Apologetics: Still an Important Tool in Strenghtening Faith

Over at MormonInterpreter.com, Steven T. Densley, Jr. in “Should We Apologize for Apologetics?” reviews a book on LDS apologetics. He makes some excellent points that members of the Church should know.

Many LDS members don’t use the term “apologetics” to describe what many of them might engage in rather naturally when sharing or defending the Gospel, The use of logic, reason, and evidence goes back to the earliest days of Christianity. Densley points out that Christ used such tools in His sermons. Yet today, among some Latter-day Saints, it is fashionable to look down on apologetics as backward, embarrassing stuff. It is also fashionable to state or to imply that the leadership of the Church has distanced itself from such things. That argument, however, does not withstand careful inspection, nor does it even withstand listening to the latest General Conference.

A useful early example of apologetic argumentation can be found in the writings of Paul. In 1 Corinthians 15, for example, Paul uses a variety of arguments and evidences to support the doctrine of the Resurrection. One of the arguments he cites to teach and explain the Resurrection is the practice among at least some early Christians of baptism for the dead. Interestingly, that discourse has now become a source for LDS apologetics in explaining our doctrine of baptism for the dead. The argument is also buttressed by references to that and related concepts in many early Christian references that have been noticed or discovered since Joseph Smith’s day, although it is possible that Joseph Smith had access to one such document prior to his revelation on that topic, namely, the Pastor of Hermas, a beautiful early Christian text that was part of the canon for some Christians.

Next time you read the New Testament, note how many times various speakers or writers appeal to logic and evidence to support an argument. Apologetics was alive and well in that day, and may it continue to thrive in ours. Or rather, may intelligent, responsible, accurate, and compassionate apologetics thrive.

Has apologetics been of benefit to you and your family? I’d like to hear your story.

Author: Jeff Lindsay

47 thoughts on “Apologetics: Still an Important Tool in Strenghtening Faith

  1. Wow, I need to reread the New Testament with this perspective in mind.

    My first exposure to apologetics was Michael Ash's "Bamboozled by the CES Letter." I think it's adequate, but my favorite response to the original document would be Jim Bennett's "A Reply From a Former CES Employee," mainly because it contains less of "Here's the gist of what the original said, and here's my response" and more "Here are the exact words of the original, and here's my response." I think the latter allows for less opportunities for straw man arguments to arise.

    Contrary to what has been asserted in another comment thread, I prefer to let reasoning and logic be my motivators rather than emotions; I think this is why I enjoy apologetics so much. Instead of just reacting like "Oh my gosh, this assertion changes EVERYTHING!!" I want to hear proper, thought-out responses to the assertions.

  2. Actually, now that I think about it, I think my first exposure to apologetics was earlier than I thought; I just didn't know that's what it was back then.

    My first encounter with apologetics was actually with A. Melvin McDonald's "In Defense of Truth." It's a fictional story of two LDS missionaries taken to a court proceeding by people of other religions, where they answer questions about LDS doctrine; the only scriptural support they are allowed to use is the Bible.
    It was originally written in the 1970s, so some more recent developments are not accounted for (like online documents and sources), but other than that it's a very interesting read. I'm pretty sure you can find it online and download it as a PDF from somewhere, but I wouldn't be able to give specifics.

  3. Michael Ash’s “Bamboozled” was hardly an apology. It was a confession. It concedes most of the points.

    His only defense is to suggest that just as British intelligence planted real evidence all over a cadaver to trick the opposing military with fake intelligence, God planted real evidence all over space and time to test if we can see past the fake narrative. Never fear, Michael Ash’s power of interpretation overcomes God’s elaborate ruse.

  4. I read your posts regularly, as well as those by Daniel Peterson. Excellent! I'm anxiously awaiting the opportunity to discuss the account of the delivery of the gold plates by an angel to Joseph Smith with a devoted non-Mormon Christian. I'd love to hear him/her explain why they believe the miraculous accounts in the Bible, but think it fantastic that an angel could appear in our (modern?) day. I guess there's something about miracles being more believable the more they occur in the far distant past.

  5. I read your posts regularly, as well as those by Daniel Peterson. Excellent! I'm anxiously awaiting the opportunity to discuss the account of the delivery of the gold plates by an angel to Joseph Smith with a devoted non-Mormon Christian. I'd love to hear him/her explain why they believe the miraculous accounts in the Bible, but think it fantastic that an angel could appear in our (modern?) day. I guess there's something about miracles being more believable the more they occur in the far distant past.

