can it really be as simple as being taught by the spirit that dwells within the person that manifests faith and desire?
“Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
6 And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is.
7 And ye may know that he is, by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore I would exhort you that ye deny not the power of God; for he worketh by power, according to the faith of the children of men, the same today and tomorrow, and forever.
8 And again, I exhort you, my brethren, that ye deny not the gifts of God, for they are many;
Why do the scriptures always emphasize faith and the Holy Ghost instead of logic, reason, intellect and science?
To the extent that the modern brethren and their teachings fail to conform to the holy word of God, members of the church, particularly those who deem themselves to be defenders of the faith, are duty bound to make a full disclosure and acknowledgement of that fact and to withhold support for false doctrines and practices that are offered.
Dehlin, Hamblin and the
LDS apologetics has been in the news a lot lately.
The confrontation between FARMS and John Dehlin and the Church’s decision to fire Peterson and his associates and change the direction of FARMS is one of the reasons.
Here is how John Dehlin feels about LDS apologetics:
“I just want to go on record as saying that 20th and 21st century LDS apologetics (FAIR, FARMS, Maxwell institute) will go down as destroying more testimonies than any other single Mormon influence. That’s what happens when you blame the victim, or give very poor and evasive answers to credible issues.“
Of course, since Dehlin has rejected all of the foundational truths of the restoration, his goal is to simply gut the church and reduce it to a protestant version of the same, similar to what has happened to the RLDS/Community of Christ church.
Clearly, the church seems to be withdrawing their support from those who previously ran FARMS and wanting to distance themselves from the way LDS apologetics has been conducted in the past.
In a recent article in the Salt Lake Tribune, Peggy Stack speaks of the new direction that FARMS will be taking in LDS apologetics and concludes her article by implying that the church dispatched Peterson and his associates because they were uncharitable in the way they would defend the faith:
“The new mission statement speaks of “commending and defending the faith,” he says, “which will sometimes involve responding to criticism.” But it has to be done “as charitably as possible,” Hodges says. “We want to cultivate an ethic of hospitality — even in disagreement.”
Another interesting event in LDS apologetics is that recently William Hamblin resigned his association with the Interpreter (the New FARMS created by Peterson) because he has been informed that BYU does not consider the work generated by FARMS scholars to be “serious scholarship”.
And then there is the faith-promoting rumor going around the anti-Mormon community about Grant Palmer and the mystery general authority that has lost his testimony.
Perhaps one of the most significant, but not highly publicized events in the world of LDS apologetics is the relatively recent meltdown of Kerry Shirts, the backyard professor.
That’s right, the LDS chess enthusiast I spoke about earlier in part one of this series is not only known for his passion for chess and his online chess videos, he has also been a prolific LDS apologist for many years.
He once served as the Director of Research at FAIR.
In addition to his love of the game of chess, Kerry Shirts loves to defend his religion.
Perhaps I should say “loved” to defend his religion.
He is one of the LDS apologists that has been waging the war against anti-Mormons for a decade and a half.
Many of the LDS apologists tend to be rather caustic and condescending to the critics they debate with online, Kerry has certainly had a few testy moments of his own, however, he is actually a gregarious and upbeat personality that is often liked even by some of the people that he has debated for years.
An example of this is found in a recent post on a Mormon Discussions chat board by an ex-Mormon that began thusly:
“I want to start by offering this thread as a forum to discuss Kerry Shirts. I have always liked Kerry Shirts as a person…”
Kind of nice to have someone you have been arguing with for years state that he has always liked you!
Heck, I really like the guy too and I don’t even know him!
Recently, Kerry shocked and astounded the relatively small world of Mormon apologetics when he read a book by a critical ex-Mormon which resulted in his own crisis of faith and subsequent spiritual meltdown.
Shirts is possibly one of the apologists that was recently alluded to by Rameumpton although I don’t know if the professor has officially left the church.
“Recently, I’ve been thinking about some of the LDS apologist colleagues who have lost their footing and left the Church. I won’t name names, but I am saddened by the loss (theirs and ours) and have long pondered how it could happen.”
Needless to say, the Professor is just one of numerous casualties that the LDS apologetics community has suffered in recent years.
By Thomas Riskas
Apparently a book by Thomas Riskas caused the good professor to begin experiencing spiritual seizures, hemorrhaging, and bleeding from the eyes. He began questioning every belief he had been defending for the previous fifteen years.
He publicly outed himself as someone having a crisis of faith by posting the following diatribe on the customer review area of Amazon.
Here are a few choice excerpts from his posting:
This review is from: Deconstructing Mormonism: An Analysis and Assessment of the Mormon Faith (Paperback)
I have been a Mormon Apologist on the Internet now for over 15 years. There is NOTHING I cannot take apart, refute, and show to be fallacious, wrong, incorrect, warped, weird, and wrong headed, …….until now. (See? That’s one of the problems of Mormon apologetics, not to mention Christian apologetics, we get puffed up thinking we can refute anything, which just is not even factually true).
Now for a confession.
I am singularly *unprepared* to deal with this.
What?! An apologist for almost 2 decades ***unprepared***?
Having tackled innumerable anti-Mormon and idiotic pro-Mormon (you simply have no idea how indubitably silly some conservative Mormon apologetics is, I mean you just have NO IDEA!) thinking for years, reading literally hundreds of books of all kinds and types to broaden my education and ability to discuss intelligently the reasons Mormonism is viable?
Am I serious?
Unfortunately, yes, I am.
