LDS Apologetics for Youth

A good friend of mine, who is a bishop in my stake, just called and asked me to prepare a fireside on apologetics for his youth. This is something the youth requested themselves in their bishop’s youth council.

I’ve done firesides like this for adults in the past, but this will be the first time I will have done one specifically addressed to high school age teens. I am soliciting your thoughts on how I might best approach this.

Some initial off the cuff thoughts I have are:

1. I’ll explain what apologetics is, of course.

2. I’ll stress not being overly defensive. Our persecution complex often leads us to see questions as veiled attacks, whereas often they reflect simple curiousity.

3. The value of humor.

4. There is no shame in saying “I don’t know,” and it is better to do that than to just make up something on the spot.

5. I’m sure I’ll cover some substantive topics, such as polygamy, which is probably the biggest one for teens as well as adults. My impression is that for kids the issues are more based in lifestyle issues (WoW, premarital sex, gay rights, etc.) rather than some of the philosophical kinds of issues (Calvinism and TULIP, for example) that adults sometimes talk about. Do you share that impression? What topics would be worthwhile to discuss with the young people?

Any thoughts about how to do this well appreciated.

Comments

  1. I have four children who are 12-19. (Two boys and two girls) I think your plan is excellent, but I would emphasize the need to talk to them exactly as you would talk to a group of adults – and probably a quite open-minded group of adults. (Given what I have learned about you and your occupation, I doubt this will be an issue.) Obviously, I don’t know the youth in your ward, but most of those with whom I have worked over the years still are seeking truth and understanding without many of the biases that color the world for adults.

    Do you have time to solicit input on one or two specific topics from the youth? I would circulate a list that includes the lifestyle issues you mentioned, some historical issues (polygamy, the Priesthood ban, evolution, etc.), AND some theological issues. They probably will pick the ones that impact their lives in school and with their friends to the greatest degree, but they might not. I have been surprised more than once over the years by our Young Men and Young Women.

    Finally, will their parents be invited to attend? If so (and perhaps even if not), you might want to talk with your Bishop about any topics you should avoid based on the attitudes of any parent(s) who might have a heart attack if they are there. (If there are those issues, it might not hurt to mention upfront that there are some topics that are so emotional for some people – inside AND outside the Church – that it is a good idea only to discuss them in settings where you are confident you can control the emotion properly – which is a good opportunity to mention the administrative authority used in an apologetic forum to keep discussion from turning into a free-for-all.)

    That’s my 1.25 cents’ worth.

  2. Assuming the kids are looking for a very broad “how do I respond to…” kind of presentation, you might consider covering the spectrum of “why does the Church say X” and “is the Word of Wisdom just a super early version of warnings from the Surgeon General?” questions (explaining revelation and authority to people who have no experience with either! whee!) I know I got very tired of trying to explain the no-coffee thing in college and finally started snapping “look, that’s just what the Church says to do, all right?” to anyone who asked.

    I bet that less than 1% of the kids there will even have the foggiest idea about wider controversies such as works vs. grace (I’m a college grad and I don’t know what you mean by “TULIP”.) Apologetics, when I was 17, was coming up with non-rude answers to questions like “gee, Sarah, is it true you worship Satan?”

  3. I assume this is what you meant by TULIP.

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    Yes, MCQ, that is what I meant by TULIP. I was using TULIP as an example of something that wouldn’t be meaningful to kids, not something I am contemplating talking about with them.

  5. My impression is that for kids the issues are more based in lifestyle issues (WoW, premarital sex, gay rights, etc.) rather than some of the philosophical kinds of issues (Calvinism and TULIP, for example) that adults sometimes talk about. Do you share that impression?

    I agree 100%, although once when I was 17 I was asked by an acquaintance whether Mormons believe in transsubstatiation. I knew enough about that to say “no” which led to other questions and a debate about salvation by grace vs. works, in which I was in over my head very quickly. In discussing that issue later with other members, even leaders, of the church, I was surprised how few people really knew much about it. Most evagelicals believe Mormons do not believe in salvation by grace. The problem is, most Mormons (adults, let alone kids) do not know how to properly answer that question.

