Why I don’t envy Mormon apologists

When I was an “apologist” (read: rationalizer) for Mormonism, I used to talk about the “shelf.” You know, there were things that we couldn’t quite explain, so we put them on a shelf, figuring that eventually God would sort it all out, and we’d see how everything fit together.

Somewhere along the line, the shelf collapsed, and I’m happy to say I don’t have a shelf anymore. Once you acknowledge that Mormonism is not what it claims to be, there is nothing about the religion and its claims that is so difficult to explain that it must go on the shelf until God explains it. But for the apologists, holy crap, what a shelf. To believe in Mormonism you have to believe that:

  • A young guy who made his living by finding buried treasure (of course, he never found any) by putting a special rock in a hat could miraculously translate ancient records using the same rock and the same hat.
  • Ancient golden plates really did exist, although only members of the young man’s immediate family and close friends ever said they saw them, and the plates weren’t actually used in the “translation” process.
  • This same young man was persecuted for saying he had seen God the Father and Jesus, whereas no one, not even his family, noted his First Vision, and when “persecution” came, it was for the aforementioned rock in hat thing.
  • The record he translated speaks of large numbers of pre-Christian Christians who lived in the Americas, writing in Hebrew and a form of Egyptian, building Jewish temples, making steel swords and metal chains, and riding horses–they did all of this and yet left no trace whatsoever of their culture.
  • This record parallels almost exactly early nineteenth-century beliefs about the Mound Builders (a white, possibly Hebraic Christian, race that was destroyed by the evil Indians) in its descriptions of warfare, religion, culture, and technology, yet these parallels are merely coincidental.
  • The young man was commanded by an angel with a drawn sword to take teenagers and married women as his polygamous wives, but he was extremely careful not to tell his lawful wife, Emma,  (or the public, for that matter) about these “marriages.”
  • He translated the Book of Abraham from papyrus scrolls that not only have nothing to do with Abraham but are from the wrong time period. But that’s OK, because, despite the direct translations of three of the illustrations, we are told that the real scrolls are missing.
  • The young man, after founding a religion, never worked again, except to run his church, yet lived off the largesse of his followers and a lot of debt. But, we are told that he got no gain from his employment as prophet.
  • This man incorrectly translated a Greek psaltery and some bogus brass plates, yet we are to believe that he really could translate ancient languages through his rock in the hat.

There’s a lot more, but just these few things seem so patently obvious that I am glad I don’t have make excuses for them anymore. What did you have on your shelf?


19 Responses to Why I don’t envy Mormon apologists

  1. One thing that was on my shelf:

    We fought the war in heaven so that we could have the agency to choose our eternal destiny. And yet, if a child dies before the age of eight, he/she goes straight to the celestial kingdom. That sounds like the devil’s plan.

  2. erlybird says:

    It’s the GOD apologists I don’t envy.

    But there is safety in numbers and there are a lot of them. They walk around without one single shred of proof, patting each other on the back, putting fish on their cars, praying the to whatever sky faerie their parents stenciled into their frontal lobe. They believe in Noah’s Ark, The Parting of the Red Sea, and all those other and that Abraham lived for hundreds of years. Some of them believe that they are “sinful” and need to be “saved” and that a guy hung innocently on a cross so that they could be forgiven. They never have to “put up” and yet they never “shut up”. And we are the rude ones for laughing at them.

  3. Mike says:

    Good points, however, if you put these arguments in context with the time old science vs. religion debate it seems a bit prejudicial to single out the mormons; which we know how it ends, there’s no conclusive evidence for either and leads to faith, blah, blah, blah. Here’s my point for commenting, this is what I kept on my atheist shelf before coming to a full conversion to mormonism.

    – Why in the world would a supposed con-man, one who has made a career out of being dishonest, create an entire religion filled with ceremonies, rituals and scriptures to practice infidelity?

    – Why would a dishonest and lazy man go to such great lengths to avoid work? Especially since most records that talk about his work ethic are postitive.

    It seems that you and I are completely opposite; you gave up on making excuses for mormons while I gave up making excuses against it. To each his own.

  4. jessicasheley says:

    Hmmm… great post! I couldn’t agree more! I sure don’t envy the Mormon apologists. They have an increasingly difficult task presented before them, especially in the information-rich culture of the internet. I’m assuming that is why the the LDS church is having so much trouble gaining new converts and why, from what I hear, only 1/3 of the members on the books are actually active.

