Lou Midgley Gives Two Tens for a Five

Lou Costello was a genius, in my book. Here, for example, Costello explains how 7X13=28. The logic is brilliant, even if it doesn’t work without some serious fudging. But Costello also had routines in which he was flustered by his inability to outsmart his straight man, Bud Abbott, such as in the “Two Tens for a Five” bit.

Mormon apologetics is a lot like an Abbott and Costello routine. The usual fare on the FAIR site and others involves some strained attempt to make a connection between Mormon truth claims and real history. Most of the time it sort of makes sense until you examine the logic and the evidence–then it’s almost always found wanting. At other times, some apologists seem to realize that they’ve been outsmarted, and they get flustered and lash out at the church’s critics. This latter approach, which I’ll call “Two Tens for a Five” is exemplified by an essay by another Lou (Midgley) on the newly minted “Mormon Interpreter” apologetics site.

I won’t go into detail about the history of the new site. Suffice it to say that after the recent shake-up at BYU’s Maxwell Institute, some of the exiled have started an independent apologetic site. The first article, by David Bokovoy, seemed to signal that the Interpreter would focus on scholarly approaches to Mormon beliefs, rather than on snarky and mean-spirited attacks on critics. Unfortunately, Midgley’s September 7, 2012, post proves that my initial impression was wrong.

Ostensibly, Midgley is responding to a series of seven essays on Mormonism in the November 2011 issue of  Free Inquiry, a journal discussing secular humanism. You may be wondering why Midgley is responding nearly a year after the issue’s publication. Until July or so, Midgley was a regular contributor and major figure in the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at Brigham Young University. The Maxwell Institute, formerly known as the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon, or FARMS), had as its mission:

By furthering religious scholarship through the study of scripture and other texts, Brigham Young University’s Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship seeks to deepen understanding and nurture discipleship among Latter-day Saints while promoting mutual respect and goodwill among people of all faiths.

As part of this mission they published apologetic books about Mormon topics and a journal called the FARMS Review, which over the years gained a reputation for polemical and mean-spirited attacks on those who questioned or criticized Mormonism. For example, one issue (volume 15, issue 2) contained 5 “reviews” of Grant Palmer’s An Insider’s View of Mormon Originsmost of which focus on Palmer’s character, or lack thereof, with various authors labeling him as one who has “lived a life of deceit for many years” (258) and who “still clings tenaciously, if irrationally, to a thread of faith in revelation” (301), with Louis Midgley adding the final insult to Palmer’s Christian faith: “Palmer appears to have filled the empty space generated by his cynicism with sentimentality about Jesus” (397).

But I digress. Sometime over the summer, the old guard at the Maxwell Institute was relieved of its duties, and the new leadership renamed the Review to the Mormon Studies Review and suspended publication until they can determine how “to better position the new Mormon Studies Review within its academic discipline” (“A New Beginning …“). Some former Review contributors have reported that issues had been delayed or canceled because they continued in that aggressive stance, notably a purported “hit piece” on John Dehlin that was quashed. Presumably, then, Midgley’s article-length post was intended for publication in the Review but was delayed or rejected. No longer constrained by the Maxwell Institute, Midgley has published it on the Interpreter.

I’ve read Midgley’s entire article, and it’s a stem-winder, but I am particularly interested in his discussion of my friend C.L. Hanson’s essay, “Building on a Religious Background.” Ms. Hanson has been a good friend of mine for several years. We first encountered each other when I first started blogging in 2005 or so. I became a fan of her Letters from a Broad blog, which discussed her life as a Java programmer, mother, and former Mormon. She also runs Main Street Plaza, which is mostly an aggregate of several LDS-related bloggers; her contribution is mostly limited to “Sunday in Outer Blogness,” a roundup of the week’s LDS-related blogging, pro and con. She is a delightful person who has helped me a great deal by encouraging my writing, reviewing and publicizing my book, and inviting me to participate in a panel and book-signing at this year’s Sunstone conference. I am honored that she is my friend, so it is a little difficult to write objectively about Midgley’s response to her essay.