    What topics would be worthwhile to discuss with the young people?

    I think gay issues are big. Most of the youth appear to me to have a lot more experience with that subject than earlier generations, and their experiences have generated a lot of questions about which they have received conflicting information. That discussion alone will eat up all your time.

    Rather than discussing spcific topics, it might be good idea to give them places to go to get answers. In that regard, would you refer them here to BCC?

  6. Kevin Barney says:

    The gay issues thing is kind of problematic for me, because I’m very liberal on gay issues in the Church, so I’m not quite sure what tack to take if this actually comes up. I don’t want to misrepresent mainstream church thought on these issues, but since I personally reject such thought it puts me in kind of a tough place. I suppose if this subject came up I would just frankly describe the quandary, because I agree with Ray that you can’t B.S. teenagers; you’ve got to shoot straight with them, or they’ll quickly tune you out.

  7. Julie M. Smith says:

    I think it is also good to focus on the generic, big-picture, not-issue-specific approach to tricky issues. Simply because 20 years ago no one was talking about DNA and the Book of Mormon and you have no idea what issue may arise in the next 20 years.

  8. Kevin Barney says:

    Yeah, Julie, it’s sort of like how in law school they teach you how to approach issues and think through them; the substance is less important, because the law changes over time.

  9. What an interesting assignment. I hope you will check back and let us know how it went.

    I’d also reinforce the fact that sometimes, it’s best just to agree to disagree. Trying to ‘convince’ someone the church is true intellectually usually goes nowhere, and can often lead to nothing but contention. Remembering that the Spirit really is at the core of conversion and testimony is not a bad thing to be reminded of. I wish I had been told that more clearly before starting on my mission. I was so naive that I was sure that a few convincing scriptures could get someone to see how the BoM really was true. It didn’t take me long to realize that this kind of approach, of trying to ‘convince’ someone with my brain and logic, didn’t really get anywhere.

    I agree with the idea to get input from the youth, especially when this was their idea in the first place. I’d first be wondering what exactly they were thinking about and hoping for when they made the request.

  10. Kevin Barney says:

    Good point, m&m. They don’t have the burden of convincing anyone else about their beliefs. That is a different matter than being able to discuss them confidently in response to legitimate questions.

    Another thought I had to give them confidence is to point out that, vis-a-vis their classmates at school, they are the experts. They’re the ones who have spent their lives attending church, so they should have some confidence in answering at least certain questions about church practice. They almost certainly know more about Mormonism than their classmates do.

  11. I think it would be important to talk about how there are whacky ideas out there, e.g., how the gulf of Mexico is where the city of Enoch used to be, and how such ideas spread. Not everything they will always hear will be true.

  12. I know this isn’t quite an apologetic, but when I was in high school, the questions I got the most often were along the lines of “Mormons aren’t supposed to drink, right? Then how come I saw Larry Lessactive with a beer at John’s party?” or “Mormons aren’t supposed to have sex, right? Then why did Inez Inactive get pregnant last year?” It’s especially hard for teens to discuss lifestyle issues when they are put on the spot to and asked to answer for others’ decisions.

  13. A brief discussion of the relationship between apologetics and the personal testimony of the apologizer might be useful.

    For example, you might discuss how the types of knowledge useful to an apologist might enhance personal scripture study but how “scholarly” scripture study cannot perfectly replace “devotional” scripture study; or how becoming better prepared to discuss the church is not precisely the same as increasing in personal righteousness. [Upshot: seek knowledge, but don’t feel guilty if apologetics isn’t your thing.]

  14. Any plans to distinguish between types of apologetics? You maybe implied that in your post, but just to be clear….

    For example:

    “I believe X is true and so I will come up with some way to explain its truthfulness.”

    vs.

    “I believe X is true and here are some possible explanations—none of which I am certain about.”

