SLC Sunstone 2007 Open Thread

I’m opening a general thread for discussion of all things Sunstone over the next few days. Tonight at 8:00 p.m. will be the kick-off presentation by Helen Whitney on the PBS doc; as I understand it, she will be showing portions not included in the public airing. This one is open to the public and does not require registration, so if you are in SLC come on down to the Sheraton on Fifth South.

(This year I brought my laptop so I should have a little bit easier time commenting on the proceedings than last year, when I had to pay to use a computer in the business center.)


  1. Wish I had a laptop, but alas…
    Hope to see ya there. . . if I need the internet, I’ll hunt ya down.

  2. anyone know where parking might be found most quickly?

  3. I caught the last couple hours of John Dehlin’s presentation and have two observations:

    1. As I told John, I thought it should be a required class. He asked, “for whom?” I still am not sure of the answer to that question but I really can’t think of anyone who would not benefit from listening to that presentation. It was just wonderful in every way. Certainly anyone who is struggling with the church in any way, or knows someone who is (and doesn’t that describe just about everyone?) should hear what John has to say.

    2. Kaimi Wenger is a lot nicer in person than he in online (maybe that’s true of all of us).

    I look forward to meeting a lot more of you this week.

  4. Sam: I parked on the east side of the hotel without any problem. Payment does not appear to be required.

  5. I’ve met Kaimi in person and found him to be petty, obsequious, and even vulgar. But maybe I’ve always just caught him on a bad day…

    Online, however, I’ve always found him to be an absolute prince.


  6. So, is the wireless internet access only available for registered hotel guests, or can anyone at the symposium use it. (I’ll be there Friday and part of Saturday.)

  7. Man, I have never wished so much that I lived in Utah. I want to be there!!

    (-Obsequious- is one of my favorite words. I like it paired with “toad”)

  8. Tracy, Dolores Umbridge isn’t relevant to this thread. :-) (PLEASE, no further comment on that reference.)

  9. Matt: You just haven’t been on the right threads. Either that, or I just happen to be uniquely talented at bringing out Kaimi’s inner a-hole.

  10. Kevin Barney says:

    I walked across the street from the Best Western to the Sheraton a little after 7:30 p.m. (I’ll transfer to the Sheraton tomorrow.) I picked up my name badge and final program at the registration desk. Some of the people I ran into during the night included Michael Marquardt, Dan Vogel, Jeff Needle, Ron Romig, Brent Wilson, Ann Porter, and others. I also met Kaimi for the first time. My aunt, Lois Worlton, introduced me to Frances Menlove (whom I knew by reputation but had not actually met). I asked my aunt if she remembered Kristine (who many years ago lived in her ward), and she said that not only did she remember her, but just last week Kristine’s father kissed her on the cheek. I laughed and said it would be a great scandal. I also caught a glimpse of Molly Bennion, but didn’t have an opportunity to say hi. There were others, but on to the presentation.

    The ballroom was packed, and it was hot in there. There were also a lot of technical glitches with the microphones and video, but eventually things worked out. Ardean Watts conducted the music with great gusto, as always, and Elbert conducted.

    Helen gave a wonderful inside perspective on the creation of the doc.

    (I’m going to continue this in another comment, because the wifi here is overloaded and I’m afraid I’ll get kicked off.)

  11. Kevin Barney says:

    Why the Mormons? She has been doing docs for over 20 years. She has a special affinity for religious subjects, and particularly for radical religious commitment. She lived with Trappist monks for six months; she did a doc on the spiritual aftermath of 9/11 and another on Pope John Paul II.

    Learning Curve: She had known Mormons at the University of Chicago, so she knew they could be smart, funny, live outside of Utah and not be polygamists. But she didn’t know much 3-1/2 years ago. They told her to read Brodie, and she found Joseph fascinating. She originally planned on only 90 minutes, which now seems a ridiculously short time.

    Access: She had wonderful access with the Church hierarchy, which was very open, but could have closed down her access if it had chosen to (hundreds of her thousand interviewees called the Church to make sure it was ok to speak with her.) The Church had no control, no preview.

    Biases: She is drawn to doubt. She was absolutely stunned by her first Testimony Meeting, with its procession of “I know’s.”

    Aesthetic challenges and tone. The need to strip away generic jargon and get to real belief.

    Challenges of using the lens of psychology.

    Truth claims: Jacob Neusner, the prolific scholar of Judaica, claimed that there is no advantage to the antiquity or modernity of a religion’s origins. What is important is the power of the religion to move people.

    Research phase: This is anxiety ridden for her. She casts her net widely, and at this point has no idea what she’ll get. She has to resist the temptation to pull the trigger too soon and start crafting the story too early. The CoC was a wonderful entree, then liberal Mormons (Sunstone, Dialogue), and then she talked to Mormons of all stripes, from all along the spectrum and in various places. She walked with missionaries (very cold!), practically lived with a Mormon family, attended services. People sent her books. She was stunned by the level of amateur involvement in Mormon scholarship.

    She interviewed close to a thousand people. In the beginning, many of the interviews were very boring, and she was having trouble getting interesting stories. But then things started to fall into place: the Denver family, Givens, Kathleen Flake, etc.

    Script phase: Betty Stevenson was a great surprise. Marlin Jensen was wonderful, and the church should make him their public face (loud applause). Boyd Packer was disappointing; clipped responses, unwilling to own and press his prior concerns about challenges facing the Church.

    To be continued.

  12. cj douglass says:

    This is great stuff. Thanks so much.

  13. Kevin Barney says:

    Physical challenges. Lots of them. Rain, equipment, lost hotel reservations, you name it.

    Editing: Her favorite part. The material is in the can, and it is quiet and peaceful. Just viewing all the footage took a month of 12-hour days. She had 8 months to do the rough cut and four to do the fine cut. WGH wanted revisions; didn’t think she dealt sufficiently with certain criticisms. She did the revisions for the final cut, but she personally still prefers the rough or director’s cut, and she showed us some scenes from it.

    Tough choices: Some people didn’t like the music. Her cut had a woman narrator; I didn’t understand why in the world PBS objected to that (not enough gravitas?). She showed the original “tease” introductory segment. She also showed the dance sequence (her favorite). Then she showed an inteview with Ty Mansfield to balance the Trevor Southey interview (she had to cut it due to time constraints). Finally, she showed the rough cut Epilogue.

    In conclusion, she talked about how Mormons are perceived today. Distrust. Fear. Massive ignorance. LDS need to be less defensive. Less secretive. More transparent. There is a perception of “slipperiness”; of not owning to others what our beliefs really are. (Substitution of “God-like” in lieu of the more straightforward “God” when taking of deification, for example.) The core nature of polygamy in early Mormonism greatly underplayed today.

    Those are some brief notes on what was a fascinating presentation. Now it’s on to the rest of the conference (after a good night’s sleep, of course.)

  14. Thanks, Kevin. This is fascinating.

  15. I sat next to Kevin. He made his notes in the margins of his program. Dude, next time bring a legal pad…although you made this quite legible.

    Man it was hot in there. Did you ever meet Kristine? I ran into her right before I left, and Kaimi too.

  16. MCQ! Are you going to be around any of the other times? You’re coming Friday night, right??

  17. Aaron Brown says:

    I’ll be showing up on Friday morning, so don’t anyone do anything fun or say anything profound or insightful until I get there!

    Aaron B

  18. Thomas Parkin says:

    Salt Lake City??

    I always thoght that Sunstone met somewhere out in the Nevada desert. Like Burning Man. How baffling that this is held in SLC.


  19. Kristine: You’re on my must-see list! This is so fun. It’s like when you go to a baseball game as a kid and take your baseball cards hoping to see the players you have in your collection.

    I checked off my Kaimi card and my John Dehlin card, but I still have to check off my Kevin Barney rookie card (worth a lot of money now, btw), my Kristine card (the one that shows you mountain biking), my fMh Lisa card (so hot it burns your hand) and so many more. Do you guys do autographs?

    I told Kaimi I would be at both of his deals on Friday, and there’s no way I’m missing you guys singing. Should I bring my karaoke machine or would that be out of place? I’ll also be around a bit on Thursday.

  20. Thomas: This is my first Sunstone, and I totally thought the same thing at first: How can they have this at a hotel in SLC? Where’s the drum circle? Where are the the halucinogenic shrooms? Oddly, everyone seemed completely normal. Even Kaimi. Go figure.

    John Dehlin is my new hero, though. There’s nothing normal about him. He’s just awesome. Get this: he played Alanys Morrisette during his presentation. And it, like, made sense. Can you imagine?

  21. Is anyone going to the Dutcher movie?

  22. Kevin Barney says:

    MCQ, I don’t have it all planned out, but I probably will go to the movie. I love movies, and it is at a nice little brew and view just a block or so south of the symposium. ( saw States of Grace that way last year.

  23. Kevin Barney says:

    Ann, yeah, I always just take notes on my program, because I don’t want to have to carry anything, and the program I can just roll up and stick in my back pocket.

    This all dates back to fourth grade, when I read something at school about how Abraham Lincoln would keep all of his papers in his hat. So I started keeping school notes on folded papers I would keep in my pocket. My good friend from my youth calls it the “Barney Notebook” to this day.

  24. Kevin Barney says:

    I got up early to work out at the Best Western Fitness Center. There was a woman there also trying to get in, but the doors were locked. She went to the lobby office, and it turns out they don’t open it until 8:00 a.m. They start serving breakfast at 6, but you can’t work out until 8. So that means no workout for me today.

    In a little while I’ll check out and schlepp all my stuff across the street to the Sheraton. I guess I’ll leave it with the concierge, since I’m sure they won’t let me check in until 3:00 p.m. this afternoon.

    My preliminary picks for the day (all subject to game time decision):

    8:45 Newell Bringhurst on whether the US is ready for a Mormon president.

    10:00 Either Hugo Olaiz on the curse of Joseph’s bones, or Dennis Potter on atonement in New York Doll.

    11:30 The Dutcher screening of Falling, if there are still tickets left by the time I get to the registration table. (I’ll also try to catch Bengt Washburn’s set during lunch.) They have food at the theater, so I’ll just eat lunch while I watch the movie.

    2:15 I would like to see Sam, who is reading his paper on the KEP. But I’ve already read his (excellent) paper, and that is also the slot for discussion of the movie. So this one will depend on whether I get into the movie and feel like discussing it.

