Mormon Strategies: Maximum Deflection

Posted: September 15, 2019 in Brian Horner, Mormon Culture, Mormon Studies, Unethical Persuasion

by Brian Horner
Like virtually all of the 19th century, American cults of Christianity, Mormonism began as an attack on the historically orthodox, biblical faith that it claims to have “restored”. While individual Mormons and Mormon leaders hold some diverse views on this matter, the basic idea they all share is that at some time shortly after the death of the last apostle, the authority of the gospel, the church and the Word of God (the Bible) was lost due to a universal, general apostasy and corruptions introduced into the Bible. The predicate to Mormonism’s alleged, “restoration”, is what Mormons are taught to regard as the “great apostasy”. The disdain that Mormon “prophets” and other leaders held for the vast majority of Christians who populated the orthodox Body of Christ throughout the ages –actually for the roughly 95% of the history of Christianity between this “great apostasy” and the initiation of Joseph Smith’s prophetic career in 1830—is palpable and obvious in their own words.

Mormonism begins with Joseph Smith’s alleged “First Vision” – an event, which Smith described with contradictory variations. But the basic message lies in every version: Mr. Smith claimed to have received this revelation from God (or the Mormon Gods “Heavenly Father” and his son “Jesus Christ”):

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt.
(Joseph Smith – History 1:19)

Here Smith attributes an explicit condemnation of the Christian church as “corrupt” and “an abomination” to God himself (or by the Mormon Gods, including Jesus Christ).

Brigham Young, the second “prophet” of the LDS organization carried on this Mormon tradition teaching that, “The Christian world, so-called, are heathens as to their knowledge of the salvation of God” (Journal of Discourses 8:171). He continued, “With regard to true theology, a more ignorant people never lived than the present so-called Christian world.” (ibid, 8:199). According to this Mormon “prophet”, Christians are totally ignorant heathens.

Young’s successor, John Taylor, confirmed this in his preaching. “What does the Christian world know about God? Nothing; yet these very men assume the right and power to tell others what they shall and what they shall not believe in. Why, so far as the things of God are concerned, they are the veriest fools; they know neither God nor the things of God.” (Taylor, ibid, 13:225). Taylor taught the Mormon faithful, that Christians are fools.

Similar assaults against historically orthodox, biblical Christianity continued throughout several generations of Mormon “prophets”. Their message regarding this “great apostasy” was driven to the logical and common conclusion held by Mormons today as represented by B.H. Roberts, the most highly placed, official LDS historian within the organization. He said, “Nothing less than a complete apostasy from the Christian religion would warrant the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” (History of the Church, vol. 1, p.xlii).

Dug's Special Mission_EDITED

This is consistent with both the message of the Mormon “prophets”, on this matter as well as the natural, even the necessary logical extension of the original, alleged “revelation from God” experienced by Smith and his successors, ever since. If Christianity had survived and was still alive and well in any form, anywhere on earth in 1830, then it would have been impossible to “restore” it with Mormonism. It is impossible to “restore” anything, in the sense that Mormonism uses the term, which already exists. This message is nothing less than the condemnation of the entire Christian church, allegedly from God himself. It has been carried down through the history of Mormonism to the present day and it is one of the key, essential claims that Mormons use to justify the existence of their religion. If Christ had remained with and in His church as He promised and God had not condemned the Christian church, as Mormons claim, then there would be no need for the existence of the entire Mormon religion. Its existence would simply be redundant as well as contradictory to the historic orthodox faith.

So what does all of this have to do with the Mormon rhetorical tactic of deflection? It serves as a topic that provides an excellent example of the kind of argumentation I want to describe here. I have debated this particular topic (and many others) with Mormons for decades. I have found that This topic is highly useful in exposing the falsehood of Mormonism since like so many things taught and believed by Mormons. Their view on this matter cannot be reduced to a matter of “faith”. It is a purely historical topic and the truth of any such claims as this can be easily determined by simply examining the historical facts.

