Criticism of Mormonism/Websites/MormonThink

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PERSPECTIVES MEDIA QUESTIONS RESOURCES 2014 CONFERENCE

    A FairMormon Analysis of the critical website MormonThink.com

A MormonThink.com supporter displays a sign during "The American Atheists Mass Resignation Event" at the April 2014 General Conference
“Friend stayed at a Marriott and sent me this picture…He had mentioned he was staying at a Marriott, [I] told him to write it in.”—A MormonThink supporter urging his friend to vandalize a Book of Mormon at a Marriott Hotel. (click to enlarge)
I fantasize about a full-blown faith-destroying session. In real life, I did put the bishop in his place over polygamy. He kept saying I was wrong about Joseph having other wives and being illegal and such. I proved him wrong and he ate crow. twas fun.
—MormonThink's first managing editor, posting as "SpongeBob SquareGarments" in the thread "Anyone Fantasize About a Showdown with SP or Bishop?" on Recovery from Mormonism (an ex-Mormon message board), Feb. 21, 2012, 12:50PM.[1]
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My dream and hope and aspiration: Members of the 1stP and the Q12 are walked out of the [Church Office Building] or their homes in handcuffs for tax evasion, racketeering, money-laundering,...Add the gender discrimination and fraud suits that many will pile onto the criminal charges, and I think 2013-14 just might be a banner moment. Maybe I'm dreaming. But some of us are working on it.
—MormonThink's second managing editor, posting as "Jesus Smith" on Recovery from Mormonism, December 26, 2012. [2]
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It is amazing to me that we are perceived as 'angry' for speaking against the lies of the church and the way in which we are maligned by them. Yet, Jeff Holland can huff and puff, shout and scream, dribble from his mouth and pound the pulpit while he tells blatant lies, and he is considered so 'spiritual'. The mind boggles at how dumb (or brainwashed) TBMs [True Believing Mormons] can be.
—MormonThink's third managing editor, Tom Phillips, posting as "anointed one" on Recovery from Mormonism, July 6, 2013. [3]
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Am I still an active member of the LDS Church? Yes. I no longer believe it is the one, true church. I stay in primarily to help others just discovering the truth about Mormonism. We at MT think every member has the right to know about the true origins of Mormonism.
—Poster "mormonthink," 'I am the webmaster of MormonThink.com AMA', posted on ex-Mormon subreddit, January 28, 2012. off-site
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The leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been ordered to appear before a magistrate in England on fraud charges filed by a disaffected ex-Mormon who disputes fundamental teachings of the religion....The criminal complaint was lodged by Tom Phillips, a Mormon who said he withdrew from the Church after holding positions in England as bishop, stake president and area executive secretary. He now serves as managing editor of MormonThink, an online publication that critiques the Church's history and doctrine.
—Dennis Wagner, "Mormon president ordered to appear in British court," USA TODAY (4 February 2014)
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Mormons, your prophet is lame, deaf and mute. Can he get a miracle cure?
—MormonThink editor David Twede, "No Miracles for the Lame, Deaf and Mute Monson," Mormon Disclosures February 7, 2014.
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This is an application on behalf of Mr. Monson....for the withdrawal of two summonses for fraud issued by this court on application by Mr. Phillips.....It would be relatively easy to state explicitly that Mr. Monson has made these specific representations, and when and how the misrepresentations were made. This has not been done.....It is obvious that this proposed prosecution attacks the doctrine and beliefs of the Mormon Church.... I am satisfied that the process of the court is being manipulated to provide a high-profile forum to attack the religious beliefs of others. It is an abuse of the process of the court....For the reasons given above, these summonses are withdrawn.
Judge Howard Riddle, Senior District Judge (Chief Magistrate) in the Westminster Magistrate's Court, Thomas Phillips vs. Thomas Monson (20 March 2014) in response to the summonses facilitated by former MormonThink Managing Editor Tom Phillips. off-site
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Phillips is not discouraged by the ruling, according to a statement put out by David Twede, a spokesman for MormonThink.com, where Phillips is the managing editor. "Although this ruling represents a setback for our cause, we remain steadfast in our commitment to bring the LDS Corporation to justice," Phillips is quoted as saying. "For people around the world, this case has brought to light the truth: The LDS organization has committed fraud, and fraud is a serious crime."
"British judge tosses fraud suit against Mormon prophet," Salt Lake Tribune (20 March 2014) off-site

SUBTOPICS


FAIRMORMON BLOG

SteveDensleyJr,"A Yankee Lawyer’s Guide to the “Mormon Apocalypse”", FairMormon Blog, (February 17, 2014)


A British man named Tom Philips has filed a fraud action in England against President Thomas Monson and is claiming that it will bring on the “Mormon Apocalypse.” However, rather than inciting fear and panic among the faithful, if they know about the case at all, the most common response is one of bewilderment among Mormons and non-Mormons alike. That is due partly to the fact that it seems quite odd that someone would pursue a case for fraud that is based on faith claims and personal opinions. But, at least for Americans, the odd nature by which the claim has arisen procedurally is equally puzzling.