The essay in question encourages former believers to build bridges with the faith communities they grew up with. She writes:

Atheists who were raised in other religions can form the same sorts of bridges with their own communities. I encourage them to do so. It makes sense that — within the atheist community — secular Jews should take the lead when discussing Israel, and people raised Muslim should take the lead in discussions about problems in Muslim countries, for example. They have added perspective on the subject, plus they can be trusted not to be biased by racism against their group nor by believing that their group is doing God’s will. Being raised in religion isn’t better or worse than being raised without it. But I believe that those of us who were raised in religious communities have a special role to play, and we should step up and play it.

This is hardly controversial, but it is nice for someone to be arguing that we do have a role to play in healing wounds and discussing problems within our former religions and communities. But here’s how Midgley sees it:

Ms. Hanson proclaims that she is an atheist but “grew up Mormon” (p. 40). She can presumably “translate between [the] two communities” (p. 40). Why? Her once having been LDS makes her, she imagines, sort of “bilingual.” She is ready and willing, she claims, to correct “those who believe the usual stereotypes about atheists” because she knows that they are not really “amoral nihilists, or whatever.” She can, she claims, also correct mistakes that atheists make about the faith of Latter-day Saints. She does these things “sometimes on the Bloggernacle (network of faithful-Mormon blogs).”

She pictures herself as “a mild mannered mom” who posts up a storm on the Internet promoting what she calls “the middle ground where ‘nice,’ tactful atheism can occur” (p. 41). Her blogs—Main Street Plaza and Letters from a Broad—strike me as a bit raunchy and as lacking intellectual content. Hanson needs a sense of solidarity with Latter-day Saints, even though her own nice “atheist community” (p. 41) should take care of her emotional needs by providing her with friends, a sense of [Page 135] meaning, and an identity. She believes that “atheists who were raised in other religions can form the same sort of bridges with their own communities” (p. 41).

The fact is, however, that both substance and civility are in rather short supply on lists, boards, and blogs, where the most violent and uninformed are free to opine up a storm. And this goes, unfortunately, for both Latter-day Saints as well as their critics.

Some of Hanson’s remarks, however, actually almost seem to address Tom Flynn’s desires for an answer to the question of how atheists and Latter-day Saints can have something “to say to one another” (p. 21), presumably in addition to bashing each other on blogs. Unfortunately, she does not address the two questions—“Why did Mormonism grow?” and “Why does it endure?”—that constitute the subtitle of Tom Flynn’s introduction. This fact highlights a problem with the seven items in Free Inquiry.

Where to begin with this diatribe? Why not the beginning? The first paragraph discusses Ms. Hanson’s call for people like her (and me) to build bridges between believers and nonbelievers because, in some ways, we are “bilingual” because we understand what it’s like to believe and not believe. Midgley seems to think she is being both arrogant and disingenuous, as she “claims” she can help correct misunderstandings and stereotypes believers and nonbelievers have about each other (I have seen her do this many times). Why is this a suspect claim for Lou? Because she sometimes posts on the Bloggernacle, an aggregate blog of mostly believing Mormons. What does Midgley have against the bloggernacle?

The second paragraph is so silly and presumptuous that I need to unpack it a little at a time.

She pictures herself as “a mild mannered mom” who posts up a storm on the Internet promoting what she calls “the middle ground where ‘nice,’ tactful atheism can occur” (p. 41).

First, she is a “mild mannered mom,” as anyone who reads her blogs can see and as those of us who have spent time with her know. But she doesn’t “post up a storm on the Internet”; she’s busy, and as I mentioned, her contributions include the Sunday news roundup and an occasional article. Her personal blog is, well, a personal blog. I do wonder why Midgley is hostile to niceness and tact; I suppose atheists should be more genuine about their evil intentions. In some ways I understand Midgley’s fear of the nice and tactful; I’ve been told I’m one of the worst types of anti-Mormons because I try to be kind and fair. Apparently, my behavior is a ruse to ensnare the unwitting in the devil’s clutches. Perhaps Midgley disdains her efforts at promoting civility precisely because he has no need for it himself.

Her blogs—Main Street Plaza and Letters from a Broad—strike me as a bit raunchy and as lacking intellectual content.

As I mentioned, MSP is simply a collecting point for a number of blogs and bloggers, and LFAB is a personal blog (here’s a representative post). By “raunchy” Midgley apparently means that she speaks more frankly about sexuality than he deems proper (here’s her Vagina Testimony, for example). In a footnote, he expands his scolding of her wanton crudeness by pointing to footnotes to a post from 2006(!):

For example, it really is ludicrous for Hanson to describe her teenage efforts to seduce boys or to describe what she claims to have managed in the library at BYU. See http://lfab-uvm.blogspot.com/2006/07/my-deconversion-part-3-tipping-point.html, including the comments for one of many similar examples of childish rubbish.

