When Joseph Smith’s seer stone came into the public eye recently, some people wondered why the church never included it in their typical  narrative of the translation process (as did I—someone who was taught by the missionaries as an adult). Apologists told us that the church has always been open about the seer stone, citing a couple of examples like that one time it was mentioned in the Friend as evidence.

When people wonder why Joseph needed the gold plates if words just appeared on a stone in a hat, FAIR Mormon explains that we aren’t supposed to know the specifics of the translation process, just that the Book of Mormon was translated by “the gift and power of God”.

When people wonder why the papyri Joseph said he translated the Book of Abraham from have absolutely nothing to do with Abraham (as confirmed by every Egyptologist who has ever looked at them), apologists provide several different theories as to why, ranging from “the papyri were just used as inspiration” (going against Joseph’s own words that they were a direct translation) to “the real papyri vanished”. 

When people wonder why Joseph didn’t have the sealing power when he took his first plural wife, or why he made so many false prophecies, or why he married his foster daughters, or why he was tried in court for using his seer stone to find treasure for people, apologists provide answers, possible explanations, and enough criticism of negative claims to make them seem like non-issues.

When people wonder why every archeologist out there says there is no historical evidence for the Book of Mormon and that there is actually a wealth of evidence against it (like the fact that horses and steel swords and wheels and windows didn’t exist at that time), apologists provide answers.

When people notice how similar the Book of Mormon is to The Late War and View of the Hebrews, books absolutely available in Joseph Smith’s town at that time, apologists provide answers.

From the reasonably plausible to the completely ridiculous, apologists (particularly FAIR Mormon) offer explanations for the hundreds of issues that exist with the church’s claims. things that are damning to the church’s claims. Usually, these theories only work when applied to single issues, as they quickly begin to unravel when combined with explanations for other issues. For example, the idea that words appeared from God on the seer stone is incompatible with the fact that there are King James errors in the Book of Mormon.

These theories are never ratified by the prophets, seers, and revelators who are supposed to lead the church. They simply exist as independent, unofficial ideas that may or may not be worth anything.


The problem with apologists

Activity in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has gone down every year since the internet. In the past, pre-AOL dial-up, people were called “anti” for bringing up things as openly accepted now as the seer stone. Many of our grandparents grew up with no idea that Joseph Smith had several wives. My husband’s grandmother still believes “the negroes simply weren’t ready for the priesthood, as they were still running around naked in Africa”.

So the church has tried to become more transparent. They’ve published essays online, hidden just well enough that only those looking will find them. These essays have no author. They are long, masterfully crafted, and address the issue at hand just enough to calm a faithful Mormon for the time being.

Should we believe these essays are inspired?

It seems obvious to me that when good, faithful members are leaving the church at a pretty alarming rate, it is the prophet’s job to bring some sense to the mess. When obedient, lifelong members encounter information they simply cannot get past because it’s far too strong, the church needs to bring out the card it loves to flash so much when teaching people about the gospel—the fact that we have a living prophet, seer, and revelator.

FAIR is publicly supported by the LDS church, even having its head PR guy speak at their conference this year. Apologists are trying to clarify complicated issues, leaving the church free from the responsibility of being wrong or right. They aren’t going to make the mistakes of past leaders whose words they now disavow, it seems. After all, you can’t disavow a nice little story about charity. You also don’t need to be a prophet to deliver a nice little story about charity.

Zina Jacobs-Smith-Young
Zina Jacobs-Smith-Young
Zina Jacobs-Smith-Young would have been a millennial blogger, but she died in 1901. The wife of Brigham Young, and prior to that Joseph Smith, and prior to that Henry Jacobs, who was sent on a mission by Brigham before he married her, Zina loves writing, long walks on the beach, and playing the field.
  • Derrick Clements

    “FAIR Mormon is a way for the church to calm members without risking the prophet being proven wrong at some point now or in the future.” — I think that’s a stretch. FAIR doesn’t exist as a semi-official trial-balloon revelation-testing machine. It exists, for that matter, so does this site, and many of our online Mormon discussion circles, because for some people, intellectual questions and exploration are important. We in the intellectually-interested segment of Mormonism may want the prophet to be our ultimate team captain. Certainly some of them have tended toward that more than others. But for the most part, prophets and leaders are representing a different camp altogether: the management camp. So apologists are not doing the prophet’s work; they’re doing apologists’ work. And prophets are busy doing their own work.

    The essays mark an intersection that is new between those who incline toward correlation and those who incline toward historical inquiry. For that reason, no wonder they come across as a bit jumbled in their presentation. My hope for the future is not that the prophet will suddenly become more theologically or academically focused, but that the various camps can all sort of get along in a way. Liberal thinkers, conservative thinkers, liberal believers, conservative believers, and leadership. They’re interested in — and good at — different things.

    • Zelph on the Shelf

      Great insights! Thanks for commenting! I think the big thing that bothers me is that the church gives funding to FAIR Mormon, but doesn’t seem to try and seek any “revelation” on these complicated issues!

      • Derrick Clements

        I get that too. Maybe this is just complacency on my part, but I think I’d be a little worried if the church came out with lots of new out-of-nothing “revelations” that I would be expected to accept as the final word. At least in my experience so far, a lot of the most difficult spiritual questions — or even tangible historical factual questions — are sticky enough that I don’t think a “revelation” would satisfy me as much as the wrestle itself has.

      • Donald E. Neighbors

        FairMormon does not and never has received funding from the Church. We’ve been hearing that argument since FAIR appeared on the radar of Mormonism’s critics, and it is no more true now than it was in the 1990s.