    3:30 “Faith and Doubt,” a never before seen act from the rough cut of Helen’s doc.

    4:45 “A Time to Laugh” (a panel on humor in Mormon culture.

    [I have no idea what I’ll do for dinner.]

    8:00 is the plenary session on Mormonism’s “Mitt Moment.”

  25. Kevin, this is aweome. Thanks for the fabulous notes- almost as good as being there.

  26. Who is Ty Mansfield?

  27. Matt W.,

    You can read about Ty Mansfield here.

  28. When is the Bloggernacle session? If I crash a session, it will be that one (as I am just that self-involved).

  29. Nick Literski says:

    Don’t you just wish Helen Whitney and/or PBS would release a DVD or two with most of that raw footage? Even the “director’s cut” would be nice. I’d LOVE to see more of what she gathered. Even where full transcripts have been posted, you don’t get a chance to “read” body language, tone, etc.

  30. Nick Literski says:

    That FAIR book review, slamming Ty Mansfield and his story, is one of the most remarkably irresponsible things I’ve seen written on the topic.

    Just as an example:
    “The authors and the publisher fail to note that the biological theory of homosexuality has been thoroughly discredited by most credible, scientific researchers.”

    No responsible writer would make such an absolutist statement on the subject. Even so-called “gay activists” readily admit that while there is some evidence of a biological origin for homosexuality, science simply hasn’t proven one way or the other.

    Sorry for the threadjack, but I just couldn’t see the link unanswered. I would encourage readers to ALSO peruse Ty Mansfield’s response to the linked book review, here:
    (Scroll down–for some reason the top of the page is blank)

  31. So Ty is the “I can be homsexual, faitful, active as a member, and chaste” balance?

  32. The FAIR book review (which I haven’t read) appears to have been by Dean Byrd. (The review also links to Mansfield’s rebuttal and a counter-rebuttal by Byrd.)

    Byrd at least appears to have the training to know what he’s talking about. One non-LDS balanced website gives him four stars in the credibility factor, “key expert- M.D.’s and Ph.D.’s with significant post-doctorate involvement in sexuality issues.”

    Read away.

  33. Nick Literski says:

    While I don’t agree with everything Ty Mansfield has said, I think it’s only fair (no pun intended) that his response to the nasty attacks, psychoanalysis, etc. of FAIR “experts” (including an MBA??) be given equal time.

    Mark IV presented the FAIR book review as if it was “the word” on Ty Mansfield. The FAIR review was a no-holds-barred character assasination by a trio of anti-gay zealots who presumed to diagnose a young man they’d never met (even if they were actually qualified to perform such an analysis). The FAIR review cites supposed scientific studies, the subjects of which were taken specifically from AIDS and STD clinics, and extrapolates them as if they were representative of all homosexuals. It cites two Columbia scholars as denying *any* biological component of homosexuality, despite the fact that a quick Google search reveals that those scholars believe in utero hormone exposure to be at least a partial “cause” of homosexuality. This FAIR review is pure trash, and should be read in balance with other materials.

    Further, it’s unfortunate that the FAIR reviewers’ condemnations of the Mattis family, Ty Mansfield, and even Deseret Book for publishing the book. I have it on good authority (a former roommate of Stuart Mattis, who remains close to the Mattis family) that at least everything the Mattis family wrote in that book had to pass the approval of Jeffrey R. Holland.

  34. Nick Literski says:

    Thanks for the info on Byrd’s credentials.
    I still think it’s irresponsible for anyone to categorically state that there is “no evidence” of a biological component to homosexuality. It’s equally irresponsible for anyone to categorically state that a biological “cause” is proven. There is much more to learn.

  35. Nick Literski says:

    Yikes. Check out the rating system on that website. Doctors automatically get four stars, with no further checking into their degrees, etc. The site lists a number of problems with their own rating system:

  36. Christopher C Smith says:

    I’m really bummed that I can’t be there for Sam’s presentation. I’m also disappointed to be missing Don Bradley, Blake Ostler, Brant Gardner and Paul Toscano’s papers. It’s bound to be a great conference!

  37. Nick,

    Sorry you think the review of the Mansfield/Mattis book is irresponsible. FAIR doesn’t agree, as we don’t feel that we publish anything irresponsible. While others (including you) may not agree with Dr. Byrd’s review of the book, we felt that it was well written using a scholarly approach. We published not because it somehow represented “FAIR’s view” (it is not “FAIR’s review”, by the way), but because it stated a position well, and used scholarly information to support that position.

    That being said, you may be interested in a couple of other facts about this particular review. First, not all members of FAIR agree with the review itself. That is to be expected; FAIR is neither monolithic in perspective or homogeneous in membership. Second, other reviews of the book, which may take a different view of it, were invited. None were forthcoming. We did post a link to a rebuttal at the end, by the authors of the book.

    On a similar note, if you would like to write what you feel is a responsible review of the book that is consistent with FAIR’s mission statement, then we’d be happy to post it on the site.

    In the meantime, please understand that FAIR holds both Dr. Byrd and Ty Mansfield in the highest of regard. Ty continues to be a member of FAIR, and I had the distinct pleasure to meet him (and Dr. Byrd) at the FAIR Conference this past week.

    My best to you.

    -Allen Wyatt

  38. As a friend of the Matis family, please do spell their name correctly.

  39. Kevin, thank you very much for the Whitney notes!

  40. Nick Literski says:

    Thank you for your clarification, Allen.

    Tracy, you’re absolutely right. I have a tendency to make that mistake, unfortunately. I realized I’d done it again after the fact, and of course couldn’t fix it. My apologies.

  41. Man, I wish I were there. Thanks, Kevin, for putting up your notes.

  42. capt jack says:

    Fitting that the Argentine guy gave a presentation on Joseph’s remains, given Argentina’s history.

  43. at the risk of perpetuating a threadjack. i was at byu with ty mansfield and was unaware of his same-gender attraction at the time. i found his book at deseret book and was deeply moved by his very personal and moving description of his struggles. i felt byrd’s review was in poor taste was as ty described, ‘a thinly veiled personal attack’.

    i was personally happy with deseret book for promoting such an intimate, meaningful book on the subject.

  44. One thing I am not clear on from the notes here is what Helen Whitney’s aim was in the “mormons” production. She says she found the mainstream Mormon answers boring, so was her final piece not really about mainstream mormonism? Don’t get me wrong, I loved her show, but I am curious.

    Also, I thoguht she was going to show an excised “Faith and Doubt” segment…?

  45. Is there any hope of or way we can get hold of the deleted scenes?

  46. Mike Parker says:

    Allen Wyatt #37:

    First, not all members of FAIR agree with the review itself. That is to be expected; FAIR is neither monolithic in perspective or homogeneous in membership.

    Allow me to echo and emphasize Allen’s statement here. I am a FAIR volunteer, and have been heavily involved with the organization for several years. I also disagree with some of Dr. Byrd’s claims, including the one about biological factors for homosexuality being ruled out.

    There are exceptionally few organizations one can belong to where one agrees with everything believed by the group (unless one starts a group and only allows one member [g]). Despite my disagreement with some FAIR volunteers on this issue (and a few others), I believe that FAIR’s mission is important, and I have seen many, many letters from people who have been grateful for the help we have provided them.

    So, Nick: Please take up Allen’s offer to write a review (FAIR’s mission statement is at the bottom of the home page). I, for one, would like to see a different viewpoint.

  47. Nick Literski says:

    Perhaps the webmasters at FAIR should consider a disclaimer on certain book reviews, etc., stating that the views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of FAIR, its officers or members.

    I understand the points of Allen and Mike. I have to say though, that when someone visits the FAIR website and finds that particular review, he or she is likely to take it as “endorsed” by FAIR–the leaders and members of which are perceived by many active LDS as reliable, trustworthy sources of truth.

    There are simply some very disturbing, inaccurate, and even potentially dangerous opinions expressed in that book review. They could lead a member of the LDS church who is trying to reconcile their homosexuality with their faith to unrealistic expectations, and ultimately despair. We’ve already seen where despair can lead.

  48. Nick L., # 33,

    My apologies, Nick. I intended only to identify Ty Mansfield as the co-author of a book. I did not intend to present the FAIR review as the last word on him, and in fact did not even read the review. I don’t blame you for taking exception to some of the claims made by Byrd – I take exception to them myself.

    And my apologies to all for taking this off track from the symposium. Maybe we can now get back on topic.

  49. Kevin Barney says:

    Matt W., it wasn’t just the mainstream interviews that were boring, but many of the interviews were boring–at the beginning of the process. This wasn’t a mainstream v. non issue, but a beginning v. later issue.

    The Faith and Doubt segment was supposed to be screened at a separate session today. I went to the first part of it. The room was packed, so I stood in the back. It got through one interview with a guy who exemplified great faith (coming from a Catholic or Orthodox tradition; I didn’t catch his specific background), and part of an interview with Tal Bachman exemplifying doubt. In the middle of the Bachman interview, we lost the recording. I waited a pretty good while, but they didn’t seem capable of getting it back, and then Helen herself walked out of the room in apparent disgust at the continuing technical problems that were marring her presentations. So I then left myself, since I didn’t really want to just stand there for a whole hour and I had some work to catch up on in my room anyway.

  50. I saw Bengt’s set and thought it was very funny. a lot of laugh at loud moments. My favorite was his last story, where he gets up and runs out of a coffee shop during an earthquake because “I’m Mormon, I can’t die in a coffee shop!”

  51. Kevin Barney says:

    This morning I attended a pretty straightforward paper by Newell Bringhurst exploring Mitt’s run and the issues vis-a-vis Mormonism he has to face.

    Then I went to see Dennis Potter riffing on themes of atonement in New York Doll. He came dressed as a rocker: long hair, eyes painted black, concert t-shirt, pants ripped to shreds. This was not just for effect; he really dresses this way. He brought his guitar and started by doing his own rendition of A Poor Wayfaring Man, but he got choked up emotionally towards the end and had to just stop. (Also, he just made tenure at UVU, so congratulations to him.)

    He began with a bit of a confessional. Yes, he’s a philosophy professor, but he also has been deeply involved in various genres of rock music (glam, punk, heavy metal). He has struggled with addictions to alcohol and drugs and is now in an outpatient treatment program; this apparently cost him his marriage and other relationships. He also mentioned that he likes to crossdress. Then he made a bizarre little aside against FARMS, to the effect that this would give them all the ammunition they would need for an ad hominem attack against him. It came across to me as deeply paranoid, since his stuff on Mormon theology has struck me as very responsible and not something a FARMS author would be likely to critique negatively, so I had no idea why he felt the need to make such a gratuitous jab.

