Super talk by Noel B. Reynolds. You can read or listen to it here.
– INFLUENCE OF THE SPIRIT
– SENTIMENTALISM VS. SPIRIT
– DISCERNMENT IMPORTANT
– LIGHT OF CHRIST
– USEFULNESS OF REASON
– THE ROLE OF SIN
– CONFIDENCE IN THE LORD
– GUIDELINES TO KEEP FAITH
– INTELLECT AND FAITH
A wonderful quote:
“Too much of the literature used, seen, and quoted in the Church today is just sentimental trash which is designed to pull our heartstrings or moisten our eyes, but it is not born of true spiritual experience. The tendency of our youth to use sentimental stories in Church talks creates a culture of spiritual misunderstanding in which thinking and learning are discouraged.”
Do you always believe everything negative about Hillary? What about the bad news about Trump? Immediately believe such news?
You shouldn’t. Everyone is wrong and makes mistakes. Trump makes lots. So does Hillary. Some policies each proposes are bad. All aren’t good. We should use balance, reason, and prudence to discern what is good and what is bad — not parrot like an uninformed, zealous partisan.
We find people debating every social, religious, and political issue every day. On Facebook. On blogs. On TV. At work. Those in these debates can usually be placed on a continuum of reason vs. blind faith. On a continuum of information and data vs. data-free emotion.
Atheists may have blind faith in their positions with no basis in fact. Theist also may have blind faith with no basis in fact. Your co-worker may be entirely emotional and not study any issues. A neighbor may never be emotional and have every fact in the Universe memorized. Everyone relies on some amount of faith and then an individual amount of facts.
We don’t know everything, so we gotta have faith in many areas of life. But to rely solely on emotion or blind faith isn’t a good approach, in my view. Instead, to we should gather all available data to make the most-informed decision possible.
I’ve noticed that many LDS critics fall into this category — partisan, uniformed zealots — on many topics. They rush to judgment when an LDS official is accused of wrongdoing, for example (this has occurred recently online). Indeed, in my experience zealous LDS critics often assume the worst when the topic involves Joseph Smith or current leaders. More data or context isn’t needed. No way! They “know” the truth, and their mind’s made up.
This tendency — to assume the worst without evidence — is indicative of a problem. A lack of balance and sense of proportion. A willingness to be ignorant. Perhaps lacking understanding that they’re, in fact, ignorant. But being ignorant, nevertheless.
A commitment to a cause — be it Trump, Hillary, the LDS Church, etc — that is not based in reality. But in large amounts of emotion.
Critics of the Church (or any organization that is being unfairly maligned) often withhold exculpatory information. This means, information that would exonerate or free of wrongdoing is intentionally withheld. This is dishonest.
Remember the Duke Lacrosse case? The lacrosse players hired a stripper. Bad idea. But they didn’t rape her, as she later claimed. The District Attorney assigned to the case stretched out the case longer than he should of, and used it as a way to get reelected.
It turned out, the DA also withheld evidence that would have freed the boys and avoided ruining their reputations (and lives for a few years). That is, he buried exculpatory evidence. He was disbarred (lost his law license) for this action.
These kinds of practices are dishonest, unethical, and a form of misrepresentation. Fair-minded people need to weigh the evidence. They should see the often weak claims — especially in light of more data and context — as undermining of a critic’s position. Waiting and researching prevents quick, rash, overreactions.
Of course, Mormons can also be immensely defensive and not follow the facts. They shouldn’t. Latter-day Saints should follow the evidence and increase their testimony. After all, we embrace all truth!
Mormon leaders have not and never will be perfect. Neither have biblical leaders or leaders of any organization now or in history been perfect. But, as unfamiliar issues and controversies arise, let’s gather all the possible associated data before we throw out the baby with the proverbial bathwater.
If you’re too quick at either activity — to defend or to accuse — rather than gather the evidence fully, you might fall into the zealot camp. An overzealous and uninformed fan with lacks proportion, balance, and all the context.
So, if you’re an absolute, fully committed, all-in Trump, Hillary die hard, LDS critic, or uninformed partisan for the LDS faith you might want to evaluate your positions and look at more data before you jump to the defense of your candidate or annihilation of your opponent.
My experience is that the vast, vast majority of Latter-day Saints don’t rob, steal, or assault sexually (or otherwise). However, some do. And our past leaders were good men. And our religious practices took place in a real, historical context that takes time to appreciate. So, as we learn, let’s hear all sides, allow for due process, and not rush to judgment.
And when questions arise relative to items in LDS history, please take the time to do the research. You shouldn’t immediately trust LDS critics, nor should you exclusively trust what your Uncle Bob might say about our own history (even if he’s an active member). Study things on your own. Weigh the evidence. And strive for balance and prudent understanding.
