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Can LDS Apologists Be Kind?


David Bokovoy

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Listening to Daniel Peterson's FAIR conference on the topic of "Humble Apologetics," I was deeply touched by his remarks and found myself in full agreement with his sentiments. The Mormon Times summary can be found here:

Humble Apologetics

When it comes to online exchanges on religious topics, I'm not about to present myself as a true "Saint" in all aspects of the word, but I personally believe that when LDS apologists move into attack mode that we drive more people away from Christ and the Church than we cause people to stay. Moreover, I would also suggest that when LDS posters do get angry and make disparaging remarks about others, that we do so not out of righteous indignation that someone is attacking our religious beliefs, but instead out of pride. Pride that someone does not agree with our view.

We're all guilty of this, myself included. We would do well to remember Dan's observation as quoted in the article:

"We will not argue people into the church," he said. "They will not come into the church ... because of our eloquence or the evidence that we can amass in something."

If this is true, and I believe that it is, why do we argue? Why do we call others apostates, etc. and attempt to tear them down? Can apologetics be kind?

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We cannnot argue people into the Church but we can argue people out of it. Contention, condescension, self-righteousness, and defensiveness are all manifestations of pride. Pride breeds enmity just as love begets love and prideful communication whether in apologia or elsewhere has the opposite effect of charity. Instead of drawing others to us, it pushes them away.

How we speak is just as important, if not more, than what we say.

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If this is true, and I believe that it is, why do we argue? Why do we call others apostates, etc. and attempt to tear them down? Can apologetics be kind?

I don't know, I have found myself wondering this very thing over the past 3 months.

I think apologetics can be kind. I think some on this board are great examples of it and we would all do well to follow them. 2 off the top of my heard are Mercy and Grace, and Blue Bell.

For me, my main issue is that I use a heavy dose of sarcasm in my posting style. I think that is part of my problem and I probably ought to take some things more serious than I do and I probably ought to take other things not so serious.

Another thing is that I think people need to recognize they have a problem, then they are better apt to deal with and fix their own issues. I hope to over come my own problems.

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I don't know, I have found myself wondering this very thing over the past 3 months.

I think apologetics can be kind. I think some on this board are great examples of it and we would all do well to follow them. 2 off the top of my heard are Mercy and Grace, and Blue Bell.

For me, my main issue is that I use a heavy dose of sarcasm in my posting style. I think that is part of my problem and I probably ought to take some things more serious than I do and I probably ought to take other things not so serious.

Another thing is that I think people need to recognize they have a problem, then they are better apt to deal with and fix their own issues. I hope to over come my own problems.

As one has on occasion disagreed with you, Mola, I still very much consider you a good online friend and have frequently enjoyed your playful sarcasm. Heck, Bill Hamblin is one of my favorite people in the world, so I do appreciate a sardonic sense of humor.

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We cannnot argue people into the Church but we can argue people out of it. Contention, condescension, self-righteousness, and defensiveness are all manifestations of pride. Pride breeds enmity just as love begets love and prideful communication whether in apologia or elsewhere has the opposite effect of charity. Instead of drawing others to us, it pushes them away.

How we speak is just as important, if not more, than what we say.

I like this post, mercyngrace. I took enjoyed Dr. Peterson's presentation last August.

It definitely takes a "look, I'm going to be wrong sometimes and that doesn't mean the Church is false" persona sometimes. We really ought to drop all pretenses to "contention, condescension, self-righteousness (key in my view), and defensiveness" if we hope to establish a beautiful, thoughtful atmosphere in which to discuss inter-faith (or non-faith) concepts and ideas.

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We deal with touchy subjects and implications of our conclusions are offensive. When a critic implies I'm delusional, irrational, kooky, a coward, or what have you, I want to respond in kind.

When a believer starts to imply that a critic is motivated by Satan, evil, disingenuous, sinful, lazy, unintelligent, apostate, etc... I'm sure it wears on them.

The fact is we deal in a battle of who's smarter than who, and it's easy to make someone appear foolish by getting personal. If you can get personal without making it obvious? Big words, references to poetry, or whatever, then that scores you even more points.

I don't consider myself an apologist, because I don't feel capable of defending some of my beliefs (let alone over the internet. I'd much rather meet the guy, see his face, know his family, and try to understand him before engaging in discussion of some of the more sacred things in life, such as my testimony)

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Another thought:

There *are* disingenuous critics who do try to lay traps, make Mormons appear foolish, and masquerade about as something other than what they are. It doesn't take too many of these before a guy can get really gun-shy.

There *are* judgmental and myopic believers who are ready to label anyone who steps out of line, as they see it, as well on the road to apostasy. It doesn't take too many of these before a critic can feel that the rest of us are just as kooky.

