This video reviews a number of the tactics used today by critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Being more aware of some of these approaches and fallacies, can help one see beyond the deceptions and more clearly discern the truth.
Okay. So in this video I want to talk about tactics that are used by critics of the Church. There are quite a few. I’m going to go quickly and give lots of examples. But let’s start out with this one.
The Big List Approach or Proof by Verbosity. This provides the illusion of proof by the sheer mass of material flung at the problem. This is a favorite approach on the Internet today. This big long laundry list of here are all the problems with the Church. The tagline is often if only 10% of this is true, then you’ve got a real problem kind of thing. Okay, the next one.
Half Truth. Adding in true facts to a deceit in order to confuse the issue or make it seem more likely to be true. And now if you think who uses this the most is Satan. This is the great tactic here that is often used and is very effective.
Okay, next thing. The Historians Fallacy or Presentism. So the historians fallacy, this fallacy assumes that historical figures understood events and decisions in the same way and with access to the same information that the person analyzing the decision today has. Also presentism. This is judging the past by the standards used today.
I have a Word of Wisdom video I recently just did about the phase in of the Word of Wisdom. Critics use this as a great… They’ll give examples of past members in the 19th century, leaders breaking the Word of Wisdom to shock members that are… And they count on people using presentism to do that. Okay, next one.
Infallible Prophets or Other Faulty Assumptions. Expecting perfection from church leaders, especially general authorities. Now studies have shown that the right side of the brain if it’s expecting perfection, really blows things up more dramatically, if we set up this standard of perfection. Many times you don’t realize, with faulty assumptions we might be bringing to an issue that critics will use to try and tear down faith with.
And to give you the best talk I’ve ever heard on this with President Uchtdorf, October 2013, he said, “And, to be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine. I suppose the Church would be perfect only if it were run by perfect beings. God is perfect and His doctrine is pure. But he works through us, His imperfect children, and imperfect people make mistakes. In the title page of the Book of Mormon we read, ‘And now if there are faults, they are the mistakes of men. Wherefore condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment seat of Christ.'”
Okay, let’s look at the next one. Quote Mining. Data Mining for quotes, especially from the Journal of Discourses. So this great quote, I did one on What is Doctrine? A video of talking about doctrines, opinions, and practices, sorting it all out. But this, I shared this quote from the Church Newsroom website. “Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding on the whole Church.”
In fact, the Journal of Discourses a lot of times they were extemporaneous speeches that were given. They were often, the quotes are taken out of context. They were not meant or were not recognizing them as doctrine of the Church per what the video I talked to you about. Okay, let’s look at the next one.
Milk Before Meat. Meat First Can Look Foolish. Many complex issues cannot be understood without first understanding their fundamental building blocks. This is particularly challenging in the Internet age when complicated issues are thrust into the forefront without any foundation being addressed.
The next one. Science Focus or Naturalist Assumptions. This is huge today. In philosophy, naturalism is the idea or belief that only natural as opposed to supernatural or spiritual laws and forces operate in the world. You look at this famous book on this screen, The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. These are known as the new atheists. And what this means, why they’re the new atheists is they’re looking for converts. And they’re very proactive in their opinions. They’re getting these books out, and they’re becoming bestsellers. So very popular today.
Okay, let’s talk about for just a second what are fallacies? Well, they’re deceptive, misleading or false beliefs. Opinions based on inaccurate facts are invalid reasoning. And logical fallacy, in particular, are errors in reasoning that invalidates an argument. There’s an example on the screen here. Penguins are black and white. Old TV shows are black and white. Therefore, penguins, are old TV shows.
Okay. So we’re going to go through a bunch of these real quick. Straw Man Fallacy. This fallacy sets up the the opponent’s argument to be weaker than it actually is, and proceeds to demolish the weak version and claim victory. So for example, Latter-day Saints believe that prophets are connected to God. So they understand the physical world better than most. This would be set up as the belief. Well, Brigham Young said that he believed men lived on the moon. So therefore, now we know from science that men don’t live on the moon.
