We have a great lineup of speakers for the 2015 FairMormon Conference. Below you will find an overview of each speaker’s credentials and the title and summary of their presentation.
Margaret Barker studied theology at the University of Cambridge, after which she has devoted her life to research in ancient Christianity. She has developed an approach to biblical studies known as Temple Theology. She was elected President of the Society for Old Testament Study in 1998. She has written 16 books and in July, 2008, was awarded a Doctorate in Divinity by the Archbishop of Canterbury “in recognition of her work on the Jerusalem Temple and the origins of Christian Liturgy, which has made a significantly new contribution to our understanding of the New Testament and opened up important fields for research.”
Margaret Barker is a mother and grandmother, a Methodist Preacher, and was involved for over 30 years with the work of a Women’s Refuge.
Presentation: The Mother in Heaven and Her Children
Summary: There is clear evidence in the Bible for a heavenly Mother, and the first Christians saw themselves as her children. She had many names and titles. Much information about her has been overlooked due to inaccurate translations of the Bible.
Brittany A. Chapman Nash is a historian at the Church History Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She received a BA in Humanities from Brigham Young University and an MA in Victorian Studies from the University of Leicester. She specializes in nineteenth-century Mormon women’s history and is co-editor with Richard E. Turley Jr. of the seven-volume Women of Faith in the Latter Days series, which features the life writings of Latter-day Saint women. She serves on the executive committee of the Mormon Women’s History Initiative Team (MWHIT). She and her husband, Peter Nash, live in Salt Lake City.
Presentation:An Act of Religious Conviction: Mormon Women and Nineteenth-Century Polygamy
Summary:Brittany Chapman Nash will explore the motivations of nineteenth-century Mormon women in their choice to practice plural marriage. She will draw upon contemporary records written by Mormon women to enrich understanding of the polygamous experience and those who practiced it.
Ron Dennis is a BYU Professor Emeritus of Portuguese and Welsh. He is the author of several books about the history of the Church in 19th-century Wales, including translations and commentaries of ten volumes of the Welsh Mormon periodical begun by Dan Jones in 1846. He has a website, “Welsh Mormon History.” The English translations of all Dan Jones’s pamphlets are posted on his website (here), as well as the 30 issues of the first periodical published by Jones (here). Dennis has created a free app for pre-MTC missionaries learning Portuguese – Brazilian Portuguese for LDS Missionaries – with more languages in the development stage. He has served three missions to Brazil. He and his wife Grace Marie are the parents of six children and twelve grandchildren.
Presentation: Captain Dan Jones: Defender of the Faith in Wales
Summary: Dan Jones was a tireless defender of the Mormon faith. President Gordon B. Hinckley included Dan Jones “in the half dozen or so most productive missionaries in the history of the Church.” He frequently challenged the anti-Mormons to debate, but they refused to appear on the stage with him. Consequently, he went to his brother’s printing press to publish responses to the numerous attacks made on Mormonism and to communicate with the Welsh-speaking Saints who were unable to read the Millennial Star. Jones’s periodicals, known as Prophwyd y Jubili (Prophet of the Jubilee) and Udgorn Seion (Zion’s Trumpet). They are filled with his relentless responses to anti-Mormon attacks. They will provide the basis for my presentation on the missionary work performed by Dan Jones in Wales.
My English translation of Prophet of the Jubilee was published by Bookcraft in 1997. And the 39 issues of volume 7 (1854) of Zion’s Trumpet were published earlier this year by Deseret Book. Discounted copies of Zion’s Trumpet will be available at this year’s conference, with all proceeds going to FairMormon.
Brant A. Gardner holds a Masters in Anthropology from the State University of New York Albany, specializing in Mesoamerican Ethnohistory. He is the author of the six-volume Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, The Gift and Power: Translating the Book of Mormon, and Traditions of the Fathers: The Book of Mormon as History, all published by Greg Kofford Books.
He has contributed articles to the journal Estudios de Cultura Nahuatl and to the anthology Symbol and Meaning Beyond the Closed Community. He has presented several papers at the FairMormon Conference over the years, and contributed articles to the FARMS Review and the Interpreter Journal.
