The word "apologist" is often seen by members who are just learning about the issues found on MormonThink. An immediate response from many of them is that it is a word with negative connotations—that people are apologizing for the Church. However, the word apologist simply means "one who speaks or writes in defense of someone or something" ("apologist," Merriam-Webster online dictionary). When the word is used in religious settings the term "apologetics" is often used which "…is the discipline of defending a position (often religious) through the systematic use of information." ("Apologetics," Wikipedia.)
Apologists are found in all religions and they are proud to defend their beliefs against the skeptic and critic. One goal of most LDS apologists is to keep questioning members from being swayed by reasoned information that may shake a member's faith. The LDS Church is very selective about the information it shares with its members—anything that is not faith-promoting is deemed "anti-Mormon," which immediately shuts down questioning from members. Since the Church tends not to talk about such issues at all apologists attempt to defend the Church.
Apologists trying to help members maintain their faith have a fine line to walk because they must reveal many things that the Church is not open about and are not known by their general membership. Because of this, many members who are questioning the Church will come across an apologetics site and learn additional things about the Church they had no idea existed. This can lead to more questions and a greater crisis of faith.
One of the mainstream apologetics sites for Mormonism that devout members stumble across or seek out is FairMormon (usually referred to as FAIR). MormonThink often takes issue with the way FAIR presents its information.
The following 18 minute video by FlackerMan analyzes methods used by some Mormon apologists who try to devalue claims made by those questioning the LDS religion or expressing doubts. FlackerMan analyzes a presentation that Scott Gordon (president of FAIR) gave at Utah Valley University in 2012. Gordon presents two lists of references that he claims proves the Church is being open and honest about Joseph Smith's polygamy and the translation method of the Book of Mormon. Do these lists show what Gordon claims, or are they simply obfuscation?
YouTube Video of a FAIR Presentation Tactics of a Mormon Apologist
For any topic throughout this website, if information MormonThink provides is insufficient, you can go to FAIR and use the ask the apologist feature and get their answers. We would like to challenge FAIR to provide a link to MormonThink so FAIR's readers can "Ask MormonThink" if the responses at FAIR seem unsatisfactory. (MormonThink finds it odd that even though we disagree with the interpretation FAIR often presents, to allow the seeker for truth to make their own informed choices based on both sides of the issue, we have provided over 400 links to apologetics sites, including over 130 to FAIR, yet we have not found a single link from FAIR to MormonThink.)
It is MormonThink's contention that although it is helpful for many members to come to some possible explanations about how to interpret the historical record or understand what might be a possible interpretation of doctrine by reading apologists' information, it ultimately falls to the prophets of the Church (who actually have the mandate to do so) to clarify misconceptions that may lead people astray from Christ and His Church. (see the section below about Prophets, Seers and Revelators)
The word critic comes from Greek kritikós, meaning able to discern, which is a Greek derivation of the word krités, meaning a person who offers reasoned judgment or analysis, value judgment, interpretation or observation. ("Critic," Wikipedia.) Critics play a valued role in society by requiring individuals and groups to be more open and honest than they might otherwise be if the critics weren't analyzing the claims put forth by those individuals and groups.
The critical position MormonThink uses in analyzing and interpreting Mormonism and its history stems from logical reasoning of the Church's own documented evidence, as well as other historical evidence. MormonThink also tends to apply the principle of Occam's Razor, which states that
entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily which is interpreted as requiring that the simplest of competing theories be preferred to the more complex
"Occam's Razor" Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2015.
(Please visit our page covering more information about Occam's razor).
Besides applying Occam's razor, MormonThink analyzes and critiques Mormonism based on empirical evidence and does not rely on the supernatural. (Please visit our page about the supernatural.).
This is interesting in comparison to most religious apologetics. Most apologists attempt to use logic and empirical evidence at first, until following the logic or evidence to it's natural conclusion ends up refuting or disagreeing with the position that is most favorable to the Church. At that point, they appeal to the supernatural, saying that it really doesn't matter what logic and empirical evidence say because a testimony trumps everything.
It is MormonThink's position that everything within Mormonism can be explained using logic and empirical evidence without relying on the supernatural, and we will always privilege this point of view over an appeal to the supernatural.
Because of the important role and responsibilities of a prophet, we present the following from the LDS Church's website:
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are blessed to be led by living prophets—inspired men called to speak for the Lord, as did Moses, Isaiah, Peter, Paul, Nephi, Mormon, and other prophets of the scriptures. We sustain the President of the Church as prophet, seer, and revelator—the only person on the earth who receives revelation to guide the entire Church. We also sustain the counselors in the First Presidency and the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators.
Like the prophets of old, prophets today testify of Jesus Christ and teach His gospel. They make known God's will and true character. They speak boldly and clearly, denouncing sin and warning of its consequences. At times, they may be inspired to prophesy of future events for our benefit.
We can always trust the living prophets. Their teachings reflect the will of the Lord, who declared: “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38).
Our greatest safety lies in strictly following the word of the Lord given through His prophets, particularly the current President of the Church. The Lord warns that those who ignore the words of the living prophets will fall (see D&C 1:14-16). He promises great blessings to those who follow the President of the Church:“Thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith. For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name's glory” (D&C 21:4-6).
"Prophets," Gospel Topics on the LDS website (emphasis added).
One of the hallmarks of Mormonism is their teaching that they have authority and revelation from God Himself:
A prophet is a person who has been called by God to speak for Him. Prophets…help us avoid deception…because they receive authority and revelation from God.
"Doctrinal Topics, Doctrinal Mastery Core Document, 2016" from the LDS website (emphasis added).
When a prophet speaks for God, it is as if God were speaking (see D&C 1:38). …A prophet teaches truth and interprets the word of God. He calls the unrighteous to repentance. He receives revelations and directions from the Lord for our benefit.
"Chapter 9: Prophets of God," Gospel Principles, (2011).
As can be seen in the two quotes above, prophets should speak boldly and clearly those things that will help us avoid deception. Many things on MormonThink have not been clarified by the prophets of the Church. Because these things are not clear, people are apparently being deceived and falling away. It is mandated by the Church itself that prophets help the deceived, not apologists. MormonThink strongly urges the prophets to fulfill their calling.