The best route is to follow the advise given in this podcast: always consider the best in other faiths and groups. Don’t knock down their weakest point. Appreciate their strongest point!
The LDS Church has had its critics since day one. Note the date of Mormonism Unvailed, published soon after the Church was established. The author could have interviewed many prominent Latter-day Saints, but did not.
Instead, he largely chose to provide misinformation and exaggerations. The book when read today isn’t taken seriously. But what about his uninformed readers in 1834? Did they believe Mr. Howe?
Other churches and individuals for a variety of reasons publish(ed) a range of criticisms against our faith. Some accurate, some much less so. Is it any surprise our critics continue to publish and circulate information about us?
What is the best approach when facing material from your critics?
Be methodical. Review any criticism on any topic the same way: one item at a time, try to understand the critic’s motivation, and adapt your beliefs according to the new truthful material you learn.
One, however, shouldn’t expect that one’s critics — whether in sports, politics, and certainly religion — to give you the benefit of the doubt. Especially , if they’re dogmatic, partisan, rigid, assign only bad motive, etc. In far too many cases, LDS critics are not fair. Do not present all the data. Harbor unfair assumptions. Withhold exculpatory information.
Neither should one expect one’s religious critics to present your faith in the best light possible. That would also be naive. Critics giving the LDS position the benefit of the doubt and praising our leaders for the much good they’ve done in the past, in fact, rarely happens.
Would those interested in investing in Coke talk to Pepsi executives? Not always a great idea.
Below I’ll list a variety of resources that can answer questions and defend against LDS critics.
The Interpreter Radio Show can be heard Sunday evenings from 7 to 8 PM (MST) on K-TALK, AM 1640, or you can listen live on the Internet at ktalkmedia.com. Call in to 801-254-1640 with your questions and comments during the live show.
You might want to tune in weekly.
On Sunday, 3/11/18, they talked about the CES Letter and compared this to the anti-Mormons in the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s.
The new format of the CES Letter with a huge laundry list has affected some people, unfortunately.
This video shows how many people feel during their first brush with anti-Mormon material:
Growing up in the 1980s and graduating from high school in the early 90s, I remember hearing about Ed Decker’s production, “The God Makers.”
More than a few times I visited Christian bookstores and read their book chapters on Mormons, usually in the “CULT” section. Sometimes I laughed. Sometimes I didn’t know what they were talking about. I was a curious kid. I understand most people aren’t so curious.
In the early 2000s, during a break in school — about 1/4 mile from the Mormon Handcart Park in Iowa City, IA — I decided to see what “The God Makers” was all about.
Our home teacher had many books defending the Church, including “The Truth About the God Makers”, published in 1986. He gave me a stack of books and I dove right in.
I probably read 10-12 books cover to cover. Some of the material was brand new. Other stuff I had heard from my parents. All of the issues were a lot to cover in a few weeks of summer break, but I’m glad I tacked the material then, and have revisited the critical arguments since.
I first heard of the CES Letter in the summer of 2015. I chat with all kinds of people around me. On a plane trip — among lots of other topics — the woman to my left told me her LDS faith had been rocked by the CES Letter. She said she had never heard of any of this stuff before. I told her nothing was new that she was telling me.
It’s true. Those who’ve reviewed the CES Letter, feel free to review “The Truth About the God Makers.” The author, Gilbert W. Scharffs, responds to each each scene and claim Ed Decker presents in his awful, over-the-top movie.
Sadly, people left in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s, in part as a result of the God Makers. Surely, lots of other issues were involved. It’s never 1 single issue. They left in the 60s and 70s, due in part to work by the Tanners and earlier critics.
They’ll, unfortunately, consider leaving today over material found in the CES Letter. Interestingly, however, it’s all the same material with very few exceptions. No longer in VHS, today’s critics use PDFs. No longer hyped over radio, today’s critics share via email and podcast.
Indeed, style and method of dissemination is different, but the core arguments are almost identical. Ed Decker’s style was inflammatory, mocking, and sensational. Jeremy presents as a victim. Nobody told him all this stuff. On that topic — nobody told me! — consider listening to this podcast.
From his podcast: “Geoff Biddulph is a convert to the Church of just over 15 years. Before joining he read a lot of anti-Mormon literature. However, it was the Spirit that converted him and helped him be open to being baptized. Since then, Geoff has read the book of Mormon more than 10 times and have read the entire Bible at least five times.
He has a large library of Church-related material from which he draws upon as he writes for the Millennial Star blog—where he has contributed for nearly a decade.
