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 Post subject: Net Effect of Apologetics on Leadership and Membership
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 1:32 pm 
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First, a couple observations and then my question and hypothesis.

Observation 1 - Some critics tend to see a close relationship between Church leadership and apologetic organizations, specifically BYU-affiliated FARMS. Some have even proposed that FARMS is a surrogate for disseminating theories or defenses of LDS beliefs on behalf of the "institutional" Church but which the institutional Church doesn't necessarily want to take responsibility for.

Observation 2 - "Rank and file" membership seem largely unfamiliar with FARMS, its scholarship, or its status as an unofficial or official appendage of the Church.

Question: What is the net effect of FARMS-type apologetics, scholarship or research on the body of the Church at large or on official pronouncements or policies of Church leadership?

Hypothesis: The number of Church members who subscribe or follow FARMS research/publications remains relatively limited. Some theories originating with FARMS publications make their way into the mainstream and become receive an official or folk status as an accepted interpretation of Mormon beliefs, but the vast majority only gain popularity among apologetic circles. Some Church membership may even regard FARMS or apologists with suspicion because they propose alternative interpretations of traditional LDS narratives or doctrines.

Church leadership may occasionally take FARMS theories into consideration, but such considerations are rarely articulated in "official" pronouncements, manuals, or other publications. I think Church leadership appreciates FARMS scholars' work generally.

Obviously there are some here who are more connected to the apologetics and Church leadership communities who may be able to clear up some of this if I am mistaken.

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 Post subject: Re: Net Effect of Apologetics on Leadership and Membership
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 1:35 pm 
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I think your take on the situation is pretty much accurate.

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 Post subject: Re: Net Effect of Apologetics on Leadership and Membership
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 1:41 pm 
God
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I would guess that’s its biggest value to the church is in retention. Someone researching/considering the church is never going to make it past the negative stuff and spend the time on the rebuttals/explanations.
The questioning member is the one that is going to be willing to spend the time reading the apologists information and be comforted by it.


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 Post subject: Re: Net Effect of Apologetics on Leadership and Membership
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 1:52 pm 
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StructureCop, for the most part I agree with your assessment of the effect of apologetics on church leadership and membership.

RockSlider, I must say that as a questioning member I was not comforted by the apologetic material I found on SHIELDS, or by what I read from FARMS. If I had been impressed or convinced by their arguments, I'd still be a Mormon. But I'm not.

KA

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 Post subject: Re: Net Effect of Apologetics on Leadership and Membership
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 1:56 pm 
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KimberlyAnn wrote:
RockSlider, I must say that as a questioning member I was not comforted by the apologetic material I found on SHIELDS, or by what I read from FARMS. If I had been impressed or convinced by their arguments, I'd still be a Mormon. But I'm not.
KA


:razz: I never suggested it would be effective


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 Post subject: Re: Net Effect of Apologetics on Leadership and Membership
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 1:59 pm 
Star A
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KimberlyAnn wrote:
StructureCop, for the most part I agree with your assessment of the effect of apologetics on church leadership and membership.

Gracias.
Quote:
RockSlider, I must say that as a questioning member I was not comforted by the apologetic material I found on SHIELDS, or by what I read from FARMS. If I had been impressed or convinced by their arguments, I'd still be a Mormon. But I'm not.

I think that reading FARMS/FAIR/SHIELDS material may be one of the steps a questioning member takes on their way out. Of course, not every member who reads FARMS is on the path out of the Church and not every one who leaves the Church had an encounter with apologetic material. Stopping at FARMS may be a symptom of more thoughtful belief, and being too thoughtful can often carry someone right out the doors. :razz:

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 Post subject: Re: Net Effect of Apologetics on Leadership and Membership
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 2:05 pm 
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KimberlyAnn wrote:
I must say that as a questioning member I was not comforted by the apologetic material I found on SHIELDS, or by what I read from FARMS. If I had been impressed or convinced by their arguments, I'd still be a Mormon. But I'm not.

Could you be specific? Particularly about the FARMS stuff that didn't impress you? What did you read?

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 Post subject: Re: Net Effect of Apologetics on Leadership and Membership
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 2:14 pm 
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StructureCop wrote:
First, a couple observations and then my question and hypothesis.

Observation 1 - Some critics tend to see a close relationship between Church leadership and apologetic organizations, specifically BYU-affiliated FARMS. Some have even proposed that FARMS is a surrogate for disseminating theories or defenses of LDS beliefs on behalf of the "institutional" Church but which the institutional Church doesn't necessarily want to take responsibility for.

Observation 2 - "Rank and file" membership seem largely unfamiliar with FARMS, its scholarship, or its status as an unofficial or official appendage of the Church.

