Imagine if someone were to create a community where all interested or connected to Mormon thought in any way, shape, or form were welcomed and accepted? It exists, and it’s meeting in SLC this weekend. I just returned from my first day of Sunstone (ever), and I have to sit and process what I just experienced. The following are the highlights of my day:
- Breakfast: I got to know fellow Sunstoners at my breakfast table: an LGBT+ mormon feminist, a couple from Detroit who are from the Bickertonite/Rigdon sect (Church of Jesus Christ), and an older gentleman who has been coming to Sunstone for years (the sunstone crowd skews much older, white male than I expected).
- Dissent in Christian Communities: Listened to biblical scholar Dominic Crossan and D. Michael Quinn discuss the role of dissent in the Christian and Mormon communities. I almost fell off of my chair when Crossan said he’s not impressed by the Reformation and also when he proclaimed not to believe in the second coming (FYI He never left, He is with us always and His Spirit is rampant in the world). Quinn shared that it’s all too easy to see yourself as a white knight and inflate your importance as a dissenter; and to remember that slow, steady, and faithful dissent wins the race.
- Finding Wisdom Amidst the Quest for Certainty: Listened to a panel from the Thoughtful Faith community; a variety of viewpoints along the scale of orthodoxy were presented in a loving, respectful manner. When Paul Malan testified how his dying father found a way to let him know he was “Mormon enough,” there was nary a dry eye in the room. I found these sessions very faith affirming. This is what I hoped for when thinking Sunstone might be right for me.
After lunch everything went kind of off the rails. I’m convinced turning time over for open Q&As is usually a bad idea. The following are the more interesting parts that might make the orthodox run screaming the other way:
- Polygamy/Polyandry/TMI: I attended panel on Mormon fundamentalism that included people who have left and people who have joined polygamous communities; I appreciated what the practicing polygamist shared as it humanized the consensual practice of polygamy (wo abusive situations). During the Q&A someone talked about their polyamorous relationships and threesomes. Today I learned it’s not orthodoxy that makes people cross boundaries and ask about fertility/sex life, apparently it’s just a fixture across the spectrum.
- Women Preaching/Atheists Testifying: After hearing the amazing Fatimah Salleh (a #femwoc who was a Muslim, converted to Mormonism, and is currently attending divinity school at Duke) give a sermon on Finding the God that Calls to You, a workshop was held on faith transitions and was to support everyone no matter where on your faith journey you are. I have to admit it was the first time I’ve ever heard someone bear testimony of Richard Dawkins.
Conclusion: I’m an unorthodox, liberal mormon in Rexburg and a fairly faithful saint at Sunstone. Just like all communities – you can find what you are looking for. I feel I was able to take what strengthened me and leave what didn’t on the table. If you are at Sunstone this weekend I’ll be live tweeting my sessions (if wifi starts working) under #sunstone. I’m presenting on Saturday at 3:45 on Infertility in Mormonism. If you run into me say hello, I promise not to bite.
Were you at Sunstone today? if so what were your highlights and/or things that would have skeered your bishop? I heard Dan Vogel was compelling in his argument of Joseph as a pious fraud – so please share!
p.s. Andrew S will also be presenting on the Intersection of Mormon Heteronormativity, Race, Respectability and Grace on Friday at 3:45