He his wife Cindy were married in the Denver temple nearly 11 years ago and they now have five kids. He is joining us by phone today from Denver, CO. Geoff is here to talk about an article he wrote for the Millennial Star Blog entitled, “Why Didn’t the Church Teach Me This Stuff”
Jeff at Latter-day Q & A shares his insight on this same question:
Many people have heard of and debated these issues for decades. I’m a member of the John Whitmer Historical Association. Of course, many don’t know about most of these historical and sometimes-debated details. Most members aren’t scholars. Nor are they apologists.
For those who don’t please start where you are. I’d encourage a line-upon-line approach. That’s what I had to do when I read “The Truth about the God Makers” around 18 years ago.
And I’m grateful I immersed myself on these topics, though I’d argue core faith is actually what is essential — not knowing a bazillion counterarguments.
Topics that “destroyed” Jeremy’s testimony have been debated by scholars and LDS associations members for decades. Nobody hid this material. Some unique LDS folks study deeply, in addition to progressing through the Gospel basics in Sunday School.
Online debate and study forums have been hashing out these issues well before the internet. Most people, however, — be they Mormons, Catholic, or atheist — don’t study very much. And that’s OK, too!
Jeff Lindsay has blogged in defense of the Church since 1994. Jeremy Runnells is a young man who recently left the Church. Jeremy panicked with (to him) alarming, new information.
Why do these two people — Lindsay and Runnells — come to very different conclusions when facing the same issues? Why is one person’s faith so brittle? Context and framing makes all the difference. Listen below:
I argue that many who leave today would not have left over the same material decades earlier. Now Christians of all stripes, including Mormons, have an alternative that they never would have considered till recently: agnosticism and atheism.
Agnosticism allows many to feel they can checkmate all religious responses as outdated, uninformed, and foolish. The most unfortunate part? The typical rejection of Jesus and his Gospel.
These views are more acceptable than ever. More popular than ever. More peer pressure to join these groups than ever. Sam Harris, the handsome fellow above — one of the “new” atheists — attracts lots of folks to his flock. These new atheists mock belief and believers, assigning to their followers smart-guy status.
And these followers believe it, despite atheism having no more settled foundation than in the past. It’s simply a fact that secular is more attractive today than in the past. But truth shouldn’t be settled on the basis of trends, social acceptance, and political popularity.
Evangelical Christianity or other sects are usually not attractive to doubting Latter-day Saints. I’ve seen data showing 9 out of 10 former Mormons don’t believe in God. Decades ago this did not occur.
As they weaken in faith, so many members see no credible option for belief. But what many don’t initially realize is they’ve started to follow another faith: the faith of atheism/agnosticism. Indeed, they put their faith in atheist podcasters and thinkers.
John Lennox discusses the faith of atheists:
Lennox schools prominent atheist, Richard Dawkins, on the topic of blind faith. Even Dawkins operates on the basis of faith, no different than believers. There’s so much none of us can know. So we trust. We have faith. All of us. No matter how much atheists hate to admit this. They do, too.
Returning to the woman on the airplane in 2015. As I got to know her further, she recently had experienced divorce, had a special relationship with Heavenly Mother, by her own admission didn’t like hierarchies & patriarchal arrangements, and was repulsed by polygamy.
In my experience, it’s virtually never about the big lists alone. Other things are inevitably occurring in the lives of those who leave. I’ve talked to many, many folks about their faith crises. Nobody leaves who was yesterday in full faith, working at the veil. It’s always a years-long process. Often involving other life issues. We can help with all those variables. Faith is work. And worth it!
Many, many people have spent much more time than Jeremy Runnells — the fellow who crowdsourced the CES Letter on the ex-Mormon reddit subgroup — in understanding these issues.
I learned about these issues decades ago and found virtually nothing new in his document. Ed Decker, the Tanners, and a long list of critics before them have thrown lots of charges on the wall hoping that some will stick. Some things we’ll never know. For many things, however, answers exist. Study, prayer, and humility are key.
FAIR Mormon has thousands of pages of answers that can be searched via an internal search engine. I’ll list four other resources that have responded to each and every criticism within the CES Letter:
#1: Jim Bennett. Jim is the son of the late U.S. Senator, Bob Bennett. Jim is entertaining, bright, articulate, and lots of fun to read. Jim wrote for the Deseret News for years. He’s now running to fill an open seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
#2: Brian Hales. Brian is arguably the single greatest expert on Joseph Smith’s polygamy. Brian spent much time not only answering polygamy-related questions within the CES Letter, but was very efficient in responding to all other claims.
