Are Mormon Apologists Vituperative Enough?

August 6, 2004 | 6 comments

We have a confessed apologist around: Ben Spackman . While we’re in a confessional mood I’ll admit to being uncomfortable with a lot of apologetics. Like most Mormons, in person I am conflict-averse. Why, just last Sunday when the entire Elders Quorum agreed that following traditions without knowing the reasons for them was foolish, my inner Burke started to boil but I sat on my hands. That’s how conflict averse I am. So when I read FARMS or FAIR or other apologists I sometimes get uncomfortable with the tone, even if they are responding to, really, intolerable filth. They aren’t being nice.

So I read with interest a passage in the Doctrine and Covenants that apparently gives the imprimatur of the canon to pugnacious apologetics. D&C 123:4-6 condemns the mobsters and the persecutors, then throws libelers into the mix:

4 And perhaps a committee can be appointed . . . to gather up the libelous publications that are afloat;

5 And all that are in the magazines, and in the encyclopedias, and all the libelous histories that are published, and are writing, and by whom, and present the whole concatenation of diabolical rascality and nefarious and murderous impositions that have been practised upon this people—

6 That we may not only publish to all the world, but present them to the heads of government in all their dark and hellish hue . . . .

Concatenation of diabolical rascality? Nefarious and murderous impositions? Dark and hellish hue? Apologists for apologetics traditionally argue that apologetics may not create belief but it does create room for acquiring belief in some other fashion. Perhaps Mormon apologists have their own peculiar argument. Apologetics apparently creates the record by which contemners are condemned before God and the world, and a little plainspeaking may be in order in creating that record.

So my apologies to FARMS and others for all my dark thoughts. I stand corrected and, indeed, stand ready to help supply impolite language should any be required. I’ve got a store.

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6 Responses to Are Mormon Apologists Vituperative Enough?

  1. just John on August 6, 2004 at 1:49 pm

    Oddly when this section of the D&C was used to justify the secret “Strengthening the Members” committee, verse 6 was left off of the justification. It is hard to have a secret committee when it is supposed to be publishing.

  2. clarkgoble on August 6, 2004 at 4:18 pm

    I think apologetics are a very good thing. However when you start going after people directly, it is very easy to become angry. That’s why it is *so* crucial to just deal with ideas and try to be as fair as possible. I’ve probably had more than my share of nasty comments and so forth. I’m sure those that knew me in the earlier days of Mormon mailing lists could tell stories. (grin) The problem is that often people on both sides see the other side as hypocritical and often see them as some “nefarious” group.

    As soon as you start thinking in those terms, venom and the like is a natural consequence.

    Personally I’d prefer to see FARMS deal less with every anti-Mormon book and more just with anti-Mormon claims “removed” from any particular volume. (Doubly so since they tend to quote each other all the time)

  3. Ben S. on August 7, 2004 at 2:03 am

    Well I’m not vituperative enough:)

    In all seriousness, I’d like to point out that FAIR is aimed squarely at members who are struggling, not critics. There are no debates organize, no nasty email exchanges between Joe Schmoe’s Mormon Ministry and FAIR members.

    I’m aware of my own shortcomings- I tend to get very personally involved in arguments, and quickly start thinking “what a moron this guy is.”

    I also don’t see a lot of practicality in arguing with someone who is convinced of their position. I find that talking to struggling LDS instead of antagonistic non-LDS is more fulfilling and less anger-inducing, both good things.

    On one other note, Elder Maxwell was highly in favor of apologetics. He said several times that we should not allow the churches enemies to make “uncontested slam dunks.”

  4. Daniel Peterson on August 8, 2004 at 1:33 am

    I personally don’t feel that I’m nearly as nasty as I ought to be. Every morning, I wake up resolving that today will be better, that, today, I’ll be the vicious swine that I was born to be (and that those who — fortunately — don’t know me very well frequently imagine me to be). But, every day, I fail. For the evil that I would do I do not, but the good which I would not, that I do.

    Sure, I’m fairly vicious. Sure, I’m prone to substituting invective and personal insult for substantive argument. But I could be so much more.

    Sometimes it’s depressing. I feel, very often, like a fraud.

  5. Jack on August 8, 2004 at 3:06 am

    Daniel: The late Arthur Henry King said “…if Shakespeare had been better as a young man (in which case he might not have written plays at all), he would not have followed the custom of bawdy wit.”

    Even if you were the “vicious swine” that some imagine you to be, I’d much rather have your apologetics with a few “invective and personal insult[s]“, than not have them at all.

  6. Juliann on August 10, 2004 at 5:15 am

    I guess I was born without the nice gene. I really don’t get all the hand wringing over this topic…or why I am supposed to care if some wingnut thinks I am mean. Oops…that was mean. ;-)


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