In 2014, Sharon Eubank was not yet well-known among Latter-day Saints, working as the director of LDS Charities. She spoke at FAIR’s conference on the theme, “This Is A Woman’s Church.” The audience gave her a standing ovation at the end, and no wonder, in light of powerful insights like this:
I recently spoke at the United Nations, and it was interesting because I represented a faith-based organization. Because we are conservative morally, a lot of people thought that our doctrine about women and men was conservative. Far from being restrictive and conservative, my contention is that the Church’s doctrine about the roles of women in the family, and the church, and the community, and the nation, and the temple and how men and women relate to each other and interplay and support each other and work together is the most moderate, and powerful, and enlightening and energizing doctrine that I know about. And if people truly understood it, it would blow their mind. And even being in this church all my life, I’m just scratching the surface of what this doctrine means for me.
In my years of volunteering for FAIR, I’ve relished hearing so many powerful ideas at our conference each summer: Presbyterian theologian Carl Trueman making sense of modern issues with psychology and identity. Brian Hales untangling the details of polygamy and polyandry. Church historians bringing alive the world and stories of past church leaders and members. Valerie Hudson lighting up the temple endowment in a way totally new to me. Church spokesman Michael Otterson explaining the church’s approach to public affairs. Catholic theologian and philosopher Stephen Webb appreciating the materialism of Latter-day Saint doctrine. Elder Kevin Pearson speaking on our duty to defend the Church. Elder Craig C. Christensen on foundations of our faith.
This year’s conference is coming soon, August 3-5 in Provo, and this year’s lineup of speakers is excellent and exciting: Brent Andrewsen on the Family Proclamation. Angela Fallentine and Carol Rice on defending and teaching the doctrines of family and chastity. Craig Foster on “Under the Banner of Heaven.” BYU professor Kerry Muhlestein on the Book of Isaiah. Neal Rappleye on ancient evidence for Ishmael and Nahom. Retired BYU professor Kent Jackson on the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. Lynne Wilson on restoring a kingdom of priests and priestesses. Jeffrey Thayne on how our moral intuitions affect our faith. Ty Mansfield on building common ground with the LGBT+ community.
FAIR was formed in 1997 by a group of church members who frequented the America message boards that discussed The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In defending the Church against detractors there, they realized they needed a way to share their information with each other and the rest of the Church. So they formed FAIR to be a public source of faithful answers to critical questions and have been helping strengthen faith ever since. FAIR is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization staffed by volunteers who are students of the scriptures, ancient languages, early Christian history, early Latter-day Saint history, and church doctrine and apologetics.
Each year we make sure there’s something (hopefully multiple somethings!) for everyone. Parents teaching their children and inoculating them against common criticisms. Leaders working with struggling members and their families. Writers and influencers who want to defend the Church. Enthusiasts and bibliophiles who just think church history and theology are really fun. Each year it’s delightful to see so many good people I admire and love at the conference and build the unique camaraderie of those who feel impelled to better understand, explain, and defend the Church. Everyone can benefit, not just apologists and scholars. I hope you’ll join us, either in person in Provo or via free online streaming. You can purchase tickets or register for streaming here.
FAIR has always moved forward on a wing and a prayer: a band of volunteers, a very small staff of employees stretched too thin, amazing things accomplished by scholars and academics and amateurs and ordinary saints who come out of nowhere to produce great research and insights. We immensely appreciate every volunteer, donor, and supporter.
We do so much more than our yearly conference, too. FAIR defends the Church through additional articles, videos, and projects, like our recent materials examining “Under the Banner of Heaven” and our deep dive into accusations against President Oaks during his presidency of BYU. We have thousands of web pages of articles, wiki explainers, podcasts, and helpful information, all intended to answer questions and strengthen faith.
Some have criticized “apologetics” as unnecessary or unhelpful. But defending faith has always been central to Christian discipleship—especially in a world that derides and attacks true principles. Our experience has proven over and over that a source of faithful answers and insight has saved countless souls and strengthened countless families. As theologian Austin Farrer said, “Though argument does not create conviction, the lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced, but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish.”
My favorite thing about volunteering for FAIR is, in contrast to the darkness of some efforts against the Church, it provides a spirit of optimism and fearlessness. I’m not afraid of what critics will dig up. I’m not afraid of what new research or propaganda or personalities will say. The world has thought it was taking a kill shot against the Church plenty of times, but it’s always wrong. The Lord always inspires someone with the right knowledge and skill to carefully examine the accusation, place it in context, show its weaknesses, and come out ahead.
Please join us for our conference! We’re excited to have you join us, learn with us, and maybe even contribute to our efforts. Defending the church and strengthening faith is an exciting, fascinating, and fulfilling work. We’d love to have more shoulders put to the wheel.
(Thanks to Public Square Magazine for allowing us to cross-post this article.)
Cassandra Hedelius serves on the board for FAIR. She has a JD from the University of Colorado and has practiced domestic and business law. She is currently raising and homeschooling her three children.