Over the past few days, there has been an outpouring of support for Zelph on the Shelf. We’ve heard from many different people who are passing through the exact situation we are. We are extremely grateful for your kind words and inspiring stories.  We’ve also had a solid number of apologists and detractors vehemently defend their faith. That’s perfectly reasonable. There is room for all opinions on Zelph, as long as they stay respectful.

However, one thing that frustrates me is how quick apologists and critics are to call us “anti-Mormons.” What? We’re returned missionaries. We’re converts. We’re pioneer stock. Anti-Mormon literature was something our moms used to warn us about. How can such a serious accusation be laid against us so easily?

Let’s be clear. Yes, there is some information on the internet that attacks Mormons and is nonsense, but that doesn’t mean anything critical of Mormonism’s truth claims is “anti-Mormon.” In fact, I would say we’re pro-Mormon. Most of our friends and family are still Mormon. Many of our readers are someplace on the spectrum of Mormonism. We’re not “anti” any of those people. We love them. Unconditionally.

When someone invokes “anti-Mormonism” they are automatically creating a smokescreen from the issue at hand. Can we not debate the issue? Can we not discuss primary source material without the caricature of being devils with horns conspiring about destroying people’s testimonies? According to FAIR Mormon, any type of discourse that doesn’t promote its own personal ideology is by definition “anti-Mormon.” I think that’s preposterous.

Here at Zelph on the Shelf we have four goals:

1. Spread awareness/educate
2. Support ex-Mormons
3. Create shareable content that can help those like us explain how they feel to others
4. Un-demonize ex-Mormonism

Now, let’s be clear. None of those goals are destroy Mormonism, become anti-Christs, or summon demons using our Ouija boards. (Sold at City Creek.) I mean, yes, we do love talking to Baal on the weekends, but he isn’t our main focus. Primarily, we’re focused on the set of truth claims made by the LDS Church, which we built our lives around, and then discovered were different than we were taught.

baal drawingSource

I realize that many faithful LDS members are unable to separate their deeply held faith convictions from their views of self and feel that they are being attacked whenever we are critical of the LDS Church and its history. I’m sorry you feel that way, but we are in the business of trying to help people realize the full extent of what Mormonism entails and the truth behind its origin story.

Many religions utilize this same concept of forbidden material. Jehovah’s Witnesses label it “Apostate Literature.” Scientologists label those who read it “Suppressive Persons” or “Potential Trouble Sources.” Mormons use “Anti-Mormons.” Reading about issues, being a truth seeker, and critically analyzing is not being “anti” anything. It’s being pro-integrity.

That being said, we are also going to make mistakes. We are not scholars. We are not historians. We are a handful of 20-somethings who learned about these topics, struggled with them for months on end, pored over any and all evidence we could find available and came to the same conclusion.

Notwithstanding, I do think we have the mental capacity to understand the materials in question, and the nuances at play. If you insinuate that because I haven’t spent 40 years conducting intensive research that I can’t possibly know whether the LDS Church is or is not true, then you probably shouldn’t have sent me on a mission as a teenager to a dangerous, third-world country knowing considerably less about Mormonism than I do now. It’s the same argument as those who argue you can’t truly know Islam until you’ve read the Quran in Arabic.


If you have to dedicate your entire life to a religion to know whether or not it’s true, then I already have my answer.

We apologize for any mistakes in advance and hope that as readers, you will help us in our quest for truth. We encourage those of you who disagree with us to debate the issues. We’re not going to delete your comments calling us “anti-Mormons” but we are going to think a lot less of your ability to intelligently defend your beliefs. Also, don’t troll. No one benefits from that.

Porter Rockwell
Porter Rockwell
Porter Rockwell was the personal bodyguard of Joseph Smith. He's sort of like the Wyatt Earp of Mormonism. He writes for Zelph so others know it's not the end of the world to leave the LDS Church.
  • WackyWombat

    I think in most cases the person calling someone anti-Mormon is just attempting to poison the well.