Keep that in mind as we proceed, using this issue as an example of this kind of problem. After all, we are simply discussing the historical assertion of what Jesus, his apostles, and their churches taught. The issue is not the truthfulness or the meaning of what they affirmed and taught; it is simply a matter of identifying the teaching itself. Did Jesus teach the distinctively Mormon doctrines and practice of not? One can agree or disagree with what these doctrines meant or how to interpret them. The issue here is this: Were they actually taught it in the first place?

When Christians question or challenge the claims of Mormonism you can count on one thing: Mormons will almost invariably try to change the subject when they perceive that they cannot answer or defend the claims of their organization. The above doctrine of this supposed, “great apostasy” is an excellent example. The dialog usually follows this basic pattern, exemplified by Mark (a Christian) and Larry (a Mormon):

Mark: So let me be sure of our claim here; Joseph Smith received revelations from God about how the whole Christian faith had been corrupted and had decayed into an abomination to God. Is that right?

Larry: Yes that’s basically it.

Mark: “And now, at this point in time, we have Mormonism, which is the restoration of what was lost in this ‘Great Apostasy’, right?”

Larry: Correct. Joseph Smith was appointed by God to bring people back to the true gospel and God used him as the prophet of the Restoration. As a result, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s one true church, which is the only church on the earth today that retains the authority of the prophets and apostles who are still the foundation of the church, according to Ephesians 2:20.

Mark: Well that is pretty difficult to believe.

Larry: Why? Don’t you think that God wants his authority and the true gospel to be represented by his church?

Mark: Yes. But, if Mormonism is the restoration of the Gospel of Christ then we should be able to see that Christ himself taught the distinctive doctrines and practices that Mormons claim to have “restored”. I mean, you guys cannot have ‘restored’ something that never existed. And if it exists today, there was no need to “restore” it. Mormonism includes a whole bunch of things, in fact even requires lots of things that neither Christ nor his 12 apostles ever taught, like polytheism, the Mormon temple rituals, God the Father is a man living in outer space, and so on. Can you show me some reasons to think that Jesus or his apostles ever taught such things? …

At this point, Larry (or any Mormon) will almost always evade that question, and then cover his retreat with any of a variety of “red herrings” – a named logical fallacy, aka “Ignoratio elenchi”. This fallacy is deployed to distract the exchange or an audience from a point or a question. If successful, the Mormon will derail the conversation away from the question that he or she knows they cannot answer without causing irreparable damage to their religion’s public image.

In this scenario, Larry might respond to Mark’s question by ignoring it and launching a counter-question such as, “Can you prove that Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount”? Or he might ask, “Can you prove that Jesus walked on water”? or “Can you show me some reasons to think that the Hebrews migrated out of Egypt?” etc.

It is important to notice that there is no answer to Mark’s question in Larry’s response. Instead, he is trying to evade the question (avoid answering it) and then misdirect the conversation off onto a different topic, usually in such a way as to illustrate that no one can “prove” anything in the Bible to be true as long as someone refuses to believe it, just as we Christians refuse to believe that Christ ever taught the distinctive Mormon doctrines that their organization supposedly “restored” such as, for example, that dogma God the Father is a man living in outer space.

But the red herring fallacy is not the only evasion they use. Frequently the Mormon will deflect a direct question by attempting to abstract the subject matter to a level where he can technically “answer” the question by answering a question about the broader context containing Mark’s question. For example, the Mormon might respond to a challenge to show that Jesus and his apostles ever taught Mormonism’s distinctive dogmas by trying to show that the Bible elsewhere mentions other “gods” and that the Jews were indeed polytheistic, thereby proving that Jesus taught polytheism – a central dogma of Mormonism that are absent from the New Testament and Christianity for it’s entire history. This effort to broaden the issue is just another trick. It’s a bit more clever since it can be shown that indeed the Bible at least mentions other ‘gods’. It also describes the Jews practicing polytheism. But this deflection falls flat on its face in light of two simple facts so easily observed in the text of the Bible.