    Also, when I was recently asked by the youth the talk about the Second Coming, I started the class by asking them what they wanted to know. I really can’t imagine a bunch of youth actually asking to hear about apologetics, so I’d be interested in knowing how the topic was chosen.

  15. Hmm, in my ward, it’s not Inez Inactive getting pregnant, etc. It’s Melissa Mormon-princess, and Peter Priestpresident getting drunk. Perhaps a talk about kids’ actions compared to their professed beliefs. And not just in the area of alcohol or sex, but whether or not, they are kind to other kids, stuff like that.

    And I think that that discussing the fact that many other kids are probably just curious about Mormons, not attacking, so kids shouldn’t feel threatened or defensive about discussing our beliefs. (Except for gay issues, and that’s going to be tough, since I suspect that younger kids are more likely to also disagree with the church’s involvement in gay political issues– if they even know anything about it.)

  16. Another thought I had to give them confidence is to point out that, vis-a-vis their classmates at school, they are the experts.

    YES. And to recognize that not everyone will believe that. :)

  17. hat is a different matter than being able to discuss them confidently in response to legitimate questions.

    Yes. And it’s also a reminder that they should get and grow a testimony as one of their best tools in discussing confidently.

    We talk sometimes in the ‘nacle of inoculation. I think some of the best inoculation can come in understanding that faith is not something you prove or need proof for. It’s a really different process from the way “the world” gets information. It’s good to be able to discuss confidently, but it’s also good to be confident in one’s faith and testimony, regardless of what someone else will say. That to me is the best first step in apologetics. Get and keep a testimony first and then figure out what to say about the more fringey stuff.

  18. Kevin, sharing your belief in innoculation, I would surely add the Priesthood ban, DNA, evolution, The Pearl of Great Price, Joseph’s head in the hat…, all the toughies. I have also had good results allowing youth to ask their questions by writing them down anonymously, especially if there are a bunch of adults in the room. Makes a big difference.
    I’m encouraged you have been asked to do this!

  19. Kevin Barney says:

    Oooh, I like the anonymous questions on cards idea. I know a lot of kids aren’t going to be comfortable raising questions openly in a fireside but being able to do it anonymously will give them a comfort zone.

  20. Kevin, this is a great idea! As a youth, for one of my young women’s projects I put together an apologetics fireside for my fellow young people and prepared a FAQ’s packet they could keep to help them answer their friends’ questions. It went over very well.

    I forget where you live, so the questions I covered may not be the ones burning in the minds of your youth. But I went to high school in the Bible Belt and the questions we Mormons got most concerned the issue of being saved by grace or being saved by works, and generally if we were “saved” or not. We also were asked a lot about if we believed we could become gods and have our own planets, and if god was once a man. And of course polygamy.

    But I realize my high school was kind of weird. Evangelical Christianity was a HUGE deal, and most of the “cool kids” went to FCA and carried Bibles to class.

  21. Are the kids’ seminary teachers going to be there? What kind of interesting stories have those teachers told the kids about the Gospel (some of the best folk doctrine-posing-as-truth I ever heard came from my seminary teachers, and some kids were shocked when they learned the folk doctrines weren’t actual doctrines).

  22. I think it would be important to say a little bit about what we think about other types of Christianity and/or how we are similar or different. I would assume that most kids don’t believe their non-LDS Christian friends are destined to burn in hell, but they should be told that there are blessings for those who seek to follow the teachings of Jesus even if they aren’t LDS, and that we should respect people with different beliefs and not think we’re superior.

  23. Kevin,

    If you have the opportunity and the lead time, ask that the youth prepare some questions to be given to you before the event. You don’t have to answer all of them, and you don’t have to limit yourself, but it does help focus.

    I think you posted a few months ago about how sometimes you forget that people want a simple answer. You don’t have to go simple in this case, but I think you will need to address it a bit simpler than, say, someone who has received their endowments.

