The 21st annual FairMormon Conference was held on August 7-9, 2019, at the Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo, Utah. Transcriptions of the presentations are available at the links below, and will be added as they become available.
(Mobile devices: Scroll the table left and right to see all the data.)
|Joseph Smith's First Vision as Endowment and Epitome of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (or Why I Came Back to the Church)
|Women's Voices in Saints Volume 2
|The Lives and Letters of the Twelve Apostles and their Wives during the Second British Mission, 1839-1841
|The Dirt on the Ancient Inhabitants of Mesoamerica
|Matt Roper/Kirk Magleby
|Time Vindicates the Prophet
|ScripturePlus: The Future of Scripture Study
|Laman and Nephi as Key-Words: An Etymological, Narratological, and Rhetorical Approach to Understanding Lamanites and Nephites as Religious, Political, and Cultural Descriptors
|John W. & Jeannie Welch
|Parables of Jesus Revealing the Plan of Salvation
|Matthew C. Godfrey
|Insights from the Joseph Smith Papers into John C. Bennett’s Dismissal from the Church
|Answering Historical Questions with Church History Topics
|The Eight Witnesses
|A Paradoxical Preservation of Faith: LDS Creation Accounts and the Composite Nature of Revelation
|Fear Leads to the Dark Side: How to Navigate the Shallows of (Mis)Information
|Elder Bruce C. and Sister Marie K. Hafen
|Faith is Not Blind
|Supernatural or Supernormal? Scrutinizing Secular Sources for the Book of Mormon
|The Exodus and Beyond: A Preview of Saints, Volume 2: No Unhallowed Hand
|Elder Craig C. Christensen
|Foundations of Our Faith
|CES Letter: Proof or Propaganda?
|Women, Men, and Priesthood Power
|A Case for the Book of Mormon
|“Idle Tales”? The Witness of Women
Matthew L. Bowen is an assistant professor of Religious Education at Brigham Young University–Hawaii where he has taught since 2012. He holds a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, where he also earned an M.A (Biblical Studies). He previously earned a B.A. in English with a minor in Classical Studies (Greek emphasis) from Brigham Young University (Provo) and subsequently pursued post-Baccalaureate studies in Semitic languages, Egyptian, and Latin there. In addition to having taught at Brigham Young University–Hawaii, he has previously taught at the Catholic University of America and at Brigham Young University. Bowen is the author of numerous peer-reviewed articles on scripture- and temple-related topics as well as the recent book Name as Key-Word: Collected Essays on Onomastic Wordplay and the Temple in Mormon Scripture. Bowen grew up in Orem, Utah, and served a two-year mission in the California Roseville Mission. He and his wife, the former Suzanne Blattberg, are the parents of three children, Zachariah, Nathan, and Adele.
Presentation: Laman and Nephi as Key-Words: An Etymological, Narratological, and Rhetorical Approach to Understanding Lamanites and Nephites as Religious, Political, and Cultural Descriptors
Don Bradley is a writer, editor, and researcher specializing in early Mormon history. Don recently performed an internship with the Joseph Smith Papers Project and is completing his thesis, on the earliest Mormon conceptions of the New Jerusalem, toward an M.A. in History at Utah State University. He has published on the translation of the Book of Mormon, plural marriage before Nauvoo, and Joseph Smith’s “grand fundamental principles of Mormonism” and plans to publish an extensive analysis, co-authored with Mark Ashurst-McGee, on the Kinderhook plates. Don’s first book was The Lost 116 Pages: Reconstructing the Missing Contents of the Book of Mormon.
Presentation: Joseph Smith’s First Vision as Endowment and Epitome of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (or Why I Came Back to the Church)
Tad R. Callister
Tad R. Callister was serving in the Presidency of the Seventy and as a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy when he was called as Sunday School general president. He has served in a number of Church callings including full-time missionary in the Eastern Atlantic States Mission, bishop, stake president, regional representative, mission president, and Area Seventy.
Brother Callister received a bachelor of science degree in accounting from Brigham Young University, a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of California–Los Angeles, and a master’s degree in tax law from New York University Law School. He spent most of his professional career practicing tax law. He and his wife Kathryn Louise Saporiti are the parents of six children.
Presentation: A Case for the Book of Mormon
Elder Craig C. Christensen
Elder Craig C. Christensen was sustained as a General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on October 5, 2002. At the time of his call he was serving as a member of the Fifth Quorum of the Seventy in the Utah South Area.