  • “I do think we have the mental capacity to understand the materials in question, and the nuances at play.”

    Right. Which is why the first of Elder Carrington’s “95 Questions” that the Church “will not honestly address or rectify” is about the accounts of the First Vision. You know, that topic the Church has been addressing and attempting to rectify in official and semi-official outlets since at least the early 1970s with the work of Richard L. Anderson, Milton Backman, Mark Ashurst-McGee, Steven Harper et al.

    • Porter Rockwell

      It’s like you read through my entire post, not getting anything out of it, but instead were looking for any opportunity to make a mean spirited remark. Congratulations. You achieved what you came here for.

    • Tones Bones

      Tell me more about how hard they’ve worked to address and rectify this issue. I was 30 years old before I heard anything about multiple accounts. When I asked my Bishop about it, he said I’d gotten into anti-mormon literature. So, he didn’t know about them either (this was in 2012 just before the essays came out).
      The church *knowing* about something, and “addressing and attempting to rectify in official and semi-official outlets” are two very different things.

    • Zelph on the Shelf

      So what’s the answer to the question then?

    • k_space

      you can’t just point to a few obscure attempts to answer difficult questions and declare that the church has been open about this issue all along. Is a thorough treatment of the multiple accounts problem in the correlated material or is it not? I understand why they don’t bring it up – they don’t want to sew doubt in church lessons – but that doesn’t make it any less deceitful to leave out inconvenient details when the first vision is taught.

  • Sean Hurst

    WackyWombat got it. Poisoning the well is so destructive, because it prevents people from even looking at the issues. Thus, you can’t even have a conversation. It is shutdown before it even starts (must be running Windows).

    • Zelph on the Shelf

      This is a great comment.

  • laineypc

    Like with many things, you can change the name but not the sentiment behind it. If you’re not for it, you must be against it, in some people’s minds.

  • NapoleonX

    Great mother fucking article (sorry if you’re offended by the language, but this is an article for ex-mo’s, so live a little… drop an M’Fer yourself, it’s amazing how freeing it can be to use those words 😉 )… that being said in the spirit of Pulp Fiction and Samuel L. Jackson… What makes me laugh is my conclusion that the church isn’t true, DID NOT, come from “anti-Mormon” literature… it came from studying the inconsistent history of the church, and its founders.

    • Kimberley Pappas

      I was going to use the world bullshit in my post but I felt I was being to anti mormon. Hahaha I feel bad even saying it but sometimes the passion in a heated moment wants to scream it out!

  • Ben Paxton

    Kind of like when ex mormons label someone defending the faith an apologist in order to dismiss argument??

    • Porter Rockwell

      I can sort of see the parallel. I personally don’t feel that an apologist has a negative connotation though. Maybe it does in your mind?

      • I think the difference is that apologists refer to themselves as such. Anti-mormon is always used as a pejorative.

      • Ben Paxton

        I think most ex Mormons use the term apologist pejoratively.

      • Ben Paxton

        Not to me. But it seems to for most ex mormons.

    • k_space

      sure, poisoning the well can go both ways. But since I am not beholden to defend a particular point of view, I feel like I can better follow the evidence to its conclusion based on merit, rather than arguments based on source like poisoning the well and appeals to authority. Since the strong majority of academic, merit based work does not support the church’s truth claims, I would say that the labels “anti-mormon” and “apologist” aren’t quite the same, as you are suggesting. I feel like an apologist has a lot more to gain from obfuscating the merits of an argument, simply because he is in the minority, less evidence supported opinion.

  • Nathan Gee

    Sorry if I have a hard time separating Zelph on the Shelf from Porter Rockwell. Without caring about the details of who is who on this blog, I will address both as one, perhaps I’m wrong.

    Don’t you worry that you become guilty of the same problem? You want to define a word to promote your own goals.

    “When someone invokes “anti-Mormonism” they are automatically creating a smokescreen from the issue at hand. Can we not debate the issue?”

