Masculinity and Mormon Apologetics

We are pleased to have this guest entry by Mrs. Silence Dogood, a friend of the blog.

Have y’all heard about the latest squabble amongst apologists and academics?

Anyways, the main lesson that has seemed to come out from the most recent spat is the vast and increasing divide between the two fields. Though someone can certainly use scholarly tools in making apologetic arguments, and someone can certainly become too apologetic in their scholarship, the works of the current generation of Mormon scholarship and Mormon apologetics are leading in drastically different directions; the former is focused on integration within broader fields, collaborations with competing ideas, and relevancy to areas outside of Mormonism proper, the latter is trenchant in resuscitating old debates, responding to dated critiques, and fighting tired battles. Perhaps the major source of division is the outlook toward outside critics and collaboration with those who don’t share the Mormon worldview. As Richard Bushman put it in a 2007 Journal of Mormon History article, “The apologists want to war with the critics; the historians ask them out to lunch.”

But beyond the mere difference in quality, purpose, and audience, all contributing reasons for why apologetics is not counted as academically viable even at BYU, perhaps this fighting outlook is indicative of another division between apologetics, at least as practiced by those formerly associated with FARMS and now part of the Mormon Interpreter, and the modern academy: a not-too-far-from-the-surface embrace of masculinity as viable form of academic approach.

This is not to say that apologists are outright in defending certain ideas of gender, because gender is hardly ever a point of interest in their writing. (However, the decision to avoid gender, and therefore reaffirm assumed notions of gender, is a gendered argument in and of itself.) But their general approach and tone is reminiscent of the current nostalgia for manliness, an anxiety that is currently in vogue among certain demographic and ideological backgrounds. In hearkens back to the Muscular Christianity at the turn of the 20th century, and privileges qualities of confidence, aggressiveness, and overbearing strength; its idol is Teddy Roosevelt, and its activities reflect physical regiments like rough riding, boxing (without gloves!), and, importantly, military imperialism. (See the connection between this nostalgia and Mormon manliness here.)

One could see such an outlook throughout the apologetic work that seeks, engages, and destroys opponents. (And fits in nicely with the Wheat and Tares analogy Smallaxe introduced.) One of my advisors at BYU once referred to FARMS as “intellectual face-masking.” Indeed, sports metaphors are common and apt when discussing apologetics—recall Neal A. Maxwell’s famous counsel that there be “no more slam dunks”—and are indicative of the very male space in which apologetics takes place. If you were to vocalize a common FARMS or Interpreter article in your mind, I bet it would a male voice, perhaps even Dwayne Johnson. In short, the apologetic world is a very gendered world, one in which validity not only hinges on the strength of the argument but the strength of the arguer—and that strength is often presented through, and decided by, gendered notions of masculinity most akin to a barroom brawl. This is not only embodied in the FARMS/Signature wars that are very much reminiscent of knock-down-drag-out fights, but the fitting description of apologetic circles as the “old boys’ club.”

Compare this to the modern academy that, while it still has a long way to go, has consciously sought to better establish space for female scholars. This has led to a change in dominant topics—from institutional and intellectual histories that privileged dead white men to cultural and social history that integrated broader demographics—to a change in general tenor and tone. This has come through both institutional requirements (like equal-opportunity legislative acts) as well as a conscious decision that things needed to change. Mormon Studies is lagging behind in these developments, as seen in this year’s Church History Conference that features a topic that limited female participation to zero, but the youngest practitioners of the field are being educated at schools and institutions that recognize these gendered tensions and are thus wary antiquated institutional frameworks. This is perhaps among the reasons that FARMS has left a limited legacy and claims minimal prodigies; even during this period of erupting numbers of Mormon graduate students and young scholars interested in Mormon studies, very few are interested in taking up apologist mantle.

Beyond mere rhetoric, there are practical consequences for this approach and framing. Of the many authors who have contributed to the Mormon Interpreter thus far, only one was a woman; of the thirty-six people who serve on the journal’s various boards, only four are not men. I would imagine (and hope) that the Interpreter has approached more women than that. Perhaps women don’t want to sign on because of the topics the journal explores just as much as the tone it takes; in many ways, though, that is a distinction without a difference. Regardless, there is something about the Interpreter’s approach that is more appealing and conducive to male scholars, a fact that should be acknowledged and analyzed.

Rather than engaging the nuances and complexities of various ideas and critiques, sometimes it is much easier—not to mention more satisfying—to challenge the critic to a duel.