As a General Authority, Elder Christensen served as President of the Mexico South Area from 2003 to 2007 while living in Mexico City. He has also served in various departments and assignments at Church headquarters, such as Executive Director of the Priesthood and Family Department. He is currently serving in the Missionary Department.
Elder Christensen graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. He went on to earn a master of business administration from the University of Washington. Over the years, he has been a visiting instructor of business and religion courses at several universities, including Brigham Young University.
At the time of his call as a General Authority, Elder Christensen was a self-employed businessman in the retail automotive, insurance, and real estate development industries. He previously worked as an executive with several privately owned companies and with an international accounting and consulting firm based in San Francisco, California.
Elder Craig C. Christensen was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on March 18, 1956. He married Debbie Jones in March 1978. They are the parents of four children.
Presentation: Foundations of Our Faith
Matthew C. Godfrey
Matthew C. Godfrey is a general editor and the managing historian of the Joseph Smith Papers. He holds a PhD in American and public history from Washington State University. He has contributed to several Joseph Smith Papers volumes, including Documents, Volume 2; Documents, Volume 4; Documents, Volume 7, and the forthcoming Documents, Volume 10, and Documents, Volume 12. He is the author of Religion, Politics, and Sugar: The Mormon Church, the Federal Government, and the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company, 1907–1921 (2007), which was a co-winner of the Mormon History Association’s Smith-Petit Award for Best First Book. He is also the co-editor of The Earth Shall Appear as the Garden of Eden: Essays in Mormon Environmental History (2019). Matthew has published articles in Agricultural History, The Public Historian, Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Journal of Mormon History, BYU Studies Quarterly, Mormon Historical Studies, and various collections of essays. His research interests and expertise include environmental history, business and financial history, and the history of Zion’s Camp.
Presentation: Insights from the Joseph Smith Papers into John C. Bennett’s Dismissal from the Church
Gordon serves as President of FairMormon, a non-profit corporation staffed by volunteers dedicated to helping members deal with issues raised by critics of the LDS faith. He has an MBA from Brigham Young University, and a BA in Organizational Communications from Brigham Young University. He is currently an instructor of business and technology at Shasta College in Redding, California. Scott has held many positions in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints including serving as a bishop for six years. He is married and has five children.
Presentation: The CES Letter: Proof or Propaganda
Bruce C. Hafen and Marie K. Hafen
Bruce Hafen grew up in St. George, Utah. After serving a mission to Germany, he met Marie Kartchner from Bountiful, Utah at BYU. They were married in 1964.
Elder Hafen received a bachelor’s degree from BYU and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Utah. After practicing law in Salt Lake City, he went to BYU as a member of the original faculty of BYU’s Law School. He taught family law and constitutional law.
He served as the President of BYU-Idaho from 1978 to 1985. Then he was Dean of the BYU Law School and later served as the Provost—the second in command—at BYU. He was called as a full-time General Authority in 1996, serving in area presidencies in Australia, North America, and Europe. He also served at Church headquarters as an adviser to the Priesthood Department, the general auxiliary presidencies, Church History, and the Temple Department. He became an Emeritus General Authority in 2010 then served as president of the St. George Temple. More recently he served as Chairman of the Utah LDS Corrections Committee, overseeing the Church branches in Utah’s state prisons and county jails. He is the author of several books on gospel topics, including the biography of Elder Neal A. Maxwell, and books on marriage, the temple, and the Atonement—including The Broken Heart and Covenant Hearts.
Marie K. Hafen is a homemaker and teacher. She has a Master’s Degree in English from BYU and has taught Shakespeare, freshman writing, and Book of Mormon at BYU-Idaho, the University of Utah, and BYU. She was also on the Young Women General Board, the Board of Directors of the Deseret News, and was matron of the St. George Temple. She has edited and co-authored books with her husband, including The Contrite Spirit and, most recently, Faith Is Not Blind.
The Hafens have seven children and 46 grandchildren.
Presentation: Faith is Not Blind
Brian C. Hales
Brian C. Hales is the author or co-author of seven books dealing with plural marriage—most notably the three-volume, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: History and Theology (Greg Kofford Books, 2013) He and his wife Laura are the current webmasters of JosephSmithsPolygamy.org. Presently, Brian is working on two book-length manuscripts dealing with Joseph Smith’s treasure seeking and the authorship of the Book of Mormon. He served a mission to Venezuela for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and sang with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for fourteen years. Brian is also past president of the Utah Medical Association (2013) and the John Whitmer Historical Association (2015).