    So labeling something anti-Mormon is name calling by people scared of the debate.

    “Let’s be clear. Yes, there is some information on the internet that attacks Mormons and is nonsense, but that doesn’t mean anything critical of Mormonism’s truth claims is “anti-Mormon.” In fact, I would say we’re pro-Mormon.”

    So you will use a definition of anti-Mormon that suits your purposes. (Really? Returned missionary assures you couldn’t be anti-Mormon. What an absurd notion. Returned missionary is the most damning label in the church. “Praise me, I went on a mission. Now I know the gospel.”) Anti-Mormon must be “nonsense” to fit that label. So long as you are only studying “truth claims” of the church, then you can’t possibly be “anti-Mormon”. By constantly debating points of history, you are somehow fulfilling the mission of the church to bring souls unto Christ, even though you are part of the group that is leaving the church over this new information.

    This is a new blog for me, so I can’t make any particular judgment of you, but I have been following several of the issues that are leading people to “step away from the church” or “take a break” (they don’t want to sound like the other naughty word “apostates”).

    The pattern I have seen is that when someone “takes a break from the church” they can’t help but constantly state (to others who have left and maybe to those who haven’t) how happy they are to no longer be part of the church or how much better their life is. They are quick to post or re-post news or other information regarding the church that would lead people to question their membership in the church. They become quick to share the memes that fly around the internet that are mocking the church. The attitude they share in public regarding the church is bitterness or distrust. I’m sorry if I have a hard time debating historical facts with people who are already bitter about the church because I can’t help but feel that they are not actually interested in the debate, but have intent to bring others into their club. But I guess you are free to decide that this approach is “pro-Mormon”. But perhaps you can see why there are people who insist that even debating “truth claims” can be anti-Mormon when the intent is not with an eye single to the glory of God.

    By the way, I hate labels. I’m totally happy to drop anti-Mormon, pro-Mormon, and apostate. Let someone’s fruits be known.

    Now, who am I to say any of this. Must be some 4th generation Mormon who sees the church through rose-colored glasses. I will freely admit that I have concerns about the church. I’m concerned the church is in trouble. My concerns are of a different nature, though, and I have chosen a different remedy. My concern is that the church has spent a lot of effort teaching people what they should be doing, what actions they should be taking. There is not enough focus on teaching what faith in Jesus Christ actually means. There is not enough time spent talking about what it means to be converted. The membership is more interested in sound bites than in understanding what the scriptures teach. What I see people leaving the church over today is historical or social issues that have become a distraction from the first principle of faith in Jesus Christ (I am always watching for the disillusioned member to proclaim faith in Christ, I am always disappointed). The best kept history is going to contain historical flaws. The details of how things happened don’t help me to better put my trust in God. The choice people in the church have made to keep back historical information is paternalistic and was not a good choice in my mind, but in the end, my testimony is not based on the historical details of whether the Urim and Thummim were used to translate or whether the seer stone was used.

    My remedy is not to leave the church. My remedy is to take every opportunity, whether in talks, or lessons, or conversations to declare faith in Christ, repentance, baptism, and the reception of the Holy Ghost. I can’t leave the church and hope to impact someone’s relationship with Christ.

    • Porter Rockwell

      Zelph on the Shelf is a collaboration website and there are multiple authors. We use pseudonyms to separate our personal and professional lives, but we are consistent with the names.

      It would perhaps be helpful to understand the position I’m in. I was raised LDS, was active my entire life, graduated from seminary, served a mission, and then went to BYUI. It was there I discovered the complex history of the LDS Church. I grappled with it for many months and ultimately decided that I couldn’t reconcile the things I was taught with the historical evidence. I do not consider myself as someone who has “stepped away.” I have left. I am no longer associated with the LDS Church in any form. For many of the same reasons I no longer believed in LDS doctrine, I no longer believe in claims made by the Bible. If you are waiting for me to proclaim faith in Christ, you will be waiting for quite some time.

