FAIR 2012 RecapBy: Mormon Heretic
In past years, it seems that the Sunstone Symposium and FAIR (Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research) have overlapped, so it was difficult to attend both. However, this year they were not the same week. I was able to attend my first FAIR conference, though my time was limited to just 2 speakers. Since this was my first FAIR conference, I thought I would give some initial impressions before telling about the speakers I heard.
I was first struck by the slogan “Defending Mormonism”. While it is also noted on their website, it just struck me differently. Living in Utah, Mormonism doesn’t need defending in my view, though that is probably not true anywhere else. Another difference between FAIR and Sunstone was that there were far fewer speakers. The good thing is that they don’t overlap, so you don’t miss anything, unlike Sunstone. There was another unusual thing I noted in the session. At Sunstone and MHA meetings, there is usually an open microphone so that the audience can ask questions during the Q&A session following each speaker. There is no mic at FAIR. Instead there are people that walk around and pass out paper if you want to ask a question. At first, I didn’t know what these people were doing, and it seemed like they were counting people like the ward clerk does in Sacrament meeting. That was kind of weird.
I don’t think I liked the written question format for a few reasons. The speakers had a hard time reading some of the handwriting. There is also the question of whether the speaker interpreted the question properly, or would choose not to answer the question because of “bad handwriting.” I guess the benefit of such a procedure is that the question is clearly heard by the audience. Another benefit is that sometimes people at Sunstone go off on tangents and make statements rather than ask questions. Still, I like the Sunstone format better.
I guess one of the highlights of the two speakers that I heard was the fact that the first non-LDS member ever addressed the FAIR conference. Rosemary Avance talked about similarities between Mormon conversion and de-conversion stories. It was very similar to her address at UVU available at Mormon Stories. It was interesting, though I had heard it before. I think president Scott Gordon invited her to speak because he felt that it is important to better understand the disaffected Mormon point of view so that members can better relate and understand them better.
Don Bradley spoke on the lost 116 pages. He is coming out with a book from Greg Kofford books (as soon as he finishes about 116 more pages…) ;) Anyway, he said that some people complain there isn’t much Mormonism in the Book of Mormon, saying that there isn’t much information about temple work in the Book of Mormon, for example. He said we can learn about the lost 116 pages from external and internal sources. Martin Harris’ brother, Emer Harris has told information contained in the lost manuscript. Don also referenced some internal references within the Book of Mormon. For example, he said there is a passing reference to Aminadi in the Book of Alma. Aminadi is a descendant of Nephi that saw writing on the temple wall. Bradley makes the case that this obscure reference (among others) shows that there may have been more information about the temple in the lost pages. Bradley also makes the case that Nephites had no Levites among them, therefore no levitical priesthood. He said that Nephi was more like a priest-king Melchizedek in the Old Testament. It was a pretty interesting presentation, and I look forward to the book.
I really wanted to attend a Book of Abraham presentation by John Gee, but was unable to do so. I talked with another attendee, and the person told me that Gee said that there was a miscalculation on the length of the Hor scroll, but Gee wouldn’t specify what the miscalculation was. My friend said that such a question “wouldn’t fly” in a Sunstone crowd. It was cool to see some Sunstone attendees there, but I think I have to agree. I wish I could have attended more sessions. Did you attend any sessions or have any comments to add?