The Last Day

The Last Day August 4, 2023


First Nicene Council
This isn’t actually a painting of today’s FAIR Conference.  It’s a late sixteenth-century fresco in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican, very definitely not by Michelangelo, depicting the first ecumenical council of Nicaea (AD 325) as it almost certainly DIDN’T look
(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


A new article went up today in Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship.  (It’s Friday.  You weren’t expecting a new article today?  Seriously?)  The title of the new article is, simply, “Credo.”  And, well, umm, I’m the author of the thing.  Heck, I even recorded it, and the audio is available at the link that I’ve supplied.

Abstract: The Restoration began with the stunning divine declaration to the Prophet Joseph Smith that the Christian sects of his day were “all wrong,” that “all their creeds were an abomination in [God’s] sight.” It’s a powerful condemnation, but what, exactly, does it mean? Later in his life, Joseph reflected that he felt that creeds set limits “and say ‘hitherto shalt thou come & no further’ — which I cannot subscribe to.” Certainly, as I realized during a wonderful musical experience many years ago, there is little if anything in one of the great ecumenical creeds with which a believing Latter-day Saint must, or even should, disagree.

You should also be aware that a new Interpreter website went up yesterday;  Not by Bread Alone: Stories of the Saints in the DR Congo


Mark Garlick does the Milky Way
A scientifically informed artist’s depiction, by Mark Garlick, of the Milky Way galaxy from a position somewhere out in space (where he had a good chance of bumping into some of my critics). The FAIR Conference took place a little bit to the right of center. No surprise, perhaps.


Owing to a personal situation with one of the speakers, Brant Gardner stepped in as the opening speaker of the morning, surrendering his scheduled time as the penultimate speaker.  (As of now, we hope that the original speaker will still be able to present her paper later on.). Brant’s topic was “Reading Over Mormon’s Shoulder: Watching Mormon fulfill the two purposes listed in the Title Page.”  He opened by announcing that he has written two forthcoming volumes from Eborn Books, the first of which will look at parallel structure in the Book of Mormon and the second of which, it seems, will actually lay out the text of the Book of Mormon in order to illustrate the argument of the first book.  I look forward to these.  (The first will probably appear near the end of 2023.). Brant Gardner is a very insightful and interesting reader of the Book of Mormon.

John Gee spoke next, on “The Covenant to Defend the Kingdom of God.”  I enthusiastically concur with his fundamental point, and I commend it to your attention.  I’m happy to say that the essay upon which his remarks were based is available in the newly published book Steadfast in Defense of Faith.  A friend has called my attention, by the way, to the following, which I pass on without comment:  “Publication Raises Questions About Maxwell Institute’s Path”

My friend and fellow worried-lover of Brigham Young University Ralph Hancock spoke relatively briefly under the title of “Latter-day Saints and Politics: Neutrality . . .  up to a point.”  His previously announced title was “The Restored Gospel and the New Liberalism: The Inescapability of Political Apologetics,” which is also the title of his closely-related essay in Steadfast in Defense of Faith.

At 11 AM, Ty and Danielle Mansfield and Skyler and Amanda Sorensen participated in a panel discussion that was moderated by the redoubtable and invaluable Cassandra Hedelius, who currently chairs the board of FAIR.  The title for the discussion was “Equally Yoked in Love and Truth: Navigating LGBTQ+ Experiences as a Latter-day Saint.”  I hope that people in the audience found value in the conversation.  Skyler Sorenson has a relatively new book out entitled Exclude Not Thyself: How to Thrive as a Covenant-Keeping Gay Latter-Day Saint.  And Ty Mansfield has at least two relevant books out.

The John Taylor Defender of the Faith Award was presented during the lunch break to Jennifer Roach (see “From Anglican Minister to Relief Society Sister – Interview with Jennifer Roach”), who abundantly deserves it.

Keith Erekson spoke to the audience on “Making Sense of Your Patriarchal Blessing.”  It will, I think, be helpful to many who may have puzzled over the patriarchal blessings that have been given to them.  Curiously, he is the author of, among quite a number of other things, Making Sense of Your Patriarchal Blessing.  I think that I’ll post a brief and somewhat vague comment here about my own patriarchal blessing:  It’s been much on my mind over the past two or three days.  Why?  I’m astonished, and I’ve reflected fairly often on the matter, at how accurately that patriarch foresaw things that were still far off in my future.  I had, to the best of my knowledge, never met him before.  I don’t think that I ever met him again.  I was only fourteen or fifteen years old at the time.  But there are things in that blessing that are uncannily and specifically accurate.  It is a solid testimony to me that that patriarch was inspired.

The next speaker was Jennifer Roach (already mentioned just above), who addressed the topic of “Shedding Light on the Complexities: Understanding Abuse within the LDS Church.”  It’s a very controversial topic — but her research and her finds are absolutely necessary and foundational to any informed discussion on it.  And I’m not exaggerating even slightly.  Is the Church an exceptionally dangerous place for children?  No.  Not even close.  In fact, quite the opposite.  Wouldn’t background checks for those who work with young people in church eliminate or vastly reduce cases of sexual abuse.  Almost certainly not.  “Background checks” aren’t nearly as effective a screening device as most people imagine them to be.  A good source of material on the subject of “Abuse and the Church,” largely put together by Jennifer Roach, is available on the FAIR website.

Jenny Reeder was supposed to speak this morning about “The Eliza R. Snow Project,” circumstances prevented her from coming.  However, FAIR landed very much on its feet.  A special panel — a remarkably good one — was put together for a live Q&A on the Book of Mormon, moderated by Scott Gordon, the president of FAIR.  The panel members were Kerry Hull, Brant Gardner, and, to the great delight of many of us (since he’s been struggling with serious health issues), Mark Wright.  “We are in the best position that we’ve ever been in,” Kerry Hull said with regard to the evidentiary status of the Book of Mormon and reflecting the consensus of the panel.  “And I guarantee that we’ll be in an even better position in the next twenty years.”  This was a really good conversation.  Watch it when you can.

The concluding speaker for today and for the conference as a whole was Steve Densley, who is the (extremely helpful) executive vice president of the Interpreter Foundation. He offered a very clarifying discussion of the matter of “Proving the Church is True.” (That title was was plainly chosen to disturb hypersensitive critics as little as possible.)  You can read the essay from which his remarks were drawn in the new volume Steadfast in Defense of Faith.  His closing comments were very congruent with John Gee’s argument, made earlier in the day.)  During the presentation, a friend sent a personal message to me, saying that Steve’s remarks were “very Dan-like.”  I agree.  Maybe that’s why I liked them so much:  From The Devil’s Dictionary, by Ambrose Bierce:

ADMIRATION, n. Our polite recognition of another’s resemblance to ourselves.

It was a really good conference, a very rich feast.  If you weren’t able to be there or to hear the presentations, I hope that you’ll avail yourself of opportunities to watch or listen to them as such opportunities arise.  What a great resource FAIR is!



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