Monday, September 29, 2008

Is "Anti-Mormon" Codespeak for the "N" Word?

One well known anti-Mormon has written that LDS use of the phrase "anti-Mormon" is equivalent to societal usage of the "N-word" to describe African Americans.

This is a man apparently in search of pity.

You can read his rationale here.

The problem is there is no comparison. Or is there, but not what he wants.

The "N-word" most likely derived from Americanized slang for the French and Spanish words for black, negre and negro. Today the N-word is highly offensive when used in society, (and frankly I am offended at it's use by various African-American music artists who don't seem to understand the harm they perpetuate to themselves and others by its use, but that is another discussion.) though such was not the case in earlier history. According to the 1913 Webster it was considered a vulgar application for negros; and up until the latter half of the 19th century it was not seen as insulting, per se, but rather a description of the color of African Americans as used by virtually all non-African Americans who were oblivious to the racist and arrogant assumptions incumbant upon the use of the word when applied to African Americans.

The difference is any attempt to grab the gravity of this phrase is simply a tasteless abuse of history which testifies to the suffering of slaves, brought against their will and traded as commodities, and given a name of derision.

By contrast, anti-Mormons took the title "anti-Mormon" to themselves in the 19th century. I believe even recent critics like Sandra Tanner have labeled themselves "anti-Mormons".

People bearing such a label don't suffer enslavement. Indeed, they are practically worshiped by various Christian groupies for their "love and heart" for the Mormon people. I have seen this first hand, and you can find plenty of videos on the web showing these people presenting to various church groups.

Many also get "PAID" to do this activity. And they can quit when they want. And occasionally they convert to Mormonism. Try that as one labeled by the "n-word". A slave becoming a white master, if you are going to attempt to co-op the negative connotations of the "n-word". (Yes, a strawman argument, but it just so easily fits the situation. I will try to refrain going forward.)

The term "anti-Mormon" describes something someone does, and it carries no social penalty to use the term, except among the anti-Mormons when they feel it may misrepresent their actual nature. That being said, if they are attacking the LDS faith, then their rejection of the title is more like a pedophile wanting to be called a child lover and not a monster. It does not offend the average Christian who hears the term "anti-Mormon". It does not offend the average non-Christian. It does not offend the average Mormon.

The irony is this is not a term angrily given by Mormons to reluctant recipients. It was a description of people's activities which was gladly received by virtually all such people working against the LDS faith, and worn as something of a badge of honor.

The difference between the "n-word" and "anti-Mormon" is the difference in the meaning of one who is oppressed, and one who is a racist. Those labeled by the "n-word" are involuntarily labeled and have a history of oppression caused solely because of birth circumstances. An anti-Mormon, however, is more like a racist, someone who has chosen to engage in a belief system which attacks others in the belief their system is superior.

Anti-Mormons choose to attack or engage Mormons. People labeled by the "n-word" do not seek the circumstances which bring on its application. You can be a Christian without being an "anti-Mormon", even while disagreeing with the LDS faith. I don't know of any examples where an African American has not been labeled by some ignorant bigot with the "n-word" at some point in their life.

An "anti-Mormon" is essentially a religious racist. We could call them theological skin-heads, or Christian nazi's. Each of these labels bears the implied meaning of a choice. A Christian missionary does not attack other faiths, they preach and invite into their own faith. They may or may not believe their concept of Christianity is the only way to return to God, but they don't attack other faiths when their efforts are lacking. They simply continue in their labors, and move on. Peter tells believers to be ready to give an answer for the reason for their faith, and do so with gentleness and respect. Such attitudes are usually foreign to anti-Mormons.

Anti-Mormons go out of their way to encounter Mormons in the practice of their faith. They don't preach Jesus, they preach AGAINST Mormonism, and Jesus gets thrown in like a toy in a happy meal. And that is what the word "Anti" means. To be against something. And when they say "We love the Mormon people, we just hate the doctrine", this is not true. Virtually every anti-Mormon I know attacks the integrity of LDS leaders at all levels. They attack faithful Mormons as "blind", or deceived, or even, as has happened to me, as a "deceiver". Last time I checked, these are all Mormon "people". These people basically have found a hobby which they usually support via tax free donations. I don't doubt they don't make a lot of money. They don't deserve to, so I won't argue that point. They are getting what they have rightfully earned. But they really love to try to illustrate themselves as somehow being small, diligent humble workers of Christ victimized by a huge, evil Church. It is just so untrue, it is sad.

