My First Sunstone Experience

Picture: Me (on right) with John Dehlin and Armand Mauss)

Okay I know I’ve been buggin everyone about my interest in Sunstone lately but it’s just because I’ve just been excited to find an LDS/Mormon community that really fits me. I’m an open-minded person and don’t usually feel that I can be as open-minded with my thoughts/comments as I’d like to in my church meetings. I know it shouldn’t be that way- that I should just speak my mind, but I usually keep my mouth shut to avoid weird looks from the surrounding members in class.

I was very happy when I found Sunstone last year because It’s given me a lot of faith again where I may have been lacking some. I don’t believe everything I hear in church, I think we all sift the wheat from the chaffe (sp?) or think for ourselves to some extent. I have felt very alone for a long time in this way but with communities like Sunstone, I have found my kind of people. After last weekend, I have actually found a way to really be happy and Mormon at the same time. Last weekend I attended the annual SLC Sunstone Symposium for the first time.

When I first got there I ran into John Dehlin from Mormon Stories He introduced me to a lot of big names in the Mormon community like Michael Quinn, and Armand Mauss. It was really cool to finally meet the people whose books I had been reading lately. My friend Alikan caught up with me later and we watched the rest of the presentations on Friday and all day Saturday.

John Dehlin gave a presentation called The Promise and Peril of the Internet Within Mormonism. He gave a great overview of what’s going on online with Mormon blogs, Podcasts, websites and even online videos. He has an LDS video online that you should watch that can be viewed here. The internet is very powerful and is opening doors to many new ways of learning and appreciating Mormonism.

In the next presentation called Join None of them, for they are All Wrong, presenters talked about their experiences in other churches. My friend John Remy talked about the amazing feelings he had felt in some of these places and even broke down and cried as he talked about it. As he shared these feelings I felt something very strong as well and gained a greater appreciation for my neighbors in other faiths.

Friday night we listened Tom Pixton share his faith through music. We listened to some amazing hymns arranged and sung in beautiful ways. It really reached me on another level.

Saturday morning Alikan and I listened to Anne Wilde, a Fundamentalist Mormon Polygimous wife. Her topic was Is Plural Marriage Required For Exaltation? She made her point by quoting Joseph Smith and Brigham Young who taught that it was necessary for salvation and that they never took those teachings back. She said that if they were here today, she believes they would say the same thing.

“Yes, it is against the law”, she said, “but you have to ask yourself if you are going to follow man’s law or God’s law”. She is very convinced of this and it shows in her determination to indoctrinate the LDS on this matter. There are actually many LDS who “convert” to the old ways of living a polygimous marriage after doing a prayerful study of polygamy on their own and receiving spiritual confirmations. We met an LDS man named _______ who over the past few years has read hundreds of books on the subject and is completely convinced that this law is of God. If his wife were willing to accept, he would commence practicing it.

It was really amazing to be hearing this and to be a part of this type of dialogue. I myself belive that polygamy was probably a mistake in our church’s past- I do not see it as inspired. I could not give 100f my love to more than one wife- the math does not work! Anyways, it was VERY interesting to hear from them. Seeing Anne Wilde in her very modest and closed clothing and to hear her talk about polygamy in this way felt to me like pulling someone right out of the LDS church from the eighteenth century and putting them in the room to talk to us. It was very interesting to say the least.

We then went to a panel of LDS film-makeres including a man who helped produce The Blair Witch Project and the man himself, Richard Dutcher (if you haven’t seen States of Grace yet, your missing out!). Richard Dutcher believes that the LDS film industry is now dead and there is not much hope for survival. He was responsible for the first major LDS film to be made called Army of God. Since its success, companies like Halestorm, Inc have produced much mierda in its wake (you know those cheesy mormon movies coming out all the time).

He explained it this way (and was very disappointed that Halestorm wasn’t there to hear this):

He compared the LDS film industry to a beautiful woman:

“I first saw her at a dance, she was leaning against the wall. She was beautiful to me. I saw so much potential in her. No one had asked her to dance yet so I gave her a chance. We danced. She was more than I could have hoped for. She could be witty, thoughtful, funny and beautiful. We had a great time for a while, but then one day other men started to become interested in her. I tried to warn her to not get involved with these men. But she didn’t listen. She started going out with a few idiots that didn’t treat her right. They abused her and even pimped her to others. Along the way she caught some diseases. Its got so bad that she is now in the hospital on life support, and it will take a miracle to revive her. I don’t think we can do it.”

So he extended the challenge to the young filmmakers of this generation to make some good movies for the LDS market. I think he has one left for the LDS (it’s going to be rated R so the community may not give him the viewership it will most likely merit). Once again, if you haven’t seen his latest film, States of Grace, go and do it. He truly is the most talented person we have making LDS movies right now so let’s support it.

