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Young progressives join mix at Sunstone
Symposium » 'Maturing faith' encompasses traditional topics plus new generation of feminists and Web bloggers.

By Peggy Fletcher Stack

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published July 30, 2010 6:00 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
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The annual Sunstone Symposium is celebrating its 35th birthday with the theme "maturing faith" -- a perfect lure for the gray-haired crowd filling its sessions all these years.

During the four-day conference, which begins Wednesday, Aug. 4, attendees can revisit issues such as women and patriarchy, LDS Church history, stories of Mormon gays, LDS humor, and Book of Mormon archaeology. They also can enjoy speeches by familiar favorites such as Lavina Fielding Anderson, Mark Thomas, Margaret and Paul Toscano, Claudia Bushman, Jeff Burton and many others.

Amid Sunstone's typical potpourri of scholarly and personal approaches, though, there also will be healthy involvement by a new generation of Mormon thinkers, who mostly meet one another online as bloggers on church-related topics.

For example, a group from the lively feministmormonhousewives.org will explore the evolution of Mormon feminism.

"Bloggers are a lot of fun to hang out with online," says symposium chair Mary Ellen Robertson. "But it's 100 times

more

fun to hang out in person. It's great to have them bring their discussions from the blog to the symposium."

The conference also boasts an array of contemporary topics, including an analysis of the image of Mormons in film and television, an LDS view of physician-assisted suicide, a comparison of the church's program for teenage girls and boys, a look at the differences between early Mormon and Muslim history, and personal stories of stay-at-home dads.

Several Glenn Beck critics and defenders will examine the talk-show host and Mormon convert's message and impact on the LDS faithful.

"It's bound to generate discussion," Robertson says, and "take the pulse" of Sunstoners on the political and religious issues Beck introduces.

Then a group of published writers who call themselves the Mormon Women's Literary Tour will read from their works.

The Rev. Welton Gaddy, who leads the national Interfaith Alliance and is a Baptist pastor in Monroe, La., will look at how religious groups, including Mormonism, can shift the debate on gay marriage to more quiet and civil conversations in light of U.S. religious freedom.

In Wednesday evening's opening session, non-Mormons Jan Shipps, a pre-eminent scholar of LDS history, and Jon Butler, professor of American history at Yale, will discuss why some newer religious movements such as Mormonism survived and others didn't.

The conference concludes with a presentation by Claudia Bushman and her Mormon studies students from Claremont, Calif., who have conducted extensive interviews with LDS women on topics such as fertility, education, singleness and relating to male leaders.

Overall, Robertson says, organizers received more proposals than the conference could accommodate, which she sees as a sign of continued intellectual vigor.

"This milestone birthday is a time for us to reflect on where we've been as a community of faith," she says. "You hope you're maturing."

pstack@sltrib.com" Target="_BLANK">pstack@sltrib.com

About the symposium

The 2010 Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium will run Wednesday, Aug. 4, through Saturday, Aug. 7, at the Sheraton Salt Lake City Hotel, 150 W. 500 South. This year's theme: "Reflecting on Maturing Faith." For more information about prices and how to register, go to sunstonemagazine.com/symposium/.

About the symposium

The 2010 Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium will run Wednesday, Aug. 4, through Saturday, Aug. 7, at the Sheraton Salt Lake City Hotel, 150 W. 500 South. This year's theme: "Reflecting on Maturing Faith." For more information about prices and how to register, go to sunstonemagazine.com/symposium/.



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