If you haven’t yet done so, I would highly recommend that you register for the Academy for Temple Studies Conference that will take place next Wednesday, October 23, at Utah State University. I attended last year and found it to be one of the most exciting academic conferences I’ve ever attended. You can find out more and register here.
The Academy for Temple Studies is pattered after the Temple Studies Group that has existed in the United Kingdom for the past several years. The first conference took place last year and featured Margaret Barker who is considered by many (myself included), to be one of the most exciting Biblical scholars alive today. I am very excited that she will appearing at the conference again this year. She has done ground-breaking work related to the early Jewish understanding of the the nature of God and temples. While her work on temples and the worship of the son of God by early Jews is interesting to Mormons, (it should be noted that she is Methodist minister) her recent publication regarding the Jewish worship of a female deity, called “The Mother of the Lord,” is especially intriguing. This book was recently reviewed in the Interpreter here. Her presentation this year is entitled, “The Woman Clothed With the Sun in Revelation 12.” She will discuss the female figure that appears in the Book of Revelation and posit that the woman is actually the Mother of Yahweh.
Another exciting non-Mormon scholar who will be appearing at the conference is the archaeologist William Dever, author of “Did God Have a Wife,” reviewed in the FARMS Review of Books here. Dever will give an illustrated lecture that is based upon the findings reported in that book.
In my view, the conference would be worth attending if it only involved Barker and Dever. But is also includes a number of important and insightful Mormon scholars as well, not the least of which includes Valerie Hudson, someone who is well-known to those who have attended FairMormon Conferences during the past few years.
I hope that as many of you as can will join me in Logan next week for this exciting event.
Registration is closed for the first Interpreter Foundation symposium (co-sponsored by FairMormon and LDSAgents.com). However, the event will be streamed live on YouTube.
It will take place on November 9 and will begin at 8:30 MST.
Science and Mormonism have nearly always been on very friendly terms, with Church members sharing the deep conviction that, as expressed by former scientist and apostle Elder James E. Talmage, “within the gospel of Jesus Christ there is room and place for every truth thus far learned by man, or yet to be made known.” Subsequent Presidents and General Authorities of the Church have advanced similar views about the ultimate compatibility of religious and scientific truths and, with notably few exceptions, have maintained markedly positive attitudes toward both the methods and conclusions of mainstream science and the advance of modern technology.
This symposium will feature the personal perspectives of prominent LDS scientists addressing the theme of “Cosmos, Earth, and Man.” Through presentations, panels, and interactive discussions, attendees will hear concise and colorful summaries of the state-of-the-art in scientific research relating to these topics and will gain a deeper appreciation of the unique contributions of LDS doctrine to the ongoing conversation.
For more details, see: http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/events/2013-symposium-science-mormonism-cosmos-earth-man/
The People’s Choice Podcast Awards are an annual set of awards given to the best podcasts as voted on by listeners. In 2011, FairMormon’s podcast, called “The Mormon Fair-Cast,” won the award for Best Podcast in the Religion Inspiration category. In 2012, we were again nominated. Over 9 million votes were cast and over 5,000 shows were nominated. The 50 podcasts in each category that received the most votes were reviewed by a 44-member committee that took a variety of factors into account in order to narrow the finalists down to 10 in each category. The total number of votes a podcast received accounted for only 40% of the grading, with the quality of the website’s design (15%), quality of sound (15%), quality of deliverance and show format (10%), and relevance of content (20%) also being considered.
Although we were selected as one of the ten finalists, the top award went to an atheist podcast last year. We’d like to change that this year and retake the top spot!
You may nominate other shows in other categories and you may only vote once during the nomination process. Nominations close on October 15. The Podcast Awards Ceremony will be held at the New Media Expo in Las Vegas on Jan 5th, 2013.
Please spread the word by telling your friends. Even if we don’t win the voting, we hope this will raise awareness of the great resources we have. If we do win, it is even better. You can post a link with instructions on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus.
Shaken Faith Syndrome Available for a Limited Time at a Discount at Costco
Has a member of your family lost their faith? Buy “Shaken Faith Syndrome” now at Costco locations throughout Utah. Meet the author, Mike Ash, at the following Utah Costco locations:
- The Ogden Costco on Wednesday, October 9, from 12 to 3.
- The Sandy Costco on Wednesday, October 16, from 12 to 3.
- The West Valley Costco on Wednesday, October 23 from 12 to 3.
- The Murray Costco on Wednesday, October 30, from 12 to 3.
Costco will only schedule book signings when a book is selling well, and will only continue to carry a book so long as it is selling well. It also sells books at a significant discount. This would be the perfect time to buy multiple copies to share with friends and family members as Christmas presents.
