"We wanted to highlight connections between Mormonism and the outside world," says Mary Ellen Robertson, symposium organizer. "Where have they been good at connecting and where they have not? What are the main ways from one point to another? What are the approaches that are more prone to emphasize the journey rather than just getting from one destination to another."
It's also about "bridging the [church's] past and future ," Robertson says, "and about Mormons who burn bridges behind those who leave."
Wednesday night's opening panel is a look at the connections between Mormonism and Catholicism.
Not surprisingly, participants at the gathering, which typically draws hundreds of Mormons from across the country, will discuss recent controversies in the Utah-based religion the excommunication of Ordain Women founder Kate Kelly, whose group is pushing to admit females to the all-male LDS priesthood, and the large number of Mormons facing a faith crisis after discovering issues from the church's past.
Kelly, an international human-rights attorney, will speak about her experience in two separate sessions Saturday.
Also on the program: Designer Brandon Ro will look at LDS temples as sacred architecture, sociologist Carrie Miles will describe the "hookup culture, same-sex marriage and the collapse of religion in the West" and activist Laurin Crosson will describe her experiences being trafficked into prostitution, eventually joining the LDS Church, escaping "that life," finding redemption in the gospel, and founding a nonprofit organization to help other survivors find a path out as well.
The conference will also celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Sunstone Foundation, which began publishing a popular magazine for Mormons in 1974.
On Friday, Terence Day will present his research on marital abuse in a speech titled "Bones Heal Faster: Emotional Abuse in LDS Families."
Though there are no exact figures on Mormon abuse, Day quotes Brigham Young University sociologist Tim Heaton as saying that "LDS marriages are little different, in this respect, from the national average."
This means, Day argues, that "one in four LDS women either has been abused, is being abused, or will be abused in her marriage at some time in her life."
Such abuse "isn't about the power struggles that go on in all marriages. It isn't about differences of opinion and resolving conflicts, the give and take that is part and parcel of all marriages," Day says. "Rather, emotional abuse is defined as one person's attempt to control and dominate another. ... [It is] a moral issue, a mental health issue and a spiritual issue."