With the great and spacious building, also known as the internet/social media/news media, filled with those who have left the Church either in heart or in fact, we see substantial sophistry in play. I am defining sophistry here as these people’s efforts to disguise or minimalize their attempts to weaken or destroy faith, to misdirect and confuse, or to act as wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Below are examples of what I see dissenters, progressives/liberals, activists, Salt Lake Tribune reporters, and others of like ilk attempting to perpetrate, often on unsuspecting readers of blogs and news stories.
For some years now, “apostates” have sought to dodge that powerfully meaningful word (or label or state of being), and have come up with a replacement—“faith transition” (begun by a “faith crisis”).
They do this because transition sounds so much better than apostate. They happily speak of going through a faith transition and proclaim how emotionally hard it is on them, seeking sympathy and support. The fact of the matter is they are apostates who are apostates who are apostates. By apostatizing, we must not forget that they are usually breaking the most solemn covenants, not made with people (even priesthood leaders), but with God. Of course, once apostate, they don’t believe that anymore, but it is still the fact. There are many websites, securely positioned in the great and spacious building or floating in the river of filthy water, filled with pride and worldliness and sin, that employ such language to soften and ease their apostasy in their own minds. Whether a word alteration helps them will be seen at the day of judgment.
Purposely misusing and misapplying the word “faithful.” This is a specialty of Peggy Stack, the (alleged) religion reporter for the Salt Lake Tribune, who seems to be semi-retired now. She knows full well that the liberal activists and dissidents she obtains opinions and quotations from are, like her, activists and dissidents—but she also knows that such rebellious people’s opinions don’t hold any weight with orthodox believers, so she simply applies the word “faithful” to them, hoping to give their views more credibility that way. Otherwise her alleged news stories are valueless. She seems to care nothing that she is twisting the truth, and those she labels faithful are really faithless—see anything she quotes from Emily Jensen or Patrick Mason. The proof is in the quotations she obtains from them, which reflect her own dissident views. How convenient for a “reporter” to send out an email or two to like-minded friends, and then quote the responses as allegedly being from faithful people whose views ought to matter, when in reality she is quoting critics’ views that are worthless.
Another of Stack’s specialties of sophistry is to write that “some Latter-day Saints” say/think/question/disagree, etc. Well, in a church of sixteen million members plus, you can always find some contrary members that disagree with presiding church leaders, as she does. Again, all she needs to do is email a few buddies and she has quotations galore that she can weave into any message she wants promoted or opposed. If there is a hot-button topic at hand, all she has to do is write an email requesting reaction (from her dissident friends) to whatever she objects to, and presto, within a few hours she has it. This is not news, it is manufactured opinion masquerading as news. Why?—because “some Latter-day Saints think” whatever the viewpoint is that opposes what the Church has said or is doing. For those unwary of sophistry, they will see a headline or story body that says that some members disagree with whatever, and they will be misled and perhaps even think the dissenter’s opinion is better than church leaders’ decisions. Peggy’s pal Jana Reiss, whose non-news blogs (opinion blogs disguised as news) also plays this game and uses the same sophistry.
“Nuanced” seems to be the latest word employed to fool the unwary. Nuanced is now code for “opposed” or contrary. Apostates use this word as sophistry to disguise their apostate views: nuanced sounds so much better and smarter and cleverer than against.
Mistaken doctrinal interpretation
Along with the manipulative sophistry of crafty wording is the effort to interpret doctrine for readers. Both Stack and Reiss love to quote from a handbook or manual or dissenter’s email, and place on it their own meanings and views. Often what they are doing is searching for or creating loopholes. They are like jail-house lawyers looking for a way out of something the prophets have clearly stated. This takes us right back to the sophistry of misusing terms like “faithful” and “some Latter-day Saints” and “nuanced”—desperation to marginalize truth and push their own agenda instead. One is always well advised to reject any doctrinal interpretation these people make for teachings in scriptures or manuals or handbooks. They are almost always wrong in their views and conclusions—which they present as news.
Perhaps the most common examples of sophistry are seen in their attempts to turn liberals/progressives and dissident’s opinions into “faithful” opinion; then say that some Latter-day Saints think that way, and they declare the argument over and the case closed.
On the other hand, they slap autocratic-sounding terms like “governing” on the front of First Presidency (the “governing First Presidency”) to make that sound unappealing and authoritarian—this tends to turn off young people who don’t know they are being manipulated. Hence, by the end of the blog or fake news story, they have gained their purpose with the unwary. Sophistry indeed.