Reasons Anti-Mormon Arguments Are Totally Unconvincing
too long ago, Britt and I were eating dinner with a family member
when she proceeded to tell us that she was seriously struggling with
doubts about the Church. She told us that she and her husband had
stopped attending Church meetings a year earlier and that she didn’t
know if she would be able to look past the things she had heard about
Church history. We tried to share some of our thoughts and
experiences, but she didn’t seem interested in hearing what we
had to say. Their struggle was heartbreaking for us to see, but,
unfortunately, we know many others like them.
you are like us, you also have multiple friends, family members, and
acquaintances who have struggled deeply with doubts and maybe even
left the Church.
after seeing so many good people struggle, Britt and I have decided
to do something about it. You see, there are many people who want to
believe, but after learning seemingly disconcerting things about
Church history, they are unable to work past their doubts.
many have been driven from the Church, not because they were looking
for a reason to go, but because they happened upon information that
they couldn’t reconcile with their faith nor simply ignore.
personally know what it’s like to struggle with understanding
how certain historical realities fit into the story of the
Restoration. I also have many ex-Mormon friends, and I’ll bet
I’m familiar with just about every anti-Mormon argument in the
book. And yet, I’m a Mormon through and through.
hope that by sharing what I have learned through both faith and
reason, someone who is struggling might find strength and perhaps a
few who have left the fold might find their way back.
article (the first in a series of related articles) will attempt to
undermine the logical power that anti-Mormon arguments falsely appear
to have. The reason I start with a logical approach is because
anti-Mormon thought can be so seemingly convincing that some people
lose the disposition to exercise faith in God. This may sound strange
because you may have had experiences exercising faith in the midst of
doubts. But for others it is not so easy. For those who have been
convinced that Joseph Smith is some kind of crook or criminal,
sincere prayers and scripture study is unthinkable.
I write this article hoping that by demonstrating the logical
weaknesses of anti-Mormon arguments, someone in this situation will
regain the opportunity to exercise a particle of faith.
the following reasons that anti-Mormon arguments are not as
convincing as they appear to be:
Negative Evidence Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be
intellectuals argue that “negative evidence” is supreme.
To understand what they mean by this, consider the hypothesis that
“all swans are white.” According to these intellectuals,
it doesn’t matter how many white swans you find, you never
really prove that “all” swans are white. However, as soon
as you find one black swan, you have disproved the theory that “all
swans are white.” They conclude that positive evidence doesn’t
ever really prove anything, but negative evidence can. And it’s
easy to see why they think that way.
is the approach that some ex-Mormons have taken to their faith. In
the face of unsettling information, they disregard all of the
positive evidence because they think that a few points of negative
evidence is sufficient to end the discussion. And given how logical
the above reasoning seems to be, it is no wonder why.
they are still wrong.
understand why, consider another example. After first discovering the
planet Uranus, astronomers attempted to predict its orbit by using
Sir Isaac Newton’s laws of physics. They could observe the
orbit of Uranus with their own eyes, but when they used Newton’s
mathematical models to predict that orbit, they failed time and
made no sense. Newton’s laws had been right about so many
things, but astronomers had found a case in which Newton’s laws
did not work. So, was Newton wrong? Were his laws not quite as
infallible as they had seemed? In light of this “negative
evidence,” it would have been easy to conclude just that.
years later, astronomers discovered another planet, Neptune. And as
it turns out, when astronomers accounted for the mass of this newly
discovered planet, Newton’s laws predicted the orbit of Uranus
as it turned out, it wasn’t that Newton’s laws of physics
didn’t work. It was that they didn’t seem to work. And
that’s because the astronomers simply didn’t have all the
relevant information and context.
example shows very clearly why negative evidence is far from supreme.
You can dig up all sorts of facts about Joseph Smith and the Book of
Mormon, but you will never know if you really have access to all the
relevant context and perspectives. And if that is the case, why
discount the positive evidence proving that Joseph Smith was indeed a
prophet and that the Book of Mormon is truly the word of God?
could give you a list of examples a mile long of incredibly
disconcerting and persuasive arguments that have been made against
the Church since its founding but have since been invalidated by new
information. How many accounts against the Prophet turned out to be
forgeries? How many Book of Mormon animals and crops were supposedly
nonexistent before European settlement, but in recent years were
discovered to have ancient American date? Ever hear about the
Spaulding-Rigdon theory? Probably not. It used to be all the rage in
the anti-Mormon community, but it’s now joined the long list of
discredited claims against the Church.
be fair, there are certainly things about the Church and its history
that continue to defy any honest attempt to explain. But again, if we
are sincere in our quest for truth, we will be very careful about how
much weight we give negative evidences considering all the context we
are potentially missing. While no one should reject negative
evidences blindly, the sincere seeker of truth will consider the
possibility of missing context and will fairly weigh the negative
evidence against the positive evidences, not to mention the potential
for spiritual witnesses.
short, the sincere truth seeker will not take negative evidence to be
The Evidence in Favor of the Restoration Is Truly Extraordinary
Smith prophesied that he would be proven “a true prophet by
circumstantial evidence.” Now, more than ever before, the
evidence is mounting in Joseph’s favor.