Presentation: Supernatural or Supernormal? Scrutinizing Secular Sources for the Book of Mormon
Scott A. Hales has been a historian/writer for the Church History Department since 2015. He currently works as a writer and story editor for Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, the new four-volume narrative history of the Church. He has a BA in English from Brigham Young University and an MA and PhD in American Literature from the University of Cincinnati. He has published scholarly articles on Mormon and American literature in several academic journals, including Religion and the Arts and The Journal of Transnational American Studies. He currently lives in Eagle Mountain, UT with his wife and five children.
Presentation: The Exodus and Beyond: A Preview of Saints, Volume 2: No Unhallowed Hand
Angela Hallstrom works for the Church History Department as a writer and literary editor for the four-volume history of the Church, Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days. Prior to her work for the Church History Department, she taught writing at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. She received an MFA in creative writing from Hamline University and is the author of the novel Bound on Earth, editor of the short fiction collection Dispensation: Latter-day Fiction, and has served on the editorial boards of BYU Studies, Irreantum, and Segullah. She and her husband are the parents of four children, and recently moved back to Utah after spending sixteen years in Minnesota.
Presentation: Women’s Voices in Saints
René A. Krywult
René Alexander Krywult, a native of Vienna, Austria, Europe, has been a member of FairMormon for over eighteen years and has been instrumental in founding the German-speaking FairMormon group. He is a software developer and project manager for a European financial institution. He is married to Gabriele Krywult, and they have four children and three grandchildren. His first publication was “Mormon Deification Compared to Orthodox Christian Theosis” in the magazine Spirituality in East and West of Dialog Center International, a Protestant network of organizations engaged in researching new religious movements. More articles on the FairMormon website followed. He organized four FairMormon conferences in Germany from 2009 to 2015 and spoke at all of them.
Rene’s particular focus is on comparing the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with those of both traditional Christians and the early Christian centuries. He had his first contact with anti-Mormonism at age 14, and from that time on one of his major interests has been to understand how anti-Mormon literature works, how to discern the reliability of information provided, and how to grow in faith while studying arguments made by the opposition.
Brother Krywult served, among other callings, as ward Sunday school president, ward mission leader, elders quorum president, Seminary and Institute teacher and counsellor in a bishopric: Currently he serves as a High Councilor in the Vienna-Austria Stake. His native language is German.
Presentation: Fear Leads to the Dark Side: How to Navigate the Shallows of (Mis)Information
Elizabeth A. Kuehn
Elizabeth Kuehn received her Bachelor of Arts in History from Arizona State University and her Masters of Arts from Purdue University in History, with a focus on religious history and women and gender studies in early modern European history. She entered a doctoral program in History at the University of California, Irvine, and became a PhD candidate there in 2011.
Since 2013, she has worked as a documentary editor and historian on the Joseph Smith Papers Project based at the Church History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. She is a co-editor of several documentary editions of the Joseph Smith Papers, including Documents Volume 5: October 1835-January 1838 and Documents Volume 6: February 1838 – August 1839, both of which were published in 2017. She is currently the lead editor on Documents Volume 10: May to August 1842, forthcoming in spring 2020.
For the last six years her research has specialized in the Latter-day Saint community in Kirtland, Ohio and the financial records of Joseph Smith. More recently she has worked on controversies in Nauvoo in 1842, including Joseph Smith’s bankruptcy proceedings and plural marriage. She has worked to bring greater inclusion of women and representation of their experiences to the Joseph Smith Papers Project.
Presentation: The Lives and Letters of the Twelve Apostles and their Wives during the Second British Mission, 1839-1841
Matthew McBride is the Director of Publications for the Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is the author of A House for the Most High: The Story of the Original Nauvoo Temple, co-editor of Revelations in Context: The Stories behind the Sections of the Doctrine and Covenants, and a contributor to Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days. He and his wife Mary and their four children live in American Fork, Utah.
Presentation: Answering Historical Questions with Church History Topics
Larry E. Morris
Larry E. Morris, an independent writer and historian, is the author of A Documentary History of the Book of Mormon (Oxford University Press, 2019). He was previously an editor with both the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship and the Joseph Smith Papers. He is the co-editor, with John W. Welch, of Oliver Cowdery: Scribe, Elder, Witness (Maxwell Institute, 2006) and has published articles on Mormon history in BYU Studies, the FARMS Review, the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, the Journal of Mormon History, the Ensign, and the New Era. He is also quite interested in early Western history and is the author of In the Wake of Lewis and Clark: The Expedition and the Making of Antebellum America (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019); The Perilous West: Seven Amazing Explorers and the Founding of the Oregon Trail (Rowman & Littlefield, 2012); and The Fate of the Corps: What Became of the Lewis and Clark Explorers After the Expedition (Yale University Press, 2004). Larry and his wife, Deborah, live in Salt Lake City and have four children and eight grandchildren.
