Defending the Faith: Annual FAIR conference set for Aug. 1-2

Published: Thursday, July 11 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

Conference attendees at the 2009 Fair Conference browse books on LDS topics between lectures.

, Deseret News Archives

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The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR) was formed in late 1997 by a group of Latter-day Saints who frequented the America Online Mormonism message boards, where they found themselves defending the church against sometimes very fierce detractors. (The Greek word “apologia” simply means “defense.”)

This small group of besieged Mormons realized that they had no easy way of sharing helpful information with each other, much less with the rest of the church, to deal with criticisms and attacks. Out of this realization, and out of a desire for mutual support, FAIR was born. Incorporated as a nonprofit foundation on Dec. 19, 1997, the newborn organization launched its first website in March 1998.

It has now become the principal organization for the defense of the claims of the Restoration. But it’s also entirely independent. It’s a volunteer operation, functioning on the basis of a remarkably small budget, almost entirely dependent upon private individual donations.

Many of those donations have come from its unpaid volunteers themselves — yet FAIR has been so effective that, amusingly, some exasperated critics of the church still insist that it simply must be luxuriating in large quantities of surreptitiously supplied tithing cash. (To be perfectly, unmistakably clear: It isn’t. FAIR receives no financial support whatever from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It’s simply a group of believing members who saw a job to be done and who organized themselves to do it.)

This year, FAIR’s 15th annual conference will be held Thursday and Friday, Aug. 1-2, at a new location, the Utah Valley Convention Center at 220 W. Center St. in Provo. All are welcome.

The program plans a range of discussions to interest a variety of people, whether scholars, apologists or neither. It will include humorist Robert Kirby on “Why It’s Important to Laugh at Ourselves,” Seth Payne on “Why Mormonism Matters: Pastoral Apologetics and the LDS Doubter,” Rosalynde Welch on “Disenchanted Mormonism” and Michael Ash on “Shaken Faith Syndrome.”

Ron Barney, longtime member of the LDS Church History Department in Salt Lake City, will address “Joseph Smith’s Visions,” and Don Bradley will speak to the topic of “The Original Context of the First Vision Narrative: 1820s or 1830s.”

One panel (made up of Kris Frederickson, Valerie Hudson, Neylan McBain and Wendy Ulrich) will be devoted to the topic “Charity Never Faileth: Healing the Distrust among LDS Women with Different Perspectives on Feminism,” while another (featuring Cody Anderson, Mike Ash, Don Bradley, Janet Eyring and Bill Reel) will grapple with “The Loss and Rekindling of Faith.”

BYU’s Ralph Hancock will reflect on “Mormonism and the New Liberalism: The Inescapability of Political Apologetics.” Morris Thurston and Lynne Wilson will examine Latter-day Saint historical issues, with presentations on, respectively, “Kidnapping at Palestine Grove: Missouri’s Final Attempt to Extradite Joseph Smith,” and “Was Joseph Smith a Product of the Second Great Awakening?”

Mark Wright will dip into potentially controversial waters with “Heartland as Hinterland: The Mesoamerican Core and North American Periphery of Book of Mormon Geography.” And, as he has done for many years now, Daniel Peterson will be deployed as the concluding speaker in order to transform audience sorrow at the winding down of a wonderful conference into sheer joy at their escape. His topic will be “Toward a More Effective Apologetics.”

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