Why did Joseph Smith look into a hat to translate the Book of Mormon? What’s with that blood atonement thing? Why did your church not give blacks the priesthood for so long? Why did Joseph Smith have 43 wives? What’s up with that book Mormon Doctrine? Is it really “mormon doctrine”?
At one time or another, I’m sure many of us have been asked tough questions by our non-member friends about the Church. And I’m sure many times members don’t have the answers to these questions. As a consequence of the lack of answers, non-members go to the internet to find them on their own, only to find sites that give an anti-Mormon spin to these questions.
Thankfully, there are several Church friendly sites out there that can serve as resources to help give members and non-members answers to tough questions about the Church or the gospel. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Jeff Lindsay– he’s a member that has done some outstanding work in the field of Mormon apologetics. He has some great stuff about Book of Mormon evidences. His site really helped my wife out as a new convert when she was having doubts about the Church.
- FAIR LDS– FAIR is a group of LDS scholars who dedicate themselves to responding to anti-Mormon attacks. They’re topical guide runs the gauntlet of tough issues like the historicity of the Book of Mormon, the evolution of the temple ceremony, and early LDS history.
- By Common Consent– this is a group LDS blog that covers a variety of aspects about Mormonism. However, it’s a great resource to find out answers to tough historical and doctrinal questions. J. Stapley, has done some great posts (footnotes included) about early Church history. Yes, the early members had some odd beliefs (like Brigham Young’s blood atonement or his belief that little men that looked like Quakers lived on the moon), however, Stapley has done a great job putting these ideas into the historical and cultural context of the early member’s time. As a result, it doesn’t seem so odd. Kevin Barney is an attorney who moonlights as an ancient studies guru. The guy knows like five different ancient languages. He has some great posts in which he uses his knowledge of ancient texts to give some great insights to the scriptures. (If you click on J’s and Kevin’s names it will take you to a list of all their posts)
- Mormon Monestary – this is done by a member who has studied Near Eastern languages and history. Like Keven Barney from By Common Consent, the Monk uses his knowledge from the history of the ancient Middle East to give some great insights to LDS doctrine. He has also put together an amazing list of articles and resources that members can use to help explain temple worship to those who are preparing to go for the first time or for non-members who may have questions.
- FARMS– FARMS stands for the Foundation of Ancient Research and Mormon Studies. I guess you would say it’s the “official” Church apologetic organization seeing that it is sponsored by BYU. They have some great papers from several scholars covering a wide variety of topics. It’s a great resource for those tough questions.
There’s a site out there called Ask Gramps. It’s done by a member who is an ex-mission president. People can submit any question relating to the gospel and Gramps will answer it. While he means well, I wouldn’t use it as your main resource to help answer tough questions. His answers are often pretty speculative and sometimes completely wrong. For example, when asked about Joseph Smith using seer stones in a hat as part of the translation of the Book of Mormon, Gramps denied it ever happened despite the fact that we have journal entries from those involved in the translation process that said that’s how Joseph Smith did it. Even Elder Nelson in a talk in the Ensign discusses that this was ONE (emphasis on one. The Urim and Thumim was used as well) that Joesph used to translate the plates. (If that seems odd to you, check out the resources above for some great explanation about the translation process).
Additionally, there are several books out there that do a great job in helping members out with those tough Church question. I’ll be posting on those later.