Spending any time at all on social media can rapidly distort your sense of reality when it comes to what most Mormons believe. We often forget that more than half of Mormons live outside of the United States and that almost none of these people care about the petty concerns of the various factions out there. In my relatively conservative ward in rural northern Colorado, most people don’t follow any of the blog-based battles. Most people are simply too busy getting kids to and from school and various events, as well as doing their callings and trying to find time to go to the temple, to worry about the latest outrage fest.
But every once in a while I follow some on-line conversation down the rabbit hole and end up shaking my head at the angst among various factions. And apparently — unbeknownst to me — there are a LOT of liberal Mormons who hate Mormon apologists. And I am not talking about slight disagreements — I am talking about real hatred (at least in their on-line expressions).
I am not going to defend everything ever Mormon has ever done in the apologetics world. I am sure there are mistakes and exaggerations out there.
But I will defend my vision of the importance of apologetics, and it is really quite simple: Satan is happy to use deception to convince people not to be religious and not to believe in the Church. Good apologists simply point out the deception and provide another way of looking at things that supports a faithful point of view.
So imagine you were on the Sanhedrin when Christ was brought up for trial (see Matthew 26:57-67). The accusers were looking for false witnesses. I see apologists as the people willing to stand up and point out the deceptions going on. I see the apologists as those willing to point out all of the good things Jesus did. I see the apologists as those willing to protest a nighttime, unjust trial. I see the apologists adding their testimonies that Jesus is the Christ. What could possibly be wrong with opposing injustice, false reports and outright lies?
One of the questions I ask myself is: what would I have done if I had been in Jerusalem at that time? Would I have spoken up for the Savior? Would I have even had a testimony? Would I have been one of those people silently standing by? Would I (God forbid!) been one of those people actively trying to persecute the Savior?
I think the same things about the events in June 1844 in Illinois. Would I have been willing to travel to Carthage with Joseph Smith? Would I have been willing to criticize the political environment that allowed him and Hyrum Smith to be killed? Would I have been willing to stand up to the Carthage Greys and point out his innocence? Or would I have remained silent in the face of so much public hatred for the prophet?
We are at a time when much of the world is opposed to our prophets and apostles. We are still a peculiar people. So much of the supposed “information” the public has about the Church is either false or highly exaggerated. What could possibly be wrong about trying to set the record straight?
It is ironic that many liberal Mormons who appear to hate the apologists are sometimes apologists themselves. I have seen people who say they are against apologetics set the record straight when somebody says something that is obviously wrong like, “you know, all of those Mormons still practice polygamy.” The liberal Mormon will, rightly, point out that this is simply not true. So, what is wrong with an apologist doing the same thing about another issue?
My wish is a simple one: in my experience most people have good intentions. This certainly applies to Mormon apologists, even the annoying ones who write things you don’t like. Give these people a break. They are not perfect and none of them pretend to be. But their intentions are good. They are the people who see themselves defending the innocent, the innocent Savior and the innocent prophet. Every Mormon who has gone to Church for any length of time has defended the faith in one way or another. Don’t let yourself feel disdain for people who are trying to do this on a regular basis. They are not necessarily heroes (although some of them may be), but they are certainly trying to do what is right. And that is a very good thing.