Unlike times past when anti-Mormons chased the Mormons at gunpoint, modern society limits their attacks to attempting to ruin the religious gatherings of the faithful through verbal abuse and mocking of religious values, or simply lying or misrepresenting historical circumstances to dissuade potential converts and shatter the faith of the membership. I once heard Ed Decker defend his lies about LDS beliefs by saying something to the effect "If you're in a wrestling match with the Devil, anything goes." So for most anti-Mormons, the end justifies the means.

Boyd K. Packer recounted how he was asked "What do you think of Anti-Mormons?", to which he responded "Not very often." He explained the brethren are so busy administering and growing the Church and its affairs, they really don't have much time to spend dealing with anti-Mormon issues. I think they see anti-Mormons as just the dogs barking outside the gates of the kingdom. They make a noise, and occasionally can bite, but they really just mostly seem to do nothing constructive, leaving piles on the neighbors lawn.

Being an "anti-Mormon" means that facts are assembled in a way convenient to your conclusions, regardless of reality. They will argue things like blood atonement, God having sex with Mary, Jesus being inferior, Brigham Young ordered the Mountain Meadows Massacre or other issues without any appeal to facts. The main reason LDS leaders don't encourage members to engage anti-Mormon materials is so much of it is a waste of time. Moreover, the responses to anti-Mormons are only of value if they are found and used by those who have read the negative material. So labeling someone anti-Mormon is helpful in understanding they are not interested in growing your faith or knowledge of Mormonism, but just getting you out of the LDS Church. Examples of half-truths and denunciations about Mormons are so broadly available, providing specific examples is probably unnecessary. Answers are readily available at various locations, but I really like the FAIR Wiki for its balance of brief answers with thorough references for further research. Funny how you don't see anti-Mormon's attempting to critique the FAIR Wiki to point out its shortcomings. Why is that? I would say simply because it bites back with truth and facts to vapid attacks.

So there is no material relationship between the "n-word" and being an anti-Mormon. It is just an attempt in my opinion to wrongly attach their choices to the legacy of abuse suffered by those wrongly derided by the "n-word". Shame on those who try to make their efforts appear remotely on a par with the suffering of so many millions of oppressed people.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Has Ad Hominem Been Re-defined?

People see themselves so differently from reality. In fact, due to the filter of our brains, we may not actually ever experience reality.

I was listening to some podcasts as an anti-Mormon and an ex-Mormon were discussing their stories. One guy says he "is not into the ad hominem" (attacks on people disqualify their argument, rather than their arguments). Frankly, I started laughing out loud. This is a man who has literally screamed at me on the street calling me a "deceiver". I handed him a flyer I wrote specifically addressing an activity he likes to do to try to make his point, mostly with Mormon youth. My 2 page flyer lays out every known historical account of the subject, providing quotes and references so folks can look them up themselves. It doesn't mention him or even discuss anti-Mormon claims, so it cannot be seen as a personal attack. It simply lays out those historical figures with first hand knowledge, and the statements they made. He refused to discuss the citations, but instead judged me and called me a deceiver. I am pretty sure that is the definition of Ad Hominem argumentation. It is also technically the logical fallacy of "poisoning the well".

Here is a guide to detecting an Ad Hominem attack:

If the response describes how unenlightened a person is: "They lack the holy Spirit, so they don't understand ...X" In other words, ignore their arguments because they don't have divine guidance. Sort of the defintion of a circular argument ("trust us, we have the Spirit, they don't") with ad hominem thrown in ("Disregard anything he says, he does not have the Spirit".)

Or they beg you not to read or discuss something because of a supposed defect of character: "He is a deciever (liar, fat guy, bald, has freckles, Body odor, etc.)." How does that impact the argument? Isn't the whole point of examing an argument to find out if it is valid? If so, then this type of attack is just to try to avoid having to respond to the questions such a person may create.

Or they tell you the person does not have the right credentials: "He/she does not represent the Mormon Church." Translation: "Their arguments are probably better than what the Church would make, and I don't want to have to deal with them." Sort of the back-handed compliment of the first set of excuses.