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  • David

    Great post, Ms. Dogood. In support of your main point, I remember being struck more than once that one particularly bellicose apologist at mormondialoague is wont to endorse what he calls a “masculine,” robust approach to their enterprise. The whole war-like business has the intellectual smell of a locker room.

  • Kufre Ekpenyong

    Enchanted to meet you, Mrs. Ne’er-do-well. I think your insights are insightful. Thank you.

  • Seth R.

    Good grief, what is this?

    Explore a random criticism of apologetics week? I had a hard time finding any evidence in that article that rose above the level of dark inference.

    And what the heck is an “apologist mantle” anyway? Is it where you renounce “respectable” scholarship and go be a shill full time for the LDS Church? If that’s your criteria, even Daniel Peterson who you were alluding to didn’t have the “apologist mantle” being an established professor and scholar of Arabic studies.

    You don’t “go pro” in Mormon apologetics. It’s something everyone does on a volunteer basis in addition to their day jobs. Under your implied description – there are no “Mormon apologists” and never have been.

    Or by “Mormon apologist” do you mean people who defend the LDS Church on message boards? But why on earth would you use a random message board as your standard anyway?

    In short – your accusations are vague and unestablished, and I’m at a complete loss to even figure out which individuals your article applies to.

  • Old Geezer

    A favorite and telling example of this is when Dan C. Peterson is recapping the FAIR Conference proceedings and says this: “I made the mistake of going out into the foyer for a drink of water – I never got it, incidentally – just before Neylan McBaine’s presentation entitled ‘To Do the Business of the Church: A Cooperative Paradigm for Examining Gendered Participation within Church Organizational Structure.’ I didn’t make it back until the end of her talk. I’ve got to watch myself, lest I say too much of what I really think about certain recent events. I heard some very positive things about the presentation, and look forward to reading it. And, once again, Sister McBaine’s paper is already up online.” So the paper wasn’t worth his time to both go in and listen to it, and even though in the proceedings days, this would prove to be the most popular and newsworthy presentation, he never mentioned it again on his blog.

  • Stephen Smoot

    If all else fails, just launch a vague accusation of sexism. That always works. (It works especially well in conjunction with setting up a straw man of Mormon apologetics and its aims, as we’ve seen here.)

  • Hales Swift

    I think you missed at least one other female contributor to Interpreter, which was Taunalyn Rutherford, who contributed some valuable insights to some of their Roundtable Discussions in connection with the Gospel Doctrine Lessons. See, for example, here:

  • jjohnson

    I think that Mormonism is rich with possibilities for looking at manhood and masculinity. I think the what you see her in terms of current Mormon apologetics is just an extension of Joseph F. Smith’s goals to reestablish priesthood (and Mormon manhood) in the early 20th century. Teddy Roosevelt went to Africa to establish his manhood. Mormon men went to priesthood meeting. All thought they were moving toward the goal of millennial civilization. I wonder if this group today feels that the only real way to be a Mormon is as a staunch defender of the Kingdom–sounds like martial manhood to me.


    Miss Silence Dogood,

    You rang? I shan’t be put off the scent by your coy innuendo! I sense that this, uh, “post” is about phalli. Lots and lots of phalli. And some envy. And sword/spear/gunfights. But mostly about phalli. Sad little phalli.

    Stephen Smoot,

    “If all else fails, just launch a vague accusation of sexism.” Oh, don’t be ashamed! The proper word for “throwing out” a thing is “ejaculate” and it can very well take a direct object.

    Also, I dare say you meant “ERECTING a straw man of Mormon apologetics” rather than “SETTING UP a straw man.” Get it right, man!

    Seth R.,

    “I had a HARD time finding any evidence in that article that ROSE above the level of DARK INFERENCE.” I bet you did. I bet you did.


    Oh, and jjohnson, you had me at johnson. Also, I like what you have to say, this part especially: “current Mormon apologetics is just an extension.” Quite right. I think that we will get on, uh, swell.

  • Blake

    The moment when I realize that Patheos had sunk to new lows with this post that even I could not imagine and yet remains heads and shoulders above the Mormon Curtain.

  • XENA

    I am here to challenge the assumption that warfare, sword wielding, projectiles, and the like, are definitively male.

  • Brad

    Blake, you mean patheos giving Dan Peterson a blog where he could do lowest-common-denominator political rants and travelogues didn’t spark that realization months ago?

  • Cassandra

    As that one female article author with Interpreter, may I just say: I rather resent the insinuation that women have no interest or place in “knock-down, drag out fights,” or, as I would more accurately term them, “forthright exchanges of important facts and ideas, including defenses against scurrilous accusations against institutional integrity.” I guess I’m just not a good, demure, proper female. Now, let’s go to war with Spain!