        • Zelph on the Shelf

          We will investigate that claim and edit it if necessary. Thanks for the heads up! 🙂

          • Neal Rappleye

            So, apparently making the claim required no investigation, but removing it does? I think you have the burden of proof backwards, my friend.

            Don is a long time FairMormon member. I have also been a member for 4 or 5 years. Not trying to boast, but I am not a peon within the organization. I have done a lot of work for them, and held leadership positions within it. I’ve been in important meetings where finances have been discussed. I’ve never received a cent for all that I have done for FairMormon, and am involved enough to know that we receive no donations from the Church.

          • Meme Generator

            FAIR does indeed receive funding from the Church, at least according to FAIR’s tax returns:



            P.S. This site is great. Thanks!

          • Neal Rappleye

            You clearly need to work on your critical reading skills. For starters, even if we accept all the speculation about what the “LDS Foundation of the LDS Church” is, and accept the conspiracy theory being spun about the More Good Foundation being a front for laundering money to FAIR, there is a simple problem of chronology for you. The donations from LDS Foundation to More Good took place in 2009, 2010, 2011. The More Good Foundation donated to FAIR in 2006. That fact ALONE destroys the whole argument.

            Then there is still the problem that the More Good Foundation is not the LDS Church, and they don’t really know what the LDS Foundation even is. Whatever the LDS Foundation is, though, it was More Good Foundation that made a donation to FAIR, and a fairly small donation, all things considered. Unless you had some compelling evidence for money laundering, this would be laughed out of court. (And y’all have that, why don’t you actually take us to court?)

            Luckily for David Twede, the court of public opinion is much lower standards, especially when the public he is trying to serve is a conspiracy hungry exMo crowd desperately willing to latch onto anything that confirms their biases.

          • Zelph on the Shelf

            I don’t think Mormons should attack exMormons for confirmation bias….! The irony is too ridiculous. Especially coming from FAIR.

            Neal, good critical reading. You should have FAIR apply some of that to its arguments.
            While I don’t believe more than a couple of people at FAIR would even necessarily know (and it could easily be done through one of the church’s for-profit businesses), I will remove that part of this post, because the exMormon crowd certainly doesn’t need anything less-than-solid to know the church is a fraud! (As wonderful as its people may be.)

            Let’s also remember, however, that the church still openly supports FAIR, and provides SEO help.

          • Neal Rappleye

            Oh good grief! There are people prone to confirmation bias in every group. Twede’s ubsurd ramblings are tailor made for such persons among exMos. The only irony that is too ridiculous is the tendency, among exMos, to act like they are suddenly above such things while Mormons are overwhelmingly subject to it. Neither myth if true.

            FairMormon, as a collective, sides apply critical reading to its own arguments and is constantly trying to improve them. That said, as an individual I personally try to apply critical thinking to everything I read, and there is plenty from FairMormon, FARMS, Maxwell Institute, Interpreter, etc. that I disagree with. Low and behold, my personal approval of an argument is not the only standard by which things are approved for publication.

            I appreciate your removing it from the post, though I note that despite the lack of evidence you still want to cling to the idea that FairMormon does receive payment. I guess you can still have faith in somethings.

            Yes, Church channels have endorsed FairMormon as a resource. (Notice my choice if words. Endorse and support have different connotations.) No, we don’t receive SEO help from them.

          • Zelph on the Shelf

            You’re right—we’re all prone to confirmation bias. So no, I don’t believe I’m above that. But as someone who has been Mormon, encountered painful information about the church and tried desperately to justify it for months on end (with the help of sites like FAIR, who I still direct people to when they’re looking for a faithful perspective), I can say that the confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance is a whoooooole different ball game now. In that I’m not desperate or distressed or constantly anxious. And I’m not experiencing any cognitive dissonance, though I’m sure you could call my reading of negative church history confirmation bias. (Though I still read the Ensign and other church materials because I find Mormonism fascinating!) So with respect, exMormons do have a better understanding of how each group typically experiences it because we’ve been on both sides of the fence.

            Are you certain you don’t receive SEO help? Certain? There’s more I want to say but I’m hesitant because there are people I really respect involved. EDIT: Person

            I am fine with accepting that FAIR doesn’t receive funding from the church, whatever the truth is! It doesn’t affect me in any way.

            Interested in what you think of this:

            and this: http://mormondiscussions.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=35687

          • <>

            Apparently you are completely clueless about how logic and reason work… which isn’t terribly surprising. You made the claim that the “Church provides [FAIR] with SEO support.”

            The burden of proof is on YOU to prove that, and I would personally like to see your valid, quantifiable evidence that this is, in fact, the case.

          • Zelph on the Shelf

            All I’ll say is that I received SEO help from the church while running a totally personal Mormon website, so I’d be shocked if FAIR didn’t. And we know the church is linking to FAIR from its sites, which is MASSIVE link building SEO help.

          • Zelph on the Shelf

            Can I ask you, totally genuinely, why you think it’s ok that Thomas S. Monson or any of the 12 don’t bring any sense to any of these issues, that are causing more and more members to leave every year? These are really genuine, good people leaving because they really believe it is a fraud. Not because they sinned or were offended or anything like that. They are using their moral compasses to say, “I can’t support the church for being so dishonest and justifying evil things.” Do you really think it’s NOT the prophet’s job to step in somehow?

          • <>

            The problem here is not that the prophet is or isn’t doing what the Lord wants… it’s that he apparently isn’t dancing on your marionette strings precisely the way you think he should. So what?

