Mormons mix science into spirituality

Associated Press/August 6, 2004
By Travis Reed

Sandy -- With words like "hypothalamus," "neuroanatomy" and "variables," it was anything but a typical LDS discussion on homosexuality.

Instead, like all the other presentations Thursday at the conference for the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research -- it was a hunker-down, dig-deep look at the science of an issue.

With more pencil-pushing and footnotes than fire and brimstone, it could easily be described by the casual observer as, well, boring. But it's just what the hundreds of people came for -- a long look at hard evidence that Mormons can use to defend their faith against nonbelievers.

FAIR is a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints group, but it's not endorsed by the church.

Though many in the Mormon church are uncomfortable with the concept of apologetics -- preferring instead to simply "believe" their religion is true instead of trying to defend it for others -- FAIR members say they want to provide the information for anyone who's interested.

After all, critics of the religion are numerous, from evangelical Christians who denounce the church's previous support of polygamy to atheists who point to historical inaccuracies in the Book of Mormon.

"Because of bold claims about the position that we're the only true church, it invites a significant amount of criticism from those who would be put out by that," said John Lynch, chairman of FAIR's board of directors.

Most members also have had their faith tested by nonbelievers well-versed in anti-Mormon rhetoric, said Allen Wyatt, FAIR's vice president.

The group's principal rule is that it doesn't bash other religions or incite its own arguments. Instead, it intends to arm the faithful with the best evidence and knowledge they can gather to ward off empirical criticisms.

"We call it 'drive-by theology,' " Wyatt said of attacks from nonbelievers. "They try to come up with a 30-second sound bite that says 'Mormonism isn't true.' "

Speakers reaffirmed Mormon stances on subjects like homosexuality and women's roles in the church.

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