I don’t care if you think that the Book of Mormon was actually
written by Oliver Cowdery or Sidney Rigdon or if you think that a 23
year old Joseph Smith was some kind of genius, you still can’t
explain away what a feat the Book of Mormon would be if it truly was
positive evidences may never “prove” that the Book of
Mormon is true, but they can provide a strong justification to
carefully and prayerfully study it.
the evidences are so incredible and I want to do them a decent
justice, I have taken them up in another article: 5 Surprising
Evidences for the Book of Mormon. However, the following is a teaser
of that longer and more detailed list of evidence:
Book of Mormon, from start to finish, is filled with ancient Hebraic
art forms. The LDS Church wasn’t even aware of this until a
missionary discovered it in the 1950s. You’ve got to see what
our forthcoming article has on this.
Book of Mormon explains a monetary system that happens to not only be
closely related to the ancient Egyptian one, but that also
constitutes the most efficient money system the world has ever known.
(This one is also pretty darn cool) Stay tuned for more details.
Book of Mormon’s seamless fit with Bible doctrines and the lack
of self-contradiction is incredible.
is difficult to imagine a fraud producing so much good.
is a very abbreviated list of the items that provide serious cause to
seriously and prayerfully study the Book of Mormon. Get more
information in the article mentioned above.
Anti-Mormon Arguments Are Like Conspiracy Theories
you poke around Netflix or YouTube, you’ll find all the
conspiracy theories your heart could ever desire. I personally think
that they’re a waste of time, but I’m also fairly
acquainted with quite a few of them because I used to work at a
hospital where a couple of employees would talk my ear off about one
conspiracy after another.
of the principal problems with government conspiracy theories is that
they assume the guilt of government from the beginning (this is also
known as circular reasoning). Since it is a “conspiracy”
theory, any information put out by the government is immediately
suspect. This means that conspiracy theories operate by poking holes
in things that government or the “main stream media” says
or does without allowing either of those sources to be used to
counter their claims.
proof or context the government provides to exonerate itself is
simply dismissed because “of course, they’d say that”
or “it’s just a government cover-up.” Most
conspiracy theorists don’t recognize the problem with this, but
imagine that you are accused of a crime and when you go to trial you
aren’t allowed to defend yourself or bring witnesses in your
defense. Your attorney isn’t even allowed to make a case on
your behalf. Why? Because you are “biased”; you’ll
do anything to disprove the charges against you, so we can’t
trust you or those who may be “conspiring” with you.
just to you? Of course not.
critics do the same thing with the Church and its members.
get to present the facts (and half-truths and outright lies) in
whatever manner they please, but when the Church releases context or
LDS scholars present alternative views, critics paint these attempts
as worthy of dismissal since they come from “biased”
sources. That makes no sense. And doing so means that they are
assuming their conclusion is true without actually caring about
proving it to be true.
anti-Mormon tactic really needs to be taken seriously because it is
used very subtly. Critics attempt to undermine the credibility of
Joseph Smith, the 11 witnesses, modern apostles etc., all so that it
seems only natural to distrust the Church as a source. But that’s
about as fair as your friend deciding that the gossip they heard
about you is all they need to know. Your side of the story wouldn’t
be worth hearing.
you want to see claims that are an awful lot like anti-Mormon
arguments, look at this list of debunked claims that the Moon landing
is really a hoax. The claims all seem to be very convincing, but when
you dig a little deeper and talk to the people who actually know
something about science, space, and NASA, you realize very quickly
that the claims don’t hold much water.
tough questions NASA might pose in its defense, such as “if the
Moon landing were really a conspiracy, how could they have kept the
secret for so long? Wouldn’t an astronaut or film crew worker
have spilled the truth by now?” are a lot like “Why did
none of the 11 witnesses ever deny their testimony of seeing the gold
plates, particularly when several of them became disaffected?”
if you are the type of person that dismisses NASA’s explanation
for why the American flag appeared to be “waving” in the
Moon landing film, then there is a whole world of conspiracy theories
that will interest you. Just Google any one of the following: the
Federal government is really being run by a shadow world
organization, the Earth is actually flat, lobster men live beneath
the crust of the earth, Obama is really an alien, President Kennedy
was really killed by the CIA, etc.
