Every year the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research hosts a conference discussing some of the most controversial topics of Mormonism--the kind that reporters like to write about, yet rarely get very right--in a manner that confronts the issues head on but from faithful perspectives; that is, faithful both to scholarship and to the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which does not sponsor the event).
I don't live in Utah, where the conferences take place, so I eagerly await reading what I can as soon as it's published on the FAIR website. This year's postings have not disappointed.
For August 2nd, three papers are posted. The first, by Joshua Johansen, an active Mormon man with same-sex attraction who is happily married to a woman, discusses the idea that not all men with SSA want to be in a same-sex relationship precisely because they believe in the promises of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Second is a paper by Neylan McBain on the issue of gender-based roles within the Church, especially within its so-called hierarchy, wherein she very expertly advises Mormons to stop trying to play the men and women's authority and callings within the Church are equal card, as it destroys our credibility with any who actually know something about the way things work in the Church. She suggests that we refrain from describing men and women's roles within the Church according to a secular paradigm of power and instead describe these roles according to a cooperative paradigm. She also gives a number of excellent suggestions on how women and girls can be better involved in all levels of service in the wards and stakes.
Third comes John Sorenson's fascinating account of the numerous connections between Book of Mormon and ancient Mesoamerican geography, culture, religion, and more. Professor Sorenson is the leading Mormon scholar in this field, so far as I am aware (read some of his publications here), who also recently rebutted a fellow (but non-Mormon) Mesoamericanist's attempted refutation of the ancient origins of the Book of Mormon.
And for August 3rd, we have a very interesting piece by a non-Mormon on the similarities in the way believing Mormons, heterodox Mormons, and former Mormons discuss their conversion and de-conversion stories. That a non-Mormon would want to participate at the annual conference of Mormon apologetics is an indication of the ever-increasing importance of Mormon apologetics and scholarship in the minds of serious academics. Hugh Nibley, the god-father of modern Mormon scholarship (and Mormonism's preeminent apologist) would no doubt be happy at such a turn of events.
These, of course, aren't the only presentations that were made at the recent FAIR conference. Many others were made, but the text of the presentations haven't yet been posted. There are many wonderful papers from previous conferences, though, to tide you over in the meantime.
(Additional reports on the FAIR conference can be found here and here.)