[This post was written by Elizabeth Pack Mansfield, my wife.]
Up till now my online blogging comments have all been through my husband John; however, he asked me to write about an experience I had in teaching seminary this week. As a background, I grew up in a family in which Mormon apologetics was constantly being discussed. In a town said to have the most PhDs per capita, my father was the one in the ward and stake that the missionaries would bring their difficult investigators to.
As an adult I have had some ongoing interest in the subject both in personal research and discussions with non-members. I have often wondered why the answers to common anti-Mormon attacks were not more publicly discussed at church and why missionaries in the MTC were given no training in responding to these attacks. (Frequently missionaries in my Munich Germany mission would give wrong answers to these questions, providing the person with an answer based on false information or false doctrine.)
This week, though, perhaps I have found the answer to these wonderings. I teach a group of 9 students early morning seminary. We covered D&C 45 this week which has the following quotation from HC 1:158-163 in the section heading: “At this age of the Church many false reports and foolish stories were published and circulated, to prevent people from investigating the work or embracing the faith.” As I prepared my lesson plan for the week, I receive the prompting a couple of times that I should spend some time dealing with current false reports and foolish stories so that my students would be better prepared to respond to them with correct information. So I reviewed the information available at www.fairlds.org and FARMS.byu.edu. I chose a few of the FAQs listed to share with the students, with the plan that we would discuss in greater depth the ones of interest to them.
Well, as it turned out, judging from their completely sleepy and uninterested response, this was about the most boring lesson of the whole year to them. They were not interested in any of the topics at all (except one student who was mildly interested in the question of racism in the Church/blacks and the priesthood). So after going on for maybe 15 minutes and having more and more students falling asleep, I had to move on to the material in Section 45 and cut the apologetics lesson off with a recommendation to them to write down the two web-sites of interest in their scripture journals for future reference. I think maybe one student of the nine wrote it down. The rest of the nine students were not even interested enough to write down two web addresses. Normally these students never go to sleep and participate fairly well. It was a real contrast to a standard lesson.
Take home message? Perhaps more members of the Church are not educated in apologetics because it just does not interest them or seem to have any relevance in their lives. (Or maybe Stake Standards Night ran too long the night before!) It is hard for a person to believe that other people simply do not share his/her narrowly focused interests.