Mormon conference to respond to religion’s critics

August 6, 2008

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), as the Mormon faith is officially called, is holding its tenth annual Mormon Apologetics Conference on Thursday and Friday in Sandy, Utah.


Organizers say it is a chance to dispel misunderstandings about their fast-growing faith, which has certainly been subjected to increased public scrutiny in recent years.

Such scrutiny in part stemmed from the unsuccessful bid by Mitt Romney, who is a Mormon, to win this year’s presidential nomination for the U.S. Republican Party.

The few thousand renegade Mormons who still practice polygamy, which the mainstream church renounced over a century ago, have also given the LDS a PR problem.

I have blogged on this before regarding the on-going investigation of polygamist activities at a compound in west Texas.

The Mormon faith, which claims about 13 million members worldwide, also has plenty of inter-faith suspicions to contend with. Many U.S. evangelicals and Southern Baptists in particular regard it as an almost sinister cult — and a successful one that is “poaching” souls from the evangelical flock.

It was founded in 1830 in New York state by Joseph Smith, who is revered by Mormons as a prophet, but dismissed as a charlatan by some of the religion’s critics.

He claimed (among other things) to have uncovered The Book of Mormon which detailed the colonization of the Americas by an ancient Hebrew tribe.

Scott Gordon, the president of the Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR) which is organizing the conference, said the geography of The Book of Mormon would be among the topics discussed.

The dearth of archaeological evidence to support the events described in The Book of Mormon is often cited by sceptics as grounds for doubting its veracity.

“The Book of Mormon is a religious book and it doesn’t really say where it comes from. So people have made a number of assumptions and guesses,” G0rdon told me.

He said most Mormon scholars are now placing the events described in The Book of Mormon in central America.

The list of speakers and presenters can be found here .


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Forget the “dearth of archaeological evidence”.

There is no evidence–none, zilch, nada–even remotely suggesting the same Revelational, Doctrinal and Prophetic continuity with the book of Mormom which exists between the Torah, the Prophets, the Gospels and the Koran.

But even the Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious ‘authorities’ have no real Knowledge of what that continuity is. Thus, not knowing any better, they really have no other choice than to focus on such things as “archaeological evidence”.

Posted by Michael Cecil | Report as abusive

“[MEMBERS OF] or [A GROUP FROM] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), as the Mormon faith is officially called, is holding its tenth annual Mormon Apologetics Conference on Thursday and Friday in Sandy, Utah.”

The Church itself does not hold this conference, and I suspect those who organize it will insist what they say does not represent any official representation or views. Add to that a “LDS” or “Mormon” conference has a very specific meaning. It is a semi-annual meeting when the top leadership of the Church gets together and gives sermons to the entire membership. Although the rest of the article is fine, although somewhat opinionated, the title and first paragraph are misleading.

Posted by Jettboy | Report as abusive

The LDS Church is NOT holding the conference. It is being held by the Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research, or FAIR, which is a completely independent organization from the church. It is NOT an official conference of the church.

Posted by Bryce | Report as abusive

Thanks for looking into the conference! I am looking forward to it. Yes, it is conducted by FAIR, not the Church, but FAIR has done its best to bring together a great group of speakers on interesting aspects of Church history, practice, and doctrine.

I disagree that there is a dearth of archealogical evidence, we simply don’t yet know how things fit together yet. There is plenty of evidence, just no signposts that we can read saying “Moroni was here”.

Posted by Ed | Report as abusive

The biggest challenge of denominational conferences like this is they are nearly totally ignored by the critics who “demand answers”. I am sure the content will be scholarly, and because of that unfortunately two of the target audiences will probably miss most of it: Those who have believed erroneous stories about the LDS Church, and those who falsely tell stories about the LDS Church. Still, many members and leaders of the faith will hopefully hear, and one hopes that any faith can be judged on its merits, and not prejudged by the statements of rival faiths.

Thanks for writing about this important effort to clarify LDS teachings. Your statements are very even handed.

Posted by Vook | Report as abusive

Ah, yes. It’s a big difference. FAIR has no official sponsorship or approval from the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It’s simply a gathering of normal members (and others) of the Church to discuss apologetics (defending the Church).

Posted by OKN | Report as abusive

While FAIR is not an official spokeman for the Church, we, as FAIR members, do take seriously the injunction of the apostle Paul, to defend the Gospel of Christ.

The FAIR conference has been providing us with the tools to be better defenders for over a decade. Long live FAIR!

Posted by charity | Report as abusive

The distinction that the conference is sponsored by Fair v. the LDS Church is an illustration of one frustrating weakness of the LDS Church to members and others alike.

The LDS Church does not comment on many issues that relate to important questions being raised at our time. Rather, they permit endless speculation and discussion by church intellectuals. Thus, members of the Church can be exposed to potential answers to their questions that the LDS Church can later disavow if those answers appear to be contradicted by the hard facts.

For example, an official policy on whether the modern Native Americans are largely decendents of Lehi or whether it is a small isolated group would be of interest to many members of the Church. I was raised with the commonly held belief that all Native American’s were “Lamanites” and that this group included the inhabitants of Polynesia. Intellectuals are now furiously backpedalling and skirting around damaging DNA evidence that raises a valid question of whether any Native Americans are decendants of Lehi. Now these intellectuals are attempting to make the case that it has never been the LDS Church’s offical position that Native Americans were predominantly decendants of Lehi. Another open issue that is relevant is whether the Pearl of Great Price is an actual translation of the records that Joseph Smith claimed to have translated or whether it is something else. I can hear numerous accounts by LDS Scholars, but they don’t amount to a hill of beans. As soon as their theories are shown to be dubious they are abandoned in favor of the opinions of other “scholars.” Point in fact is the issue of where the Book of Mormon took place. This should not be a matter of endless debate among scholars in a Church that claims to be led by a Prophet of God.

You will never get a church leader to say whether or not the LDS Church believes that “slavery is inspired of God” or whether “interracial marriage is a sin” as my Stake President told me after seven happy years of marriage to a woman from another race.”

It is not the role of FAIR or FARMS to answer these questions, but it is the role of the LDS Church leadership to answer these questions. Then, FAIR and FARMS can defend that point of view all they want.

However, intellectual leadership on the part of FAIR or FARMS only highlights the fact that we are not getting any leadership on these important questions from the Prophet. I think that these conferences only weaken the LDS Church

Does a Church that

Posted by PTL | Report as abusive