First, this “answer” simply ignores the obvious fact so evident in the context where these gods are mentioned, that they are repeatedly identified as false gods (Ps 115 and 135 are good examples). It also ignores the many explicit declarations by God that He alone is the only God that is, was or ever will be. (There are numerous examples throughout the Bible. Isaiah 44-46 contain clear and explicit revelations on this matter). Finally, it ignores the horrific punishment that God meted out on His people for their sin of practicing and teaching polytheism. Thus, the mentions of polytheism in the Old Testament are purely descriptive and not proscriptive. God tells the truth that some of His chosen people did indeed slip into this worldview. But pointing out that they sinned is not God’s endorsement of their sin of polytheism.

Secondly, this answer does not answer the actual question that was asked, pertaining to Jesus Christ, his apostles, and their churches supposedly teaching polytheism. If Jesus understood the Old Testament to actually endorse polytheism, as Mormons infer he must have, then we rightly expect that he would have made that point. After all, the number of Gods in existence must obviously be a critically important element of ANY coherent theology and we expect Jesus to have come with the truth on this essential point. If Jesus understood that there really are MANY Gods (one of the alleged, teachings of Christ that Mormons claim to have “restored”), then surely we should see some evidence of that somewhere in his own words, the words of his apostles or even their churches. Yet, no such evidence exists. The state of the evidence argues that the Mormon claim that Jesus taught polytheism to his disciples is therefore rightly regarded as false, by virtue of the lack of any reason to think he did!

I do not want to get down in the weeds of these particular Mormon doctrines here in this post. This issue of the Mormons claiming to have “restored” the original, authentic teachings of Jesus Christ supposedly lost to the earth in the alleged, “great apostasy” is only here as an example of the point I want to make, which is an examination of the tactics used by Mormons when responding to Christian challenges to the claims of their religion.

The larger point here is to be on the lookout for the distractions, deflections, evasions, counter-challenges, etc. used by Mormons in ways that, by virtue of their highly predictable commonality, appear to have been somehow ingrained into their subconscious. If you have ever debated Mormons and have not seen this behavior, consider yourself to be extremely unique. I have debated Mormons for decades and cannot remember even a single encounter wherein my Mormon correspondent did not quickly try to change the subject when it was clear that he or she could not allow him/herself to answer me honestly.

When challenging or questioning the claims of Mormonism, you will find or have already found that the deceptive practice of deflecting questions and responding with red herrings is a real problem. My advice is twofold:

BYU Professor Robert L. Millet. Click on the above image to see a video of Mr. Millett instructing Mormon Young People on how to deflect and evade direct questions and challenges from outsiders and critics.

1. Formulate your questions and challenges carefully and thoughtfully.
Another game Mormons seem to have been trained to play is to avoid answering your questions and challenges by parsing out words and/or quibbling with the form of the question rather than its intended content. They will frequently misrepresent your question (a straw man fallacy), in an effort to answer the question you “should have asked”, to quote Robert Millett, a popular BYU professor, and Mormon Apologist, instead of the question that you actually asked. There is nothing you can do to eliminate this evasion. But you can make it hard for them to use it effectively by carefully stating a well-thought-out challenge or question.

2. Do not be distracted by the tricks.
Pay careful attention to the Mormon’s response. Listen for a direct, honest answer to your question or challenge. This does not mean siphoning the response for only the answer you want. It means accepting an honest, truthful and valid answer to the question. As long as your question/challenge strikes at the heart of the Mormon claim in question, you are unlikely to get that answer. What you are far more likely to get is a deflection of some kind – perhaps very much like the ones illustrated above. In that case, your response should be to point out that you do not see how the deflection answers the specific question that you asked. Stay focused on your question or challenge. Repeat your question until you get an answer and always insist on an actual answer.