    As for erlybird’s comment, I don’t envy the task of atheist apologists either! I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist, that’s for sure! It sounds lonely and miserable and there are too many objective evidences I would have trouble explaining away.


  5. runtu says:

    Hey, Mike, I’m not singling out the Mormons. I am a Mormon.

    As for what motivated Joseph Smith, I really couldn’t say. Dan Vogel has some interesting ideas, but then you’ve already made up your mind. I am curious as to where you’re getting your information about Joseph Smith’s amazing work ethic. By my reckoning, he did a tiny bit of vanity farming, and worked in a store for one whole afternoon. Not exactly a workhorse.

  6. I also disagree with Mike’s claim that the whole purpose of the Mormon church was so that Joseph Smith could practice infidelity. That’s just silly. I feel that both of the shelf-items put forth by Mike are straw men. I do not believe Joseph Smith to be a true prophet, but I also do not believe the two things you put forth.

    Jessica, I’m sorry that you think atheism is such a lonely, miserable life. I am an atheist and am quite fulfilled. That said, I believe that there is no one-shoe-fit-all belief system. I understand that some need God to get by, and I don’t see anything wrong with that (as long as you aren’t impeding others’ right to not believe).

  7. sideon says:

    Without Joseph Smith, we would not have the show “Big Love” on HBO. For that, I am eternally grateful.

  8. Seven says:

    My shelf as a Chapel Mormon:

    The biggest one for me was Utah “widow” polygamy- and that was when I knew nothing of Joseph Smith’s practice and nothing of the principle being required for exaltation

    Blacks and the doctrine of the pre existence-equally as disturbing

    Prophets-why didn’t they ever prophecy, seer, or reveal anything that I couldn’t get from a self help book? Why did they only speak about Joseph’s revelations?

    The micromanaging of such unimportant issues really bothered me. For example when I was making blankets for a humanitarian project they were rejected for not being the exact size specified.

    Forever family-the minute you start thinking about Godhood/creating planets & how your children must be married in the New and Everlasting Covenant for exaltation/creating their own planets, and their children etc. it kind of exposes this doctrine as nothing more than a marketing tool.

    The Godhead- I really longed for a close personal relationship with Christ but felt disconnected because I was praying to the Father. The scriptures were conflicting with Mormon doctrine and it confused me. Is Jesus speaking here or the Father? Why I am praying to the Father when Jesus is the creator of this earth? Was Jesus a God before he came and wouldn’t he have to be as a creator of the earth? Was his mission as Savior part of completing his exaltation/Godhood?

    God answering prayers/intervening-this was a really tough one for me and is still an issue very troubling as a Christian. How can people believe God is answering THEIR prayers while he ignores so much suffering, abuse, starvation, oppression, of millions of children and innocent people?

    Testimony-Why didn’t I feel such certainty that others do? I had peaceful feel good moments but I could never say “I knew.” I did everything I could do but was not given the testimony others CLAIMED to have.

  9. marcus0263 says:

    Good Points ….

    Mormonism put me on the path to Atheism, now I’m not a complete Atheist but I defiantly lean towards it. The bigotry towards blacks is what started turning me when I was in my teens. I then started critically looking at the claims from the Church and it’s Doctrines that I grew up with. When I actually started looking and thinking for myself I Mormonism for what it is, a house of cards.

    The BoM is nothing but a work of fiction, that lead me on the path of examining Christianity itself along with other religions. I’ve come to find out it’s based on nothing but myths and legends. There’s a definite pattern, that pattern is beliefs are forced on a people and they incorporate their beliefs into what is being forced onto them. Look at the “Day of the Dead” in Mexico, Voodoo, etc. Then you have those like Ron L. Hubbard who writes SciFi and they create an entire religion based on his fiction.

    Yes I am glad I grew up Mormon, for it’s falsehoods led me down the path of rejecting all religions.

  10. Ae Graves says:

    I have a problem with non-believers and believers because neither group puts any thought into their positions. This blog and the comments about it have really made me start thinking, and i plan on writing a blog about the random thoughts I have gotten so far. THANK YOU for the inspiration!!


  11. I grew up attending a vary wide group of churches. We moved a lot, so we just went to the closest meeting house (except for the Mormon ones, of course). When I went to college, I found that the friends I had and the things I was doing were the worst of the worst I could have or do, so I started to make changes in my life. Big, serious, major changes.