  • JohnH

    I feel that even when Dan Peterson does political rants or travelogues it represents a more accurate understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the church, and (especially) the culture of the church then does this. I am infinitely more likely to hear similar rants in Sunday School (and occasionally Sacrament meeting) then I am to hear anything similar to this. 

    As for the legacy of FARMS, I can pretty much guarantee that every week somewhere in the world some point of research or theory from FARMS is talked about in a church meeting. Even ideas that I think are terribly flawed or outright wrong from FARMS have significant following among the active membership of the church (and have businesses that are designed to take advantage of members who accept those ideas at face value). Furthermore it would appear that FAIR is a part of the FARMS legacy and it appears to continue in their work, and if I see one single more article of this “quality” on the Mormon Channel of Patheos then I, personally, will investigate becoming involved in the apologetic community, and were I in a position to donate money then I would be sending in donation to the Interpreter and to FAIR, especially given the criticism they have received here and from sites run by open atheists who have stated that their goal is to get people to leave the church. They have to be doing something right to receive the criticism they do.

    FARMS has not been perfect or flawless but it has actively defended the faith against those that would destroy it (or make it into a fairy tale). They have therefore attempted to be faithful to their covenants as far as they understand them according to personal revelation and inspiration that they have received, to me it seems that they have done a marvelous job in attempting to defend and sustain the kingdom of God, despite not being paid for it and facing constant criticism, attacks, and not being recognized academically for their work, and have added extremely valuable insights in addition to all else they have done.

  • TT

    Okay, everyone, let’s chill out. This post is an analysis of masculine rhetoric, the heavily male-dominated apologetic circles, and the ways in which these trends are somewhat at odds with other trends in the academy. Let’s save our moral outrage over perceived insults and think about these issues productively, please.

  • Casey

    I’d suggest that this post is annoying the right people, and is therefore probably on to something.

  • Wade Davis

    “I feel that even when Dan Peterson does political rants or travelogues it represents a more accurate understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the church, and (especially) the culture of the church then does this.”

    What do Daniel Peterson’s political rants have to do with an understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

  • Seth Payne


    I agree with you. Your piece in the Interpreter fits perfectly typifies Richard Bushman’s sentiment:

    “The apologists want to war with the critics; the historians ask them out to lunch.”

    Fink’s book is obviously garbage. Why even prop it up with a polemical review where you take swipes at the author and his (lack of) educational expertise?

    B.A., Columbia Bible College
    Th.M., Dallas Theological Seminary
    Adv. M.Ed., University of Southern California
    Th.D., Dallas Theological Seminary
    Post-doctoral study at Purdue University

    The guy’s book isn’t serious scholarship and yet it is reviewed as serious scholarship. Just seems odd to me.


  • Blake

    Brad: I did not have his travelogues in mind; though I have enjoyed many of them. They had more substance than this post in my view — which obviously invited a fair amount of mirth. I am thinking more of Dan Peterson’s really excellent stuff like his article on the weeping God here:

    Or his supurb article article on Psalm 82 here:

    Or a really good article on the Trinity here: Daniel C. Peterson, “Mormonism and the Trinity,” Element 3/1-2 (Spring/Fall 2007): 1-43.

    Narrator: I believe that if these Religous Studies grads are against the type of thing that Dan does, taken as a whole, they will miss some really great stuff. I think that the accusations are often unfair. Now in the interest of full disclosure, Dan is a friend of mine. I happen to believe that he is brilliant and I am not one to allow the name of a good man be smeared for whatever reason. I am grateful for his contribution to Mormonism and Mormon apologetics.

  • JohnH


    “resuscitating old debates, responding to dated critiques, and fighting tired battles.”
    There was a war in heaven, the battles today are the same battles that have always been fought and will ever be fought in that war for the souls of men. Further, this appears to be a caricature of what apologetic is about, not a serious critique of what a volunteer apologetic does. If a volunteer apologetic is responding to something it is likely something that they see as being relevant and that they see as having influence on others.

    “However, the decision to avoid gender, and therefore reaffirm assumed notions of gender, is a gendered argument in and of itself.”
    This is a meaningless assertion, and illogical as well. Not discussing something is not the same as reaffirming something. If you are serious about looking at ideas that have taken a warrior mindset this is it, there is nothing possibly better, as it says that anything not actively and constantly agreeing with me (even if they say nothing either way on the subject) is an attack on me. If one can not talk about mathematics or any other field without it being a gendered argument in and of itself because one is not talking about gender then something being a gendered argument is meaningless and irrelevant to anything else.

