Robert Kirby is a Mormon columnist for the SL Tribune. I have read 20 or so columns of his over the years, and some of them are really good and funny and others suffer from what I call the “straw man Mormon” argument.
The “straw man Mormon” argument is extremely common on the Bloggernacle, and it is this: invent an intolerant, holier-than-thou Mormon in your mind and then proceed to show how wrong this Mormon is. If this Mormon is wrong (which he is), then most Mormons (except for you) are wrong because in your mind this invented Mormons represents how most Mormons think. Therefore, we can assume that most Mormons are intolerant, holier-than-thou types because nobody wants to be like this (invented) Mormon.
This tactic is especially cruel because writers like Kirby will take one little characteristic that they have noticed in a few Mormons and then apply these negative characteristics to the entire Mormon population and inflate them into the dominant personality trait of all Mormons.
This Kirby column is a great example of the “straw man Mormon” argument at work. Here is Kirby’s point: if a good Mormon kid grows up and announces he is an atheist, then his very wrong Mormon parents will think the kid is lost and “going to hell” and “doomed,” etc, etc.
Kirby is of course correct that a loving God gives people lots of chances, on Earth and in the Spirit world, to change. He is also right that thinking the kid is doomed is short-sighted. He is also right that some parents probably overreact to their kids losing their testimonies.
Everybody reading this post probably knows some parents who have overreacted in this way. We could fill hundreds of pages on this blog with stories about these “wrong” parents.
But the truth is that everybody, including these parents, are human beings with nuances.