The Anti-Mormon Fallacy:
Ad Hominem in Disguise
How “Anti-Mormon” dispatches inconvenient information
Mormons have a version all their own which we have decided to call the Anti-Mormon Fallacy.
Mormons typically reject, even avoid, all things “anti-Mormon.” It might sound reasonable if Mormons used “anti” the way most people do. They don’t.
For most people, “anti” followed by the name of a religion refers to an irrational opposition not so much to the religion as to its adherents. For instance, a person who categorically dislikes Jews, Muslims, or Christians is anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, or anti-Christian. Someone who takes on only the religion’s beliefs might be called blasphemous, irreverent, unsaved, heathen, or skeptical—but never “anti.”
Not so for Mormons. They define “anti-Mormon” so broadly as to include anyone or anything that falls short of endorsing Mormonism. Dismissing a message by positioning the messenger as unfriendly is the Ad Hominem Fallacy in full swing. It is this that we call the Anti-Mormon Fallacy. Its unfortunate effect is to relieve Mormons from having to consider the merits of a message.
Each of the following would be deemed anti-Mormon:
• A religious tract advocating fair and equitable treatment of Mormons but calling into question the church’s doctrines.
• An accurate historical account of the Mormon Church’s having barred black Africans and their descendants from its priesthood until 1978.
• An accurate tally of the church’s retail and real estate holdings.
• A list of edits to Mormon scripture.
• Pointing out a false, misleading, or inaccurate statement made by any Mormon leader.
• Disaffected Mormons who talk about their disaffection.
• Literature not directed at the church but which may pose challenges to its teachings. Some would describe as anti-Mormon Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, and even Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos.
• Some Mormons apply the A-term to Rough Stone Rolling, Mormon scholar Richard Bushman’s openly apologetic, implicitly church-endorsed biography of founder Joseph Smith, because in his efforts to mitigate Smith’s warts, Bushman admits them.
• This post.
An explicit or implicit “anti” is one way that movements that appear prima facie questionable to the rest of us retain otherwise intelligent adherents. Not just religions resort to it. The likes of Landmark Education, Impact Training, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Tony Robbins, “alternative” medicine adherents, GMO opponents, natural and organic food movements, vaccination opponents, and others all depend for survival and growth on one form or another of suggested, and then self-policed, information control.
A best defense? We suggest one in the closing words of “It’s Not About the Sex” My Ass: “Whenever you find your emotions pulling you toward believing the opposite of what the evidence says, overrule your emotions and trust the evidence. There is no better way to spare yourself the pain of needless, unfortunate decisions.”