Mormon apologists discuss how and when to defend Mormonism

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Kimberly Bojorquez | Senior Staff Writer

A panel of six Mormon apologists, defenders of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, discussed the arguments for and against defending Mormonism Friday, Nov. 6 at UVU.

Panelist and Director of the Center for the Study of Ethics at UVU, Brian D. Birch discussed how Mormonism has seen its fair share of provocative episodes between faith, reason, science, and revelation.

Birch gave examples that were debatable in Mormonism such as, the reorganization in the BYU Maxwell Institute and New Mormon History – the style of reporting Mormon history by Mormon and non-Mormon scholars.

“There has been vigorous debate in play regarding Maxwell’s shift away from an apologetic orientation and toward a more active engagement with a broader religious studies community. I am decidedly on team Mormon studies.” Birch said.

According to Birch, apologetics can be distinguished as positive and negative.

“Positive apologetics is the attempt to reason affirmatively toward the truth of a religious position relative to alternative arguments, negative apologetics is more modest in its aims, it attempts to neutralizes criticisms rather than provide a positive proof,” Birch said.

Julie M. Smith, specialist in Biblical Studies and Interpretation, likened the practice of apologetics to fire; both necessary and dangerous. According to Smith, Mormon apologetics are necessary when individuals ask missionaries questions or when adolescents question their seminary teachers.

The dangers are the role of women in Mormon history such as polygamy, women in the priesthood, and pre-1978 restrictions that affected African American women which Smith calls “collateral damage” in the practice of Mormon apologetics.

The panel made it clear that they aren’t bishops and can’t provide all the answers, they may provide an individual with tools and readings but that the answer were for the individuals to discover for themselves.

“There are so many intersections between religion and society that can be critically analyzed,” Blair G.Van Dyke, moderator of the panel and professor at the Orem Institute of Religion said.