The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, FAIR, will convene at the South Towne Exposition Center in Sandy, Utah, on August 4 and 5. 

FAIR president Scott Gordon’s overview of this year’s conference follows:

In 2005 we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Joseph Smith’s birth, and recognize this as a time for people of all faiths to examine his life, weigh his message, and come unto Christ.

In the two centuries since Joseph Smith was born, we have seen a literal fulfillment of Moroni’s prophetic words, when he told Joseph that his “name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues” (Joseph Smith —History 1:33). While millions of people hearken to the restorative message delivered through Joseph Smith, others speak evil of his name and seek to draw away those whose testimonies are not grounded on the firm rock of revelation.

At this year’s FAIR Conference, we have attempted to bring together world-class speakers to discuss, in a faithful manner, issues of importance to the Restoration and of concern to critics. Our presenters have, in some cases, spent their entire adult lifetime studying diverse and sometimes divisive issues. We appreciate their willingness to share their time, talents, and knowledge with those at the conference.Each year FAIR announces a single recipient for the John Taylor Defender of the Faith Award. Potential recipients are recommended by members of the FAIR management team and the recipient is determined by the Board of Directors. The award is presented to recognize meritorious contributions to FAIR’s mission, as well as outstanding personal efforts in helping defend The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints against anti-Mormon claims.

Recipients of the award include Scott Gordon (2001); Allen Wyatt (2002); Sharon Bunch (2003), and Marc Schindler (2004, posthumously).  The recipient of the 2005 John Taylor Defender of the Faith Award will be announced on Friday, August 5, by John Lynch, Chairman of FAIR’s Board of Directors.

Here is the schedule this week’s conference speakers:

Thursday, August 4

John Clark:  Debating the Foundations of Mormon­ism: The Book of Mormon and Archeology Wendy Ulrich: “Believest thou … ?”: Faith, Cognitive Dissonance, and the Psychology of Religious Experience Darius Gray: Blacks in the Bible Greg Kearney: Masonry and Mormonism Blake Ostler: The Fallacy of Fundamentalist As­sumptions Richard Bushman: A Joseph Smith Miscellany

Friday, August 5

Ryan Parr: DNA and the Book of Mormon Boyd Petersen: What I Learned about Life, the Church, and the Cosmos from Hugh Nibley Marvin Perkins: Reaching Black Saints Davis Bitton: George Q. Cannon and the Apostates John Tvedtnes: Authentic Ancient Names and Words in the Book of Abraham and Related Kirtland Egyptian Papers Daniel Peterson: Secular Anti-Mormonism

Now in its eighth year, FAIR (www.fairlds.org.) has gathered considerable momentum as an organization; but FAIR’s origin was modest enough. The internet is an open forum for discussing almost any topic imaginable, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gets its share of the cyber spotlight. 

A few faithful members, well-versed in the gospel, courageous in its defense, and nimble on the internet, began to put together a more unified approach.  They found, right away, that attacks tend to be recycled — just as internet hoaxes and other urban legends do.  It seemed like a good idea to formulate a complete, carefully researched and well-reasoned response to these recurring challenges, to save time and energy for more current dialogues.  The idea grew into FAIR.  What began as a repository of useful links and a few reliable experts in areas such as Greek or Hebrew, grew into a resource of “faithful answers to critical questions,” and now includes a cadre of speakers and writers who are prepared to share their areas of expertise in Sandy next week-end.

Scott Gordon says that while all contributors present messages that defend the faith, the contributors are not of a monolithic mind.  Individual voices are respected.  There are different approaches, and differing arguments.  Occasionally, some critics have claimed that FAIR responses are not peer-reviewed.  This is not accurate.  Contributor responses, in fact, are always reviewed by the group.

The FAIR writers are especially careful to avoid “the spirit of contention.”  This philosophy will prevail at the conference. All attendees are invited to the conference as guests of FAIR and thereby deserve an experience consistent with the mission of FAIR. All participants will conduct themselves with civility and respect. Persons who engage in inappropriate behavior or offensive exchanges will be asked to leave. 

Apologists are not combatants.  In fact, Gordon points out, they are not even exclusively scholars.  He says the best information sometimes comes from a Primary teacher or Scout leader who has been in the trenches long enough to formulate the perfect response.

After each presentation there will be a short question and answer session. To allow for the maximum number of questions, audience members are provided with index cards so their questions can be collected prior to the Q and A portion.

Admission to the FAIR conference is $59.95, or $48.95 for students.  Visit the website http://www.fairlds.org/conf05a.html for more information about the conference or to get biographical information concerning the speakers.  To find published works of FAIR presenters, visit http://store.fairlds.org

FAIR is a volunteer organization that survives on $25 donations and the consecrated services of its participants.  There are no sponsors; so the admission is required to cover the costs of the facility. For information on making a tax-deductible contributing to FAIR, visit http://www.fairlds.org/donate.html.