Militant atheists, on the other hand, who once mostly ignored Mormonism because it's so small, have turned a lot more of their attacks toward it in recent years as it grows in prominence disproportionately to its size. So in my view, anyone who wishes to be involved in Mormon apologetics, which is a noble and necessary endeavor, should focus on addressing atheist critics and not worry about evangelicals much at all. I've had a hard time persuading others of this, though. There's a group of internet apologists I hang out in and many of them, in turn, are involved in Mormon-evangelical dialogue groups that are jointly led by admins of both faiths and intended to model the more constructive and less polemical dialogue but often degenerate into the same old arguments. When one of these groups becomes too contentious or too evangelical-dominated, someone leaves the group and starts a new one, and the cycle begins again. I've long viewed the whole affair as a colossal waste of time that persuades no one of anything.
Recently I couldn't stand it anymore and asked these people, "What exactly is debating doctrine with evangelicals supposed to accomplish?" I presumed the answer was "nothing", of course, and that they would realize this and move on to more productive endeavors. I was wrong. What follows are the reasons they gave, with a few edited slightly for aesthetic purposes. I let them speak for themselves, with no commentary on my part, and their inclusion here is not necessarily an endorsement of every word of all of them. I intend no offense or disrespect to evangelicals or their beliefs. I really like that this allows me to fill up the post without thinking of something to write myself.
"Challenge your own arguments, fine tune them, or change them if you discover they are unsound. Respectful, intelligent debate analyzes some of the best or worst points we adhere to."
"D & C 71."
"It's made me a much more effective scriptural pugilist, for what that's worth."
"Nothing much. Just post the truth to correct their misrepresentations of LDS beliefs. Don't defend much or give in to their provocative rhetoric."
"We learn their perspectives, see the differences, Learn the sources of their doctrines (scripture, creeds, etc.) So we can speak from experience when we empathize with and share truth with our actual relations (friends, family, members, etc.)."
"Christopher... much, actually. Having been involved with this particular endeavor for over 25 years now, I know of literally dozens who have joined the Church who once opposed it as a result of hearing the gospel taught in the course of our discussions. Behind the facade of anti-Mormonism, sometimes there is a true seeker of truth exploring to see what that truth might be... someone who fights the LDS Church because they are insecure in their own faith. I've been told by some who later joined the Church that when they read what we wrote, they felt impressed that it was true... some said that it 'sounded right,' or that it 'felt right,' like something they had always secretly believed, but which ran counter to popular EV belief. Never discount the impact that teaching the truth... in WHATEVER setting... may have on those who are secretly searching."
"^ amen to that"
"^ Yep. For instance, I was in Cambridge, UK for a long weekend in January. A man approached me and informed me that he had struggled with LDS theology (Christology; plurality of Gods doctrine, etc) due to his Church of England/Trinitarian background for a number of months while meeting with the missionaries there until he happened upon my blog posts on LDS vs. Trinitarian Christologies, such as my response to Bobby Gilpin and others, which made him do a 180 on the topic of LDS Christology and other issues that had once troubled him and was nearing baptism. There are truth seekers watching on the benches, if you will."
"When I go out with my local missionaries, I share our discussions, questions and the comments by the Evangelicals that oppose us. When they see the lack of logic, consistency and scriptural support, they readily listen to the Restoration message. Take this from Bowman, for example. I asked: What is the purpose for which the Triune god created mankind, ex nihilo? He answered: 'Mankind was not created ex nihilo. The universe was, but not man.' Rob doesn't seem to understand 'Ex nihilo'. But he continues, 'God created human beings to bear his image in this finite, physical world - to be and act as his representatives, displaying his glory (his goodness, truth, etc.) in the world as physical creatures endowed with the capacity to know and love God and each other in ways that reflect God's character.' When you pose additional questions like this for which 'Christianity' had not response, it become quite simple to open a once closed mind."
"It mostly strengthen my own testimony because it forces me to research and study and reinforce, intellectually, what the Spirit has already confirmed. Sure, it's disappointing when they refuse to listen but when they are here to argue about points of doctrine they're not really ready for the true gospel anyway."
"When I was still inactive, living in Bay City, Texas, just outside Houston, I met a former Jehovah's Witness the one time I attended the Block. I asked him how devout he had been as a JW. He told me he averaged 160 of proselytizing each month. Our full-time missionaries don't do that. I then asked him what opened his mind to listen to us, as they are indoctrinated, 'You are there to teach, not to be taught.' He said it was a missionary who showed him with his own Bible there would be more than 144,000 going to Heaven. So, it pays to not only learn our own beliefs, but theirs."
Food for thought, I suppose.