  6. Evidently Mormography didn't actually read much of "Bamboozled," as he gets a few facts about it wrong.

    Firstly "apologetics" doesn't mean "apology." It's based on a Greek word that means to defend. Also, it's not a "confession" by any means. It doesn't "concede" the points of the letter, it responds to them explaining why the conclusions drawn are incorrect or misleading. Yes, some of the data is correct, but this does not mean that the conclusions drawn from them are correct. This is not "agreeing" or "conceding" as Jeremy and Mormography claim it is.
    Also, his comment about the British intelligence using real information to fake a conclusion is completely off the mark. That story is referencing the CES Letter itself, NOT the story of Mormonism. This should be obvious to those who read it, as Ash explains this immediately after telling the story.

  7. Sighhh …

    Correct Ramer. You are slowly understanding. It should have been obvious to Ash want a contradiction his British intelligence analogy is. It sounds like you read Bamboozled, but your comprehension was only superficial.

    I am going to have to start sending you a bill for tuition.

    Apology: “3. a reasoned argument or writing in justification of something, typically a theory or religious doctrine: "a specious apology for capitalism"”

    Furthermore, what Ash calls interpretation is actually revisionism.

  8. You are slowly understanding… It sounds like you read Bamboozled, but your comprehension was only superficial.
    Aaannd here come the unfounded personal insults.

    "Just as the corpse of Major Martin bamboozled the Germans, so likewise the CES Letter has bamboozled a number of Latter-day Saints. Both are scams that cleverly rely on not only subterfuge but they strategically maneuver real data to create evidence for a story they want their targets to believe…. In the case of the CES Letter most of the points of data discussed are real as well. Like Major Martin’s story, the CES Letter looks real and reasonable on the surface and seems to be verified by science and scholarship. Both, however, are mere illusions—admittedly clever illusions—which have fooled critical thinkers and skeptics as well as laypersons."
    There we go, a quote that shows exactly what Ash was comparing the British intelligence's plan to.

    I am going to have to start sending you a bill for tuition.
    This is ridiculous. The only thing Mormography is "teaching" me is how his own mind works.

    …what Ash calls interpretation is actually revisionism.
    What Mormography calls revisionism is actually interpretation.

  9. I like this analogy from Bamboozled, as it describes why it's ridiculous to claim FairMormon "agrees with" or "concedes" the points of the CES Letter:

    "Carol walks into her apartment and sees their neighbor Kyle kneeling over the bloody corpse of her husband Tom. Kyle is also covered in blood and has a knife in his hand. That is the data. Did Kyle kill Tom? That is the interpretation of the data. While it certainly appears that Kyle stabbed Tom to death, Kyle claims that he heard screams, ran over and found Tom lying on the floor dying with a knife sticking out of his chest. Kyle instinctively pulled out the knife, got sprayed with blood, and was in the act of desperately trying to save Tom’s life when Carol walked in. Carol remains unconvinced. Kyle didn’t like Tom. She’s sure that Kyle committed the murder.
    Which interpretation is the most accurate? That depends on other information that may come from outside of the original data—and that’s why we have courts and trials to ascertain which interpretation is more accurate. If Carol and Kyle went to court because they both had different interpretations of the murder, would it be fair and honest to say that the defense agreed with the prosecution? They both would agree on the data but would disagree on the interpretation of the data."

  10. Ramer- cutting and pasting has not improved your comprehension. The Carol and Kyle analogy admits how guilty Fair looks. The British intelligence analogy suggests God planted evidence.

    Rejecting prior official narratives and replacing them with new narratives is the definition of revisionism. Rejecting official narratives is conceding, not apologism. When you insist otherwise, you only lie to yourself.

  11. Cutting and pasting has not improved your comprehension.
    Of course, and I wouldn't expect it to. Actually reading it is what improves comprehension.

    The Carol and Kyle analogy admits how guilty Fair looks.
    Merely asserting this does not make it so. Explain how.

    The British intelligence analogy suggests God planted evidence.
    It was meant to suggest Jeremy/the CES letter manipulated real data in order to make readers come to a false conclusion. If you interpret the analogy differently than it was intended, that's not Ash's problem, nor mine.

    Rejecting prior official narratives and replacing them with new narratives is the definition of revisionism.
    Well, I have yet to see any cases of Ash or FairMormon (or Jeff, for that matter) actually doing this, so no problems here.

    Rejecting official narratives is conceding, not apologism.
    Not quite, conceding is actually admitting that the other side is correct (not merely in data, but in the interpretation as well).

