Thoughts on the Sunstone Symposium

July 21, 2004 | 23 comments
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There is an interesting exchange of ideas about the Sunstone Symposium happening at various other blogs. John Hatch, a Sunstone mucky-muck, has a shameless plug over at some other blog. Dallas Robbins, a vetern Sunstone Symposia attender, has a good rant on what’s wrong with the symposium, viz it’s too expensive, has poor quality control, and endlessly recycles the same issues. The comments at Dallas’s site are worth checking out. They include guest appearances by Dan Wotherspoon, editor and supreme dictator of Sunstone, as well as John Hatch, who as I noted is a lesser Sunstone baron.

T&S’s Kristine Haglund Harris will be a participant on a panel at this year’s symposia on Chapel Mormons v. Internet Mormons, a variation on this topic has already discussed ad nausem in this forum. I don’t know if other bloggers will be making any appearances. I certainly hope that the Bloggernacle will exert some positive influence on Sunstone, a possibility that I have explored here before. Since this is a blog-round-up post, I include for your edication some other T&S posts related to Sunstone: “Should I Subscribe to Sunstone Again?”, “The Greying of Mormon Studies”, “A Mormon Studies Family”, “Marketing Sunstone”, and “Greying…”.

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23 Responses to Thoughts on the Sunstone Symposium

  1. Randy on July 21, 2004 at 2:43 pm

    I am half tempted to go if only to see Kristine in action. I hope we get to hear a report. Too bad Kaimi and Dan P. aren’t also on the panel.

  2. clark on July 21, 2004 at 3:05 pm

    I put up a list of philosophically interesting panels and presentations over at my blog a few days back. I also included a brief set of comments of why I wouldn’t go. (Although an upcoming first child and the associated expenses probably trumps everything…)

  3. D. Fletcher on July 21, 2004 at 3:24 pm

    I’m coming to the Symposium, so I hope to meet some you, the bloggernacle glitterati. Maybe we should set up a specific time/meeting place?

  4. Kristine on July 21, 2004 at 4:03 pm

    Ah, Nate’s beaten me to the punch. The early bird gets to type in all the links!

    I think that Dallas’ comments about having more focus and a shorter symposium are useful criticisms.

    I’m less sure that Sunstone can be criticized for “recycling” old issues. In a large, conservative bureaucracy with no effective mechanism for bottom-up input, it’s inevitable that people will continue to be frustrated by some of the same issues. For instance, it *is* annoying to still be talking about the lack of women’s participation in decision-making in the church, but it’s still a live issue because so astonishingly little progress has been made in the last 30 years! Unlike Nate, I guess, I think there’s some value in letting people have their say, even if they don’t always plow new ground. I’ve made my own peace with many of these issues, so I don’t attend as many of the “women’s issues” sessions as I used to, but I’m not willing to say that they shouldn’t be there just because I’ve gotten a bit bored with them.
    As for the bloggernacle having a salutory effect on Sunstone, I’m far less optimistic than Nate–or maybe just a little less impressed with blogging as a medium. I think there are dozens (at least) of post topics here and elsewhere that have been treated more completely and more articulately in Sunstone essays. The advantage of the blog format is the immediacy of dialogue, but I don’t think we should kid ourselves that we’re so fresh and inventive about topics.

  5. Gordon Smith on July 21, 2004 at 4:10 pm

    Point taken, Kristine, but do they have Ken Jennings?!

  6. Nate Oman on July 21, 2004 at 4:16 pm

    Kristine: It depends, I suppose, on what you see that purpose of collective dialogue as being. I have no special interest in keeping people from having their say. On the other hand, if a forum becomes largely expressive and therepuetic, then you can hardly blame those whose interests lie elsewhere for finding the forum boring. Furthermore, Sunstone does a lot of posturing and marketing about the free flow of ideas and the importance of intellectual ferment in alternative forums. It is not unreasonable to expect the free flow of ideas and a bit of intellectual ferment, eh? It is not clear to me that providing yet another round of therepeutic venting fufills that function, which is not to say that therepeutic venting might not be valuable in its own right. Mind you, I am not necessarily claiming that this particular Sunstone Symposia is simply therepeutic venting. It looks to me like there is some really interesting stuff there, and if I had time, money, and a more geographically convienent location, I would probably go. On the other hand, I don’t think that Kristine’s circle-the-wagons-and-defend-the-forum-from-any-criticism-while-imputing-an-urge-to-censorship-to-the-critics approach is particularlly helpful.

  7. clark on July 21, 2004 at 4:28 pm

    Those saying that Sunstone is the “same old same old” need to check out some of the more philosophically oriented sessions. It seems like there is a lot on viewing LDS thought from the perspective of process philosophy. While Blake Ostler obviously has touched upon that in his book, I don’t think Sunstone has too much.