    These positive changes led me to join the LDS Church (funny that nobody will call it that, they have to come up with some rude nickname. We don’t call atheists “God Haters”).

    Even if all that I believe is a lie. Even if Joseph Smith never was a prophet, if there are no prophets now. Even if every little part of this isn’t true, I KNOW what life was before joining the LDS Church, and I would never subject myself to it again. We are raising our child to love his neighbor and serve that neighbor when possible. We are teaching him to be respectful, to be prayerful, to be kind to others. What’s wrong with that? If we want to believe these things and they make our life better, who are you to think that anyone needs a “shelf” for all the stuff that doesn’t make sense?

    I sure would need a shelf for quantum physics, yet there are plenty who can testify of it’s existence and truth.

    To each their own, but I agree that you should NEVER force someone to believe the way that you believe. This was an interesting post with even more interesting comments, thanks!

  12. runtu says:


    No one is telling you that you need a shelf. I had a shelf, and most Mormons I know have one, too. If there is nothing in Mormonism that you have trouble understanding, more power to you.

    As for teaching my kids to be “respectful, prayerful, to be kind to others,” I’m mystified that you would think I believe that there’s something wrong with that. I teach my kids the same things, but I don’t need to teach them falsehoods to do that. Do you?

  13. jessicasheley says:

    Hey Michael,

    Sorry if I offended you in any way on the “lonely, miserable” comment. I was just sharing how I imagined I would feel if it were me. It really doesn’t matter what I feel, though. It matters what is true.

    Hope everyone is having a great day,

    Great post, runtu!

  14. […] was drawn to this topic by Why I don’t envy Mormon apologists, a thoughtful post from a few days back on Runtu’s Rincón. This is a newish blog from “the […]

  15. Super Sarah says:

    Oh, if only I understood everything in our religion. There is no way I could comprehend everything when it comes to our faith, but I have some very good friends who are Catholic, Baptist, and a Jehovah’s Witness that have concepts of their faith that they don’t understand either.

    What I meant is that it’s not just LDS people or the LDS church that has a need for the “shelfs” that you were refering to – I think that having little things that we don’t or can’t understand is just part of having faith in a Supreme Being.

    I didn’t mean to imply that you would frown on teaching kids to be respectful, prayerful and to be kind to others or that you wouldn’t instill these values in your own children as well, but can’t anyone see these great aspects in “Mormon” children or in the “Mormon” religion? I just get a little tired of people meticulously picking out all the negative aspects of what is a wonderful, family-oriented, optimistic kind of religion. And the teachings of Christ is an example of how to do that, so I don’t really believe they are “falsehoods”.

    I didn’t mean to offend you, of course. But it does seem as though there are a few topics, when brought up, ruffles feathers no matter what the opinion is. What a great post!!

  16. Seven says:

    I thought of another item on my “shelf” that was troublesome as a Mormon. What is the significance of Heavenly Father SACRIFICING his “only begotten Son?” There is so much focus on that aspect of Christ’s life and it makes no sense. If we are all God’s children, why does that even matter? Why is it the Father’s sacrifice? There were two other men being crucified that day right next to Jesus. There are innocent children raped, tortured, & murdered everyday. Why is Christ’s suffering a sacrifice for the Father anymore than those children? This all goes back to the first? 😉 vision and is further evidence to me that Mormons have it wrong on the Godhead. The sacrifice was Christ’s alone, not another God’s. (in my opinion) Are we all Heavenly Father’s children or not?

    Did this bother anyone else as a believing Mormon?

  17. […] Jesus Christ, Mormonism, The Gospel |   This question, posed by a former Mormon over on Runtu’s Rincon, is one I have also mulled over in my mind and I wonder how Mormons answer this question. No one has […]

  18. The Pilgrim says:

    Dear Supersarahann:

    I have a sincere question regarding something you said:

    “Even if all that I believe is a lie. Even if Joseph Smith never was a prophet, if there are no prophets now. Even if every little part of this isn’t true, I KNOW what life was before joining the LDS Church, and I would never subject myself to it again. We are raising our child to love his neighbor and serve that neighbor when possible. We are teaching him to be respectful, to be prayerful, to be kind to others. What’s wrong with that?”

    If you really mean that, then what difference is there between you and the Pharisees?

    – The Pilgrim

  19. […] Runtu published a great post on this “shelf” that I wanted to share with you. He originally entitled it Why I don’t envy Mormon apologists: […]

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