Wednesday, March 10, 2010

In which I finally understand the mindset of Mormon apologists

During this discussion, I had an epiphany, a "Holy crap!" moment if you will, because of something Seth R said:

"Just about every supposed anachronism, every attack on the Book of Mormon, has been met with multiple arguments and explanations. The battle-field is utterly undecided here. No side has won a decisive advantage here..."

That first sentence is quite correct. Every attack has indeed been met. Met by Mormon apologists in nearly every case with weak arguments and just barely plausible explanations. In terms of strength of arguments, the battlefield is decided and one side -- not anti-Mormons, but archeologists -- has routed the other. In response to archeology, Mormon apologists have piled implausibility upon implausibility to construct a towering edifice of unbelievability. Believers either don't know much about this, don't think much about it, or recognize it but believe anyway -- so I'd thought.

I'd assumed Mormon apologists all fell into the third category. I mean, when I was a believer, I engaged in some apologetics in a small way. I used a lot of the arguments that the leading apologists do. But I was still able to think critically about them.

I believed I had a "spiritual witness" of the truth of the LDS church, and that meant that many very implausible things had to be true. But I never thought they were other than implausible. I believed them to be true despite their implausibility. I never deluded myself with the idea that I was making powerful arguments.

When I engaged in apologetics, basically what I said was, "Here are the answers Mormons have made to those questions. Most of the answers are weak. Almost all of them are less plausible than the alternatives. But they aren't quite impossible. There's a tiny chance that they could be true. And because I have a spiritual witness, because I believe God has told me that the church is true, I believe them despite the overwhelming evidence against them."

I'd thought that's what every apologist did. But when I read Seth's comment, it hit me: "Holy crap! He actually believes what he just said! He actually thinks those arguments are good!" And I realized something then, something that should have been clear to me a long time ago: some Mormon apologists are just denialists, "choosing to deny reality as a way to avoid an uncomfortable truth."

Not all of them are, I'm sure. Some no doubt, see the relative strengths and weaknesses of their arguments. They hold onto their faith even though apparently they see reality just as clearly as the rest of us. But the denialists are there too. I can't say what percentage they account for, but at last I understand that they're there too, denying reality right alongside the creationists, global warming deniers, anti-vaxxers, 9/11 troofers, Obama birfers, UFO nuts, HIV deniers, and all the rest.


  1. They're our own Discovery Institute, aren't they.

    It's exactly like arguing with creationists. Creationists that operate their own journal.

    Ms. Daniel thinks they're like chiropractors, and I confess I can see the similarity. But I think creationists are the better fit.

  2. Hey I know one of those people! I had to got to seminary to learn from him. His name was Bishop Steve.

  3. Daniel,
    Probably everybody believes some strange things. But at least we can know that they're strange.

  4. Melo,


What do you think?