Presentation: History and Historicity in the Book of Mormon
Summary: Although one might construct the history recounted in the Book of Mormon, that internal history can be said to have historicity only to the extent that the internal history responds to outlines of history in a known place and time. To determine whether the Book of Mormon’s history took place in a particular location and time, the text should present elements of its narrative that as closely as possible occur only in a particular place and at the same time as the events are described in the Book of Mormon. This discussion outlines the methodology behind the newly published Traditions of the Fathers: The Book of Mormon in History, and provides some of the examples elaborated in that book that show how the Book of Mormon becomes more understandable when read against the larger historical currents that influenced the events in the Book of Mormon.
James D. Gordon III
James D. Gordon III is assistant to the president for planning and assessment at Brigham Young University. He is also Marion B. and Rulon A. Earl Professor of Law at the J. Reuben Clark Law School. He received a B.A. in Political Science from BYU, and a J.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. He clerked for Judge Monroe G. McKay of the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, and then practiced law in Salt Lake City. He has served as associate academic vice president for faculty at the university, and as an associate dean and interim dean of the law school. He has received a number of teaching awards, and he has received an Abraham O. Smoot Citizenship Award from the university.
Presentation: Faith and Scholarship
Summary: Faithful scholars are people who have both good hearts and good minds, people who understand gospel truths and secular truths, and people who use their talents to serve God and His children. Faithful scholars understand the importance of both faith and reason. Faithful scholars need to be humble. Also, they should expect that at times apparent conflicts may arise between academic disciplines and the gospel, and they need to deal with those issues faithfully and thoughtfully. The presentation will include humor.
Laura Harris Hales is a freelance copy editor, author, and an apologist by marriage. She received a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Brigham Young University and a master’s degree in Professional Writing from New England College. She has worked as both a paralegal and as an adjunct professor of English. After marrying in 2013, she found herself immersed in the study of Church history. With her husband, she is the co-author of Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: Toward a Better Understanding and co-webmaster of JosephSmithsPolygamy.org. One of her most recent projects is as editor of a forthcoming anthology dealing with 17 topics of historical and theological significance to Latter-day Saints (early 2016, BYU Religious Studies Center). She is also the copy editor of Mormon Historical Studies. Laura is married to Brian C. Hales and, combined, they have nine children.
Presentation: Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: Toward a Better Understanding
Summary: Printed in the Deseret News in 1852 and canonized as scripture in 1876, D&C 132 is not only unpopular with many but also difficult to understand for most. A historical lens provides context and greater clarity to its contents and to the early practice of polygamy. This historical framework will help us better understand our past and move toward a better understanding of Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy.
Cassandra S. Hedelius studied political science and mathematics at the University of Oklahoma and law at the University of Colorado. She has practiced domestic and business law, and currently works for the federal government near Washington D.C. She lives in Maryland with her husband and cats.
Presentation: A house of order, a house of God: Recycled challenges to the legitimacy of the church
Summary: Since the 1830s, various individuals have claimed authority to reveal the future and lead the church. Sometimes their claims are comparatively benign, at least superficially supporting church leaders. Sometimes they have gone further, attacking church leaders’ legitimacy and proclaiming their own. Though they can make impressive-sounding arguments, they can’t overcome the clear teaching of early revelations to Joseph Smith—it will never be hard to tell where God’s authority is vested, and the LDS church as an institution will never lose the status and authority that it had under Joseph.
David J. Larsen received his PhD from the University of St Andrews in Scotland with the dissertation, “The Royal Psalms in the Dead Sea Scrolls.” He also holds an MA degree in Biblical Theology from Marquette University and a BA in Near East Studies from Brigham Young University. His research interests include Jewish and Christian apocalyptic and mysticism, pseudepigrapha and apocryphal literature, royal/messianic themes in the Bible and in the Dead Sea Scrolls, “ascent to heaven,” and temple traditions. He is an adjunct professor of Ancient Scripture at BYU, is an editorial fellow with BYU Studies, has written several articles, and is the co-author, with Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, of In God’s Image and Likeness 2: Enoch, Noah, and the Tower of Babel. He is also the author of the blog heavenlyascents.com. He currently lives in Springville, Utah, with his wife, Marluce, and their five children.