    His basic theme was to see David Johanssen (sp?) as the enlightened savior of the piece, due to his capacity to forget Arthur’s prior actions towards him. Reconciliation allows one to leave behind his attachment to the former life that haunts him.

    I went to see Richard Dutcher’s Falling at the Brew and View place about two blocks to the south. It was a full house. I made the mistake of ordering a salad there for lunch; it was good, but too ungainly to eat well in a theater, even though they have a running bench in front of you to use like a table. I should have just gotten a burger of something. I enjoyed the movie, but I enjoy most movies I see (I’m not much of a critic), so that may not be a meaningful barometer for you. It seemed to me that the basic message was much like States of Grace, but only this time with the gloves off. (The movie would get an R rating.) Oh yes, I’m supposed to emphasize that this was a private screening and not a public one.

    I went back to the hotel to see Bengt Washburn’s set, but again, it was marred by technical problems with the mike, and the material was basically the same as what he used last year, so this didn’t do much for me.

    Then I went to the discussion of Dutcher’s film. (I poked my head in to see if I could meet Sam, but Jeff Needle was ready to start already, and it just didn’t work afterwards. Sorry about that, Sam!)

    I just came from a panel on humor, which had some pretty funny moments. My favorites were Jet (aka Jeanette Atwood, whom I thought was adorable), who has been Sunstone’s main cartoonist the last three years, and Robert Kirby. Jet showed some of her cartoons, including one that Sunstone bought even though Dan said they would never be able to publish it. It shows a bishop interviewing Superman for a TR, and he is asking “Do you wear the protective garments both day and night?” You would have to see the the panel; it was freakin’ hilarious. She also drew a cartoon for us on the spot. She asked for a suggestion, like an improv actor, and someone said “Robert Kirby.” So she drew a picture of a Kirby opening a letter, which said something like “Dear Robert, I read your latest. Please come see me. Elder Packer.” She was very good, very talented.

    Kirby told of a joke an old friend of his, who was both black and LDS, used to like to tell to almost anyone he met: “You know why crows are black? Because they wouldn’t eat the crickets.”

    I ate in the hotel restaurant, Olio, which was very good but also pricey. I probably won’t be going back there the rest of my stay.

    Tonight is the plenary on Mormonism’s Mitt Moment. It will be chaired by Matt Thurston (I met both him and his dad on the way to the movie).

    Oh, and a lot of people have introduced themselves to me, having recognized me from the blog. It’s nice to know that so many people actually read us.

  52. Kevin Barney says:

    MCQ, I thought it was very funny, too–last year. (g) For anyone who didn’t see the 2006 set, then I’m sure it was great.

  53. I saw Dutcher’s movie and the discussion afterward. I was troubled by both. The discussion had way too many people falling all over themselves to tell Richard how fantastic the movie is. I did like the movie in many ways. It was terrifically acted, and an extremely well written and gripping story. In particular, the female lead (I believe her last name is Reece) deserves huge praise for her ability.

    But I also found the movie profoundly disturbing. Maybe that’s what Richard was going for, I don’t know, but the violence and blood are just over the top. And beyond that, the violence seems more personal or even intimate than I have experienced before. In some ways, that’s a credit to the filmmaker, I suppose. If you think it’s an acheivement to present a story involving extremes of blood and violence in new and more in-your-face ways, then this is the movie for you. I couldn’t help being a little disgusted by it. It has “ego trip” written all over it in big bloody letters.

    I also, ironically, found it unrealistic. Ironic because Richard clearly took enormous, even unhealthy, pains in the service of realism, but to me, the story could not have happened the way it played out. Or at least, it is very, very unlikely. If you saw the movie, think about the behavior of the perps. Is that what you really think they would do in that situation? I don’t.

    This is a movie you will never see getting a good review from the Hollywood convention and visitors bureau. It’s a cautionary tale about moving to Hollywood to pursue your dreams. Sort of “Pretty Woman” from hell. Don’t pursue your dreams. They will ruin your faith and kill you. Great message.

    I have to end this by saying I have great respect for Richard Dutcher and his ability. This is just not a movie that I can recommend anyone see. Having said all that, I was, frankly, surprised that Sundance didn’t jump at it. It was very well crafted.

  54. For those of you who missed it, you can catch the last five minutes of Richard Dutcher’s “Falling” here.

  55. “Bengt Washburn’s set
    Is he a Mormon stand-up comedian?

  56. Is there a particular reason why my last comment was deleted?

    Here it is again…

    For those of you who missed Richard Dutcher’s “Falling,” you can see the last 5 minutes here.

  57. “Don’t pursue your dreams. They will ruin your faith and kill you. Great message.” I saw the film today also, and that pretty much sums it up.

    I too have mixed feelings for the film, and I was surprised by the people who were “falling over themselves” in praise of it.

    Oh well, interesting to say the least.

  58. Katie: Yes.

    Loyd: Funny, but Dutcher’s sequence had a LOT more blood.

  59. mcq, thanks for the parking tip. it saved me $5. sorry i missed you kevin. was rushing back and forth to work.

  60. I enjoyed Dennis’s paper on NY Doll very much.

    I was on a panel on the PBS show with a moderator and two people who are way smarter than me. I had some nice comments after, and Helen Whitney both directly contradicted something I had said (she seemed to think I was WRONG, if you can imagine) and also referred to something I said as “eloquent,” which means I Have Arrived.

    I ducked in and out of the Borderlands session. I was late getting in because of a delay at lunch. I ducked out to grab a poem I wanted to share, and ducked back in at the last minute. Jeff gave me two minutes (Jeff remembered me from the How to Stay workshop the day before, where I spoke too much.) I do think it went over well, though.

    I stayed for the whole “Faith and Doubt” section; they finally got the video back. Note to Sunstone: next year, don’t try to do your own AV to save money, unless it saves a LOT of money. There have been mixups and snafus on AV in several sessions, and they’re tiresome.

    But back to the Faith and Doubt act: it was draining. I’ve read this story so many times, I’ve LIVED this story, and the despair was just relentless. The woman in the third interview spoke of driving up to Snowbird to see if she could just drive really fast and neglect to steer. “How can I kill myself but make it look like an accident?” Is it possible to physically relive your own pain when hearing another’s?

    Terryl Givens was the last interview shown. It was quite different from the others, and positive, but it was too little too late. I was at the showing with Square Peg from TCH, and told him that I was absolutely DONE with faith/doubt issues for the duration of the conference.

    Like Kevin, I went to the humor session next, and I needed it BADLY. One and half hours of laughing really, really hard. My hosts here in Salt Lake City didn’t appreciate the crow joke at all. Oh well. I thought it was hilarious. Kirby was wonderful as always.

  61. It’s been a fun conference so far. I’ve seen a whole bunch of people: Kristine, Janet (and baby), Kevin, McQ, John Dehlin, Jana, Ann, and BiV. (And probably others I can’t remember right now.) Also met some non-bloggers, like Newell Bringhurst and Dan W., and renewed acquantaince with some other non-bloggers again (like Lorie Winder Stromberg).

    And in a weird string of events, I saw a friend from an old ward, who I hadn’t seen for years — and then I learned that she was Janet’s old roommate. Weird.

    My most important observation, though, is that McQ is really even more of an a****** in person than he is online. :P

    I hope to see some of you tomorrow at one or more panels. I’m talking on reparations and on the bloggernacle; plus I was last-minute added to Lorie’s panel on polygamy. And there’s always the snacker.

    See you there.

  62. Kaimi, I agree with you that MCQ is even more of a angel in person than he is online.

  63. Thanks, Mark [sniff]

    I have just one more point about Falling and then I’ll shut up (I know, I can’t leave it alone).

    Richard said that Sundance (and other festivals?) had turned down the movie because it was “too religious.” Richard obviously felt (and I agree) that this is ludicrous, but I think I have an explanation for it: The Christus.

    The repeated image of that statue makes the movie seem much more religious than it really is. I don’t know if that repeated image is necessary to the integrity of the story or its presentation in the movie (I suspect Richard would say it is crucial), but I would bet any amount of money that if you remove that image from the movie it would be hello, Park City. Anyone agree?

  64. Anyone know if Evans is coming to this thing? I keep looking for a someone carrying a man-purse with a rat-dog in it, but the only person who fit that description turned out to be a tranny from Atlantic City. Oops.

  65. Kevin Barney says:

    MCQ, I agree about the Christus. That is the most blatant religious symbol, and ironically the one that is no doubt turning off the festival committees.

  66. I hope people take the time to celebrate President Faust at Sunstone.

  67. Kevin Barney says:

    I just returned from Marvin Folsom, “A Bible of Our Own,” which is a good idea, but also very naive. Folsom advocates a new specifically LDS translations, done by LDS scholars, with modern presentation (single column, paragraphing, OT quotations in bold, poetic structures shown, etc.) This would reflect the latest advances in textual scholarship, and would be rendered into everyday speech rather than Jacobean elegance.

    One of his suggestions would be to bring JST variants directly into the text, with which I absolutely disagree.

    Although it would be a cool idea, realistically it’s not something that will happen within the current generation. The problems are legion, and include (without even trying to be exhaustive):

    – overcoming the strong pro-KJV prejudice established by JRC and others.

    – what to do with KJV quotations in our modern scriptures.

    – the loss of familiar words and expressions, such as “dispensation of the fullness of times.”

    – the reality that any such new translation would be ghettoized by others as a Mormon NWT (JW Green Dragon), and problems with missionary outreach that would result from that.

    When I did my Footnotes to the NT for LDS project, we briefly contemplated doing a new translation, and quickly concluded that most LDS were not adequately prepared for such a thing and would not accept it, so the best we could do was comment on the KJV.

  68. Christopher Smith says:

    I thought FARMS was doing a new Bible translation?

  69. #67 – It’s BYU. It’s a NT “commentary” but will include, IIRC, alternate translations. John Hall talked about it briefly in his presentation at FAIR last week.

    It will take about 10 years but they will publish the volumes as they are completed.


  70. Dr. Hall came to Texas over 4 years ago and told us the publication of the first volume was imminent then, but it hasn’t happened yet. In his talk here, he did say that for all intents and purposes it would be a new translation of the whole New Testament. Perhaps that’s why it hasn’t been published still…

  71. Kevin, this “Footnotes to the NT for LDS project” – is this what I see being sold in the local Walmart. If not, where would be the access to this?

