A growing apologetic movement in Mormonism is helping to create a more “progressive” wing of the church that increasingly seeks intellectual respectability, according to the independent Mormon magazine Sunstone(May). Groups seeking to intellectually defend Mormon teachings, such as the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) and the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR), have gained mainstream acceptance in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Their effort to debate critics (usually evangelical Christians) and reassure the faithful that Mormonism is intellectually respectable competes with a traditional “anti-contention” school that shuns arguments with non-Mormons or the attempt to prove the faith by rational argument.
Duffy finds that the Mormons’ democratic culture is rife with both professional and amateur apologists, often “zealous but undertrained researchers who self-publish their works.” Professional orthodox theologians often try to maintain some distance from the amateur apologists as they try to gain academic credibility for Mormon teachings. But Duffy thinks the new shift toward apologetics and intellectual argument will not so much have impact in the non-Mormon world as much as within the LDS fold itself.
Even evangelical critics note that these apologetic-oriented Mormons are carving out a new “progressive” wing in the church even if it differs from the revisionist Mormon approach that seeks to redefine the faith. They tend to be more accepting of mainstream Christian churches and are willing to change their interpretations of the faith in the face of new evidence and challenges [See May RW for more on the apologists’ influence in the debate on Mormon origins]. Duffy concludes that the anti-intellectual tendency encouraged by the anti-contention camp is on the wane.
(Sunstone, 343 N. Third West, Salt Lake City, UT 84103-1215)