      I was referring to being pro-Mormon in the sense that I love and support everyone that’s close to me on the Mormon spectrum. I am not pro-LDS doctrine or dogma. I think it has a lot of truth claims that are antiquated and harmful to others. I think the LDS Church as a corporation does not do enough to have an honest discourse with potential or current members with regards to its origin.

      The reasons we started Zelph on the Shelf were already stated in the post. I’m glad that you’ve found your remedy! Ours is different but we’ve already gotten many messages thanking us for helping them through a difficult transition process. That’s why we do what we do.

      • Sam_Millipede

        Um, forgive this from an outsider, but aren’t there three separate facets to disagreements with the LDS Church? That is:
        (1) The difference between being anti-Mormon and being anti-Mormonism. Mormons are people, Mormonism is a religion. It is possible to be anti-religionX without being anything other than happy to deal with the adherents to religionX. I am confident from what you write that you are not anti-Mormons (people), although obviously some are good, some are bad.
        (2) You can be anti-Mormonism in a “passive” sense of not approving it, not wanting it to succeed, preferring its adherents to lose their faith, or
        (3) You can be anti-Mormonism in an “active” sense of wanting to hinder the church’s efforts to spread, wanting to attack its theology etc.

        My guess is that you are anti-Mormonism in the “passive” sense, but you relate happily to those who share your Mormon upbringing, regardless of their current faith status, provided they’re not being vile.

        The LDS Church’s view seems to be that “anti-Mormon” is all encompassing: attack one facet or member of the church and you are (considered to be) attacking the whole structure and its members. As the Three Musketeers had it: all for one and one for all!

        • Porter Rockwell

          No forgiveness necessary. There are no outsiders here!

          Yes, if we break it down into an argument of semantics, you could call me anti-Mormon in a certain sense of the word. My main beef is with the decades of cultural meaning that are attributed to the term and the way it’s used pejoratively.

          I wouldn’t mind if someone called me anti-Mormon if all they meant was being antagonistic towards the LDS Church’s truth claims; however, it’s normally used as a way to demonize those who have left.

        • Django

          This is a very expansive use of anti-Mormon which would make nearly everyone who is not Mormon an anti-Mormon. Being a gentile does not make me an anti-Semite. The use of the anti-Mormon label is intended to illicit a visceral negative reaction against an individual, often to avoid a discussion on the merits of an issue. It is a pejorative.

  • R B

    My blog is NOT anti mormon.

  • Rjperk

    Not being contentious, I just cannot find the cited source used to assert “According to FairMormen, any type of discourse that does not promote its own personal ideology, IS BY DEFINITION anti-Mormon.” Not trying to nitpick, I would just really like to re-cite the reference responsibly. Thanks.

    • Porter Rockwell

      “Those who are “Anti-” some thing oppose and fight against that thing. Anti-Mormons spend their efforts in opposing Mormonism instead of preaching their own beliefs. The label “anti-Mormon” is thus accurate and appropriate.”

  • Allyson FrostRaven

    Good essay, but please take down the image. As an ex-Mo who’s now been pagan for a few years, it bothers me that you’re posting an image linking a pentacle with a who-knows-what sort of demonic creature. The pentacle is a sacred symbol of protection; it’s points represent earth, air, fire, water, and spirit. No devils, demons, or skull-headed critters involved. Just as you’re trying to not represent ex-Mos inaccurately, don’t represent pagans inaccurately, either. Thanks!

  • Kimberley Pappas

    Your blog does a really important thing for a lot of people which is recover from Mormonism and help them feel supported in there thoughts and feelings post a long or short life in the church. To those who have not been fully active in the church it may be difficult for them to understand how the church has defined your life on so many ways that leaving it requires a lot more than a signature and name removal. It’s a hard slog and it’s important to discuss these issues for many people’s mental health after a faith crisis coming from any religion. Keep it up and don’t waste any mental space on annoying comments your doing a great job. You can never please everyone but the work your doing is important.

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