So therefore, we can conclude that Brigham Young was not a prophet on there. So that’s a straw man argument. Latter-day saints don’t believe… they believe that prophets are close to God and connected to God. But they don’t have this phenomenal understanding of the world different than somebody else or scientists, and many believe this, what Brigham believed. Many believed that in the 19th century. So that’s another example of presentism. And then we talked about how not everything a prophet says is doctrine. It can be opinions like that was. All right. Next one.
Ad Hominem. This is Latin for “to the person”. These are personal attacks. Unfairly attacking a person’s character or personality instead of addressing the issue. So for example today, somebody could say, “Well, the Latter-day Saints shouldn’t be invited to this equality debate because they are bigots.” That would be an example of an ad hominem.
Okay. Hasty Generalization. An inference drawn from insufficient evidence. Making rush conclusions without considering all the variables. Leaping to a conclusion. Oh, this happens today big time on the Internet. You think about how we try and digest news today. Quickly, we sift through things. Swipe right, swipe left. That’s our world today. Lots of hasty generalizations.
Red Herrings. Okay. Using an unrelated issue to distract the attention away from the relevant or important question. Here’s an example. In January 2019, Mitt Romney put in a op-ed in the Washington Post on Trump. And how the moral character of the society or the country, the President needs to lead out on that, and he’s not doing a great job on on this. And he gave different reasons why, in his opinion, he wasn’t.
So this, The Babylon Bee, which is a satirical website focused on Christians specifically. They had this headline, Follower of Joseph Smith Urges Nation to Reject Morally-Flawed Leaders. So it was a religiously bigoted piece hiding behind the guise of humor. And it distracts attention away from the issues raised. So great example of a red herring.
Okay. Poisoning the Well. Attempts to discredit a person before their arguments are even heard. So for example, you could say, “Oh, you can’t read anything a scholar says that is from BYU because they’re on the Church’s payroll. So how could that be objective?” That’s an example.
Okay, Double Standard. This arises when two or more people, circumstances, or events are treated differently even though they should be treated the same way. So where are the Book of Mormon plates? Or where are the stone tablets that the 10 Commandments were written on, for example. Or, there’s faith that’s required to believe in the Book of Mormon. There’s also faith required to believe that Jesus Christ was resurrected. But there’s again, a double standard that’s used.
Okay. Next one. Appeal to Authority. Anonymous authority, especially in antidotes. Claiming that something must be true because it is believed by someone who is said to be an authority on the subject. So like archaeologists don’t believe in the Book of Mormon, as an example. Or, Latter-day Saint, a Latter-day Saint stake president once told me dot, dot, dot. This is also, you can see this a lot in footnote usage. Lots of games played with footnotes where it’s second and third-hand things. Maybe absolute phony material, or just material that really doesn’t support the position, but it makes it look like it’s an appeal to authority essentially there. It’s well documented, so to speak.
Okay. The next one. Appeal to Belief. A Bandwagon. Appeal to the Masses. Claiming something must be true simply because most people believe it. So all Christians believe that the Bible Cannon is closed, as an example of that. Appeal to Emotion. Judgmental Language. Seeking to win an argument through the manipulation of emotions, especially in the absence of factual evidence. Judgemental language seeks to influence the audience by using inflammatory or prejudicial language. That’s often the way the appeal to emotion has done. So for example, Latter-day Saints are racist would be an example of that.
Okay. Next one. Appeal to Tradition. Presumes that an older idea is better than a new one. How can you not believe in the Nicene Creed? It’s ancient, since 325 A.D. How could you not believe that? As an example.
Okay. Either or Fallacy, or The False Dilemma. Discussing an issue as if there are only two alternatives. This fallacy ignores any other possible alternatives. For example, we either ban hairspray or the world will end. Or, if the Bible is true, then the Book of Mormon is false, as an example. False dilemma there.