            The reality is that we have ALWAYS known that there would be a “winnowing” in the Church, and that the chaff would blow away. Contrary to the soothing bedtime stories that exmos and apostates tell themselves the Evil, Big, Bad Church to quiet their restless consciences, the Church is not some evil corporation that bends and molds itself to public pressure. It truly *IS* the Lord’s Church, no matter HOW many people leave it, and no matter WHAT “public opinion” is on the matter. The obligation of the prophet is to be true to what the Lord directs for His Church, not what the “politically correct cause-o-the-hour” happens to be.

          • Albert Carrington

            No, it’s that the “prophet” does not display any prophetic qualities as defined by the Bible that makes him any different than born-again pastor or the wonderful priest. Platitudes do not equal prophecy, and business savy do not equal seership.

            It is not the Lord’s Church just because you say so. Many people have used the idea of the sifting of the wheat to justify evil religions and abuse Christianity. How can you be sure that isn’t just happening again here?

          • Zelph on the Shelf

            If I am “chaff” because I don’t accept old men marrying young girls, a total whitewashing of church history (as publicly advocated by Boyd K. Packer), refusal to apologize for any horrific things said and done by church leaders, and so on and so forth, then I will proudly stand as chaff. I will not use the moral relativism the church claims to dislike in order to put awful things into a tiny belief box that doesn’t make sense to me logically or morally.

          • Richard R. Lyman

            “the Church is not some knee-jerk corporation that bends and molds itself to public pressure”

            Even from a faithful perspective it seems that the church manages to get revelation only after significant pressure forces them to. This was certainly the case with polygamy and the priesthood extension. We can see it today with the softening of rhetoric about LGBT issues.

            These things don’t happen in a vacuum.

          • Loran

            “Can I ask you, totally genuinely, why you think it’s ok that Thomas S. Monson or any of the 12 don’t bring any sense to any of these issues, that are causing more and more members to leave every year?”

            Now come on, Zelph, they talk about them in general if extensive terms Conference after Conference, year in and year out. The nature of the priesthood, the law of chastity, Zionic social and cultural standards etc., are all approached as need requires and time permits (we must note, the fundamental responsibility of the Brethren is to preach and teach the gospel, NOT endlessly field the criticisms and allegations of apostates and dissidents. That, as one might say, is not their gig).

            “These are really genuine, good people leaving because they really believe it is a fraud. Not because they sinned or were offended or anything like that.”

            Leaving the church is sin; it is a kind of wickedness. Revolting or rebelling at any offering of further light and knowledge from the Lord is a form of sin in the gospel sense.

            “They are using their moral compasses to say, “I can’t support the church for being so dishonest and justifying evil things.” Do you really think it’s NOT the prophet’s job to step in somehow?”

            1. They have been, since the last time I checked.

            2. What are they supposed to do, put training wheels on the frontal lobes of NOMs and of members susceptible to “faith crisis” and chaperone them trough the Gospel Principles manual personally?

            If a member of the Church really cannot, will not, or is psychologically or intellectually resistant to “studying out” in his or her mind the problems and questions they encounter in a faithful manner (yes, there is a faithFUL and a faithLESS way of engaging in intellectual study, reflection, and negotiation of theological or historical questions) and if the REALLY want to leave the church, I see no way the Brethren can stop them.

            That decision rests with each individual.

          • Zelph on the Shelf

            If God can provide specific details for a non-commandment like the Word of Wisdom, you’d think he’d clarify something as sacred and essential as marriage/plural marriage. Especially when people are leaving the church because they simply cannot support a 14-year-old being coerced into marriage with a 36-year-old. It’s funny how FAIR can easily dismiss every negative evidence available there. It’s also interesting how often cult leaders marry young wives.

          • <>

            So you have absolutely no evidence of this, and are basically pulling it out of your butt.


            Please show me an official LDS church page that links to FAIR. Not saying it doesn’t exist, but I’ve never seen one, and I’d like to take a look at it.

          • starkravingmad
          • Porter Rockwell

            Huh. Well’s there’s 6 right there.

          • Zelph on the Shelf


          • The Millennial Vote

            Speaking of burden of proof, how about the claim that Joseph and Fanny Alger were just a sealing only marriage, or that they did have sex? It’s pretty bold of someone from FAIR to call for burden of proof when you cannot provide any proof that the Book of Mormon is a historical record of the Native Americans with any real scientific clout. Amazing.

          • Apparently YOU have no earthly clue how logic and reason work, either. I recall anyone here making any positive or factual assertions regarding JS and Fanny Alger or anyone else.

            Are you sure you graduated from 3rd grade?

          • Albert Carrington

            Amazing. You are absolutely amazing. You are telling me that I don’t understand logic and reason because I left Mormonism. I am incapable of reason and logic because I do not believe translate means inspired, I do not believe the Hill Cumorah isn’t one hill, I don’t believe a prophet doesn’t need to prophesy, I do not believe that it is justifiable to marry 14 year olds under the premise of a threat of destruction, I don’t believe that horses are tapirs, or that marriage doesn’t include sex.

            Don’t tell me that I am not being logical when you use arguments that change the meaning of words, use science that is not peer-reviewed or accepted by the scientific community at large, justify evil if committed by Joseph Smith but condemn it if done by ISIS or Warren Jeffs, or selectively quote sources when they agree with you (like Emma Smith). Don’t accuse me of not using logic when your life’s mission seems to be doing the exact opposite.

          • Loran

            Amazing. You are absolutely amazing. You are telling me that I don’t understand logic and reason because I left Mormonism.

            No, he’s telling you that because you asserted above that it is up to LDS apologists to prove that Fanny Alger never had sex with Joseph Smith in response to critic’s claims that he did, while no empirical or substantive documentary evidence exists to demonstrate anything either way. I, as well, can never prove that I have never beaten my wife, tortured kittens, or sold heroin on dark street corners.

