This is an experimental post. I’m attending the Sunstone Salt Lake Symposium over the next three days. I’ve chosen some sessions that are pertinent to LDS blogging and would like to add thoughts to this post during each session. I will be using my iPhone to do so because I don’t want to lug my laptop around and I haven’t made that purchase of a tablet just yet. I hope it will prove interesting to some of my readers. By the way, Denver is presenting on Saturday and has promised to post his lecture immediately after the session is over. If you’re in the area, you can attend that Sat 2pm session for $9. Here’s where I’ll be:
Thursday 31 July 2014
8:30 – Repairing the Church – Robert A. Rees. Summary notes: Whose church is this anyway? It belongs to both Jesus Christ AND to the Latter-day Saints. Top-down hierarchy is NOT the only way The Lord intended the church to be managed. The church is broken because the hierarchy has taken control.
The Latter-day Saints have been beaten into submission believing only the leaders have the right to manage the church – as a body of believers. The members are on immense pain and in great need of repairing. We are more afraid of making mistakes than in making decisions.
Robert offered several suggestions for repairing the church. One was to introduce emeritus status for the Apostleship. He also suggested a change in how the president becomes the head of the church. The current system based on longevity is flawed as evidenced by the diminished capacity of the current President.
Another suggestion is a strong need to change how the church responds to criticism, especially from those who blog openly. The hierarchy feels threatened by such openness and tends to crack down with the intent to silence instead of listen, consider and respond instead of the only options we see today: silence or the threat of excommunication. We can do better.
9:45 – Church Discipline: Historical Overview – D. Michael Quinn and others. Summary notes: Banning, shunning, blotting out of names, cut off, expelled. Always seems to be directed toward intellectuals as a threat. Why? Being Ex’ed is considered by leaders God’s hammer in the hands of his earthly servants. Sterling McMurin was not ex’ed because of intervention of President McKay.
Tolerance, live and let live, kindness and compassion should be employed long before the hammer. There is a big difference between reasons for church discipline in early church history and the way it is used today except for the one main, central focus of control, usually of behavior or thought. Excommunication is used as a method of public shaming. Historically, members were ex’ed for non payment of tithing or not obeying the word of wisdom.
The standard narrative in the church states the cause of being ex’ed is not believing the orthodox or conservative way of seeing things, politically or doctrinally, even when doctrinal views or interpretations have changed over the years. The main reason for being ex’ed at least historically is for apostasy.
Armand Mauss pointed out that tolerance of deviant thought or behavior in a young institution was much more commonplace. Today, as the institution has matured, the amount of tolerance decreases and, in fact, becomes almost non-existent. In other words, the church is more willing to cast off the small percentage of members who do not confirm to boundaries.
11:00 – Bridging Mormonism and Popular Culture – Stephen Carter, Sunstone Editor and others. Summary comments: Early CCA Christiansen illustrations of Book of Mormon scenes that seem very different from the way we illustrate our scriptures today. Next, Stories of the Book of Mormon, a Deseret News series of comics back in the 1940’s that parents could compile into “Sunday Fun Books” to keep kids quiet in Sacrament meetings.
Book of Mormon stories or the Book of Mormon Reader. In the seventies had different styles when it first came out. Today’s version is unified and correlated. Can you believe that? Even our comic books have been made to look the same. What happened to diversity and imagination?
I had no idea there were so many comic books of the Book of Mormon over the years. I never would have imagined there were so many styles of art – some good and interesting with references to pop culture. Others were way too serious and would not resonate with kids today. Well, whatever helps young people get into the BofM, right?
The presentation included analysis of LDS musical groups and LDS writers. Finally we also considered LDS Science Fiction and Fantasy as well as magic vs. rule-based systems like the LDS church. The best and funniest part of the session was on Mormon memes. The audience was roaring with laughter – we were laughing at ourselves.
2:00 – Author Meets Critics – Will Bagley, Todd Compton and others. This is supposed to be a “vigorous exchange” between “careful readers.” The book is “Frontier Life: Jacob Hamblin, Explorer and Indian Missionary.” Will Bagley led out with a couple of minor criticisms such as referring to Joseph, Brigham and others by their first names. He then shared a passionate objection to Todd’s defense of Brigham in regards to the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
Lindsay Hansen Park shared her criticism that we view, talk about and write about our history from the point of view of white European males. However she gave Todd kudos for portraying the love story between Jacob and his wives. Both Bagley and Hansen Park spoke highly of the book as being well worth the read. Todd of course is the author of “In Sacred Loneliness,” the definitive work on Joseph’s wives.