Presentation: The Eight Witnesses
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, where he has taught Arabic language and literature at all levels, Islamic philosophy, Islamic culture and civilization, Islamic religion, the Qur’an, the introductory and senior “capstone” courses for Middle Eastern Studies majors, and various other occasional specialized classes. He is the author of several books and numerous articles on Islamic and Latter-day Saint topics–including a biography entitled Muhammad: Prophet of God (Eerdmans, 2007)—and has lectured across the United States, in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, and at various Islamic universities in the Near East and Asia. He served in the Switzerland Zürich Mission (1972-1974), and, for approximately eight years, on the Gospel Doctrine writing committee for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He also presided for a time as the bishop of a singles ward adjacent to Utah Valley University. Dr. Peterson is married to the former Deborah Stephens, of Lakewood, Colorado, and they are the parents of three sons.
Presentation: “Idle Tales”? The Witness of Women
Jasmin is the Web Architect and Content Manager for Book of Mormon Central. She administrates all the web properties of Book of Mormon Central and provides computer support for our users. She also serves as their chief Graphic Designer and the Peer Review Coordinator for the publication of KnoWhys. She enjoys creating new ways to visualize the Book of Mormon and enjoys managing Book of Mormon’s volunteers.
She graduated magna cum laude from Brigham Young University in 2015 with a Bachelors’ degree in Ancient Near Eastern Studies. At Book of Mormon Central, she gets to combine her passion for religion in antiquity with her visual and technical skills. She enjoys creating new ways for users to digitally interact with the study of the Book of Mormon.
Presentation: ScripturePlus: The Future of Scripture Study – A demo and discussion of Book of Mormon Central’s new scripture app, ScripturePlus
Matthew P. Roper (M.S. in Sociology, Brigham Young University) is a resident scholar and research assistant for the Institute for the Study and Preservation of Ancient Religious Studies at Brigham Young University.
Presentation: “Time Vindicates the Prophet” – An analysis of criticisms raised against the Book of Mormon during Joseph Smith’s lifetime and the status of those allegations in 1844, 1930, and 2019
Ben Spackman did ten years of undergraduate (BYU) and graduate work in ancient Near Eastern studies and Semitics (University of Chicago) before moving on to general science (City College of New York). Currently a PhD student in History of Christianity at Claremont Graduate University, Ben’s focus is the intertwined histories of religion, science, and scriptural interpretation; most specifically, he studies the intellectual history of fundamentalism, creationism, and religious opposition to evolution in connection with interpretations of Genesis.
Ben taught volunteer Institute and Seminary for a dozen years in the Midwest, New York, and California, taught Biblical Hebrew, Book of Mormon, and New Testament at BYU, and TA’d a course on “God, Darwin, and Design” at Claremont. He has contributed to BYU Studies, Religious Educator, the Maxwell Institute, Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture, Religion&Politics, the Salt Lake Tribune, and blogs at benspackman.com (previously at Timesandseasons) where he writes extensively about Gospel Doctrine, evolution, and Genesis, among other things. He has presented lectures, firesides, and papers at various conferences, including the Joseph Smith Papers, the Mormon History Association, the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology, the Maxwell Institute Seminar on Mormon Culture, the Mormon Theology Seminar, Mormon Scholars in the Humanities, BYU’s Sperry Symposium, BYU Late Summer Honors (lecture on Genesis and evolution), and this year, Education Week (Aug 21-24), on Reading the Bible in Context. He is a contributor to BYU’s ecumenical Reconciling Evolution project.
Ben has appeared on various podcasts: LDS Perspectives (on genre in the Bible, and Genesis 1), LDS MissionCast (on missionaries, prooftexting, and the Bible), and GospelTangents (on evolution, scripture, and religious history).
He typically juggles half a dozen writing projects at once, currently including a book on Genesis 1 for an LDS audience, a dissertation on post-1970 creationism/evolution conflict in the LDS Church and its early 20th century roots, a chapter on the Cain/Abel story in Genesis, and a paper on the intellectual background of early 20th-century LDS attempts to reconcile science with scripture (fossils, dinosaurs, pre-adamites, evolution, age of the earth, etc.) He recently received a grant from the Redd Center for research on LDS understandings of dinosaurs and the establishment of BYU’s two museums.