    ” Muscular Christianity”
    No, it doesn’t, at least not any more then the current nostalgia of period romances harkens back to a desire for the British Empire to rule the world. They are yearnings for a time when civility, chivalry, and respect between the sexes was common as opposed to the current culture which treats everyone as a sex object. That the romanticized past of Teddy Roosevelt or of Jane Austin was not as romanticized should have clued anyone not focused on gender issues that this has nothing to do with imperialism, militancy, or anything of the sort. This is looking back on a past era and trying to learn from what is perceived to have been lost in the current era, and treating ladies with dignity and respect, and men acting with manners, chivalry, and having value is something that is clearly desired by many members of both genders.

    Furthermore neither the period romances, nor the “art of manliness’ and certainly not Latter Day Saints are promoting a return to what is universally acknowledged as being problematic about past iterations of society. One can admire the past for what is seen as being good in the past while having no desire to return to what was bad.

    “apologetic work that seeks, engages, and destroys opponents.”
    Let me think about this, two recent posts here, innumerable posts elsewhere, all within a relatively short period of time have sought to engage and destroy a certain opponent on every possible line of attack (except, you know, engaging with them and their ideas). Who is doing what now?

    If Mormon Studies is lagging behind in terms of female representation then large portions of STEM are in the Dark Ages, or perhaps the paleolithic era. Of course, as Seth’s comment points out, the real concern isn’t that females be part of apologetic or mormon studies but that they both do so and conform to some approved notion of what it is to be female and a scholar. This seems much more gendered and discriminatory then any lack of females in the field in question.

    The idea that FARMS has had little impact, legacy, or successors is very odd and runs completely contrary to what is experienced if one attends church regularly, or if one looks at books published in the field, or the existence of the Maxwell Institute at all, or of FAIR, or of other individuals and organizations.

    “Regardless, there is something about the Interpreter’s approach that is more appealing and conducive to male scholars, a fact that should be acknowledged and analyzed.”

    The statistics are on par with teaching for females, or most of STEM in terms of males. In fact if the subject of apologetics is similar to theology/philosophy then the number of board members and articles by women is actually very much in line with the male-female imbalance in that field.

    “engaging the nuances and complexities of various ideas and critiques”
    ooh, buzzwords.

    I think the OP has failed to engage in the nuances and complexities of the various ideas and critiques found in the Interpreter in specific and Apologetics in general but has instead found it easier and more satisfying to attempt to discredit everything by way of vague assertions of sexism and gender bias. Also, by painting in pictures of males being one way and females another way in terms of ideas and scholarship, and especially in discounting what is perceived as male fields and ideas, the author has shown a very strong tendency towards sexism and gender bias.

  • Craig

    As I finally found my way to the end of this meandering piece I couldn’t help but think that this is the perfect example of someone with way too much time on their hands. . . .

  • Cassandra

    Hey Mr. Waggy-Finger, I mean, Seth Payne,
    I don’t generally have too much interest in the haughty pronouncements of one who thinks he can pwn me with a perfunctory thoughtless google search. But let me break this down for you:
    1) My review of Fink’s book said nothing about his education, except for the correct acknowledgement that he was a professor of philosophy. You’re mixing up your memory with my review of Rev. Jackson’s book, but don’t even get the mix-up correct: my Jackson review noted his educational attainments approvingly.
    2) You post the educational credentials of a Paul Fink. Problem is, there are multiple Paul Finks in the world. The one you cite is a professor at the conservative Christian Liberty University. If you actually had a handle on what I wrote about Fink, you’d know that he sure as heck would not truck with such an institution. The man can’t stand the Bible, and your google-fu = fail.
    3) Perhaps you did not know that the original FARMS review of books began with the stated purpose of reviewing every book published about the Book of Mormon. That might be too lofty a goal, but its spirit carries on in Interpreter. Fink’s book might be minor and of very limited reach, but I was assigned to review it in order to make sure anyone who does encounter it can find at least one review.
    4) The book was written for a general audience. I reviewed it for a general audience. It is hardly beyond the pale that a publication such as Interpreter, which publishes scholarly works, would also publish non-scholarly book reviews.
    5) Cheers.


  • Noel

    Richard Bushman’s sentiment:
    “The apologists want to war with the critics; the historians ask them out to lunch.”

    Interesting comment. G. K. Chesterton would debate with athiests G B Shaw and H G Wells and go and have a drink with them afterwards.

  • Seth R.

    I had lunch once with Aaron Shavofalov (from Mormonism Research Ministries) once. Sincere guy.

  • Seth R.