As an American civil defense lawyer, I think I have been as befuddled by this case as anyone. So I’ve consulted British lawyers and legal sources and come up with the following guide to what Phillips has called, the “Mormon Apocalypse.”
(Click here for full article)


DETAILED QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Overview

The website mormonthink.com is designed to lead Church members into questioning their beliefs in a non-threatening manner by claiming to be "objective" and "balanced." The site claims to be run by active members of the Church. In reality, however, they are "active" only in the sense that some of them still occasionally attend Church—they do not accept the Church's truth claims, and they have no interest in strengthening belief. Instead, the site portrays Church leaders as liars, Joseph Smith as a fraud and con-man, and the Church as "an oppressive empire building corporation." The site includes links to FairMormon as a way of demonstrating their claimed "balance."

Each page on MormonThink.com typically includes quotes from Church sources, large amounts of block text copied from websites critical of the Church, a few references to LDS apolgetics that are followed by mocking refutations by critics, and and ending summary which generally agrees with the critics. The bottom of each page contains links to critical sites, believers sites and to some sites which they consider neutral.

MormonThink has had a series of managing editors, some of whom retained membership in the Church during their tenure while simultaneously mocking the Church's truth claims in online ex-Mormon forums. The transfer of the editorial position appears to be triggered by the resignation from the Church of the previous editor. The founding editor, who remains anonymous, resigned in 2012 in order to avoid discipline after the Church apparently identified him. In his parting letter to his Stake President (posted on the MormonThink website), he states,

You said that [MormonThink] is 'anti-Mormon, anti-Joseph Smith and anti-LDS Leadership'. However, you never said it wasn’t true.[4]

The most publicly well known managing editor was David Twede. Shortly after taking over the site, Twede was approached by local Church leaders and scheduled for discipline. After creating a media spectacle regarding his scheduled discipline, Twede resigned publicly during an appearance at the open mike session at the 2012 Ex-Mormon Foundation Conference in Salt Lake City. After emailing his resignation letter, Twede publicly challenged the Church,

If you’d like to help further, please, by all means, excommunicate the next editor at MormonThink. Have leaders of the Strengthening Members Committee stalk us. Even better, send in the Danites, please, please. That should propel MormonThink popularity into orbit around Kolob. [5]

MormonThink's third managing editor dropped hints throughout 2013 on ex-Mormon messages boards of something big that he was working on that would seriously shake the Church in October 2013:

All I can say is that, if what I am working on actually happens, the consequence will be that anyone who "chooses" to believe will be considered a brainwashed idiot. As for the apologists, there is no way they will be able to spin this. Their games will be up. End game for the apologists. It will take the big 15 to come up with any 'rescue'. Mormonism will be kicked into the area of Scientology. They will still have adherents, but the rest of the world will no longer give them a pass as 'good people'. [6]

MormonThink's directors consider Church attempts to impose discipline on their editors as a beneficial way of increasing traffic and visibility of the website, thus making Church membership more aware of its existence.

After the failure of Tom Phillips to bring President Monson to court in the United Kingdom, Phillips stepped down as managing editor of MormonThink and was replaced by Scott Carles.

The specific content of the MormonThink website is addressed in the articles listed below

This page is a summary or index. More detailed information on this topic is available on the sub-pages below.

The "Spin Free" Section

The following articles extract all of the primary and secondary source quotes from the critical site, places them within their original context when possible, and provides links to the original sources online. This allows you to read the critics' articles free of critical or apologetic "spin." You read the quotes and decide for yourself what to think, without any help from FairMormon or from the critics at MormonThink. If you want to check the sources, we make it easy to go back and look at the originals whenever possible. We won't tell you what to think, and neither will the critics.

The "FairMormon Response" Section

While some honestly pursue truth and real understanding, others are intent on finding or creating doubts. Their interpretations may come from projecting twenty-first century concepts and culture backward onto nineteenth-century people. If there are differing interpretations possible, they will pick the most negative. They sometimes accuse the Church of hiding something, because they only recently found or heard about it. An interesting accusation for a Church that’s publishing 24 volumes of all it can find of Joseph Smith’s papers. They may share their assumptions and speculations with some glee, but either can’t or won’t search further to find contradictory information. Remember the verse of English poet Alexander Pope: “A little learning is a dangerous thing. Drink deep or taste not the pierian spring. There, shallow drafts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again.”

—Elder D. Todd Christofferson, "The Prophet Joseph Smith", Brigham Young University-Idaho Devotional, September 24, 2013.

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The following articles respond point-by-point to articles on the critical website. This is where you can read FairMormon's opinion of and responses to the critical material.