As mentioned above, Brian has built and maintained this incredible resource on Joseph Smith’s polygamy. The critics may disagree with Brian, but they nearly universally respect his research and scholarship.
Brian has shown in the linked site above, and Dan Vogel (one of the most prominent LDS critics alive) agrees, that there is no solid evidence of Joseph’s sexual polyandry. Polygamy? Yes. Polyandry? No.
#4: Brett McDonald. Brett created the “LDS Truth Claims” YouTube channel in the last year. He directly responds to every charge found in the CES Letter.
One of my favorite presentations by Brett:
#5: I recently found this blog — Conflict of Justice — that has many good points about the Book of Abraham and seer stones. Since the Book of Abraham is a topic loved by the critics I thought I’d include this blog in the list.
If one is willing to leave the Church — an institution claiming to be the restored Church of Christ — he/she should consider all the data. Not only the cherrypicked information you’ll find in critical material, such as the CES Letter. Please review the in-depth responses above and within the above links.
It would have been a very poor choice to leave the Church in the 60s, due to materials put forward by the Tanners. It would have been a very poor choice to leave the Church in the 80s, due to materials put forward by Ed Decker.
It is, likewise, a very poor choice to leave the LDS Church today, given this (hardly new) material copied/pasted by Jeremy Runnells and aggregated into the CES Letter.
Our culture is much more accepting of atheism and is increasingly secular. Folks form agnostic groups and support each other in their doubts and new faith online. Though society welcomes these new trends, the facts of the restoration and the divinity of Christ remain the same.
I urge to review all the data. There are reasons to believe. Study and pray. No blind faith. Inform your faith. The Gospel was restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith.
William Lane Craig (bearded on left), a traditional Christian, is an incredible debater. The fellow in the middle can’t clearly articulate why slavery or abusing a child is evil on an atheistic world view or in a purely objective way. Staggering. But not suprising, given atheism denies objective moral values.
Is anything truly right or wrong? Atheists want to make value judgments: “God was wrong. The Nazis were wrong.” Yet, they also maintain cultural relativism about what is right and wrong.
Can’t have it both ways. If no God, one can’t assert what is right or wrong. Nazis weren’t wrong. They only did socially unacceptable — not wrong — things.
WLC makes his case again. His debate partner, Wolpert, had some embarrassing moments:
WLC discusses the flaws of Sam Harris’ (and other “new” atheists) view of morality, good, and evil:
Next YouTube with Q and A:
First question to questioner from Ravi: “Do you lock your door at night?”
In a perfect world we shouldn’t be afraid. But we don’t live in a perfect world.
If everyone believes morality is subjective, look out! Not everybody wants to be nice. Russia and China killed 60 million each in the 20th Century. Stalin, in his final moments, clenched his fist toward heaven. Worth 5 minutes.
Jonh Lennox explains if we’re no different from mold and there’s no final judgment, there’s no basis for morality.
Evolution, society, and other factors don’t provide a consistent, clear morality. Powerful rulers also typically fail magnificently to project and encourage morality.
Ravi answers a question about morality without God. “Strong” nihilists or atheists, according to the questioner, don’t kill. “Weak” nihilists may be bad, but not all atheists are evil and seek destruction.
Practically, there is no rational basis for good behavior on atheism — even if the “strong” atheist believes this way. And how do you reconcile what is occurring in the Middle East: one side insists it’s right and wants to destroy the other.
It’s not nearly as simple as this questioner initially proposed.
From Prager University:
Ultimate Purpose without God?
Atheist Bertrand Russell: “Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation ofunyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.”
Jeffrey R. Holland affirming an informed, evidence-based approach to faith, not mere fideism that is all too common within LDS circles:
“Peter assumed that two-fold aspect of our conviction when he said, “Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15)
Reasons for the hope that is in us. Reasons for our belief. I am not a lawyer as virtually all the Welch family men are, but I don’t have to be one to understand in a court of law the power and primacy of evidence. In making our case for the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, I believe God intends us to find and use the evidence He has given—reasons, if you will—which affirm the truthfulness of His work.”
” . . . not to seek for and not to acknowledge intellectual, documentable support for our belief when it is available is to needlessly limit an otherwise incomparably strong theological position and deny us a unique, persuasive vocabulary in the latter-day arena of religious investigation and sectarian debate.”
Elder Bruce Hafen gave this talk in early 2017 at BYU-Hawaii: “Faith is Not Blind.”
Atheists often accuse believers of blind faith. Faith without a shred of evidence!
This, unfortunately, may be true in some cases. Just as it’s true for many uneducated atheists who have not deeply contemplated their positions. After all, many atheists were raised in atheist homes, and have not been challenged.
