Below is the agenda for Day 2 of the FAIR Conference in Provo with brief bios of the speakers. I will be adding summaries of some of the sessions as the day goes by. (Disclaimer: these are on-the-fly summaries for general information and discussion. Please consult audio recordings or the transcripts that FAIR releases in a week or two for accurate details.) Full bios are available at the speakers page. You can get online streaming of the conference sessions.
9 – Russell Stevenson, Shouldering the Cross, or How to Condemn Racism and Still Call Brigham Young a Prophet. Russell blogs at Mormon History Guy and is the author of the recently published Black Mormon: The Story of Elijah Ables.
10 – Robert F. Smith, The Preposterous Book of Mormon: A Singular Advantage. Smith has training in archeology and Near Eastern languages, and was the first editor of the FARMS Book of Mormon Critical Text Project (1979–1987).
11 – Sharon Eubank, “This is a Woman’s Church.” [Note: The video of this presentation is now available.] Sharon worked as a legislative aide in the U.S. Senate for 4 years. Since 1998, she has been employed by the LDS Church in the Welfare Department. Sharon is the currently director of LDS Charities, the humanitarian organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Summary: LDS view of women is not conservative and constraining. It is moderate and empowering. Values and standards the Church teaches and encourages are very attractive to women the world over. “Are there men like that?” said one woman after a conversation with the speaker about LDS values and standards of conduct. References her own productive experience as an LDS woman working with senior councils of the Church and cites comments by Elder Ballard and Elder Oaks about how LDS women sort of have a little bit of priesthood (without actually having the priesthood). Several questions on the role of women: Yes, we need to give LDS young women experience comparable to what young men get (e.g., home teaching assignments). She suggested that LDS temple rites bestow priesthood power (of some sort) on women and that we are only now beginning to understand this doctrine.
Dave’s comments: She is an energetic and capable spokesperson and no doubt accomplishes a lot for the Church through LDS Charities. Why can’t we get a speaker like this at Conference sharing some of her experiences in place of yet another Seventy giving a Sunday School talk about prayer? I think the progressive way the role of LDS women and the topic of priesthood can now be discussed, as in this talk, owes a lot to the recent activities of Ordain Women, but it will be a cold day in St. George before someone like this speaker publicly acknowledges that. I’m a little leery about her description of the ideal society, patterned after 4 Nephi, where people (i.e., men) have no *desire* to commit adultery or view pornography, etc. I wonder what, uh, procedures are used to achieve this ideal society of men without libidos?
1 – Matt Grow and Matt Godfrey, The Story Behind the Revelations: Using the Joseph Smith Papers to Better Understand the Doctrine and Covenants. Grow is Director of Publications at the Church History Department and a general editor of the Joseph Smith Papers. He is the co-author of Parley P. Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism. Godfrey is managing historian of The Joseph Smith Papers and holds a PhD in American and public history from Washington State University. He is the author of Religion, Politics, and Sugar: The Mormon Church, the Federal Government, and the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company, 1907-1921.
2 – Panel Discussion by Bob Rees, Dana Kimmell Anderson, Karen Lyons, Roger Nicholson, and Lisa, Family Members Who Left.
3:15 – Hannah Smith, Religious Liberty: What Latter-day Saints Need to Know to Preserve Our First Freedom. Following two clerkships at the U.S. Supreme Court for Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito, Jr., Hannah joined the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a public interest law firm based in Washington, D.C.
Summary: LDS heritage of affirming religious freedom for all denominations (see AOF 11, D&C 134). Elder Cook: “Extraordinary effort will be required to protect religious liberty.” Discusses the HHS contraception mandate and Hobby Lobby (a RFRA case) which extended exemptions from the mandate to closely held for-profit businesses like Hobby Lobby. Discusses Hosanna-Tabor (a ministerial exception case) in which the Court affirmed the ministerial exception from a challenge. Discusses Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, which applied the “all-comers” rule to student religious groups at public colleges and has had the effect of driving student religious groups off campus. Washington pharmacist case. Anti-discrimination and the Catholic charities case. Defending religion in the public square (e.g., “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance). Prisoners’ religious rights (RLUIPA cases). Stand up for religious freedom.
Dave’s comments: There are generally two sides to these religious freedom cases. Hobby Lobby allows owners of a closely held business to avoid extending coverage components they object to, but thereby deprives their employees of their power to make (different) religiously based medical decisions. There were CLS cases where Mormon students were kicked out of the campus club (because Mormons are not Christians, right?), and public institutions can’t really endorse that sort of religious bigotry for its student clubs. Do you really want pharmacists to have the option of not dispensing legally prescribed drugs to a patient because of some pharmacist’s sometimes arbitrary, even irrational, religious concerns? Nice presentation with good slides; a good “state of the law” review for lawyerly types.
4:15 – Dan Peterson, Some Reflections on That Letter to a CES Director. Dan needs no introduction. He was a guest blogger at T&S in 2004.
Introduced by the FAIR blogger Steven Smoot. No, you can’t cross-post any of my posts, thank you.
Summary of Dan’s presentation: The CES Letter is a lengthy compendium of standard anti-LDS criticisms (“quick and dirty objections”). Wearisome reading; a betrayal narrative. The author “jumped ship too soon,” because there are adequate answers to all the questions raised. Cites Jeff Lindsay for “the Big List” approach to criticism. Covers a few issues from the Letter: Asian DNA, the “principal ancestors” phrase in the Book of Mormon introduction until 2006, archeology, the limited geography model, Ferguson and the NWAF, Vernal Holley maps, James Strang, the First Vision, witnesses to the plates, the Book of Abraham, polygamy, and misleading but popular illustrations of Joseph Smith translating. Objects that the Letter author ignores any positive evidence and ignores any published rebuttals of the criticisms made. Endorses Sorenson’s Mormon’s Codex (a very big book). Cites Royal Skousen’s work on the original Book of Mormon text supporting oral dictation (in the original manuscript; the printer’s manuscript shows transcription errors rather than dictation errors).
You can’t play just defense. Some affirmative works he recommends: Read Richard Lloyd Anderson’s Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses; Opening the Heavens, edited by John Welch; Grant Hardy’s Understanding the Book of Mormon; Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, edited by Donald Parry.