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Hearts and Minds

Knowledge is power and the Church, whether it likes it or not, faces a new information war. The Grant Palmer case (discussed ad infinitum all over the Bloggernacle), raises interesting issues. A letter in defense of Palmer published in the SL Trib highlights the core of this challenge:

"The gap between what is taught in LDS chapels, missionary discussions, etc., about Mormonism's foundational events and what is available at a few mouse clicks distance is dangerous for many Mormons."

The letter-writer suggests that Palmer has bridged this gap and done the Church a service. I strongly disagree here, but do accept that the fundamental problem he raises is real, viz., how easy it is to find counter-views over the internet. Do a google search under "Mormon" and in the first 10 hits you will find exmormon.org and lds-mormon.com, plus an advert for beyondmormonism.com. So anyone interested in Mormonism will straight away be confronted with some pretty harsh criticism. If they go to lds.org or mormon.org for answers to tough questions they are likely to be disappointed. No longer are sources critical to Mormonism to be found only in academic journals or grubby anti-Mormon pamphlets with restricted circulation. Google has changed things forever.

We need a direct, honest, and centralised apologetics effort. Sure, we have FARMS and FAIR, and they do a great job, but their circulation is also limited. They are also heavily English-oriented. What if I'm a German member or investigator who searches "mormonen" at google.de? The results are just as bad. Where would I turn for candid answers? Nowhere. Or I would have to search hard to find them.

No longer can we pretend that questions and counter-views don't exist, or that they are a fringe problem. Grant Palmer's book was not the answer (as it raised problems but then agreed with them-hardly a candid defense of the faith!). Faithful LDS apologetics needs to up the ante for the sake of the ordinary member and not just the inquisitive "intellectual". The Church does maintain an extensive PR Department, but it is the message of the internet and not mainstream media that needs to be influenced.

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Anonymous Anonymous said ... (December 09, 2004 1:45 PM) 

The top three items on a "Mormon" Google are official LDS sites, LDS.org and two others, and FARMS shows up as item 10, so the Church is doing pretty well I think. My impression is the LDS media advisors pursue a conservative (dated?) approach, still focusing on old media -- PR commercial spots on television -- only now coming around to the power of online information. Actually, I think FAIR and FARMS, from outside the main organization, have compensated for the absence of official online information and probably done a better job of it than an "official" apologetics site would do. Even the sites run by solo, unaffiliated LDS apologists are quite informative.

For a "Mormon weblog" Google, T&S comes at number one and my old DMI site is at number 5 (it had "weblog" in its title) even though I haven't posted there for months. 

Posted by Dave


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (December 09, 2004 1:49 PM) 

I have to be honest and say I have not yet read anything that Mr. Palmer has written. I suppose it is easy to put him off as one who never really had a testimony to begin with, but I don't think it is the case.

In my experience, those that actively fight against the church are ones that actually do have a belief in it. For example, Mr. Decker, the Author of many anti-LDS books, has been excommunicated for adultry. In his case, the question begs to be asked, did he "see the light"? Or, was he attempting to justfy his leaving the church by claiming so? Did pride get in the way of repentance?

I am not suggesting that Mr. Palmer has any issues with infidellity, however it seems that he may have something amiss? Of course this is pure speculation. It very well may be, that he never really understood anything at all. I have seen more than one person my age, who has gone through growing up in the church, gone on a mission, and gotten married inthe Temple, still not have the first clue about What the church REALLY is about.

What exactly is the difficult thing about Church history to swallow? Is it the fact that the Prophet Joseph seemed to have one heck of an ego?(he had a right as far as I am concerned.) Was it that he was hired to hunt treasure (which he did even though he told the farmer that he was nuts to hire him for that.)?

Maybe it was the fact that the anti sites figure that some great grand father was a witch or something like that? Maybe it was the King Follet Discourse? Maybe Brother Brighams insistance that the Sun is inhabited? Polygamy? The Danites? What is so shocking that it would overshadow whether or not a 14 year old boy saw God the Father and Jesus Christ in person?

Here is the interesting thing about the gospel. Some 12 million people (give or take) believe that a 14 year old boy said a prayer in a grove of trees, and in answer to that prayer, The Father and THe Son appeared. There is no logical reason that a number of people that great should believe something so bizzare. Really, if you take few steps back and look at the overall general picture, it makes no sense! But here we are. Doctors, Lawyers, Professors, High level executives, all the way down to bottom of the educational and economic barrel believe it.

So the real question is, did Mr. Turner really break open this dark history for everyone to see? Why would he be privy to an understanding that so many of us "brainwashed people" would just gloss over? What makes him so special as to have come to the light, while 12 million are duped and brainwashed? Why did it take so long for this information to be leaked to the public?

Or, what is it in your life, that really makes you question those things? is it a "Decker" type situation? I have no idea myself, but nothing in church history shocks me. Some things are unsettling for me, liek the though of haveing more than one wife... I have a tough enough time taking care of the one I have.. two would pretty much put me under.

If one wants to get technical, I am not sure there is a religion that comes off clean. I suppose it depends on prespective.

The Southern Baptist convention came out in the 90's and apologised for their support of the KKK. The Christians in general don't have a great history. The Muslims are no straight arrows,(Duh) and the Jews certainly don't hold the record for being free of contravercial issues. The Bhuddists are not always non-violent, and the Falun-Gong in China keep setting themselves on fire.

I may or may not read his book. It makes no difference to me. I have read enough of the anti-stuff, and looked at Church history from our perspective(of course it is biased). I don't have a problem with it. I probably would have done some extreme things too, if I had people chasing me, or abusing me...