    Our bishop recently held a “All questions answered, all truth revealed” fireside for the youth, and had them submit questions beforehand to help guide his thoughts. It was well-received.

  24. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks all for the great suggestions so far. Keep ’em comin’.

  25. Kevin,

    I’m not sure where you live, but here in NYC one of the big questions the youth have is about blacks and the priesthood. People at school have accosted them with statements about Mormons being racist–I wish you could come give a guest lecture on that topic for us. Ever plan on dropping by NYC?

  26. I like what you have, but I’d throw in a brief blurb about where testimonies ought to come from, in your perspective, maybe like a 1 paragraph version of Davis Bitton’s “I don’t have a Testimony of the History of the Church”.

    Also, as far as particular issues, I’d maybe just right a bunch of issues on the board as examples of issues (stuff from september dawn, pbs, south park, mitt romney campaign, etc.) and throw it to Q&A. In my experience, you seem really good at being extemporaneous, and I think that’s what the kids will like.

    Also, I’d bring a sheet of “good resources” on the internet, maybe as a handout. I know that’s what I wanted when I first joined the church.

    Last, I’d probably note that apologetics is not a paying gig and encourage everyone to go to college, but that’s just me and teenagers.

  27. I think the biggest problem that youth face in the area of apologetics is our culture of authority-worship. Hands down.

    From the time they are barely old enough to walk, they are taught that Joseph Smith was light version of Jesus Christ himself, and that their own bishop is only slightly below that standard of personal awesomeness. Of course Spencer W. Kimball was “perfect,” because… well… because he was a prophet!

    We simply have to put this notion to rest. It is incredibly harmful for our youth. How many people have we run across on the bloggernacle who are all bent out of shape at the church because way back when, they thought their bishop was a god, and then he betrayed or failed them somehow? How many people have we encountered, who just couldn’t square the flawed Joseph Smith they eventually encountered with the alabaster graven image they had been provided with by a well meaning Sunday School system?

    Having a prophet is not a substitute for independent thinking. You have to have your own testimony.

    One example. My wife teaches 12 years olds in Sunday School. Topic is the life of the LDS prophets. Manual is whitewashed, trite, not even close to comprehensive and unhelpful. Last week the subject was Heber J. Grant and that account of how he threw a ball at the barn wall every day for years because he was ridiculed for being too weak to play baseball, and eventually went on to play semi-pro… yadda, yadda. My wife asked the kids what this shows us about Pres. Grant.

    The kids gave some standard answers about hard work, etc. My wife then noted she thought it shows that he was prideful, and wanted to make those other boys eat their words.

    The kids seemed startled, but then you saw the wheels turning and they started to nod their heads thoughtfully.

    It’s OK for our prophets to be human, and even a little messed up. Our youth will realize this if we give them a chance. But their reaction will be much different if they are publicly embarrassed by a barrage of nasty discoveries from a mocking and unfriendly source. They’ll feel betrayed by the Church that kept these facts from them and allowed them to be humiliated in front of their friends and peers. That leads to faith crises.

    The common Mormon worship of authority is dangerous and needs to be deflated a bit.

  28. From the time they are barely old enough to walk, they are taught that Joseph Smith was light version of Jesus Christ himself, and that their own bishop is only slightly below that standard of personal awesomeness.

    Of course, children of actual bishops have no such confusion…

  29. Back to #18 for a bit, our bishop did the anonymous questions on note cards thing. Had a box in his office for a month prior that we could drop them all into and then for the fireside he just pulled them out. Lasted a good deal longer than any other fireside but was, I think, better in many ways.

  30. A very interesting assignment. Please share with us the results.

    Relating to #2, it is important to stress that in explaining one’s beliefs, it is unnecessary and inappropriate to denigrate the beliefs and practices of others. A case in point is when LDS youth are asked why they don’t wear crosses or have crosses on their churches. Without even intending to (these things are often unintentional), this has the potential to be handled poorly. The emphasis should be on explaining why you believe what you believe, and even if one finds the beliefs and practices of others unappealing, it isn’t necessary to share that in order to get one’s view across. In fact, it might be a good opportunity to develop a sensitivity and appreciation for expressions of faith that others have.