    I wish I was at this Sunstone Conference. People tell me it carries quite a different attitude and mood. Well, maybe next year.

    And thanks for the coverage. I am taking it all in.

  72. Todd,
    Probably not at Walmart. You can find Kevin’s brief announcement of his Footnotes project here, and information about ordering it here.

    FWIW, it’s a great resource, both as Biblical commentary and as seeing scholarly LDS interaction with the New Testament.

  73. #69 – Here’s a fuller description of it from Times&Seasons

    Hall is one of the editors (including Welch, Brown, and Skinner) of the BYU New Testament Commentary (of approx. 13 projected volumes). He is currently working with Huntsman on the Epistles of John volume which may be out in a year or so. The project has been in the works for several years, and aspires to be academic (though not on the same level as say Anchor Bible). It will (at least Hall’s volumes) be formatted like most academic commnetaries with frontmatter on authorship, provenance, impetus, etc., followed by a translation, grammatical/linguistic/historical/theological notes and commentary. (the translation will be presented in parallel columns with the KJV [which will among other things allow for discussion of the differences between the Greek text behind KJV and the Nestle-Aland/GNT text used today], where it will differ from the format of other commentaries.) Matt, yes (though perhaps not directly through FARMS). Hall is one of the editors (including Welch, Brown, and Skinner) of the BYU New Testament Commentary (of approx. 13 projected volumes). He is currently working with Huntsman on the Epistles of John volume which may be out in a year or so. The project has been in the works for several years, and aspires to be academic (though not on the same level as say Anchor Bible). It will (at least Hall’s volumes) be formatted like most academic commnetaries with frontmatter on authorship, provenance, impetus, etc., followed by a translation, grammatical/linguistic/historical/theological notes and commentary. (the translation will be presented in parallel columns with the KJV [which will among other things allow for discussion of the differences between the Greek text behind KJV and the Nestle-Aland/GNT text used today], where it will differ from the format of other commentaries.)

    (Sorry about the link – I can’t get the regular page to load correctly to see the post)

  74. Ack – the whole quote came out as a hyperlink. Maybe an admin can edit it and then delete this post. Jan

  75. Kevin Barney says:

    The session on the Bloggernacle was very good. It included Kaimi, Kristine, Russell from T&S, and fmhLisa. I enjoyed meeting those I hadn’t met before. They were all articulate. Afterwards, Ann told of how the ‘Nacle actually kept her in the Church. Kaimi told me he thought I would make a comment, and I told him I was thinking about it, but ended up not making it. What I was thinking about was the evolution from e-mail lists to message boards to blogs, and that for me personally I prefer blogs. The old e-mail lists are pretty much dead, and while the boards live on I just don’t like them very much. Blogs are where it’s at for me.

    I popped across the street to McDonalds for lunch and Mark Ashurst-McGee collared me, so I had lunch with him. He wanted to know about my presentation tomorrow on inoculation, and I asked him about his work with the JS Papers. That’s one of the best things about Sunstone, running into people you admire and getting to rub shoulders with them for a bit.

    Well, I’m late for the next session…

  76. We had an interesting 65 comment post about the pros and cons of a new LDS translation a while back.

    I agree with Kevin. It’s not going to happen, and I’m not convinced it would be a good thing if it did.

  77. Kevin Barney says:

    Kaimi gave an interesting presentation on reparations and its intersection with Mormon thought. I think it’s cool that a Mormon has that particular professional interest, and I was glad to learn more about the subject.

    I just came back from an interview with Darius. One thing I learned is why my friend calls him her father; I hadn’t realized that there are probably at least a hundred people or more in the Church who think of him as a father and speak of him in those terms.

  78. Revelations from the Bloggernacle Panel:

    All the panel members were very good speakers, which I thought was a bit unexpected. Some people are much better in writing than they are verbally and while the panel members are all pros at the written word, they were wonderful speakers as well.

    All the panelists attempted to answer the question “How Effectively Does The Bloggernacle Rrepresent Mormonism.” I liked Kristine’s presentation the best, partly because she actually quoted from blog posts, which was cool. All of them answered the question in different ways. I will give you excerpts from my notes:

    Kaimi used the analogy of the blind man and the elephant. If he approaches the elephant from different angles, he gets a different idea about what he is touching.

    The bloggernacle is like that because it is very different depending on the spot you “touch” in your approach to it. The nacle also has guidelines governing posts and comments which tend to exclude the more extreme or authoritarian voices. Kaimi concluded that this means we are only getting about two-thirds of the elephant.

    The fact that mainstream journalists are contacting bloggers for comment on stories on mormonism is worrisome, to Kaimi, because bloggers as sources of information may give an inaccurate or skewed picture of mormonism if they are relied on as sources. In many cases, they are not, in fact, experts. If they are being used as “man on the street” sort of sources, they may not reflect the mainstream ideas that a mormon “man on the street” would.

    Grasshopper, the guy that came up with the name “Bloggernacle” was there!

    more later.

  79. Kevin Barney says:

    MCQ, it was great to meet you at that session.

    I went to the polygamy panel, which was quite interesting. Todd spoke on the place of polygamy in the 19th century, how it was a much bigger doctrinal deal back then than we imagine today–a requirement for exalatation. His wife Laura spoke on contemporary sealing policies and Hugo Olaiz spoke on the concept of celestial polygamy. Kaimi spoke last on the legal framework. (There was another speaker whose name I don’t recall right now.)

    Anne Wilde (sp?), the well known fundamentalist, was first up to speak and had high praise for the speakers.

    Now here I have to make my annual statement of one thing I detest about Sunstone. It seems like there are a lot of people who are in love with the sound of their own voice and use the Questions time not to actually ask any questions, but to get on a soapbox and pontificate. One woman stood at the mike and talked on and on, almost as if she herself was a presenter on the panel. And this even though we were almost out of time and there was a line of people waiting patiently to ask questions. The narcissism in some of these commenters really annoys me sometimes; what I have to say is so important and vital that I’m not going to actually ask any questions or give others the opportunity to do so.


    But for that annoyance, though, it was a good session.

    I just now chatted with Don Bradley for a bit; he told me about his BoM presentation tomorrow.

  80. MikeInWeho says:

    Did the Bloggernacle Choir still meet ? I got in late and could not find anybody. Hope to meet you all on Saturday!

  81. I attended two sessions today–the bloggernacle one (a delight) and a really fine session with two non-Mormon fans of Mormonism–Jeff Needle (a good friend of mine) and Les somebody. To be truthful, I went out of loyalty to Jeff–and I felt bad that I couldn’t hear Kaimi. I didn’t expect I’d enjoy the session so much or be so moved by it. I will probably buy the tape of this one for my son. An outsider’s sympathetic view of Mormonism is really eye-opening and inspirational. Too bad I’m brain dead at the moment, or I could give you some sense of what Jeff and Les said.

    Kevin–I would e-mail you personally, but I have your e-mail address at my office, not at home. I wanted you to know that Darius is excited about your session tomorrow. If his health allows, he’ll attend it. I, unfortunately, cannot. I will be in Provo fulfilling other commitments. How willing are you to let non-attendees see a written copy of what you’ll be presenting on “innoculation”?

    In the “I’m Blessed: An interview with Darius Gray,” Darius chose to finally reveal the fact that he has terminal cancer. The disease is called “polycythemia vera” if anyone wants more information. Generally, if it’s undiagnosed, the victim dies within 18 months. Darius already had the disease when I met him nine years ago–undiagnosed. I consider everything he’s done in that time to be a gift.

    He wasn’t sure he should have shared the truth about his health. I think it was good that he did, though. I am very protective of him. I get nervous when I see people converge around him after a presentation, or engage him in long conversations, because I know how much rest he needs. Maybe his openness about his disease will help people be a little more considerate.

    No, that’s the wrong answer. (She says to herself, recognizing that her brain is not working.)

    It was a beautiful thing to watch Darius hold a sobbing young man who was in a faith crisis yesterday. I couldn’t get the image out of my mind. Darius, being black and LDS (baptized in 1964), has obviously been through some huge struggles. I think people just know that. There is something about talking to a person you KNOW has been through more faith trials than you have, and realizing that they care about you, that they’ve even paved the way for you somehow. How could I possibly say, “Darius, don’t take too much time comforting this young man. Remember, you’re sick. You can mourn with those that mourn when your health improves.” Of course I couldn’t do that.

    Once I told Bruce he needed to go to the temple less frequently, because it was cutting into his book writing time. He said, “Don’t take that away from me. That’s the one thing I need. It gives me the peace to do everything else.”

    I wonder how often we “protect” people from their callings or their opportunities because we have our own sense of what they ought to be doing. Still, because I know (have known for years) just how sick Darius is, it is difficult to see him doing things I know will wipe him out.

  82. Mike,

    We’re over in Weights and Measures. Hurry, the karaoke is starting soon!

    Hey, there you are!

  83. Just returned from Friday evening’s Plenary Session, “Pillars of My Faith.” Jana Riess’s talk, re-named “Tributaries of My Faith” was simply amazing, one of the most inspiring talks I’ve ever heard at Sunstone. Must download status. Closing out by singing “I Need Thee Every Hour” was perfect. My soul feels refreshed.

    But though my soul feels refreshed, my body is tired, so I’ve skipped out on the ‘nacle party. Kaimi, if you do break out the karaoke machine, please do a proxy rendition of “Tom Sawyer” for me…

  84. Kevin Barney says:

    Mike, it was wonderful to finally meet you! I’m so glad you came all the way from LA, and I’m glad you found us.

    Margaret, unfortunately I don’t have a written text, just some notes I’ve scribbled on a piece of paper in my back pocket.

    The pillars of my faith session was simply awesome. Very uplifting and inspiring. And I’ve long had a mad crush on Jana, who is simply wonderful. As a lifer, just knowing that a person as knowledgeable and intelligent and thoughtful as Jana, coming from an atheistic background, could want to join the Saints is very inspiring to me (especially since I have no confidence that I myself would have found Mormonism had I not been born to it).

    The Bloggersnacker was fun (but where was the singing? I was the only one who actually brought his choir book). And I finally managed to meet my fellow blogger sam mb, which was great. I just now left because (a) it’s way past my bedtime and (b) trying to speak above the roar is irritating my throat, and I have a session yet to do tomorrow.