    I’m kind of wondering why no one (except a brief implication from Cassandra) has called out this post for its stereotypes of what is “masculine” and “feminine.”

    You’d think the feminists lurking about would be a bit miffed about the insinuation that “girls don’t do argument.”

  • Juliann

    I have a somewhat different experience than the OP relates. In a church culture where women are not considered to be doctrinal experts or authorities, online apologetics is the one area in which there can be full participation. One of my first lessons online was that if I used a gender neutral screenname, I was given much more credibility than if I used my female name. I was treated differently as a female, sometimes ignored. Most discouraging, is that when I discussed the scholarship I was engaged in, I was without exception assumed to be male. The more intellectual I was, the more male I was. When it comes to Mormon things, a lack of female participation in these areas might speak more to a male dominated church culture than anything. We would have to know things like how many women vs men have engaged in the study of religion in the past decade or so, among other variables, to come to reliable conclusions as to why females are not as active as males.
    I am female. I started and owned FAIR prior to its NFP status. It was indeed a boxing match in those early days when AOL was pretty much the only game in town. As I quickly discovered, one could not go onto the religion message boards or chat rooms without being relentlessly attacked in the most aggressive manner imaginable if Mormonism came up. It was in every way, a bar fight. But that is how we started not how we ended. It has been a learning curve just as in all new endeavors.
    I think the seeking and destroying is perhaps what you are also unintentionally doing. Apologetics that I have experienced has a diverse population that cannot be neatly categorized, it ranges from socialists to right wingers, theological liberals to extreme conservatives, hobbyists to scholars. It cannot be talked about as a homogenous lump anymore than scholarship can. I have noticed a growing tendency to reduce “apologetics” to a few names so that negative behavioral characteristics can be attached and decades of a rich history judged and dismissed by proxy. This makes no more sense than picking a few scholars of differing interest and background and limiting all of scholarship to what can be said of them. Apologetics, by definition, is defensive. It will change according to what must be defended. And what must be defended has changed. The anti-Mormon ministries that fueled the “tired battles” of the past decade are pretty much gone. So you are correct that those days are over. But that does not mean that apologetic endeavors are over or should be.

  • Ms Dogood

    I must admit that I read these comments with interest, bemusement, and at times, frustration; importantly, though, they mated nearly exactly what I expected the responses from certain people to be, and honestly I would have been disappointed if they didn’t appear.

    If anything, this post and the resulting comments reinforce the increasing gulf between the two fields of academic religious study, on the one hand, and apologetics, on the other. The conflation of identifying gendered rhetoric with an accusation of sexism (while the former may lead, and often does lead, to the latter, that’s not necessarily so, and I didn’t seek to prove that here), the confusion of descriptive and prescriptive terms concerning gender (indeed, the depiction of male and female gendered spaces of rhetoric *is* a feminist argument), the literal reading of rhetorical metaphors (you can have lunch with critics, but that doesn’t come close to capturing the point hinted to above), and even the misreading of lingering traces of cultural masculinity is striking, if expected. I honestly find it a bit amusing that people don’t agree with the basic point that apologetics has traditionally invoked a gendered voice; I felt safe in making what I thought was an obvious observation and explore why that is the case, so I’m somewhat surprised that is still a debatable point. How wide the divide, indeed.

    I guess the conclusion, which can be both good news and bad news, is that this divide means the two camps will likely go away with their own winning conclusions: to some, this post merely reaffirms that apologetic-bashers are just grasping at straws and lack any substance; for others, many of these comments merely reaffirm the OP’ primary point. So, in a way, we all win!

  • JohnH

    Ms Dogood,
    It is quite possible to be both feminist and sexist. By being prejudice and discriminatory against males and what are seen as male ideas one is expressing gender bias and sexism while also being feminist.

  • Seth Payne

    Mr. Waggy Finger…. I like that !

    Cassandra pwned me …. no question. I thought the LU fink was the guy because, from you review, it sounds like what a LU prof might have to say about Mormons. Mr. Waggy Finger failed ….

    Anyway …. my point still stands: Fink’s book, simply based on the quotes in your review, is utter nonsense. But why respond to it? He’s obviously writing for an audience that believes Mormons are bad news. It just seems like rhetorical combat for combat’s sake. I doubt anyone who reads Interpreter (or read FARMS in the past) would even know about Fink’s book were it not for your review.

  • RT

    Thanks Mrs. Dogood for this thought provoking discussion of the apologetic approach as gendered masculine.

    “Rather than engaging the nuances and complexities of various ideas and critiques, sometimes it is much easier—not to mention more satisfying—to challenge the critic to a duel.”

