Why anti-Mormon lit doesn’t persuade me

For those who are not already aware, a brief personal narrative: I am a convert of a little over eight years. I joined the Church when I was a freshman in college. My parents are devout Protestants and are deeply involved in their own church and spiritual lives (my mom teaches Sunday School, dad serves on various committees, and both sing in the choir). To put it mildly, they were shocked and hurt when I told them that I had decided to join the Church. Granted, my technique could have used some refining but the short story is that our relationship was damaged for a couple of years and is only recently recovering.

During the early days of my conversion, my parents acquired an impressive library of anti-Mormon literature (if “impressive” is ever an adjective that such a collection deserves), some of which they shared with me. I am not talking about anti-Mormon in the sense of Fawn Brodie or Dan Vogel, but the really nasty stuff, like the God Makers (book not video). So needless to say, I have seen quite a lot of it in my time. I feel like I am pretty familiar with the standard arguments (polygamy, horses and steel in the BOM, etc.). Yet, I have retained my testimony and remain an active member of the Church. I would not dare to attribute this to any special gift of my own. Since people periodically ask me how I kept my testimony throughout this period in my life, I would say the following:

It just never felt good. I know that if any anti-Mormon were to read this right now, they would say, “Oh, there goes the Mormon again, relying on his wishy-washy feelings.” But seriously. I think Richard Bushman has made this kind of defense a little more legitimate in his public affirmations of a continuing faith in the Restoration. For me, the truths I was acquiring those early months as a member of the Church felt and tasted good. It was not just the social life; I have never had much of one, either before or after. I recognized that the authors of this literature had all of the objectivity and good intentions of those who wrote Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Their tactics seemed to be: 1) exaggerate, 2) take things out of context, and failing the success of 1 or 2, 3) lie and invent things out of whole cloth. I knew Mormons and I knew that the things they were accused of believing, they simply did not. The fact that people would make money off of wrecking the faith of others also seemed a little dirty in my mind, only a small step up from the pornographers. Also, over the past years, learning more about early Christian history and scripture (not solely from an LDS viewpoint), I realized how reluctant the critics were to recognize their own weaknesses. Given the vitriol that they poured out and the fact that “that which proceedeth from the mouth of a man defileth him”, I never could see God in anything they were saying. I never made a reasoned defense against each of their claims (like your average evangelical Christian anti-Mormon has any claim on an appeal to pure rationality- “Hey Kettle, you’re black”- thanks to Bushman again for this argument); but their arguments and accusations never hit me with the kind of force where my mind and spirit demanded that a full defense be made.

From time to time, I still run across some anti-Mormon lit, while searching the Internet or browsing through the stacks in the library. The predominant emotion that it inspires in me now is amusement, albeit the kind of amusement (with a bit of sick fascination, pity, exasperation, and a smidge of anger rolled in) that I feel when I watch Fox News or watch evangelical Christians stomp all over each other in a rush to condemn Harry Potter, the Golden Compass, or the Da Vinci Code.

* Let it be known that I don’t intend this to be an ad hominem attack on anti-Mormons (either individually or collectively). I think that Latter-day Saints do themselves a disservice when they dismiss the accusations of anti-Mormons (especially ex-Mormons) because “they just wanted to be wicked” or “they got offended at Church because somebody called them to repentance.” Though I am sure that in some instances, this may indeed be the case, I am convinced that on the whole it does not do anything to address their claims. Some of them may have a genuine grievance with the Church and have chosen to express it and act out in an inappropriate way. Others may be completely ignorant of the Church and are just repeating what they have been told in the past.
** I also want it to be clear that I don’t reject anti-Mormon literature simply because the Church and its people are perfect and therefore immune to criticism. I think that my own posts here and comments elsewhere prove that I do not believe that. However, I do not think that the typical anti-Mormon arguments address any valid substantive criticism that could be made against the Church, in any way that would make the lives of the members of the Church or non-members any better because of it.

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4 thoughts on “Why anti-Mormon lit doesn’t persuade me

  1. Hey bro, I really liked your post. I’ve seen a great deal of anti stuff in my time and whenever I read it, I had a sick, empty feeling inside. I’ve felt the Spirit before and that Spirit has given me confirmation time and time again of what is true. I have never once felt the Spirit while reading anti-Mormon literature, and that’s all I need to know about the message those writers are presenting.One thing that has always amused me is that so many people who hate the Church want me to prove to them that the Church is true, as if the burden of proof lies with me. I am content to wager whatever afterlife exists that I made the correct choice for myself and I respect their right to provide for their own eternal future. But at the end of the day, I don’t feel I owe anyone else one damn thing when my salvation is in question. That responsibility is mine alone.~Justin

  2. Well said Justin. I am an LDS member with family members falling by the wayside almost daily, due to stupid anit-mormon “proof”. What keeps me going is my deep testimony that God lives, Jesus is the Christ, and of the Restoration, just as you mentioned above. Thank you for your enriching words. The Holy Ghost is a teacher of truth and we must remember that there is opposition in all things, and that in order to truly have choice, there must be enticement from both sides, just as it was for Adam and Eve in the garden. Heavenly Father is refining us by requiring faith in order to progress. If we cannot have faith, no miracles will happen, since it is after we prove our faith that the miracles come about. I have seen marvelous things, but those don’t alone convert. Thank you once again for your comments. I served my mission in North Carolina and spent some time in Durham, so I am familiar with the territory and the faith required by members to stand up for the truth. Sincerely,Brady TewFeel free to drop me a line at bradytew@gmail.com

  3. Hey i liked the post! I’ve been through loads of anti-mormon internet sites and such and so far i haven’t found anything that disproves the church at all, on the contrary, its quite the opposite. I definitely get a sick feeling every time i read any of that anti-mormon stuff as well! Im just writing this to hopefully assist anyone out there who might be enduring a test of faith in their life that none of the critics attacks have proved anything yet and if the church is false, then I’m content with standing before god one day and being condemned for trying to actually live the gospel principles and a righeous life.Jordan

  4. I really do not mind people criticizing the Mormon church. I am a fifth generation Mormon and believe that there are things in our history and our doctrines that can be misunderstood, false, wrong or we just do not have the full story. Here is what I do not like. Nobody ever holds Protestants to the same standards. What about the burning witches, slavery, the Klan, all the imperialistic wars, the killing of Native Americans and Mormons, the brothels, the wild west, the secret Masonic rituals, poor working conditions and lack of helping the poor, and the persecution of Catholics?

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