You are capable of reasoning. You’ve been reasoning about everything since you were born. You reason when you decide what to buy, who to befriend, and how to live your life.

I will not attempt to make a comprehensive guide on reasoning or critical thinking here. That’s not the purpose of this website. But I do want to point out some critical processes that helped me make sense of my faith crisis.

Religion and Reasoning

It is natural to set logical reasoning aside when handling religious matters. The church teaches that people should consider everything spiritually rather than with their natural mind. To this, I suggest that God has given you the ability to reason. He would surely be offended if this gift were wasted, as the parable of the talents makes abundantly clear. So if the church’s claims are true, they will stand up to logical reasoning.

In fact, church members are encouraged to try to find flaws in reasoning:

If [Joseph Smith’s] claims and declarations were built upon fraud and deceit, there would appear many errors and contradictions, which would be easy to detect.1

With this in mind, let us reason about a number of key logical principles that apply to the church. Please consider my reasoning and email me if you find any critical flaws.

Burden of Proof

While the church encourages you to “doubt your doubts”, you are not obligated to prove the church is not true. I was taught that God cares deeply about His children. As such, he wants everyone to have the ability to see that the church is true.

In my opinion, this places the burden of proof of the church’s claims on the church itself. A perfect God ought to make a good argument, albeit through imperfect human servants. Remember we are talking about the same God who, throughout the Bible and Book of Mormon, encouraged prophets and missionaries to make compelling arguments and convince people of the truth. It is not, in my opinion, in God’s character to require faith based on a poorly constructed argument.


Self-contradictions are perhaps the most obvious way to tell someone is lying. Take, for example, the following lines from a police interview:

  • Alice: “Sam didn’t rob the bank.”
  • Bob: “Sam robbed the bank.”

Are Alice and Bob simultaneously correct? Of course not. One of their statements must be false. Your brain figured this out by following a pattern of reasoning:

  • Alice’s and Bob’s statements are logically contradictory
  • Two logically contradictory statements cannot both be true.
  • Either Alice’s or Bob’s statement is not true.

Thus, after the interviews, you know that either Alice or Bob must be lying. We have to be careful since it doesn’t necessarily follow that the liar is malicious. We can only know from this process that one of the statements is false; we cannot determine their motives. Perhaps Alice thought Sam was on vacation, or perhaps Bob thought he saw Sam through the bank window.

In the same way, self-contradictions (i.e., one person gives contradictory statements) must contain at least one falsehood. Otherwise, a system is logically inconsistent. Of course, there is a lot to study about logical inconsistency and completeness (take Godel’s work, for example2), but this gives a very basic overview.

Important Implications of Self-Contradictions

The church teaches of a perfect (i.e., at least logically consistent) God. We are taught that God cannot lie3. If God contradicts Himself, a paradox is created in which a being that cannot lie has produced contradictory statements that must simultaneously be true.

Relevant Fallacies

It is incredibly easy to construct an argument with fallacies. These arguments can be compelling. If you want to learn more about common fallacies, I would encourage you to explore related books and websites and see what fallacies you can spot in popular media.

I will list a few common fallacies here, but I would also encourage research from other high-quality resources:


Lying outright is a common and simple fallacy that often gets overlooked. If a statement is a lie, it is false.

Straw Man

Straw Man reasoning seeks to attack a weaker argument than is presented. For example:

  • John: Using less fossil fuel will help stave off the effects of climate change.
  • Kim: You want to put thousands of Americans out of work by destroying the oil fields!

This argument has the potential to pop up in a number of church-related discussions, which can be extremely dangerous. For example:

  • Mindy: The church should use a portion of tithing money to maintain its buildings.
  • Nancy: God wants people to show faith by serving in the church.

This becomes especially problematic with thought-terminating statements. These statements are often catchy one-liners that aren’t necessarily false, but they stop an argument in its tracks by arguing against a different point. For example:

  • Mark: Why are there so many anachronisms in the Book of Mormon?
  • Nina: Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.

Watch out for Straw Man reasoning in apologetic work. Make sure arguments actually support their claims.

Ad Hominem

Ad Hominem reasoning attacks someone’s character rather than providing a meaningful counter to their argument. People often learn this technique as children in playground arguments, and it remains popular into adulthood. For example:

  • Andy: Hey, you stole our ball!
  • Billy: Shut up, stinky face!

Or, more seriously:

  • Art: We should paint the bookshelf yellow.
  • Becky: Why should I listen to you? You have horrible taste.

