LDS Conference is a Big Hit: “The Best Apologetics Conference Yet.”
by Cooper Johnson

(Orem, UT) – From scholars, professors, and intellectuals to Sunday School teachers, Bishops and Ward Mission leaders, an international crowd of people from all walks of life gathered for two days in Orem, UT,  to learn more about gospel scholarship and how to answer some of those pesky questions from the critics of the Church of Jesus Christ.  The fourth annual FAIR (Foundation of Apologetic Information and Research) LDS Apologetic Conference, according to attendees and presenters, was an outstanding success.

The goal?  To turn perceived stumbling blocks (the tough questions about the LDS faith, it’s doctrines, history, and leaders) into stepping stones of knowledge, wisdom and truth.  From plural marriage to racism, from Book of Mormon studies to the doctrine of deification, attendees of the FAIR Conference walked away well equipped to address the issues used to attack the LDS faith by it’s critics.

“Where else can you go to really learn about these things?” says Sam Katich.  “I mean, let’s face it, the enemies of the Church are all over the place, poisoning the Internet, spreading their wings.  Never before, has there been such an event that enables members of the church to come and learn of the answers.”

Mike Ash admits, “It’s really amazing to learn that those issues you thought were difficult to talk about actually aren’t difficult at all, once you learn about them.  They really are stepping stones.”

Causing Commotion
One of the true highlights of the conference was the presentation of Dr. Royal Skousen.  Dr. Skousen has been the editor of the Book of Mormon Critical Text for the last 13 years.  He knows more about the manuscripts and linguistics in the Book of Mormon than probably anyone in the world.

Dr. Skousen presented some of his findings (as many as could be presented in an hour) and commented that the most significant were his discoveries that the process of translation was so systematic and consistent.  He has concluded that everything he has learned only adds to the fact that the Book of Mormon was the result of a divine translation process.

The biggest splash made at the conference was the presentation by Renee Olson.  Renee is a black female and former anti-Mormon.  She was certified by the Southern Baptist Convention in “Mormonism,” at one time.  She is now a faithful member of the Church and spoke on the issue of blacks and the priesthood, in addition to racism in the church, in general. 

“It was, by far, the best thing on the race issue I’ve ever experienced,” according to Kevin Barney.  “Renee has a certain credibility that none of us could ever muster.”

Dr. Kathryn Daynes, a BYU Professor of History, and author of the recently released book, More Wives Than One, shared the results of her lengthy study on plural marriage from the arrival of the saints in Utah to the 1890 manifesto.  Her findings were absolutely outstanding.  “Dr. Daynes shared much light on the issues of who, what, when and why, regarding plural marriage,”  Gale Tenney said. 

Of course, the scholars from the FARMS/ISPART group are always favorites and played the role of bookends.  John Tvedtnes kicked off the conference on the topic of Biblical Inerrancy and the changing position of Evangelical scholars, in addition to other very recent movements and findings at the scholarly level. 

Dr. Daniel Peterson took his familiar position as keynote speaker to end the conference and presented an absolute delightful view of the failure of the critics to find a sound, naturalistic explanation for the origins of the Book of Mormon.  From the days of the early church, 170 years ago, to today, Dr. Peterson demonstrated the absolute failure, time and time again, of anyone to present an alternative explanation to the divine origins of the Book of Mormon and the prophetic call of Joseph Smith.  There is nothing left, but the divine, to explain it.

Other outstanding speakers were Mike Ash, who spoke on the effects of anti-Mormon research on LDS scholarship, Russell Anderson, who spoke on the 1826 Trial of Joseph Smith, Roger Cook, who spoke on the Judeo-Christian roots of the doctrine of Theosis (e.g. deification), Dr. Tim Heaton, who presented the results of his gathering demographic statistics on LDS members, and Brant Gardner, who presented an incredibly unique perspective on the Gaddianton Robbers of the Book of Mormon.

Everyone Happy
Not a soul left the conference disappointed.  “The FAIR 2002 Conference was a great success.  I enjoyed it from so many perspectives,” shared Craig Ray.

“I thought this was the best apologetics conference yet,” concluded, John Tvedtnes, one of the speakers from FARMS/ISPART.  “Even the couple of speakers who didn’t deal with apologetics issues gave us some very good information.  I learned a lot of new things and in my book, that makes the conference a success.”

This year’s FAIR Conference will be difficult to top.  But, I know, from inside sources within FAIR, that the management team is already putting together some surprises, that will definitely raise the bar.  Stay tuned to the FAIR website ( or subscribe to the FAIR Monthly Journal, at their home page, to get the latest news on the next conference.


2002Meridian Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.