CES Letter: “I’m interested in your thoughts and answers as I have been unable to find official answers from the Church for most of these issues… Among the first sources I looked to for answers were official Church sources such as Mormon.org and LDS.org. I couldn’t find them… I desperately searched for answers to all of the problems.”
The LDS church publishes essays on their official website to explain anti-Mormons issues. CES Letter acknowledges the existence of these essays. But rather than admit official answers exist, CES Letter cherry-picks and spins the essays as “disavowals” of past church doctrine to further attack the church. Then they still pretend official responses don’t exist.
Anti-Mormons Ask In Bad Faith – I’m not saying their questions aren’t sincere. I believe they really do want answers. But the problem is how they frame their discussion, in a way that attacks any answers that do not fit their narrow view. They set a frame where polygamy could not possibly be permissible, so our answers only make them more angry.
It is tactically not smart to pivot to the defense and allow anti-Mormons to frame the issues. Why doesn’t the United States give official responses to North Korea or ISIS? It would be easy enough for the United States to fact-check the conspiracy theories that ISIS spreads, but any direct response just lends credibility to the accusations and fuels further conspiracy theories. We do not want to legitimize the anti-Mormon narrative.
The church confronts these issues within the church’s narrative, which is smart. It’s reasonable to have questions, but there is a whole lot behind the way anti-Mormons present their questions. CES Letter says they just have some “concerns and questions” about the Mormon church, but does it take 84 pages to ask a few questions? Really, they are pushing conspiracy theories and spreading dehumanizing propaganda about Mormons.
Why Should The Church Give Responses? – Why should the church give official responses to everyone? Did the ancient church in the bible ever directly address anti-Christian charges? Did Elijah sit and try to answer all the concerns from the priests of Baal? No. How did Moses deal with apostates–I mean those who aggressively opposed the gospel? He didn’t reason with them but simply expelled them. There is a fine line between sincere faith-building questions, and questions that anti-Mormons use to agitate for apostasy.
Even in the Book of Mormon, when prophets responded to hostile anti-Christians, they redirected the issue to their own frame. Korihor sought an audience with Alma in order to ask his ‘questions and concerns,’ and Alma blasted him for destroying people’s faith and boldly condemned him if he further denied what he knew deep inside was true.
Abinadi was arrested by King Noah and gave a striking example of how to speak to anti-Mormons. No apologies. No defensiveness. Alma did not allow Zeezrom to twist his words to fit a false narrative. Neither should we.
CES Letter Logical Fallacies
|Falsehood||The church does give official responses to these issues, and CES Letter even talks about some of these essays, as well as “official declarations.” Anti-Mormons may argue these responses are insufficient, but they are still official responses.||Circular Logic||CES Letter cherry-picks from the official essays to claim that the church “admits” their anti-Mormon argument is true. Even more direct answers from Fair Mormon and other “apologists” for the church are dismissed out-of-hand as “bizarre.” If you want direct answers, is it reasonable to pivot and complain that “their version of Mormonism” is “alien and foreign to the Chapel Mormonism that I grew up in”? The only way to answer direct questions is to assume the frame behind them, and the frame is what is alien to the church culture. So how is one supposed to give an acceptable answer? It’s impossible. Therefore, the lack of answers cannot be used as evidence of the arguments’ validity.||Burden Of Proof||CES Letter does not explain why their “concerns” are sufficiently valid to warrant a response. Just that they were upset about it.||Poisoning the Well||CES Letter displays unwillingness to even consider answers to their questions, as they label Fair Mormon “bizarre”.|
Dominant Posturing – Why start off a lengthy anti-Mormon pamphlet by complaining about the lack of official answers? This immediately shifts the burden on the church and Mormons (“unofficial apologists”) to answer every single anti-Mormon claim thrown at them. It is like a bully taunting a kid at school. “You are too scared to even answer me!” Then any kind of answer results in double the hostility.
Why is the church obligated to give official answers to CES Letter’s charges? Right away, it’s like CES Letter is the prosecutor and the church is the defense in a court room, which is unfair. Let’s talk about the validity of CES Letter’s beliefs. Why don’t they ever talk about what they believe in, or what alternative they would propose to “troubling” church doctrine? What do they believe in? They disarm the church from talking about any of their beliefs, while the church is forced to dodge all kinds of bullets. It’s a one-sided gun fight.
By framing the church as obligated to give answers, CES Letter’s right away damages the faith of their readers. Right away we ask, why would an all-powerful God create such an imperfect church, a church that can’t even answer a few questions? It reminds me of some Americans who lost faith in the United States immediately after September 11th. Why couldn’t the government keep them safe? Then the conspiracy theories crept in, and demands for overbearing state surveillance, reading our emails and listening to our phone calls.
The church is a convenient vehicle for poking holes in people’s testimonies, because the church is made up of people, and people are very imperfect.
Authoritarianism – CES Letter rarely presents an alternative reality or explanation for Mormon principles, but we can discern what they believe in from their arguments themselves. This opening line from CES Letter reminds me of multiple apostates and anti-Christs in the scriptures who complain that prophets are unsatisfactory in giving us truth.
“The Lord maketh no such thing known.”
“To the unknown God.”
They want us to feel abandoned by the church and by God. When Satan first tempted Adam, he brilliantly showed a glaring omission in God’s commandments, and contradiction, which made Adam feel abandoned. Adam was not given official answers to his questions. But still he held strong. He took self-responsibility to find answers for himself, and he patiently endured until answers came.
The narrative in CES Letter shows symptoms of an authoritarian personality. They demand strong leadership to answer every little question explicitly and to take care of everybody with a quickly watchful eye and strong hand. The narrative furthermore divides those that do not fall in line with their beliefs into a negative category.
I do not recall ever as a missionary ridiculing people for not giving official answers to every issue. When a Catholic answered the door, I did not demand to see the Catholic church’s official statement on families in the afterlife. “Why hasn’t the Catholic church officially explained the obvious immorality of selling indulgences?” I never spoke these words as a missionary, because I do not believe in tearing down people’s faith. Only building faith. God never tried to poke holes in Satan’s narrative when he spoke to Adam, did he? Or demanded official explanations for issues with Satan’s Plan?
That is because it is exclusively Satan’s tactic to demand official answers be given for every little concern. That is Satan’s ideology. God’s way is to find answers yourself through rigorous study, faithful endurance, pondering, and praying.