2013 FAIR Conference: Defending the Faith
By R. Scott Lloyd, Church News staff writer
Since its origin in 1997 as a loosely organized group of Latter-day Saints defending the Church from attacks on the Internet, the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR) has grown into a formidable presence offering resources to Church members who find their faith challenged by something they have heard or read.
“We have various websites and places where people can go to find answers to questions on Church history, doctrine, [and] policy and where we spend time trying to put things in context that people might run into on the Internet,” said FAIR president Scott Gordon at the opening of the group’s annual two-day conference at the Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo August 1–2.
“We occasionally do firesides and other conferences,” said Brother Gordon of the virtually all-volunteer organization, which is not affiliated with the Church, though most of its members are devout Church members.
He spoke of recent conferences put on in Darmstadt, Germany, and in Milan and Rome, Italy, with about 100 attendees at each venue.
Speaking to the audience in Provo, John Lynch, FAIR board chairman, gave background on how speakers are selected for the annual conference.
“We pick issues we think are important and that are troubling the faith of the Latter-day Saints,” he said, explaining that they monitor their own and others’ Internet blogs to ascertain relevant topics.
“Then we seek candidates that we think can help address those issues,” he said. “Our task is not to tell them what to say, but we simply vet them as individuals, that they are faithful Latter-day Saints. We collaborate with them on the topic, because we want to make sure the issues we want addressed are in fact addressed. And we let the speakers speak.”
The only official position the organization takes on anything is what the official position of the Church is, Brother Lynch said. “If they don’t have an official position, neither do we.”
At the conference, Brother Gordon announced a name change for the organization and a face-lift to its brand mark. The organization will now be called FAIR Mormon, retaining the familiar acronym but deemphasizing the words that the initials have stood for. In a personal interview, he acknowledged that the change was driven in part by public confusion about the word apologetics, which, in this context, means defense, not expression of regret.
The new name and brand mark will be incorporated into the FAIR websites, which include the main site, fairlds.org, and others such as the wiki at fairmormon.org. The organization also offers a site called “Mormon Scholars Testify” and an information site, mormontemples.net.
Presentations included a panel discussion on the loss and rekindling of faith by Latter-day Saints who had left but then returned to the Church and a talk on apologetics and the doubter, among other topics.
Most of the conference presentations each year are eventually transcribed and featured on the group’s main website, www.fairlds.org.