General topics

  • Overview of the MormonThink website
    Brief Summary: The web site MormonThink.com claims to be operated by active members of the Church with an interest in objectively presenting the "truth" about Mormonism. In general, the conclusions reached by the site reflect negatively on the Church. The best explanation of the purpose of the website is offered the words of its own webmaster, and by the testimonials of ex-Mormons who claim that the site caused them to lose belief and leave the Church. (Click here for full article)
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  • Response to MormonThink's list of 25 items that would allegedly "make the Church true"
    Brief Summary: (http://www.mormonthink.com/endpage.htm) According to MormonThink.com, if the Church actually contained God's truth and authority, "we would expect the following things to have happened in this way." The following is a list of issues presented by the website followed by FairMormon's response. Most items on the list are standard anti-Mormon fare, issues FairMormon believes have been "asked and answered" many times. Nearly all points appeal to some type of intellectual or religious fundamentalism. (Click here for full article)
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The Book of Mormon

"Joseph Running with the Plates"
"Translation of the Book of Mormon"
"Could Joseph Smith have written the Book of Mormon"
"The Lost 116 Pages of the Book of Mormon"
  • A FairMormon Analysis of MormonThink page "The Lost 116 Pages of the Book of Mormon"
    Brief Summary: (http://www.mormonthink.com/lost116web.htm) This MormonThink article draws the following conclusion: "There's an episode of the cartoon South Park called "All About the Mormons". In the episode, a faithful LDS family tells the story of the lost 116 pages to a neighbor boy they are trying to convert. They tell this story as proof that Joseph Smith was telling the truth and Mormonism is true. Perhaps the most telling comment we've ever heard about the lost 116 pages debacle comes from the neighborhood boy, who, after hearing the story of the lost 116 pages, exclaims "'Wait, Mormons actually know this story and they still believe Joseph Smith was a Prophet?'" (Click here for full article)
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"Book of Mormon Difficulties"
"The Witnesses"

Visions

"The First Vision"
"Moroni's Visitation"

Other Translation Related Topics

"The Kinderhook Plates"
"The Greek Psalter Translation"
"Joseph's Translation of the Bible"

Controversial Past Practices

"Polygamy"
"Blacks and the priesthood"

Temple Related Topics

"The Temple"
  • A FairMormon Analysis of MormonThink page "Temple"
    Brief Summary: MormonThink originally removed this page containing detailed information about the temple, not because it was offensive to Latter-day Saints, but only because it was driving ex-Mormons' believing spouses away from examining their critical website. The content has been removed and added back several times. FairMormon responds to a number of issues raised which are not related to the explicit temple content that the site sometimes hosts. MormonThink concludes this page with a section titled "The absurdness of it all." (Click here for full article)
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Church integrity

"Lying for the Lord"
"Tithing"
  • A FairMormon Analysis of MormonThink page "Tithing"
    Brief Summary: (http://www.mormonthink.com/tithing.htm) This MormonThink article concludes: "The church doesn't need the money," and that the Church "simply does not appear to really need the money. President Hinckley acknowledged that no tithing dollars were needed to fund a $5 billion City Creek development & mall. If it can make this kind of interest on its existing assets, then it doesn't appear to need any additional funding to operate quite comfortably on its income from the many businesses it owns without any tithing income." The website recommends that members send their contributions elsewhere. (Click here for full article)
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Other Topics

"Conflicts with Science"
  • A FairMormon Analysis of MormonThink page "Conflicts with Science"
    Brief Summary: (http://www.mormonthink.com/scienceweb.htm) This MormonThink article concludes that acceptance of scientific facts and a belief in God are incompatible. For example the website offers this conclusion: "What sounds more plausible; that dinosaurs and plants lived on our planet, died millions of years ago and turned into oil and coal and petrified wood, etc. from age and intense volcanic pressure OR that dinosaurs and plants really only existed on another planet and God moved all of the dinosaur bones, coal, oil, petrified wood, footprints and fossilized dinosaur poop here just to trick everybody but the clever Mormon gospel doctrine teachers?" (Click here for full article)
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Endnotes

  1. [note] Comment by MormonThink's founding editor, posting as "SpongeBob SquareGarments" on the ex-Mormon message board Recovery from Mormonism, Feb. 21, 2012 at 12:50PM. After FairMormon posted this quote, the original was deleted from the RFM board. The original thread in which it appeared, however, still exists here: Thread Anyone Fantasize About a Showdown with SP or Bishop?, Recovery from Mormonism, posted Feb. 20, 2012.
  2. [note] Comment by MormonThink's second managing editor, David Twede (posting as "Jesus Smith"), on Recovery from Mormonism, December 26, 2012.
  3. [note] Comment by MormonThink's third and current managing editor (posting as "anointed one"), on Recovery from Mormonism, July 6, 2013.
  4. [note] Former MormonThink managing editor in a letter to his Stake President prior to his resignation in order to avoid Church discipline. Posted as "MormonThink Founder Resignation" on mormonthink.com
  5. [note] David Twede, statement during open mike session, Ex-Mormon Foundation Conference, Salt Lake City, October 19, 2012.
  6. [note] MormonThink's current managing editor, (posting as "anointed one"), on the ex-Mormon Subreddit, August 1, 2013.

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