Presentation: The Order of the House of God: Ancient Practices and Modern Experiences
Summary: Joseph Smith and other leaders of the Restored Church have taught that the ordinances of the Gospel are of ancient origin and that “the order of the house of God has been, and ever will be, the same.” Diligent study of ancient temple rituals, concepts, and themes helps support these claims and also provides preparation for and insight into modern temple practices, covenants, and rituals. Furthermore, a careful study of scriptures such as the Book of Moses can give us further insight into the order, narrative, and covenants of the modern temple. In short, an understanding of the ancient temple can improve the modern temple experience.
Michael R. Otterson
Michael R. Otterson has been serving as the Managing Director of the Public Affairs Department since 2008, with responsibility for public affairs issues of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worldwide.
He was educated in England, his birthplace, where he completed his formal journalistic training. For eleven years he worked as a journalist on newspapers in Britain, Australia and Japan.
Since 1976, he has worked in the London, Sydney and Salt Lake City Public Affairs Offices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In his current role as Managing Director he oversees many contemporary concerns facing the church such as women’s issues, religious freedom and an ever-expanding global church.
Presentation: Correcting The Record
Summary: This presentation will cover the role of Church Public Affairs and how it interacts with the Church and the press. Brother Otterson will also discuss many of the issues and misconceptions he deals with, as well as respond to questions from the audience.
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: The Reasonable Leap into Light: A Barebones Secular Argument for the Gospel
Summary: With respect to the Gospel, a decision must be made. It’s unavoidable. Not to decide is, in fact, to decide. Can we rationally choose to commit ourselves to the cause of the Restoration even when decisive public evidence is unavailable? Even when some questions remain unanswered? The answer, I will argue, is very much Yes.
Brother Pinegar is married to the former Patricia Peterson who served as Counselor in the General Presidency of the Young Women and General Primary President of the Church. They are the parents of 8 children, 38 grandchildren and 19 great grandchildren.
He has served in many callings in the Church and has taught religion classes in the CES for 34 years. He has served in the LDS Church as a bishop, stake president, stake patriarch, on the general board of the church’s Young Men organization, as president of the England London South Mission, and as president of the Provo Missionary Training Center. He has also been director of the Orem Institute of Religion, a religion professor at BYU, and a seminary teacher. He served a mission with his sweetheart Patricia in the New York Rochester Mission at the Historical Sites around Palmyra July 2007 to January 2009. He served as President of the Manti Temple from 2009-2012. He presently serves as a Sealer in Mt. Timpanogos temple. Brother Pinegar is the author of over 60 books and talk CDs, most recently The Temple: Gaining Knowledge and Power in the House of the Lord, A Mighty Change, Preparing for the Melchizedek Priesthood and My Mission, and The Christmas Code.
He has taught in many Continuing Education programs and was a recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award from BYU, Division of Continuing Education, in 1979. He also received the Outstanding Young Man of the Year Award, the Service to Mankind Award from Provo City, the Sloan Community Speaker Award from BYU in 1999, UVU Distinguished Service Award 2001 and the UVU Excellence in Leadership Award in 2003.
Presentation: How to help young Latter-day Saints deal with criticisms against the Church and the doubts they cause while remaining faithful
Summary: We will discuss the following topics: 1) Understanding their situation. 2) Understanding the process of change. 3) Becoming an instrument in the hands of the Lord. 4) The role of the Holy Ghost in the conversion and change process. We will also answer the following questions: How can we help them replace doubt with faith? How can we help them deal with negativism and half-truths? How can we help them deal with criticisms of our prophets and leaders? How can we help them gain a testimony sufficient to deal with attacks against the Church? How can we help them be rooted to Christ and not yield to the sophistries of the devil? How do we help them when they justify their beliefs because of their sins? How can we help them when faced with new facts that they have never dealt with before?
W. Paul Reeve is the author of Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness, published by Oxford University Press. He is the author of Making Space on the Western Frontier: Mormons, Miners, and Southern Paiutes, and co-editor with Ardis E. Parshall of Mormonism: A Historical Encyclopedia. With Michael Van Wagenen he co-edited Between Pulpit and Pew: The Supernatural World in Mormon History and Folklore. He is the Director of Graduate Studies in the History Department at the University of Utah where he teaches courses on Utah history, Mormon history, and the history of the U.S. West. He is the recipient of the University of Utah’s Early Career Teaching Award and of the College of Humanities Ramona W. Cannon Award for Teaching Excellence in the Humanities.