    It was terrific to meet all of you who introduced yourselves to me!

  85. Kevin, great to meet. Margaret, thanks for such a sweet image of Darius as a pioneer and beacon of faith.

  86. I had not planned to attend the plenary session, but I was SO glad I did. It was a little long because of the business (which needed to happen) and it was kind of hot, but both speakers were excellent. The image of the tributaries into the river synchronized almost exactly with how I feel my own experience has been recently. I’m tubing on Jana’s river.

    The party was fun. No singing. Great brownies. FMHLisa and Mfranti drove me to where I was staying after. Lots of beautiful women.

    It’s very late, and I should be asleep already. It was wonderful meeting so many of you.

  87. Matt W. (#65),

    Yes, they did.

  88. I want to finish talking about the bloggernacle panel before I forget what I was going to say.

    Kristine was the coolest presenter because she actually quoted from blog posts. She quoted Rosalind Welch and MikeInWeHo and they both happened to attend the party tonight. Kristine’s answer to the question was that the nacle can be very Mormon and can feed our faith in ways and on subjects that we just don’t find elsewhere. It was fun to hear the examples she cited from various blogs. Some were very funny and some were incredibly touching.

    Russell was very scholarly in his approach, and warned us that because of this, he might be boring. He wasn’t. He pointed out the obvious differences between the online community of the nacle and the physical community of the church and asked how the nacle could possibly represent the church community in any meaningful way.

    He then pointed out the commonalities between the two communities and found that “it comes down to conversation.” The nacle is like an estension of the conversations you might have in the foyer at your wardhouse. He questioned whether engaging in this is really a good activity. Some have been hurt by it, but there are also some who have been helped.

    As I told Lisa at the party, she was the most entertaining speaker and yet, somehow, the most fragile. She had a fight with her Mom this morning(about Sunstone?) and talked about the fact that her Mom doesn’t know about her blog(!). She seemed intimidated to be following Russell (who wouldn’t be). She said she blogged because she needed a place to put her “brain vomit.” Her answer to the question was very practical. She said the nacle isn’t at all representative of the Mormonism her Mom would recognize, and she worries that it doesn’t accurately represent Mormonism to the outsiders who visit her blog and say things like: “I never knew Mormons thought this way.” (She says they don’t, I say her blog proves otherwise). Her conclusion, however, (which I firmly agree with) was that the nacle is essential fo her Mormonism and for her to make a place for herself in the church.

    There wasn’t a lot of time for questions or comments but one question (asked by Carrie(?)) was something like: Why do you feel it’s necessary to post these things that you write publicly? The obvious answer, which I think Kaimi gave, was that nacle participants need and want the comments of their fellow naclers. They need and want the discussion that follows their posts and to hear and learn from other points of view.

    My answer to this question most closely resembles this poem by Mark Strand:

    Keeping Things Whole

    In a field
    I am the absence
    of field.
    This is
    always the case.
    Wherever I am
    I am what is missing.

    When I walk
    I part the air
    and always
    the air moves in
    to fill the spaces
    where my body’s been.

    We all have reasons
    for moving.
    I move
    to keep things whole.

    Why do we blog? well, maybe it’s to keep things whole.

  89. Matt Thurston (#82)–So is it possible to download the presentations? In the past, they’ve been available for purchase. Have things changed? There are several sessions I really want. I’ll happily pay for them if that’s the way things work, but it’d be great to download them.

  90. Kevin Barney says:

    I attended a terrific paper by my friend Brant Gardner on problems with the Mormon mythos of trying to connect Quetzelcoatl (I learned that the end of the word is not pronounced “aht-ehl” but rather “ahck”) with the Jesus of the BoM. This will appear in expanded form in his forthcoming commentary on the BoM, entitled Second Witness, due out from Kofford later this year.

    Then I went to a panel on the Tanners. Larry Foster spoke first; he publsihed a couple of essays on the Tanners in Dialogue, and followed a similar tack here. Usually the shelf-life of an apostate is short–maybe they write one expose and then move on–but the Tanners have made a 40-year career of their disaffection. They did some good things in terms of making documents available and pressing LDS to think more carefully about their faith. In his youth Jerald held unrealistic, pollyannish beliefs about JS and the Church, and when they weren’t realized, he became an apostate. Their work is simplistic, black and white thinking, marred by overwhelming bias and a double standard.

    Ron Huggins spoke next; he values the Tanners as important role models in his own work and ministry. He talked about how Ed Decker had written that certain words that used to be spoken near the end of the endowment were Hebrew for “Marvelous Lucifer,” and the Tanners published an article rebutting the claim. (Much was made of Jerald’s acceding to Richard Lloyd Anderson’s conclusion that the Cowdery defense document was a forgery and also standing alone against the authenticity of the Salamander Letter, for both of which he certainly deserves credit. In fact, Mike Marquardt and Wes Walters kept trying to get him to change his mind about the Salamander Letter, and even Sandra publicly disagreed with him on that, but he was vindicated in the end.)

    Allen Roberts gave a measured but very positive view of the Tanners.

    Will Bagley in his ever impish and entertaining way made strongly positive comments about the Tanners. He claimed they weren’t just “tearing something down” (a comment I simply didn’t understand). He compared them favorably to what he sees in the dodging and omission in New Mormon Histoory; what he calls ass-kissing historians. [I will go on record here of agreeing with Foster. I like the tradition of modern academic LDS history, which I think is rigorous and responsible, and to put the Tanners on a pedestal above our modern historians is simply ludicrous. But will likes to be flamboyant and make a splash.) He told a funny story of going to a Mike Quinn book signing and handing him the anonymous critique of the Tanners by a Mormon Historian (which he is widely understood to have authored but never publicly acknowledged). Mike handed it back and said “I’m no longer a Mormon Historian.” That was pretty funny.

    Finally Sandra spoke. She paid tribute to Jerald and that, while he was indeed very shy, he had many other wonderful traits and a good sense of humor. (And she has finally forgiven him for being right about the Salamander Letter.)

  91. Margaret, you can download mp3s at:
    However, the 2007 symposium isn’t up yet. It usually takes several days. When it is there, you’ll have to pay per session, usually about $4.00. The older symposia are also there also, and the oldest ones are free.

  92. I want to thank Kristine for organizing the party last night (though she denies it now). I had a great time and loved offending in person all the folks that I had previously only been able to offend online.

    It’s always fun to see if appearances match your expectations, and here are my observations on that:

    Kevin Barney is a much bigger guy than I expected. And he works out. You might want to keep this in mind if you are inclined to tangle with him online. If you ever meet up with him in person, he can kick your butt.

    Kaimi never ceases to surprise me. He was the only one who actually had the guts to Karaoke. He will now forever be known as Karaoke Kaimi to me.

    MikeInWeho is a truly great guy who actually looks a bit like Chandler on Friends. Not the vicodin-addicted Chandler or the fat-and-happy Chandler, but a nice late-season Chandler that everyone can love.

  93. Kevin Barney says:

    I just returned from the presentation by Brian Hales on the differences between the FLDS and LDS Churches. (And in the spirit of MCQ’s comment above, Brian is a dead wringer for Niles Crane on the Frasier show.)

    Apparently Brian was asked by a journalist to describe these differences, and he didn’t have a good answer off the cuff. So he worked on compiling a list. He came up with ten items for the purposes of this presentation:

    1. Priesthood authority. A lot of fundamentalism traces back to Lorin Woolley and the Council of Seven Friends, but that counsel mechanism no longer appears to exist (Warren Jeffs is simply the President with maybe some counselors and bishops).

    2. Belief polygamy authorized today.

    3. Belief that more wives = greater exaltation (with 19th century roots).

    4. Control over marriages–the “law of placing” (sort of like Saturday’s Warrior on crack).

    5. Defrauding the government.

    6. Living consecration now.

    7. Control over property (the United Effort Plan, which does not equal the law of consecration).

    8. No missionary work.

    9. No temple work for the dead. The Texas temple built by Warren Jeffs appears to be an innovation in the fundamentalist tradition; it’s secret so Brian isn’t sure what goes on in there.

    10. Expectation of the One Mighty and Strong (from D&C 85:1). Brian thinks that, in context, the expression “to set in order the house of God” from that verse is really just talking about surveying the temple plot in Independence.

    In the Q&A I asked him how he got interested in this topic, and he said that his sister joined the Allred group and tried to convert him to fundamentalism; he looked into it but couldn’t see it.

  94. As an outsider to the sunstone experience, I want to say I really appreciate this chance to look into the symposia with faithful eyes. Still, I don’t know that I’ll ever watch a dutcher film again, just off reading here. Not that his films are bad, but that the whole thing is too heart breaking. It’s like reading a Paul Dunn book.

  95. Kevin Barney says:

    I thought our inoculation panel went well. It was moderated by Randy Paul, followed by me, Mike Ash and Blake Ostler. It was a pretty big room and it was full. I was happy with it, especially considering that none of us compared notes before hand.

    Afterwards, Blake and Brant Gardner and I went to a Brazilian steakhouse in Trolley Square for dinner. As I write this, I’m stuffed.

    Thus endeth my Sunstone experience for this year. I might hit the hot tub before going to bed, and then I’ll spend most of tomorrow flying home.

  96. Wow, Ash, Ostler and Barney. That’s a pretty dang good hand in any game of Mormon Scholarship. I’m tempted to throw in the $4 for the the mp3.

  97. Kevin, actually, your “inoculation” panel was great. Matt W., definitely worth the $4 download. I’ll be listening to it again myself.

    I always enjoy listening to Blake Ostler’s strong point of view, even if I sometimes disagree with him. Blake seems to puts the burden of discovery or personal inoculation squarely on the shoulders of the Saints themselves. I agree, but such an transfer of responsibility (from the institution to the individual) can only go so far. Blake can chide all of the lazy Latter-day Saints who haven’t taken the time to study all of the controversial issues with the same determination and rigor he applied to his study of the issues as a mere high school teen, but what about investigators and new converts? Should they have to dig through endless volumes of history and commentary to discover the tough issues the Church won’t disclose during the missionary discussions?

    If I sell a used car to my neighbor, it doesn’t seem honest to have it detailed and polished so it appears shiny/new on the outside, but fail to tell my neighbor about the faulty transmission. Blake would say my neighbor should do his due diligence and have the car examined by a mechanic first. I agree. All investigators should rigorously examine a faith before conversion. But wouldn’t it be more honest if my neighbor learned about the faulty transmission from me instead of a third party mechanic? If my neighbor failed to tell me about the transmission, what else has he failed to disclose that the mechanic didn’t catch?