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Listening to Daniel Peterson's FAIR conference on the topic of "Humble Apologetics," I was deeply touched by his remarks and found myself in full agreement with his sentiments. The Mormon Times summary can be found here:

Humble Apologetics

I've been thinking a lot about humility's role in relationships, learning, and innovation. This is from a forthcoming article in the North Texas Daily:

Despite traditional views, creatio ex nihilo ("creation out of nothing") is nowhere to be found in the Hebrew Bible. This was instead a development of the second-century CE. The God of Genesis brought forth a habitable world out of a formless, watery deep following a incubation period. The Psalms contain scattered references to Yahweh's triumph over the dragon of chaos, thus bringing order to the cosmos. Furthermore, the Hebrew God did not act alone, but instead counseled with His divine assembly, "Let us make man in our image" (Gen. 1:26). It was only after these important stages that the new creation was deemed "good."

Similarly, good ideas do not randomly burst on to the stages of our minds. They instead take the form of what science writer Steven Johnson calls the "slow hunch." These hunches steadily inch along, growing and progressing with both time and nourishment. More often than not, unions with other hunches bring about a grander, more complete idea worthy of the label "good." The modern increase in social connectivity has created a global network for ideas to combine in a creative flurry. In a world where no one person possesses even one percent of all available knowledge, the public support should be behind an interconnected, Hayekian model of society. As Johnson says, "Chance favors the connected mind."

Though there are obvious economic and political implications in embracing an innovative culture, I find the most important implication to be ethical in nature. I'm always slightly uncomfortable with the use of the adjective "open-minded." The term has become an irredeemable, self-aggrandizing cliché due to its abuse by persons unfit for its description. Too often, it is exploited by those who tend to think that disagreement is akin to close-mindedness. Even worse are those who confuse being ignorant or lacking moral commitment with being open.

Humility is the true prerequisite for an innovative mind because it makes one teachable. Innovation is about sharing: the sharing of ideas, criticisms, and experience. If our slow hunches are to move forward, we must be less worried about appearing "open-minded" on the surface and more focused on humbling ourselves. William Hamblin, an historian of the Middle East and ancient religions, understands this well: "In the nearly forty years I have spent studying ancient history and religion, one of the most important truths I've discovered is this: I know fewer answers today than I "knew" when I started studying four decades ago...Ontologically, I believe there is absolute truth. But epistemologically, I believe that truth about the human past cannot be absolutely understood by humans…This is not because of the relative nature of truth, but because of the limited nature of the surviving evidence from the past, and the imperfect nature of human reason, knowledge, and understanding. In the tension between intellectual hubris and humility, I think most of us could use a healthy dose of the latter."

If pride comes before the fall, imagine what follows a little intellectual humility.

See:

Steven Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation (Riverhead Books, 2010).

William J. Hamblin, "An Enigmatic Mirror: An Introduction," Patheos (Dec. 26, 2010).

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Humility is the true prerequisite for an innovative mind because it makes one teachable. Innovation is about sharing: the sharing of ideas, criticisms, and experience. If our slow hunches are to move forward, we must be less worried about appearing "open-minded" on the surface and more focused on humbling ourselves. William Hamblin, an historian of the Middle East and ancient religions, understands this well: "In the nearly forty years I have spent studying ancient history and religion, one of the most important truths I've discovered is this: I know fewer answers today than I "knew" when I started studying four decades ago...Ontologically, I believe there is absolute truth. But epistemologically, I believe that truth about the human past cannot be absolutely understood by humans…This is not because of the relative nature of truth, but because of the limited nature of the surviving evidence from the past, and the imperfect nature of human reason, knowledge, and understanding. In the tension between intellectual hubris and humility, I think most of us could use a healthy dose of the latter."

The really crazy thing? The less you know, the more you think you know!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect

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Another thought:

There *are* disingenuous critics who do try to lay traps, make Mormons appear foolish, and masquerade about as something other than what they are. It doesn't take too many of these before a guy can get really gun-shy.

There *are* judgmental and myopic believers who are ready to label anyone who steps out of line, as they see it, as well on the road to apostasy. It doesn't take too many of these before a critic can feel that the rest of us are just as kooky.

There is reason to see that either side approves of the bad apples. A group that does not correct the bad apples, is a group that approves of the bad apples. I particularly agree with you second statement Mars, all too often if someone claims LDS Membership and does not wear TBM on their arm, then that person is labeled as someone unworthy, it is really a terrible shame how much mindless well poisoning via labels occurs.

On a separate note, I was sent a mass email about supporting a particular LDS person in politics, I mass emailed everyone back and expressed my disapproval of this political candidate, someone responded and told me I was not better than anti-mormon because I did not support this particular LDS political figure and because I spoke out against this figure.

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I don't know, I have found myself wondering this very thing over the past 3 months.

