Monday, August 09, 2010

Sunstone Symposium, 2010

Mormonism moving beyond its infancy, scholars say at Sunstone
Deseret News

Unlike some American religious movements, Mormonism has moved beyond its infancy and adolescent stages into a continually maturing faith that depends on its orthodox, institutional power structure and a strong sense of right and wrong.

The structure and defined moral ethic are part of what give the faith its staying power, according to two religious historians, who discussed the characteristics of new religious movements during the opening general session of the annual Sunstone Symposium Wednesday night.

Young progressives join mix at Sunstone
Salt Lake Tribune

Amid Sunstone's typical potpourri of scholarly and personal approaches, though, there also will be healthy involvement by a new generation of Mormon thinkers, who mostly meet one another online as bloggers on church-related topics.
For example, a group from the lively will explore the evolution of Mormon feminism.

"Bloggers are a lot of fun to hang out with online," says symposium chair Mary Ellen Robertson. "But it's 100 times more fun to hang out in person. It's great to have them bring their discussions from the blog to the symposium."...

Reasons for Technological Interpretations of Mormonism

How often have we heard the question: are science and religion compatible? And yet, how many of us are still waiting for the answer? What are we waiting for? Do we expect someone will discover or reveal the answer? Could it be discovered or revealed without begging the question? For example, can we use science to answer a question about science, without already assuming its axioms and methods? Likewise, for religion, can we use it to answer a question about itself, without starting from faith?
(transcript available at above link)

Symposium analyzes cow's role in handcart tragedy
Deseret News

Did one small cow contribute to the 1856 Willie and Martin handcart disaster, in which some 220 people perished?

It did, according to an Idaho State University professor who spoke on the subject at a Sunstone Symposium session Friday afternoon at the Sheraton Hotel.

"The thing we can blame mostly is one small cow," Trent D. Stephens said, adding a new twist to the often-told pioneer tragedy.

Glenn Beck vs. LDS Church

Sunstone Magazine's blog offers a long meditation, as only Sunstone can, on the impact of Glenn Beck on Mormonism. Beck, a Mormon, and other talk-show rabble rousers' popularity among the Mormon faithful are a problem for the church under President Thomas S. Monson that reels from such gratuitous nastiness. Church owned KSL radio has begun a purge of tough-talk shows, including the highly rated Sean Hannity.

Sunstone's Stephen Carter offers examples of Beckspew, including:
"I'm thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I'm wondering if I could kill him myself or if I would need to hire somebody to do it."

Contrast that with The Mormon Ethic of Civility:

"The moral basis of civility is the Golden Rule . . . : 'And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise' (Luke 6:31). This ethic of reciprocity reminds us all of our responsibility toward one another and reinforces the communal nature of human life."

Probably more troubling to the socially conservative LDS leadership than Beck's attacks on liberals and Democrats is his embrace of kookier fringe ideas floating around in Mormondom. Take the "White Horse Prophecy" that foretells a Mormon saving the nation when the Constitution "hangs by a thread." Says Carter:

Beck appears to see himself as one of those called to . . . "step forth" to "save [the Constitution] from utter destruction," "to rescue that great and glorious palladium of our liberty." Judging from his rhetoric, Beck seems to believe he's on a divinely appointed mission to fulfill modern-day prophecy. It is important to note that various apostles and presidents of the Church have disavowed the authenticity of at least some portions of White Horse Prophecy and have distanced themselves from some of its more extreme predictions...

Interfaith leader calls gay marriage legal issue
Salt Lake Tribune

People of faith should engage in civil dialogue about gay marriage, but government should rely on the U.S. Constitution -- not religion -- in deciding who can marry, the head of the national Interfaith Alliance said Friday.

The Rev. C. Welton Gaddy says marriage is a legal issue in the United States and only government can grant a marriage license.

"Religions care about it, yes, but you can't get married because of your religion," Gaddy said during a presentation on religious freedom at Sunstone, an annual forum for Mormon culture and academic study in Salt Lake City.

Sunstone Offers Gay Panels

Once again, several papers, panels and presentations about gay and lesbian Mormons will be part of the Sunstone Symposium, an annual event that explores the complexities of LDS history, religion, culture, art and politics on what its parent organization calls "free and frank" terms.

Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy of Monroe, Louisiana's Northminster Church will present the paper "Same-Gender Marriage & Religious Freedom: A Call to Quiet Conversations and Public Debates" about the ways in which society can shift the debate over gay marriage from "a scriptural argument to a religious liberty agreement," which includes the promise of equal rights under the U.S. Constitution.

Hugo Olaiz will moderate a panel on responses to 8: The Mormon Proposition, Reed Cowan's controversial documentary about the LDS Church's role in passing California's Proposition 8, which re-banned same-sex marriage in the state. Here, panelists Laura Crompton of and author Robert E. Rees (No More Strangers and Foreigners: A Christian Mormon Response to Homosexuality) will discuss the film's strengths and weaknesses, and its influence on same-sex marriage debates as well as the church's behavior towards gay and lesbian members.

Gustav-Wrathall, a University of Minnesota history professor, will present a paper titled "Church, Priesthood, and the Gay/Lesbian Journey Toward Spiritual Maturity" as one of three papers presented between 8:45 and 9:45 a.m. This paper will examine the division between gay and lesbian Mormons who have left the church "via inactivity, excommunication, or suicide" and the "minority" who have remained and "subordinated their need for satisfying relational intimacy to Church law" which prohibits gay sex. Gustav-Wrathall will argue that the path to spiritual growth for gay and lesbian Mormons lies in engaging with tensions such as these.

A trio of papers will be presented as part of The Gay Mormon Literature Project: Johnny Townsend's "The Chosen Family in Gay Mormon Literature," about the families gay Mormons create when blood relatives reject them;  Alan Michael Williams' "Two Paradigms for 'Gay,'" a comparison of his Ockham's Razor and Jonathan Langford's No Going Back, both novels on gay Mormon themes; and "The Family in Latter Days," by Gay Mormon Literature Project founder Gerald S. Argentsinger, which is a study of the popular gay movie Latter Days.

The short film Two Loves: Documenting Gay Mormons' Stories will be screened from 3:30–4:30 p.m. This is a 25-minute documentary featuring interviews with gay Mormons who have left the church, remained in the church, and with author Carol Lynn Pearson, the ex-wife of a gay Mormon man who has written several books about the church's treatment of gays and lesbians. English literature and film student Michelle Ripplinger will present.

"Gay and Mormon on the Stage and Screen." will include the talk "Mormon Mothers as Devices (Key Change-Agents) Used to Reduce the Toxicity of LDS LGBT Inertia." Here, actor Charles Lynn Frost will discuss the insights he has gained into LDS families with gay children in the years he has performed as Sister Dottie S. Dixon, a character who is a Mormon mother with a gay son. In the second presentation, "Coming Out Mormon Style: Three Recent Plays, One by Me," playwright Eric Samuelsen will discuss recent "coming out plays" with LDS themes.

Sister Dottie will also appear in a special one-night performance Aug. 5 with Mr. Deity, the star of a humorous webcast about the life of the ruler of the universe and the troubles of running the cosmos. Mr. Deity is played by Brian Keith Dalton.

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