I attended the Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium on Friday, August 8th. I hadn’t been to Sunstone in ten years.
The last time I came, I was a young, single, childless university student. The world was my oyster, and Mormon Studies was, for me, a new phenomenon. I went to celebrity-gaze.
Whether I would continue to be involved with the Church was an open question for me.
This time I am an old, married, child-ful university employee. Mormon Studies is old hat to me now, and I went to see my friends.
I am committed to the Church more than I have ever been. All of which made Sunstone more enjoyable.
I had the best of intentions to see the morning devotional by Frances Lee Menlove called “Living the Questions: Loving the Mysteries” but I was sidetracked by the Benchmark Books room. Every conceivable Mormon Studies book was in that room. I bought New York Doll for my wife’s upcoming birthday and at the registration desk picked up a free copy of cartoonist Calvin Grondahl’s Freeway to Perfection and a CD from Lisa Arrington and the Fiddlesticks band called Farewell to Nauvoo (traditional renderings of old Mormon songs, which I am a sucker for).
I scanned the Sheraton Hotel corridors for friends, and met them. I met Bored in Vernal for the first time, surrounded by a phalanx of bodyguards, greeting every face she recognized, snapping pictures.
I saw the inimitable Clay Whipkey, thankfully recognizable with his modest tuft of hair under the lower lip (what is the proper term for that anyway, a third of a Van Dyke?)
I gave John Dehlin a man-love hug after a particularly moving presentation on crisis-of-faith experiences.
I learned that our frequent commenter Matt Thurston is even cooler in person, and that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree (his parents astounded me with their wisdom and courage).
I thanked Claudia Bushman for her writings on early Utah women and the medical profession (which have helped me win people over at the University of Utah to greater efforts to encourage young women to consider bccoming doctors). She was tickled to hear she was making a difference.
I thanked Richard Bushman for his book Rough Stone Rolling and the impact it has had on my family (it’s a book my Mormon mother-in-law and her Lutheran husband can listen to together).
I chatted with Armand Mauss about our mutual friend and his fellow Irvinian, Andrew Ainsworth.
I joked with Jeff Burton about his presentation, “Stories from the Borderlands”.
I learned the entrance requirement for the little-talked about second level of the celestial kingdom from Jess Groesbeck.
I heard from Claudia, Jeff, Morris Thurston, Lavina Fielding Anderson, and Greg Prince on “Why We Stay”. This session was worth the registration fee alone. Order it here when they’ve uploaded this year’s presentations to the website.
I made new friends too, sneaking out for lunch to Crown Burger (home of the pastrami burger for which a multitude of nations flow unto the Salt Lake Valley) with Bored, John, Clay, Matt, and many others.
I hope to go again next year for more catching up with folks like you.
So if you’re reading this and I didn’t see you there, why not? (Reasons other than plane tickets are expensive nowadays).