Shameless Plug

The annual Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium is three weeks away, so it’s time I started spreading the word. I’ll just mention a few things:

1. The program is online in pdf format at Do check it out. Note that students with a valid ID can attend for free and first time attenders are $50 for the whole conference. (Make sure to look over the workshops – Linda King Newell teaching a writing biography workshop – not too shabby!)

2. One panel in particular I’ll mention is session 233 – Internet Mormons vs. Chapel Mormons. Kristine Haglund Harris will join others on this panel that discusses if there is a disconnect between those Mormons who are familiar with online forums, and those who are not. For example, those familiar with Internet forums and websites will tend to accept a much smaller body of canon (ie, not everything said or written by Church leaders is doctrine) – do those unfamiliar with online forums agree?

3. Dallas Robbins, at his website here, outlines some criticisms of the symposium. I’d be curious to hear what others think of his criticisms and if they have suggestions for improvement. I’ve posted some followup questions on his site and would love ideas from all places.


  1. “Having a co-blogger that actually works for Sunstone should count for something over here at BCC!”

    Ah, man! Do I suck or what! You can bet that’ll be fixed in future programs (which will be found online).

  2. Bloggernacle love fest? I could bring slivered-carrots jello. I’ve wondered at what point the Bloggernacle would grow to accommodate an annual BBQ or something…

  3. Kristine says:


    I’ve always thought that Elder Oaks’ quite narrow statement was in response to one *session* of a Sunstone symposium where a non-LDS presenter talked quite specifically about the temple ceremony and the garment. The fact that you think it has been mentioned more than once, and that your paraphrase of the counsel adds something to it (ridiculing leaders) that wasn’t in the original statement is symptomatic of a general phenomenon in the church, where members want to improve on what the prophet actually says. It goes something like this:

    The prophet says “don’t fall off a cliff.”
    The apostles say “be careful in the mountains.”
    The area authorities say “don’t go into the mountains.”
    The stake president says “be careful when you go outside.”
    The elders’ quorum president says “don’t leave your house.”

    (I don’t mean this to be a criticism of you personally, Davis, even though it reads like it could be. I know you were just writing a quick blog comment, and you’re to be forgiven for not having memorized the exact text of the statement on symposia. Unfortunately for you, you gave me the perfect opening for one of my favorite soapbox topics :))

    I reconcile my participation by paying attention to what has actually been said, not the”improved” versions. I’m careful about which sessions I choose, but, honestly, I think that the symposium to which Elder Oaks responded was an aberration, in terms of its inappropriateness (which, by the way, is still debatable–the person speaking, after all, was not Mormon, and used only widely available material on the endowment). Also keep in mind that the early 90s were a period of pretty intense hostility between the Church’s leadership and its intellectuals–tempers were too hot all around. Unfortunately, it will probably take another decade (at least) for the necessary forgiveness and growth to heal the wounds from that period of conflict.

  4. Kristine says:

    Davis, I did note your evasive tactic, and I should have put my disclaimer about your particular remark first (and more forcefully). Sorry for responding obliquely to you (and clumsily at that) and phrasing it as if it were a direct response.

    I’m just overly prickly from many years of responding to “you went to a Sunstone symposium? And you’re still allowed to have callings/temple recommend/etc.?”

  5. Davis, I’ve reconciled it because Sunstone doesn’t host symposia (which is specifically mentioned in the statement) but symposiums.

    Ok, now for a serious answer. I think there’s primarily two different ways people might justify participating. The first is that the statement issued by the leadership did not specifically single out Sunstone, but warned against “symposia” that, IIRC, made light of sacred things. Since that statement, Sunstone has been extremely cautious in accepting proposals that talk about the temple, ridicule Church leaders or others, etc. So I really legitimately think that one could say that, although perhaps it did in the past (but even that’s debatable), it no longer fits the description set out in the statement on symposia.

    The second way I think people justify it (and I’ll confess this is how I justify it) is to simply believe the statement was misguided. I do understand the Brethren’s concern, but the statement on symposia ultimately became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Now BYU people won’t participate, therefore making it extremely difficult to create the balanced program we so desperately want. So, on occasion, we turn down papers that might seem more controversial just because we fret over finding a proper respondent (but that’s admittedly rare).