Posted by Jake


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (December 09, 2004 1:51 PM) 

My bad, I referred to Mr. Palmer as Mr. Turner....

Oops, I was thinking Bachman Turner overdrive while writing this.... 

Posted by Jake


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (December 09, 2004 1:54 PM) 

man, shows you what happens when you get all worked up without doing investigation...

Either way, the guy still falls under, I don't care in my book, as I hate all LDS writers that try to make a buck by writing stuff like this...


Posted by Jake


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (December 09, 2004 10:54 PM) 

I know that the Church PR department is quite appreciative of the work FAIR and FARMS do.

That said, there is a woeful inadequacy of good info in other languages, and neither FAIR nor FARMS has the means to get them translated. There are a few things out there, such as www.idumea.org for the French.

I predict (watch me go out on a limb here) that something will happen between the Church, the Internet, and the missionaries, because the Church won't tolerate losing large percentages of its investigators this way. MIssionaries drop me. Missioaries leave. INvestigator gets on line. Missionaries return. INvestigator asks about polygamy or a host of other things. Missionaries hem and haw, or worse, spout traditional falsehoods like "there were more women than men" confirming to the investigator that the internet site he found does indeed know more than the (as he may think) trained theological representative of the Church. At the very least, missionaries are going to need to know how to deal with hard questions, not in the sense that they need to be experts on historical matters, but how to respond well.

I note the letter is from Bob McCue, the newest celeb of the Exmo board.  

Posted by Ben S.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (December 10, 2004 4:44 PM) 

I agree, Ben S. The looming problem is that the rise of apologetics as a form of LDS religious discourse is threatening to overshadow the traditional missionary-investigator relationship, which has always been oriented toward "first principles" teaching. The kind of questions an investigator who really does online investigating is likely to come up goes well beyond first principles.

An online resource might work. How's this for an idea: every stake calls two "Stake Apologetics Specialists" as resources for full-time missionaries to call on when needed (of course you have to call knowledgeable people for it to work, but most stakes have a half dozen amateur apologists these days). I just don't see young missionaries as capable of dealing with the topics and explanations in a way that will satisfy an investigator of average intelligence who can Google "Mormon church" and read for 30 minutes. 

Posted by Dave


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (December 10, 2004 5:35 PM) 

The problem is, that you can't really assign an answer to some of the contravercial issues in the church... Polygamy for example... The real answer is, that it was a commandment from the Lord at the time.

We tend to do the same thing with the word of Wisdom. Instead of the answer being, that it is a commandment, many go to great lengths to mention the pitfalls of the effect of Caffine and Tannic acid in Coffee, the carbonation and phosphoric acids in Coke, the problems with drugs and alcohol... The bottom line is, that we believe that our prophets got the information from the BIG BOSS, and we are willing to follow those commandments.

Maybe that isn't good enough for some, but it should be that simple. 

Posted by Jake


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (December 10, 2004 5:46 PM) 

I've wondered if something like that might happen, on the ward level perhaps. I agree that missionaries, in general, will probably never be capable of handling Adam-God to Zelph:) 

Posted by Ben S.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (December 10, 2004 7:48 PM) 

If FAIR was semi-official, got funding to translate its stuff, and was promoted as a central resource, i think this would be a good thing.

Jake, it's not just about polygamy and caffeine. If you have someone come along and claim with confidence that there is evidence that Joseph changed his story to suit his circumstances, then some members are going to be rocked. This is foundational stuff. There are good answers, but how many know where to find them? 

Posted by Ronan


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (December 12, 2004 9:36 PM) 

Being in Primary, I think about Mr. Palmers kids if he has any. It must be so confusing to them/he/she and I hope that someone unbiased has talked to themabout everything that's going on around them but the chances are unlikely.  

Posted by Jennifer


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (December 13, 2004 4:57 PM) 

I am not sure it would make a difference to me either way...

I would have to question a few things. and maybe it is bacause I don't understand the research that goes into making conclusions about history, But as we get further and further away from the events, How is it that the records become more and more clear. It seems to me that it is like playing the telephone game with history.

At one point, there was a group of researchers that had brought up that Jesus might have been gay? Where does this stuff come from?

I have read all the anti-books, and they love to point out the differences in this version and that version, really, I have to say that I am most interested in the similarities.

Why don't learn more about the stories of the Hill Cumorah opening up and there being a room full of scrolls and such? I have no issues with it. Brigham Young is attacked often by various groups for such things as his saying the Sun is inhabitted. (A particular point I have little trouble with, though I have never taken it as gospel truth.)

The difficulty it seems would be discerning truth from Hypothesis. There are even holes in not so ancient history, is there a guage we can use to test and see if the people filling in the holes are hitting the mark, or making history wrk for them.

I would not expect to sit in church and get an extremely fair and balanced version of Church history, It is going to be relatively one sided.

In fact last year I made the pilgrimage to Nauvoo(sp) and I was actually disturbed about the way that some of the history was portrayed when it came to the saints and the animosity of the Mobs. Then again, maybe it was that bad...

I guess it also depends on if you are looking at the history from a spiritual view or a technical view.

The real question is, is it enough, that it would make a difference? If you prayed and got an answer and then you found out something had been changed, does that make religion in general a bunch of bunk? Were we all relying on our own emotions to make a decision about something that doesn't even exist?

Interesting dillema when you bring the primise of Moroni into it....  

Posted by Jake


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