It’s stunning to me that someone can read a moving account of one’s loss of faith and focus only on a tongue-in-cheek paragraph that explains why she chose to fictionalize her conversation with a non-Mormon the way she did:

However, in real life I did have a few non-member boyfriends at the time that I was in the process of trying to hustle into the bedroom as quickly as I could, with varying degrees of success. So if you’d like to tell yourself that my epiphany was motivated by my ferocious teenage hormones that wanted an open field to “sin,” go ahead.

That’s one of the things I admire about C.L. Hanson’s writing, the casual tone and humor. I’m sorry Brother Midgley considers someone’s humorous personal blog “childish rubbish.” I wonder what he’d say if I reviewed his personal journal.

Next we read:

Hanson needs a sense of solidarity with Latter-day Saints, even though her own nice “atheist community” (p. 41) should take care of her emotional needs by providing her with friends, a sense of [Page 135] meaning, and an identity.

I have no idea where this is coming from, and C.L. is equally mystified, as she writes in a response to Midgley on her blog, “This is the bit that most makes me go ‘WTF?’” She continues:

Midgley seems to be implying that I’m some sort of lonely, emotionally-needy person who clings to the faithful Mormon community due to some inadequacy in the atheist community. Not only is that not true, but there’s really nothing in my article to suggest it. Allow me to explain that the point of the article was to convince atheists of the value of engaging in constructive dialog about religion.

The need to portray Ms. Hanson negatively is part of it, but there is a larger reason Midgley says this about atheism being a community that “should take care of her emotional needs by providing her with friends, a sense of meaning, and an identity.” Midgley’s essay is titled “Atheist Piety: A Religion of Dogmatic Dubiety.” His thesis is that all the essays in the Free Inquiry issue, including Ms. Hanson’s, are broadsides on Mormonism from the perspective of a dogmatic, militant atheism. After deriding some of the essays for their “nonscholarly” attacks on the church, he writes:

Others complain that the faith of the Saints tends to meet emotional needs or that their religious community has various ways of reinforcing their own moral demands. In no instance do these authors see their own deeply held ideology as serving similar personal and community-sustaining religious functions.

In short, Midgley tries the age-old tactic of insisting that atheism is actually a religion, and a dogmatic and intolerant religion at that. Of course, it won’t do when an author like Ms. Hanson calls for bridge-building and reconciliation; he needs her to have a “deeply held ideology” that gives her the same support as “religious functions.” Because she hasn’t actually said anything like this in her essay, Midgley simply asserts that she has. She’s clearly thrown the good professor for a loop because, no matter how many times he gives her two tens, she’s giving back a five; she won’t fit in his neat little apostate box because she wasn’t there in the first place.  So, lacking any justification, Dr. Midgley tells us she believes that the atheist community is supposed to take care of her. And just like that, a conciliatory essay is of a piece with the other essays, which he says

reflect a fashionable, dogmatic, naive, and deeply religious enmity toward the faith of Latter-day Saints. The essays are also shown to be instances of a modern militant atheism, which is contrasted with earlier and much less bold and aggressive doubts about divine things.

If nothing, Ms. Hanson writes about her religious upbringing with affection and sympathy, even though much of what she experienced was painful. But facts be damned, Midgley has a thesis to prove, so C.L. Hanson must be a militant atheist with nothing but enmity and contempt for Mormonism and Mormons.

In the next sentence, Midgley makes casual mention of Hanson’s main point:

She believes that “atheists who were raised in other religions can form the same sort of bridges with their own communities” (p. 41).

But he quickly dismisses this as mere posturing:

The fact is, however, that both substance and civility are in rather short supply on lists, boards, and blogs, where the most violent and uninformed are free to opine up a storm. And this goes, unfortunately, for both Latter-day Saints as well as their critics.

Well, no kidding. Anyone who has been around Mormon discussions anywhere on the Internet knows there is a lot of rancor on both sides. That’s why C.L. Hanson wrote the article. But Midgley doesn’t care about her thesis. He simply wants to lump her in with the “violent and uninformed.” Certainly, those Mormons who read Midgley’s piece without actually reading the essays he attacks–er, reviews–will come away uninformed and probably a little angry.

