Sunstone NW Notes

I attended Sunstone Northwest today. Because of an inevitable conflict, I had to leave early.  Aaron Brown also attended and committed to posting on the topic, but we all know that the Lord’s return is not yet at hand.  I therefore offer a few (non-exhaustive) notes for all of you who do not live in the Garden.

Margaret Starbird
Starbird is the popular author of many books on the Sacred Union of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. She basically recounted her personal journey from conservative Catholic soccer-mom to Sacred-Feminist, interjecting nuggets from her books along the way.

There were several things that I found fascinating. First, her discovery narrative mirrors very well the lives of many Mormons.  Ultradox individual reads some books, struggles with ideas that seem to have been shoved under the rug…

Her experience is grounded in her charismatic praxis. She repeatedly turned to her practice of sincere prayer, bibliomancy and sign interpretation as guides that focused her on the journey to heretic extraordinaire.  Surprisingly, she credits the beginning of her odyssey to the bibliomantic selection of Mark 14 for a divinity school term paper. If I am not mistaken, the earliest Mormon attribution of Mary as Jesus wife is an 1844 exegesis of the same verses in Heber Kimball’s Journal.

I wish she would have fielded questions.  I’m interested in her response to scholars such as Umberto Eco who publicly disagree with her narrative.

Martha Sonntag Bradley
Bradley reviewed the role of the Church in the anti-ERA battles of the seventies.  Having been born in 1976 and not particularly remembering this time period well, I found the account informative and heartbreaking.

In a follow up question, Bradley did note how many women in the church were quite empowered by this anti-ERA activism.  They organized citizen groups, education seminars and public protests. She also noted the general antipathy both in and outside the church that young people have toward the label of Feminism today.  I can relate to that, and it wasn’t until relatively recently that I have had the confidence to wear it proudly, instead of ceding the term to those who would co-opt it.

John Dehlin
Dehlin, of recent bloggernacledom, presented on Mormonism and the internet.  He gave a quick overview of the history then spent quite a bit of time on blogs.  It was interesting to see people’s reactions to something that is quite regular in our lives. I think my favorite was when he put up a slide with Feminist Mormon Housewives website on it. fMhLisa, you really did an excellent job naming your blog.  Look for some new visitors.

Dehlin then went on to describe his vision for the future.  John wants an open multimedia forum on the internet. Basically a wiki with video, I think. We’ll see how it pans out.  I, myself, am looking forward to the immanent FAIR wiki.


  1. Any chance Sunstone or Dehlin are going to post recordings or transcripts of their Bloggernacle remarks? Seems like a great item to post at the new Sunstone blog, doesn’t it?

  2. Aaron Brown says:

    Dave, Sunstone will be selling copies of John’s presentation for $8.00.

    I quite enjoyed John’s performance. I’m sure there are a number of claims that people (bloggers) could quarrel with, but all in all, I thought it was an enjoyable presentation.

    Jonathan, you missed a really fabulous musical session by the Pixtons. Really good stuff.

    Aaron B

  3. I second Dave’s motion. John Dehlin, you did ask us what we expect of the Sunstone internet initiative. Stand and deliver, man!

  4. Coming very soon!!!! (within the hour, hopefully)

  5. Here it is! (the raw audio file, and the PPT).

    I look forward to your thoughts/feedback.

  6. Jonathan, you didn’t mention Phil McLemore’s presentation on Mormon Mantras. His stories were personal, humorous, and heart-breaking. A lot of time was spent on “bad” mantras (that “reflect superstition or bad religion; excuse, tolerate, or cover ungodly behavior; and/or oppress or take advantage of others”). I only wish there had been more time for him to discuss “good” mantras (those that “help one awaken to higher self and to entrain with the Divine; create ‘space’ for conscious, inspired decision making; and/or promote unity within self, with God, and with others”).

    As with Margaret Starbird’s presentation on Mary Magdalene, there was no time given for Q&A. Quite a shame, and quite a difference from last year’s symposium.

