The purpose of this post is not to bash on those who have left the church or even those who are reviling against it. It is simply to create awareness for members to understand the potential pitfalls that are laid out by those who are so critical of the church whether they do so intentionally or not. This isn’t referencing individuals who have decided to leave the church for _________ reason but specifically talking about those who are actively trying to attack it at every angle.
1 – Big List Fallacy
Have you noticed that when someone is attacking our faith, usually in a blog post or in a comment thread, that it usually goes something along the lines of “how do you explain away this and that and this and that and oh, there’s the case of _________…?” This laundry list of claims against the church (whether valid or not) can be at times daunting. It gives the illusion that the church is not true because there appears to be a mountain of evidence against it.
That’s exactly the point of big lists. They’re meant to frustrate and tire out the individual. It’s a common tactic used in politics, courtrooms and science debates and it’s clearly evident in religious debates about the LDS church. Many times this tactic is used to overwhelm members on social media or in blog comments by providing a massive lists of questions, non sequiturs and assumptions that are extremely challenging to answer in a very orderly manner due to the length and the amount of questions that are being laid out.
And then the minute a member says “I’m not exactly sure”, “I don’t know” or doesn’t provide a response, the opposition will claim victory.
Just because it takes time to carefully and methodically answer each of their claims, doesn’t mean that the answers are not valid. Just because you are not willingly to spend half your day trying to honestly answer questions that were not honest to begin with, does not mean that they were right. Big lists in and of themselves do not make claims true, but psychologically they are used all the time to try to convince others that the claims they are making are true.
To read a great piece written about the issues with “Big Lists”, check out a post written by Jeff Lindsay titled
Or more specifically talking about ecological fallacies. This is basically where many antis will say something along the lines of “I’ve never met anyone that could explain the _______ issue very well, therefore Mormons in general (or the church as a whole) do not have a good answer to this question.”
While it may be true that they may not have ever met someone that could explain a particular issue very well, that doesn’t mean that a solid explanation doesn’t exist. Also, a good explanation is extremely subjective and is often times rooted in an individual’s own personal bias or perspective. Clearly the perspective of someone who is adamantly against the church has a latitude of acceptance that will differ greatly from someone who is an active member of the church.
Specifically here we are talking about a biased sample population. Many anti-Mormons will try to explain away the overall “Mormon experience” as a bad one based on their experience with people who have left the church. This doesn’t mean that those who left the church didn’t really have a bad experience (as they most likely did), it simply means that their experience is not reflective of the overall “Mormon experience” because it doesn’t take into account the entire Mormon population as a whole, specifically, those who are completely happy within the religion.
Here we are talking about an appeal to flattery. This is one of the most used tactics by those who would revile against the church. They say something along the lines of “Only those who are intellectually and emotionally honest can ‘face the truth’ about the church” which implies that if an individual disagrees with their conclusions they are not emotionally or intellectually honest. Clearly one can be intellectually honest and still be a full fledged member of the church but sometimes these types of claims bait us into changing our belief system simply because we are trying to appeal to our own vanity and how other individuals view us.
These are just a few examples of a long list of tactics that many critics of the church will use in their attempt to persuade members to question the church, their beliefs and even themselves. I’m not saying that people don’t leave the church because they honestly don’t believe in it any more. I know some who have. But I also know of many individuals who fell into these traps who later came back into the church. These are individuals who have always believed in the church but got tripped up along the way. This post is for them. To those individuals who do believe in their hearts but due to various fallacious tactics by others, might be having issues reconciling those issues with their minds.