Then he makes a backhanded concession:

Some of Hanson’s remarks, however, actually almost seem to address Tom Flynn’s desires for an answer to the question of how atheists and Latter-day Saints can have something “to say to one another” (p. 21), presumably in addition to bashing each other on blogs.

That’s a neat trick, isn’t it? He takes her entire thesis and reduces it to just “some of [her] remarks,” as if her calls for conciliation were an intentional distraction from her true goal: “bashing each other on blogs.”

His final complaint is this:

Unfortunately, she does not address the two questions—“Why did Mormonism grow?” and “Why does it endure?”—that constitute the subtitle of Tom Flynn’s introduction.

That’s probably because neither question was pertinent to her subject. It’s quite ironic for someone who has systematically misrepresented another person’s article to then complain that she didn’t talk about what he wanted her to talk about.

Another footnote is instructive:

Hanson is an atheist housewife who blogs from Zurich, Switzerland (at Letters from a Broad andMain Street Plaza). She self-published in 2006 a novel entitled Ex Mormon.

He can’t even get her occupation right. She’s a Java programmer, which he should have figured out when he was scouring her personal blog for “raunchy” material.  (What kind of perv does that, anyway?)

Thus, having portrayed my friend as a committed–and depraved–atheist, just like the other essayists, he moves in for the kill:

This is not, of course, to say that what Paul called atheos—being “without God in the world”—is not common when people see no necessity for God since they have the welfare state to support themselves, electronic toys to entertain themselves, or drugs to pleasure themselves. All of these, and many more similar things, are commonly worshipped. Idolatry has not disappeared, even among militant atheists. The reason is that there are many whose “hearts are upon their treasures; wherefore, their treasure is their god” (2 Nephi 9:30).

There is another wonderful passage in our scriptures that describes atheos. In the preface to the Doctrine and Covenants, we learn that there are those who “seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol” (D&C 1:16).

So, now she’s a militant atheist idolater who worships drugs, electronic toys, and the welfare state(!). The sad part of all this is that she has offered the hand of friendship to people like Midgley, and he has slapped it away angrily. I applaud C.L. Hanson for attempting to build bridges, but I suspect she will have to look beyond people like Midgley, who are too busy planting dynamite around the footings to be bothered with kindness.

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36 Responses to Lou Midgley Gives Two Tens for a Five

  1. Excellent commentary – I found the Midgley article to be quite off-putting in his attempts to de-fame C.L.Hanson.

  2. Matter Unorganized says:

    You know someone has nothing to say when they resort to logical fallacies. I find Midgley’s ad hominem attacks to be the most disturbing, as they surely speak to his own character.

  3. Goldarn says:

    I wonder if there is a single Mormon apologist who isn’t, at heart, a cowardly bastard.

  4. Odell Campbell says:

    Those who make a living dividing are rarely interested in harmony.

  5. Donavan says:

    This, dear sir, is a fine example of an academic (and therapeutic) ass-kicking.

  6. […] reminded me that Midgley claimed my blog lacked intellectual content, so I wrote two posts, one on child […]

  7. zimmy says:

    i had the misfortune to take a class from midgley when i attended byu. he was a boring, pompous ass. he must still be trying to kiss the right behind to have his calling and election made sure.

  8. Allen says:

    A few general comments…

    When you say “you may be wondering why Midgely is responding nearly a year after the issue’s publication,” you fail to take into account the difference between traditional academic publishing and publishing in the blogosphere. One is, by nature, more measured and requires longer lead time and the other, well, is not and does not. Apples to oranges; that sort of stuff.

    Second, I sense from the OP a touch of “you wouldn’t be mean to C.L. if you knew her as I know her.” That would be a bit of ad hominem at work. As you know, ad hominem means to bring up things of a personal nature which have nothing to do with the arguments being made. You engage in a small amount of it by bringing up matters which have nothing to do with her arguments, just as you do when you bring up things about Lou’s personality which have nothing to do with his arguments. C.L. can be the sweetest, nicest, and most moral person on the planet, but that shouldn’t be used to bolster her arguments. Conversely, Lou can be the meanest, nastiest, most vile guy on the planet (and according to some people he is), but that shouldn’t be used to dismiss his arguments as your tangential jaunts through his history and personality seem calculated to do. If you want C.L. to be evaluated ONLY on her arguments, and chide others for not doing so, then you need to evaluate Lou based ONLY on his arguments, by the same measure.

