Using all our tools
The Sunstone posse drove up to Seattle this weekend to run Sunstone Symposium Northwest.
The program was quite an interesting one. We heard a presentation from Spencer Ellsworth on how Mormonism’s unique theology helped a small group of hippies in San Francisco to kick their drug habit. Then we got to hear from Mormonism’s premier folklorist, Bert Wilson, and the granddaddy of the Mormon short story, Doug Thayer.
I think the highlight of the symposium was a presentation by Ron Walker, who set forth a compelling and compassionate view of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, based on the book he helped author, Massacre at Mountain Meadows, published by Oxford University Press. If you haven’t picked this book up, I would highly recommend it. Apparently Walker and his co-authors had unprecedented access to LDS Church archives, so it has a lot of new information in it.
We also had two panel discussions, one on how women balance work and family, and one called “This I Believe – Mormon Style.” Where the panelists read short essays focusing on one aspect of their belief systems. Use the links to watch Kristine Haglund and Molly Bennion read their essays.
And, of course, there was the post-symposium gathering where I got into intense discussions with Kristine, Steve Evans, and J. Stapley among others. The best thing about those discussions was how skillful these people are at the art of conversation. I started remembering just how much I enjoy interacting with people who are both passionate about their views and relentlessly self-reflective. People who don’t just let you talk so that they can talk next, but who react authentically to what you have said.
I know I’ve been part of a good conversation when I come out of it with new ideas. And I came out with a lot.
There’s really nothing like a Sunstone symposium. Gathering with the explicit purpose of bringing intellect to bear on spiritual and religious matters leaves me feeling elated for days. After all, intellect is an innate part of our being and I think God is pleased when we can integrate it with our spirituality and physicality, because when we do, we are using all our tools as we work out our salvation.