Elise Boxer gave a wonderful insight into the difficulty of the lack of written records among the indigenous people, including her people, the Dakota. The obvious problem is that any historical work will be missing details that can only be found in recorded oral traditions. Finally, Todd responded to the criticism, although he had prepared remarks and did not have copies of Elise’s or Lindsay’s criticism.
I appreciated this panel showing us how a good review and critique should be done, something I wish I knew how to replicate in a blog format when we discuss doctrine and practice. Why can’t we make points dispassionately and then discuss them with thoughtful responses with the intent of coming to some sort of agreement and unity, even when discussing difficult and challenging subjects such as messengers sent from outside the hierarchy of the church?
3:45 – Flat Church Seeks Engagement – Alternatives to Hierarchical style. Summary notes: hierarchy style is obsolete. The PEC is also obsolete because it is male dominated. Remember, the Church of Jesus Christ is comprised of millions of members in 30,000 congregations. The Church is NOT just what those at the top say it is. The ward is where the work is done. The church is no bigger than a congregation. Work can be done on your iPhone and via Skype no matter how geographically dispersed the congregation has become.
The discussion after the presentation was extremely frustrating because of the example after example of ideas the local members wanted to have implemented, but the bishops and stake presidents are afraid to act because we have been so intimidated by the cultural struggle we have with hierarchical control from the central church committees in Salt Lake.
5:00 – Leaving or Staying in the LDS Church – D. Michael Quinn and Paul Toscano. Summary notes: the LDS church is not Mormonism, it is a subset of Mormonism. The LDS Church has made many mistakes over the years. The church is flawed because it is staffed by the damned – imperfect men and women. The idea that the prophet will not lead us astray is not from Joseph or Brigham. That all changed in 1954.
21 men who have been sustained as prophets, seers and revelators have been excommunicated or dropped from the church. Therefore some prophets HAVE led members of the church astray. The current mantra of “follow the prophet” is detrimental to the Lord’s injunction to study and seek confirmation of the words of the prophets. The church is a divinely established but flawed organization. Mike concluded by encouraging us to stay in the church to provide goodness in service.
My personal impression is that Mike has a love and passion for the church and the people in it. Mike is coming out with volume three of his series of books about power in the church early next year. It is about church finances.
After a few humorous opening remarks, Paul Toscano then read from his latest book, his memoir. It seems that Paul has not changed much from his angry days when he was excommunicated in 1999 other than he is not so angry. I hate to say it but his reading was a little dry until the end when he expressed his love for his readers and his hope to see us in the resurrection. I got much more out of Mike Quinn’s short paper than out of Paul’s long reading, but that’s a personal preference for Mike’s style and the depth of his passion.
Friday 1 August 2014
8:30 – Church Discipline: Procedural Overview – Robert A. Rees
11:00 – Why we Stay – Dan Wotherspoon, Mitch Mayne, etc…
12:00 – Free BBQ lunch for all attendees – Cost for three days is only $85 for first-time attendees
2:00 – Church Discipline: Impact on Family, Ward and Community
3:45 – Sunstone Town Hall Meeting
5:00 – Theocracy Unfounded: Polygamy Rulings – Utah’s law prohibiting “religious cohabitation” was struck down last December.
Saturday 2 August 2014
8:30 – Apologetic Ethics: defending Your Faith Without Losing Your soul
9:45 – Life After Church Discipline – Lavina Fielding Anderson
11:00 – Moderating Mormons in Cyberspace – Rock Waterman http://puremormonism.blogspot.com (This is also a MUST attend for me)
2:00 – Cutting Down the Tree of Life to Build a Wooden Bridge- Denver Snuffer (Please come and join me – It’s only $9 for one session)
3:45 – Church Discipline: Ecumenical Overview
5:00 – Show us Our Money: LDS Finances – Will Bagley and others
Study Required by the Lord
This is a lifelong dream for me. I have always wanted to attend a Sunstone Symposium but in between work and family commitments could never swing it. I make it no secret an anonymous donor generously and kindly made it possible for Carol and me to extend our vacation one week to take in the Symposium. It was a miracle I had no projects requiring my immediate return to work.
And, I’m pleased to report, Carol is attending Denver’s lecture with me on Saturday. I think our dinner meeting with him last week helped break the ice. I am a blessed man. She still disagrees with him but at least she is wiling to listen and consider what he has to say. I pray God to bless our marriage. I hope to see some of you there. You’ve got my schedule and know where I’ll be. Cheers.
Filed under: Blogging, Doctrine, Mormon culture | Tagged: Bridges and Byways, Church Discipline, D. Michael Quinn, Denver Snuffer, LDS Church, Sunstone, Sunstone Salt Lake Symposium, Sunstone Symposium, Symposium, Traversing the Mormon Landscape, University of Utah | 5 Comments »