Archive for the ‘Brian Horner’ Category

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.

An excerpt from the song “I Believe” from the Book of Mormon the Musical that illustrates how fideism is often applied in Mormonism.

by Brian Horner
Fideism is the core of the Mormon experience.

The highly predictable rejoinder from the Mormon who cannot substantiate the falsifiable claims of his religion (such as matters of history or the translation of Egyptian hieroglyphics) almost invariably is to reduce the dialog to the puny dimensions of personal, subjective belief. A good example is easily found every time I ask Mormons why someone should believe the objectively testable claims of their religion pertaining to such mundane issues as the mere existence of a particular human civilization, the Book of Mormon’s “Nephites” or “Jaredites” or “Lamanites”, etc.

Invariably, any claim that a particular human civilization existed is easily recognized as the kind of claim that is subject to rudimentary tests based on comparisons of such claims to the facts of history in and around the region where the civilization in question is said to have existed. In short, claims about the existence of historical civilizations are rightly subject to the normative methods of historical research. It is on this basis that all of the relevant fields of study (archaeology, history, historical anthropology, etc.) always proceed. No legitimate historical confirmations of historical claims can be produced apart from this very basic method. Even Mormons routinely apply this rudimentary and highly reliable historical method, at least when examining human civilizations, such as, for example, the Mayan or Yanomamo people of South America or the Tasady tribe in the Philippines. Everyone, even Mormons, will rightly seek out evidence of these peoples when dealing with the claim that they simply exist or existed. And it is perfectly reasonable to use the same methods to gain insight into the details of their existence.

The reason why is as simple as it is obvious: Real human civilizations invariably leave physical, documentary and linguistic evidence of their existence as a kind of “language” describing and explaining the existence of the peoples in question and even sometimes providing deep insights into their culture and their way of life. Again this is absolutely rudimentary and historians never question this method because it always leads to actual understanding and the verification of, at the minimum, the existence or non-existence of the civilization being investigated.

Wait… did I say, “never”? Okay, well there are, of course, the exceptions. There is always the lunatic fringe. The most obvious exception in the entire world is the Mormons when they are trying to provide an apologetic for their claims about the material world, such as historical claims found in their “scriptures.” Other examples include the claims of their “prophets”. As predictable as the sunrise, when the Mormon is pressed to answer for the falsifiable (i.e. objectively testable) claims about even something as simple as the mere existence of the human civilizations described in their Book of Mormon, he or she will quickly and with breathtaking predictability, retreat to pure fideism.

A valid definition of fideism is: “an epistemological theory which maintains that faith is independent of reason, or that reason and faith are hostile to each other and faith is superior at arriving at particular truths.” Indeed, in some things, fideism is the only means left for a person to claim to “know” the truth of some things. The belief that God will heal a sick child, for example, may easily slip into fideism, since no one can have any other means of “knowing” whether or not the child will indeed be healed. Faith may be all that is left to the praying mother or father. But it crosses into fideism when that faith isn’t backed up by anything.

Calvin and Hobbes illustrate fideism of another kind.

Fideism is to be distinguished from “faith” in the biblical sense. “Faith” in the Bible is synonymous with “trust”; it is not a claim to objective certainty or Cartesian knowledge. In the Bible, the word “faith” refers to an informed and rational trust. It is backed by valid reasons to trust. This is in contrast with fideism, which is rather a repudiation of reason and the assertion of blind faith as the means to obtain knowledge. Fideism is functionally indistinguishable from superstition. A person believes what he or she believes… because they feel that they should or they believe what they believe because they believe it.

This page is replete with numerous examples of Mormon fideism. When asked to provide valid reasons to think, for example, that the so-called, “Nephite” civilization simply existed, Mormons will, when their attempts to borrow evidence from the Mayans has failed to impress the informed questioner, retreat to fideism. Whatever words are chosen, it is clear that they will be something that communicates the idea that you cannot know the “truth” of the Book of Mormon apart from an appeal to the supernatural – a “faith” in “God”.

The problem is, this is both hypocritical and specious. It is hypocritical because claims about the mere existence of a civilization are not a matter of religious faith. As described above, all of us, including Mormons, will easily turn to the domain of objective facts to see if any other proposed human civilization ever simply existed. But when it comes to the claims of the Book of Mormon, suddenly the Mormon retreats to his or her fideism – a kind of uninformed superstition: one must “ask God” if the “Nephites” (or any other Book of Mormon people group) simply existed. This rhetorical maneuver is specious because while it may sound pious and pure, it is utter nonsense to try to downshift to appeals to belief simply because one believes their own belief.

Furthermore, there is a serious conundrum in this methodology. When facing questions normally about the mere existence of a Book of Mormon civilization, Mormons will routinely appeal to the “Moroni 10 challenge” (Moroni 10:5-4) and encourage someone to take the advice of this “Moroni” character and pray to God to see if the “Nephites” (or any other BoM people group) actually existed. The conundrum is that in following this advice, the person must first already believe the Book of Mormon’s claims. Otherwise, why would anyone follow the spiritual advice from a fictitious character? That just makes no sense.

Continuing with the example of the existence of the “Nephites”, it should be obvious that this is a historical question and historical questions are normally resolved by means of evaluating historical evidence and using a proper historical logic or reasoning. As anyone who has ever questioned the historicity of the Book of Mormon (not it’s alleged spiritual or religious doctrine) has found, the Mormon answer is always the exception to this otherwise universal rule of all forms of historiography. In Mormonism, historical claims (or any other kind of claim that is objectively testable) is moved over into the realm of the subjective. How do we know that the Book of Mormon is telling the truth about the Jaredite voyage to somewhere in the western hemisphere? Pray to the Mormon God (or …Gods). How can you tell if Joseph Smith was a true prophet? Pray to the Mormon God(s). How can you be sure that “Nephi” actually did build a ship in the Arabian desert and sail it to the Americas? You can’t know this, apart from a revelation from God. The problem is consistent: Mormons will move questions that are normally answered by objective means into the column of the purely subjective … if those questions are aimed at things claimed by their religion. Otherwise, Mormons will happily appeal to objective facts and valid reasoning to determine the truth of any and all claims that have nothing to do with their religion.

This double-mindedness is troubling. Few people want to relinquish their natural, God-given ability to reason properly. To do so is to tickle one’s toes in the pool of total insanity. But Mormons, when defending the claims of their religion, will give up their ability to reason or think clearly with almost instant and mechanically predictable regularity. They will even dive headlong into the deep pool of fideism. Behind the scenes, I think this is really just a way of dealing with their own recognition of their inability to substantiate even the most mundane and non-supernatural or spiritual claims upon which their religion was founded.

The song “I Believe” from the Book of Mormon the Musical performed on the 2011 Tony Awards

Perhaps if Joseph Smith had found a way to invent a religion that cannot be tested by comparing the real, observable world to his claims (as so many New Agers do today), his credibility would have been easier to establish, at least with some people. As it is, he made the mistake of making claims to supernatural revelations all of which, when compared to reality, has failed to win in the minds of anyone who is not prone to indulge themselves in pure fideism.

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 isn’t writing articles like this one.