            If you say “Joseph Smith had sex with Fanny Alger,” I say “show me the verifiable historical evidence.” Providing none, I then point out that you have not made your case. Now, anyone who understands and respects critical thinking and logic will not then turn and say “So, prove to me that Joseph Smith DIDN’T have sex with Fanny Alger,” and when I cannot provide such evidence, then asserts that, since I cannot prove this negative, your argument stands confirmed.

            This commits a bombastic fallacy of reasoning in which lack of evidence that something DIDN’T occur becomes evidence that it did – a false choice in which the distinct possibility that lack of historical evidence that something DIDN’T happen does not provide a logical link to the conclusion that it did is ignored.

          • Zelph on the Shelf

            Except the fact that the scriptures say plural marriage should be entered into for the purpose of raising up seed, and the fact that marriage, in its very nature, involves sex. And Oliver Cowdrey called it a “dirty, nasty, filthy affair” (but of course, FAIR will gladly discredit that quote.)
            Also, are you saying that it would be wrong for Joseph to have had sex with one of his plural wives? Because if so, you throw every subsequent prophet who practised it under the bus. And don’t give me that “eternity only” nonsense, because Zina Jacobs being married to both Joseph and Brigham totally destroys that argument.

          • Brother_Joseph

            Let’s not forget that Zina first refused to marry Joseph and accepted Henry’s proposal of marriage. Joseph, not to be deterred, coerced Zina to marry him while she was six months pregnant with Henry’s child. Brigham then sent good ol’ Henry on a mission whereupon Brigham then had children with Zina unbeknownst to Henry. There’s no evidence that Zina ever divorced anyone. So yes, Zina’s story is quite a sordid affair that does not reflect well on either Joseph or Brigham (putting it mildly).

            Just sayin’…..

          • Zelph on the Shelf

            You can’t prove that God exists. So how does that work with your logic? You can simply look at the evidence available and make the most reasonable assessment possible.

          • Loran

            “You can’t prove that God exists.”

            That’s not my problem, or is it in any way either necessary or even appropriate as to the “probationary” nature of mortality. That ball is in your court, not mine.

            “So how does that work with your logic?”

            What kind of logic, inductive or deductive?

          • Zelph on the Shelf

            Well, we know polygamy was illegal and that that polygamy was only allowed by God with the first wife’s permission. (D&C 132). We also know that didn’t happen with Fanny Alger. Regardless, we didn’t bring Fanny Alger into this discussion because it’s not what we were talking about. But people get frustrated with FAIR’s bad logic, that’s apparent.

          • <>

            At the time JS introduced it, it was not illegal. That only happened in 1862 as a result of the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act, which was enacted specifically to persecute Mormons.


            Wow. More Extreme Question-Begging and deception. I have no doubt that you’re eager to quietly dispose of the whole Fanny Alger issue since there is zero evidence, to my knowledge, that JS consummated a conjugal or sexual relationship with her, nor have you provided any for us to review. How long should we expect to wait for such?

          • Zack Tacorin

            D Lawrence Barksdale,

            You wrote:
            “Apparently YOU have no earthly clue how logic and reason work . . . Are you sure you graduated from 3rd grade?”

            Isn’t that last part an ad hominem attack?


          • Loran

            And the dancing, dodging, and goal post-moving begin at once.

          • Zelph on the Shelf

            You can’t blame us for a random commenter jumping in and doing that. We have no desire to side step anything, hence why we admitted our mistakes and changed them.

          • Neal Rappleye

            “So no, I don’t believe I’m above that. But as someone who has been Mormon, encountered painful information about the church and tried desperately to justify it for months on end (with the help of sites like FAIR, who I still direct people to when they’re looking for a faithful perspective), I can say that the confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance is a whoooooole different ball game now. In that I’m not desperate or distressed or constantly anxious.”

            Hmmm, neither am I.

            “Are you certain you don’t receive SEO help? Certain? There’s more I want to say but I’m hesitant because there are people I really respect involved.”

            We do not receive SEO help from the Church. I probably know what it is you think constitutes “the Church” helping us on SEO, but that is not what happened. And, in fact, a FairMormon member asked a friend, who does SEO for the Church, if he would personally help us on SEO, and he refused specifically because he didn’t want to make it seem like the Church was providing us support.

            I have no idea if you are responsible for it or not, but I got a good laugh from the thread on the exMo Reddit currently speculating on how we apologists could possibly not be funded by the Church and feed our families. And I needed a good laugh. I’ll let you in on the secret: we are all volunteers who have day jobs which, with few exceptions, have nothing to do with apologetics.

          • <>

            CFR. Another deliberately false, misleading, and deceptive statement.

          • Zelph on the Shelf

            Someone has already shown in the comments that the church has provided valuable link building to FAIR.

          • Not that I saw. I saw FAIR referenced, very briefly, but I as yet have not seen any actual links to the FAIRMormon site, which is the only way that the SEO could be “helped.”

          • Loran

            “I don’t think Mormons should attack exMormons for confirmation bias….!
            The irony is too ridiculous. Especially coming from FAIR.”

            You’re letting your preassumptions show here, Zelph.

          • Roger Nicholson

            Hi ZOTS. I am FairMormon’s Director of Web Content. If you could point me toward that Church resource that is supposed to provide us with SEO assistance, I would greatly appreciate it, because I don’t have any idea what you are referring to.

