"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
October 9, 2014
My Friend Is Enchanted by a False Mormon Blog
by Cyndie Swindlehurst

Question:

A friend of mine recently recommended a blog that claims to be written by a member of the Church. I read the post she recommended and was appalled. I knew she was interested in speculative doctrine, but the blog seems deeply flawed to me. The more I look through its archives, the more I feel this writer is trying to set himself up as a spiritual leader.

I’m concerned about my friend. Should I talk to her about it?

Answer:

Yes. You should talk to your friend. I have not included the link to the blog in question, but I visited it and I agree that it is way off base.

Friends often share and recommend things to each other. And in general, if a friend recommends something to you, and you try it and do not like it, you should not seek him out to tell him that you did not like it.

But when a friend recommends or expresses an interest in something that you know — or discover — to be false, fraudulent or dangerous, you should speak up. You owe it to your friend to warn him, to tell him what you know.

For example, let’s say your friend tells you he is planning to hire Ted Tinker to remodel his kitchen. You happen to mention Ted Tinker’s name to your neighbor, and your neighbor tells you that Ted did a terrible job on her kitchen and tried to cheat her. You now know something that could change your friend’s decision.

Are you going to sigh and shrug and say, “Not my business?” No. You will tell your friend what you know.

Your situation is similar. Your friend shared a blog post that piqued her interest. You investigated the blog (perhaps more thoroughly than she did) and found that it had serious factual and doctrinal flaws. Are you going to sigh and shrug and let it go, perhaps even leaving the impression that you agreed with the blog or found it unremarkable?

No. I don’t think you should. I think you should share with her what you thought about it.

Approaching your friend may take courage. Confronting a friend is uncomfortable for most people. There seem to be so many reasons not to speak: you should mind your own business, you should not judge, you should not criticize, you want to seem open minded, you don’t want to offend or, if this is an online friend, start a flame war.

Even if all of that is true, you must also consider your duty — to the Church, to truth and to your friend. Your friend thought an anti-Mormon blog full of false prophecy and false doctrine was neat, for heaven’s sake. You need to talk to her about it. Not to set her straight or embarrass her, but to tell her what you saw and felt when you read the blog, and to give her specific information you may have that refutes what you read.

Your communication with her can be casual or formal in tone, depending on your personality and your relationship with her. It may be longer or shorter, depending on what you think she would appreciate. (Although I think most people will respond more favorably if you address your main concern rather than list and rebut twenty-two falsehoods in one missive.) It could be more fact-based or more feeling-based, again depending on what you know about her.

Avoid condescension. This is tricky, because you are, in fact, asserting that you are right and she is wrong about a spiritual matter that involves judgment, knowledge and experience. So focus your conversation on your specific critique of the blog and its contents, not on your assessment of her spiritual well-being.

Instead of saying, “I don’t know how you could fall for that garbage,” say, “This is why I don’t believe what I read on that blog.”

Back up your objections or assertions with reliable sources. Scriptures, recent General Conference talks, documented historical facts — cite these and include links, if you are writing to her. If she is actually interested in scholarship on speculative or obscure subjects, information from faithful, reliable sources will be valuable to her. The Maxwell Institute, FairMormon and the Gospel Topics page on the Church's website come to mind.

(As a side note, in my opinion, “speculative doctrine” is a polite way of saying “false doctrine.” Doctrine, by definition, is well established and not speculative.)

To get you started, here are some possible openers you could use to talk or write to your friend.

  • “Hey Diana — I read that blog. It seemed off to me. There’s no way the writer could really be an active member. I mean, he’s inventing new ordinances ....”

  • “Hi Josie. I read that blog post you recommended. But his view on baptism seems backwards. I mean, it totally contradicts what the scriptures say in ....”

  • “So, Ruby, I looked at that blog you sent me, and it felt like the writer was really stretching his facts. I looked up that time period, and I found that ....”

  • “Phil, thanks for the link. The author quoted Old General Authority, but he only gave part of the quotation. I thought you’d like to read the whole thing. Here it is.”

  • “I don’t know about that blog, Priscilla. The post you sent wasn’t too weird, but the more old posts I read, the stranger it got. I mean, the writer is inventing whole doctrines, and I didn’t like how he criticized ....”

  • “So I read that blog, Jane, and it reminded me that this topic was also a big controversy in the 70s, and again in the 90s. I’m going to send you a link ....”

  • “I had three thoughts about that blog you sent me, Stella. First, ....”

Finally, approaching your friend might make you uncomfortable, but I don’t think you need to be nervous. If you listen and speak with kindness and respect, it is unlikely that she will be offended. She seems like a person who is interested in different ideas and perspectives, and that presumably includes yours.

Do you have a quandary, conundrum, or sticky situation in your life? Click this button to drop Cyndie a line, and she’ll be happy to answer your question in a future column. Any topic is welcome!


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About Cyndie Swindlehurst

Cynthia Munk Swindlehurst spent her childhood in New Hampshire and her adolescence in San Diego. She served a mission in Manaus Brazil. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English and from Duke University with a law degree.

She practiced law until her first child was born. She enjoys reading, tap dancing, and discussing current events. She and her husband live in Greensboro, North Carolina with their two sons.

Cyndie serves as the Sunbeams teacher in her ward.

Visit Cyndie at Dear Cyndie
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