But it isn’t true in my case or for many I know. Indeed, we should all develop our beliefs in an environment of faith and reason. Study and prayer. Blind faith is untested faith.
Faith, reason, and evidence are closely bound together.
Learning and study enhances belief. Faith (belief) and reason (study) are complementary. Not mutually exclusive. The scriptures support this position.
God wants us to have faith, but not blind faith. Developed, nurtured faith isn’t blind.
Faith in your wife, after years of loyalty in marriage, is neither blind faith. Not at all, though it’s still faith!
The Apostle John (see John 20:30-31 below) included some — but not nearly all — of the events in Jesus’ life so that we might believe in Him. That thereby we might have eternal life.
In other words, understanding Jesus’ life, miracles, and teachings helps us believe. John didn’t want us to believe blindly.
John himself was an eye witness. Consequently, John shared the best evidence from Jesus’ life so our faith would be anything but blind! He shared evidence so our faith would be evidence based.
John 20:30-31 King James Version (KJV)
30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:
31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
Lennox below makes a good case that atheists themselves exercise faith. Just as believers do. Faith in the rational intelligibility of the Universe.
And, given their view — that evolution is a mindless, unguided process — they shouldn’t trust their own minds and the Science they produce.
But they do. Blindly! Oh, the irony!
In a 2-minute segment below watch John Lennox discuss this topic of faith and blind faith with a very uncomfortable Richard Dawkins.
Dawkins is arguably the most militant atheist living. Atheists believe in faith. Don’t let them convince you otherwise.
Lennox argues that faith is based in evidence. Dawkins says faith is only present where there is no evidence. John points out that Richard Dawkins also exercises faith. Faith in his wife, given past actions/loyalties.
Lennox is a brilliant, kind, and talented teacher.
Science developed in Western Europe precisely because Christians believed in a law giver.
In China and other areas, there was no unifying concept of a Creator. The Gods, if they did believe in one or more, we’re capricious. One couldn’t systematically learn of the Universe.
Alvin Plantingsa asserts evolution itself undermines naturalism (more extreme form of atheism).
Does the Church take an official position on Evolution? Nope.
Let’s all remain open and humble in our pursuit of all kinds of truths. And let scientists do Science. After all, we have nothing to fear from discovery in any field.
Living the restored Gospel principles saves us. Scientific principles — even established ones — don’t exalt anyone. But it doesn’t hurt to understand truths of Science.
Further, there’s so much we don’t know. For example, the world’s best physicists don’t know what light and energy are. We are only a few hundred years from the Enlightenment. We’re all in the dark to a great degree, and thus must very much live by faith.
Science is only a method, and can ask how. God answers why.
Read this October 2016 New Era article. The first paragraph quoted below:
“The Church has no official position on the theory of evolution. Organic evolution, or changes to species’ inherited traits over time, is a matter for scientific study. Nothing has been revealed concerning evolution. Though the details of what happened on earth before Adam and Eve, including how their bodies were created, have not been revealed, our teachings regarding man’s origin are clear and come from revelation…”
Jeff at Latter-day Saints Q & A shares insight and some history of this subject:
Ben Spackman shares valuable insight with Gospel Tangents:
Interestingly, Joseph, Hyrum, and Orson Hyde believed that people lived before Adam. Among other things, they discussed the use of the word “replenish” and that prophets existed before Adam.
Dr. Henry Eyring — the father of current Apostle, Pres. Henry B. Eyring — was a world-class chemist and believing Latter-day Saint. After a full career in Chemistry at Princeton, he returned to Utah Brother Eyring served on the LDS General Sunday School Board.
Just yesterday a friend of mine claimed that it’s arrogant to say you’re the only true church. After all, he said, other faiths say the same thing.
We debated for some time, reaching no agreement. I thought I’d YouTube the question. Among other things I found, I liked the video below. I shared it with my friend who hasn’t yet commented on it directly.
Alvin Carl Plantinga is an American analytic philosopher, the John A. O’Brien Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame, and the inaugural holder of the Jellema Chair in Philosophy at Calvin College. He is a Protestant and considered by many to be America’s leading Christian philosopher.
Plantinga explains that, according to his view, only one faith can be correct. And it isn’t true one is arrogant to believe this. I agree with Dr. Plantinga’s arguments. I disagree, however, that Protestantism holds the Gospel’s fullness.
I believe Joseph Smith restored the fullness of Christ’s teachings through gradual development and miraculous visitations.
Finding a balance between loyalty or commitment to one’s faith and sympathetic openness to other faiths is one of the biggest challenges Mormons face in an age of inclusiveness.