It’s Not Too Late to Become an Apologist!
by Justin Hart
DNA and the Book of Mormon, Masonry and Mormonism, origins of the Book of Abraham, Joseph Smith, protestors, horses, plates, language? Have you ever been questioned about these hot topics by a friend or neighbor? Had you wished that you had the answer at your fingertips? Well, it?s time to get started.
Many of you have read our briefings about the ?battle? going on among Mormons and anti-Mormons. In August, there?s a great opportunity to get up to speed on efforts to defend the faith and respond to criticisms against the church and the gospel at the 2004 FAIR Conference.
I?ve spoken with dozens of people about this gathering. FAIR (The Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research) is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing well-documented answers to criticisms of LDS doctrine, belief and practice. The sixth annual conference will feature some of the most prominent names from Mormon scholarship. It looks to a great gathering to catch up on the latest movements on the ?battlefront.?
In truth, I?ve come across many faithful members, family and friends who aren?t quite sure what ?apologetics? is all about, let alone where to start learning about it. One friend seriously questioned our efforts thinking it ?fruitless and frivolous.? He went on to say: ?it seems to me that?s it?s just a bunch of trivia.?
Let me share with you an email that was published recently on the FAIR discussion list by a member of the group:
I thought I’d share with you another apologetics success story that I’ve had the blessing to be a part of. It really is heartwarming when something like this happens, even if it isn’t anything earthshaking.
A sister wrote an e-mail to me a couple of months ago concerning some issues that were troubling her. At the time she was semi-inactive, I think partly because of these issues. They included temple/freemasonry, changes in BoM/D&C, first vision etc. etc?
She was frustrated that she hadn’t been able to get [satisfactory] answers.
I commended her for looking deeper into the gospel? I gave brief comments on many of the issues that were mentioned, along with some links to good articles etc. I expounded a bit on other things she thought were strange about the temple etc. I also sent her a book concerning the temple. All in all we exchanged a few e-mails back and forth.
She was very grateful for getting answers and seeing that somebody was willing to take the time to help her with her questions. This sister has now become active again. Today I also heard via another person that she had said the greatest thanks for helping her belonged to me.
Well, I don’t think so, the thanks belong to Heavenly Father, but it’s nice to be able to help in these kinds of matters.
What we do really matters and can have great effect on peoples lives. Let’s carry on.
Yes, the discussions that we get into can get pretty heady at time. Yes, apologists sometimes get caught up into interesting but trivial details (don?t we all at times). But in the end, our main goal as apologists is to help people overcome the roadblocks that stand in their way. Once those roadblocks are removed, that soul can grow more freely in their testimony of the gospel.
So, don?t miss this great opportunity, August 5 – 6, 2004 at the South Towne Exposition Center in Sandy, Utah. There are great speakers on the agenda including Meridian’s own Margaret Young.
Here?s a quick rundown on the conference speakers:
Richard Lloyd Anderson
Dr. Anderson received his Ph.D. from the University of California (Berkeley) and is Professor Emeritus of Ancient Scripture at BYU. He is senior research fellow at the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History at BYU, where he taught New Testament and Church history for four decades. With doctorates in both law and history, he is a respected specialist on the lives of Joseph Smith and of the Book of Mormon witnesses.
Presentation: Explaining Away the Book of Mormon Witnesses.
Born and raised LDS, Mike is the father of three girls and the grandfather of one boy. He sells jewelry and electronics at a retail store in Ogden, Utah. Mike has been in several Elder’s Quorum presidencies and taught the Priests, Elder’s Quorum, Gospel Doctrine for the Single Young Adults, and general Gospel Doctrine (my current calling). His first real encounter with anti-Mormon literature came in about 1980 after reading The Kingdom of the Cults. About four years later, after seeing The God Makers, Mike became interested in LDS apologetics. He’s been an active participant in on-line LDS apologetics since 1990, and he currently owns and operates the MormonFortress.com Web site, a repository of apologetic articles refuting anti-Mormon accusations. He has authored nearly four dozen articles on his Web site and provides links to dozens of other articles authored by other LDS apologists. Mike was a presenter at several FAIR Conferences, and had a review published in the FARMS Review of Books 13:2.