  12. Ramer – I agree. Your refusal to comprehend and self deceit is not my problem. You only embarass yourself.

  13. Evidently Mormography is incapable of realizing I am not deceiving myself or embarrassing myself, and that I am indeed comprehending what I am reading, and so he has to resort to personal insults to further the discussion. I am, however, confused as to why Jeff still allows those comments from him ("Enter your civil, intelligent comments here. Insults are discouraged.").

    Discussing anything with him that he doesn't already agree with always seems to end up this way. I really need to stop interacting with him.

  14. To get the comments back on topic, I remember in Acts 26, when Paul was recounting his own conversion story to King Agrippa and Festus, the latter rebuked him and insisted he was mad; Paul's response seems to me that he was able to remain calm and collected even in the case of a direct insult ("I…speak forth the words of truth and soberness."). It feels like apologetics would have to involve this kind of thing too, rather than just relying on logic and evidence.

  15. Ramer – Sighhh … Communicating directly to me, but voicing to some third party (or talking to yourself like gollum?). Emotional deterioration? Reverting back to begging for muscle to get you out of the fight you started. If you feel under siege, may be you should look at how your behavior got you here. Mormanity allows me to comment here for the same reason he allows you to comment here. However, not allowing you to comment would probably be best for your own emotional health.

  16. Michael Ash’s analogies:
    In the first, some entity carefully orchestrates PLANTED evidence to make something LOOK bad.
    In the second, the evidence makes something ACCIDENTALLY LOOK bad.

    So, the apologists admit things look bad. Their only defense is to invoke the that-was-never-official-doctrine which is conceding. One or two items can credibly be dismissed this way, but not the vast majority without changing the narrative.

    When Mormanity changed the narrative to insist that polygamy is not required in Mormon heaven, to his chagrin, it was shown an official publication contradicted him. The publication suggested that it is possible that polygamy is required in heaven, but the answer is unknown. This from the religion that is founded on the narrative of revelation, modern prophets, and that if any man (or woman) lacks wisdom, they need only to ask God.

  17. Nowhere in the history of the LDS Church will you find apologetic writings to match those of C.S. Lewis or G.K. Chesterton (much less Aquinas or Pascal).

    Why is Mormon apologetics so inferior? Partly, I suppose, because the church is so young, but partly also because its apologists, before they can argue for any of the other truth-claims of their religion, must first demonstrate the antiquity of their scriptures.

    Christian apologists have it easy in comparison. They don't have to waste their energy and squander their intellectual credibility proving that the Bible is ancient. They don't have to try to convince anyone that "horse" can mean "tapir," or that "translating a text" really means "having the text serve as a catalyst for an imaginative vision."

    Christian apologetics can get straight to the good stuff; Mormon apologetics can never even get out of the gate. Unlike the work of Chesterton and Lewis, which are widely admired by people of all faiths and of no none, Mormon apologetics lacks any appeal outside the Church itself.

    — OK

  18. Christian apologists have it easy in comparison. They don't have to waste their energy and squander their intellectual credibility proving that the Bible is ancient.
    While I wouldn't say that LDS apologists "waste their energy" or "squander intellectual credibility," I do have to give this basic point to you. The Bible as we know it has been around longer than the Book of Mormon has. The golden plates were hidden away for about 1400 years, so I can understand some skepticism about whether or not it's actually ancient.

    They don't have to try to convince anyone that "horse" can mean "tapir," or that "translating a text" really means "having the text serve as a catalyst for an imaginative vision."
    Of course, these are just one of the many suggestions apologists have put forth. The idea behind the word "horse" used to describe another animal isn't unheard of; and the Book of Abraham could have actually been on the papyrus pieces that wound up missing or destroyed. We're just not sure.

  19. I finally had time to take look at Jim Bennett’s reply to the CES Letter. Bennett completely failed his claimed attempt at a “patient, Christlike tone”.

    Furthermore, in his first attempted reply, he rambles on for 2,265 words with irrelevant tangents, to finally produce his strawman reply “Your question, though, seems to contain two different concerns. One is why errors specific to Joseph Smith’s personal Bible might be reproduced in the B of M, but the other, larger question is why there are any errors in the Book of Mormon at all, grammatical or otherwise.” The invented “other”concern is a strawman. The first concern he listed, he does not address until several pages later in another section and only provides a generic, vague “reply”.

    The 200+ pages follow this poorly thought out pattern full of strawmen.

  20. my first experience with anti-Mormonist material actually happened earlier this year. i had posted something which i had thought to be uplifting and somebody responded with copy-paste arguments from one of the websites that hold the "50 difficult questions for Mormons to answer". i had begun to research the answers when i found out that the answers had been answered already by FAIRmormon. although I do think their answers are disjointed. ever since i have been trying to do my own apologetics of super unofficialness and all i've really accomplished is procrastination and defense by trolling anti-mormonist videos on youtube. but things are slowly changing.

