FAIR Conference 2006

This year’s FAIR conference has come to a close. I attended for the second time and quite enjoyed myself. Next year’s conference will be 2 and 3 August 2007, so mark your calendars.

I offer you a short overview of this week’s presentations. (My notes are minimal, so if any of this sounds interesting or, more likely, confusing, transcripts and/or recordings of the presentations will be available on the FAIR site in the coming weeks.)

The two-day event began with Mike Ash speaking on the Book of Abraham. He discussed a number of issues and concerns that are out and about. For example, if the papyri date from about 200 BC, how could they contain the teachings of Abraham, who lived approximately 2000 BC? Much like any other manuscript, such as those from the Bible. The papyri could be copies of much earlier manuscripts. He also discussed the facsimile restoration and evidence that Joseph Smith was not as wrong as critics would like us to believe. In addition, as far as the facsimiles mean, the question is not what the figures represented in 2000 BC, but what they meant to 200 BC Jews who did the drawing or copying.

Steve Mayfield and George Throckmorton, police investigators who were involved in the Mark Hofmann investigation, spoke on the myth versus reality of the Hofmann case. At the beginning of their presentation, they stated so it was clear that the Church was not involved in the decision to plea bargain. That was a decision solely by Yoacum. In addition, many have the idea that the Church was buying the various manuscripts to hide them, but since the majority of the documents had nothing to do with anything that could be considered faith-affecting, why would they do that? If the Church was really that sinister, that is why there are matches and paper shredders. Why even keep them? Additionally, the Church never owned the Spaulding letter. The owner, Steve Mayfield, the speaker, owned it and donated it to BYU in 2004. Mark Hofmann was very good at lying. There is a lot of contradictory info out there, and a lot of it can be traced to Hofmann himself.

Next up was Brian Stubbs, who spoke on language correlations between Uto-Aztecan, the root language of a number of languages in the Americas, and Egyptian and northwest Semitic. He currently has about 1000 words that show they are related languages, and he went through around 100 of them, showing words that were the same or where sounds had consistent changed so they could be correlated. When asked if 1000 words would be sufficient to show language relationships, he said that 50 words can be used in linguistic studies to show a relationship. So he seems to have quite a good case, and I found it absolutely fascinating.

Marcus Martins next spoke, offering reflections on race in the restored gospel. It was an interesting speech best tracked down and read rather than poorly summarized by me. Though not yet there as I type this, he said his essay would be available on his website.

Kim Ostman spoke on opposition to Mormonism over the years in Finland. This seemed like a very obscure topic, but it turned out to keep my attention. (Kim posted info related to his FAIR presentation at BCC.)

Matt Roper spoke on Adam in ancient texts. He discussed traditions and writings about Adam, providing more about Adam that I have ever before heard. I took no notes and plan to seek out his transcript or recording as soon as it comes out.

The first day concluded with Joseph Bentley discussing the legal trials of Joseph Smith. Over his life, Joseph had about 175 cases, an average of 12.5 per year. He defended about 50 criminal cases but was never found guilty of any charge. Joseph Bentley briefly covered the cases and types of cases in each of the states as Joseph and the Saints moved around.

Wayne Arnett began Friday’s presentations with an Apologetics 101 lecture. I hope a transcript will be available online at some point, as I would like copies to just hand out to friends and other people I cross paths with who say, “Apologetics…? Um, what is that?” I totally agreed with his point that an argument or defense cannot create faith, but it can create a climate where faith can flourish. If something cannot be defended, it is cast aside by a rational mind. He offered D&C 123:12-15 as an explanation of why apologetics is so important.

Next up was David Stewart, who is clearly insanely brilliant, who spoke on DNA and the Book of Mormon. It had… a lot of information, so I will offer you his conclusion: “The recent explosion of molecular DNA data has led to a considerable increase on knowledge about our roots. However, some individuals have drawn and widely publicized conclusions far beyond those validated by existing data. The claims of critics that DNA evidence disproves traditional LDS teachings about Native American ancestry are based in a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of science and ignorance of history and scripture. There is still much we do not know about the genetics of ancient and modern populations, but careful study demonstrates that the teachings of LDS prophets are fully consistent will existing DNA data.”

Matthew Brown (www.josephsmithstudies.com) then spoke on Joseph Smith’s foundational stories: the first vision and the visit of Moroni and acquisition of the plates. What I found particularly interesting was patterns that Matt Brown pointed out. Joseph Smith seemed to incorporate Biblically-related passages to tell of his experiences, perhaps in hopes (mostly in vain) that they would be accepted by those around him. He picked pieces from when the Father and Son appeared to Stephen, when Christ appeared to Paul, and when the angels appeared to the shepherds. In addition, there are parallels to Psalm 31 in his 1838 version, and many repeating patterns in his 1832 version. I never thought there was much more to Joseph’s accounts that simply telling his story, but now I wish to do more studies. They seem to have more depth than I suspected.

Brant Gardner then spoke on New World evidence for Book of Mormon historicity. He spoke on geopolitical, chronological, cultural and productive convergences between Book of Mormon people and events and Olmec and Maya people and events. This was my favorite lecture. It was incredibly fascinating and I plan to acquire the DVD as soon as it is available.

Next up was Claudia Bushman, who spoke on the lives of Mormon women. This is another transcript best read than poorly summarized. Her talk was definitely a crowd favorite, and supposedly her remarks will be on the FAIR website soon; she said she would provide a transcript quickly. Two pieces that remain in my memory were suggestions that Relief Society by split by ages like the Priesthood, and that single women-only wards be instituted, with women providing all organization, and occasional visits from the Priests for the sacrament.

