Why I cannot see myself at a Sunstone conference

I began this as a response to a post by J. Stapley on By Common Consecent but I found it kept going on and on… so I thought rather than post a tome there I would add it here and let people read it if they wanted rather than going off on an unrelated tangent.

J. stated in the blog :

Besides the interesting panels, it is also my impression that Sunstone is a place where people disaffected with Mormonism in some way can gather and be angsty together.

There was a bit more to the discussion but I think J. hit things pretty much on the head with this comment.  As usually happens some people thought it was  a bit over the top.

One other thing J. pointed out was:

I understand that Sunstone is in the midst of an existential crisis. But here is a hint: if you want more legitimacy among more Mormons, why would you think it would be a good idea to host a panel on how premarital sex is great thing for female single twenty-somethings?

One commentor, Rory, posted:

The original post included a single line that stated her personal conclusion – that chastity need not be equated with abstinence. Outside of doctrine? Yes. But it was _one line_ in an otherwise rather interesting set of questions, and yet it was the only line that commenters isolated and seized upon to derail the discussion and define the entire session to be outside of Mormonism. We tend to draw our lines fast and hard.

So now let me begin my rant.  One based on my personal observation and one on why I think Sunstone fails to capture interest from the general Mormon population and why I cannot see myself attending one.

Since 2005 when I first found the Bloggernacle.  I have always found it a bit off putting to see how often LDS women are pertrayed as baffoons because they wanted to have a family and raise a lot of kids.   I have six kids, when we found out we were having twins I about fell over, I had always wanted four kids but not quite as quickly as we did.  However we ended up, even with birth control mind you, having two more.

My wife from the outset has never really wanted to work outside the home.  I was a believer that she needed an education and an opportunity to gain work experience because anything can and does happen.  To date she has never gotten much beyond a year at any of the courses she has taken.  In one case she needed to take a break for mental reasons.  I have felt honestly that she has been the rock in our relationship and has held the family together often on will alone.

So I have a great deal of respect for her and what she does.  Her upbringing was not a “molly Mormon” one she came from a broken home.  However, she has always made it clear to me what she wants and needs.  I know that her family is number one to her.   So I respect and hope that I can live up to her.

That being said I take umbrage when someone is critical of that position.  I believe in equality within common sense bounds.  I cannot bear children, thus I am not equal to a woman for example.  Conversely I know that if I spent more time at the gym than at McDonalds I would probably have more physical strength than a woman as well.

So with all that said, personally I find it amazing that so many go on that women are oppressed in the church,  and worse yet they are expected see they have to be virgins!  Folks to my knowledge that generally is pretty much going for both sexes as far as I am aware (see equality).  The amount of slamming men and boys get in General Conference about sex it is very clear where the church stands on male chastity. Because of this it makes me wonder if women actually read the priesthood session in the Ensign so that they can see what is being said.  Believe me we are not given some little slap on the back, we are all chummy, thing.

Oh so I am perfectly aghast at how often Sunstone seems to be obsessed about women in the church and the expectations put upon them.  Hey men get a pretty demanding course to live under as well.
As for Sunstone as a magazine and conference they will have a hard time truly remaking themselves in the public.  To use a marketing term the brand is pretty strong in the minds of possible customers.

Here is an outline of some of the presentations which appeared to be geared at women:

111 “Raked” LDS Feminist Creative nonfiction

134 Natural Childbirth: The Contemporary LDS Response: “No Way!”

164 Prospectus for Women: Comparing Church History of Blacks and Women

162 Is Heavenly Mother a Member of the Godhead?

113 “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjugation” Really?

124 Sex & Heavenly Mother: Human Implications of Divine Embodiment

131 Is Priesthood Necessary for Women’s Full Equality in the LDS Church?

174 Counting to Infinity: Blogging About Motherhood

133 Possibilities in Mormon Feminism

173 Creating Mormon Women: Portraits & Conversations

I have to admit a couple would interest me but most turn me off just by their titles.  They would not usually but with the reputation Sunstone has been given and creates for itself I am unwilling to even see to try it.   I believe the reputation earned by Sunstone creates a barrier to their success in mounting a comeback against past attitudes.