The last session we watched was called Speaking Faith, Speaking Dogma: Choosing Language That Builds Rather Than Stifles Testimony. Rick Jepson gave the presentation. I have really enjoy his work in past Sunstone magazines so I was excited to hear him Sat. night. His presentation was very valuable to me and Alikan. How many times do people get up and “bear their testimony” by simply saying “I know the Church is true, I know JS was a prophet, I know the BOM is true”? We hear it so much that even a five-year old can get up and say the same things he’s heard recited so often (but what’s really weird is when a mother/father tells the child what he/she “believes” in their ear as their at the pulpit!). “I know” are very strong words and I think we abuse them at church. He tried to help us think of other ways to express our “testimonies” by avoiding tbe words “know”, “is”, “are”, “were”, etc. To me, hearing people’s feelings and beliefs in this way is MUCH more meaningful and touching.

I have thought about this in the past as well and have come up with my simple testimony:

“I am who I am today because of the Church. I am so grateful for the things I’ve learned and for the way my parents have raised me. I have also felt feelings so heavenly, grand and pure, that they have confirmed the goodness of the Church to me”.

This year’s Sunstone Symposium really made a difference for me. I am proud of my heritage and family religion. I embrace it and know that I can have my doubts and still have faith. My batteries have been charged up and I recommend this therapy to all who may be closet doubters or who simply think outside the correlated box at times.

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~ by bonoboi on August 14, 2006.

9 Responses to “My First Sunstone Experience”

  1. hm, very interesting.. I have never heard of sunstone before… it seems like your very commited to finding out what we are all ultimately searching for. Good luck with everything, and I’ll have to look into Sunstone for sure.
    Thanks for the insight!

  2. Mark is the coolest. It was great to hang with you, Mark. Thanks for sharing your experience with the rest of us.

    John

  3. Nice report, Mark. I think I saw you bumping around the halls. We’ll have to meet up next year.

    I dig Sunstone too! Sunstone is the life raft that keeps me connected to the cruise ship Mormonism. In fact, I soon discovered that life in the raft was more fulfilling than life on board the cruise ship ever was.

    Be sure to visit and comment at http://sunstoneblog.com/ ; they could use your thoughtful perspective.

    Matt Thurston

  4. It was good to meet you too. This was my third year going to Sunstone. I always leave it with a feeling of hope that carries me for several months.

  5. Thanks for introducing me to Sunstone, Mormons stories, etc. I wish you had done so a week ago….I would’ve gone to the conference as well. I tend to lean toward your thoughts on the polygamy issue. I think it was a mistake in our church’s history…not necessarily that God is for it or against it either way though as it is clearly seen in the OT as being OK, but then there are plenty of things that make me believe it’s not necessary and did more harm than good, though that’s whole discussion in and of itself. I requested a free copy of sunstone magazine. If I like what I see, I’ll probably subscribe…so far it looks great! I can’t express how happy I am to learn there are lots more members out there like me who have an alternate view of the truthfulness of the church, but still believe it is basically true. 🙂

  6. Welcome to the Sunstone family! 🙂

  7. I thought it would be interesting to post a friend of mine’s experience from the event as well. Kirk said:

    I have been stuck in a little cabin park city for the last week and haven’t been able to post. Here are some fun things I did at sun stone.

    *Learned that the internet will one day make it so I can lift up houses with my hands and have a million robo-babies.

    *Listened to Richard Dutcher call the guys from Halestorm hacks at least 23 times.

    *Smoked a cigarette with Radalicious

    *Watched Barlow mad dog T rex for making jokes during a serious comment.

    *Learned that Jesus was related to a bunch of whores (this was, oddly enough, my favorite lecture).

    *Watched a movie where fat middle aged mormon women decide to be lesbians.

    *Got schooled on the difference between Non Fiction and Fiction by an angry feminist (who i ended up really liking).

    *Sang “Hit me baby one more time” at a smokey Karaoke bar while a drunk floozy molested me on stage.

    *Hung out with my sister, my mom and my grandma way too much.

    *Found out John Dehlin is even better looking than i originally thought.

    *Talked about how fucked up you can get from drinking Kava.

    *Seriously considered moving to SLC.

    *Had a wonderful time and was so inspired not only by open minded messages and lectures, but also was so accepted by my SWAB friends I had never met that i really don’t mind calling myself Mormon anymore.

    Thanks for a great conference guys. I know I run the risk of coming off as sincere (which is never cool) when i say that it may have actually changed my life.

  8. Mark! I’m so happy to hear about your experiences at Sunstone’s conference this year! Sunstone is a wonderful organization with many wonderful people. Perhaps next year I’ll join you, it’s been a number of years since I last attended.

  9. Hi,
    I found your blog via google by accident and have to admit that youve a really interesting blog 🙂
    Just saved your feed in my reader, have a nice day 🙂

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