    This statement accurately describes many of my own experiences with apologists. I’m sure not all are this way, but the combative–oppose first, ask questions later–approach is common enough to justify the analogy.

  • Cassandra

    Ms. Dogood said: “I honestly find it a bit amusing that people don’t agree with the basic point that apologetics has traditionally invoked a gendered voice; I felt safe in making what I thought was an obvious observation and explore why that is the case, so I’m somewhat surprised that is still a debatable point.”

    I honestly find it puzzling that you find this so obvious. I started voraciously reading apologetics in college, and it never–no, never–seemed to me that I was reading a big heaping helping of masculinity. I just enjoyed reading up on both sides, learning a ton about history and theology, and enjoying the dawning feeling that there was nothing to be afraid of out there in the world of anti-Mormonism. I recognized that apologetics cannot present an airtight case, but concluded that there was no necessity to abandon faith in order to remain intellectually and spiritually honest. How is any of that in any way antithetical to womanhood? Seriously, you’re giving me the willies with your apparent belief that women can’t handle arguments and evidence.

    I’m going to go put on a ton of mascara and shave my legs. Just to balance the taint of mannishness I’ve supposedly acquired.

  • Seth Payne


    “This statement accurately describes many of my own experiences with apologists. I’m sure not all are this way, but the combative–oppose first, ask questions later–approach is common enough to justify the analogy.”

    I don’t think all apologists or Mormon apologetics are approached in this way. IMO, Armand Mauss’ “The Church as a Human Institution” is one of the best apologetic essays I have read. I personally like Mauss’ style.

    I suppose others respond differently to “combative” essays but I wonder who, if anyone, reads the more polemical reviews/essays beyond a relatively small group of people. I’m not sure who the reviews are intended for. Cassandra mentioned a “general audience” but I’m not sure what that means in a Mormon context.

  • RT

    I agree with you. But when we think of apologists in the sense of members who regularly engage in scholarly apologetic work, the description fits the bill. I personally don’t see how the example of Armand Mauss is that relevant. While Mauss has written pieces that can be broadly considered as apologetic in nature, in my view this hardly justifies calling him an apologist. If I had to place him in a particular camp, his work would be more in the (feminine) Academy side of things, especially in his efforts to decolonize Mormon culture.

  • Seth Payne


    I think one can be both a scholar and apologist. Certainly Mauss is both. So yes, I agree that in “All God’s Children” and “The Angel and the Beehive” Mauss was clearly acting as a scholar.

    In some of his Sunstone essays/talks he is responding directly to “The Mormon Alliance” and so in those instances, I believe he was acting as an apologist — albeit a non-combative one. I must admit I’m not completely comfortable with the masculine/feminine distinction and dichotomy ….


  • Juliann

    Ms DoGood: I guess the conclusion, which can be both good news and bad news, is that this divide means the two camps will likely go away with their own winning conclusions: to some, this post merely reaffirms that apologetic-bashers are just grasping at straws and lack any substance; for others, many of these comments merely reaffirm the OP’ primary point. So, in a way, we all win!

    You wrote a polemical blog to arrive at the somewhat uncharitable conclusion that you started with. Unkindness seems to be a shared human problem rather than an apologetic, “basher,” or whatever the current target is problem. I don’t think anyone wins without acknowledging the obvious.

  • Cassandra

    Seth, I receive with gladness your gracious concession. Sorry to keep this derailment going, but I think a few more points are worth the time:

    You say: “[Fink is] obviously writing for an audience that believes Mormons are bad news.” No, I don’t think that’s a reasonable supposition. “Comparing and Evaluating the Scriptures” isn’t a title with red meat for the slavering Ex-Mos in mind. His book started out with a tone carefully calculated to establish its detachment from and even vague respect for religions. He ended with a paean to religious charitable endeavors. I honestly believe Fink meant to attract people looking for thoughtful analysis without a conclusion for or against.

    You say: “It just seems like rhetorical combat for combat’s sake.” Well, given that you are making a factual statement about my motives, I’ll do you the great favor of stapling a primary source to the end of your nose: I did not engage in rhetorical combat for combat’s sake. Granted I use a (so un-ladylike!) sarcastic flair in my writing, but can you blame a girl for wanting the reader to stay awake until the end? I’m a FAIR volunteer. We get a lot of diverse questions from folks, and a lot of hits on the very obscure nooks of our Wiki. No, we haven’t gotten direct inquiries (since I’ve been a member, anyway) about Fink’s book. But I genuinely believe it will find its way to a few individuals who would appreciate a review. My higher education took place in a very Evangelical community and then in a very atheist one, and I’ve come across all sorts of books and pamphlets I never would have expected. I am very glad that some of them were written up in the FARMS Review, even though the audience might not have been much larger than myself.

