A Place Where Mormons Are Hip
It was Friday night. Late. So I called my wife.
“Honey, do you mind if I stay an extra day?” I pleaded.
Before I had left, I told her that I was only going for two days. But I absolutely had to stay for one more.
You see, I was at my first Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium, and I was convinced at that moment that being a Mormon was the coolest thing in the world.
For me, Mormonism is about exploration and creation. Our history is full of explorers: Lehi and his family, Zeniff, Hagoth, the Sons of Mosiah, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young. All of them used their unique worldview and mission to forge new paths and create new spiritual insights. And that’s what these people at Sunstone were doing. They were taking the blocks of Mormonism and saying, “Now what can we build with this?”
This year, we have all sorts of interesting people coming. For example, a number of bloggers from Feminist Mormon Housewives will be presenting panels on “How Blogging Helps Process the Travails and Triumphs of Motherhood,” and “Bridging Stereotypes through Blogging.”
Michael Farnworth, a retired professor from Rick’s College, and an insightful speaker on marriage, will be presenting on integrating feminine energy into marriage. His 2007 session, “Fantasy Bonds in Eternal Marriages” is on my top 10 list.
Dr. Caitlin Ryan of San Francisco State University has done extensive research on families with homosexual children and will present the implications of her research to LDS contexts.
We’ll also have apostles from the Community of Christ (formerly the RLDS Church), some big-name and not-so-big-name-but-still-very-interesting scholars (both LDS and non-LDS), filmmakers, authors, and yes, even some LDS mediums.
Subjects we’ll be covering include Mormon literature, activism, history, and popular culture. We’ll also have practical panels on supporting special needs children in the Church, and being a stay-at-home mom. The much-loved “Pillars of My Faith,” “Why We Stay,” and “This I Believe” sessions will also make their annual appearance.
One of the things I love best about the symposium is the ability of its attendees to fight gracefully. At the 2008 symposium, a first-time attendee took serious issue with the thesis of one presenter and the two had an intense—rather loud—discussion afterward. This year, the former first-time attendee is going to be on a panel where she can present her viewpoint on the subject they were debating. You can bet some serious thought has gone into her presentation.
But my favorite thing about the symposium is what happens to me while I’m there. M. Scott Peck writes in his book The Different Drum, that a well-functioning community is one that has created “a laboratory for personal disarmament.” Somehow, the atmosphere at symposiums is such that the masks I usually wear start to drop off. I find myself becoming more willing to “experiment more deeply … with love and trust.” I begin to see the “suffering and courage and brokenness and deeper dignity” of the people around me. And I begin to open.
This happens to me at every symposium. It’s the main reason I’d keep going back even if I weren’t Sunstone’s editor.
By all means, if you haven’t given the symposium a try before, join us this year. The registration rates are ridiculously inexpensive, and we offer a hefty discount for first-time attendees. If you just haven’t come for a few years, we’d love to have you back. Heck, we might even let regular attendees in.