Are Mormon Apologetics a Gateway to Ex- or Anti-Mormonism? Or….Why I Support Sunstone

John Dehlin Mormon, Mormon Stories

Last week I was counseling a friend who had left the LDS church. As he recounted to me his story, it was interesting to note that apologetics (FAIR and FARMS in particular) were a precursor to his leaving the church–and a strong source for his abiding anger/resentment, and resistance to returning.

I probably get at least 2-3 emails a week from folks who have left the church–and I’m surprised at how many of these people not only delved into apologetics before they left–but also look back upon their experience w/ apologetics in almost disgust. Is it possible that the general approach/effect of arch-apologists like Dan Peterson and Louis Midgley–is actually NEGATIVE with respect to helping people retain their faith in the LDS Church? I am sure that they get short-term emails expressing gratitude for what they’ve done–so I’m speaking more in the medium-long term.

Recent postings by Lou Midgley and Dan Peterson in the bloggernacle are benign examples of what I mean. If you want the full banana….check out the FAIR Message Boards. Blech. Yuck. I almost feel dirty linking to that post.

I have had some VERY good experiences with a few apologists (John Lynch and Greg Kearny being 2 very important exceptions–these strike me as really sincere, thoughtful, kind-hearted men), and I know that there are others, but overall, I continue to be saddened by how often, when I engage in, or observe an apologist conversation, I end up feeling sick and disappointed. For me, the reasons include:

  • The tendency to attack, denigrate and even mock the individual who disagrees with their view of the world.
  • The tendency towards anger, hatred, sarcasm, and mean-spiritedness.
  • The general unwillingness to express things like, “That’s a valid concern.” or “Yep…that’s a tough one.”
  • The apparent willingess to defend at all costs…sometimes with little trace of a desire to remain objective.
  • The tactic of avoiding the overall “mosaic” of an issue, by delving into obscure details and justifications.
  • In summation, a lack of credibility in the eyes of many of they honest, open, sincere, thoughtful folk I interact with.

Now….one thing that I will openly acknowledge is that many/most anti-Mormons act the same way–which is also very, very disappointing. I will also acknowledge that I am grossly generalizing to a large degree–which is also very dangerous.

Still–these 2 poles testify to me as to why a forum like Sunstone must be supported. Neither of these sides (apologists or anti-LDS) are considered fair, balanced and credible by most of the sincere, humble, good-natured, intelligent folks that I continually interact with on the Internet–and I know for a fact that Sunstone (under Dan Wotherspoon) is working very, very hard to remain a more neutral, credible source for exploring and resolving LDS issues, in the house of faith. Sunstone may have stepped over a line or two years ago–but I find them (along w/ Dialogue) to be the rare voices of faithful objectivity and reason in an otherwise arena of shrill, hateful, negative voices.

Sorry for the rant. Please tell me if you disagree. Do apologists represent their cause well, and are they effective?