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2011 FAIR CONFERENCE REPORT


            Alas, the wonderful FAIR Conference has come to an end. I really enjoyed myself this year. I got to meet a lot of people, make new friends, and visit with/get to know some of the presenters whom I look up to, such as Brant Gardner, Daniel Peterson (whom I would say is the Jimmer Fredette of LDS apologetics), and Don Bradley. I also made friends with some of the younger folk, closer to my age, such as Stephen Smoot, Hales Swift, and Ed Goble. It was good to get to know some like-minded peers.  Here are some of the highlights from the Conference:

  1.       FAIR President Scott Gordon announced the new website for the Mormon Defense League, a FAIR sponsored organization intended to address issues and a respond to questions from the media. To check out the website, go to mdl.org
  2.        My favorite presentations from day one were those from Stephen D. Ricks, Brant Gardner, and Steven C. Harper. Gardner’s was clearly the talk of the day. In his presentation, he talked about how seer stones function, and proposed a model for how Joseph could have translated the Book of Mormon using a seer stone. This is elaborated more fully in his newly released book, The Gift and Power: Translating the Book of Mormon, which was sold out before the end of the day. I believe more will be available come Monday. For those interested, I think you can order your own copy at the FAIR Bookstore.
  3.       Day two’s top presentations (in my view) were those given by Rodger Nicholson, Don Bradley, and Paul Fields. Bradley really stole the show, and his presentation will likely be remembered as the best, most important one given at the conference. Bradley presented research showing that Joseph did in fact attempt to translate the Kinderhook plates, but that it was not an inspired translation, and he never claimed it to be. Instead, Joseph made use of the GAEL (in the KEP), where one prominent symbol found on the plates can be found to have basically the same meaning as what William Clayton said was Joseph’s “translation” of a “portion” of the plates. Bradley used an eyewitness account to demonstrate that Joseph compared the plates to the GAEL. Bradley will be co-publishing the full details of this research with Mark Ashurst-McGee. Fields wordprint study was also very good – Fields clearly demonstrated that the 2008 wordprint analysis by Jockers, Whetten, and Criddle was seriously flawed, and that his own analysis confirms the large variety of authorship, and that none of the nineteenth century candidates are even close in style.
  4.        In addition to all that, I scored several new books. I was one of the lucky few to get a copy of Gardner’s new book, which I got signed, and I also got several more from the Bookstore. In addition to those, I was able to score mass amounts of back issues of the FARMS Review and Journal of Book of Mormon Studies from the auction on used books they had their. This makes my collection of the Review very near complete, and this also means that there will be many, many more “Reviewing the Review” posts in the near future.

            So, that is my brief report on my experience at the FAIR Conference this year. I had a blast, and look forward to going again next year. 

Comments

  1. Bradley was an acquaintance of mine at USU, and I respect his insights into Mormonism. From what I've read about his presentation, though, I don't understand why it stole the show. The argument that Smith didn't translate the Kinderhook plates doesn't strike me as new. Moreover, I don't think it's responsive to the real problem the Kinderhook plates pose. The issue is not whether Smith translated the plates, but that he didn't see through the fraud from the outset. I'd think god would spare his prophet from such embarrassment. That Smith, after briefly reviewing the plates, would boldly assert that they are the writings of a descendant of Ham should be particularly disconcerting. If he seriously believed that, then he was deluded (or did Bradley suggest that there was anything in the plates that would make Smith's initial impression plausible?). If he didn't believe that they were the writings of a descendant of Ham, then Smith was making it up.

    I don't know many ex-Mormons who claim Smith translated the book as a prophet, aside from the occasional suggestion that Smith intended to publish his translation as scripture. The scandal is that Smith fell for the trap and ever took the plates seriously. And Bradley's presentation doesn't rescue Smith from that charge. But I await the full publication of Bradley's presentation so that I can more fairly assess.

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  2. Hey Jon. Let me see if I can help clear up why people thought Bradley's presentation was important.

    When you talk about the "real problem," what I see is the assumption that prophets are inerrant, and that God does the thinking for them. From that, it is assumed that God wouldn't have let Joseph get fooled by the plates in the first place. But while you say that you know no ex-Momrons who claim Smith translated the KP as a prophet, I also know no Mormons who think the prophet, when is not acting as a prophet, is not allowed to make mistakes. In short, if Joseph Smith is only acting as man, then he is just as susceptible to mistakes as any other man (or woman). There should be an obvious inconsistency in the claim that Joseph Smith is not a prophet for making a mistake while not acting as a prophet. So if you ask me, I would say you ex-Mormons are cutting your own legs out from under you if you do not insist that he was acting as a prophet.

    From there it becomes pretty simple. Bradley's presentation was pretty solid, and I think it becomes pretty indisputable that Joseph did not act on any revelation on his claim of "translating." He was clearly acting as a man, not a prophet. Again, how can you condemn him as a prophet, for mistakes made while NOT acting as a prophet?

    As an aside, it seemed pretty clear to me that most critics insisted that Joseph was acting as a prophet when translating the plates. I guess I could be wrong though. If I am, then I really am just dying to know why he could be held accountable, as prophet, for something not being done as a prophet (sorry for the redundancy, but I just can't emphasize enough how illogical this seems to be).

    Hopefully his presentation will be available on the FAIR web site soon. As I understand it, they have got the transcription of his presentation complete and have sent it to him to look over, and hopefully add some of the slides so that people can follow the visual for the argument. The same research will also be co-published with Mark Ashurst-McGee, but I don't remember where that is being published.

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