    Of course, the question is what are the Church issues that are the equivalent of a faulty transmission? I don’t know, but Kevin Barney’s example of disclosing the history of Blacks and the Priesthood to prospective Black converts seems like a no-brainer.

  98. I think that analogy is spot on, Matt. Furthermore, even if you really believe that it’s your neighbor’s responsibility and that you have NO need to tell him about the faulty transmission, it’s going to be a foregone conclusion that your neighbor is going to be really pissed and think you ripped him off when the car needs a $700 transmission job in three months. You can blame your neighbor for being stupid all you want, but in any case, your relationship with your neighbor is ruined. Was that the goal?

  99. While I am okay with Innoculation, I think it is important to remember that the history of the Church is not the Gospel of the Church, and when we “sell” the Gospel as missionaries, we are not selling the history. When I sell that used car, I don’t say that it used to have a flat tire. That’s irrelevant.

    THat said, Innoculation is a no brainer, and even innoculation in sunday school classes, etc. It is more of the how and what and in what way that I am curious about. The example of Blacks and the priesthood is a good one, and is a fair example, if done in the right way.

  100. Margaret Young: You tell Darus Gray that people he has never met are praying for him.

  101. er Darius

  102. Kevin Barney says:

    I’ll try to jot down some things I sais in the inoculation panel and also some things I had in my notes that there wasn’t time to say.

    I started with a pretty edgy joke, which went something like this:

    When Dan called me to ask me to do this, the phone connection was bad, and I thought he was asking me to be on a panel on premature inoculation… [pause for laugh]

    …I told him I wouldn’t know anything about that…[pause for laugh]

    …because I always wait until November to get my flu vaccine…[pause for laugh]

    I started by telling the story of a woman named Ruth in the ward of my youth 30 years ago. She was a very active, long time pillar of our little ward family. She worked with a Seventh-day Adventist woman, who one day mentioned in the course of a conversation that the Sabbath had originally been on Saturday. (This happened while I was away on my mission, so I got it all second hand, but my impression is that it was not an attempt at proselytism, but simply a fact mentioned during a conversation.) Ruth immediately insisted that, no, the Sabbath was Sunday, and if it had ever been Saturday “her Church would have told her.” She goes and talks to the bishop, who assures her that, yes, the Sabbath is and always has been Sunday. Then she does something fateful: she walks into a library and researches it. And lo and behold, the Sabbath originally was sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, just as Jews observe it to this very day.

    The bishop didn’t know anything about this and was of no help. They eventually found someone in the stake who could talk to her, but by then it was too late. She lost her faith, left the church and became–natch–a 7D Adventist.

    What made a particular impression on me was the way the issue shifted from the substantive one of the seventh day sabbath to the personal feeling of having been deceived, lied to, and so forth. And while people can absorb hard facts, they can’t absorbe the feeling of broken trust, and if the church wasn’t forthcoming on issue A, then maybe they haven’t been forthcoming on issue B.

    This is a good illustration, because in this case the substantive issue was such a trifle. Seventh day sabbath isn’t even a uniquely Mormon issue, and it is all simply a matter of historical development. If the modern day me could have had five minutes with the then Ruth when this issue first came up, it would have been no problem. But once the real issue became a perception of broken faith and trust, the writing was on the wall. That sense of broken trust is a hundred, a thousand times more difficult to deal with than any substantive issue you could name. I said that I would much prefer to walk into my sunday school class on sunday and teach a lesson on the hardest issue you can think of (I picked polyandry as an example) rather than have to counsel and deal with someone who perceives that the church has lied to her.

    I talked about how the prospect of inoculation is not a riskless transaction; there is indeed risk, and testimonies can be lost in the process. But as with a real shot, the benefit usually justifies the short-term pain and risk of getting the shot in the first place.

    There are myriad decision points on myriad issues at different times and places at all levels of the church where the decision has to be made whether to inoculate or to say nothing and hope the person or class or readership or whoever simply never lears of that particular issue from a hostile source. And there was a time where not saying anything about hard issues might have been the more rational decision, since the likelihood of people learning about such things was rather low. But the internet has changed all that.

    I said some other stuff, I think, and then I gave another story to illustrate the point. Last Tuesday I had lunch with a friend in Orem, a BYU prof who team teaches the 12 and 13-year old class with another BYU prof. Recently his teaching partner was talking about John Taylor on the underground (the course of study is the presidents of the church), and a 12-year old girl–the bishop’s daughter–raised her hand and asked “What’s polygamy?” It turns out a majority of the class had no clue that the church had ever practiced polygamy, and a minority (not just this one girl) didn’t even know what the word meant. These are middle schoolers. So the teacher says it has to do with when a man has more than one wife at the same time. And she says, “Oooh, that’s gross!” I pointed out that if her family ever moved to, say, Illinois, her classmates would delight in asking her on an almost daily basis how many mothers she has. If there’s anything Mormons can’t escape it is polygamy. Do we really want our daughters’ first exposure to something like polygamy to be hostile comments from outsiders?

  103. Kevin Barney says:

    I recall responding to a couple of questions. I had occasion to mention my BCC post on informing American blacks before they are baptized about the historical priesthood ban. And I pointed out that someone in that thread correctly observed that you couldn’t really just ask 19-year old elders to address this; they weren’t even alive back then, they know nothing about it, and there would be a substantial risk of perpetuating the old folk dogmas (curse of Cain and so forth). It was a great point; I have a bad habit of just assuming that people around me know everything I know, and just because I’ve read Bush and Mauss and Bringhurst and lots of other folks, it doesn’t follow that a 19-year old has that same knowledge. So it would take some training and education to be able to do this. I said if I were a MP I would use Armand’s Sunstone Q&A (which originated as a FAIR presentation) as the foundation for this.

    Then I was asked what I would do differently than in the movie Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration (or something like that). I don’t know that I’ve seen that movie; it’s possible that I have, but I know for sure I’ve never seen it in the Joseph Smith Theater. For years I tried to see Legacy there and could never get tickets, so I stopped trying to go that theater altogether. But basically I said that I do sort of have a fantasy of doing my own JS movie. If I were Richard Dutcher and had Larry Miller money, I would start with the family’s troubles and moving around New England, the leg operation, but when I got to Palmyra I would include the money digging and the stone in a hat, all that stuff. I think including that stuff would make the movie cool and interesting.

  104. Kevin Barney says:

    A few things I didn’t get to Mike Ash covered in his excellent presentation, such as RSR as an inoculation and the Stan Kimball typology of level A (the Jr. SS version; the Church is all good all the time), level B (the anti version; the Church is all bad all the time), and level C (the mature version, which looks a lot like level A but takes into account the issues raised by level B and is more nuanced and complicated). This is the old Hegelian thesis, antithesis, synthesis.

    Nibley’s quote from a long time ago to the effect that if the money digging stuff were true, it would mean the downfall of the Church. Well, it is true, and it didn’t mean the downfall of the Church at all. It just took historians and members time to absorb the new information and work through it.

    One of the few things I’ve learned of that has ever bothered me was the Salamander Letter. Rather than just chuck my faith, though, I rolled up my sleeves and studied the issues (this was in the early days before Quinn’s Magic World View); I remember an article by non-LDS historian Jon Butler on early American practices of folk magic being particularly helpful, and I worked through it. I decided if it bothered me it would bother others, so I taught a GD class entirely on the Salamander Letter, with both the bishop and SP in attendance. It was a great class, if I do say so myself.

    I had a business/legal analogy in my pocket. My mentor and senior partner at my first law firm always used to quote Brandeis to the effect that sunshine is the best disinfectant. He taught me that if there is a problem in a deal, there is no use hiding it, get it on the table right away. There is a lot of expensive talent sitting around the table; let’s leverage that talent to find a solution. Just the process of time helps people to see the problem in a different light, see it from different angles, or maybe reach the conclusion that it isn’t such a problem after all. And if it really is going to scuttle the deal, better to find out sooner rather than later.

  105. Kevin Barney says:

    On teaching difficult topics in church, I think it’s important to do so in a very matter-of-fact way. Bushman is great at this. It’s like when a toddler falls down; he looks up to get a cue from his parent whether he should be freaked out or not. If his parent shows an excess of concern, the toddler figures “uh oh,” and wails and wails. But if the parent doesn’t seem too concerned about, the child might cry a little for the pain and then take it all in stride as his parent does. So you can’t freak your class out; you’ve got to broach it casually, naturally, like *of course* this is the way things are.

    Whan I had lunch with Mark A-M, he told me a story about a student at BYU who was in a religion class where the stone in the hat was explained. The professor got a letter from one of his students saying he would come in and take the final, but he would not be attending class any more so as to preserve his faith. The student had asked his father about it, who asked a Seventy, who told him it was all a bald-faced lie. The naive BYU student running to a GA is such a cliche, but that kid is in for a world of hurt down the line.

  106. Eric Russell says:

    Great point Kevin in 105. I think attitude is just as big a factor, if not bigger, than the actual information itself. Church history is full of weird stuff, most of which we talk about matter of factly all the time. I sometimes struggle to understand why the “controversial” weird stuff is any weirder than the rest.

  107. MikeInWeHo says:


    Your panel on inoculation was fantastic even if I couldn’t quite hear your joke (you don’t want to know what the people way in the back thought you said!). I sat at rapt attention through the session just preceding (“Do you have a testimony of….?) and then yours. Back to back, it was striking to me just how thoughtful and knowledgeable you all are. Very impressive.

    The reading of John Gustav-Wrathall’s paper was incredible. Many of us were moved to tears, and the Q&A time afterward felt like a testimony meeting. If you didn’t get a chance to attend, definitely considering listening to his session later. John has something very important to say. If you don’t believe the Spirit can be powerfully present with a gay ex-member, you will have some thinking to do! I pray for the day he is allowed to give that talk in a Sacrament meeting in his home ward.

    One more thing:

    THANK YOU so much, everybody. Your warm welcome touched me deeply. Everyone I met extended a hand of friendship. It was great to place faces with Bloggernacle names. Thanks especially to Kristine for personally inviting me to the Friday night party and giving me a hug when I walked in. My initial anxiety dissipated instantly. I’m tempting to say something gushy about how you all affected me, but I’ll choke that back for now and just say “Thanks.” See you again sometime!