Presentation: The ABCs of the Book of Abraham.
Kevin L. Barney received his B.A. in classics (Latin and Greek language and literature) from BYU in 1982. While at the Y, he also studied Hebrew and Coptic, and worked as a teaching assistant for Professor S. Kent Brown. He has published numerous articles on LDS scripture in such venues as the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, the Ensign, FARMS Review, and BYU Studies. Kevin is currently his ward’s Sunday School President, and just recently completed teaching his sixth stake continuing education (Institute) course (this most recent course was on early LDS Church history). Professionally, Kevin is an attorney and practices public finance law (J.D., the University of Illinois, 1985; LL.M., DePaul University, 1990) in Chicago. Kevin also serves on the Board of Directors of FAIR.
Presentation: The ABCs of the Book of Abraham.
Davis Bitton is a retired University of Utah history professor. After serving a mission in France, he graduated from BYU and then received M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Princeton University. He has taught at the University of Texas and the University of California at Santa Barbara, and served for ten years as assistant Church historian. Dr. Bitton is co-author (with Leonard J. Arrington) of The Mormon Experience: A History of the Latter-day Saints and Saints Without Halos: The Human Side of Mormon History. He compiled A Guide to Mormon Diaries and Autobiographies. His most recent books are Images of the Prophet Joseph Smith and George Q. Cannon: A Biography.
Like other people, Davis has different interests. He has served in a bishopric and on the stake high council. He may not hold the world?s record for longevity as a gospel doctrine teacher, but this has been his Church calling for many, many years. Insiders will recognize that this implies, or should imply, a certain level of familiarity with the standard works. His interest in early modern Europe resulted in a series of upper-division university courses, papers at conventions, book reviews, articles, and a book entitled The French Nobility in Crisis, 1560-1640. He is an accomplished concert pianist, having studied in Paris under the formidable Madame Dumesnil and in California under the equally demanding Wladimir Kochanski. Davis and his wife, JoAn, have ten children and over fifty grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Presentation: I Don’t Have a Testimony of the History of the Church.
As a recording artist, Alex Boy? has sold over 500,000 copies of his hit singles in over fifteen European countries. His voice has also supported such megastars as the Backstreet Boys, N’SYNCH, Mary J. Blige, Chrissy Hind, and George Michael, to name a few. He has performed at the Hale Center Theatre as Jim in the much talked about production “Big River”, and has also played the role of Frederick Douglass in “The Civil War.” Among Alex’s notable accomplishments, he says the highlight of his career thus far has been placing a copy of the Book of Mormon with Prince Charles at one of his concerts. Alex also enjoys his time as a motivational speaker, and doing firesides and musical devotionals across the Wasatch Front and nationwide.
Presentation: International Perspectives of a Black Member in a “White” Church.
Matthew B. Brown received his B.A. in history from Brigham Young University. He is the author of several books including Symbols in Stone: Symbolism on the Early Temples of the Restoration (with Paul Thomas Smith), The Gate of Heaven: Insights on the Doctrines and Symbols of the Temple, All Things Restored: Confirming the Authenticity of LDS Beliefs, The Plan of Salvation: Doctrinal Notes and Commentary, Plates of Gold: The Book of Mormon Comes Forth, and the forthcoming Joseph Smith: The Man, The Mission, The Message. He has also published articles in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies (on ancient ritual aprons) and the FARMS Review (on the restoration of temple worship). His contributions to the FAIR Web site include an illustrated paper on inverted five-pointed stars, comments on the Spalding-Rigdon theory, and various observations connected with the One Nation under Gods project.
Presentation: Historical or Hysterical? Anti-Mormons and Documentary Sources. An examination of the way that historical sources are used (and abused) in anti-Mormon literature, with particular focus on the way that authors often misuse sources related to Joseph Smith.
