Sunstone 2010 – A Feminist Recap

Mormon Hereticcommunity of christ, conferences and symposia, feminism, history, Mormon, polygamy, Priesthood, women 8 Comments

I really enjoyed the last day of Sunstone, since I was able to attend all day, rather than a session here or there.  Don Bradley gave a presentation titled “Dating Fanny Alger”, a bit of a play on words.  I remember he gave a funny line to the effect of “By all accounts, she was hot!”  Anyway, Bradley tried to pin down when the “affair” happened.  Apparently, Emma discovered Joseph and Fanny late at night in the barn.  According to Bradley, Alger appeared pregnant.  Emma threw a fit, and threw Alger out of the house.  (Apparently Alger had been working as a sort of nanny.)

The discovery of the relationship by Emma probably dates to the summer or fall of 1835.  Bradley recounted several people who have tried to pin down the date, and noted problems with each date.  Some authors have discussed an “embarrassing” incident of polygamy in August 1835.   Joseph left for Pontiac, Michigan possibly to avoid embarrassment for his role.  On Oct 14, 1835, Joseph describes “dealing with household issues”, possibly a reference to evict Fanny.  However, Mark Ashurst-Mcgee suggests this incident refers not to Fanny, but a problem with employees at the printing office.

Fanny left Kirtland in August or Sept 1836, so the incident must have occurred prior to that.  Bradley notes that dissenters condemned Joseph on July 24, and Joseph left for Salem, Massachusetts for a treasure trip the next day on July 25.  Bradley believes Joseph sent Fanny to Missouri at the same time.  William McLellin gave his famous quote about having “no confidence” in church leadership around this time as well.  Fanny soon married non-member Solomon Custer after just a 6 week courtship.  Bradley believes it may have been a cover of legitimacy if Fanny was indeed pregnant.


Following Bridget Jack Meyer’s wonderful presentation on Women priesthood holders in early Christianity earlier in the week, I thought Joshua Gillon’s presentation called “Mormon Women Had the Priesthood in 1843: Examining the Claims” might be interesting.  I was greatly disappointed.  Josh is a PhD candidate of philosophy at Princeton, having completed a BA at BYU.  His talk was nothing more than a rant against the church.  He mis-characterized Michael Quinn’s discussion of women and the priesthood.  He employed tedious grammar exercises to make his points, and finished off with an F-bomb to end his presentation.  It was definitely the worst presentation I have ever heard at Sunstone, though there was another terrible one later in the day.

I wasn’t very excited to go the the panel called “Glenn Beck: Likely Mormon or Unlikely Mormon”, but there wasn’t anything else that sounded interesting at that time.  As I reviewed the list of panelists, I was looking forward to hearing Joanna Brooks of Mormon Matters, and David King Landrith of Mormon Mentality.  (I had met him earlier in the week.) Kathryn Hemingway, Eric Samuelson, and Robert Rees weren’t nearly so interesting as Joanna and David, though they all made good points.  Rees was the moderator and not a fan of Beck.  Landrith and Hemingway were supporters of Beck, while Brooks and Samuelson were not.

I really enjoyed Landrith’s presentation.  Landrith showed that Beck’s rhetoric is very similar to political discourse over the past 200 years.  Early founding fathers often compared each other to monarchists, and spoke about each other more harshly than Beck does of his opponents.  I thought it was an interesting presentation.  Brooks really wasn’t that antagonistic toward Beck.  She basically said we should ignore Beck because his ratings are going down and he knows it.  There is no need to feed into the frenzy–Beck will go away on his own.

Following lunch, I attended a fantastic presentation by Apostle Susan Skoor of the Community of Christ.  She discussed her personal faith journey, showing how she has moved among Fowler’s stages of faith.  Her talk was titled “Faith in the Midst of the Difficulties of Life.”  Baptized at age 8 into the RLDS church, she discussed losing her testimony in her 30s, nearly falling into atheism.  Receiving a blessing, and asked “Do you want to believe?”, as Alma says, she let this desire work in her.  She discussed her new found faith as a stage 5 person, and said she knew she was too selfish to reach stage 6.  As I listened to her story, I marveled at how open she was about her life’s journey.  I don’t think an LDS apostle would admit to losing faith as she did, and I don’t think an LDS apostle would discuss spirituality in such as “secular” way as she discussed Fowlers Faith Stage theory.  I was truly moved.