    Third, I find it ironic that your several commenters give you high fives for your incisiveness while, at the same time, engaging in the behavior which you deplore in your prose relative to Lou. (Surely apologists being “cowardly bastards” and Lou, specifically, being a “boring, pompous ass” has little to do with the validity of the arguments made by apologists in general or Lou in particular.)

    Finally, I suspect that you had a better reaction to David Bokovoy’s paper than you did to Lou’s because the first didn’t address specific arguments made by specific people, whereas Lou’s did. Unfortunately, by the same measure, your response to Lou didn’t rise to the level you admire in Bokovoy. Should others dismiss your efforts, here, using the same reasoning by which you dismiss Lou’s efforts?

    • runtu says:

      A few general responses:

      Having published academic papers, I understand that writing and publishing can take time. Midgley’s blog post is not an academic article, nor was it published in “traditional academic publishing” outlets. It’s a blog post. Apples to apples.

      Saying that C.L. is a wonderful person (she is), is simply support from a friend and a rebuttal to the utterly false and unsupported assertions Midgley made about her character. He made her character the issue, not me. As for “bolstering her arguments,” Midgley didn’t even address her arguments, assuming that you consider a call for civility and understanding to be an argument.

      I don’t know which “tangential jaunts through his history and personality” you mean. I explained why I thought the article was delayed, which required a little history for my readers. But other than that, I addressed his “review,” as you rightly suggest I should. His review was unrelated to the content of Ms. Hanson’s essay and seemed designed to include her as one and the same as the other “militant atheists” he attacked. That’s what I wrote, not that Lou Midgley is evil.

      As for the comments, I have always respected readers’ right to express themselves, even the ones that have threatened me and my family. I welcome your comments, too, and I am responding because I believe you have either misread or misrepresented my post. My readers don’t have a web site, a university, and a church behind them. Midgley does. Apples to oranges.

      You write: “Finally, I suspect that you had a better reaction to David Bokovoy’s paper than you did to Lou’s because the first didn’t address specific arguments made by specific people, whereas Lou’s did.” No, it did not. Lou did not address a single “argument” in C.L. Hanson’s essay other than to wave off her call for conciliation as suspect. Had Midgley responded to anything in her essay, I would not have written my response. Ad hominem isn’t always easy to avoid, but when that’s all you’ve got, you have a problem.

      “Unfortunately, by the same measure, your response to Lou didn’t rise to the level you admire in Bokovoy. Should others dismiss your efforts, here, using the same reasoning by which you dismiss Lou’s efforts?” Of course they should if they think I have been unfair, as Midgley has. I responded to Midgley’s arguments, such as they were. You have responded to mine, and I respect that. I don’t mind criticism, and sometimes the criticism is spot on, and I am glad for it.

    • Stephen Smoot says:

      Allen Wyatt said it a little more nicely, but I’m going to be a little more blunt. (And since John is a comedian, I’m sure he’ll appreciate the cut of my jib.)

      Ex-Mormons around these parts suffer from a bad case of what Jon Stewart calls “Ballsheimer’s”, which is: “A terrible illness that attacks the memory and gives its victims’ the balls to attack others for things they themselves made a career of…There is no known cure.”

      Don’t believe me? I dare anyone here to go to the ever lovely Mormon Discussions Board and the read the attack thread currently focused on Scott Gordon and tell me with a straight face that it isn’t anything but sheer, unmitigated, glaring, vulgar ad hominem attacks. (These are the same folks that John used to be real chummy with back in the day.)

      But you don’t even have to go there to see it. “[Louis is] a boring, pompous ass. he must still be trying to kiss the right behind to have his calling and election made sure.” “I wonder if there is a single Mormon apologist who isn’t, at heart, a cowardly bastard.”

      Are you equally outraged at these attacks, John?

      • runtu says:

        Hey, Steve,

        I had heard you got back from your mission. Glad to have you back around.