In this episode of Religion Today, which originally aired on KSL Radio on October 6, 2013, Martin Tanner speaks with Dan Peterson of the Interpreter Foundation and Steve Densley, Jr. of FairMormon to discuss the activities of these respective organizations and the book, Shaken Faith Syndrome, which can also be purchased here at the FairMormon Bookstore.
This recording was used by permission of KSL Radio and does not necessarily represent the views of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or of FAIR.
The locations are:
* 1818 S 300 W, Salt Lake City
* 5201 Intermountain Dr, Salt Lake City
* 573 W 100 N, W Bountiful
* 11100 Auto Mall Dr, Sandy
Costco will only carry them as long as they are selling in large numbers week after week. Help promote FairMormon and stock up early on Christmas gifts by visiting one of these Costco locations to purchase copies for yourself and for your friends and family members. If sales are strong enough in these locations, Costco will begin carrying the book in more locations and will invite the author, Mike Ash to various locations for book signings.
Shaken Faith Syndrome has been a valuable tool for those navigating the challenges of faith and doubt, and also for those who are experiencing a family member undergoing a crisis of faith. Now is a great time to pick up the new edition of his book, which has helped many people understand the emotional experience of a faith crisis, as well as how one can strengthen their faith in the midst of such a trial. Geared toward saints who aspire to be both critical thinkers and believers, Ash helps readers reevaluate false assumptions and misplaced expectations that may make them vulnerable to a faith crisis, and helps replace them with healthier approaches. He specifically addresses issues of doctrine versus popular tradition, unrealistic expectations of both leaders and scholars, and leaders’ personal opinion versus doctrine. He also counters the more common claims made against pro-church scholars, such as those who participated in FARMS, now the Maxwell Institute. Ash further provides an overview of common anti-LDS claims and the scholarship that has been put forth to answer them. Shaken Faith Syndrome is both an interesting book in and of itself, and also a handy reference for those first encountering anti-Mormon claims. If you haven’t yet read it or if you know someone to whom you would like to give it as a gift, pick yours up at your Salt Lake City area Costco today. If you do not live in the area, we also carry it in the FairMormon Bookstore.
“There will be a convergence of discoveries (never enough, mind you, to remove the need for faith) to make plain and plausible what the modern prophets have been saying all along…[I] do not expect incontrovertible proof to come in this way…, but neither will the Church be outdone by hostile or pseudo-scholars.” (Neal A. Maxwell)
In 1997 a group of Latter-day Saints who frequented the Mormon message boards of America Online found that they were responding to the same LDS-critical arguments over and over. They decided to form a non-profit organization so they could share information and create a repository of responses. That organization was The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, or FAIR. In 1999 FAIR held their first conference in Ben Lomond California. A large percentage of the few who attended this first conference were the speakers themselves. Two weeks ago FAIR held their fifteenth annual conference in Provo, Utah, with about 400 attendees.
Through the years many people have questioned the meaning of the word “apologetics” in FAIR’s title. Why are Mormons apologizing? What are they apologizing for? The word “apologetics” comes from the Greek “apologia” and is used four times in the Greek New Testament. It means to “defend” one’s believe or faith. FAIR is not apologizing for anything, but rather defending LDS beliefs from critical attacks.
A lot of things have changed through the years in the FAIR organization. While the group was originally formed because of the combative nature of the message board atmosphere, FAIR eventually separated themselves from the contentious message board environment and focused on “educative apologetics.” As Gerald Bay once said, “You can never argue a person into faith; Christian theology and apologetics exist in order to make sense of the world for the believer, but they do not in themselves create that belief.”[i]
FAIR is focused on helping or educating members who struggle with challenging issues, or investigators who are searching for answers to anti-LDS accusations. While FAIR will always be an apologetics organization, the confusion over the word “apologetics” has prompted a more recent change in the FAIR title. It was announced at the 2013 FAIR Conference that FAIR will now be known as FairMormon with the tag line: Critical Questions, Faithful Answers.[ii] As Steven Densley (newly appointed Vice President of FairMormon) explains, “We have changed our name and are updating our websites in order to make them more easily accessible. The name has been simplified. Instead of The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, it is now simply FairMormon. Hopefully this will be easier to remember and will allow us to spend more time doing apologetics rather than spending our time explaining what apologetics is. Our mission has not changed, but hopefully, with the name change and the changes with the websites, our organization will be more effective.”[iii]
We’re not going to argue someone back into the Church, but we can help inoculate members against LDS-critical arguments through better education, and—for those whose testimonies are faltering—we can set the record straight on false anti-LDS claims or offer logical alternative views which fit within a framework of belief. I’ve attempted to do both in my book Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt.
