I attended part of the FAIR Conference today, and it was definitely fascinating. It’s my first time going to the conference, and it is better than I expected.
The first presentation was from John Clark, speaking on the Book of Mormon and archeology. This isn’t really a topic that interests me, so my notes were sparse, but I still found it to be an interesting presentation. He took a very rational approach, stating that any archeological or historical evidence is for the interest and support of believers; it will never convince non-believers. He also stated that the archeological support for the Book of Mormon was to the same degree and for the same things as for the Bible. He discussed interesting parallels between what is in the Book of Mormon and what we know of Mesoamerica.
The next presentation was from Wendy Ulrich, speaking on “Faith, Cognitive Dissonance, and the Psychology of Religious Experience”. Her presentation was my favorite, but only by a bit (for the other speakers were also excellent). She said that we are Israel not only in blood, but in name. In other words, we wrestle with God until his promises are fulfilled. Also, learning the language of the Spirit takes experience and practice; meanwhile (or even after), we struggle with questions such as, can I trust myself to discern accurately? Can I weather disappointments. In addition, it is good to be disillusioned – we want to be rid of our illusions and know the truth. Thus, we do not need to be afraid to search for the answers to the hard questions. A tolerance for ambiguity and paradox are a sign of maturity.
A fun quote: “In the Catholic church, the pope is infallible, but no one believes it. In the Mormon church, the prophet is fallible, but no one believes it.”
She then spoke on the stages of committed relationships, whether they be between husband and wife, parent and child, or us and God.
Step 1: Honeymoon – At this stage there is a lot enthusiasm with the new relationship, with incredible optimism. We think we finally know everything and have everything.
Step 2: Power struggle – We begin to wrestle for control. We want our partner in the relationship (spouse, child, or God) to change to what we think they should be. God, however, wants us to change.
Step 3: Withdrawal – We give up. We may leave, but we may stay. We resign ourselves to not getting what we want. We feel betrayed. However, this gives us independence, and we may start to work on changing ourselves since we can’t change our partner.
Step 4: Renewal – This is not a return to the honeymoon stage. This is a mature acceptance of what is. We accept that there is not perfection, and that’s okay. We have learned that hurt can be survived and it is worth taking the chance. We recognize that we can be hurt by betrayal or hurt by not trusting, but not hurting is not an option.
The next presentation was from Darius Gray, speaking on Blacks in Bible. This was very interesting and something I had never thought of before. I’m afraid that when genealogies begin to be listed in the Bible, my eyes glaze over and my mind wanders to something more interesting, like laundry. Also, being an ethnocentric, pasty, pale person, it had simply never even dawned on me to look for such things. So this was all new to me. He followed the genealogies, and who married who, and who produced offspring with who, and presented who was black, likely black, and possibly black. It was enlightening, and I’m happy to now be a bit less ignorant.
The final speaker I heard was Greg Kearney, who spoke on Masonry and Mormonism. He spoke on some of what was same and what was different and what had nothing to do with either of them. Ultimately, his theme was that, yes, there are definite similarities. So what. The endowment is revealed information and has never changed. It is the message. The messenger is the ritual, and that has changed. Joseph Smith, in his involvement with the Masons, would have seen how the repetition of ritual was a wonderful teaching tool to educate people on difficult, complex ideas. He thus incorporated ritual into the endowment as a teaching tool. In the 1800s, this ritual would have been familiar to the early Saints. However, we are no longer in a world seeped with ritual. As ritual has faded from our culture, the ritual part of the endowment has taking prominence in our minds.
There were two more presentations after that but, frustratingly, I had to be somewhere else. However, I look forward to listening to all of tomorrow’s presentations.