        I don’t like personal attacks and have tried very hard not to engage in them myself, though obviously I have failed sometimes. I used to get suspended on the MAD board because I was calling for civility on both sides, which made me a “board nanny,” apparently. I find it a little odd that you are calling me out for not being outraged by the posts on a board where I no longer post. Has it occurred to you that I left precisely because of the nastiness on both sides over there? Am I outraged at personal attack? That seems a little strong, but it does disappoint me. I wasn’t outraged by Midgley’s attack on my friend, but I thought it was wrong of him to focus entirely on an imaginary version of her character so that he could dismiss what she said as arrogant and suspect. And as I explained to Allen (I figured it was Brother Wyatt), I find it quite strange that you want to compare Midgley’s attack to a comment on my blog.

        We could all use a little more kindness. I have apologized many times for my part in rancorous episodes of the past. I don’t remember any involving you, Steve, though if I was unkind to you, I apologize now. But I can’t apologize for what I wrote about Brother Midgley. His article was completely unrelated to my friend’s essay; rather than discuss what she actually wrote, he scoured her personal blog for dirt. Maybe that does approach the level of outrageous.

    • jbsaxman says:

      Mr Wyatt,

      I want to address one thing in your comment, though I suspect you might dismiss it as “sharpshooting”. I’ll take my chances.

      You say: “That would be a bit of ad hominem at work. As you know, ad hominem means to bring up things of a personal nature which have nothing to do with the arguments being made.”

      This is not the correct definition nor application of ad hominem. Ad hominem means bringing up personal traits and/or characteristics which are used to discredit an argument rather than addressing the content of the argument.

      Mr Midgley did, in fact, engage in ad hominem by attempting to discredit Ms Hanson on a sole basis of whatever he perceived her character to be. The accuracy of his statements is entirely moot in point.

      I daresay I felt that Mr Midgely’s entirely essay was an ad hominem against anyone who, like myself, consider themselves to be atheist by creating a blanket of equality under which he also includes the atrocities of militant communism, creating an imagined corollary between the two. While I don’t think he used such language that would draw a direct connection, the overt undertones that atheism = war-mongering/social immorality are, in my opinion, creating a false cause argument.

      I find it fascinating, actually, that Midgely would put such an emphasis on equating unorganized atheists with a philosophy that at its core is not only welcomed openly among the LDS faith in the form of the Law of Consecration, but has also been followed during several times during the history of the LDS church by way of the United Order.

      The core differences between communism and the Law of Consecration boil down to semantics and nothing more. The core tenents of those philosophy remain fundamentally the same.

  9. I would like to weigh in on behalf of Runtu. Since Midgley felt it appropriate to bring up allegations against C.L.Hanson’s character, then I find it perfectly appropriate for Runtu to address the issue of who she is as a person. Midgley’s article concerning C.L.Hanson came across as a petty attempt to de-fame a person who is trying to promote understanding across a wide spectrum of belief. Maybe, instead of trying to slander C.L.Hanson, Midgley should have focused on the underlying reasons for the tension between Mormons and ex-Mormons, which is an issue that C.L.Hanson herself is trying to address.

    My decision to leave the Mormon Church has no effect whatsoever on the love I have for my family. And it is for that reason that I wish to promote understanding between practicing Mormons and former Mormons. People leave Mormonism for many reasons and their decisions should be respected.

  10. Hellmut says:

    One has to pity people who need to tear down others to sustain their faith. It’s embarrassing and indicates a deep seated insecurity.

    But the real problem is the damage that they are inflicting on others. No gentleman behaves that way.

  11. Hellmut says:

    And yes, you are right. That was a personal attack, which is warranted by bad manners.

    If I behaved like Lou Midgeley, my mother would be ashamed of me and my grandmother would disown me. If Midgeley has any sense of dignity, he needs to apologize for his unbelievable conduct.

  12. NoLongerASheeple says:

    The rancor that often exists between TBM’s and ex-Mormons is sad. Mormons usually attempt to portray ex-Mormon atheists as amoral, angry, debauched, followers of Satan and ex-Mormon’s see TBMs as deluded. It isn’t a ground fertile for conciliation. That said, I think it is becoming increasingly important for us all to find a middle ground where neither end is “tripping over the elephant in the room.”

    Unfortunately, judging from Dr. Migley’s comments, that is a position that apologists don’t want. Is this because it would put them out of a job? Or is it because if TBM’s find out that we’re not baby eating, sexual deviants, they might begin to question other things they’ve been told?

