What you would call “Chapel Mormons”, religious believers who only know the Church history and dogma they’re taught in Church are significiantly different from the Internet Mormons, people who have learned to be quite a bit more liberal and outside the box thinking about Church dogma. Not that they disagree with Church dogma or believes, just that they are better at twisting existing evidence to fit the dogma.
Chapel Mormons probably don’t know about the complex debates going on concerning controversial issues, or only know about it in the most fleeting way. Mormon Apologists on the other hand know the issues and have developed ways of thinking to get around any compelling arguments, including avoiding the argument [“shifting the goal posts” or distorting the argument to make it easier to debunk [“setting up a strawman”].
In some ways I have to admire the apologists for their McGuyver-like ability to take any set of Church history, dogma, or opinions, no matter how bizarre or damning, and make it into something respectable. That’s the whole point of apologetics in my opinion. To take weird and bizarre ways of thinking and mainstream them, purify them, make them respectable, or failing that to make them unimportant and completely separated from the Church.
Issues such as polygamy, which really can’t be defended in modern society, are just an issue that has to be made unimportant and divorced from Church business, due to it’s nature as a volatile and “hot button” issue. The purpose of apologetics is to defend the defensible and divorce the indefensible. The difference between a good apologist and a bad apologist, or more precisely a smart apologist and a foolish apologist is learning that defending the defensible is easier than trying to divorce the indefensible.
The reason this is so is that the indefensible practices are difficult, almost impossible to divorce, when they are core issues in Mormon history and Mormon theology. You can’t just divorce a hot button issue such as polygamy when it was practiced by the Church founders, practiced significantly by the Church for generations [and might have continued on if not for the Church’s attempt to gain political legitimacy via making Utah a US State], and is something to be practiced in the Mormon afterlife and is still practiced by “Mormon” sects such as the FLDS. For these reasons the polygamy issue is probably impossible to divorce [short of an LDS Prophet decree to total divorce from polygamy in this life and the next.
So the smart apologists take on issues that are defensible, issues that are possible while foolish apologists continue to defend the indefensible issues. Sadly it seems that most issues are considered defensible by most LDS apologists while people looking from the outside would consider most issues indefensible [especially issues of sexuality, counseling of members by unqualified people, polygamy, issues of money for starters.] But that’s the state of Mormon apologists in my opinion.