A. Dean Byrd, Ph.D., MBA, MPH is the President of Thrasher Research Fund, a pediatric research granting institution. He is a Clinical Professor in the School of Medicine at the University of Utah with appointments in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine (where he teaches a core course in the Social Context of Medicine to graduate physicians) and the Department of Psychiatry. He also holds an adjunct appointment in the Department of Family Studies. He received his doctoral degree from Brigham Young University, a post-doctorate from Virginia Commonwealth University and Medical College of Virginia (Child and Family Psychology), a post-doctorate from Loyola University (Behavioral Medicine). He receive a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and a Master of Public Health (MPH) from the University of Utah. Dr. Byrd has had visiting professor appointments in Israel and Poland. He is a diplomate in Forensic Medicine.
Professional/research interests include gender/sexual disorders in children, adolescents and adults, men’s issues, child/family health/mental health issues and behavioral medicine. Professional affiliations include the American Psychological Association, the American Orthopsychiatric Association (Fellow), the Utah Psychological Association (currently serving on the Governing Board), American Public Health Association, the American Board of Forensic Examiners and the Prescribing Psychologist Register. Dr. Byrd is the author of 4 books and more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, reviews and opinion editorials.
Presentation: Born That Way? Facts and Fiction About Homosexuality. Homosexuality has taken center stage in modern life. Yet this sexual adaptation is poorly understood because activism has replaced science in the public arena. Dr. Byrd’s presentation focuses on the innate/immutable theory of homosexuality and examines the contributions of both the biological and the psychological sciences in increasing our understanding of this phenomenon.
Brant Gardner is the Product Manager for a privately held software company. His academic background includes work towards a Ph.D. in Mesoamerican Ethnohistory as the State University of New York, Albany. His published works on Mesoamerica include an analysis of classical Nahuatl kinship terminology, an ethnohistoric investigation into the identification of the use of Coxoh to designate a people and language in Southern Mexico, and an examination of the Aztec Legend of the Suns.
Roger R. Keller is a professor of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University, and a past Richard L. Evans Professor of Religious Understanding. He teaches courses on the religions of the world from a Latter-day Saint perspective. Dr. Keller grew up in Boulder, Colorado, in a Presbyterian home. He received his Bachelors of Music in voice performance from the University of Colorado, his Masters of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary, and his Ph.D. in biblical studies and 20th century Christian Theology from Duke University. He was ordained to the Presbyterian ministry in 1971 and held both teaching and pastoral positions in the years following. In 1982 he was called to be the Senior Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Mesa, Arizona, a community founded by the Latter-day Saints. He worked to bring understanding between persons of diverse religious traditions within the community and served on the regional board of the National Conference of Christians and Jews (now the National Conference for Community and Justice). In this latter capacity, he participated in evaluating and condemning anti-Mormon materials as being inaccurate and against the spirit of religious pluralism. As a result of his work with the Mormon community, he and his family became Latter-day Saints in 1986. He began teaching at Brigham Young University in the fall of that year.
Dr. Keller has co-authored a book entitled Religions of the World: A Latter-day Saint View and authored two others–one on interfaith dialogue and the other on the Book of Mormon. In addition, he has written a variety of articles and presented a number of academic papers, many dealing with inter-faith issues. His service to the Church includes Gospel Doctrine Teacher, Scoutmaster, member of two high councils, member of a high priest group leadership, a bishop, and a temple ordinance worker. He is currently serving on his third high council. Dr. Keller was a chaplain for both the 2002 Winter Olympics and Paralympics and is the mayor of Wallsburg, Utah. He is married to the former Florence Elizabeth Lindsay (Flo Beth), and they have three children–Marta, Evan, and Kirsten–all of whom are married. They also have seven grandchildren.
David L. Paulsen has his J.D. from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. He is a Professor of Philosophy at BYU and has published widely on issues in the philosophy of religion in both international and national venues, including The International Journal for the Philosophy of Religion, Analysis, The Harvard Theological Review, Faith and Philosophy, and the Journal of Speculative Philosophy. At BYU, he has held the Richard L. Evans Professorship for Religious Understanding. He is well known for his work on the LDS view of the nature of God.