  21. although I do think their answers are disjointed.
    I do have to agree somewhat, Nolan. Sometimes the number of apologists there are can make things a bit disjointed. They'll have different opinions on the same subject, and at this point it's basically down to your own thoughts as to who to believe. Like, one story of David Whitmer claiming he heard God telling him to separate from the Latter-Day Saints has several responses. Some believe, since he had apostasized (did I spell that right?) from the Church at this point, that the prompting was from Satan. FairMormon says they don't have a problem believing that it really was God, and that He was trying to ensure Whitmer's safety.

    my own apologetics of super unofficialness
    I love that phrase.

    procrastination and defense by trolling anti-mormonist videos on youtube
    Yeah, trolling really isn't the best way to get things done, regardless of which side you're on.

  22. Not quite. The provided was to the previous explanation (3:47 PM, October 27, 2017) which (8:01 PM, October 28, 2017) further demonstrates. There are 30 comments here, a third of which are yours. The more you comment here, the more you demonstrate the original assertions. The good teacher that I am, your latest comment demonstrates what we all suspected, that you fully understanding what is wrong with your “because I said so” “reasoning” and you are fully aware of your double standard hypocrisy, demanding citation for others and not yourself. Ergo:

    “The more Ramer attempts to refute the more he validates.”

  23. Ramer and Jim Bennett succumb to the fallacy that just because they are talking they are responding. If mortal time is finite, then this is the internet version of Gish Gallop. Bennett goes on for 200+ pages falsely claiming he has beat a dead horse. Bennet may be attempting to beat an alive, kicking horse, but Bennett does not actually address the horse’s blows and the horse tramples him. Same here with Ramer.

    Take for example the 1769 KJV signatures found in the BoM. Bennett and Ash do not really address the question. Fairmormon did, with only two possibilities. 1. JS consulted a 1769 KJV in producing the BoM or 2. God planted the signatures in the BoM. Now, 1 is not well thought out, because it is conceding, it is exactly what the CES Letter is claiming. So, despite multiple pages on that one little subject, we are left with the only apology that is logically consistent and which Ash unwitting demonstrates with his opening salvo’s analogy: God planted evidence to make things appear as they are not. Apparently, God engages in bizarre dictator tests of emotion/spirituality/obedience over that-doesn’t-make-sense-intellect. Could be. Isn’t that what Abraham-son-murder anecdote is all about?

    Simple enough apology, but of course it sounds crazy, so 200+ pages is required to make it sound more reasonable and give it the false appearance of being well thought out and intellectual, the opposite of the emotional test premise of the apology.

  24. I just remembered yet another apologetic work that I was introduced to early on. When I was a child I had an activity book about Book of Mormon evidences. Recently I found out its companion work, a graphic novel, was available online. It's called "The Book of Mormon On Trial," and despite the simple graphic novel appearance, it's very well researched and thought out. It's written so that both children and adults can understand it.

    Mormography can assert the insults all he wants, but it doesn't make them true. And he has about as many comments on here as I do, so it's pointless to try to bring that up and use it against me. I fully understand the problem with his "because I said so" "reasoning." That's why I don't use it myself.
    And Bennett DOES respond to the 1769 KJV language in the Book of Mormon. Just because it's harder to make a strawman or summary out of his response doesn't make it less valid, and pretending it isn't there doesn't make it disappear.

  25. “That's why I don't use it myself.” He says in the same breath he uses it. Lol

    “Bennett DOES respond” If that was true you would have listed it.

    From the start this has been the repeated pattern with Ramer. He started by falsely claiming that my reasoning was twisted, then with quotes from even Fairmormon it was proven that it wasn’t. Even further it was proven that Ramer’s reasoning was twisted with quotes from an official publication that polygamy may in fact be a requirement in Mormon heaven. Over and over again it is proven Ramer resorts to insults while his “reasoning“ is debunked.

    It is refreshing to see you could not argue with the 5:58 AM, October 29, 2017 commentary.

  26. Mormography is WAY too obsessed with insulting and degrading Mormons and LDS apologists. I think he needs to stop posting here, for everyone's sake.

  27. Nolan's Lastname, sorry, I recognize Mormography can be problematic for readers here and tends to insult, contrary to my desires for dialog. On the other hand, while I am often bothered by his tone and have deleted some of his posts, I have increasingly come to recognize that he offers some useful perspectives for us to understand. But trying to argue with him goes nowhere, so I often don't try. In any case, I hope all of us can engage without resorting to insults and seeing the worst in others.

