Last Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, I attended the 2014 Sunstone Symposium. The Sunstone Symposium is affiliated with the magazine Sunstone. (No surprise there.) If Sunstone magazine is to heretical Mormons what the Ensign is to traditional Mormons, then I suppose you could say that the Sunstone Symposium is the heretical Mormon equivalent of General Conference. (I kid. Sort of.)
This was my first time attending Sunstone. It was a really cool experience. One of the neatest things for me is that I was able to meet many wonderful people whom I had previously known only through online resources, such as Facebook groups. This includes several behind-the-scenes people who work with Exploring Sainthood, the website and project for which I am a blog manager. (The site is currently undergoing a transformation and rebirth, so stay tuned about that.) These people have been very meaningful in my life over the last couple of years, especially as I’ve gone through quite a faith transition. (A transition that leaves me Mormon but with a changed outlook on many things.) I have a great deal of love and respect for these people, and I was thrilled to become “real life” friends with them. It was incidental to my attending Sunstone, but it was still the best part of my experience.
I didn’t have it in me to attend three full days of lectures, presentations, devotionals, and discussion panels. Had I wanted to, I could have been at Sunstone from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. all three days. That was a bit much. I stuck around until 6:30 p.m. on my first day, but bailed at 3:30 on Friday and Saturday. That was plenty for me. I was worn out by the time the three days were over.
Some of the talks I attended were better than others. I was drawn to several theological talks, but those typically ended up being a bit more dry. The standout sessions, for me, ended up being those where people simply shared their own personal faith journeys. This includes famous excommunicated Mormons such as Paul Toscano, D. Michael Quinn, and Lavina Fielding Anderson (who comprise half of the so-called September Six), all of whom remain at least somewhat committed to Mormonism, and people who converted away from LDS Mormonism to other faiths (such as Universal Unitarianism and the Community of Christ). I feel a love for people who share their personal stories, and regardless of where people ended up or how they interpret their experiences within the LDS Church (be they good or bad), I find that listening to them with love and compassion only inspires me to be a better person, a more Christlike person as I understand the term. I also find myself well aware of how absurd it is that so many of my fellow Mormons would consider these presentations to be heretical, when the values being promoted are following Christ’s example, following what the scriptures say, loving one another, seeking the fruits of the Spirit, avoiding idolatry, and other such “heretical” ideas.
My Sunstone weekend was capped by two gatherings with my fellow Exploring Sainthood peeps. On Saturday night, Melanie and I took the kids to someone’s house for an open Exploring Sainthood social gathering. And then, on Sunday, I went to a “work” dinner for those of us who are, for the lack of a better term (and definitely with the lack of any kind of paycheck), the “employees” of Exploring Sainthood. We talked about the direction we hope to take this project. I hope some of our ideas can come to fruition, because ES has been a labor of love for me. Some of our aspirations are quite big, but I guess that makes things exciting. The dinner was also nice in that I met a few people who hadn’t been at Sunstone. And my fellow Exploring Saint Lisa DeLong (whom I did meet at Sunstone) was generous enough to give me a couple of prints of her amazing art. If you check out this online gallery, you’ll get an idea of the style of prints I chose.
And that’s that. The end!