Presentation: A Paradoxical Preservation of Faith: LDS Creation Accounts and the Composite Nature of Revelation
Richard E. Terry
Richard E. Terry is Professor Emeritus of Soil Science at Brigham Young University. He received his B.S. degree from Brigham Young University in Agronomy and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Purdue University in Soil Microbiology and Biochemistry. He was Assistant Professor of Soil Science at the University of Florida, Everglades Experiment Station, from 1977 through 1980. While in Florida he conducted research in the microbial decomposition and subsidence of the organic soils of the Everglades.
Richard joined the faculty of the Agronomy and Horticulture Department at Brigham Young University in 1980. He taught soil science and environmental remediation courses for 36 years. In 1997 he was invited to the archaeological site of Piedras Negras, Guatemala, to assist in the development of a field laboratory and protocols for field measurement of phosphorus in soils and floors that resulted from many years of food processing, consumption, and food waste disposal activities by the ancient Maya. The follow year he collaborated with Dr. Takeshi Inomata and Daniela Triadan on the chemical analysis of palace floors at the rapidly abandoned site of Aguateca. For the past 22 years, Dr. Terry and his students have collected soil and floor samples for chemical analysis and data interpretation. During that time, they have collaborated with more than 44 archaeologists at 26 ancient Mesoamerican sites. The ancient sites have extended from Northern Yucatan, Mexico, to Southern El Salvador. The period of occupation of those cities and villages ranged from the Middle Preclassic (1000 to 600 B.C.) to the Postclassic (1000 to 1400 A.D.). Over the years, his geochemical analyses of Mesoamerican soils have expanded to the stable carbon isotope signatures of ancient corn crops that remain within the soil humus and to the biochemical markers of modern and ancient cacao orchards. Dr. Terry has gained insights to the lives of ancient Mesoamericans by collaborating with many of the professional Mayanists, who study a variety of archaeological sites that extend across the Maya region and include the full time-line of ancient occupation. The range of inorganic chemical, stable isotope, and biomarker data he has obtained from ancient floors, fields, and orchards allow him, his students and collaborators to interpret many aspects of ancient lives and activities.
Dr. Terry and his wife Vicki live in Orem, Utah. They are the parents of four children and the grandparents of ten grandchildren. Both have been active in various volunteer callings in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Presentation: The Dirt on the Ancient Inhabitants of Mesoamerica
Wendy Ulrich, Ph.D., M.B.A., has been a psychologist in private practice, president of the Association of Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists, and a visiting professor at Brigham Young University-Provo. She founded Sixteen Stones Center for Growth, which offers seminar-retreats for Latter-day Saint women and their loved ones (see sixteenstones.net). Her books include Let God Love You; Weakness Is Not Sin; Habits of Happiness; The Temple Experience; Forgiving Ourselves; and national best-seller The Why of Work, coauthored with her husband, Dave Ulrich. Wendy’s newest book is Live Up to our Privileges: Women, Power, and Priesthood, published by Deseret Book.
Presentation: Women, Men, and Priesthood Power
John W. & Jeannie Welch
John W. Welch is the Robert K. Thomas Professor of Law at the J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University, where he teaches various courses, including Perspectives on Jewish, Greek, and Roman Law in the New Testament. Since 1991 he has also served as the editor in chief of BYU Studies. He studied history and classical languages at Brigham Young University, Greek philosophy at Oxford, and law at Duke University. As a founder of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, one of the editors for Macmillan’s Encyclopedia of Mormonism, and co-director of the Masada and Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition at BYU, he has published widely on biblical, early Christian, and Latter-day Saint topics.
Jeannie Welch graduated from BYU with an MA in French and Spanish, with her master’s thesis on comic theory in Moliere. For over 25 years she taught French, first in private schools and then on the faculty at BYU, where she was also the Director of the BYU Foreign Language Student Residence for 13 years. She has directed a BYU study abroad to Paris, and has traveled widely visiting numerous art museums in Europe. In addition to serving in leadership and teaching positions in church and public schools, she has organized European and Church History tours, has published in the Mormon Historical Studies journal and co-authored two books with her husband, John Welch, The Doctrine and Covenants by Themes, and The Parables of Jesus: Revealing the Plan of Salvation.
Presentation: Parables of Jesus Revealing the Plan of Salvation
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