  108. MikeInWeHo says:


  109. Again, thanks for the great notes and comments Kevin!

  110. I had a wonderful time meeting tons of fun people. I wish I could have had more time to attend the conference instead of just popping in for the bloggernacle panel and choir practice (the singing sounded more like a deafening roar.) there were so many of you that I wanted to spend much much more time talking to, but there just wasn’t time.

    Kristine, Kaimi, Russell, and Matt (sigh, my heroes) were so articulate and their presentations were really thought provoking for me. I just hate missing out on all the great panels and presentations, but the kids demanded that i take care of them, and I am not brave nor strong enough to drag them through a single panel let alone an entire symposium.

    I’m so sad to say goodbye to BiV.
    It was wonderful to put names to faces, I wish I’d had my camera (someone post pictures, or send me some!)
    It’s still surprising how some personalities and faces match online persona’s, and some really don’t.
    Despite the drugs, JohnR was not responsible for that feminist pick-up artist silliness, that was all my fault.

  111. John D. and some others from the San Diego area are coming to my house Wednesday night, for dinner and Sunstone discussion. I live north of San Diego, about 25 miles. MikeInWeHo, if I’d figured out who you were Friday, I would have invited you. Don’t you live in Orange County? If you’d like to come, email me at And the invitation goes for anyone else who lives close enough to Encinitas, CA to make it then. Just email me for directions.

  112. Steve Evans says:

    These notes and comments are a Godsend. Thanks all.

  113. I’m so not missing this next year. Wow. And thanks again, Kevin, for such stellar reporting. Really, really appreciated.

  114. Kevin Barney says:

    Mike, I was so thrilled to meet you! Thanks so much for coming and saying hi.

    And fmhLisa, is there some sort of rule or regulation or bylaw or statute or something to the effect that FMH’ers have to be, uh, gorgeous? Am I allowed to say that, or is that somehow anti-feminist?

  115. Kevin, don’t you know? All smart women are beautiful!

  116. Kevin Barney says:

    Tracy, that is definitely my impression, but then I am the perhaps odd male who finds intelligence in a woman an extremely attractive quality, so that does tend to color the way I perceive smart women.

  117. #99

    “I think it is important to remember that the history of the Church is not the Gospel of the Church, and when we “sell” the Gospel as missionaries, we are not selling the history. When I sell that used car, I don’t say that it used to have a flat tire. That’s irrelevant”

    I don’t know that I agree. Much of our restorational doctrine is completely tied to history, no? Certainly our founding story is critically tied to our history.

    If we’re going to use that history as proof of the restoration, we’d better make sure we have it right – and we’d better disclose all restorational relevance (I think to some the relevance is the big grey area). To me, things like BOM translation methods, first vision versions, Joseph’s polygamy, etc., are all relevant because they have direct doctrinal implications. We have established our restorational story and critical doctrine around these things – if there’s a nail in the tire, folks ought to know because they’re accepting the restoration based on their understanding and feelings of a particular historical account.

    I’m all for consumer responsibilty, but I think Blake takes it way too far.

  118. adcama, I’ll see your “takes it way to far” and raise you one “blame the victim.”

  119. Thanks for the comments – and especially to Kevin for the wonderful notes.

    MikeinWeho: I wish I could have attended if for no other reason than to have been able to meet you. FWIW, my wife says my physical appearance matches my comments – just a bit too expansive.

  120. Aaron Brown says:

    Ash, Ostler and Barney were great. So was Kristine, in both the Bloggernacle and Margaret Toscano panels. Russell, fmhLisa, Kaimi, everybody did a fantastic job.

    I wasn’t sure it would be worth it to fly out to Sunstone, but it was.

    Aaron B

  121. Aaron: It was really good to meet you. And I promise I won’t tell Steve about the story you told us about him. Oops…

  122. adcama: The story of the restoration is not the Gospel….

    I’m not saying it isn’t important, I am saying I do understand why when we talk about Joseph Smith, Jesus Christ, Paul, or anything else, the lessons tend to focus on us, and what we ought to be doing, rather than the plain history.

    Of course when we give history it needs to be as accurate as we know it to be, because the power of the Gospel relies on Faith and Trust. And the Restoration is important to the Gospel, because it is how we got the Gospel, and it matters so that we can comfortably say that we believe that what we have is the true Gospel and is worth giving ourselves to without reservation. But the restoration is not the Gospel.

  123. Matt W. – I think I understand what you are trying to say, but my opinion is that for practical purposes, the restoration has everything to do with the gospel. After all, the restoration is a restoration of THE gospel…in its fulness – so from that perspective the two have everything in common.

    My point is that when we use restorational historical details as items of proof of the restoration of that gospel, we (the church) need to disclose all relevance and we need to ensure accuracy – and these things are not the responsibility of the consumer.

  124. I don’t disagree. I just don’t think we need to spend every minute talking about the restorational historical details. There needs to come a point where we say “I’m good with that” and move on to living the Gospel and working on ways to better implement and live the Gospel. I guess I am saying the Church assumes that it’s truth claims are true and is acting based on that assumption. I don’t have a problem with that.

  125. Steve Evans says:

    MCQ, I’m comfortable with Aaron telling you anything he knows about me.

  126. Thanks to you all, great comments. Have not been to a Sunstone symposium since I moved from Utah 14 years ago. I badly miss it.

    In the nostalgia department, my wife and I remember hearing Wayne Owens, former democratic Utah congressman and mission president, talk about the environment, singing old songs no longer in the hymn book at a lunch session, and Eugene England talking about the first Iraq War. Kevin, et al, you brought back some really good memories. Wish I could have been there.

  127. Aaron, Kaimi, Kristine, RFox, Kevin, Rosalynde, Matt Evans, Lynette, Grasshopper, etc.

    It was so great to have you, and the others, in attendance (either at the conference, or at the snacker). Each of you made the conference much better than it would have been otherwise. Plus you are all so dang brilliant and cool!!!

    I hope to see many of you at Sunstone Seattle (around 10/13) and Sunstone New England (around 11/13) as well.

    If any of you would like to consider developing something for the program of either of these upcoming events (panel, presentation, snacker, or otherwise), please don’t hesitate to contact me.

    All the best.

  128. Christopher Smith says:

    Did anybody catch Paul Toscano? How about Hugo Olaiz? I’m trying to decide which ones are worth buying…

  129. Allen Lambert says:

    Re: PBS show and producer.
    1) In a seminar a couple weeks ago Terryl Givens told a revealing story about the PBS show and Helen Whitney. First, he was interviewed on camera for 14 hours. The small portion taken out of that total was highly selective and specifically omitted what he considered the most important part and something he called their attention to several times. Indeed, he tried repeatedly to get the producer to take certain things like the BoM seriously as part of story of Mormonism. Thus, how can one tell the story of Mormonism and pioneer sacrifice without looking at the prime motivator? (How could one tell the story of Judaism without the OT seriously [e.g., stories like the Passover and Exodus, etc?). He expressed disappointment about the agenda which the producer had and the results thereof.

    2) My experience reinforces the highly selective bias. Immediately after the first show (first broadcast of first half) I sent in a comment. When it did not appear online along with dozens of others, I resent it the next, and a third time after the second part was shown. It was never posted and no other like it.
    I raised issues about selectivity. Thus, why no Jan Shipps, the most prominent non-Mormon scholar of the Mormon story? Why did Richard Bushman get only a few seconds when he is the most prominent (and active LDS) American historian dealing with the Mormon story? Especially when much time was given to people without any national prominence as scholars or experts on the Mormon story? Why were two non-LDS anthropologists with no expertise at all on the Mormon story given time (Fox, with a throw-away line, and Coe on the Maya [not Mormons]) but no anthropologists (LDS or non) with published expertise on Mormons? Why an unknown motorcycle riding poet rather than …? And so on. Why so much time devoted to a single tiny incident with no overall impact on Mormon identity and development? Especially without equal time given to another that did have impact (MMM vs Haun’s Mill)? Etc.
    It is pretty sad that this is the “best” thing out on the Mormon story by non-LDS and available to public. Have we become so accustomed to trash that we think mere mediocrity is beautiful?

  130. Allen Lambert says:

    Re: Homosexuality and biology

    Is there any credible scientific evidence of a biological component to homosexuality? NO.

    Actually, “biological” is too broad. Despite much effort, there is no evidence of either genetic inheritance or homonal differences, i.e., of “inherency”. Nor of brain structure differences causing homosexual orientation or behavior.

    After nearly a decade of studies, the last report in the journal “Science” (by molecular biologists and geneticists at Stanford, Univ. of Chicago, and Western Ontario Univ.) concluded that there was no homosexual genetic location. The “Science” editorial about the research was strong. So little has been pursued or published on this aspect since.

    Because of the obvious possibility of a hormonal cause (including random imbalance), much study of that aspect has also been done and also come up empty handed. The conclusion, as reported by two Cornell Univ. research specialists in homosexuality (one of whom claims to be bi-sexual himself) is that there is no hormonal connection.

    Brain structure studies have also not found anything. The most famous one (LeVay’s) was so fatally flawed methodologically that no one even gives it attention anymore. And “findings” have not been replicated. So no credibility.

    Twin studies have produced contradictory conclusions. But the best one to argue for some genetic basis found only a very weak possible link and a social psychological explanation is more credible than a genetic one in explaining the small systematic variation.

    In general, we do not know the answer to origin. But the scientific evidence is strongly against “inherency”, at least genetic and hormonal, whether thru brain structure or other mechanism. The most promising theories are social psychological.

    Allen Lambert

  131. I strongly recommend checking out the Sunstone panel on Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens. Dennis Potter, in particular, was tremendously entertaining and persuasive in his critique of the popular atheist genre.

    Aaron B

  132. Rick Jepson says:
  133. Allen Lambert says:

    Mr. Jeppson’s reference to the Hamer et al study (originally done in 1993)is one of those to which I referred (without naming). The specific reference given by Jepson is not the actual study. And Hamer did not do direct research on genes. The much more recent research reported in “Science” was done by molecular biologists directly on genes. The Hamer study was methodologically weak (even criticized by the Yale professor who developed the method Hamer used) and better explained by social pyschological factors.

  134. Allen Lambert says:

    Here is a reference to “Science” refuting the argument of Hamer and others with better research.

    Science Number 5414 23rd. April, 1999

    Ingrid Wickelgren, “Discovery of ‘Gay Gene’ Questioned”, page 571.

