Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Mental Gymnastics.  The way we twist ideas and experiences to conform to our preconceived views of the world.  In my opinion, that's what Mormon Apologists engage in to arrive at the conclusions they derive.  Skewed logic.  These types of mind games are precisely why I cringe every time I read any types of comments from the LDS FAIR website (Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research) as well as the BYU FARMS (Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies) which is now under the auspices of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at BYU.

While looking at some blogs that I follow today, I came across a blog post on "Not Very Useful Truths" about Apologists, and in particular an Apologist named Michael Ash.  According to this blog post, Michael Ash had written a comment on the blog of a man named Stephen Bloor (a podiatrist) who resigned as a Bishop in a Mormon Ward in the UK earlier this year due to historical and doctrinal issues.  The blog contained the resignation letter that Dr. Bloor had written to his Stake President, resigning from the church.

In reading Michael Ash's comments, I was struck by the way in which he tries to diminish Steve Bloor's findings and opinions.  This is a common tactic for Apologists, apparently feeling that if they can discredit the questioning person's opinions, and make them feel small and stupid for their feelings, then the Apologist can somehow appear bigger, more important, more intelligent, and definitely more righteous.  This, of course, is a common tactic within Mormonism itself.  If a person doesn't understand something or doesn't believe it, then it is their own fault and not the fault of the Mormon Church itself.  They are missing something because they aren't righteous enough.  Very demeaning.

The letter to which Michael Ash was responding had apparently been posted by Steve Bloor on a blog, but unfortunately that post on Steve Bloor's blog is now "protected," and as such is not available to the general public on his blog.  However, his letter is still available in a thread on at this link.  What he wrote in that letter is very poignant, and I can relate deeply and entirely to everything he says in it, mainly because all of what he wrote could have been written by me.

Here is the response by Michael Ash(Please note that I have added some of my own comments in bolded italics below).
I’m not one to publish frequently on blogs or message boards.  Quite frankly, life is too short, I have too many irons in the fire, and I have precious little time to work on projects that I feel are more worthwhile than arguing with others.  Having said this, however, I feel the need to comment on a few things discussed herein.  More worthwhile than arguing with others?  Why term it like that?  How about exchanging ideas with the purpose of arriving at a logical conclusion?  But then when a person believes he's always right regardless of any evidence to the contrary, there is usually no real exchange of ideas but rather an onslaught of overbearing rhetoric.

Steve, I honestly hope that you find happiness in your own personal spiritual quest.  In the end, each of us has to decide for ourselves what brings us true happiness.   Oh, so true.

I can imagine (with a touch of anecdotal recollection of my own) the emotional turmoil you must have gone through.  The phrase “cognitive dissonance” [CD] is thrown about loosely in discussions about LDS issues, but true CD is very hard on the emotions and mind, and can make you physically ill.  You cannot endure CD for long and your mind/body seeks a quick resolution.  Some people find resolution by brushing difficult issues aside, others by embracing the new difficulties and changing their paradigm.  Either way, the psychological tension is relieved.  This doesn’t automatically make one direction right and the other wrong, however.   Also true - people resolve cognitive dissonance in various ways.  For me, it was realizing that the Mormon Church is a pile of lies - and then leaving it behind.  At that point, I was way beyond the place where I could rationalize any of it out.

Common among those who leave the church are feelings of anger and betrayal, and those feelings can be so powerful that they can cloud any or all thoughts of accepting the claims made by the Church.  This comes from feelings of mistrust and are hard to overcome – and certainly influence a bias against arguments that support the Church.   Well, that says a lot.  And a bias against arguments that support the Church doesn't begin to describe it. 

Feelings of mistrust, as you note in your post, come most often from feeling that things have been “hidden.”  The simple truth, however, is that things are not nearly as “hidden” as some– who stumble upon such information [often painted in the worst possible light by critics]– would think.  There isn’t enough space in this blog to do this topic justice but I can refer you to information that demonstrates a) that most of the difficult issues have been discussed in Church-related publications for years, b) most people in general are blissfully unaware of significant historical/political etc., events.  In other words, it’s sad but true, that most people are simply ignorant of things they should know more about.  Yes, it is sad but true that most Mormons are ignorant of things they should know more about.  But why is that?  Could it be because the Mormon Church makes these things very difficult to find and highly discourages any sort of independent research?

When a believing member “discovers” such things, the Church is immediately held up as the culprit for “hiding” the information in a “cover-up” to control the minds of members.  This is simply not true.  Yes, Mr. Ash, it is true.  Lots of "cover-ups" going on.

Your post speaks of “solid, reliable, testable scientific data,” that supports your current religious views of Mormonism.  At the risk of sounding rude, I seriously doubt that you could produce such data.  Before you begin writing a list please keep in mind, that a large number of educated Latter-day Saints are fully aware of every single LDS-critical argument.  I, myself, have studied them for many decades.  There is absolutely no intellectual data that automatically compels an intelligent person to reject the Book of Mormon.  Of course there is no intellectual data that automatically compels an intelligent person to accept the Book of Mormon either.  In short, all the “scientific data” that is used to discredit the Church has an equally “solid, reliable,” and “testable” refutation (and, generally, vice-versa for pro-LDS claims).   Let's re-phrase portions of this letter.  "There is absolutely no intellectual data that TBMs and/or Mormon Apologists will admit automatically compels an intelligent person to reject the Book of Mormon."   "In short, all the “scientific data” that is used to discredit the Church has an equally “solid, reliable,” and “testable” refutation (and, generally, vice-versa for pro-LDS claims) - or so they would have you believe."  