Lastly, if you hear someone say something like "I (or he or they) used to be a Mormon, and should know the truth about them." Run away. This is an inverted Ad Hominem attack. It presents as a sole qualification someone's pulse during a period of time. It tells you nothing about what they know, their attitude or participation while a member, or their current expertise on any subject. It is designed to try to cancel out listening to the arguments of Mormons by indirectly attacking their integrity, and once again avoiding discussing the merits of the arguments being presented. If presented as the primary, or in some cases the only, qualification, you can rest assured they don't know anything of a substantial nature. And lest that be taken as an ad hominem attack, I would say check out what they say. If they say Mormons officially believe or did believe in things like God having sex with Mary, or the Adam God Doctrine, or that Joseph Smith practices polygamy simply as a pervert, then there are plenty of non-LDS and LDS sources which can easily refute such assertions. Then you can draw a conclusion about the reliability of this person as a source of information, and not have to engage in ad hominem attacks.

A teacher soon learns which students do their schoolwork because they understand the subject matter. If they constantly produce poor work, the teacher knows what to watch out for, even as he/she reads a bad paper from the student again. The student gets to make his case, he just loses trustworthiness when the work is consistently bad that suddenly he is going to submit something brilliant.

So it is with those who claim to hate ad hominem arguments, and yet resort to such when confronted with arguments they cannot answer. Beware.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Do you want Peace, Happiness and Long Life? Be a Mormon!

What is the litmus test for truth?

Is it figuring out really complex theological dogma? Is it being rich in wealth? Is it getting any girl or guy you want? Is it winning an argument?

No. Truth is peace that comes from doing the right thing, even if others don't approve. I know too many folks who struggle in their lives for acceptance by others, precisely because they cannot accept themselves. And if you can't accept yourself, you surely don't feel like God accepts you either.

Simplicity, even amid complexity, brings happiness. So a faithful marriage is better than any faithless fling, flirtation or pornographic titillation can ever be. Because you are accepted of your spouse, and your spouse accepts you. Betrayal in this arena brings some of the deepest pain a person will ever experience. Success brings comfort in the journey.

The higher the quality of life it seems is strangely correlated to the length of life. Looking out for your personal health is an act of love for your spouse, children and loved ones who continually deal with the aftermath of personal neglect even, or maybe especially, after one dies. It seems basic, consistent health choices improve the quality of ones life, whatever the god-given circumstances of the beginning of one's life.

Studies show Mormons spend more time studying the Bible, in prayer, teaching their children and sharing their faith with others, and engaging in service, than any other faith. Studies also show active LDS enjoy the highest sense of life satisfaction of all people. And the IRS has identified the Mormons as the faith most giving of material wealth in America, while they at the same time are the most highly educated of any denomination as well. In fact, surveys show the LDS faith is the only religion in the US where more education is a predictor of religious participation. In other words, the smarter you are, the more likely you are to be an active Mormon, but the less likely to be active in other religious traditions.

Mormon temple marriages have the lowest rates of divorce of any religion in America. Of course it is not the act of being married in the temple, since there are divorces among those people too. It is a commitment to the principles such a marriage is designed to incorporate which helps steer couples through the obstacles of life, and end up still in love.

Probably as a result of the above principles and the traditional interpretation of the LDS health code called the Word of Wisdom, Mormons live on average 8 years longer, with a higher quality and satisfaction, than the US average. This is the longest addition to life of any identifiable group in the US.

Anti-Mormons complain that LDS doctrine is so simple it allows every person their own spin on many doctrines. I don't think that is an accident. God did not ever say a belief in the Trinity as defined in 381 A.D., and not 325 A.D. or some other counsel, is essential to salvation. Being LDS is a simple, comfortable, happy faith. Those who claim otherwise are usually those who think that God doesn't care how they live their lives. To some extent, he doesn't. That is, you can live life as you please, he just doesn't bless those who stray defiantly away. Come back and find peace. There are tests which make it easy to tell who follows the True Jesus:
By this shall all men know ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:35)
There are lots of nice people in churches, but Jesus' Church (Matt 16:18) is an institution of love, bringing the fruits of peace, happiness and comfort in the journey. It does not attack other faiths, but invites those in error to come and see where Christ really is.

