Each year the intention is the same: to arm Mormons with information so they can answer criticisms of their faith, doctrine and practices.
But the ninth annual conference of The Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR), which begins Thursday in Sandy, is especially needed given recent high-profile anti-Mormon developments, the nonprofit organization’s president, Scott Gordon, said.
Gordon, reached by phone in Redding, Calif., pointed to offensive comments swirling around Mitt Romney‘s campaign and to the distribution in March of some 350,000 DVDs that likened The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to a cult.
He also mentioned concerns about the soon-to-be released film, “September Dawn,” which uses the highly controversial Mountain Meadows Massacre as a backdrop and explores various conspiracy theories that put the church in a bad light.
“We are not afraid to take on the tough issues,” he said. “We pick controversial topics and talk about them from a believer’s perspective.”
Given Mitt Romney’s run for president and comments such as this one by the Rev. Bill Keller, “If you vote for Mitt Romney you are voting for Satan,” Gordon said FAIR conference organizers debated long and hard as to whether they should have a session specifically about Romney’s candidacy.
In the end, however, they decided against it both in order to appeal to the wider audience, which includes some Europeans and a Canadian, and because FAIR generally avoids politics, he said. But that doesn’t mean issues raised by politics can’t fuel discussion, he added.
The speakers, hand picked each year to address topical issues, include Richard Turley, managing director of the Family and Church History Department of the LDS Church, who will speak about the Mountain Meadows Massacre; Wendy Ulrich, a psychologist who will address how personal history can influence understanding of God; Daniel Peterson, a Brigham Young University professor who will discuss Christopher Hitchens’ book, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything; and others.
As of Thursday morning, 239 people had registered for the conference, including representatives from 19 states, Canada, Great Britain, France and Sweden. Registration is still open, but Gordon cautioned that organizers expect to reach full capacity.
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