This is an archived copy of a post written by Conflict Of Justice (conflictofjustice.com). Used with permission: Conflict Of Justice may not agree with any alterations made.
”Boyd K. Packer gave an eye-opening talk… ‘There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not. Some things that are true are not very useful.’”(CES Letter)
What’s Useful? – Well, it’s pretty obvious that not all historical narratives are useful for promoting faith. Everybody picks history and historical bias that is convenient for them. For example, atheists don’t often talk about murderous atheists in history–such as Josef Staling, Pol Pot, and Chairman Mao. Anti-Mormons and popular American culture don’t often talk about Missouri’s 1838 genocidal extermination order of Mormons, do they?
Skeptics often say science is a superior source for truth, but isn’t science just a model for truth based on useful data? What is important in science is usefulness, not truth. In science, a model is formed based on what consistently works. We believe in gravity because that is the most useful and consistent explanation for why things fall down. The method for gaining spiritual knowledge is rewarded when we get a continually good result.
The scientific process is not to cherry-pick data to poke holes in someone’s model for truth, as anti-Mormons do, but to gather reasonable data to support a more useful alternative model. What is the anti-Mormon model for truth?
CES Letter lists “useful” history that rely on false information:
“Joseph using a rock in a hat instead of the gold plates to translate the Book of Mormon is not a useful truth? The fact that there are multiple conflicting First Vision accounts is not a useful truth? The fact that Joseph Smith was involved in Polyandry when D&C 132:61 condemns it as ‘adultery’ is not a useful truth?”(CES Letter)
Each of these useful ‘truths’ are fake history, but the point they are making, I suppose, is that faith cannot exist as long as contradictions exist.
But the whole point of faith is that we need divine help because we are imperfect on our own, and it would be impossible for us to know anything for sure. Anyone can portray contradictions for anything. Can we go back in history and know if Joseph Smith used a rock in a hat or the Urim and Thummim to translate? Anti-Mormons rely on a handful of fake quotes that are spread around on the internet. Mormons, on the other hand, use the test of faith to find useful truth.
Confront All Sides Of The Argument – Boyd K. Packer never said to run away when our faith gets tested. Rather, Mormons believe we should constantly be testing and confirming truth. This Boyd K. Packer quote is in the context of specific church lessons about theology, not about everything we ever experience in life. He was talking to Sunday School teachers, not historians.
It is not the job of Sunday School teachers to prove or disprove the church with historical dialectic, just as it is not the historian’s job to prove or disprove Sunday School theology. Historians should be interested in history, and that’s it.
CES Letter disagrees:
“Historians are also interested in things like how the Book of Mormon got translated or how many accounts Joseph gave about the foundational First Vision or whether the Book of Abraham even matches the papyri and facsimiles. Besides, it matters in the religious context what past and present leaders ‘weaknesses and frailties’ are. “(CES Letter)
CES Letter muddles what is a historian’s job, what is a Sunday School teacher’s job, and what is a prophet’s job. Historians have done a really really bad job when it comes to Mormons, so it is very tempting, as Boyd K. Packer says, for Sunday School teachers to set the record straight. In my brief series of answers to CES Letter, I have discovered shocking inaccuracies in history that have been accepted by Anti-Mormon and Mormon historians alike–such as the claim Oliver Cowdery used a divining rod and the claim Joseph Smith used a rock in a hat to translate. Even Mormon scholars drop the ball, and the result is dehumanizing attacks that frequently get spewed at Mormons. So it is understandable that Sunday Schools want to confront all sides of historical issues in the classroom.
I think each person should confront these issues for themselves. But I see the wisdom in Boyd K. Packer’s statement that Sunday School is not the place for it. This would simply lend credibility to the Anti-Mormon narrative that these are important issues that we should spend a lot of time on, and they aren’t. These are mostly fake issues that Anti-Mormons conjure up to agitate and destroy people’s faith. Why spend a lot of time debunking lies that you already know are lies?
What Determines Truth – So if Anti-Mormons don’t believe that a test of faith determines truth, what does?
“Just because a leader wears a religious hat does not follow that they’re exempt from history and accountability from others.”(CES Letter)
History and the accountability from others! That’s what. Power to the people, man! It is “the people” that determine what is right and just.
“The question should not be whether it’s faith promoting or not to share ugly but truthful facts. The question should be: Is the right thing to do? Is it the honest thing to do?(CES Letter)
So according to them, it is not a matter of usefulness or testing by faith, but which “facts” are “right” or “honest.” The question then is what is “right”? Whatever can be spun to appear moral or immoral, that’s what:
“If Joseph’s public position was that adultery and polygamy are morally wrong and condemned by God, what does it say about him and his character that he did exactly that in the dark while lying to Emma and everyone else about it? How is this not a useful truth? A relevant hypothetical example: President Monson gets caught with child pornography on his hard drive. “(CES Letter)
So it becomes a question of how viciously you can attack a historical person’s character with lies and innuendos, using whatever snippets of quotes you can find on the internet. That is what is “right” and that is what is “truth.” History is quite convenient because nobody can go back in time to know for sure what happened, and you can make up whatever you want. When it comes to recently deceased person, like President Monson, just make the baseless accusation disgusting enough and the shock value will speak for itself.