This is where forethought about your own question is important. You do not want to have to clarify the question after the Mormon evades it, because then you run the risk of being accused of “moving the goalposts” and your Mormon friend (or opponent) is not likely to let that slip and will use it constantly as an excuse to continue avoiding your questions. Also, see if you can get your Mormon friend to back up their answer, if it ever comes, by offering some supporting evidence and valid argumentation. (You will almost never get this far). When a direct answer, backed up by evidence and/or valid reasoning does not come, be careful in how you point out that failure. Expect it and don’t let it bug you. Just point out why the answer is invalid.

Unfortunately trying to lead someone who has been deceived –in some cases for an entire lifetime—to simply be honest with you and therefore with themselves will rarely end well. We human beings have a tendency to be defensive about the things we believe. A psychological condition called, “normalcy bias” will kick in and cause people to try whatever they can to get away from the facts that prove that they have been deceived. Moreover, a confrontation with factual reality that debunks closely held beliefs will frequently induce cognitive dissonance, causing many people serious intellectual and emotional distress. So be gentle if you can. Remember that 1st Peter 3:15 calls us to be prepared to have an answer (Greek: “apologia”) for the hope that is within us, but to do so with gentleness and respect:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
— Peter 3:15 NIV

About the Author
Brian Horner graduated with a Master’s Degree in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. He now sails around the Caribbean serving various ministries and teaching apologetics when he’s not writing articles like this one.

Comments
  1. Shane Roe says:

    I love this article. Thank you!

    Like

  2. A new case study from Brian Horner, the author of the above article. While the names other than the author’s have been changed, the actual content of the discussion (including typos) has not. This exchange occurred on Facebook in a Mormon/Evangelical discussion group.

    Further Adventures in Deflection
    To further illustrate how deeply ingrained the Mormon tendency to deflect really is, I offer the following exchange between myself and a Mormon named, .

    The discussion began with a challenge to Mormons from a woman named Ms. Evangelical. The essence of her post was this:

    MS. EVANGELICAL: The LDS claim to have restored the “true church.” Can anyone tell me where in church history we would find the following?

    1. Signs, tokens, and special handshakes as a means for getting into heaven?

    2. The extended version of the Adam and Eve story that we find in the temple movie?

    3. Where it was taught that some of the apostles, who hadn’t been born yet, time traveled to visit Adam and Eve to give them the priesthoods of other people who also hadn’t been born yet?

    MORMON: Ms. Evangelical can you tells us where we find popes cardinals, inquisitors, indulgences etc in the bible?

    BRIAN HORNER: Here we see one of the most popular tricks used by Mormons: deflection. They routinely respond to challenges and requests by blatantly IGNORING them and then issueing their own counter-questions to try to hide their evasion and create a smoke screen of irrelevant bickering over tangential issues.

    MORMON: look who’s talking mr hypocrite. Notice you didn’t answer but went to your bigots smoke screen. And bickering over tangential issues…..did you mr bigot notice this was in response to Leslie’s statements about LDS things not in the bible. Once again, you see thecLDS world through haters eyes.

    You wouldn’t know the Christ if he were standing in front of you.

    BRIAN HORNER: Pointing out your trickery is not failing to answer it. In fact it is a direct answer to it, Mr. Mormon. You did exactly what I said you did: you deflected Ms. Evangelical’s challenge and tried to cover your flight from it behind the usual attempted counter-challenge.
    You Mormons guys do this in almost every thread on this board. Pointing out your trickery is a direct response to it. And NO ONE has any obligation to allow you to get away with it.