  31. Robert Boylan says:

    A problem among members of the Church is that they often hold ethnocentric views, as seen in common LDS approaches and “exegesis” (read: eisegesis) of pericope. Perhaps a brief word on the necessity to understand that the Book of Mormon and Bible were products of vastly different cultures than our own and appreciation of this is necessary to better comprehend the texts, with an example from either the Book of Mormon or biblical text. One could also discuss also the necessity of understanding the semantics of KJV verbiage as opposed to approaching the text with modern semantics of words (Book of Mormon “compass” and “curious workmanship” are two than come to mind). I taught Gospel Doctrine for the youth last summer (Tralee Branch, Limerick Ireland District) and find that such problematic views on these issues (and others, some mentioned above) begin at a young age. Further, these are problems I encounter many times in Gospel Doctrine in Ireland, and it probably is as bad (possibly worse) in the USA and elsewhere.

    Just my two cents. Good luck with the fireside, Kevin.

  32. Kevin Barney says:

    Seth, that’s a good point. The foundation of much disaffection in the church is what I call fundamentalist assumptions, meaning essentially scriptural inerrancy and prophetic infallibility. So I’ll address that as a general matter.

    aquinas, I have my own cross story from my youth, which I can use as a negative example of what not to do. I accosted this girl who was wearing a cross for “wearing the instrument of Jesus’ death around her neck.” I did this for no reason. I have lamented my own little teenage arrogance in that instnace for decades now.

  33. Somebody remind me when the Niblets come out again (if they do) that Seth R. needs to be nominated as best commenter. Of course, Seth, it’s not necessarily a good thing for you that I think so. And your wife is the bomb.

  34. Ann, I don’t think they allow you to compete for that honor if you are a permablogger.

    If I recall however, I did nominate myself for the position last year…

    Hmmm…

  35. I like this idea. One would think that the youth would be getting this from their Seminary teachers. However, from my conversations with our local Seminary teacher (who is very good) he tells me that their role is to be the guardians of the doctrine. Not in the apologetic sense, but more in the “party line” sense. I’m fairly confident they don’t get into the intricacies of polygamy and blacks and the priesthood during seminary.

    On another note, one of the common attacks I remember from the days of my youth was “why does the Mormon church own Pepsi if you aren’t allowed to drink it?” I never even bothered to check out the accuracy of the statement. But it was one attack given by a classmate who came from a staunch Baptist family.

  36. As an 18 yr old I was asked why Mormon missionaries couldn’t swim. I had attended seminary and studied my scriptures. I knew the answer to the question, so I answered it: I summarized D&C 61 how Satan had control of the waters, etc. etc. Ooops. I should of thought HOW to answer the question before opening my mouth.

    When answering questions, it is important to speak to the audience and consider answer would best satisfy their question.

  37. LeIsle Jacobson says:

    What a fascinating subject for you to be teaching! I have all sorts of things running through my head that would be great to teach, but I agree with Julie and Kevin, I think it would be better if the focus of the lesson were more on the resources that are avialable to answer the questions that the youth have, and less on specific topics.

    I’d advocate avoiding specific topics because you really don’t enough time to cover every topic that youth might run across in

    any great detail and sometimes giving them just a little information will only confuse them more. If you arm them with the ability

    to look things up on their own, they’ll do better in the long run.

    To demonstrate that the resources can be helpful, you might consider printing out articles on some of the topics you think you’ll be facing. Let the kids know they can take the printouts home with them, where they’ll have more time to digest the information, and they’ll understand you aren’t just trying to put them off. They might also be more inclined to explore the resources more on their own.

