Unfortunately money is to be made from writing material against churches _ "bash material". Though I could easily write such stuff myself, how could I ever face God after having done so (apart from the spiritual damage to myself)? Many who write these things do so in total ignorance, and are just out for the money. There are, however, some few (and I hope for their sake it's very few) who do it knowing the truth but deliberately blinding themselves to that testimony; for those we should feel saddened.
The first thing most writers of bash material attempt to do is to appear knowledgeable of the subject. This means quoting statistics about the church. Often these statistics are incredibly out of date, and one gets the feeling from reading on that the person has taken other bash material and just taken bits from each. Most of the bash material, that I have read against churches, has been written by seemingly ignorant people.
The next thing done in most cases is the writer praises certain aspects of the church, such as no smoking, or drinking of alcohol, the sports and youth programs, unpaid missionaries, the genealogical facilities, etc. The purpose in this is to make the writer sound as if they are without prejudice. This is often mingled with the first step in smaller or more direct publications. Some bash material will continue scattering this approach throughout the publication in order to remain sounding unprejudiced.
First Things To Look For
Having stated these techniques let's look at some generalisations about the material. Firstly you will find the arguments have more holes in them than Swiss cheese. The larger the material, the more the contradictions contained therein. A classic is the claim I have often read, that we don't believe in Jesus Christ. Yet the same material will go on to state that Joseph Smith claimed that God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him. Some will go on further to state that The Book of Mormon claims that this same person we supposedly don't believe in (that is Jesus Christ) visited the Americas. Any thinking person should be able to see from these latter two claims that (a.) We believe that He lived, (b.) That He still does, (c.) That He has power therefore over death, and, (d.) Is in special favour with The Father.
I have also seen claimed that Joseph Smiths' mother was a Gipsy, and that he was a gold digger. Yet the same publications will often go on to state that the family were on a farm at the time of the first vision. This is an unusual place for Gipsies and gold diggers. My encyclopaedia tells me that Gipsies did not arrive in North America till the late 1800's_ making her about 100 years before her time (though one could not expect the average reader to be aware of that).
If the writer has been a member of the church they will often exaggerate their involvement by quoting general authorities they've met as being "friends".
Innuendo and misrepresentation are what makes up almost the whole material in smaller publications. And/or it will go for the shock/scare approach.
Never be conned by the pamphlet or another person into adopting a point of view that it/they tell you Mormons have. To quote an example of this: While on my mission my companion and I had opportunity to bare our testimony before about a third of a minister's congregation. Before we started however, the minister butted in and said to them, "by the way they do this because they believe that this testimony will be brought up against you at the judgement". My companion then went on to bare his testimony in that attitude, instead of with love and concern. What the minister said was correct _ we do believe that the testimony will be brought against them in the judgement; but in most cases, testimony is given so that people may feel it's truth and be converted. If you do not like the way the church doctrine is defined, redefine it. If someone says, "Well that's what this material is saying," Then you say that once they are more familiar with Christ's' doctrine, that they will come to sense what is wrong with it, (assuming that you cannot define what is wrong with it).
The main way this problem arises is in the material's automatic assumption that you must defend every word stated anywhere, by any general authority. In fact some will quote statements they made before they even became one.
What Do You Really Need To Defend
In 1890, and in 1978 declarations were put before the general membership of the church, and were sustained as Scripture. Sections 137 and 138 of the Doctrine and Covenants have recently gone through the same process. These joined the rest of the Scriptures sustained by the general membership in our Standard Works, ie. The Bible, The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price. As stated by President Harold B. Lee, "These are the standard by which we judge". He goes on further to state that any statement made that is not couched and supported by the standard works should only be regarded as opinion, regardless of the position of the man who said it. These statements do not mean that the prophet doesn't receive revelation. What it means is that you should not attempt to defend anything other than what you know to be accepted by the general church membership as Scripture ie. The Standard Works.
