Companionship and Community

So, last Friday, I sat by one of my very out, gay, former Mormon friends and a bunch of other people–active and not active Mormons–and sang the entire score of _Saturday’s Warrior_. My friend was the best. I think I came in third. He knew EVERY WORD. It was a riot. Even though he has started a different spiritual journey from the one he first began, he is at peace with his Mormon tradition–which includes not only the First Vision but “The Circle of Our Love.” The best part, of course, was that all of us at the sing-along are academic types in our day-to-day. I think we hid it extremely well as we tried to hit the notes of “Jimmy, Oh Jimmy, don’t listen to them–how can they say they’re your friends?”

I began my Sunstone at San Jose adventure by taking a call from my husband just as I was checking in to the hotel. His father had just died. My first instinct was to get back on the plane and fly home to hug Bruce. I didn’t fly home, but I thought a lot about companionship. I have been with my husband twice this past year for hard losses: first when his baby sister died, and then, only a few months later, when his heartbroken mother passed. I hated having him go through the first parts of grieving without me at his side. My thoughts about companionship continued.

The truth is, my in-laws did not have a terribly good marriage. There was a lot of fighting. But once Grandma died, the lack of companionship proved simply too much for Grandpa. In his last years, there wasn’t much in his life–Bingo, Perry Mason books, church activity, and “Wheel of Fortune”–but she had been beside him, shouting out the right letters. Her presence and her absence mattered, it seems, down to his very cells.

At Sunstone events, active Mormons associate with inactive or former Mormons and find common ground and room for respect and conversation. I never feel the conflict _Saturday’s Warrior_ sets up–between friends, family, and self. We are not defined by our differences, though differences are certainly acknowledged. We manage to celebrate and explore what we share. All such gatherings ultimately remind us of how precious we are to one another. Yes, we might gain a little knowledge in the process, but it’s the communal experience which abides. I would say the same of the Church: it’s not just that we’re there; it’s that we’re there with others, learning simple lessons about getting along.

In a similar vein, let me endorse a superb gathering which is only for women. Let’s face it, we women sometimes need time just with our own gender. Men can hamper things a bit. The gathering is called the Rocky Mountain Retreat, and is held at a beautiful cabin at the Snow Mountain Ranch, Colorado. I attended one year and loved it. The speakers are always superb, the food spectacular, the scenery to die for, conversation and companionship invigorating. You can even take a lovely trip to some natural springs for a natural, healing sauna. For more information on this year’s retreat, go here:

Comments

  1. It’s kind of funny. The whole time I was at Sunstone I was wishing my sister could be there. As a member of the GLBT community, she really feels like an outsider. I’ve encouraged her to make contact with Mormon GLBT people, but she said, “There’s no such thing as a Mormon gay. That’s an oxymoron.”

    It really is a place where Mormons of all stripes can get together.

  2. It was good to see you, mmiles. And thanks for your spontaneous “This I Believe” contribution. It was lovely.

  3. I’m not sure I’d fit in at an event like Sunstone. Never seen Saturday’s Warrior, although I know what it is. That’s one subcultural disconnect that I’ve never felt the need to remedy.

  4. A couple of years ago I worked on a research project that required me to read (or at least skim) all the past Sunstone issues in existence, many of which contained records of the various Sunstone conferences. Prior to that summer, I never placed much value on such events, and while I still don’t really expect that I would find myself attending Sunstone conferences (lack of interest in conferences generally) I think I now appreciate how important those conferences are for providing a place where individuals with diverse opinions on Mormon-related topics can find community and support that is rarely found in a chapel.

  5. I’m feeling even sadder about missing Sunstone right now. I was really looking forward to the Saturday’s Warrior singalong. Was this the film version from the early 80s? I have heard that “We’ve all got Daddy’s Nose” is left out of it– is that true?

    As for the Retreat, it’s one event that I refuse to miss. I go partly for the friends, partly for the mountains (although the pine bark beetles are wreaking havoc on the trees), and partly for the great sessions. Some of the women that I know only through the retreat are also some of the best friends I have just because the atmosphere there is so conducive to real conversations.

    There are always a few new women every year, so no one should stay away due to shyness– we’re a very friendly group.

  6. Ironically enough, the little town in the link “Protect your food storage!” in the left sidebar is Granby CO, the little town near Snow Mountain Ranch where the retreat meets. The rampage was the week after the retreat, a few years ago.

  7. .

