I’ve just returned from the annual FAIR conference. ‘Twas a lovely time. You all should come next time (7-8 August 2008). I took almost no notes, but instead just sat and listened, so I’ll keep with the minimalist theme and share very few thoughts. Transcripts and/or audio and video recordings should be available on the FAIR website eventually, if anything in particular interests you.
On Thursday, Steven Olsen spoke on the Church archives, answering the question, “Are the Church archives closed?” Um, no, they’re not. But you likely already knew that. Still, it was interesting to hear his enthusiasm for the new Church history library that is currently under construction.
Terryl Givens gave my favorite presentation on Thursday entitled, “When Souls Had Wings: What the Western Tradition has to Teach Us About Pre-Existence.” The title pretty much gives the full overview, but it was interesting to hear of some of the beliefs about pre-existence through the ages, and where it has been denied and possibly why. He is currently writing a book on this topic, which may be out in a year and a half. I do indeed plan to buy it.
John Gee spoke about the Joseph Smith papyri, Larry Morris spoke about Oliver Cowdery, and John Sorenson spoke about the trajectory of Book of Mormon studies (upward and maturing, but not mature yet).
Wendy Ulrich gave a presentation a bit different than the academic track that other speakers took. She spoke on how we all have blindnesses – perspectives and assumptions we bring into our perceptions of God and church and church leaders – that exist because of events that occurred in our childhood and our relationship with our parents when we were children. (Why yes, she is a psychologist.) It was an interesting view on how we approach our personal difficulties and concerns about religion and the Church.
Also on Thursday, a 10-minute trailer for the film Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons, a film being put together by Margaret Young and Darius Gray, was screened. A story in the Deseret News about the film is here. It covers the good, bad, and in between of experiences of black Mormons. The preview was very interesting. They expect to be submitting it to festivals this year, so hopefully it will get picked up and shown. I look forward to seeing the film. The website for the film is www.untoldstoryofblackmormons.com.
On Friday, Richard Turley spoke about the Mountain Meadows Massacre. I think he said his book on MMM is coming out early next year. It should be very good. Craig Foster and Steve Mayfield gave an overview of the history of anti-Mormon protests and anti-Mormon pamphlets through the years, focusing primarily on Temple Square. The modern-day circus that happens during General Conference – with protesters and preachers who are often not too rational, and the anti-protesters mocking them – was not always quite so… circus-like.
David Bokovoy spoke about Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, pointing out various patterns and interesting tidbits. Blake Ostler spoke on spiritual experiences as the basis for belief and commitment (this is one I hope will be posted as a transcript on the FAIR site because it was interesting, but my mind wandered during his presentation; no fault of his – it was just after lunch and I was digesting :-)). John Hall spoke on the New Testament and difficulties in transmission, translation, and transcription. Nevertheless, he pointed out how we as a Church are often serious slackers when it comes to studying the New Testament, and we need to stop the slacking!
William Hamblin and David Seely spoke on the idea of Solomon’s Temple through the ages – how people of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have viewed it. Their book about Solomon’s Temple, unfortunately, sold out at the FAIR bookstore before I could snag a copy. I shall have to acquire a copy later.
And finally, Dan Peterson – always an entertaining speaker – spoke about the book by Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Dan Peterson is writing a book rebutting Hitchens’ book, which is apparently a travesty of dreadful research and absurd, easily disproved claims (which is what I’ve read from other reviewers, but I have not read the book. And I probably won’t).
And with that, the conference came to an end. It was enlightening and enjoyable. If you find yourself in Utah next August, be sure to come.