It’s been 5 years since Shaken Faith Syndrome was first released. We ran out of copies at the end of last year—couldn’t even fill our Christmas order for Deseret Book. It was decided, since another printing was needed, that we would introduce a 2nd edition which would fix typos and mistakes as well as update and add material that had changed since 2008. The result is the 2nd edition of Shaken Faith Syndrome.
For those of you who already have Shaken Faith Syndrome 1, I want to quickly note some of the changes made in the 2nd edition (in addition to new front & back covers). First, I reshuffled several of the chapters and material from some of the chapters to create better flow and continuity. It has a vastly improved index making it tons easier to find what you are looking for. I added a fair amount of additional material. The page count for the first edition was 301 pages; the second edition is 358 pages and has a slightly smaller font to accommodate all the extra material without making the page count excessive. 15 of the 28 chapters (if we include the Foreword) has additional material—some chapters with more additional material than others.
Some of the additional material includes more info on archaeology and the Book of Mormon, Book of Mormon geography, a section addressing geographical influences from Joseph Smith’s environment which are claimed to have impacted the Book of Mormon narrative. It also includes more information on Book of Mormon anachronisms, more discussion on cognitive dissonance and former Mormon exit narratives, brief reviews of the competing geographical models and the scriptures which seem to suggest that the United States fulfills some Nephite prophecies, and updated info on the DNA issue. I draw upon new information from Don Bradley’s 2011 FAIR presentation on my chapter regarding the Kinderhook Plates, and I’ve also added a new chapter on Race & the Church.
What the two books have in common are what they attempt to achieve and the fact that they are both divided into two major sections. Section 1 addresses the basic problems which create and foster doubt as well as the assumptions which can turn into stumbling blocks when faced with challenging issues. This first section (which constitutes approximately 1/3 of the new edition) tries to deal with the root of the problems that can cause Shaken Faith Syndrome. If members can grasp the principals expressed in Section 1 they should be apply those principals to any LDS-critical argument they might encounter. Section 2—relying on the material in Section 1—engages most of the more common LDS-critical accusations such as DNA, the Book of Abraham, Plural Marriage, the First Vision, Joseph Smith and treasure digging, Masonry & the Temple, and lots more.
There is a growing problem with members encountering information on the Internet that conflicts with what they thought they knew about Church history and Shaken Faith Syndrome attempts to put this information in a context of belief which demonstrates that, as the Lord told Joseph Smith in D&C 71:9, “there is no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper.” Once we can put challenging issues in context, they no longer become stumbling blocks.
The website FutureMissionary.com is designed to shake the faith of prospective missionaries by blindsiding them with troubling issues related to Church history. The site’s anonymous authors claim to be returned missionaries, and write as though they are “believing” members who naively accept and promote controversial statements and ideas without question.
The most prominent and detailed page on the website is “A Letter to a CES Director: Why I Lost My Testimony.” The authors claim that such blatant materials will help to prepare missionaries for questions and challenges they will face. In reality, the letter and other material on the site only introduce attacks on the church without discussing crucial context and explanations that would help readers fully understand the material.
The approach and tone of the FutureMissionary site resembles that of MormonThink.com before MormonThink became openly antagonistic toward the Church in late 2012.
We are pleased to announce that we now have an app available for Android. It can be downloaded from Google Play. Listen to podcasts, watch YouTube videos, read the blog, and access other online FAIR content conveniently from your Android device. The ads contained in the app will help provide funds for FAIR.
One of our objectives at FAIR is to provide access to quality research on Latter-day Saint topics that is useful for the average Saint in their everyday study of the scriptures. To that end, as a new part of our FAIR Study Aids project, we have developed a verse-by-verse research index on the Book of Mormon. This can be accessed online, here:
Here, what we have done is we have gone through hundreds of articles, essays, and research papers and cataloged them under the chapter and verse for which its contents are most relevant (in many cases, articles can be found under more than one scripture reference). See the page on Jacob, for example. There is also a page for research related to the introduction, history of its coming forth, and general themes that run throughout the book. In some cases, books and chapters also have “overview” materials available.
Our aim is make it easy for someone going through the scriptures to find research on what they are reading now. For example, if you are currently reading in Helaman 3, you can come to that section of the index and find several articles that are relevant to things going on in that chapter. In breaking things down by verse, we hope that someone who has a question while reading, say, Mosiah 17:13 will be able to find resources which help answer their questions quickly and easily.
It is far from complete or comprehensive at this point. It is a work in progress, but you can help! If you know any articles that are not there, please send them our way along what passage(s) you think it would best be cataloged under and we will add it to the index. Or, if you read an article that is on there and felt it applied to a different verse that it is not listed under, let us know and we will make the change.
We hope that this will prove a valuable resource in both your regular gospel study and in finding answers to concerns and criticisms raised against the Book of Mormon. With time, we may expand this to the other Standard Works.