    It seems, this year, that we were half the number present from last year (I wish I knew the exact numbers; something like 60 participants last year, and 30 or 40 this year), and that at least 30% of the participants this year seemed to be visitors and guests from other regions…

    Which was why I was so excited by John Dehlin’s presentation on the Mormon Cybergalaxy. I started laughing, inwardly, near the end of John’s presentation when I realized that what Steve Jones (who introduced John) was saying about John’s “passion” was that John gets really excited about this topic. Yes, passionate was the right word… It was infectious.

    I’m curious, Jonathan, what reactions did you see during John’s presentation? And how, if that’s what you meant, did that correspond to the slide of the Feminist Mormon Housewives site? You’re quite right; these blogs will now get some increased traffic.

    I kept wondering, however, all throughout John’s presentation, when do people have the time to blog or read and/or participate in other’s blogs? And just because we can, should we? Is it socially and ecologically wise?

    And Aaron was right: you missed a great hour of music with Tom Pixton and his musical children (live and recorded). His daughter, Skye, played the guitar and sang with her husband, and Tom played a recording of his son’s rendition of Adam-ondi-Ahman which was fabulous (and can be downloaded at and has stayed with me all weekend. But the song that has been in my head all day today was the Mack Wilberg rendition of Praise to the Man. I love how some music resonates so deeply within me (especially live music) that it makes my skin and scalp seem electrified. Even if it’s silly music. Even if too much Mormon music is performed ostentatiously these days…

    And I really enjoyed the final hour of “The Best Ideas in Mormonism”, which felt like a mini-Testimony meeting…

    Wow! What a long post! And you, Jonathan? Now that John has posted the audio file, what about your Sunstone NW lunch-break interviews that you recorded? Will you ever share it? It really made me wish I had an iPod of my own…!

  7. Thanks, Trish, for your great comment! Sadly, the audio quality of my lunchtime interviews was quite poor (I used a mic that was intended not to be used with so much going on in the background). I think some of it will be salvaged in this weeks Zeitcast (see the Bloggernacle Times). But if I had to guess, I think Steve, who is doing the editing, may have something up his sleeve.

    I was actually hoping to bait Aaron into posting the rest of the review for me. Thank you for your mini reviews. I agree, McLemore’s presentation was quite enjoyable and focused on what we are all about in the end – becoming more Christ-like.

    I really regret not having had a Q&A with the presenters, and you are correct that it seemed like there were more people last year.

    As to your question of the “sustainability” of blogging, I personally think that it is a wonderful way to spend time… It seemed like there was quite a bit of interest and a lot of note taking during John’s presentation (especially with the FMH slide). The question that people kept asking me was, “where do you find the time.” Well, where do we find the time to do anything. Everybody has time to spend, whether it be TV, exercise, reading or whatever. It is how we allocate our time that is the big question. I don’t watch TV, mostly because I find it banal, so I read and write in the evenings. I also check the blogs in between moments at work to stay sane. It doesn’t take time to stay engaged as much as it takes volition.

  8. Where can I learn more about FAIR Wiki?

  9. Seems like I heard about it on LDS-Phil. And I know that Clark Goble has mentioned it. It seems to me that some heavies were commiting to participate (e.g., Ostler). I did a quick search and couldn’t find anything, but the guys over there are typicaly quite responsive.

  10. Aaron Brown says:

    Unfortunately, I missed some of the Symposium, what with John and I talking outside the front door and in the kitchen. (Didn’t you all hear my annoying, booming voice?) Thus, I’m not sure I have much to add, Jonathan.

    I too want to hear your interviews, Stapley. I hope some of it is salvageable.

    Aaron B

  11. Aaron Brown says:

    P.S. I was asked multiple times at the Symposium to write down the website addresses for BCC, T&S and M*. Was it wrong of me to tell everyone T&S was, and that M* was Was it wrong for me to also suggest that if the websites didn’t work, it was because the sites had closed for good, never to reopen?

    If so, shame on me!

    Aaron B

  12. I don’t think Blake plans on contributing, although once enough work is done it will be public with editors reviewing submitted changes. I have change permissions, but just haven’t had the time to contribute much yet. I think it’ll be quite good and fully engage the issues “warts and all.” It’ll definitely have an apologetic slant. But I don’t think that entails in the least avoiding issues. But it’ll probably take a while to get the first version polished enough for public consumption.