Anti-Mormon Literature Uses Deceptive Presentation Tricks
of the main reasons that anti-Mormon literature leads people from the
Church is because it artificially produces a shock and awe effect.
You see, the Church focuses on teaching the Gospel and the things
that matter, while historical items that are unimportant, unedifying,
or difficult to understand are often brushed over in the process.
Unfortunately, this provides an opportunity for the naysayers to say,
“Let me tell you something you don’t know about. Do you
know why you don’t know about it? It’s because the Church
is hiding it from you. Don’t you see? These historical facts
are incriminating, and that is why they have kept it from you.”
Suddenly, what wouldn’t have been such a big deal if you had
always known about it, is made out to be a conspiracy by Church
Church has responded to this by demonstrating that they have nothing
to hide. They have released article after article discussing the
biggest controversies, but placing them in context and providing a
faithful perspective. For example, the Church is plenty open that
Joseph was indeed a treasure hunter as a young man and that he used
superstitious practices in this pursuit. Of course, this seems less
wild when one takes into account how common this sort of thing was in
Early American culture, particularly among the uneducated and poor.
course, you’ll never get the relevant context from John Dehlin
people have to understand is that while anti-Mormon literature is
filled with many historical facts, they are often presented in a
sinister light. So, while there may be nothing sinister about what
happened, events are made to appear that way by the manner of their
example of this is the way that some anti-Mormons will surprise their
audience by revealing that Joseph Smith translated much of the Book
of Mormon through means of a seer stone, instead of mainly
translating through the urim and thummim as most members imagine.
Joseph would place the seer stone into a hat and then press his face
into it so as to block the outside light. There’s really
nothing more strange about using a seer stone to translate than
ancient spectacles, however, anti-Mormons describe the events in a
way that makes Joseph sound like a lunatic peering into a hat. They
also make it seem as though the Church is trying to keep this
information secret (it’s actually on the Church website).
capitalizing on information that the Church does not hide, but which
few members know, anti-Mormons are able to control the presentation
in a way that makes what Joseph did seem to be something that it is
these and so many other cases, it is not the force of reason that
drives people from the Church: it is the effect of emotion.
addition to manipulating information that few members know about,
anti-Mormons also talk about things that happened two hundred years
ago that are difficult to understand from a modern perspective.
Without putting ourselves in their shoes and understanding all of the
facts of the day, things that aren’t really that big of a deal
suddenly appear to be very important pieces of negative evidence.
could go on and on about deceptive presentation tricks, but I’m
going to leave it here for now.
A Spiritual Witness Is a Really Good Reason to “doubt your
real reason that I believe in Christ and in the Restored Church is
because of the spiritual experiences I have had. Human reason is
limited. Pure and simple. Whatever atheists tell you, they have to
exercise faith too. There are just so many things that are
unknowable and that is why personal revelation is so important.
Revelation bridges the gap between what Humans think they know and
the truth that only God can distill.
when you experience personal revelation confirming the existence of
God, Christ’s love for humankind, the Book of Mormon’s
veracity, and Joseph Smith’s sacred calling, it only makes
sense that this would be an overpowering piece of evidence. It may be
evidence that no one else can understand, but it is evidence, and it
is certainly logical to draw conclusions from it.
my mission, I had a crisis of faith that led me to study and pray
more fervently than ever before. I really wanted to know. And after
many weeks of effort, praying and studying for hours each day, I had
experiences that witnessed to me the truth I had been seeking.
I’m not talking about the type of feeling you get when you hear
a touching story—you can experience that with or without the
Spirit. I’m also not talking about the feeling you get when you
hear something that defies Human understanding and the hair on the
back of your neck stands up—you can experience that with or
without the Spirit.
talking about something else. And if you don’t know what that
something else is, I challenge you to discover it. Just remember that
half-hearted scripture study here and there doesn’t cut it. God
expects more from us.
You Should Consider Sharing This Article:
people than you may be aware are struggling with the flood of
information and arguments made against the Church. You used to have
to seek it out, but now it finds itself in your pocket by virtue of
social media and the internet more generally.
consider sharing the article to help someone you may know or love who
needs a little help seeing that the arguments made by the “world”
are not as convincing as they seem to be.
also got some really cool forthcoming articles that look at this
topic from a variety of different angles, including some interesting
spiritual perspectives. So, make sure to like our page and give us
your email so you get updates.