Presentation: From Not White Enough, to Too White: Rethinking the Mormon Racial Story
Summary: Drawing upon evidence from his new book, Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness, Paul Reeve suggests that Mormon whiteness in the nineteenth century was a contested variable, not an assumed fact. Situating the Mormon racial story within the broader context of a very fluid and illogical American racial history, Reeve will trace the evolution of Mormon whiteness over time and offer a new lens through which to view the evolving priesthood and temple bans within Mormonism. He argues that one way in which Mormons attempted to secure whiteness for themselves was in distance from their fellow black Mormons.
Stephen H. Webb graduated from Wabash College in 1983, earned his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago, and taught at Wabash College as Professor of Religion and Philosophy from 1988 to 2012. He was born in 1961 and reared in Indianapolis, Indiana, where he grew up at Englewood Christian Church, an evangelical church in the Restoration Movement. On Easter Sunday, 2007, he officially came into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. In his book American Providence (Continuum, 2004), he defends the idea that the doctrine of providence has been a crucial ingredient in American history and American identity. Webb has also written about C. S. Lewis in The Chronicles of Narnia and Philosophy (ed. by Jerry Walls, Open Court Publishing, 2005), Indiana small town basketball in Basketball and Philosophy (University of Kentucky Press, 2007), and eschatology and politics in The Oxford Handbook of Eschatology (Oxford University Press, 2008). His essay in defense of Mormonism as a legitimate form of Christianity, “Mormonism Obsessed with Christ,” appeared in First Things (Feb. 2012). Amongst other publications, Stephen Webb has written Jesus Christ, Eternal God: Heavenly Flesh and the Metaphysics of Matter (Oxford, 2012) and Mormon Christianity: What Non-Mormon Christians Can Learn from the Latter-day Saints (Oxford, 2013). Webb is also a frequent blogger and contributor to First Things and Books & Culture.
Presentation: Why Mormon Materialism Matters
Summary: Modern physics has changed the way we think about matter, but theologians have been slow to respond. Matter, in a word, is not what it used to be. Mormonism is in a position to take the lead in thinking through a new vision of matter for all of Christianity. Mormons can help Christians make better sense of a God who is not infinite, a Holy Spirit that is truly powerful, and a Jesus Christ who spoke to the ancients and appeared in the Old Testament. I will draw from the most recent work in academic scholarship to show that Joseph Smith had a view of matter that is actually closer to the Apostle Paul than any other modern Christian leader, and that Mormonism opens up new perspectives on such hot topics as the relationship between the body and the soul as well as the nature of heaven.
Dr. Lynne Hilton Wilson lives in Palo Alto, California, with her husband Dow R. Wilson. She is mother to seven children—all with red hair. During her under-graduate years at BYU in 1982 she studied nursing and the cello. She received an MA in Religious Studies from Cardinal Stritch University. Her thesis explored Christ’s birth narratives in the New Testament. She received a PhD in Theology and American History at Marquette University where she focused her dissertation on Joseph Smith’s doctrine of the Spirit compared to his contemporaries. She has been an adjunct professor at BYU and iis now the Stake institute director and teacher in the Menlo Park, California Stake for the Stanford single wards. She has written three books and published several papers. She is a popular speaker at BYU Women’s Conference, Education week, the Society of Biblical Literature, the Mormon History Association, Sperry Symposiums, and many others.
Presentation: Christ’s Emancipation of Women in the New Testament from their Cultural Background and Baggage
Summary: Christ made abrupt and radical changes that restored women to a place of value with eternal potential. As decisively as He cleansed the temple, Jesus attacked the cultural falsehoods that surrounded Jewish family life. He tore down false practices and notions regarding women, children, and family relationships. He denounced centuries of harmful traditions that destroyed marital partnerships and led to misogyny. In order to appreciate the dramatic change that Jesus made to the role of women and their relationships, we need to place His teachings in the context of His day. We find startling differences when we compare their pages of misunderstandings, oppression, and dysfunctional relationships, to Jesus’ tender interactions with women and children. His teachings were carried on by the apostolic church and still influence relationships today.