Clair Barrus discussed “Oliver Cowdery’s Rod of Nature.”  It was a bit too technical for me, but I know others enjoyed it.  Finally, I listened to a panel discuss “Men and the Priesthood: Taking on the Feminine.”  Tom Kimball discussed being an unorthodox Mormon.  His previous bishop did not want to let him baptize or ordain his children.  As the bishop got to know Tom better, he decided to allow it.  Tom has previously discussed his story on Mormon Stories.  Tom’s new bishop has taken a more hard line approach, and Tom’s boys have not progressed in the priesthood.  Tom compared his situation to the idea that women can’t ordain daughters in the LDS church as well.

Robin Linkart, President of the 6th Quorum of Seventy for the Community of Christ spoke next.  She gave an excellent presentation and discussed the new revelation in 1984 allowing women to hold the priesthood.  Many in the RLDS church broke off (they lost nearly 1/4 of their membership.)  She discussed the challenges the RLDS church went through, and her personal journey in the priesthood.  It was excellent.

Holly Welker spoke next.  She gave a rant that the priesthood should be abolished in the LDS church.  During Tom’s, Lisa’s, and the Q&A session, she made faces of disbelief and disagreement.  Honestly I believe a 5th grader would have better behavior than she exhibited.  She was incredibly rude and unprofessional.  Her behavior was embarrassing.

Lisa Butterworth finished up the panel.  She started the blog at FeministMormonHousewives.  Being a feminist and an unorthodox Mormon, she was asked to speak in support of the idea of an all-male priesthood.  She did the best she could, but it was evident that she didn’t fully support the topic she was asked to address.

Overall, I enjoyed most of the sessions.  If you missed my first post on Sunstone, click here.  I’m not sure why I attended so many feminist presentations, but I guess they sounded the most interesting.  So what is your take on women and the priesthood?  Do you see it happening in the LDS church in the next 20-50 years?  Would you support or oppose such a move if the prophet received a revelation allowing women to hold the priesthood?

Comments 8

  1. Through this and many other posts, I have developed a great respect for the CofC – a far cry from the image I had of them when I was raised LDS. I think they are directly addressing many issues that are extremely pertinent concerning religion and society in which it works. While there will always be differences between the CofC and the LDS Church, I think that much can be learned from the way in which the CofC makes their members actually feel like they have any input whatsoever into anything regarding the church, much like in the early days when members actually voted on things, etc. – and a far cry from the “sustaining vote” that we do now.

    All that being said, I don’t think the LDS Church will ever consider women and the priesthood. If you espouse those ideas, you will not move up the hierarchy. If you don’t move up the hierarchy, you can’t change anything.

  2. You know, a euro-sunstone is a good idea. We ought to look forward towards something like that for 2012.

    The question is where and when?

    Rome? Berlin? London?

    But making a day or a two day event would be neat.

  3. I went to Josh Gillon’s presentation as well and I was equally disappointed. After he dropped the F bomb, a nice old man sitting next to me leaned over and asked me what Josh had said. He didn’t hear me the first time, so I had to say the line twice. Awkward.

  4. mike, there are many things that I really admire about the rlds. for example, they have a slogan that they are trying to make ‘a prophetic people.’ that sounds like what joseph smith was trying to do. I think they are very egalitarian. on the other hand, they do seem a bit too cozy with protestantism, so I am happy where I am. I do think we can learn a lot from them.

    I would not be surprised to see women hold the priesthood in the next few decades. while I agree that those who publicly espouse female ordination will not rise in the hierarchy, I think it was the same with blacks and the priesthood. there were already plenty of men that supported blacks, and I think there are already many in the hierarchy that see the same issues.

  5. That’s ok, MH. There are a lot of days I think the CofChrist is too cozy with some protestant denominations, too, especially when they are very standoffish toward other protestant denominations at the same tine.

  6. Yeah, I would’ve expected a presentation called “Oliver Cowdery’s Rod of Nature” to be a little less technical myself.

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