8 Diversions That Help Foster a Stupor of Thought
A blogger by the name of Jeremy, whose writings can be found on the My Life Gogo Goff blog recently wrote a post that provides members of the Mormon Church with analysis of eight tactics that he says Satan uses to ‘attack the Latter-day Saints’.
Setting aside the problem with ascribing these tactics to a made-up being, let’s take a closer look at these so-called tactics.
1. Half Truths
This is basically equivalent to partisan hacks (no matter what the political affiliation) yelling ‘FAKE NEWS’ every single time something is reported that does not support their position without addressing the substance of the material being reported. Jeremy takes five paragraphs to tell us how cunning and conniving this Satan character is without even giving an example of one of these supposed ‘half-truths’.
Maybe if he would have pointed to the idea that Mormons ‘get their own planet’ and then explained that they actually get as many planets as they wish to have (as one example), I would be more sympathetic. As it stands, all I hear is ‘if something makes you feel uncomfortable it is probably one of Stan’s half-truths’.
2. Irrelevant Appeals
Let us give Jeremy some credit here as he does at least give an example of what he calls ‘irrelevant appeals’. Not too much credit though as he has succumbed to the same tactic he has warned us against in point #1. His example is that in response to claims that the Book of Mormon is ‘true’ (whatever that means) Satan will whisper ever so softly in your ear that Joseph used a seer stone in a hat to translate it and then you will start to not believe in the book.
On one hand I kind of agree, 99.8% of the world would dismiss the Book of Mormon as having any spiritual value as soon as they hear the method by which it was supposedly brought forth. But most the people who point to the seer stone as being a chink in the Mormon Church’s armor do so for a much more detailed reason.
It is not that Joseph Smith claimed to translate ancient gold plates by placing a so-called seer stone in a hat and then placing his head in the hat to read the words off this early version of the Amazon Kindle. The biggest problem lies in where this seer stone came from and how the Mormon Church has tried to minimize, and even hide, its existence for the better part of the last 170+ years. The seer stone that Joseph used was originally found by him as a young man while digging a well. He went on to use this same stone to swindle people out of their hard-earned money with claims of being able to find hidden treasures on their property. Instead of embracing the rich history of the stone, the leaders of the Mormon Church made a conscience effort to erase it from the narrative, something they were very successful at doing. The rare occasion that the stone was discussed, it was done in such a brief and dismissing manner that most people barely recall ever having even heard of it.
Recently, the church did ‘come clean’ in regards to the history of the stone but for many, this was too little, too late.
3. Argumentum Ad Hominem (Personal Attacks)
Ok, this one made me cringe. Jeremy is going to need to hit the books because it is very apparent that he does not understand what ad hominem is. Let me try and illustrate it for him.
Jeremy is a fool because he believes that three angels appeared to Joseph Smith and threatened to kill him if he did not have sex behind his wife’s back.
Jeremy is a fool, therefore there is no way that three angels appeared to Joseph Smith and threatened to kill him if he did not have sex behind his wife’s back.
One of these statements is ad hominem, the other isn’t.
Jeremy seems to think that pointing to Joseph Smith’s words and actions are not a valid way to assess the question of him being a prophet. Not only is this not an example of ad hominem, but Jeremy appears to be arguing against one of his Church’s favorite thought stopping clichés, ‘By their fruits ye shall know them’.
Joseph’s actions are, in fact, the evidence against calling him a prophet of God.
4. Argumentum Ad Lapidem (Appeals to the Stone)
This point is so absurd I don’t even know what to say.
5. Argumentum Ad Verecundiam (Appeals to Authority)
Again, Jeremy finds himself with a very basic understanding of what the logical fallacy is and it is almost cringeworthy in light of the blind deference to authority on display every single Sunday in the Mormon Church. He also falls again into his trap of telling half-truths.
It is true that one should not just take the word of Egyptologists in regards to their assessment of the translation of the Book of Abraham. But it is not necessary to just take their word for it. The Church and just about every single Mormon Apologist recognizes that the translation does not match. Additionally, one could go through the steps needed to gain enough of their own understanding of Egyptian to make an assessment of their own.
You cannot claim that the position posited by every single Egyptologist is an erroneous appeal to authority without giving at least some evidence to counter the position. This would be like saying we should dismiss the theory of gravity because some scientist told us about it.
The assertion that we do not have enough of the papyri to make a proper evaluation is flat out false. It isn’t even a half-truth, it is a full lie. We have the facsimiles and we have Joseph’s note book where he had written Egyptian characters with his translation next to them (spoiler, they don’t match).
Jeremy would be better served to adopt Richard Bushman’s theory that the papyri was simply a catalyst and that Joseph was not actually translating what was written on them.
6. False Dilemma
I agree. Any critic who says there are only two options is engaging in a logical fallacy and they should be called out in it. Good job! You got one right!
7. Argumentum Ad Populum (Appeals to the People)
Yeah, we all left the church because it was the cool thing to do. Kind of like how all those smart people that are Mormons so it can’t be a scam…
A specific example would be nice. Without one, I have no idea what Jeremy is trying to say here.
8. Hasty Generalizations
Ahhh, the old ‘they were offended’ line. It is true that there are people out there that have stopped going to the Mormon Church because of some unpleasant interaction, but these people are so few and far between that Jeremy would be wise to not be so hasty in his generalizations.
The truth is that most former Mormons were offended. Just not by a Bishop. They were offended by Joseph Smith’s sexual indiscretions, Brigham Young’s abhorrent racism and Tommy Monson’s contempt for the children of same sex couples (just to give a few examples).
My message to Jeremy all the Mormons out there who think he nailed it is a simple one: Get out more. If you actually want to write a blog that begins to have the appearance of understanding the critics, go spend some time with the critics. Go to lunch with a former Mormon and just listen. Don’t try and respond. Just listen to what they have to say and go home and think about it. Visit the fine folks at r/exmormon and read their stories. Engage them and ask for clarification if needed. Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself if your post really address the issues.
Remember, all of us have been in your shoes. We know exactly what it is like to have a testimony and as a result we actually like most of our Mormon neighbors and friends. You are not bad people. You are wrong, but not bad. Our problems are with the church, with the leadership. Walk a day in our shoes and maybe you will understand why blogs like yours do nothing to prevent people from leaving.
Ryan McKnight has a Master’s Degree in Accounting from UNLV. He is a regulatory auditor for the government, an Adjunct Professor at the local Community College and the founder of MormonLeaks.io.