It’s fair to say that FAIR, an independent group of defenders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has gone through some significant changes in its quarter century of existence — if not in its mission, at least in its moniker.
In 1997, the nonprofit was born as the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research to explain and proclaim the policies, practices and preachings of the faith when they come under fire from critics.
The term “apologetic” — which meant to “reason” and “argue,” not to “apologize” — proved confusing, however, so, 16 years later, FAIR morphed into FairMormon to more clearly communicate the group’s purpose.
“We thought of ourselves as ‘Mormon,’” recalls President Scott Gordon, “and we want the facts to be covered ‘FAIRly.’”
Now, with church President Russell M. Nelson urging scholars, media and members to cease using “Mormon” and “LDS” when referring to the denomination and its adherents, it was time for another name change.
“Being faithful members, we wanted to comply, but we struggled to come up with another name that everyone liked. We really struggled,” Gordon writes in a Saturday newsletter and blog post. “Remember, we are the same group that came up with the first name that nobody understood.”
That debate has been settled. FAIR will now be known as FAIR.
“Yes, that sounds a lot like our old name ... but this new name is completely different,” Gordon writes. “The old name was an acronym for the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research. The new FAIR name stands for ‘Faithful Answers, Informed Response.’”
The group also is dropping “Mormon” from its website URL. FAIR now can be found at www.fairlatterdaysaints.org. More and more institutions, departments, organizations and websites inside and outside the church have heeded Nelson’s call and altered their names.
When the new FAIR provides “faithful answers” and an “informed response,” Gordon adds, it wants to do so in a Christlike manner.
That means “avoiding personal attacks or derogatory language” against critics, he says. “This does not mean we won’t point out faulty reasoning and misleading claims, or boldly defend our doctrine. ... We are not stepping away from fact-checking, or defending the church. Indeed, we embrace it fully. We just want to do it in the way that we believe the Savior would approve.”
FAIR drew some flak recently for enlisting a handful of Brigham Young University actors and writers to produce satirical videos that targeted the writings of a particular church detractor. Some saw the snarky, mocking tone as out of place; others viewed the videos as a novel, humorous way to reach younger Latter-day Saints.
Gordon confirmed Monday that the videos had been removed Sunday evening as part of FAIR’s effort to ensure that its content “is in line with our branding and direction.”