          • Zelph on the Shelf

            Hey! Nice use of our acronym. 😉 I’m not sure if you read the whole thread (it’s pretty messy at this point, ha) but you’ll notice that our article doesn’t state that, it’s just something we’ve been discussing in the comments based on limited available evidence. “SEO help” doesn’t have to mean financial help (hey, I sound like FAIR, haha) and as someone showed, the links to FAIR the church has used provide valuable link building, aka SEO help.
            We obviously can’t say they get financial help for SEO, though we know SEO is a big deal for the church, as they spent $10 million on it recently. (I can find the source for that if you like but I’m sure you’re already aware.) Also one of our bloggers received personal help from the church’s SEO team, so it seems very unlikely that FAIR wouldn’t at least get that.
            I think this comment thread has blown up WAY too much—lots of claims of logical fallacies while people use them themselves! I think we’ve learned something about to speak in our comments section from now on! We’re all used to being candid and casual, but as we’re now running a more “serious” site, we’ll be sure to fact-check a whole lot better before making comments!

          • Roger Nicholson

            Believe me, we would be delighted to receive SEO help from the Church. I even talked with a couple of Church SEO folks at the end of a FairMormon conference several years ago. However, we didn’t have any further communication after that and nothing really came of it.

            We do have at least one member of FairMormon that I am aware of who specializes in SEO who wants to help us improve, but I have no idea who he works for in his “day job,” (he probably told us and I’ve forgotten) and nothing has really been done yet with respect to improving SEO.

            Bonneville Communications redesigned our main web site a couple of years ago. They did this for free. (I was directly involved and attended the meetings with Bonneville, so I am very familiar with what was done.) When Bonneville finished the design, it was announced publicly that they had done so at a FairMormon conference, and the representatives from Bonneville were there. That’s about the only Church-related “compensation” that I am aware of.

            The FairMormon Answers wiki currently has 7451 content articles, all of which have likely been crawled by Google. It does pretty well in SEO on its own merits, but it is probably more luck than by deliberate design. We haven’t done anything specifically (nor have we received any advice relative to the wiki at this point) to improve its SEO performance.

          • Porter Rockwell

            Thank you for this! You sound extremely genuine. As already noted, it’s a conversation we’re having here in the comments and not a claim being made. Yes, we have issues with some of the apologetics that you guys write, but we understand why you do what you do. We were in that frame of mind not too long ago ourselves. Hopefully you guys feel comfortable enough commenting here so we can have a good discussion and not get too emotionally tied up in polemics.

          • Brother_Joseph

            Hi Roger. Hey, how’s it feel to be an unashamed apologist defending the indefensible?

            Marrying and having sex with other men’s wives (Zina).

            Not a single artifact of three thousand years of advanced civilizations (including no gold, brass or small plates)(Why the need of witnesses for actual artifacts?)(Isn’t that what con artists do?…. oh wait….

            Not even any DNA evidence (period).

            The laughable cover story for the 116 lost pages. (The main purpose of the Seer stone was to find lost stuff yet no one thought to look at it? Plus, it’s not like God couldn’t do an exact do over, or wouldn’t know if the pages were destroyed or not, or where they were located.)

            The utterly bogus Book of Abraham. (Why does God engage in so much hocus pocus, smoke and mirrors distractions? He seems to use all the techniques of a con artist…. oh, wait….)

            Just sayin’…. looks like you’ve got a lot of water to carry defending magic despite your 7451 articles of tortured and contrived hocus pocus.

          • I’m not seeing what you’re claiming here. Could you point it out to me?

          • Zelph on the Shelf

            Do you know what link building is and how it affects SEO? Genuine question. I don’t know how knowledgable people who don’t specifically work in it are. (Two of us work in SEO.)
            Here’s one example of the church linking to FAIR: https://www.lds.org/church/news/this-is-a-womans-church-says-fairconference-speaker?lang=eng

          • Thanks for pointing that out… I hadn’t seen that before. Is that the only example you have? And yes, I’m very familiar with SEO, as I’m a professional web developer. And one link does not a significant SEO bump make.

          • Zelph on the Shelf

            You’re right! We’d normally have removed it immediately until we could verify the claim, but none of us were able to yesterday. Still trying to get the site functioning properly! It has now been removed.

          • Zelph on the Shelf

            (Also the original claim wasn’t made without investigation, we’d all read it in various places, but we failed to check our sources properly which was a stupid mistake on our part.)

          • In other words, you uncritically accepted an Internet rumor that confirmed your bias against FairMormon and are willing to call said uncritical acceptance of said Internet rumor “investigation.”

          • Zelph on the Shelf

            Yep! Stupid error of ours, we know.

          • Loran

            “So, apparently making the claim required no investigation, but removing it does?”

            This point caught my attention as well.

          • Ladies and gentlemen, the textbook example of an ad hominem attack.

            But of course with ex-Mormons it’s only ever about the issues, and never about attacking people personally that disagree with you.

          • Zelph on the Shelf

            Hey, let’s not group everyone together here. We didn’t attack Neal, a reader did.

          • Neal Rappleye

            Is there a reason that comment still has not been deleted? I don’t mean to be pesky here, but it is a rather serious allegation that can have ramifications on my personal life. Please delete it, along with all other comments referring to it, including Stephen’s remark about ad hominem attacks, and even all of my comments about it.

          • Neal Rappleye

            This comment levels a personal accusation that is neither fair nor accurate. Nor is it relevant to the conversation. As such, I respectfully ask that the moderator delete it and any and all replies to it as well.

          • TrevorH

            I see Samantha has let the inaccurate, unfair, and underhanded ad hominem comment stand. But I bet she’ll delete this one.

          • Zelph on the Shelf

            Sorry, what? We deleted statements about FAIR receiving funding. So what’s the issue here?

          • Neal Rappleye

            This is not about any of the remarks in the article. It is about the highly inappropriate, unfair, and inaccurate comment made personally about me by Alex Smith, that has now been on public display for almost 24 hours. I get that y’all are busy can’t monitor this constantly. I have not been complaining. I would just like the comment removed, and (ideally) all further comments that refer to it (including those made by myself, Stephen, and Trevor).