Here are a few reasons why I feel completely inadequate to the task of taking on Riskas. I, as a Mormon (and the serious VAST majority of all the rest of you Christian in the Western World have had this problem as well, don’t you even pretend you don’t), have been told what to think my entire life…
…We as Mormons are simply never taught HOW to think, we are only taught WHAT to, and we in our simple minded non-thinking, non-critical, naive as sheep way, have simply believed in WHAT we have been told. And everything we read is geared to simply reinforcing what we have been told.
Thomas Riskas has shown me the cost now of being raised and kept in abject ignorance of HOW TO THINK through theology ALL THE WAY TO THE LOGICAL, EVIDENTIAL END. This is ***critical*** to grasp.
I can’t take Riskas on.
I am going to be very, VERY interested in seeing who among Mormon apologists actually bother to carefully read him …
ALL apologists (Mormon, Christian, Muslim, you name em) are deep down actually spooked about their doubts, we just don’t like to admit it. But Riskas brings ALL of this to the absolute forefront for us to finally confront. It’s out, it’s here, we are all unprepared, and good God may we somehow find a way………or not.
If this is the level that intelligent thinking through of faith and spiritual knowledge, and seriously analyzing ALL assumptions has come to, then we are already way behind in order to answer.
I can’t right off the top of my head, think of any Mormon apologists (don’t smirk Christians, Muslims, you haven’t produced much of your own apologists who hold water against the atheists either) on the horizon who has the acumen to deal with Riskas, a startling thought! He decimates and annihilates Robert L. Millet (not really that difficult actually), B. H. Roberts, and John A. Widtsoe, (two stellar LDS apologists and General Authorites around the turn of the last century) but he also refutes quite a bit of Blake Ostler’s ideas (one helluva an accomplishment, Ostler is seriously GOOD!
Elders Oaks, Packer, etc. simply haven’t got a chance against the systematic, logical, and impeccable step by step discussion into the abyss of reality which Riskas takes us into.
For whichever Mormon apologist(s) deciding to take Riskas on, I say this in all sincerity, good luck, I mean it more than I have ever before, you are seriously going to need it.
Trust me, once you read his book you will understand my last sentence here. You are going to need a whole lot more than your faith, or revelations from God, or/and God’s help to refute Thomas Riskas’s new book “Deconstructing Mormonism.” [end quote]
Ok, pick yourself up off the floor, take a few deep breaths and wait a few minutes while you regain your composure.
The Sandy Foundation of LDS Apologetics
It is not my intention to try to embarrass or humiliate Brother Shirts.
To the contrary, I believe that what he did was one of the most courageous acts of personal integrity I have ever seen.
I have no idea how this has affected his relationship with the brethren, his fellow apologists, his friends, members of his ward or even his wife, kids and dog… but I doubt the relationships have been enhanced.
I actually admire him because he is acting in the integrity of his heart. It took a great deal of humility to make some of the admissions he made.
Do I agree with everything he said?
But he had enough personal integrity to acknowledge that he no longer knows what he thought he used to know.
I believe he now realizes he was running interference for a storyline that has largely been fabricated.
He certainly didn’t need to bare his soul to the world.
A Sandy Foundation
The purpose of highlighting the above statements from the good professor is to illustrate several things that are hopefully already apparent.
I believe Shirts belief in the Church was built on a sandy foundation.
That goes for virtually everyone member of the church that believes the official storyline.
The point is, that virtually all of his associates over at FARMS and FAIR have been indoctrinated with a storyline that is very problematic.
In turn, they use science and their intellects to defend the faith.
Therefore, I believe they have built their faith on a sandy foundation
First of all, they are defending a storyline that has previously evolved and changed over the years.
It began with Brigham Young but has been greatly refined over the years through the cumulative efforts of the marketing think tank at LDS INC.
All of the apologists have been indoctrinated and are simply using their skills to try to document support for the corporate church, leaders, doctrines, etc.
As the professor says, they have been “taught what to think” by the institution.
Then they use logic, reason, intellect and even science to categorically support and defend whatever the modern church decides to teach.
Obviously, Shirts is not the first LDS apologist to break ranks and fall from grace and he won’t be the last but it takes a rare individual to make this kind of a transition so public.
I am hopeful that it is only a matter of time before the light shines forth, the marvelous work begins, and the spiritual gifts associated with the fulness of the gospel emerge, and the Professor regains his spiritual equilibrium.
In time, I wouldn’t be surprised if the other LDS apologists either have a similar meltdown or they transition rapidly when the light shines forth and repent and become childlike, entering into a spiritual journey into the strait gate.
It is important to not confuse the spiritual knowledge of true faith and spiritual knowledge with the blind faith that the corporate church uses to make merchandise out of the souls of men.
A faith based on fable or in human intellect and trusting in the arm of flesh will never hold up against the naysayers.
It will ultimately deconstruct.
The Gospel of Abraham
I really feel for all Mormon apologists because they have been set up.
They have gospel theory before them pertaining to the fulness of the gospel of Christ, in written form, but that gospel is no where to be found on this earth.
A bait and switch has been pulled on them.
They want to defend the gospel of Christ as outlined in the scriptures but they are the unwitting recipients of the gospel of Abraham.
The true fruits of the real gospel are not on the earth so they go with the best game in town, testify of the Book of Mormon and present the brethren and the church as having the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Before I continue with my own diatribe, I want to post a little more of the professor.
What he has to say is very revealing.
This is where we will begin when we resume in part three.