Several here belong to FAIR or have at least a passing interest in LDS apologetics. One thing I, and many others, have noted of late, is the change in strategy for both naturalistic critics and evangelical critics of the church. Whereas once they simply attacked our beliefs they now take a slightly different approach. They first go the pains to discount any apologetic or sophisticated view of scriptures or our theology. Such accounts, according to these people, don’t represent real Mormonism.
It is an odd thing to see. While I think it has been going on a long time, I think that the recent controversy about DNA and the Book of Mormon has really accentuated the issue. The only way the DNA studies are a problem is if one adopts a fairly naive “Nephites lived across both North and South America” view. Now certainly that’s a common view. I personally think it hard to reconcile to the Book of Mormon. But our critics are right that the beliefs of more well read Mormons tends to be somewhat different from people who’ve not really investigated the issues. However is it fair to simply discount the beliefs of apologists and other Mormons?
You see this in such questionable taxonomies like “Chapel Mormons” vs. “Internet Mormons.” The whole point is really to be able to just discount any nuanced or sophisticated approach to scripture so that critics can go back to attacking Mormonism the way they used to. In a way it is quite lazy. (IMO) After all does it really take that much work for the critic to engage with the ideas of those who think about theology and history? Further, it certainly isn’t the case that all the arguments and positions of apologists are without problems, even within their stated frame work. So why this attempt to redefine the debate?
I should add that if we take Mormonism seriously, then what we are speaking about must be something real. And as something real it must exceed and often contradict our ideas about it. No one criticizes a scientist because some of their hypothesis about reality turn out to be somewhat flawed. Neither do we expect the scientist to fully cast aside everything they believe. Rather they look for the error, make some modifications and test those. So why is Mormon theology and history treated so differently by some? It’s hard to father.