Sunstone Symposium

Last Friday I attended the Sunstone Symposium in Salt Lake City. Sunstone is “an annual gathering of Latter-day Saints, scholars, and others interested in the diversity and richness of Mormon thought and experience” committed to “free and frank exploration and discussion.”

Currently I’m working on a project to help traditional Christians better understand the Mormon people as a people: their daily life experience, their values and priorities, their sense of identity, and so forth. While Sunstone represents only one segment of Mormonism, I found a wealth of insight into the Mormon experience.

Below are the sessions I attended. I’ll share more detailed analysis of what I learned in the next few posts.

“Women in the LDS Church Handbook of Instructions”
The Handbook of Instructions sets policy for local LDS church leaders. This session reviewed changes in the most recent manual that effect how Latter-day Saints experience life in their congregation.

“Sacred Sci-Fi: The Fiction of Orson Scott Card as Mormon Mythmaking.”
This one wasn’t what I hoped for. I wanted to explore myth in LDS culture, but it was more about the perspectives and agenda of one particular author.

“Why We Stay”
Five people shared why they remain active members of the LDS Church even though they are not committed to the church’s aims or to core Mormon beliefs. This was the most valuable session, revealing important “glues” that maintain people’s connection to Mormonism.

“Conspiracy, Delusion, or Revelation? The 180-Year Controversy over the Book of Mormon Witnesses”
This session didn’t address my interest in the Mormon people, but after writing “Understanding the Book of Mormon” I wanted to see how the different perspectives about the Book of Mormon witnesses compared to what I wrote about the topic in my book.

“Cross at the Cross: LDS Contempt for the Christian Symbol”
Latter-day Saints have not always been averse to displaying the cross. This paper explained why the cross is not a common symbol in Mormon architecture and art.

“Mormon Polygamy: New Perspectives – From Joseph Smith to Warren Jeffs”
I started at a different session, but it quickly proved to be less than I expected. So I switched to this discussion of various aspects of polygamy as practiced by Joseph Smith and in current times.

1 thought on “Sunstone Symposium

  1. I hear that Orson Scott Card’s series on Ender is rife with LDS theology. I have only read Ender’s game, which has subtle LDS nuances. It reminded me of the remade Battlestar Galactica series, which talks about the planet Kobol (from where all the characters came), exalted bodies, and other interesting Mormon distinctives. I had never seen it until some of my friends who were sci-fi junkies sat me down to watch some episodes.

    It seems like the creation of stories holds an important role in most cultures. L. Ron Hubbard created an entire religion from his sci-fi writings. It is as though we see the application of principles when someone is given a blank slate on which to write and create a world where the dry bones of specific theologies, epistemologies, and cosmologies can be fleshed out and fictitiously breathed into life, with the author in the role of creator.

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