There are two rhetorical practices used by ex-members and reform-minded cultural Mormons that I’ve noticed being used more recently.
Latter-day Saint culture places a high premium on deference to authority. If you want to shut down a discussion with the orthodox who “pay the tithing and do the believing;” who are the primary fuel line for the Church, just communicate that the brethren are fundamentally wrongheaded. Some people do this, of course, but I get the sense they’re generally speaking among themselves. (You can tell when a movement to change the Church is more concerned with martyrdom than actually trying to change things based on their approach in this regard).
The more sophisticated and strategic will try to play within the ideological space that is more palatable to the rank and file for the Church. They will, for example, quote Church leaders as authorities when it’s highly doubtful that they personally hold the same deference to the very authority that they are hinging their argument on, or they will try to heavily prooftext the Proclamation as if it is anything besides a heavily heteronormative document that espouses traditional gender roles.
As a matter of strategy I get it, but the disingenuousness of it all makes me roll my eyes, and while some of this is more transparent than others (I once saw an openly pro-pornography apologist invoking General Conference talks to make his point). I think most people can see through what they’re doing, but for some people that are a little more lacking in discernment using Church content to make an argument that is clearly counter to the Church’s position can be confusing.
Of course, non-believers pointing out theological inconsistencies, or non-believers invoking inside baseball values and references to make a point, isn’t always patronizing (for the most part I thought the Hillary Clinton campaign’s appeal to Church members was a good example of how to do this right), but it’s another thing to imply that they’re on the same team, as it were, when theologically they’re really not. In these cases the invocation of in-group language acts as a kind of shibboleth, as if to say “I am one of you, so you can trust me,” and as I’ve noted before, in those cases critiquing people’s private beliefs or sincerity is fair game.
On the same note of in-group identification, I am surprised at how often ex-members or reform-minded members begin their narrative with “as an 8th generation, pioneer stock Latter-day Saint…,” or references to their Eagle Scout/Young Women’s award, or their Church leader lineage, seemingly oblivious to how closely they’re quoting the pharisees, as if the Savior didn’t warn about this all the time (e.g. “the first shall be last”). By invoking their multigenerational or blue blood status they seem to be implying “I’m a real member with the authentic Mormon experience, unlike those converts in Timbuktu.”
The converts in Timbuktu who have no idea who Wilford Woodruff is but who sacrifice to do their ministering are the Kingdom in ways that the BYU faculty whose affiliation with the church stems mostly from nostalgia or sociocultural or professional inertia will never be. And when speaking from the spirit the Timbuktu ploughboys and ploughgirls “know more of the [gospel]” than the blue bloods with the complete Dialogue/BYU Studies set on their bookshelf.