FAIR, Sunstone conferences are this week

Published: Saturday, Aug. 2 2008 12:00 a.m. MDT

Two of the largest independent conferences about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will take place next week — FAIR and Sunstone.
FAIR — the Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research — will gather for their 10th annual conference on Thursday, Aug. 7, and Friday, Aug. 8, at the South Towne Exposition Center in Sandy.
The annual Sunstone Symposium will be Wednesday, Aug. 6, through Saturday, Aug. 9, at the Sheraton Hotel, 150 W. 500 South, Salt Lake City.
This is the first year that both conferences have overlapped, but organizers of both events still report a high number of advance registrations. Both conferences charge a registration fee.
Here's a capsule rundown for the two conferences:
"This year marks a full decade of FAIR Conferences," Scott Gordon, FAIR president, said. "During that time FAIR has grown, and the work that needs to be done has continued to grow, as well." Reaction to "Mormonism" in the light of the recent presidential bid of Mitt Romney has surprised some people, but apologists know that anti-Mormon sentiment is alive and well.
"The FAIR Conference is a great way to get informed. This year's conference is geared toward providing the information and answers you need to deal with the new topics that are being discussed."
With national discussions about the LDS running high, because of the FLDS controversies and Romney's presidential bid, he believes what FAIR offers is more important than ever to church members,
There will be two new dimensions to this year's FAIR Conference — FAIR's first-ever panel discussion, "Philosophy and Mormonism" (Aug. 7, 1:15 p.m.); and FAIR will experiment with some live Internet streaming on its Web site of all the conference that it can.
"We've always just had speakers before," Gordon said.
Regarding the live Internet broadcasts, he said he can't guarantee there won't be some glitches. But if it works, the broadcasts will be free to anyone, though FAIR will accept donations from remote listeners. FAIR will also eventually post all of its conference talks online, although it may take a long time to do so.
On attendance, Gordon said despite FAIR's lack of paid, advance ads to promote the conference and the Sunstone conflict, advance registration is as high or higher than last year.
"If someone comes once, they tend to come back," he said.
Gordon describes the FAIR Conference as a "frank, thought-provoking, faith-building and enjoyable experience."
Conference sessions begin at 9 a.m. each day and end at 5:45 p.m. Registration is available before the first session each day. Dress is business casual.
Selected highlights of Thursday's talks include "Shaken Faith Syndrome" by Mike Ash; "The Book of Mormon and Mesoamerica," by Mark Wright ; "Nobody Knows: the Untold Story of Black Mormons" by Margaret Blair Young and Darius Gray; and "Book of Mormon Geography" by Larry Poulsen.
Friday's talks include "The Joseph Smith Papers" by Ron Esplin; "The Israelite Temple and the Early Christians" by Matthew Brown; "The White Horse Prophecy: Myth vs. Reality" by Newell Bringhurst and Craig Foster; and "Humble Apologetics" by Daniel Peterson.
FAIR is not owned, controlled by or affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All research and opinions provided should not be interpreted as official statements of LDS doctrine, belief or practice.
For a complete schedule, go to: www.fairlds.org.
This year's Sunstone theme is "The Spirituality of the Rising Generation."
Mary Ellen Robertson, director of outreach and symposia for Sunstone, said there are a dozen sessions that directly fit that theme.
"How is the information age affecting their church life?" is a key question the various sessions will directly or indirectly address.
She said since free admission is offered to full-time students with identification, attendance by young adults has soared.
"We've got a lot of great sessions lined up," she said.
There are five pre-symposium workshops to be held on Wednesday, Aug. 6.
If you'd like to sample Sunstone for free, the Wednesday, Aug. 6, 8 p.m. Smith-Pettit Lecture is free. This year it will feature Wade Clark Roof, a professor of religion and society, talking about "Generation and Religion: Subtle Changes and Unresolved Challenges."
There's the usual wide range of topics on the schedule, from the offbeat "Why Are Church Meetings So Boring?" (Aug. 8, 8:45 a.m.) to outrageous "Mormon Nudists: Naked and Not Ashamed" (Aug. 8, 2:15 p.m.) to the intriguing "Mormons and the Cross" (Aug. 7, 8:45 a.m.) and much more in between.
Thursday, Aug. 7, at 8 p.m. will feature the local film screening of "Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons" by Darius Gray and Margaret Blair Young. A discussions will follow the film.
A panel discussion on Aug. 7 will reflect on "The Legacy of President Gordon B. Hinckley," while two earlier panels will be "The San Luis Shrine Missionary Desecration" and "The Texas/FLDS Situation."
Another Aug. 8 panel will examine "LDS Church Media Coverage and Image" and a second will debate "Was Mitt's Run for the White House Good News for Mormonism?" (4:45 p.m.)
One of the Aug. 9 panel discussions will be "Is Mormonism Too American? The LDS Church Beyond the United States."
Sunstone has no official ties to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Note that the sessions mentioned are all from the updated preliminary conference schedule. The final conference schedule won't be available online until sometime this weekend. To see the full Sunstone schedule and for registration details, go to: www.sunstonemagazine.com.

E-MAIL: lynn@desnews.com

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