Alan Wyatt spoke on the changing marital state of Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs Smith Young. He provided evidence that everything was not as subversive and unethical as critics claim, though I personally believe it remains confusing.

Brian Hauglid spoke on the Kirtland Egyptian Papers. He spoke on what manuscripts came first, and what manuscripts contain the same ink for text and symbols, and why they were more likely copies of copies rather than working papers.

The conference concluded with Daniel Peterson speaking on the Book of Mormon witnesses and what they experienced and what happened to them.

And thus the two days came to an end. I found the presentations fascinating and enlightening, and I managed to escape after buying only six books (yes, I am weak around all those great-looking books). I enjoyed visiting briefly with my cousin, Ben. Though I feel seriously out-brained, which makes me very shy and tongue-tied, I enjoyed being around all the people who said hello and chatted with me; they were all kind and gracious despite my shyness. I already look forward to next year.

I highly recommend it.

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About Tanya Spackman

Tanya was born in Provo, Utah, on a warm July day. After escaping childhood with nothing more than a few scrapes and bruises (except for 5 stitches - oh, and that incident with the staple in the thumb), she graduated from BYU with a degree in molecular biology. Before graduation, she served a mission in Chicago. As graduation neared, she decided lab work really wasn't her thing, and she had no interest in research or teaching (but really, molecular biology is interesting), so she decided to attempt the world of technical writing. Thus, she now works as a technical writer/editor for the Navy in Washington, DC. She loves to read and travel.

16 thoughts on “FAIR Conference 2006

  1. Thanks for the round-up Tanya. Sounds like some good stuff.

    I have to say I was laughing though at the thought of “single women-only wards.” Are there any girls who actually want to go to such a ward? I can tell you exactly what a single men-only ward would be called: hell.

  2. Ah, thanks for the link, Dave! I’ve added a link to that post in my write-up.

  3. Thanks for the impressions of the conference. It really was exceptional this year, I must admit. The one thing I have enjoyed most about FAIR is that it is a spiraling upward for our increased knowledge of so many diverse areas of study about Mormonism. There is no reason to be shy, we are all in it together, learning as well as un-learning…..GRIN!

    I also enjoy very much meeting all the people there every year and re-acquainting myself with them, they are a stellar bunch of folks, no matter from what walk of life they are from…..


  4. Eric, I admit I’m not sure I’d like an all-women ward simply because I find women-only activities to be unpleaseant after some time. I like the larger variety of thoughts that come from mixed male/female interactions. However, her point was that in such a ward, women would have far more opportunities to lead and expand their horizons. I personally hate leading, so I would avoid it just to avoid the greater chance of having that much more responsibility dumped on me. Becoming a RS president is one of my greatest fears, and I hope it never happens. Nevertheless, the thought of what the social dynamics would be in an all-woman ward is intriguing.

    Kerry, I agree that the upward spiral of knowledge is wonderful. It’s great to hear some of the research that people are involved in.

  5. I’d like to visit a single-women-only ward every two or three months. Women are usually a lot less tiresome when they stop caring about what the men in their immediate vicinity are thinking. Though the biggest reason I like being in Primary is that it’s a perpetual get-out-of-Relief-Society-free card, so who knows.

  6. Sarah, your feelings about getting out of RS through Primary is how I feel about getting out of RS through YW. That’s what I was thinking about as I considered an all-single-women ward. If I don’t like RS, how would I feel about all of church that way? It’s possible the dynamic would be different, though.

  7. Small correction: The next FAIR conference will be on Thursday and Friday, August 2 and 3, 2007.

    It was great to see you at the conference, Tanya. Thanks for the synopsis of the presentations.

  8. I think you were the one I spoke with during lunch on the second day. I’m still trying to figure out how I got to this link actually.

    Anyway, I enjoyed the conference too. I got to sit in spitting distance of Julian, Lord Kerry and DP. Wow.

  9. Mike, I’ve fixed the dates in the post. I was close! Thanks for the correction šŸ™‚

    Darth Bill, I was indeed the one you spoke to during lunch. Welcome!!

  10. Tanya, thanks for posting this. You just reminded me of the kinds of things I could do if I lived in the West someplace, rather than in Miami (but I guess it’s easier for me to get to the beach and the Orlando temple than most people. šŸ™‚ ). Anyway, I enjoyed your synopses of the conference, and I will try to read these presentations over time as they appear on the web. Thanks again.

  11. No kidding! Dwight Yoakum was calling the shots on Hoffman?! I’ve heard weird things about Utah politics, but this takes the cake. What’s next? Kenny Rogers profiting off the pumps at the Great Salt Lake? The Dixie Chicks as secret Melaleuca distributors?

  12. Now that you’ve removed the “Dwight”, my comment has no context.

    I imagine you meant to refer to David Yocum of the Salt Lake County Attorney’s office.

  13. Yeah, you’re right, TCC. I was trying to fix my errors as they were pointed out. Sigh.

  14. Tanya,

    Thank-you for your post and information about where to read entire texts. Occasionally I will find myself reading what is sometimes presented as fact or the only realistic opinion on some of these subjects. I am appreciative to you for reminding me that there is always learning to be had from many sources. I plan on making it to Utah next year for the conference based on the very interesting list of subjects you outlined. I’m new to all this so thanks again for your insight.

  15. I’m glad to hear you’ll come next year, Pemble. It is indeed an interesting two days – definitely worth it.

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