I had lunch with Chris Smith yesterday. He’s out here for the Sunstone symposium, and he is presenting a paper on Mormonism as a response to Christian pluralism and Biblical ambiguity.
On his blog, Chris describes a rather poor beginning to his Utah experience, but hopefully our lunch was a step up from a hotel that smelled like dead animals.
I was late, so he had been waiting a while in front of the Sheraton when I picked him up. My first impression was that he’s so young. At 22, he’s slightly older than half my age. At 22 I was trying to decide on a major and attempting to overcome postmission awkwardness in dating. He’s working on a master’s in religious history and presenting at Sunstone, for heaven’s sake.
Anyway, he was with Don Bradley, who had given a presentation that morning, so we got in my crappy car and drove to the Red Iguana. To my surprise, another friend of mine was waiting for us there, so the four of us had lunch in a overcrowded restaurant.
I learned that Chris has been actively studying Mormonism and Mormon issues since he was 16 or so. That of course made me feel even shallower, as at 16 I was more interested in whoever I was dating and in going to the beach. Oh, well. Chris, on the other hand, knows as much about the Book of Abraham papyri and the issues surrounding the “translation” than just about anyone I know. He has repeatedly made BYU professor John Gee look either incompetent or dishonest with his thoughtful analysis of the issues. Not surprisingly, his interaction with Gee and others has made him some enemies among Mormon apologists.
Unfortunately, with four of us there, I didn’t get to pick his brain like I wanted to, but it was nice talking to him.