Next week, on Thursday and Friday, Aug. 4-5, this year’s FairMormon conference —the foremost annual gathering of Latter-day Saint apologists (or defenders of the faith) — will be at the Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo. It’s open to the public and geared to a general audience.

Founded in late 1997 as the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, or FAIR, and rechristened in 2013, FairMormon has generated a great deal of useful material over its nearly two decades of existence (some of that is on display at, for example). But the organization’s annual conference remains, in many ways, its most visible and accessible effort. This year’s will be the 18th in the series. (See for materials from earlier conferences.)

As always, deliberately and by design, the 2016 conference will offer a wide range of speakers and topics. The goal is to provide faithful answers to questions that arise regarding the Restoration and its claims, to strengthen testimonies and to provide means for defending the faith.

Linguists Royal Skousen and Stanford Carmack will open the conference on Aug. 4 with a joint presentation entitled “Finishing Up the Book of Mormon Critical Text Project: An Introduction to the History of the Text of the Book of Mormon.” Their work on the Book of Mormon, which (in the case of Skousen) extends back over a quarter of a century, has delivered both significant and surprising results, and this presentation will help its audience to put those in perspective.

Carmack and Skousen will be followed by military historian Morgan Deane, who brings his background and interests to bear on the topic of insurgency in the Book of Mormon. His remarks bear the enigmatic title “Climbing a Tree to Find a Fish.” Historian Matt Grow will speak next, offering insights into the 1844-1846 minutes of the Council of Fifty, whereupon Matt Roper will discuss the sometimes hotly debated topic of “Mesoamerican Swords and Cimiters in the Book of Mormon.”

Psychologist Wendy Ulrich will present “What I hope we will teach our daughters (and sons) about the priesthood.” Jill Mulvay Derr, long affiliated with the historical department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the former managing director of the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History at Brigham Young University, will speak to those in attendance about Eliza R. Snow and the 1868 “restoration” of the Relief Society. The final speaker on Thursday, Ally Isom, currently serves as the director of the Division of Family and Community Relations in the Public Affairs Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Convinced that “talking about differences transforms,” she will discuss the subject of “Faith-Centered Dialectics.”

The presentations Aug. 5 will open with a presentation by Ben McGuire of “The Book of Mormon as a Communicative Act: Translation in Context.” Kathryn Shirts will then return to the very timely and, in some circles, controversial topic of women and religious authority in the church, with “Daughters of Christ: Finding Language to Talk about Women’s Share in Priesthood.”

Grant Hardy, formerly chairman of the Department of History at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, will attempt to outline a path toward “More Effective Apologetics.”

The next speaker Aug. 5 will be Patrick Mason, who occupies the Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at California’s Claremont Graduate University. He will speak about “The Courage of Our Convictions: Embracing Mormonism in a Secular Age.” Ralph Hancock, a political philosopher based at Brigham Young University who never flees from difficult or contentious issues, will present a paper entitled “’Love Wins,’ and Charity Loses.” Then Brian Stubbs, who has proposed intriguing connections between Uto-Aztecan and Semitic languages, will speak on “Changes in Languages from Nephi to Now.”

The last speaker on Friday, presumably chosen for his remarkable capacity to make the end of the conference an occasion for rejoicing rather than sorrow, is the author of this column. This year, my remarks are titled “The Logic-Tree of Life, or, Why I Can’t Manage to Disbelieve.”

FairMormon is led and staffed by volunteers, and speakers at the conference receive no pay for their presentations. A small entrance fee is charged at the conference in order to defray expenses (such as the rental of the conference venue). All are welcome to attend.

For further details regarding the 2016 FairMormon conference, including the schedule of speakers and registration information, see

Daniel Peterson teaches Arabic studies, founded BYU’s Middle Eastern Texts Initiative, directs, chairs, blogs daily at, and speaks only for himself.