    I’m honestly perplexed at when people portray Sunstone as a place where balance and more “conservatives” aren’t welcome. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I’d LOVE to see a Dan Peterson on the program responding to Brent Metcalfe, etc. But that’s not going to happen now, probably becaues of the statement.

  6. Aaron Brown says:

    Gosh, I wasn’t planning on going this year, but if there’s going to be a Bloggernacle love fest, I may have to cough up the dough and make an appearance.

    Aaron B

  7. I don’t think the Toscanos are on this year’s agenda! At least I hope not…

  8. D. Fletcher says:

    I will be available on Friday night, August 13.

  9. D. Fletcher says:

    I’ll probably be there, and I’d like to meet those of you there.

    John, I think I see that Kristine’s panel is timed against one of yours. Rats!

  10. D. Fletcher says:

    I’m off to Salt Lake City. I’ll be at the Symposium, starting tomorrow.

    I’ll certainly attend the panel that Kristine is on, about Internet vs. Chapel Mormons, which is this Friday.

  11. Kristine says:

    I’m only there on Friday, alas (family reunion+incredibly cheap flight out on Saturday morning), but I’d love a BCC and other little blogs kind of get-together–maybe Friday evening?

  12. John et al,

    I have in my mind a vague notion that participation in symposia of this sort has been discouraged in General Conference at least once. I’m sure you’ve considered this criticism, and have reconciled it with your participation. If you don’t mind, I would be sincerely interested in hearing your reasoning on the matter, and that of others who attend. (You just might sway me).

  13. John H.: On what planet is there any reasonable debate about whether or not Paul Toscano ridculed church leaders.


  14. John,

    Thank you for your comments. BTW, what is at the heart of the disagreement over the usage of “symposia” vs. “symposiums?”


    Your point is well taken, but I fear you’ve criticized me for trying to evade the phenomenon you so detest. Note that I didn’t come out, guns blazing, stating as fact that the GAs have many times forbidden us from attending Sunstone. I admitted that I had a “vague notion” that participating in Sunstone had been criticized — “at least once,” not “more than once,” and asked John for some facts.

  15. Aaron Brown says:

    John, I couldn’t help but notice that Kristine is described in the Preliminary Program as “contributor to the popular Mormon blog,” I hope that when the actual program is printed, it is corrected to read “contributor to the popular Mormon blog,, who also occasionally stoops to opine on issues at certain other wanna-be-BCC online fora.”

    Having a co-blogger that actually works for Sunstone should count for something over here at BCC!

    Aaron B

  16. John, what’s your expected turnout this year? The topics seem pretty interesting!

  17. Kristine,

    Don’t worry about. I understand why you’re prickly; I’ve never questioned your worthiness to hold a TR due to your Sunstone attendance — it’s your crazy ideas about women being educated and speaking in public that make me wonder about you. ;)

  18. Ok Nate. I’m really not trying to make this personal – I don’t want it to be. But every single comment I’ve ever made on T&S or Bcc that you’ve replied to has “sheesh” or “that doesn’t really help contribute to the conversation” or some other similar kind of response. What gives? I get that you don’t like Sunstone all that much. You’ve posted many times on the topic and I have yet to read any really constructive or positive or even thoughtful, insightful comments. Last time you posted on it, I was a mucky-muck and Dan Wotherspoon was the supreme dictator of Sunstone – whatever the hell that means.

    You’ve singled out one person – Paul Toscano – as ridiculing Church leaders, then you follow it up with a “sheesh” – clearly implying that I’m an idiot for not catching onto this. Of course, there’s usually over 250 to 300 people on a Sunstone program. Forgive me, but would I be wrong in thinking that your whole approach to Sunstone – and dare I look exceedingly self-involved if I say me – is that you’re just smarter than the rest of us? Help me out here, Nate. If I’m just a paranoid, delusional freak of nature, I’ll accept the label (it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been called that :) ). But I sense something more going on here…

  19. Thanks for linking to my rant. I am always surprised by that anyone takes the time to read my drivel.

  20. Kristine says:

    Um, uh…

  21. Yeah John, way to support your peeps.

    Kristine, how’s about a sneak preview of what you’re thinking of saying?

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