This is how Anti-Mormons operate. This is how followers of Satan operate. In their world, historians, Sunday School teachers, and prophets all play the same role and follow the same narrative for truth, truth which is determined by “the people”–which really means just whoever agitates loudly enough. They just blindly propagate the narrative.
The church’s way is much different. If an “ugly but truthful fact” shows up, members of the church investigate the issue and reconsider their premise as needed. They follow the faith process to discover what is really true. Mormons gather the best evidence we could find and make reasonable, logical conclusions.
Mormons certainly do not believe in embracing things as truth in spite of evidence. Quite the opposite, we follow a method for truth. Alma 32 says we gain knowledge beginning with hope and by testing a hypothesis. This is a long, gradual process where one proves every claim through testing cause and effect. “Now, as I said concerning faith—that it was not a perfect knowledge—even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge. But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words… And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good… for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand. O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good.” (Alma 32)
This is similar to Plato’s allegory of the cave. In his parable, Plato said knowledge starts with mere allusion to truth like a puppet show casting shadows upon a cave wall. This is the “hope” Alma speaks of. Then, a person turns around and sees the fire projecting the shadows. This is when a person gains a rhetorical belief or conviction of the source behind allusions. Next, they walk out the door of the cave they are in and see how the same principle of light and shadow operates all around us. When Plato calls this a “mathematical” or discursive understanding, he means this is a person understanding the nature of operation. As Joseph Smith put it, this is understanding the character of God and a knowledge that your own character is in alignment with it. Finally, a person fully understands that the sun is the source of all visible objects. This is the use of reason with which we approach divinity. Mormonism is different from Platonism in that the visible realm overlaps the invisible realm. The allusionary puppets that we started out with are not tossed aside as we exit the cave, but fundamental seeds of knowledge that are part of our spirit.
Faith Does Not Bridge A Gap – Skeptics follow a twisted method of dialectic to find truth, which we see in CES Letter‘s contradiction strategy. They constrain the context, deconstruct whatever doesn&’t fit their narrative, and then change language to fit their ideology. For example, skeptics set a context where the word “horse” in the Book of Mormon couldn’t mean anything but the modern E. cabalus and where horses couldn’t possibly exist in north America at the time of Nephites. Next they deconstruct other Mormon beliefs through logical connections: they point out further contradictions of archaeology and the Book of Mormon. Before we know it, there is not a single bit of archaeological evidence in support of the Book of Mormon, and we consider “science” as the superior alternative for historical truth, or what fake science tells us, rather. Finally, they replace the deconstructed beliefs with their own ideology.
TL;DR – In short, Anti-Mormons cherry-pick whatever they need to in support of their narrative and ideology, while Mormons scientifically test faith to determine unseen truth, whatever it may be.
CES Letter Logical Fallacies
|Falsehood||CES Letter repeats a bunch of falsehood from earlier arguments. CES Letter claims: “What’s interesting about Packer’s above quote is that he’s focusing on history from the point of view that a historian is only interested in the ‘weaknesses and frailties of present and past leaders.'” No, Packer never said historians are only interested in negatives. Boyd K. Packer said: “That historian or scholar who delights in pointing out the weaknesses and frailties of present or past leaders destroys faith.”|
|Repetition||CES Letter uses this argument as an excuse to repeat a bunch of earlier lies.|
|Ad Hominem||CES Letter uses extremely ridiculous and offensive attacks on Joseph Smith and living prophets. This entire attack against Mormons–pretty much calling us ignorant–is hilarious considering how shallow and small-minded the Anti-Mormon arguments are in general.|
|Tu Quoque||The church publishes raw scanned documents and plentiful original information. CES Letter, meanwhile, references Wikipedia.|
|False Dilemma||Not mentioning all negative arguments every time you talk about something doesn’t mean you are pretending like the negative arguments don’t exist. Things that are useful for faith are not different than what is “right” and “honest.”|
|Non Sequitur||Actually yes, if a prophet is a true prophet, he is exempt from accountability to CES Letter, their baseless hypotheticals of shocking illegal activity, and their skewed and fake historical claims. Prophets definitely need to be moral people, but accountability is to God, not “the people.”|
Marxim is the belief that certain classes of people are oppressed by other classes, and are elevated to a better life if they receive “more consciousness.” Earlier, CES Letter made arguments for what Mormons oppress classes of people. Now, CES Letter makes the case for why the oppressed classes are filled with false ideas, how to expunge those ideas, and how to reach towards higher consciousness.
Contradiction Strategy – Communist Saul Alinsky famously put it: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Marxist Anti-Mormons complain that Mormon priesthood leaders keep the Saints “in darkness.” Suddenly priesthood leaders are guilty of corruption entirely on the innuendo that there could possibly be corruption.