  28. The peculiarities of the language of the Book of Mormon involve many issues. The fact that KJV language is used is not a problem. It challenges some expectations, like the expectation that God should redo the translation into a completely new vernacular that can give a perfect translation of the urtext, or the intended urtext, free from human interactions and influences. From what we can see in the scriptures, it seems that God lets human agents do as much as possible. So when we say the Book of Mormon was written, preserved, and translated through divine inspiration and power, in no way do we mean that God did it all Himself or ensured there were no human errors. Rather, many human hands inspired and commanded by God were involved, as well as some less inspired hands like printers and typesetters, and in each human act, there is the possibility of some occasional error. It's a messy world, but one with miracles nonetheless.

    The use of the KJV to me seems to follow the rule that when a passage is available in the KJV, the KJV language is used when it is "good enough," minor warts and all, but there are notable changes, some major and some subtle, in some matters of doctrinal import. It is not a slavish copy of the KJV text.

    One of the most fascinating things in LDS studies has been the recognition that many awkward phrases, grammatical errors, and other problems in the Book of Mormon text as dictated by Joseph that we long attributed to Joseph's dialect and lack of education appear to fit into Early Modern English. It is almost as if the base text in English that was the source for the inspiration given to Joseph Smith was composed by a human translator or translators with expertise in Early Modern English, including Early Modern English slightly before and measurably different than the English of the KJV Bible (see the works of Stanford Carmack and Royal Skousen). It's a controversial and puzzling thing that is still a topic of research. While pointing to a few verses that suggest a later KJV Bible was used, we need to also understand that vastly greater number of verses showing influence from before the KJV was involved.

    In considering any verse, we need to consider what we know of the original language dictated, how Oliver wrote it initially, how it was rewritten for the printer's manuscript, how that was converted into text, and how that was subsequently edited by Joseph or others. There is bound to be some messiness and some puzzles in all of this. A handful of puzzle do not constitute a smoking gun, especially when the overwhelming bulk of material points to something really amazing going on: a dictation hour after hour unaided by any manuscript often rich in Eerly Modern English dialect differing from the KJV and from Yankee dialect, yielding a remarkably consistent and complex text rich in Hebraisms, Hebraic poetry, subtle Hebraic wordplays, and beautiful scripture abounding in evidence of ancient plausibility and authenticity. A few verses with 1769 wording, whatever their source in this messy work involving many human hands, does not shatter the overwhelming evidence that permeates this text.

    If you demand that a true Book of Mormon would require God Himself to have provided the translation in perfection, you might as well require that God had to do the engraving on the gold plates and the typesetting for the modern press. Instead, He uses humans wherever possible. "By the power of God" does not mean free of typos, free of minor error, and free of controversy. So to approach the Book of Mormon fairly, we need to have reasonable expectations and be able to consider the strengths and not just the apparent flaws.

  29. One further point: If there was a pre-translation of some kind into KJV-like English but with a stronger twist of certain aspects of pre-KJV Early Modern English for some reason (perhaps enhanced readability or for evidentiary purposes by adding a finger print inexplicable based on theories of plagiarism or fabrication), then one might expect that the 1611 KJV would be favored, but I don't see any strong reason why the 1769 KJV could not have been selected as the tool for scriptural citations to keep the quotations familiar to the intended audience. I think the vast majority of the 1769 relationships to the Book of Mormon are also found in earlier editions of the KJV. An interesting exception may be the insertion of "red" before "sea" in Isaiah 9:1, not found in the 1611 KJV. This is actually quite an interesting "error" that may be easily explained as a scribal error as Oliver Cowdery prepared the printer's manuscript, a stage where he may have been influenced by his knowledge of the 1769 text or, more likely, by having previously written Red Sea and then accidentally slipping "Red" into this verse while copying it.

    On the other hand, it might not be an error after all. I discuss this issue in my LDSFAQ page on Book of Mormon problems.

  30. John Tvedtnes makes a good case that the Book of Mormon's quotation of Isaiah 9:1 with the 1769 KJV error of inserting "red" before "sea" is simply a case of Oliver Cowdery making a scribal error, having written "red sea" correctly in multiple verses before this passage. See Bookofmormonresearch.org on 2 Nephi 19:1.

  31. Mormanity – Are you saying I have been insulting and Ramer has not? As far as I know, I have only shown Ramer his reflection and it is his reflection at which his hate and anger are directed. I do agree with you though, regarding the fact I have never lost an argument here, even to my own surprise.