This is especially problematic in the context of the church since it can easily lead to an us-vs-them attitude. For example:

  • Sam: I don’t understand why Joseph Smith was sealed to married women.
  • Thomas: You would say that; you’re so anti-mormon.

Or, more popularly:

  • Sandy: I don’t understand why Joseph Smith was sealed to married women.
  • Trina: Sandy made this statement shortly after leaving the church. She was probably feeling bitter and resentful, and it would make sense that she would fabricate statements about Joseph Smith to cast a bad image on the church.

Watch out for Ad Hominem in apologetic responses to antagonistic work. This is often (but not always) someone’s last resort when they cannot come up with a counter. If in doubt, ask, “Does this argument focus on the topic or the speaker?”

Tu Quoque

Tu Quoque is the ugly stepcousin of Ad Hominem. This fallacy avoids criticism by turning it back on the accuser. For example:

  • Xavier: Swearing to your coworkers is inappropriate and needs to stop.
  • Yolanda: Then why did I hear you cussing like a sailor at Dave the other day?

This fallacy is also common in apologetic work:

  • George: The church’s truth claims are full of fallacies and don’t stand up to scrutiny.
  • Henry: George’s argument is invalid because his essay about polygamy contains a logical fallacy.

If in doubt, ask if the original argument is actually less valid because of the counterargument.

Appeal to Emotion

This is an extremely common fallacy. While emotional appeals have their place, they should not be considered logical arguments. These appeals are incredibly common in the church:

  • Aaron: The Book of Mormon is logically inconsistent.
  • Blake: But how exciting is it to have a real-life record of ancient Americans!?

Or, when something feels more personal:

  • Andy: I don’t believe the church’s truth claims.
  • Bert: How do you think Jesus would feel hearing that?

And one more, for good measure:

  • Alex: (does something unrighteous)
  • Brandon: Every time you do something wrong, you are adding more to Jesus’ suffering.

While emotional appeals have their place, they are not a substitute for a logical argument.

Special Pleading

This fallacy moves the goalposts or makes an exception to a claim when the claim was shown to be false. For example:

  • Cindy: Joseph Smith didn’t practice polygamy.
  • Don: There are a dozen church-approved documents that state otherwise.
  • Cindy: He only practiced polygamy because God commanded him to.

Or perhaps the following:

  • Quinn: The Book of Mormon was only translated with the Urim and Thumim.
  • Rachel: The church has published contradictory information about that.
  • Quinn: The Book of Mormon was also translated with a seer stone.

The Texas Sharpshooter

This fallacy is often associated with confirmation bias. It involves cherry-picking data to fit an argument. Watch out for this fallacy particularly when people testify of blessings received after a promise.

Relevant Biases

It is also easy to construct a biased argument. These arguments can be compelling. If you want to learn more about common biases, I would encourage you to learn more and see what biases you can spot in popular media.

I will list a few common biases here, but I would also encourage research from other high-quality resources:

Confirmation Bias

You favor something if it confirms your beliefs. For example, imagine which statement a vacuum salesman will be more likely to believe without considering other evidence:

  • People who vacuum their house twice per week are generally happier.
  • People who vacuum their house twice per generally have health problems.

This bias is especially common in religious settings. For example, imagine which statement will be better received in a church meeting:

  • I paid tithing and received financial blessings.
  • I paid tithing and had to file for bankruptcy.

Sunk Cost

You favor something you have already invested in. Whether or not the church is true, if you have invested your entire life in it, it can be hard to justify that investment if you leave.

Group Think

You let a group’s social dynamics determine truth. This is especially problematic in religious settings where you are expected to believe exactly the same things as everyone in your group, and when anyone who believes differently is an “other”.

The Barnum Effect

You fill in gaps in a vague statement to see personal details. This can be particularly problematic when analyzing something like a patriarchal blessing, as vague statements in a blessing are usually interpreted to meet someone’s specific circumstances.


You are armed with the ability to discern; that is, to determine what is true or false. You have logical reasoning at your disposal, and you are encouraged to use your reasoning skills to determine the truth of the church’s claims.

  1. Smith, J. F. (1954). Doctrines of Salvation Volume 1. Bookcraft. ↩︎

  2. Raatikainen, P. (2022). Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. ↩︎

  3. Romney, M. G. (n.d.). “We Believe in Being Honest.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Retrieved December 20, 2023, from ↩︎