Peace is the gift He left for us.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Shawn McCraney's Attitude About Research

I thought those who think I might exaggerate when describing anti-Mormon approaches to research and accuracy being somewhat shy of the mark of "rigorous", here is a statement written by Shawn McCraney about his labeling such work as being analogous to a child molester's abuse of children. Read for yourself:
Re: Van Hale Interview

by Shawn on Mon Mar 17, 2008 9:45 pm

Nothing has changed in my opinion with regard to The Bob and his points. I do not read them because I believe anyone who would defend Joseph Smith's Mormonism is not worthy of being read. I've read Joseph Smith's gospel. I've read LDS doctrine. A self-appointed defender of Mormonism will receive no respect or time from me because no matter what they say - no matter what they say - they are defending Joseph Smith's Mormonism. In my opinion taking the time to listen to their points is like listening to a pedophile promote his own pre-school business - theres just far too much twisted ulterior motive involved.

Hope this helps.

Note that he highlights and repeats the "no matter what they say". Shawn's Born Again Mormon website states its mission to members of the LDS Church is:
...[we] seek to confront and help remove any doctrines which demand anything more than faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.
I guess I don't get how to harmonize an outreach to LDS members which confronts their doctrines but avoids talking about their doctrines. Much of Shawn's attack material is designed to attack the human problems of Joseph Smith and his successors. But even when he discusses Baptism for the Dead, he only confronts the strawman he created on TV, and then avoids discussing the LDS evidence with active LDS members. Since he has a section in his "Purpose" area on his website called "To disaffected members of the LDS Church", I assume the section "To members of the LDS Church" means believing members.

But I have learned that nothing is so simple when anti-Mormons are concerned about losing an agrument, or at least looking like they might not be the expert they hold themselves out to be.

Food for thought when you accuse Mormons of not representing themselves. Odds are, they are really not invited.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Shawn McCraney: Still Ducking

Check out video reviews on youtube under the answeringantimormons heading.

I called in early to Shawn McCraney's show, Heart of the Matter, because a call screener several weeks ago said I should because I would not make it on due to the time constraints. So I called in at 8:17pm, identified myself, and was told I would be on hold until the other callers got through who were first time callers. At 8:40 pm Shawn noted the lines were full, but no caller information was present, and he had taken about 6 calls so far. Since they only have 4 phone lines, that means he went past me twice, and now was stuck. A minute or two later the call screener, Jeannie, came on and said Shawn would not be taking my call because I was, in so many words, too knowledgeable to let get on the air with Shawn. They said if I was an LDS official, they would let me on the air, but because I was just a knowledgeable Mormon without the "official" title, they did not want to have me on air. Jeannie said lots of Mormons call in to correct Shawn, and she said Shawn was not correct claiming that no Mormons challenged his facts. He just does not let them on the air.

I find it remarkable that the support crew and groupies of Shawn don't understand that someone who claims the Mormons are a Prideful Church of deceivers, don't connect the dots that Shawn is dishonest about his claims about the callers into the show, and they know it first hand, and he does it to avoid engaging knowledgeable Mormons who could correct him. That involves both pride and honesty, and they have first hand knowledge. Go figure. Classic Koolaid drinkers, too committed to act with integrity, I believe. Isn't that what Shawn says faithful Mormons are like? Hmmmm.

Here is the email I sent to Shawn tonight:

Once again I am dazzled by the man who proudly beats his chest and claims time and again that he never gets his facts wrong about the LDS Church, and that no Mormons ever call in to say he has it wrong, standing firmly in the petticoats of his call screeners to make sure knowledgeable Mormons don't accidentally get on the air.

Shawn, it is a lie that Mormons don't attempt to correct your facts. And it speaks volumes that you consider such lies OK because you keep those Mormons off of your show.

Shawn, the more you claim to want to starkly portray the differences between Mormons and non-Mormons, the more absurd your reasoning reveals itself that you don't want to discuss Mormonism with practicing Mormons. If you were not actually afraid of talking to Mormons who know LDS doctrine, why do you limit yourself to the disaffected, uneducated and sometimes genuinely confused? Because your pride won't risk getting bested on your own show. I suspect you may argue with this email, but that too is safe, since it cannot respond.
Have fun, I will put this on my blog at wwwdotpromormon dot blogspot dotcom .
I don't know anyone who can really defend their hero Shawn, but why not send me your thoughts, or maybe tell about your attempts to get on his show. Or attempt to defend him. That would be rich.