    If the kids are actually having anti-Mormon literature thrown at them, (as opposed to just being harassed about going to Seminary) you might want to pick up a copy of “Offenders for a Word: How Anti-Mormons Play Word Games to Attack the Latter-day Saints” by Daniel C Peterson & Stephen D. Rick. This book does a pretty good job of addressing the general methods of anti-Mormon arguments without wasting time on specific arguments — it could provide some helpful information that you could use in outlining your lesson.

    I’d suggest some of the websites (listed below) as good sources for preprinted answers to some of the more common questions

    that are asked by non-members.

    And I think you could easily make a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” for discussions with non-members, such as…

    — Do share your testimony.

    — Don’t offer meat before milk (Jose’s “devil on the water” story is an excellent example of this. I’m also reminded of a time, when we were asked why members wear “funny underwear”, my girlfriend responded with a story about her Uncle’s best friend’s cousin being saved from third degree burns by his garment. Even at 15, I wanted to crawl through the floor after that one.)

    — Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something.

    — Do know the difference between official doctrine and tradition.

    — Don’t take offense at questions.

    — Don’t Bible Bash.

    etc….

    —————————————
    http://www.lds.org : The official website of the church has a very good search engine and can easily be used to answer questions

    about Same-Sex Attraction, Word of Wisdom, Polygamy, Garments, etc. I particularly like using the search engine in the

    “newsroom” because the articles in the “newsroom” are specifically written with a non-member audience in mind.

    For example, for an excellent article on Homosexuality by Dallin H. Oaks, simply search on “Homosexual” and click on the article

    “Same-Gender Attraction” You can also go to the “A-Z Index” and click on “H” then on “Homosexuality” and bring up a list

    of Church Magazine articles on the topic, a news interview (under “Additional Online Materials”) and a link to LDS Family

    Services with more information on the subject.

    The “Same-Gender Attraction” article would be a good choice of print outs to take to your lesson.
    Dallin H. Oaks, “Same-Gender Attraction,” Ensign, Oct. 1995, 7
    ——————————————
    http://ldsfaq.byu.edu/ A BYU sponsored “frequently asked questions” search engine. The answers on topics such as age of the earth, or organize evolution tend to be of the “the church has no official position on the subject beyond what has been revealed” variety — but that’s a pretty good thing to have drummed into the minds of students.

    —————————————-
    http://www.fairlds.org/apol/ FAIR has a “brief answers” section, a Wiki that receives fairly constant updating, and a pretty comprehensive list of articles dealing with the more common anti-Mormon claims. FAIR did not used to be my favorite site — some of the articles in the past were a bit too contentious or poorly researched for my taste, but they’ve gotten much better over the years.
    ——————————–
    farms.byu.edu (Also at URL: maxwellinstitute.byu.edu) This site also has an excellent search engine. Many of the topics are

    not likely to be related to the sort of thing your kids will be asking, but there are some good articles on evolution, DNA,

    horses/steel in America, and the like.

    Some fodder for “printables” area as follows:

    Before Adam By Hugh W. Nibley
    http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/display.php?table=transcripts&id=73

    Editor’s Introduction: Doubting the Doubters
    See section under: Evolving Developments
    http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/display.php?table=review&id=218

    Book of Mormon — DNA
    http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/bookofmormonview.php?subcat=198&cat=5
    ——————————————–

  38. Another question that comes to mind is the whole ‘Are Mormons Christians” thing. When I was single and working, I had a colleague with whom I got into lots of discussions about this topic (he was an orthodox Catholic, in his mind, a true Christian). It helped me talk to him to understand that some don’t see us as Christian because of our view of the Godhead. Many Protestants share that idea — that our view of the Godhead makes us different, not believers like them.

    Also, it might be good to address the criticism that ‘you can’t rely on feelings.’

  39. LeIsle Jacobson says:

    Oh, I just have to add one small story of my own.

    I was in Relief Society, a bit before class one time, and heard a woman bewailing the fact that her teenage son was “questioning the church” — further into the conversation, it became clear that what he was actually questioning was the position of the church on Evolution. She was apparently berating him for his lack of faith and advocating more prayer, etc. I butted into the conversation by saying, “The church doesn’t have an official position on evolution beyond the understanding that we are descendants of Adam. Leave him alone and let him believe what he wants to believe about evolution — it doesn’t need to have anything to do with his faith.”