    George Rice, Carol Anderson, Neil Risch, and George Ebers, “Male Homosexuality: Absence of Linkage to Microsatellite Markers at Xq28”, pages 665-667.

  135. Rick Jepson says:


    Hey, I was trying to post a bunch of links (especially those you were referring to), but was at work and got cut off.

    Thanks for giving a comprehensive overview of the status of science on this issue. One of many that are so tainted with rhetoric that it’s hard to get to the bottom of things.


  136. Rick Jepson says:

    looking for full-text link, but here’s abstract:

    Science 23 April 1999:
    Vol. 284. no. 5414, p. 571
    DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5414.571
    Prev | Table of Contents | Next

    News of the Week
    Discovery of ‘Gay Gene’ Questioned
    Ingrid Wickelgren
    Six years ago, molecular geneticist Dean Hamer and his colleagues announced that they had found a genetic link to male homosexuality–an as yet unidentified gene on the X chromosome (Science, 16 July 1993, p. 321). Now on page 665, a research team reports failing to find a link between male homosexuality and Xq28, the chromosomal segment implicated by Hamer’s study. In addition, other unpublished work does not provide strong support for a linkage. The authors of the Science paper say that, taken together, the results suggest that if there is a linkage it’s so weak that it’s not important and that researchers should be looking elsewhere for the genes that contribute to homosexuality. Hamer disputes that contention, however.

  137. Rick Jepson says:

    Which refers to:

    Science 23 April 1999:
    Vol. 284. no. 5414, pp. 665 – 667
    DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5414.665
    Prev | Table of Contents


    Male Homosexuality: Absence of Linkage to Microsatellite Markers at Xq28
    George Rice, 1* Carol Anderson, 1 Neil Risch, 2 George Ebers 1

    Several lines of evidence have implicated genetic factors in homosexuality. The most compelling observation has been the report of genetic linkage of male homosexuality to microsatellite markers on the X chromosome. This observation warranted further study and confirmation. Sharing of alleles at position Xq28 was studied in 52 gay male sibling pairs from Canadian families. Four markers at Xq28 were analyzed (DXS1113, BGN, Factor 8, and DXS1108). Allele and haplotype sharing for these markers was not increased over expectation. These results do not support an X-linked gene underlying male homosexuality.

  138. Rick Jepson says:

    Intereting current read about how a “gay gene” would pass through population if–in fact–it were to exist:

    News and Views
    Nature 445, 158-159 (11 January 2007) | doi:10.1038/445158b; Published online 10 January 2007

    Evolutionary biology: Genetics and bisexuality
    Vincent Savolainen1 and Laurent Lehmann2

    Top of pageAbstractA population-genetic model indicates that if there is a gene responsible for homosexual behaviour it can readily spread in populations. The model also predicts widespread bisexuality in humans.

    For human societies at large, homosexuality is a sensitive issue. For biologists it is an intriguing one1, 2. How can genes influencing homosexual — and so non-reproductive — behaviour be favoured by natural selection? An answer is offered by Gavrilets and Rice in a paper that has just appeared in Proceedings of the Royal Society3. They provide a population-genetic analysis that explains why, in theory, a gene predisposing an individual to homosexual behaviour would spread in a population, and that predicts its widespread occurrence in humans and other sexually reproducing species.

    No predisposing gene for homosexual behaviour has been identified, but there is evidence that genetic controls are involved: for example, human twins are more likely both to be gay compared with non-identical brothers; and male homosexuality is more often inherited maternally, indicating that heritable maternal effects and/or genes linked to the X chromosome are in operation2, 3. However, unlike heterosexuals, who devote a significant amount of time to reproductive sex, homosexuals are involved in non-reproductive sex, hampering the direct transmission of any gene underlying this behaviour. Homosexuality has a cost to fitness — that is, the ability of an individual to produce offspring that survive and reproduce — and it can only evolve if it otherwise provides indirect benefits to reproduction.

    Three main mechanisms have been proposed in which variety in genes controlling homosexuality could be maintained in a population: overdominance, sexually antagonistic selection, and kin altruism2, 3, 4. For simplification, we will consider here male homosexuality, but these mechanisms also apply to female homosexuality. They also apply no matter how many genes contribute, but Gavrilets and Rice’s analysis deals with a single theoretical gene and its two variants (alleles).

    First, in the case of overdominance, a ‘gay allele’ would result in homosexual behaviour in an individual who has received this allele from both parents (homozygous), but would provide an advantage to the heterozygote (where only one parent has transmitted the gay allele). This situation would be similar to the renowned example of sickle-cell anaemia in Africa, a genetically inherited disease controlled by a deficient allele. Homozygotes for this allele suffer severe disorders. But because this allele confers resistance to malaria when heterozygous, it is maintained in human populations exposed to malaria. Under this scenario, heterozygotes for the gay allele may have higher success in attracting females and/or their sperm may have some competitive advantage5.

    In the second case, sexually antagonistic selection, a gay allele would result in a cost when expressed in males (‘feminization’ and loss of fitness), which would be counterbalanced by a fitness advantage when it is expressed in females.

    In the third hypothesis, kin altruism, homosexuals would help their own family members, increasing the fitness of their relatives and therefore the probability that a gay allele is passed on to the next generation2, 4.

    These hypotheses have previously been speculative, but they have now been modelled and formalized by Gavrilets and Rice3. The authors adapted the classical population-genetic equations established by J. B. S. Haldane6, 7 and describe the evolution of the frequency of two alleles at one locus, in large populations for which each allele may result in sex-specific effects on fitness. Considering hypothetical straight and gay alleles, Gavrilets and Rice document the conditions of relative costs and benefits to fitness under which the gay allele can enter a population of straight alleles and be maintained subsequently. They establish the conditions under both the overdominance and sexually antagonistic-selection hypotheses for a homosexual gene that would be located on autosomes (non-sexual chromosomes) or on the X chromosome. These conditions still remain to be evaluated in the kin-altruism hypothesis.

    Crucially, in these population-genetic models, a gay allele will produce variable degrees of homosexual behaviour, which is equivalent to the fitness cost of that behaviour (which, for example, could be interpreted as the proportion of time devoted to homosexual rather than reproductive sex). If one homozygous individual is not at all involved in reproductive sex, then the cost of homosexuality is maximal and this individual’s phenotype is obviously strictly gay; however, in all other combinations, homozygous individuals exhibit a degree of bisexual behaviour depending on the costs.

    Gavrilets and Rice show that, for a large set of costs and benefits, the gay allele can invade a population. Under overdominance, once a gay allele has entered a population it will be maintained in a polymorphic equilibrium, and this is easier if the homosexual gene is autosomal rather than X-linked. Further, under sexually antagonistic selection, the gay allele may even go to fixation — that is, each individual will become homozygous for this allele — thus implying widespread bisexuality.

    This theoretical framework3 is an advance in evolutionary biology and studies of human behaviour because it generates several testable predictions: for example, if a gene influencing homosexuality is linked to the X chromosome, then it would support the sexual-antagonism hypothesis rather than overdominance. The framework will be used to guide research on the genetic basis of male and female homosexuality, and will help in resolving the ‘Darwinian paradox of male homosexuality’2. But it is of course theory only. Tasks for the future are to establish more precisely the costs and benefits of such behaviour in natural populations1. Such knowledge will help fine-tune these models of sexual orientation and show whether overdominance or antagonistic selection has been operating in mammals and throughout human history.

  139. Not to be too blunt, but does anyone else find this interesting – or on point with the thread? I would like to soften that a bit, but I just don’t feel like it.

  140. Rick Jepson says:

    Interesting, though, that the primary source referred to with “male homosexuality is more often inherited maternally, indicating that heritable maternal effects and/or genes linked to the X chromosome are in operation” is a great deal less sure of that conclusion. (And doesn’t that always seem to be the case with secondary sources?)

    “Evidence for maternally inherited factors favouring male homosexuality and promoting female fecundity.” Camperio-Ciani, A., Corna, F. & Capiluppi, C. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 271, 2217–2221 (2004).

    The authors of that study looked at family size in paternal and maternal lines and in the number of older brothers as the related to homosexuality. And………….

    “Finally, we emphasize that over 79% of the variance in male sexual orientation in our sample remains unaccounted for by the factors of an excess of maternal homosexual kin and number of older brothers. This is consistent with heoretical and empirical studies, which show that individual experiences are a powerful determinant of human sexual behaviour and self-identity”

  141. Rick Jepson says:

    A.L. How much have you read/heard about the “immunization hypothesis” of male homosexuality? (Similar in principle to the RH negative mother of multiple RH positive children who developes a strong immune response to her own RH positive fetus.)

    I’m not well-informed on it, although it’s an interesting idea. As you seem significantly more up to date than I….do you have any thoughts?

    How much water does the claim that youngest brothers are more likely to be homosexual than the oldest. And what, if any, direct evidence has yet been found that demonstrates a type of immune response of a mother against the serial masculinity of her offspring?



  142. Rick Jepson says:


    Didn’t mean to hijack the thread.


  143. Rick Jepson says:

    “would like to soften that a bit, but I just don’t feel like it.”

    Why Ed, you sounded like Dirty Harry just then.

    : )

  144. Christopher Smith says:

    Hormonal theories have “come up empty-handed?” Not from what I hear.

  145. Steve Evans says:

    Although Ray is not an admin and should probably mind his own business, he’s right. Rick, Allen, if you have further comments of extended length please feel free to post them on your own site.

  146. Sorry, Steve.

  147. Rick Jepson says:


  148. Allen Lambert says:

    In re: #142, etc., the thread and irrelevance.
    I did not start the discussion of homosexuality on this thread; it was started much earlier (about some Sunstone presentation) and I only commented on some of the statements made in this discussion of Sunstone.
    But I agree we do not need to expand the discussion here.

    In re: #141 and theories of distribution in population.
    First, hypothesis three is seriously flawed because it assumes that all members of the family of which a homosexual is a part to which s/he contributes carry the same genetic defect, something that is not likely (at least in other kinds of cases).
    Second, the “theory” purports to explain not just persistence but expansion of percentage of population with the suspect gene. There is no evidence of increase over past few thousand years.

  149. Rick Jepson says:


    I don’t feel like your response spoke to the “immune hypothesis,” and I’m interested in your insight.

    However, since a straying conversation is apparently intolerable for so many here, look for a thread at sunstoneblog in the next few days–if you feel like continuing there.


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