          • Zelph on the Shelf

            We haven’t deleted any comments. Why are you making personal attacks while condemning someone else for theirs? We’re just trying to have a discussion so we can be better informed. We have no ulterior motive other than discovering truth.

          • For the record, as the manager and a moderator of the FairMormon blog, I can assure you all that a comment like Alex Smith’s directed to an ex-Mormon or anyone else for that matter would never have gone through moderation, let alone be left to stand for 19+ hours.

            I think it says a lot about Samantha and her ex-Mormon millennial cohorts here that she has let Alex’s comment stand even after Neal reasonably and politely asked her to remove it.

          • Zelph on the Shelf

            We have removed the inaccurate claims in our article. Something we are more than willing to do, because we are concerned with truth over being right.
            This website is a side project of ours and we don’t spend all day moderating comments.

          • ZinaJacobsSmithYoung

            We also don’t have a full-time team like FAIR to moderate comments. We all have day jobs and there’s only 4 of us. I didn’t even see that comment until now. Regardless, please don’t attack US for claims made against a member of FAIR. We aren’t involved in that.

          • Neal Rappleye

            Look, I really don’t want to perpetuate a fight here, but I have been personally libeled would just like the comment by Alex Smith and all other comments referring to it deleted. That would include the jabs Trevor and Stephen made (and if they complain about being censored, you can blame me). I would like it to be gone without a trace, and I think it would reflect better on your brand as well for such comments to not be tolerated.

          • Well, you can start your investigation with me, since I’m the original founder. You can finish your investigation with Scott Gordon, who I hand-picked to take my place when I left… and he has been at the helm ever since.

          • Zelph on the Shelf

            Perfect! Good thing you corrected us—thank you! We were under the impression that the church received funding, especially given that church reps speak at FAIR conferences and stuff. But we didn’t take our own advice and research that one properly! Thanks again. 🙂

          • TrevorH

            Neal has explained why Twede is wrong (and as another highly-involved member of FairMormon, I concur with what he said), so when are you going to edit again to completely remove the claim?

          • Zelph on the Shelf

            What about the More Good Foundation?

  • Derrick Clements

    PS This site is completely awesome. I am so excited to have found it and to read more!

    • Zelph on the Shelf


  • Loran

    “FAIR Mormon receives funding from the church.”

    Call for references

    • Zelphie Stick

      No references exist in the public domain, given that the LDS church doesn’t release information on it’s US finances.

      • TrevorH

        Well, it is irresponsible to make such claims without evidence being available. But, as several of us actually involved in the management of FairMormon have already stated below, we are neither funded by the Church, nor are we paid for what we do for FairMormon. We all have other ways of supporting ourselves, and volunteer for FairMormon on the side, similar to a church calling.

        • Zelphie Stick

          I agree. I’m simply commenting on the sadly opaque finances of the LDS church.

  • <>

    I’m the original founder of FAIR, and I can tell you with absolute certainty that during the first 3 1/2 years of FAIR’s existence, it didn’t take a dime from the Church. It is my understanding that that is still the case.

    • Zelph on the Shelf

      Thank you for commenting! We have corrected that error.

    • just one of my opinions

      Could it be that the church finds a way of funding either FAIR or another institute that supports FAIR and that FAIR or some subsidiary distributes an honorarium if not a salary?

      • In other words, “Gosh, I just KNOW that there’s a conspiracy there SOMEWHERE… maybe we should just make one up and pretend that it’s real?”

        • Zelph on the Shelf

          Honestly, it doesn’t matter either way whether they receive funding from the church. None of us left the church because of that. (Though some of us were certainly encouraged out by the poor reasoning of apologists.)

        • Spicy_McHaggis

          More than a few people have left the church due to FAIR. Not because of their funding, because of their horribly weak arguments for “truth”.

          • I didn’t leave because of fair. But damn, they helped push me out the door. Did you know Joseph talked about men on the moon? Neither did I until I saw it on fairs website. And their answer for it?

            “However, it should be remembered that this concept was considered ‘scientific fact’ by many at the time. ” http://en.fairmormon.org/Joseph_Smith/Moon_inhabited

            Oh right, because Joseph wasn’t a prophet who could talk to god and god wouldn’t say “Hey Joe, umm, yeah that’s not true.” Because you know, prophet and all.

      • Loran

        When in doubt and one’s belief has been shown to be baseless, double down.

        • CCavanaugh

          We see you do that, yes.

      • TrevorH


  • Loran

    “You’re right—we’re all prone to confirmation bias. So no, I don’t
    believe I’m above that. But as someone who has been Mormon, encountered
    painful information about the church and tried desperately to justify it
    for months on end (with the help of sites like FAIR, who I still direct
    people to when they’re looking for a faithful perspective), I can say
    that the confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance is a whoooooole
    different ball game now.”

    But here’s the classic philosophical sticky wicket you must now negotiate, Zelph. Many, if not most LDS apologists have been in the church much of their lives or, as in my case, my entire life. I first encountered anti-Mormon literature at the Evangelical Christian college I attended my first year out of high school, and began devouring it at the age of 18. I continued this into the nineties, when I grew weary of fielding Evangelical Christian counter-cult arguments and burned out on this particular genre of anti-Mormon criticism for awhile. When I got my first computer in 1998 and went online, I discovered an entirely new and developing phenomena that I had some knolwege of but only in a fragmentary way, and that was what, in later years, I began to term the “LDS counterculture” or internal adversary culture centered around secular, broadly progressive/leftist criticisms of church doctrine, standards, and policies.