    I got a stunned, sputtering response from the woman. She wasn’t quite sure what to say because I was the gospel doctrine teacher at the time, and had been (to her mind) a pillar of orthodoxy.

    I continued on to explain that lots of members accepted at least some portions of the evolutionary theory, including me — and it hadn’t dented my belief in God or Christ. However, being told that he was a wicked apostate because he found elements of the evolutionary theory convincing might cause her son to ‘throw the baby out with the bath water.’

    I don’t know if I made an impression. I hope I did. I personally think anyone who throws away their faith, (or their child) over the theory of evolution really needs to reorganize their priorities.

  40. I hope you’ll do a follow-up post for this, Kevin. I’d love to hear how it turns out (especially if the parents are invited)
    I don’t know much about apologetics, but I do think there are questions about the church, contradictions, or conflicts that can’t be neatly resolved with a few scriptures and general authority quotes. That is a relatively new concept to me, and one that I wish I understood as a teenager. There are things we just need to struggle through, even if it takes years, or a lifetime. Perhaps you could discuss the journey of faith and how we all at a different speed, but that doesn’t make one person better than another. (in other words, tolerance etc.)

  41. Kevin, sounds like a great project. The “questions on cards” trick also lets you preview and select the questions, pass on a question you’d rather not deal with in front of that audience, or even edit such a question into one that you can read and discuss.

    I suspect having a well-informed Latter-day Saint who is knowledgeable enough to discuss tricky or tough issues, plus being willing to do so with a bunch of teenagers, would itself be the biggest boost to some of the listeners. Mormons carry around too many stereotypes and narrow conceptions, one of which is that having questions on tough issues is somehow “wrong,” so some people never pursue those issues enough to resolve their own concerns.

  42. Treat them like adults and give them the facts. I would also add that historical events do not prove the Church true nor do they prove the Church false and that there are those who attempt to use the history to do both.

    I would also tell them that they cannot rely solely on what they hear in Sunday school and Seminary but that they need to study things on their own. Not only will this keep them from getting pushed around by critics and answering the questions of the curious, but will help keep them engaged in the Church. I am will to postulate that many young men and women go inactive in their late teens and early twenties simply out of sheer boredom. Among my friends that are inactive I hear so often that the reason they stay away, or attend infrequently, is because they are bored at Church and are finding spiritual uplift other places.

    Other then that, you could probably tell them more about apologetics then I could.

  43. Every single doubt about a doctrine does have an answer. If one looks to the authorized sources and directly to the Lord,The answers flow.
    Sure the answers are not in stone all the time but a person of faith has understanding and common sense.
    I can work out any topic with the reasoning that, Many times Gods servants are to work it out on their own, and sometimes this practice/process needs refining.
    Kinda like the changes in the book of Mormon or when one writes a letter.As long as it’s the “authors” work the meaning will be perfected or get through.
    Too many hang ups show a lack of human understanding.
    God is so much bigger than us getting bent on the unimportant hang ups of mans history.
    We can never understand the reasoning behind Gods timetables.We just can realize that if they are controlled by man,”any man”,mistakes happen.
    Even if God is directing the flow.Man will mess it up at times.
    Many seem to have hang ups with the following.
    Dna
    Polygamy
    Translation of the BOM
    Blacks & the Priesthood
    Godhood
    Saved by works
    Then the worlds bashing points..
    Garments
    Temple
    Money
    tithing
    authority
    gays

    The bottom line is that I know what my answers are and you may have different ones all together.
    The bottom line is not who is Gods fathers father?

    It’s that The Church of Jesus Christ is the only faith on this earth that has the power and authority to act in the name of God,and will have this power until the end of time.