Monday, September 08, 2008

State of the Art Anti-Mormonism

I thought this would be a good time to review the 5 "best" anti-Mormon arguments against the LDS Church.

5. DNA and the Book of Mormon. This one started with such promise for the Anti-Mormons. Then LDS scientists pointed out how incapable this line of attack was in actually proving anything, pro-or-anti-, relative to Mormonism. While such one-trick-pony-advocates as Simon Southerton screamed that their position was being ignored or the LDS position was shifting, in the end (and it has in fact reached the end!) the glaring flaws in their argumentation have caused them to once again argue things other than DNA to attempt to support any relevance of their DNA arguments.

4. Monotheism in the Bible. The idea is that the Bible clearly teaches their is only one God, and not a plurality of true, divine beings. This argument continues to come up, despite the fact that the universe of people who have studied Biblical beliefs of God in their historic and linguistic contexts has reduced to specialized argumentation those who seriously advocate this. By that I mean you have to be a conservative Christian who either a.) simply ignores the archaeological and linguistic evidence harvested in droves in the past 100 years, or b.) you argue it is just a matter of heretic liberals smearing the "true doctrine of monotheism" with unjustified interpretation of evidence. The reality is that the work by Patai, Barker, Dever, Mark Smith, Michael Heiser or Jason BeDuhn and virtually all Greek language grammarians make belief in the concept of exclusive and strict monotheism in the Bible as the orthodox belief of Hebrews and Christians impossible to maintain. Not to mention more than a dozen EXPLICIT statements acknowledging the existence of muliple REAL gods, as well as it being the aim of salvation of mankind.

3. Satan and Jesus are not spirit brothers. This is an interesting position because it requires denial of specific scriptures for anti-Mormons to maintain it. In Job 1:6 we have all the sons of God appearing before God, "and satan was among them." We have Hebrews 12:9 telling us the Father is the father of spirits. Since Jesus had a spirit and satan and his devils are also called spirits in scripture, we are left to equate why all spirits are created by the Father but are not really brothers and sisters when it comes to Satan and Jesus. Mormons of course feel this is thrown out simply as a distraction, since at least some early Christians taught and believed this to be the case as well, and it has no bearing on how Good Christ is or how Evil Satan is.

2. Joseph Smith was human. This isn't exactly how they say it. They say things like "how could a prophet do...X?" My current favorite response is to agree, and say if prophets express opinions which are demonstrably false, and contend it is true or a revelation, then we probably have a case of a false prophet before us, according to their standards. Then we read Titus 1:12-13 by Paul: "The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies [i.e. lazy gluttons]. This witness is true." If you do believe all people from Crete are lying, evil, lazy gluttons, then this may in fact represent truth to you. For the rest of us, this is obviously Paul's opinion, and a flawed one at that. So now we must decide if should throw out the 13 or 14 letters attributed to Paul (cutting the New Testament in half. That should increase readership!) because of Paul's poor judgment in this area, or if we acknowledge all of the surviving writing attibuted to inspiration by God is filtered through flawed humans. The Mormons believe the Bible to be the word of God, so far as it is translated correctly. It doesn't specify the translation is from copyist to copyist, but rather is broader, allowing people to use some common sense.

1. Finally, the #1 Anti-Mormon attack is that Mormons don't honor the role of Jesus. I have heard anti-Mormons say they have sat through entire sacrament meetings on Fast Sunday, and never heard mention of Jesus in the testimonies being born. I will say it here: I think these people are liars. As a convert of over 30 years, I have sat through hundreds of such meetings, and never once had such an experience. If anti's were honest, they would acknowledge that they don't believe in the same God as the Jews or the Muslims, a claim they often make. Neither the Jews or the Muslims believe in a Trinitarian deity. In fact, theologians of both groups denounce Christians as apostate from the doctrines of the Old Testament. Mormons love Jesus. We just don't believe that his theological value is visible to man as the result of unrevealed intellectual reflection to try to harmonize the false concept of monotheism with the dilema of the New Testament witness of a plurality of Divine beings (John 1:1-2).

There you have it, as I see it. What do you think?