    This began with the now infamous “September Six” but has now, with assistance from the OWM, John Dehlin’s attacks from the Left, and the homophile movement among LDS progressive, metastatized to the point of drawing far more into the “middle way” Mormonism of the “NOM” counterculture than possible before the Internet age.

    Now, how is it that I, a lifelong member of the Church, who as immersed himself in anti-Mormon literature as well as apologetic schoarship for almost forty years, and who as also made a life-long study of philosophy, political philosophy, political science, psychology, comparative religion, history, ancient religious texts, myth and folklore etc., and who had been aware of virtually every known criticism, point, claim, and thorny historical problem in the history of the Church either since my teenage years, or, at the latest, my early thirties, can, while having studied, analyzed, reflected, pondered, written about, and absorbed all of what you claim to be “painful” information remain, not only a fully convinced and committed member of the Church, but more convinced of its truth and the sheer depth of its truth now than when I began my long study and analysis of anti-Mormon arguments in the late seventies?

    Why do I still have my testimony, and you do not? Why do I not see these problems as “painful” or embarrassing warts on the Church needing justification, but problems and anomalies needing clear, serious, and faithful explication and comprehension? Why am I still fully committed to the gospel and to the church as that which it claims to be, while others are not, while having absorbed and digested exactly the same information, encountered all the standard arguments, and after negotiating the entire plethora of historical, doctrinal, and philosophical criticisms of the church from the primary sources of those criticisms?

    Am I a witless, gullible dupe, while you are not? Am I riddled with confirmation bias, while anti-Mormonism renders one immune from this condition? Am I a mind-numbed, superstitious “Morgbot,” one of the sheeple so easily led and brainwashed by “LDS Inc,” while critics are immune to such psychological afflictions? Am I mad, and critics sane? Am I an intellectual hack who at some level knows the church is a fraud, but defends it out of psychological fears of a collapsing worldview and self-concept were my house of cards to come down around my ears, while secular/leftist/atheist/NOM critics go boldly and courageously towards our Sun’s red giant phase with a stiff upper lip?

    Speaking of “painful information” and the like is, in other words, a critical begging of the question, because the vast majority of anti-Mormon claims, if not all of them, are far from settled or closed questions, and many historical problems in Church history suffer for want of better evidence and documentation. Many do not see this information as painful, or as in any way threatening to their testimony or faith, and that calls into serious question, not only the specific claims NOMs and exmos make, but, to the point, THEIR entire worldview and metaphysical template; the perspective they have adopted in response to information allegedly “painful” or disorienting, but in relation to which alternative approaches are clearly possible.

    • Porter Rockwell

      I’m not sure I see the purpose of your argument. Are you calling the other 99% of the world’s population “witless, gullible dupes” because they choose not to believe in LDS truth claims? We’re all presented with an incredible amount of information in this day and age and it’s each individual’s prerogative to choose what they do with that information. If you’ve chosen to continue believing, even after an intensive study of primary source material around things like polygamy, seer stones, and the Book of Abraham, then we really can’t help you. At the end of the day, people will continue believing as they choose to believe, even in the face of mountains of evidence.

      Yes, mental gymnastics are possible to create alternative approaches to accepting the complex, nuanced truths of Mormon history; however, that’s not the path we’re choosing. We choose to believe that in the face of overwhelming evidence the probability that Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon are fraudulent, warrants a change of direction.

      The purpose of our site is to help those who were taught the whitewashed narrative that has been handed to us by the LDS Church and have become disillusioned upon learning its history. Our purpose is not to be some “anti Mormon” resource intent at flinging wanton criticisms towards LDS dogma. Rather, we’re trying to create a sense of community for those who feel, like us, that we’ve been deceived and are trying to reorient their lives in a positive direction.

      Absolutely, we will call a spade a spade when we see it and if you’re sole intent is to protect LDS interests at all costs, you will feel like you’re being attacked. This is not our intent. We are trying to bring to light and into mainstream knowledge the shadow history that has not been presented prior to people making significant monetary, familial, and life investments into this religion.

      You are more than welcome to be a part of our community. We ask that you keep your comments respectful and we will strive to do the same. Ideas deserve to be discussed on the strength of their merit. We will obviously disagree, but that’s what makes the world a beautiful place to live.

    • Zelph on the Shelf

      Clearly you are much older and more experienced than us, and we don’t deny that you may well know a heck of a lot more than us! But that doesn’t make you immune from psychological attachment to the church that you can’t let go of. Know that I say this respectfully. I’m not here to label anyone stupid or gullible or anything like that—because all four of us once believed the church’s claims, then believed the apologists arguments. But that approach didn’t work for us. We can’t believe it’s true.
      There are people in all religions who have studied it intensely for 40 years… does that make their testimony more credible? Maybe. But we all know religion isn’t simply an intellectual matter.
      And, of course, every human being is subject to conformation bias and cognitive dissonance, and we have never denied that. We have simply spoken about our experiences.

    • Zelph on the Shelf

      We appreciate different opinions on our site, but we have already had to ban you from commenting on our FB page for trolling. You are welcome to keep commenting here for as long as you stay civil, but we don’t have the time to keep responding when you show no desire for sincere, open discussion.

      • Loran

        “We appreciate different opinions on our site, but we have already had to ban you from commenting on our FB page for trolling”

        How can one possibly be banned as a troll from an entire forum founded upon and dedicated to this very principle?

        • Ryan Bailey

          Oh the irony of the troll accusing the poster of being a troll therefore rationalizing there own troll douche-baggery.

      • Loran

        I know why you banned me, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with incivility, which I have never been among you, but with the fact that neither you nor anyone else in your forum could find the intellectual resources to refute or rebut my arguments.