  44. Brad Kramer says:

    Kevin, I posted this on the similarly-themed T&S thread, but thought I’d post here as well since it seems fairly relevant to your concerns:
    I’m not sure how (or if) this is relevant to this specific discussion, but I have also noticed (anecdotally–so take it with a grain of salt) something of a generational split among the LDS. My sense, based upon personal experience with people I know, is that people from my parents’ generation are far more likely to embrace certain key anti-Mo themes (JS the pedophile/obvious charlatan, BY the Stalinesque dictator, BoM as a thinly veiled, obviously fraudulent work of bad fiction) on their way out the door of orthopraxy than persons in my generation. Various middle-aged friends and relatives who have left church activity seem to have felt compelled to read Fawn Brodie or the Tanners or Ed Decker as a way of intellectually justifying the break with something so integral to their conditioned identity.
    Conversely, I know lots of people roughly my age (28) or a few years younger, friends, former mission comps, siblings etc) who are not active in the church because they aren’t committed to living by LDS behavioral standards (they usually want to party and have sex) but don’t question the fundamental claims or doctrines of the Church–that is they don’t look for intellectual rationales for their (mis)behavior. And they usually acknowledge that it is misbehavior. My sister often admits openly that she has a testimony but chooses not to live up to it. I have no interest in arguing which approach is “better”–fighting or accepting the cognitive dissonance. But the difference does seem to be there. I also wonder if there is a Wasatch-Front-v.-diaspora dynamic at work here, since all my anecdotal examples come from people who were raised in Utah.
    On a more specific topic, conversations with people my age on the subject of gays differ markedly from similar conversations with people my Dad’s age or older. Older people seem far more likely to think that gays are self-consciously choosing a lifestyle in a brazen act of ayes-wide-open rebellion against God and that they are actively and perniciously recruiting susceptible young men into their ranks. People my age, even if they think that homosexual acts are immoral and against God’s will, have usually had some informal social interaction with gays and, therefore, don’t tend to take the more hysterical rhetoric seriously.

  45. I think your advice should include what to say to a peer who is a close friend and is gay.

  46. I think if you hand out cards for anonymous questions, you should require everyone to write something down, even if it’s not really a question, just so those that do have questions don’t feel self-conscious writing something down while others aren’t writing anything down (and are perhaps looking around to see who actually is writing questions down)—in my experience, you can’t overestimate how self-conscious teens can be!

  47. Kevin Christensen says:

    Given that you can’t answer all the questions people might have, I like to make sure that people know some of the best apologetics resources. FAIR, FARMS, Jeff Lindsey’s FAQ page, various key books.

    And I always like to emphasize Thomas Kuhn’s point that anomaly emerges against a background of expectation. That is, something seems wrong only because you expect to see something else. So it always pays to re-examine your assumptions, to give things time, and to keep your eyes open.

    Because the critics tend to want to dispose of faith claims as quickly as possible, and believers actually live in the faith, over time, the believers are the ones who investigate questions more thorougly. I’m also fascinated by the ways in which the same information can be interpreted differently, depending on the contexts in which it is read. The parable of the sower retains its brilliance. As Mark says, “Know ye not this parable? How then will ye know all parables.”

    I like Nibley’s discussion of perspective about questions in “The Terrible Questions.” It dovetails nicely with Kuhn’s observation that paradigm debates always involve “which problems are more important to have solved?”

    And since LDS people like stories, I like to tell a few paradigmatic stories about how questions arose for me personally, and how resolutions came.

    Kevin Christensen
    Pittsburgh, PA

  48. One thought would be to open by pointing out that true apologetics is not just defending the faith, but also explaining the faith. It puts a different perspective on answering “difficult” questions if we keep in mind that the real question is how do you present the idea of a revelatory religion in modern secular society. I think another helpful approach in this context is humility. Not “we have all the answers” but rather “we believe we have been blessed with access to some divine knowledge and are struggling very imperfectly to follow it” and therefore make mistakes, don’t know everything, etc. but find it gives us lots of light and help in life.

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