    The job of an apologist (as near as I can tell) is to find any possibility of a thread of an idea to give members a reason to keep believing despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It keeps them employed and busy so I guess I’m okay with it.

    I sure do get tired of all of the ad-homiem attacks leveled by both sides.

    • Seth R. says:

      Nolonger,

      I don’t know anyone who gets paid for apologetic work at FAIR. Dan and Lou have been paid by the church – but that’s for professorial work that had nothing to do with apologetics. Everyone who does apologetics in this area does it on their own dime and on their own time.

      So none of them have “jobs” to be “put out” of in the first place.

      • Charles says:

        In Peterson’s “Yours very seriously” letter, he mentions being paid to edit apologetic works at FARMs. He also mentions that the writers are paid as well.

        Nothing wrong with that, but it’s strange that he’s always denied being paid for his work in apologetics.

  13. Seth R. says:

    I’ll admit though to being a bit mystified why Midgley chose to respond to a blog post on Main Street Plaza. It’s not his usual turf.

  14. Wade says:

    I find it hilarious that Allen Wyatt defends Lou Midgley’s muckraking to academic publishing. Hilarious.

    • Ms. Jack says:

      Nice to hear that “academic publishing” has decided to address such cutting-edge and scholarly issues as the sexual dynamics of the handicapped bathrooms in the BYU library. I can scarcely think of a more salient contribution that needed to be made to Mormon studies.

      While we’re on the subject of holding people responsible for the nasty comments that are said on message boards that they may or may not participate on, recently it was said of me on the ill-named Mormon Dialogue & Discussion Board that I am a “feminazi,” “anti-Mormon,” “female supremacist,” “extreme feminist,” and possible “outright man-hater.” Furthermore, these comments were made not by unknown nobodies, but by would-be MI author William Schryver and established MI author [Pahoran—I’ll be kind and omit his real name]. Would Stephen Smoot care to point out where he objected to these sheer, unmitigated, glaring ad hominem attacks? Or do vicious and mean-spirited ad hominem attacks have to be vulgar before he becomes outraged over them?

      • runtu says:

        I’m just surprised anyone is defending Midgley’s piece. There’s nothing academic about a personal attack involving scouring someone’s blog for dirt. And you are right: the way you were treated on that board was disgraceful, and no one said a word. I wonder why.

      • Ms. Jack says:

        That’s not entirely true. Ttribe and Calmoriah both objected. I think someone else did as well.

        But everyone else sat around and twiddled their thumbs.

  15. Seth R. says:

    The moral of the story I got from that whole incident is that MDDB (and one or two other message boards) are cesspools that ought to be closed down, and a HAZMAT team sent in, and characters like Schryver and Shades sentenced to community service.

    But on balance, I’ve seen more bile from the ex-Mormons than the still affiliated Mormons.

    • Ms. Jack says:

      It’s not as simple as that, Seth. I’m not asking Mormon apologists to rein in their ldsfaqs, seleks, and Jeff Ks. I’m asking them to rein in the people publishing in their periodicals and speaking at their conferences.

      Is there more “bile” from critical posters at MDB? Sure. That’s part of having a free speech forum. That’s also part of having a population that, for the most part, isn’t claiming to practice a conservative religion with credos against vulgarity and treating others unkindly (ask yourself: how much bile should we be seeing from an allegedly Christian message board population?). But that isn’t the case when you look at the people actually publishing in Mormon studies journals who post at MDB. Those people (Chris Smith, Dan Vogel, Brent Metcalfe, Andrew Cook, etc.) are almost, without fail, polite to the core. For the most part, it’s the anonymous peanut gallery that makes the worst comments. Shades himself is anonymous and the closest he’s come to being involved in Mormon studies is a Sunstone presentation quite a few years ago. (IMO, in public Shades is actually pretty darned polite. Seems to have trouble understanding social conventions and makes awkward and rude comments sometimes for that reason, but is otherwise pretty friendly.)

      But the complaint in the OP of this post isn’t about some anonymous nobody on a message board. It’s about a retired professor of political science who has published an essay in an upstart Mormon studies journal that apparently aspires to be “academic publishing.” My complaint was about people who have published in LDS apologetics journals or spoken at the FAIR Conference. We aren’t going after the dregs of any so-called “cess pool.”