    You said: “I doubt anyone who reads Interpreter (or read FARMS in the past) would even know about Fink’s book were it not for your review.” So? You really want to set up non-obscurity as a test of worthiness for scholarly attention? You’d eviscerate academic publishing, no? Like I said, I’ve been grateful to find resources that address miniscule audiences, and to anyone exposed who otherwise might have remained blissfully unaware save for me, my apologies, but at least you can know that I’m not afraid of ideas and you needn’t be, either. Either way, M. Payne, I don’t grasp your reasoning behind that criticism. I suppose because of the whole female thing. Arguments…ideas…thinking…ugh.

    Now, a few points regarding your charming banter with Dr. Scratch’n’Sniff’s Cadre of Wannabe Kremlinologists. You expressed your certainty that, a la Zinn, if I would only read Fink with an unguarded heart I might learn something. Feel free to actually, you know, back that up. I await with pleasure your trove of wisdom gleaned from Professor Fink. I also appreciate your tempering of intemperate remarks regarding my Jackson review, and I’m sure this must be a mere oversight, but some completely unsupported statements were left untouched! For instance, that I got into a “pissing match over credentials.” I’m sure your reading comprehension just happened to have the day off that day, given that I spoke approvingly of Jackson’s respected credentials and even his historical summary of Mormonism. Some of your other accusations don’t speak any better of your analytical skill, but it’s rather late to show you how your reliance on the Cadre’s hilariously poor reading ability led you far astray. It might not even be necessary, because I’m certain you would not make such strident claims unless you knew exactly what you were talking about, i.e. read the book yourself so as to best wag your finger about how I should have reviewed it more correctly.

    Finally, and this doesn’t pertain to anything you said yourself, but since you spend so much time with Scratch’n’Sniff & Co., I might be forgiven for concluding that you obtain some of your views regarding apologists’ motives and views and character from them. I think that is unwise. When I took down my personal blog in response to a heinous identity theft incident, never did I dream I would be accused, multiple months later, of doing so for the cowardly purpose of keeping my measly intellect and kooky views out of the Cadre’s imperious eye. As you didn’t seem lucid enough at the time to call that supposition the chortling paranoid narcissism that it in fact was, I again might be forgiven for thinking you’ve adopted a somewhat tendentious view of apologists. Which is not in your best interest.

    Anyway, my snark (and unwieldy vocabulary) increases by 15% every half hour past my bedtime. Cheerio. I conclude you are a decent dude. Just couldn’t pass up the chance to let you know that your online statements about me are mistaken, and more importantly, hilariously embarrassingly mistaken.

  • Ms. Jack

    Mrs. Dogood ~ Thanks for the interesting guest post. I personally began reading Mormon apologetics at the age of 16 (’twas the late 90s for me). I don’t think I would have identified the language as gendered and masculine at the time (I wasn’t that perceptive), but I did notice how overwhelmingly male apologetics was, in that the vast majority of people who do it seem to be men. Not just the Mormon brand, either. I did not regard this observation as either a bad thing or a good thing, but I wondered why that was, and I still think that the answer to that question is pretty complicated.

    A man who published a few pieces in ye olde FARMS Review of Books back in the day spent some time last year accusing me of having it “in” for Mormon men. The only evidence he would hint at for this assessment was that most of my public conflicts with Mormon apologists have been with men. Apparently there are binders full of female LDS apologists somewhere whom I am giving a pass to strictly because of their sex. News to me!

  • Seth Payne


    A couple of quick thoughts:

    I’m not comfortable with the masculine/feminine characterization but I do agree that there are various approaches to answering critics. Some are more combative and antagonistic, others are less so. I’m not convinced this has anything to do with masculinity but nevertheless, it appears to exist.

    A “pissing match over credentials” is one way that this difference is manifested, IMO. Reasonable people can and will disagree as to what constitutes a “pissing match.”

    Also, I think there is something to be learned from every author — including Fink or Jackson.


  • the narrator

    Do women engage in pissing matches? I thought it was only a guys’ game due to physiological restraints.

  • ZD Eve

    No. When women do it, it’s called a catfight, which is surely what the apologetics wars would be called if most of the protagonists were women.

    Ms. Dogood, I do believe you are onto something.