Okay. Next one. Questionable Cause. Correlation Versus Causation Issues. Because two events occur together, one is the cause of the other. See on the screen here? The bigger the fire, the more the fireman. Therefore, firemen cause fires. Because event B followed event A, A must have caused B. Oversimplification of a situation by presuming there is a single cause of a more complex phenomenon.
So for example, a post hoc. This event B followed event A. So A must have caused B. 2 Nephi 1:14, critics will say, “Hey, this looks like Joseph Smith plagiarized Shakespeare’s Hamlet in this.” However, if you look at the words closely and compare them to ancient Near-East texts, they correlate much stronger even with that, which is where they should have come from at that time, that part of the Book of Mormon.
Okay, Begging the Question. False Premise. Making a conclusion based on a premise that lacks support. It begs the question, what’s your support for that premise? So, for example, the Book of Mormon claims to be the story of all ancient inhabitants of America.
DNA studies have now shown that many of these are clearly not of Middle East origins. So therefore, the Book of Mormon is not accurate, and not an accurate history. The conclusion follows logic, but it’s false conclusion based on a faulty premise, which begs the question. It is not what the Book of Mormon claims to be. Watch the video I did on that DNA and the Book of Mormon.
Okay. Non Sequitur. This is Latin for “it does not follow”. A pattern of reasoning rendered invalid by a flaw in its logical structure. Up at the top left, you see two wrongs make a right, don’t make a right. Defending something done wrong by citing another incident of wrong doing. Example, America does not need to regulate pollution because China is producing more pollution than we are on there. So that’s a non sequitur.
Okay. Argument From Ignorance. Argument From Silence or Negative Proof. Argues that because something cannot explain, someone cannot explain something, it does not happen or isn’t true, didn’t happen or isn’t true. Or, because the critic cannot imagine how something could be, it therefore cannot be. Any silence is wrongly considered to represent an admission of guilt, or an admission of ignorance, a negative proof. One well-known critic of the Church in their biography of Joseph Smith asserted that Joseph was not visited by God in the First Vision because quote, “The newspapers took no notice of the claim.” So that was the reason.
Okay. Next one. Slippery Slope. It implies that accepting the argument will lead to catastrophic results. Thus, the audience is encouraged to reject the argument for the greater good. If we accept revelation from God, then the next thing we know we’re going to have criminals going all over the place, committing crime saying that it was revelation from God that told them to do this, as an example.
Okay, Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy, quite the name. This fallacy takes data from its context, and thereby tries to make it appear more impressive than it truly is. The name comes from an example of a Texas gunslinger who shoots randomly at a barn door, and then afterward paints a target around each bullet hole. The holes are random, but appear to prove that the gunslinger is a great shot.
Good example of this. Some critics will say, Joseph Smith used View of the Hebrews, that book, for the Book of Mormon. And if you look, the supposed parallels are general, and they’re very trivial, and they ignore the massive amounts of unparallels, essentially, is a good example of that fallacy.
Okay. Shifting the Burden of Proof. Making a claim that needs to be backed up with evidence, but then shifting the responsibility for disproof to the other person. Watermelons are blue inside until you cut the skin. Prove that I’m wrong. And so, I love this one. And it’s the Book of Mormon is false until you can prove it’s true. And think about what Moroni 10 does. It does just the opposite. It says each person needs to independently find out for themselves if the Book of Mormon is true, and they can receive that from God through the Holy Spirit.
That’s the end. I hope you enjoyed these and all these different things. And the more you’re aware of this, the better prepared you are for being in the crazy world that we live in today in this material. Thanks.
Latter-day Saints’ Q&A is a video series not produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but by me, an ordinary member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an independent voice, with a passion for studying Church history and defending the faith. In this series, I provide evidences for the restoration, and address tough questions posed by critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, offering faithful answers based on accurate research and historical references which will be posted at the end of each video.