I think apologetics can be kind. I think some on this board are great examples of it and we would all do well to follow them. 2 off the top of my heard are Mercy and Grace, and Blue Bell.

Thanks for the compliment, Mola. FWIW, I've never found you disagreeable and your humor always comes off just as intended to me. Even when we've taken opposing positions, I've always felt you were respectful and kind.

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I've been thinking a lot about humility's role in relationships, learning, and innovation. This is from a forthcoming article in the North Texas Daily:

Your bit about open-mindedness and disagreement reminds me of an old Israeli comedy skit by Shaike Ophir and Uri Zohar. Two friends are discussing a play. -What did you think of it? -(a little cautiosly) I think that the lead actress was a little too melodramatic. -I don't think that at all. -Oh, of course not, I didn't mean that. -What did you think of the dialogue? -It was great. -I thought it was a little cliched. -Of course, of course, that is what I meant. -Why do you keep changing your views to match mine? You should stick up for what you think! Share your honest opinion and then we could have a good conversation. -Alright, I think that the play was fantastic, the casting superb, and the dialogue witty. -I have absolutely nothing to talk about with someone who could like that drek.

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There is reason to see that either side approves of the bad apples. A group that does not correct the bad apples, is a group that approves of the bad apples. I particularly agree with you second statement Mars, all too often if someone claims LDS Membership and does not wear TBM on their arm, then that person is labeled as someone unworthy, it is really a terrible shame how much mindless well poisoning via labels occurs.

On a separate note, I was sent a mass email about supporting a particular LDS person in politics, I mass emailed everyone back and expressed my disapproval of this political candidate, someone responded and told me I was not better than anti-mormon because I did not support this particular LDS political figure and because I spoke out against this figure.

You did the right thing.

For my part, I hesitate to go correcting a believer who's over the top here on an internet forum. I don't want to be a board nanny, and I'm certainly not a mod. In almost all cases I don't even know the context well enough to judge if someone truly is out of line.

Edit to add:

I did say that it made me sick to see the "witch hunting" as I saw it. It was actually a few years ago. I don't know if I can find it since we've moved boards a few times.

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Your bit about open-mindedness and disagreement reminds me of an old Israeli comedy skit by Shaike Ophir and Uri Zohar. Two friends are discussing a play. -What did you think of it? -(a little cautiosly) I think that the lead actress was a little too melodramatic. -I don't think that at all. -Oh, of course not, I didn't mean that. -What did you think of the dialogue? -It was great. -I thought it was a little cliched. -Of course, of course, that is what I meant. -Why do you keep changing your views to match mine? You should stick up for what you think! Share your honest opinion and then we could have a good conversation. -Alright, I think that the play was fantastic, the casting superb, and the dialogue witty. -I have absolutely nothing to talk about with someone who could like that drek.

Nice!

It is tiresome to see the label "open-minded" thrown around so much. You have scientistic thinkers who describe themselves as "open-minded" compared to their stupid religious peers. Or you have Intelligent Design advocates claiming "open-mindedness" compared to the dogmatic Darwinists. It just gets old and it is self-serving.

I'd rather see "open-mindedness" displayed in the humble content of one's character than take someone's word for it.

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Me too.

Except when you thought my avatar was William Shatner . . .

Oh boy, you don't need to bring that up. (I am embarassed again.)

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See Brant Gardner's quote in my sig line.

I'd much rather you applaud my genius for being aware of a psychological study that supported your claims... :)

Except when you thought my avatar was William Shatner . . .

As I look at the mint condition collectors edition of the Original Series' Pez Dispenser (Uhura, Chekov, Bones, Kirk, Spock, Scotty, and Sulu), as well as a brilliant black and white still of all them on the bridge of the Enterprise, both of which are right next to photo of my family here in my office at work, I'm actually offended that you were offended.

Kirk > Eastwood, Phaser > Six-shooter, and Sci-fi >>>>> Old West

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Nice!

It is tiresome to see the label "open-minded" thrown around so much. You have scientistic thinkers who describe themselves as "open-minded" compared to their stupid religious peers. Or you have Intelligent Design advocates claiming "open-mindedness" compared to the dogmatic Darwinists. It just gets old and it is self-serving.

I'd rather see "open-mindedness" displayed in the humble content of one's character than take someone's word for it.

Is that not the truth.

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As one has on occasion disagreed with you, Mola, I still very much consider you a good online friend and have frequently enjoyed your playful sarcasm. Heck, Bill Hamblin is one of my favorite people in the world, so I do appreciate a sardonic sense of humor.

Nanu

Thanks for the compliment, Mola. FWIW, I've never found you disagreeable and your humor always comes off just as intended to me. Even when we've taken opposing positions, I've always felt you were respectful and kind.

Nanu

Thanks guys. Now if we could ever get over for some of Famous David's ribs (not to be confused with Famous Dave's).......

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