    Margaret—

    I need to apologize to you—by timing my blabber about your DVD as I did, I prevented you from meeting my friend Foxy J who would have had much more intelligent things to talk with you about, such as Standing on the Promises which she loved. Someday when you do meet her I hope you will forgive me.

  8. I went to the rocky mtn retreat the past two years, and it was a tremendous experience. Honestly, I never feel more accepted and understood than at these things.

  9. Margaret, I really love your inclusive notion of community. Ultimately, I think any community is probably defined in part by its diversity, so I loved your sing-a-long description.

  10. Kevin Barney says:

    I wonder if I went in drag if anyone would notice I wasn’t actually a woman and kick me out. Sounds like terrific fun.

  11. To Whom It May Concern: Please reserve a spot for Kevinnea Barney, Kevin’s twin sister, for the Rocky Mountain Retreat.
    Th–I don’t remember anyone blabbering, but I’d love to meet Foxy J. I did hear her talk. Didn’t she also do a spontaneous “This I Believe” thing? It was great. Very cool lady.
    P.S. Great Mother’s Day gift: Rocky Mountain Retreat for any mother who needs a little break

  12. Well, Kevinnea’s got to get her money in soon. :) I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for her to welcome her.

  13. Margaret, send me an e-mail. I will provide our address. Make the check for the retreat, travel and lodging payable to me. Overnight it. I will make sure my wife can meet you there. :)

  14. Kevinnea, if Rocky Mountain Retreat doesn’t work out, come on up to Midwest Pilgrims in Rockford IL on May 15-17.

    http://littlelit.com/midwestpilgrims/index.html

  15. Oh, Kevinnea, please do come to Midwest Pilgrims! I’ve been asked to lead a discussion on your twin brother’s excellent Mother in Heaven article and would be more than happy to turn that over to you. On a related note, do you or your brother know if it is possible to get a digital copy to distribute to registrants?

  16. Margaret,

    We didn’t quite meet at Sunstone despite the fact that we attended each other’s presentations and made comments. I was quite pleased when you quoted Levinas during the discussion portion of my presentation. We should talk, seems like there is some strong common ground there. I also wanted to hear more about what you were saying concerning responsibility for the other, and social justice being more present in Mormon thought, regardless of our history. I believe you said we make to much of the history, is that right?

  17. Douglas–I teach at BYU. Please e-mail me. I definitely want to connect. Levinas is one of my passions. And I loved your film.

  18. I very much enjoyed your documentary, Margaret. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to introduce myself personally, but another Symposium, perhaps.

    I, too, love the diversity at Sunstone. Although I’ve never been a Mormon or seen Saturday’s Warrior, I always feel right at home there.

  19. Margaret–I would have loved to meet and talk with you, and I will definitely order your film so I can finally see it (keep missing it wherever I go).

    Douglas–I also greatly enjoyed your film and the discussion afterwards.

    Th.–don’t worry about it :)

    And I went to Sunstone primarily for the presentations but found that I loved the chance to make new connections and strengthen friendships even more. I didn’t attend the Friday night event because I’m not familiar with Saturday’s Warrior, but perhaps I should have just for the chance to get to know others better.

  20. How is it possible that so many people are unacquainted with such great works as Saturday’s Warrior?

  21. #20 – Good taste or good luck?

  22. #20–I know, it’s simply shocking. What’s next–Mormons who’ve never heard of Johnny Lingo? ;)

    I was sorry to miss the Saturday’s Warrior sing-a-long, but–as always–I found the rest of Sunstone to be an entertaining mix of presentations and (more importantly) getting to hang out with fun people. Like Margaret and others who’ve commented here, I enjoy seeing what a wide variety of people (Mormons, former Mormons, and those who’ve never been Mormon) claim some kind of connection to the Mormon community, and I find it fascinating to hear the different ways in which people articulate their faith (or lack of faith).

  23. John Hamer says:

    I love a good Saturday’s Warrior sing-a-long. I know all the words by heart too.

  24. Mark N. says:

    As long as it’s cool to have a singalong promoting questionable LDS doctrine in the form of “Saturday’s Warrior”, we should ask Lex D. to write a good LDS musical that promotes the Adam/God theory. Just imagine the fun singalongs that could be had with that one. ;-)

  25. Margaret- Excellent, I will send you an email directly. As I said I really enjoyed Nobody Knows, I’l still mulling over different aspects of it.

    Thanks Foxyj, I wish you had introduced yourself, since I am familiar with your web presence.

    I think at the next Sunstone everyone needs to have their blog site and web moniker on their name tags. Its odd when the real and the virtual intersect and we don’t realize its happening.

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