If you attempt to defend anything else, (1.) You are being unfair to the church membership; and (2.) You will come unstuck, as you find yourself trying to defend more and more obscure books, and by people who may not even have been general authorities (at all, or when they wrote them). You probably do not know the name of every general authority who's lived, and the people to whom you are speaking wouldn't either. I remember an instance when some members were listening to some bash material and circumstances had me there to defend the church. The person from another church said, "well Brigham Young said that his discourses are as good as Scripture". To which the Holy Ghost inspired me with the reply, "If I say something is as good as done, is it done or not?". The man said something about that not being much of an answer and quoted Brigham Young again, to which the Holy Ghost said to again give the same response. Don't be conned by someone into thinking your answer isn't satisfactory. The Standard Works are all you should, or need to defend, and you stick by that regardless of what they say, EVEN IF THE STATEMENT IS EASY TO DEFEND. If you defend one such statement, you have shifted ground. DON'T
The first thing to know is that there is an answer to every argument. Be assured of that. If you don't happen to know what it is don't be afraid to say, "well I don't know everything yet. I know there is an answer to your question, as the church is true, but I do not at this time know what it is". Let me add though that to date I have never had to say that, in my many experiences, and some going for 2-3 hours. This I mention for two reasons. Both of which are important to remember. (1.) That there truly is an answer to every argument against the church. And, (2.) That you should seek, and pray for the guidance of the Holy Ghost, in any spiritual endeavour. If you feel you have trouble getting things from the Holy Ghost, I would suggest reading Luke 11: 5 -13.
How much more would God give the Holy Spirit to one attempting to serve another?
Do not feel you have to have all the answers before you can answer claims against the church. However it would make your job a lot easier if you read the Standard Works you are attempting to defend. So an important part is regular personal Scripture study. Think about what you read so it becomes alive to you, and part of you _ you can see it's fulfilment around you; those who hate are not happy, those who love have the peace inside Christ promised, etc.
Plant firmly in your mind that you aren't there to argue your point with contention. The Holy Ghost will have difficulty communicating with you if you are contentious. If you find yourself feeling irate in a conversation of this nature recognise that you are probably irate at the ignorance, lies, and deceit. So put your interest in the person's personal welfare back firmly as first thought. Then the Holy Ghost will come to you as you're feeling love and concern.
This is the easiest area to deal with, yet some bash material only contains allegations about church leaders, and other notable (and sometimes some obscure, I should add) characters of church history. Many and varied are the allegations.
We have the claim that the three witnesses denied that they saw the gold plates. Yet we have witness that they did not.
A man was paid a large sum of money to go around and find people to sign affidavits against Joseph Smith. Some (at least) received money to sign them _ compensation for their time (though Joseph Smith obtained enough real enemies). Yet on the other hand we have witness of great people who highly praised him. The same goes for other church leaders. So the arguments are meaningless. Nothing can be resolved, or proven as there is as much for, as against. Neither side can prove the truth of either side of the testimonies. That stories, and testimonies exist against him would only stand as evidence that he was called of God, rather than the other way. We see evidence of this in the New Testament where the guards were bribed to claim that the apostles had come and taken the body of Jesus (Matt 28:12 -13). This evidence, from the guards, was used to make the apostles look like thieves, and liars. Verse 15 of that chapter states that the story against them stuck _ it did not go away. Today it would be the kind of thing put in bash pamphlets, and books. So while the stories and testimonies for and against church leaders, past and present, may leave us nowhere, these opposing testimonies do serve as a necessary sign in their favour. Jesus Christ clearly stated that all manner of evil would be said against His followers (eg. Matt 10:25). If you lived at the time of Christ what could you say in defence against these allegations against His apostles? So when faced with any allegations about Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, etc., regarding anything they supposedly did, you just say that the arguments are meaningless as nothing can be proven either for, or against. I found this out from experience. Even having answered all the arguments put to me against Brigham Young, and Joseph Smith, people would say, "Well your story of those events is different to those stated in this book." Therefore they were left unsure. So the best thing is to just tell them why it is a meaningless discussion and suggest that your discussion should turn to something where things can be resolved by someone earnestly seeking the truth.
The most important tool you need for such conversations is the Holy Ghost. Having him there you will be able to answer anything.