It is no different from Fair or Dialogue or the Mormon History Association, each has built up or earned a reputation.  For that reason I think it is difficult to break the mold.  But a kinder, gentler format can do wonders.

To me that is where a group can make or break itself.  None of these organizations, save for FAIR to be honest, appeal to a wide membership of the Church.  FAIR because of its internet and WIKI sites will be used more often.  In fact I found FAIR in 2002 and have visited its website nearly 8 years now shows I appreciate their brand even when I disagree with some of the attitudes I have witnessed at points in the Bloggernacle.

However, Sunstones willingness to court controversy and people who are considered oppositional to the point of advocacy against the authority the church create aversion to me.   These things will by their nature winnow the amount of interest.

Sure it sells tickets but the market remains, for the most part, closed.

As someone who has never attended these conventions, mostly because I live in Canada and do not flow with money, I think I can give a somewhat honest interpretation of these conventions from an outsiders viewpoint.

I have read all of the various journals so I am not typical in that respect.  However, just in what I have seen from what is advertised around the bloggernacle, I know I would not be comfortable to support the Sunstone organization.  In fact I have never given them a dime.

I like Dialogue and have been a subscriber when I have the funds.  I have been a member of the MHA and will be again.

In each I know I am getting a different viewpoint from the church but in both I expect a level of common sense.  By reputation alone I do not expect that out of Sunstone.  And that is a shame.  Because it appears there are things to like about Sunstone but it never lets me see what I like because, as Stapley put it, there is so much angst.

In the end I think that is the view of some which carries the day with many.  It is up to Sunstone to win me over.  Show me what you have got that makes you worth going to aside from being a place for disaffected LDS members to complain (in an over simplification).

6 Responses to Why I cannot see myself at a Sunstone conference

  1. John Hamilton says:

    You nailed it Jon. Sunstone can have some interesting stuff, but when I look into the personal histories of its contributers I find “baggage” that I feel taints their objectivity. In my view, if an author doesn’t attempt to be impartial, there is no point in wasting the time reading what is really just a bunch of grips and justifications. A rule of thumb for me is if after reading at article do I feel inspired or do I feel “gunky.” Sometimes it is only my personal bias, and I try to recognize that, but usually it is because something has been twisted or left out. If I go back, I can usually pin it down.

  2. Jon W says:

    I do not usually use the feast or fired method when it comes to articles.

    My big determination on secular or member views of Mormonism is that these are their opinions. Just as I have mine.

    That being the case I look at things on a case by case basis. For me Sunstone’s conference on the whole was a bit too touchy feely and full of grievance for me. I am pretty much lost when you are talking on some of the more edgy Mormon Feminist things.

    To give an example I read not to long ago an article by Will Bagley.
    “One Long Funeral March”: A Revisionist’s View of the Mormon Handcart Disasters from the Winter edition of the Journal of Mormon History.

    Now I am not a fan of Will. Yet I read it knowing that he has done some good scholarly work at times. Taking aside his seeming personal prejudice towards Brigham Young I feel like his article was interesting and informative even if I did not accept all of its contents.

    Some of the content of Sunstone, is just not ever going to make me interested in it. That comes from the fact that writers and commentators are not peer reviewed, it is more like a Cosmo for Mormons. That just does not interest me that much.

  3. John Hamilton says:

    “Cosmo for Mormons” That says it well. I agree, they may be scholarly at times, but not always scientific in their approach. There is some good stuff in there to make you think, but if you read too much of it all the time, I think, your objectivity starts to get blurred. Example: You may taint your future views on a subject based on faulty or not fully substantiated assertions that sounded reasonable at the time. But I guess the same could be said about any publication. Oh, well. Just have to muddle through. With that, I can’t blame anyone for wanting to avoid Sunstone, but I can see it can provide some service, if it is managed well.

  4. Jon W says:

    Thanks for your replies John and I would say I agree.

  5. Seth Payne says:

    You should give Sunstone a chance. There are a lot of great presentations. Unfortunately, the rancorous presentations get the press.

  6. Jon W says:

    Thanks for stopping by Seth. It is something I have considered but I would need more than one or two sessions to decide to spend the money to attend.

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