The journey is yours, and yours alone.  No one can ride on the shirt tail of anyone else when it comes to matters of faith, so I have no dog in the race as to the outcome of your own decision on religious issues.  I merely wish to emphasize that you are not the only one to “discover” difficult issues.  Lots of intelligent people have examined them.  A number of these intelligent people are not only still believing members but recognize that there are rational and logical explanations that account for every criticism out there.  For me, this is probably the most offensive paragraph in Mr. Ash's comments.  To assert that "lots of intelligent people have examined" these issues and have been able to recognize that there are rational and logical explanations that account for every criticism out there" is basically telling Dr. Bloor that he is too stupid to arrive at the same conclusion as "lots of intelligent people."  How arrogant and self-righteous.

From what I have seen through years of reading exit stories is that the main factor which causes a person to leave is indeed “hurt feelings” and feeling “offended”– not offended by someone in the Church, but offended at the thought that they’ve been conned.  And the primary reason that such people feel they were conned is because they never really engaged “study and faith” in their gospel lives.  "Never really engaged 'study and faith' in their gospel lives."  Boy, Michael Ash just loves to generalize, doesn't he?  But then, that's the M.O. of most Mormon Apologists.  It was "study" that brought me to the conclusion that the Mormon Church is a pile of lies, and I refuse to believe anything on blind faith anymore. 

Like most people who fail to put their minds to full use as God intends, they often take a black-and-white approach to religious issues.  It’s either true or false. There either were horses in the New World, or the Book of Mormon is fictional. The Book of Abraham was either written by Abraham himself, or Joseph Smith created the text.  Such a fundamentalist attitude is anathema to a healthy paradigm of how God works through fallible humans.   Yes, Mr. Ash - it's either true or false.  Call it a "fundamentalist attitude" if you want, but truth is truth is truth is truth - and lies are lies are lies are lies. 

Good luck, and if you are ever open again to searching for answers, let me know.  Yeah, Michael... uh, if I were you, I wouldn't hold your breath.
Like I said...

In the post on Not Very Useful Truths, the blogger posts 5 items in addressing Michael Ash's comments.  Although similar to what I've inserted above, I found these items to be very insightful and thorough, and as such, I think his points bear repeating.

Dear Mr. Ash:

1.  Don't stereotype or lump or group-think your assumptions about anyones disaffection.  Your anecdotal "understanding" of why people leave is shallow and misguided.  I have read hundreds of exit stories as well, and listened to dozens more and NONE can mirror my own story.  No two disaffections are the same!  The reasons for leaving are complex, and emotional, and to have someone as grand as you try and cast this former bishop or anyone else into a neat little file shows your general lack of respect and insecurities regarding the matter.

2.  Don't throw something as superficial as "millions of others know these issues and believe" as some half-baked appeal to authority.  Millions of others know these issues and leave, too, Mike.  And if we are playing a numbers-count game, then we are all in the wrong religion.  

3.  Don't claim intellectual superiority as you talk down to those of us who simply could not live with the CD, (and thanks for clarifying cog-dis to begin with... wow... glad you helped me get beyond my misunderstanding of CD theory), and walked away. Oh, that we could all compartmentalize and truly understand at your levels. 

4.  The church has lied. Has lied about a number of things! Define "the church" however you want - a committee, a group of leaders, a prophet, a PR or legal department, a local ward leader... it doesn't matter much - the church has lied.  Period.  This, Mr. Ash, is a fact.  Well documented and indisputable in many cases - unless you really want to wade into the nuance of half-truths and what the meaning of "is" is.  To claim massive cover up and conspiracy may be harder/impossible to prove, but there are more than enough instances of lies and mistruths.  You claim the information is out there for those with intellectual integrity to find and study, but you also know that asking those tough questions, seeking details beyond the highly polished story line from the correlated manuals, and critical thinking is discouraged and even punished.  Tell both sides of the story, Mr. Ash. 

5.  If your arguments and comments in your reply to the bishop hold any water, why do apologetics exist in the first place?
Of course, from my own perspective, Michael Ash's response is filled with rationalizations as well as attempts to minimize Steve Bloor's findings, feelings and opinions.  In particular, the next to the last paragraph in his response is simply ridiculous.  "Like most people who fail to put their minds to full use as god intends, they often take a black-and-white approach to religious issues."  Clearly, I am one of those people who believes that the Mormon church is either true or false.  To me, there is no middle ground where rationalization can overcome the fallacies so obviously apparent to one who actually puts their mind to full use, using the brain with which they have been equipped.

Truly, the kind of mind games engaged in by most Mormon Apologists makes my brain melt...

And in closing, here's a few applicable quotes:

To treat your facts with imagination is one thing, but to imagine your facts is another.  ~John Burroughs

How many legs does a dig have if you call the tail a leg?  Four.
Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.  ~Abraham Lincoln

It is a far, far better thing to have a firm anchor in nonsense than to put out on the troubled seas of thought.  ~John Kenneth Galbraith

All the mind's activity is easy if it is not subjected to reality.
~Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past: Cities of the Plain

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