Sunstone is over for another year. I finally have access to a computer, so I thought I’d jot some notes on my experience there this year.
Wednesday night I blew off the opening lecture to stay in with my son’s friends and play Settlers of Catan. I had never played before. Damn, that is one complicated game! It was fun, but I was a newbie and so winning just wasn’t in the cards for me.
Thursday, Tania Rands Lyon did a terrific session on “What if Toyota Ran the Church?” She compared and contrasted Toyota management philosophy with what we do in the Church. I really enjoyed this session. I believe she’s expanding this material for some sort of publication.
My next session was Trevor Luke on prophetic performance (touching on issues of magic). I went to this one mainly because he was a classics professor from Florida who had gone to BYU and then the University of Pennsylvania. With that background I figured he had to have been influenced by John Hall, who also went to Pennsylvania and specialized in Roman history, and I talked to him after and confirmed my hunch was right. Towards the end he made an offhand reference to Dan Vogel being an atheist, and Tom Kimball challenged him on it. David Knowlton, the commenter, suggested that Trevor wasn’t using the word to refer to a specific religious preference, but to a naturalistic stance in writing. I once asked Dan whether he was an atheist, and to be honest I can’t remember for sure what he said, but I think he considered himself some stripe of agnostic, not an atheist (which surprised me at the time).
Next was the ZDer panel on possibilities in Mormon feminism. (I’m absolutely in love with the ZDs, including cool brother Ziff whom I met for the first time. They are the quirkiest, funniest and funnest family I’ve ever encountered.) Seraphine, Kiskilili and Lynette each gave heavy, theologically oriented presentations, and then Ziff did a powerpoint with lots of graphs analyzing GA statements about their wives from GC. Most of the questions were directed to Ziff. I told him this reminded me of an old Sunstone comic. The first panel shows a session at the Sunstone Symposium, where a tweed jacket wearing-man is giving a presentation on a unified field theory of all knowledge. There are like three people in attendance. The next panel shows a different session on The Incomes of the General Authorities, with lots of graphs, and the room is packed to the rafters.
Speaking of the ZDs, after their session they invited me to go to lunch with them. Kaimi was going to have a picnic at Pioneer Park. They wanted to go to a grocery store first to pick up some food. While we are wandering around the store one of them tells me a story of last year at Sunstone when they took a friend out to lunch but they got lost and never did find the place they were supposed to go, so their friend had to go without lunch. Well, it was deja vu all over again. They spent so much time roaming around the grocery store, by the time we got out our hour and a half lunch break was almost over, so I took back a new friend to the symposium while they blew off the next session to meet up with Kaimi. So my new friend Courtney and I wolfed down our lunches just moments before the next session started. This became a running joke between me and Lynette the rest of the conference, as I swore I would never go to lunch with her again!
But I’m glad I rushed back, as my friend Blair Hodges gave an absolutely terrific presentation on C.S. Lewis and the Mormons. This was one of my favorite sessions.
The next session was given by my uncle, Jack Worlton, on study aids for Bible lovers, with me as respondent. He did a great job (it was his first powerpoint ever), and I just had a few comments in response and then we sort of tag-teamed the questions. I thought the session turned out very well.
Next was the FMH mommy blogging session (see Kaimi’s notes for details).
The plenary session was excellent. Highlights: Jana Riess gave a terrific talk on why she isn’t too bothered by women not having the priesthood. Darius Gray talked about what it was like to be a black Saint pre-1978. Particularly touching was material from David O. McKay’s journal, which he only learned of recently, that shows that when he married a white woman the policy decision to allow the marriage, which the 1P did, was a subject of substantial discussion. Imagine your upcoming marriage making it to the agenda of a 1P discussion! D. Michael Quinn made some very reasonable suggestions for ways the Church could improve its policies WRT gays without contravening any fundamental doctrine.
Friday morning I missed the first two sessions for a Dialogue board meeting. Afterwards I went to the Why We Stay session, followed by Mormon-related clips from The Daily Show and the Colbert Show during lunch. Next was a session on Mormon books, by Tom Kimball with comments by Margaret Young and a book conservator. This was a very interactive session and a lot of fun, with people shouting out their favorites. This was followed by the LDS Purity Myth and then the bridging stereotypes through blogging sessions (on each of which, see Kaimi’s notes). That evening’s plenary was Pillars of My Faith, featuring Bill Bradshaw and Lisa Hansen.
After the plenary, there was a snacker for bloggers. My intention was to just show up for a half-hour and then leave to get some sleep. But it was so much fun I stayed until 12:30 a.m. (I had to drive to Bountiful and needed to still be awake for the experience.) This featured beautiful FMHers following Lisa in various forms of what looked like goddess dancing, including my favorite, called Feeding the Chickens (personal to Lisa: you weren’t kidding about having moves! Very impressive.) After awhile I gravitated to the ZDs at the other end of the room, joined by Kristine and the Jensens. (It was so loud in there I was having a tough time hearing, but the conversation was worth the straining of my ears and voice.)
This morning I started with Kristine’s choir sing-along session, which I always enjoy. In the same room was a nice session on on-line lesson resources (see Kaimi’s T&S post). I really enjoyed the session on Mormon publishing, and I learned a lot about the subject (see Kaimi’s notes). After lunch I attended an interesting session on LDS “gnostic” readings of Adam and Eve by Boyd Petersen.
Next was a session on heretics that was really out of the ordinary. It involved 3-2-1 communication. So Randy Charles Paul played the role of a traditionalist father, and Dan Wotherspoon played the role of his questioning son. So as an audience we began by watching this dialogue from a third-person perspective. Then he invited people to come up and play the Dan role–this was the second person perspective. And finally he invited people to come up and play the Randy role–this was the first person perspective, and if you do it right you begin to understand, if not agree, with his perspective. So we have all these people coming up to the microphone like it’s improv night. It was hilarious!
The final session was very interesting to me; it was chaired by Ann Wilde and was about efforts to provide counselling and health services to polygamists.
When the conference was over, I took my good friend Sue out to Desert Edge at Trolley Square for dinner. My son recommended it, and it was a great pick; we really enjoyed it.
Well, that is pretty much it. Tomorrow I fly home to Illinois. I enjoyed the sessions, but even more I thoroughly enjoyed hanging with friends old and new. I had a great time. Now back to reality.