Question: What is the net effect of FARMS-type apologetics, scholarship or research on the body of the Church at large or on official pronouncements or policies of Church leadership?

Hypothesis: The number of Church members who subscribe or follow FARMS research/publications remains relatively limited. Some theories originating with FARMS publications make their way into the mainstream and become receive an official or folk status as an accepted interpretation of Mormon beliefs, but the vast majority only gain popularity among apologetic circles. Some Church membership may even regard FARMS or apologists with suspicion because they propose alternative interpretations of traditional LDS narratives or doctrines.

Church leadership may occasionally take FARMS theories into consideration, but such considerations are rarely articulated in "official" pronouncements, manuals, or other publications. I think Church leadership appreciates FARMS scholars' work generally.

Obviously there are some here who are more connected to the apologetics and Church leadership communities who may be able to clear up some of this if I am mistaken.


I too agree with your assessment, including the cited observations.


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 Post subject: Re: Net Effect of Apologetics on Leadership and Membership
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 2:21 pm 
God
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KimberlyAnn wrote:
StructureCop, for the most part I agree with your assessment of the effect of apologetics on church leadership and membership.

RockSlider, I must say that as a questioning member I was not comforted by the apologetic material I found on SHIELDS, or by what I read from FARMS. If I had been impressed or convinced by their arguments, I'd still be a Mormon. But I'm not.

KA


It doesn't need to be 100% effective to do its job. It only needs to be more effective than not doing the apologetics is. If they can "save" 50% of the questioners from leaving the church, that's a better result for them than if, say, 75% of the questioners ended up leaving.

I'm one of the ones for whom the FARMSesque defenses didn't work. They just made it more obvious to me that we as Mormons do what every other religious believer does, and use our intellectual faculties to find ways to keep believing stuff that doesn't deserve otherwise to be believed. For people unwilling to recognize that about themselves, I'm sure it's much more effective.

Anyhow, back to the OP, I still note that the church manuals teach the global, literal Flood of Noah, the "no death before the Fall" doctrine and the Adam and Eve as first flesh, mother of all living, etc. sorts of things. Clearly the leadership haven't 100% bought into the apologetic arguments and adopted them.

Anyhow, if the leadership of the church bought 100% into the apologetic arguments, the membership would follow, and there would not be such a thing as the whole Internet vs. Chapel Mormon thing. Clearly that hasn't happened yet.

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Last edited by Sethbag on Mon Jul 27, 2009 2:30 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Net Effect of Apologetics on Leadership and Membership
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 2:23 pm 
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StructureCop wrote:
KimberlyAnn wrote:
StructureCop, for the most part I agree with your assessment of the effect of apologetics on church leadership and membership.

Gracias.
Quote:
RockSlider, I must say that as a questioning member I was not comforted by the apologetic material I found on SHIELDS, or by what I read from FARMS. If I had been impressed or convinced by their arguments, I'd still be a Mormon. But I'm not.

I think that reading FARMS/FAIR/SHIELDS material may be one of the steps a questioning member takes on their way out. Of course, not every member who reads FARMS is on the path out of the Church and not every one who leaves the Church had an encounter with apologetic material. Stopping at FARMS may be a symptom of more thoughtful belief, and being too thoughtful can often carry someone right out the doors. :razz:


For my part, I never really read FARMS materials or any other apologetics on my way out the door. I only did that after-the-fact. My issues were much more basic in that once I determined to honestly assess my own beliefs (thereby applying the same standards of evidence I demanded of others), none of it (and I mean NONE of it) made any sense from an even remotely objective perspective. That includes not only Mormonism but religion and belief in God in general.


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 Post subject: Re: Net Effect of Apologetics on Leadership and Membership
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 2:25 pm 
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Sethbag wrote:
Mormons do what ever other religious believer does, and use our intellectual faculties to find ways to keep believing stuff that doesn't deserve otherwise to be believed.

Just registering a formal dissent: I reject this characterization, both with regard to Mormons and with regard to other religious believers.

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 Post subject: Re: Net Effect of Apologetics on Leadership and Membership
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 2:27 pm 
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StructureCop wrote:
I think that reading FARMS/FAIR/SHIELDS material may be one of the steps a questioning member takes on their way out. Of course, not every member who reads FARMS is on the path out of the Church and not every one who leaves the Church had an encounter with apologetic material. Stopping at FARMS may be a symptom of more thoughtful belief, and being too thoughtful can often carry someone right out the doors. :razz:


I completely agree. FairLDS.org was my first stepping stone out. There were some satisfactory answers there, and others not so satisfactory. I initially registered and posted on MAD in the firm belief that if I studied hard enough and looked for the answers diligently, that I'd find resolutions.