        The very fact that you think my response above is “trolling” or uncivil speaks volumes.

    • Michael Anderson

      Are you suggesting that you can be studiously involved in something your whole life, stave off claims that call your beliefs into question, and the only possibility is that you were right? I could be wrong, but I sense that you have a vested interest in the claims of the church being true.

      Let’s start at the null hypothesis: we exist. Please build up the evidence from there that will lead me to believe that the LDS Church is the one true church of a god that governs us all.

    • CCavanaugh

      “Now, how is it that I, …” oh my. Well, you are clearly the center of your universe, so much so that you are unable to imagine anyone different from you, unless of course, they are a lesser being!! So many differences in this universe- we should be confident enough in our ‘self’ to embrace and find joy in the diversity. Do I think you are a witless, gullible dupe? Only in the sense that you continue to insist that what works for you must be the way all other humans should behave. Then, yes, i would call you witless.

    • McKleana

      It’s evident that you are intelligent and have studied a myriad of sources about LDS that are not sanctioned by the church, as well as making a life-long study of philosophy, political philosophy, political
      science, psychology, comparative religion, history, ancient religious
      texts, myth and folklore etc.

      There are many other intelligent, well-read Mormons who have studied non-church-sanctioned material and remain Mormon.

      Religious belief/faith is based on emotion, rather than logic or intellect.

      Additionally, the church attempts to control how people use their intellect:

      “The scriptures are not against us using our intellect nor are they
      against us having intelligence so long as these things are properly
      constrained(!). The scriptures are very much against our tendency to
      measure the gospel by intellectual standards such as empirical support
      or rational coherence.

      “The gospel is under no obligation whatsoever to
      answer to our intellectual questions, nor is it in need of any kind of
      intellectual support. To the contrary, the gospel reserves the right to
      trump any thoughts, words or actions of our own, regardless of their
      intellectual merits. Thus, it is good to be intelligent and
      well-educated so long as we allow the gospel to constrain our
      intelligence and education rather than the other way around.”

  • Loran

    “If I am “chaff” because I don’t accept old men marrying young girls,”

    Historical presentism of the standard variety. Move along…

    “a total whitewashing of church history (as publicly advocated by Boyd K.

    Not only nonsense on its face, the statement that Elder Packer advocated intellectual dishonest is a flat-footed falsehood.

    “refusal to apologize for any horrific things said and done by
    church leaders,”

    Yes, all he “horrific” enormities…

    “and so on and so forth, then I will proudly stand as

    Then you will fall as chaff, and be burned as chaff, as will all of us who so stand, and glory in our chaffness.

    • Zack Tacorin


      You wrote:
      “Then you will fall as chaff, and be burned as chaff, as will all of us who so stand, and glory in our chaffness.”

      So, understanding the “fruit of the Spirit” as described in Galatians 5:22-23, do you think such statements help your case or hinder it? What is it that you hope to accomplish with such?

      Best regards,

      • Loran

        Have you ever heard the phrase, “Oh please?”

        • Zack Tacorin


          I have heard of it. I see that as a red herring in this case.

          Any chance you could respond to my original questions?


  • rcb288

    And down the rabbit hole they go: FAIR doing what FAIR does best.

  • Rusty

    The LDS church said they didn’t fund Proposition 8 (guess what, they did), and they denied purchasing certain of the Mark Hoffman forgeries (they had wealthy/trusted members buy the documents), so there isn’t a good track record here. Forgive us if we are skeptical of the claim that FAIR receives no funding from the LDS church.

    • Zelph on the Shelf


  • Zack Tacorin

    I’m amazed at the amount of quibbling regarding the mistake made about FairMormon receiving funding from the Church. Zelph made a mistake, verified it, and corrected it. Does it change the gist of the argument?

    Even if it did erode the foundation of the argument, wouldn’t that still be a logic chopping fallacy? I mean, couldn’t you simply replace “FAIR” with “Maxwell Institute”? Or am I mistaken to assume that the Maxwell Institute get’s some of its funding or resources from the LDS Church?


  • noel

    Is Loran the same gentleman who appears on the Mormondiscussions board usually very vocal on conservative politics?

  • Darrick Evenson

    Dear Zelph on the Shelph,

    Very good website. Very informative. Great format. Sorry to hear you went from Mormonism to Atheism. I can understand Agnosticism (“we can’t know either way”). I can’t understand Atheism. Atheism is like saying: “There is no life on other planets…because I can’t see it.” Makes no sense to me. I have sent to you an Elemental. Done this before to Atheists. They are harmless, but they can wake you up at night. Theyre not evil, just stupid. I’ll let you explain them away as hallucination. Take care.

  • CanofSand

    What a ridiculous post. She quite clearly spelled out how your ilk with your “LDS Inc” etc. slurs act like YOU are the only sane ones and yet you immediately spin it backwards into projecting that problem on her. You help her case.

  • CanofSand

    That’s obviously not what was suggested. As for your proposal, it appears to be a form of argument by time-waster’s gambit: “no one will bother wasting such a monumental amount of their time on something like this so it makes me look good in front of my buddies when they don’t take me up on it”.

  • CanofSand

    She’s not wrong. And if you think what she’s doing is “troll douche-baggery”, well, as she said, “The very fact that you think my response above is ‘trolling’ or uncivil speaks volumes.”

  • CanofSand

    Funny how bitter ex/anti-Mormons get different “news” than normal ex/non/inactive/active Mormons.

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  • Craig

    Blacks were not ready for the priesthood because they were still running around Africa naked?? This is the most racist nonsense I have ever heard. Shameful!

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