Yesterday and the day before FAIR held their annual conference. I was at the first one, ages ago, crammed into a little room that held about fifteen people. I have not always been able to attend, but it is a good group of people. I was surprised at some of the people who turned up. I will only talk about a few of the presentations that I think are worth a more careful look. When these become available, they should be looked at with care.
Ron Barney laid out a very careful argument that Joseph Smith had a natural inclination to keep his visions secret. Almost all of the evidence I had seen before, but Barney put it together in a very interesting and compelling way.
Ralph Hancock, a very careful thinker, argued that political and religious spheres overlap in certain areas and cannot be kept completely separate. It is important to know where these areas of overlap are and the dangers of certain political assumptions to religious freedoms. Hancock used labels for political ideologies that come from political science, and carefully explained what these meant since the same vocabulary is used in journalism to mean very different things. Hancock then explained how the assumptions behind certain political ideologies is at odds with the gospel and particularly with the Proclamation on the Family. He then argued that those who would defend the Church would have to expose the fuzzy thinking and bad assumptions behind any political ideology that would accept the assumptions that he identified. The one he focused on was the notion that the greatest good was for humans to decide for themselves what the greatest good was. He showed how this assumption runs counter to religion and undermines the family.
Apparently some individual or individuals was offended by Hancock's lucid reasoning and either did not understand his argument, or is more committed to a political ideology than either the gospel or the Church of Jesus Christ. As a result this person or persons complained to Scott Gordon and brought forth a hasty and garbled non-apology. I feel sorry for the misguided individual(s), but I also think that Professor Hancock deserved to be treated better.
Robert Kirby gave a very funny talk, but was also serious about some of the lines that those who engage in humor might impose on themselves. Some things need to be kept sacred and serious; other things do not. He provided his own ideas about some of the lines that need to be drawn. He also talked a bit about how easy it was for those with power to abuse it using examples from his days as a policeman.
Don Bradley talked about how the First Vision interacted with Joseph Smith's home environment. He also noted how the First Vision was the beginning of Joseph Smith's experience with being a seer. Again although I had seen most of the evidence before, Bradley put it together in a new, interesting and persuasive way.
There were other good presentations and I am certain that FAIR will make them available.