    • runtu says:

      In my experience, ex-Mormons tend to use more profanity, but for sheer, visceral hatred, apologists (especially on the MD&C board) remain unsurpassed.

  16. Apologists are “defenders of the faith.” The word “apologetics” comes from the Greek “apologia” and that word, or words using that root, were used many times in the Greek New Testament, including 1 Peter 3:15 “…be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” The word translated as “answer” in that verse is the Greek word “apologia.”

    Here are a few other scriptural examples:
    Acts 22:1: Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence [apologias] which I make now unto you.
    Acts 25:16: To whom I answered, It is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man to die, before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face, and have licence to answer for himself [apologias] concerning the crime laid against him.
    I Cor 9:3: Mine answer [apologia] to them that do examine me is this,
    2 Cor. 7:11: For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves [apologian], yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.
    2 Cor 12:19: Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves [apologoumetha = making our defence] unto you? we speak before God in Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying.
    Phil 1. 7: Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence [apologia] and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.
    Phil 1:15-17: Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will:
    16 The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds:
    17 But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence [apologian] of the gospel.
    2 Tim 4:16: At my first answer [“At the first defence of me {mou apologia}] no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.
    It seems to me we are all apologists when we seek to defend any religious truth.

  17. Seth R. says:

    An “apologist” is a defender of anything.

    Which is why I’ve irritably started to refer to vocal ex-Mormons as “exit-story apologists.”

    • runtu says:

      I’ve long since stopped feeling the need to justify why I left the church. It’s nice to be comfortable with my decisions and with where I am in life. To me, the “vocal” apologists on both sides are the ones who are the most insecure about their beliefs, so they go on the attack or make up a lot of nonsense to bolster their positions. I don’t have time for that.

      • Saying apologists are “the ones who are the most insecure about their beliefs” is a generalization I don’t believe. All those who write responses here are “vocal” apologists for their opinions. Runtu, are you saying you’re more insecure in your own beliefs because you’r being vocal? I attacked no one. I simply demonstrated that according to scripture we should all should be ready defenders of our own faith. Generalizing that all “Mormon apologist” or any apologists are “cowardly bastards” should have been condemned by all here. Defending your beliefs is not cowardly. Runtu, your saying “for sheer, visceral hatred, apologists… remain unsurpassed” is also a gross generalization with which I strongly disagree. Trying to soften that by saying “especially on the MD&C board” was, at best, a weak qualification. Most of those who exibit “sheer, visceral hatred” are not defending their faith… they’re attacking someone elses faith. Those people don’t deserve to be called apologists. Polemics is not apologetics. You’re confusing the two, We all condemn “ad hominem attacks.” Unfortunately, no one can agree what qualifies and what does not. We should instead condemn hatred in any form. Calling anyone a “cowardly bastard” qualifies in my book and implying any apologists are guilty of “visceral hatred” is irresposible. I think an apology (of the English kind) to sincere, honest apologists of any denomination is in order.

      • runtu says:

        I wasn’t talking about you but about aggressive attack-minded Mormon apologists and ex-Mormon critics. Those are the ones who are, in my view, insecure in their beliefs. The hate on both sides is unacceptable, and I do believe it comes from insecurity. I know a lot of people who consider themselves apologists whom I respect; they are the ones doing reasonable, scholarly work, not polemical personal attacks. The same is true on the ex-Mormon side. David Bokovoy is not Louis Midgley, and Dan Vogel is not Ed Decker. I’m sorry you read my response as a blanket attack on apologists. It wasn’t, and I do apologize if that’s how it came across.

  18. Apology accepted Runtu. Now if we can only convince the rest of those who distain apologists as the scum of the earth that they are actually apologists themselves, we’ll have accomplished something of great value.
    I know both Lou Midgley and David Bokovoy and I know they both strongly and sincerely believe what they say. Sometimes that translates to polemical arguments which I too condemn. I now avoid participating in most discussion boards for this very reason.
    I do sincerely believe that there are good apologetic answers to the many criticisms of Mormon doctrines. Unfortunately, many know not where to find them and have abandon all hope that those answers exist.

  19. Seth R. says:

    Personally, I think the message boards are the last place someone who is published and has a professional reputation in the field to uphold should be hanging out.

  20. […] Lou Midgley Gives Two Tens for a Five and Hypocrisy and Personal Attack […]

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