    You will now continue to try to use this foolish trick even after I have called you out for it. Watch and see…

    MM>>And bickering over tangential issues…..did you mr bigot …<>At some point you will pull another dead horse out to kick regardless of how many times your moronic questions have been answered.<>It is you, the stoney hearted phony Christian that is shaking at the thought of your own cognitive dissonance being so publically manifest.
    Once again your bogus beluefsd are not biblical.
    Your ongoing denial is one reason why no one takes you seriously.<<

    Here you just keep on keeping on with the ever-popular, but hopelessly ineffective Mormon trick of trying to deflect the challenge and then cover up your evasion behind a smokescreen of irrelevant blabbering.

    MORMON: oh, are you still there.

    You are dismissed.

    Good night.

    BRIAN HORNER: Just keep running away from the many challenges facing your religion, Mr. Mormon. Your actions demonstrate your inability to face them with courage and honesty.

    END.

    Notice that even after I told Mr. Mormon in advance that he would respond by continuing to deflect the challenge, he STILL did exactly that. And when I pointed out his deflection for the fourth time, he flatly stated: "ive have stayed on topic".

    He even insinuated that this topic has been resolved (presumably in his favor) by referring to it as a "dead horse".
    I suggest that this is hard evidence in support of the claim that Mormonism is not only a cult of Christianity and a clumsy counterfeit, but is also a dangerous mind-control cult.
    — Brian Horner

    Like

  3. Here’s another case study from Brian Horner, the author of the above article. While the names other than the author’s have been changed, the actual content of the discussion (including typos) has not. This exchange occurred on Facebook in a Mormon/Evangelical discussion group.

    Here’s another entry into Mormonism’s Continuing Legacy of Deflection

    Here is the Opening Post:
    The Mormon organization:
    “Ordinances that are necessary for us to return to Heavenly Father include baptism, confirmation, the sacrament, conferral of the Melchizedek Priesthood (for brethren), the temple endowment, and temple marriage”
    – Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part B, Ch. 4 – “The Purpose of Ordinances”

    The Word of God:
    I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. – Galatians 1:6-9

    Mormons, please show us where Jesus and his apostles ever taught that in order to go to heaven one must meet each and every one of the prerequisites listed in your Priesthood Manual:

    1. Be baptized (and by the Mormon church, in particular)
    2. Be “confirmed” (and by the Mormon church in particular)
    3. Engage in “the sacrament”
    4. Receive the Conferral of the “Melchizedek Priesthood” (for men)
    5. Participate in the Mormon “temple endowment”
    6. Be married in a temple (and a Mormon temple, in particular)

    When you fail to meet the above request, please explain why Mormons think that they are exempt from the warning and curse of God placed upon those who pervert the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as proclaimed in Gal 1:6-9

    {The first even possibly relevant reply began when someone identified as MORMON 1 posted the following. To be fair MORMON 1 eventually tried to answer my challenge, as you can see. But when his answers did not hold up, he fled…}

    MORMON 1: We haven’t pervert the gospel of Jesus Christ. We actually follow it.

    BRIAN HORNER: Prove it. SHOW me where Jesus Christ taught the above requirements.

    MORMON 1: Brian Horner John 3:5 Matthew 3:15-17 Baptism and Holy Ghost.

    Luke 22:19 Sacrament in his remebrance.

    Matthew 16:19 sealing.

    Lucke 24:49 endowment

    Matthew 10:1 priesthood.

    BRIAN HORNER>>John 3:5 Matthew 3:15-17 Baptism and Holy Ghost.<>Luke 22:19 Sacrament in his remebrance.<>Lucke 24:49 endowment<>Matthew 10:1 priesthood.<<
    Nope. There is nothing in Matt 10:1 about any priesthood and certainly nothing about your "Melchizedek" priesthood. And you offered nothing about temple marriage.

    At best, it would appear that you are going to hell based on just that last one alone. But there's more to condemn you before God: you added not only a marriage requirement to get into heaven that remains totally unsupported in the teachings of Christ and his apostles, you also added mandates pertaining to the Mormon "Melchizedek", which Jesus and his apostles did not teach. Nor is their a Mormon "endowment" described anywhere in the Bible. So on at least three counts, you Mormons are all guilty of preaching a gospel that Jesus and his apostles never preached.