I think most people who leave the Church for intellectual reasons (and this is certainly not everyone) goes through one or more of these resources. I also think that more people would leave the Church if they did not exist. (I also think that less people would leave the Church if certain apologists exercised more restraint in their rhetoric, as it certainly gave me the impression that they have more hubris than actual substance to contribute. That's another matter though.)

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 Post subject: Re: Net Effect of Apologetics on Leadership and Membership
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 2:35 pm 
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Daniel Peterson wrote:
Sethbag wrote:
Mormons do what ever other religious believer does, and use our intellectual faculties to find ways to keep believing stuff that doesn't deserve otherwise to be believed.

Just registering a formal dissent: I reject this characterization, both with regard to Mormons and with regard to other religious believers.


Just registering a formal concurrence: I accepted this characterization, both with regard to Mormons and with regard to other religious believers.

Note that I do not say this of all religious beliefs (e.g., believe in God generally) but to the more obviously false one (e.g., the OT as a valid book of moral instruction).


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 Post subject: Re: Net Effect of Apologetics on Leadership and Membership
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 2:48 pm 
Humans seem to have genetic propensity to have a blind spot about some belief or another. For some, it's religion, others it's government and patriotism. Others it's ghosts, chupacabra, bigfoot, or Atlantis. I am often tempted to snort at the things that some people believe and are invested in, but then I remember that I am also a human and I don't want to get snorted at. The harm the falsehood can cause is limited to how much it controls your life. Clearly, I could believe in whistling nose goblins (I have heard them) and not have it affect me in any real fashion. I could believe in Joseph Smith and his religions, and it could cost me a load of money and time. I could ignore the fact that my wife is out working most weekends late into the night, comes home smelling of beer, being very tired, and not actually having a job in the first place, in order to avoid emotional pain. Thus, we humans have blinders.

Apologetics exist for almost everything that is someone's blind spot. It does not exist to validate the ideas to non-believers (after all, it ISN'T true), but is a management technique to retain faith in the fiction. FARMS, FAIR, and SHIELDS are natural outgrowths of a particular religious blind spot. It seems obvious to a doubter that their explanations are silly or what not, but it is not constructed for them. They are created and maintained by folks that have an interest in the spot. Some members have family that could be hurt by their leaving, others have jobs or careers based upon the fiction, others are scared to face the cold world without the power they gain from being Mormon.

So what's the effect? Always retention, but not for the Church's sake. It's always for the member's.


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 Post subject: Re: Net Effect of Apologetics on Leadership and Membership
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 2:49 pm 
B.H. Roberts Chair of Mopologetic Studies
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An excellent and provocative post here, StructureCop. Let me intersperse some observations of my own:

StructureCop wrote:
First, a couple observations and then my question and hypothesis.

Observation 1 - Some critics tend to see a close relationship between Church leadership and apologetic organizations, specifically BYU-affiliated FARMS. Some have even proposed that FARMS is a surrogate for disseminating theories or defenses of LDS beliefs on behalf of the "institutional" Church but which the institutional Church doesn't necessarily want to take responsibility for.


Yes; this is true. There *is* a relationship between FARMS and the institutional Church, though there have been strenuous efforts to hide or obscure the details and full nature of this relationship.

Quote:
Observation 2 - "Rank and file" membership seem largely unfamiliar with FARMS, its scholarship, or its status as an unofficial or official appendage of the Church.


I agree with this, too. Most Latter-day Saints, imo, are largely unconcerned with issues of Church history, doctrine, and culture. Most LDS simply go to Church and go through the motions. They follow the lessons, they enjoy Sunday services and the overall sense of community, but beyond that, they don't care.

Quote:
Question: What is the net effect of FARMS-type apologetics, scholarship or research on the body of the Church at large or on official pronouncements or policies of Church leadership?


On the membership, I would argue that the net effect is "zero." I think that apologetics drives away roughly the same number of people as it "saves." I think that apologists' influence of Church leadership is far more profound. The 2nd Watson Letter; the revisions to the Intro of the Book of Mormon; anecdotal worries about the Book of Abraham; GAs quoting from FARMS publications---all of these show the powerful influence that FARMS has had on the upper echelons of the Church. At heart, most of the GAs are businessmen and/or administrators, and thus they've ceded the revelatory and doctrinal work over to the apologists.

Quote:
Hypothesis: The number of Church members who subscribe or follow FARMS research/publications remains relatively limited.


