By Jordan Muhlestein
SANDY – Spirituality plays an important role in sexuality, a psychologist and medical professor said Thursday, August 5.
“Whether an individual is religious or not,” said Dean Byrd, a clinical professor in the School of Medicine at the University of Utah, “there seems to be a need for a spiritual connection when dealing with sexuality.”
Byrd, along with six other speakers, opened the Sixth Annual Conference for the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, a conference defending the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
More than 150 people participated in the first day of the FAIR at the South Towne Exposition Center.
FAIR, started in 1997 by a group of members of the LDS Church who met online, is a non-profit organization dedicated to defending the church against detractors. The group operates a Web site that acts as a repository for questions and answers about the church.
Byrd said he has worked with men who had been distressed by unwanted homosexual attraction.
“There is a considerable body of ideologically inspired ”scholarship” that leans toward the notion that homosexuality is so strongly compelled by biological factors that it is indelibly ingrained in a person”s core identity, and is therefore not amenable to change,” he said. “Many of these articles, though well-written, do not reflect good science.”
Byrd said biology alone is not enough to make someone homosexual. Gender non-conformity is the most common observable factor that leads to homosexuality, he said, citing reputations as being a “sissy” or a “tomboy” as one of those traits.
He said once a person shows homosexual tendencies, they are not necessarily homosexual for life.
“Sexuality is highly fluid,” Byrd said, “and reversals are theoretically possible.”
Thursday”s session also included a talk by Brant Gardner, a Mesoamerican researcher, about the Book of Mormon in a historical context.
“The Book of Mormon makes complete sense,” Gardner said, “but only when put in the correct historical context.”
Gardner analyzed the story of Ammon defending the flocks of King Lamoni, and explained why some of Ammon”s choices, that seem odd at first, actually follow historical Mesoamerican patterns.
For example, when Ammon rejects the option to marry one of the king”s daughters and opts to be a servant instead, Lamoni doesn”t seem upset. This is because if they were married, Lamoni would have to accept Ammon, an outsider, as one of his own family, Gardner said.
Other topics for the day included women in the church, being a black member of the church and the existence of life before birth.
This conference is different from the first one, which took place six years ago in the Bay Area, said Lance Starr, media manager for FAIR.
“The first conference had more speakers than guests.” Starr said. “We had eight speakers and only six guests.”
The last two conferences have been at Utah Valley State College, but Starr said the group had outgrown those facilities.
“We have about 170 people pre-registered, and we”re expecting about 20 walk-ins,” he said.
Today”s session will include a talk about the Apostasy by Roger Keller, a former Presbyterian minister who now teaches religion at BYU. The conference resumes today at 8 a.m., with one-day fees of $29.95 for students and $34.95 for everyone else.