    Why do YOU think that Mormons are exempt from God's warning and the curse on those who pervert the Gospel of Jesus Christ as declared in the Word of God at Gal 1:6-9?

    MORMON 1 Brian Horner Matthew 16:19 temple marriage, yeah all of them are debatable.

    BRIAN HORNER: Nope. You struck out again. Matt 16:9 says NOTHING about a temple marriage as a prerequisite to enter heaven. In fact it does not even mention a temple marriage, or even ANY marriage.
    Are you even reading the verses you are citing???

    {At this point, Mr. MORMON 1 disappeared and another Mormon, A , joined the parade with a long diatribe that had nothing to do with the topic of the debate…}

    MORMON 2: Brian Horner ever learning and never able to come to knowledge of the truth 2timothy 3:7,he is proud knowing nothing but doubting about questions and strifes of words wehereof cometh Evy strife railings evils surmising 1timothy 6:5.please try to learn sound doctrine,i have been following your post all all this while, all your post is all about blaspheming which is not lawful.

    The death that the saviour died on the cross doesn’t mean that we will not work out our salvation 1peter 5:5-6 help us to understand that we should be submissive to God and one another that God resisteth the proud and give grace to the humble means that there somethings we must do before the atonement of Jesus Christ have any effect in us, point (1)we must have faith in Jesus Christ (2) we must repent from our sins (3)we must be baptize for remission of sins (4) we will receive the holy ghost which is the comforter to be our constant companion, and finally we must endure to the end, now for us the endure to the end means that we must press forward and strive to keep the commandment of God,, apostle Paul wrote for sin Shall not have Dominion over you, for ye are not under the law but under grace.what then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace God forbid Romans 6:14-15.

    It’s written that’s by grace we are save after all we can do, after all we can do,that means we must do something we must perform our own duty, moreover pertaining to the eternal marriageJesus Christ taught a certain group of people pertaining to eternal marriage one of this people is the Sadducees who believe not in resurrection they came unto the Lord by tempting him and asking him about a certain woman that married 7 brethren and without having a child so they wanted to know among the 7 men who will be the husband of that woman in the resurrection, now the saviour perceive there wickedness and told them that they greatly err.. becus they don’t understand d scriptures neither know the power of God. Mark 12.

    Moreover Jesus Christ told this Sadducees that this are not going to be married in resurrection neither will they give to marriage because none of them married with the power God which is the priesthood authority even the authority that Jesus Christ gave to Peter in Matt 16:19.matt 10:1.

    The second group was the Pharisees who believe in resurrection they came to Christ and ask him about divorcement about what Moses told them that whosoever that want to put his wife away should make a divorce latter, have ye not read that he that made them made them male and female,said the saviour,he go forward and told them that what God join together let no …

    BRIAN HORNER: Not one word of this {his post} shows any examples of Jesus and his apostles proclaiming what your organization attributes to them about how one must perform these 6 prerequisites in order to get into heaven.

    So what makes you think that Mormons are exempt from the word of God condmening ALL of those who preach a gospel that Jesus and the Apostles never taught as stated in Gal 1:6-9?

    MORMON 2: Brian Horner you may not understand it because your eyes have not yet open to comprehend the mysteries of God, try and do the necessary things which is expedient for you to do such as having faith in Jesus Christ been baptize in the Lord’s church and receive the gift of the holy ghost so that your mind will be open for you to comprehend the things of God, thank you.

    BRIAN HORNER: MORMON 2, Your opinion of me is irrelevant. You have how repeatedly FAILED to show us any examples of Jesus or his apostles teaching Mormonism’s six prerequisites for entering heaven.

    Apparently there are none. That would indicate that your organization just made them up.

    So now please explain why Gal 1:6-9 does not apply to you.
    {At this point, the conversation ended}

    Like

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