I agree with this, too. FARMS/FAIR-type stuff appeals primarily to people who are angry, or carrying grudges over criticism. Some people are sincere questioners, but it seems to me that most hardcore apologists are genuinely aggressive, bitterly cynical, angry people. I would include DCP, Louis Midgley, William Hamblin, Scott Lloyd, Pahoran, juliann, and Scott Gordon in this category. It's not as if these folks need FARMS to give them answers; instead, they are looking for FARMS to violently retaliate against the critics. They want to see the blood flow. There are a few odd ducks out there who latch onto apologetics for obscure reasons (Tsuzuki and Kerry Shirts come to mind), but, as I've said, the two basic camps of people who gravitate toward apologetics are the rare sincere questioners, and the bitterly angry people who want revenge. Often, I think that apologists begin as sincere questioners and then morph into the angry types as they stick around and observe the "Top Dawgs'" behavior. I should add that there are also a few somewhat "scholarly" type people who don't seem angry, and have moved beyond the sincere naïveté phase, and who now just seem interested in the very far-flung, intellectual aspects of apologetics. (I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but there you have it.)

Quote:
Some theories originating with FARMS publications make their way into the mainstream and become receive an official or folk status as an accepted interpretation of Mormon beliefs, but the vast majority only gain popularity among apologetic circles.


I would agree. The average TBM doesn't know diddly-squat about LGT, or Lamanite DNA, and in all likelihood, said TBM doesn't care. The Brethren could announce tomorrow that the Book of Mormon is pure allegory, and these TBMs would carry on as if nothing had happened.

Quote:
Some Church membership may even regard FARMS or apologists with suspicion because they propose alternative interpretations of traditional LDS narratives or doctrines.


These people are rare, but they exist (e.g., Paul Osborne).

Quote:
Church leadership may occasionally take FARMS theories into consideration, but such considerations are rarely articulated in "official" pronouncements, manuals, or other publications.


Yes, I think you're right. While I think that Church leadership actually leans very heavily on the apologists, I think that this reliance is frequently concealed or downplayed. The Brethren *must* seem as if they are fully in control at all times. This is one of the reason that FARMS and other Mopologetics publications always contain the "We are not affiliated" disclaimer.

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 Post subject: Re: Net Effect of Apologetics on Leadership and Membership
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 2:55 pm 
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Personally, I'm glad I found Sunstone. I found out I wasn't alone.

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 Post subject: Re: Net Effect of Apologetics on Leadership and Membership
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 2:58 pm 
harmony wrote:
Personally, I'm glad I found Sunstone. I found out I wasn't alone.

Is it true the Church discourages anything to do with Sunstone? Or is that a myth.


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 Post subject: Re: Net Effect of Apologetics on Leadership and Membership
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 2:58 pm 
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Doctor Scratch wrote:
The Brethren could announce tomorrow that the Book of Mormon is pure allegory, and these TBMs would carry on as if nothing had happened.


Probably, but only because the average church member doesn't know what an allegory is.

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 Post subject: Re: Net Effect of Apologetics on Leadership and Membership
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 3:00 pm 
God
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I don't think that apologists have any influence on what the top fifteen do as the top fifteen are Kings and their wives are Queens in Utah and in the subculture they travel to and speak at ;they are in their own bubble; it has no affect. One might say what about changing the part in the Book of Mormon to "among" from principal. I would say it was one of thirty things voted on one day and was a minor blurp.

One could say that within a small part of the LDS church apologist are treated like those mentioned above.

I don't think FARMS or critics have any influence of TBM's. I have two in my family who are TBM. They have always been. They are actually too busy with things during the week to deal with anything other than what comes out of Church Headquarters. They would instantly shelve any matter that would question the integrity of the LDS faith.

For me at this time in my life, I just read what apologist write. I'm very sadden with what they write. It frightens me that my hope of something better has been in vain. But then maybe I need to put apologists on different levels. The Old Testament would be level one; the New Testament would be level two; Origen and Augustine would be level three; LDS church thought from 1805 to present would be level four. Deep down I wish that everything was true. I've tried all my life to be a good person but have fallen short. I still want to reach that goal.

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 Post subject: Re: Net Effect of Apologetics on Leadership and Membership
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 3:02 pm 
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Gadianton Plumber wrote:
Is it true the Church discourages anything to do with Sunstone? Or is that a myth.

Sunstone's relationship to the institutional Church probably deserves its own thread.

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 Post subject: Re: Net Effect of Apologetics on Leadership and Membership
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 3:07 pm 
God
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Doctor Scratch wrote:
The Brethren could announce tomorrow that the Book of Mormon is pure allegory, and these TBMs would carry on as if nothing had happened.


:lol:

I'm sorry....let me be clearer....they'd leave by the thousands.

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Last edited by The Nehor on Mon Jul 27, 2009 3:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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