  • Wade Davis

    The existence of one or two women in the company of apologists does not substantially change the overall masculine tenor of apologetics at present, just like the existence of Log Cabin Republicans does not convince us that, of the two political parties, Republicans are friendlier to gay rights issues. I appreciate Cassandra’s pluck, but it doesn’t really overcome a great deal of evidence for male-dominated LDS apologetics. Of course, there is a difference between acknowledging that history and concluding that this past determines the future of apologetics, or, heaven forbid, that apologetics are inherently sexist.

  • Maya

    My experiences are the same as Julianns and Casandras. I also have work to do. Today many women need to be working outside home, so freetime for FAIR is short, especially, if you have family too. Claim, that there are no women among the apologists is a hoot! I counted many in the FAIR conferance! It may be, that there are not many women that belong to the scolarly apologetics… but then again, there are not many women, that are “scolarly” or working in “scolarly” posts either. Face it; there are not may women doing scolarly work, it is difficult to get many from a few! Is that LSD fault that there are so few women doing scolarly work? How is it with non LDS… not better me thinks! I can see that most women dont like to try to correct same misunderstandings over 10 years… from the same peole. Book writting.. would bloggs do? Writting all the time… not in English though. Sorry about the spelling English is my 3rd language. Nothing scarry about anti-mormon stuff it just is sooo boring.
    A female FAIR person!

  • Blake

    Yes Maya, it is LSD’s fault that there are so few women doing scholarly work.

  • the narrator

    Drugs are very bad.

  • Juliann

    Apologetics and gender should be explored, but I have to wonder where the apologists for Mormon feminism fit in (unless this is really about ideology and personalities rather than apologetics). They represent a strong and aggressive defensive female voice and they can most certainly hold their own with anyone who disagrees. I have seen many sharp and challenging exchanges. This may be a more accurate measure of women engaging in apologetic activity…. and it could likewise be asked why there are not more men involved in this subset of apologetics. There needs to be. These women are doing something important and doing it on their own for the most part.

  • Ms. Jack

    #43 Maya ~ Most male apologists have full-time jobs, yet they still find time to contribute to FAIR or other apologetics outlets. I realize that some working women suffer from the “double day” (I sure as hell do), but still, that’s not really a good excuse for why there are so few female apologists. No one is saying that there are no female apologists, only that there are fewer of them, and fewer of them involved in things like speaking at FAIR Conferences, publishing in journals that do scholarly apologetics, etc. We’re all aware that there have been women like Juliann involved in more behind-the-scenes stuff with FAIR for years (the late Renee Olson, Sharon _____, Cris ________, and Jan are a few others that I knew back in my day). And yes, there are somewhat fewer female academics in the world and still more men than women earning graduate degrees, but pick up any copy of Dialogue or Journal of Mormon History and you’ll see plenty of female contributors. Mormonism does not lack for female academics. They simply aren’t doing apologetics.

    #46 Juliann ~ I’m not sure that you can count Mormon feminism as a branch of Mormon apologia. Apologetics is a defense of the faith; feminism is a movement geared towards challenging unequal treatment of women. Most Mormon feminists reject significant parts of what the church teaches about women and are seeking to challenge and reform it, which is in many ways the opposite of what apologetics does.

    There are the Valerie Hudson types who attempt to defend what the church teaches about sex and wrap it in feminist packaging, and they would qualify more as apologists. But such are a pretty small sliver of Mormon feminism, and really, they’re more like the Gertrude Bells of the movement.

  • Juliann

    Ms. Jack, Mormon feminists are apologists for feminism, which happens to be in a distinctively Mormon setting that requires a defense the minute the word feminist is uttered. They most certainly are apologists. As I said, if apologetics is going to be confined to such a limited definition that it is only about a group so small that the participants can all be named, this really isn’t about apologetics. Valerie Hudsen is a good example of just that. She has feminist credentials that I doubt her critics could match. That she is a hard hitting Mormon apologist at times does not make her any less a feminist than being a feminist makes anyone less of a Mormon. She has produced scores of budding feminists during her time at BYU, my daughter among them. She has probably been of more help to Mormon women in working around the polygamy as “eternal” doctrine nonsense than anyone. In that sense, I find her to represent something we sorely lack in Mormonism, female theologians. To see a woman not only dismissed but demonized by other women because of quibbles over theological theories has been painful to watch. Ironically, she is also denigrated because of her “masculine” approach to her apologetic endeavors …which creates a feminist conundrum of its own. ( I believe she publishes under different surname for her academic endeavors). When I see an internationally known female researcher whom I have seen denigrated by both Mormon men and women, conservative and liberal, in my opinion, she is providing something worth listening to whether I agree with it all or not.

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  • Jack

    The take away message is: You gotta have cojones to defend the kingdom.

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