Dr. Paulsen’s research interests include philosophical theology and the religious philosophy of Joseph Smith, Soren Kierkegaard, and William James. Recent publications include “Augustine and the Corporeality of God” (Harvard Theological Review, 2002) and “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and (William) James” (Journal of Speculative Philosophy, 1999).
Daniel C. Peterson
A native of southern California, Daniel C. Peterson received a bachelor’s degree in Greek and philosophy from Brigham Young University (BYU) and, after several years of study in Jerusalem and Cairo, earned his Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Dr. Peterson is a professor of Islamic Studies and Arabic at BYU, as well as a member of the board and associate executive director of its Institute for the Study and Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts, which has produced a computer-digitized version of the Dead Sea Scrolls, electronically recovered damaged documents from the ruins of Herculaneum, Petra, and elsewhere, and is engaged in joint publishing ventures with such institutions as the Vatican Apostolic Library in Rome. He is the executive editor of BYU’s three-part Middle Eastern Texts Initiative, which includes not only the Islamic Translation Series but two sister series: Graeco-Arabic Sciences and Philosophy, and Eastern Christian Texts. These series publish dual-language editions of classical works of medieval Arabic and Persian philosophy, Arabic medicine and science, and early Coptic, Syriac, and Christian Arabic literature. (The University of Chicago Press distributes the volumes.) He is the author of several books and numerous articles on Islamic and Latter-day Saint topics. Dr. Peterson served in the Switzerland Z?rich Mission, and, for approximately eight years, on the Gospel Doctrine writing committee for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He currently serves as a Gospel Doctrine teacher in his home ward. He is immediate past chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), and edits the FARMS Review of Books. Dr. Peterson is married to the former Deborah Stephens, of Lakewood, Colorado, and they are the parents of three sons.
Presentation: Dr. Peterson is always a conference favorite. As Chairman of the Board of Trustees for FARMs he has been referred to as the “Chief apologist for the LDS Church.” Dr. Peterson always brings his wit and wisdom to the conferences and keeps the audience spellbound as he explores various issues and ideas surrounding anti-Mormonism and the LDS Church. Some people travel to the FAIR Conference from thousands of miles away just to hear Dr. Peterson speak. One conference attendee explained “He brings everything into focus.”
Dr. Andrea Radke was raised in Illinois and first came to BYU as an undergraduate in the late 1980s. After receiving her M.A. in 1995, Andrea served an LDS mission to Curitiba, Brazil. Following her mission, she taught for UVSC and the BYU Nauvoo Program before deciding to enter a Ph.D. program at the University of Nebraska. Andrea focused on women?s history in the West, particularly women in life?s work professions, school teaching, higher education, science, and domesticity. She is especially interested in how women students? entrance into higher education fit within larger gender patterns and interactions in 19th and 20th century America. Her dissertation studied women at land-grant universities from 1862 to 1917.
John Tvedtnes is senior resident scholar at the BYU Institute for the Study and Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts. He earned a BA in anthropology, a graduate certificate in Middle East area studies, an MA in linguistics, and an MA in Hebrew at the University of Utah and did postgraduate work at the University of California (Berkeley) and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He taught for seventeen years at the University of Utah and the Salt Lake and Jerusalem centers of Brigham Young University. He has published eight books and more than 200 articles and is associate editor of the ISPART/FARMS Ancient Texts and Mormon Studies series. While many of his writings have appeared in books, magazines, and journals for a Latter-day Saint audience, some of his works have been published by the University of Utah, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the Pontifical Biblical Institute, and the Journal of Near Eastern Studies. He is a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has served in numerous positions, including a full-time mission in France and Switzerland and stake and district missions in Utah and Israel.
Margaret Blair Young is a writing instructor at Brigham Young University and has published two short story collections and six novels, including the Standing on the Promises trilogy which she co-authored with Darius Gray, president of the Church’s “Genesis Group.” The trilogy is historical “faction”–fictionalized as needed and supplied with copious endnotes. The three books, One More River to Cross, Bound for Canaan and The Last Mile of the Way cover the history of several great Mormon pioneers of color. Margaret has also authored a play about Jane Manning James, titled I Am Jane. She is married to Bruce Young and has four children.