  8. Kristine on July 21, 2004 at 4:30 pm

    Kristine’s circle-the-wagons-and-defend-the-forum-from-any-criticism-while-imputing-an-urge-to-censorship-to-the-critics

    huh? First of all, I’m the only one allowed to use that many hyphens. Second, I began my post by acknowledging that some of Dallas’ criticisms were valid. Finally, I guess you could read an accusation of censorship into “I’m not willing to say that they shouldn’t be there just because I’ve gotten a bit bored with them,” but that would be a somewhat strained and slightly uncharitable reading.

    I agree that the group therapy function of such gatherings should be limited, but apparently I think the balance is closer to right than you do. I bet if we both went, we’d be in 80% of the same sessions. I don’t think we disagree as much as you’d like us to for the sake of a good argument.

  9. Ryan Bell on July 21, 2004 at 5:01 pm

    Lol to Randy. (anything re-uniting Kaimi and Dan P. gets my vote).

    Kristine, I’d love to hear a recap of your presentation here, for those of us that don’t want to be seen at the Symposium!

  10. Kingsley on July 21, 2004 at 5:29 pm

    Kristine: It’ll be interesting to meet you. You’ll know me right away in the audience, because of my blueberry stained mouth and also because I look like Gollum.

  11. Kevin Christensen on July 21, 2004 at 6:31 pm

    Regarding Sunstone and Process Thought, my introduction to the topic came via a Floyd Ross essay in the January 1981 Sunstone.

    http://www.sunstoneonline.com/magazine/searchable/Issue31.asp

    It’s quite good. Worth scrolling down for.

    Kevin Christensen
    Lawrence, KS

  12. Kingsley on July 21, 2004 at 7:22 pm

    Kevin, I’m excited to read your new Margaret Barker paper. When does it come out? Will it be in the Review or Occasional Papers?

  13. Kevin Christensen on July 21, 2004 at 7:43 pm

    Thanks for the interest. It’s always heartening.

    My most recent Barker paper is in Glimpses of Lehi’s Jerusalem. “The Temple, The Monarchy, and Wisdom: Lehi’s World and the Scholarship of Margaret Barker.” George Mitton told me that FARMS is interested on one I did called “The Deuteronomist De-christianizing of the Old Testament.” If that one flies, it would be in the review. I’m slowly putting together one called “Hath a Nation Changed Their Gods? A Reconsideration of Jeremiah and the Reforms of Josiah and the Deuteronomists.” I don’t know when that will be done. I’m making the case that Jeremiah supports Margaret’s view of the reform. This is in contrast to Richard Elliot Friedman who claims that Jeremiah is the Deuteronomist. I’m thinking I might try BYU Studies. I’ve got copies of excellent papers comparing Barker’s work with Shinto Judaism by a KU student named Andre Ishii (80 pages), and an amazing 37 p paper, “His Secret is With the Righteous:” Instructional Wisdom in the Book of Mormon by Alyson Skabelund Von Feldt. Alyson was at the Barker seminar in May of 2003, and has used Barker and others to bring out all sorts of interesting things that no one has seen before. I’m encouraging them to try for FARMS publication.

    I find it curious that Sunstone is so enamored of Margaret Starbird, most of whose revelations I learned from Eugene Seaich in the 1980s, and so reluctant to take Barker seriously. I did a short review of her new book, Temple Theology and sent it to Sunstone a month or so ago. Barker strikes me as far more impressive in her vision and in the depth of her knowledge.

    Kevin Christensen
    Lawrence, KS

  14. Kingsley on July 21, 2004 at 7:51 pm

    Kevin: Perhaps John H can tell you why Sunstone has avoided Barker. Meanwhile, I look forward to your new stuff and hope that Von Feldt can find a venue. Is the Wisdom in the BoM paper available to the curious?

  15. John H on July 21, 2004 at 8:00 pm

    “I find it curious that Sunstone is so enamored of Margaret Starbird, most of whose revelations I learned from Eugene Seaich in the 1980s, and so reluctant to take Barker seriously.”

    Whoa! Can you say “out of left field?”

    Words like “enamored” and “reluctant” are not the words to describe Sunstone’s attitude at all. We knew we wanted to explore the topic of the divine feminine, so we invited a handful of people to speak. Margaret Starbird fit the bill the best. We’re excited to have her, and very grateful she accepted our invitation. But that doesn’t somehow make us more “enamored” with her than we are other potential speakers.

    As for our “reluctance” to accept Barker – Kevin’s the only one I’m aware of in Mormonism who’s doing anything on Barker’s work. If Kevin’s submitted something to Sunstone, I can’t speak to that. Dan Wotherspoon would be the one to receive it. But chances are the reality is far less sinister than a “reluctance” to accept Barker – Dan’s just so insanely busy I suspect he hasn’t had time to respond to the submission yet. And the reality is that’s the case for most people who submit things. We’d like to improve, and we’re working on it.

  16. Kevin Christensen on July 21, 2004 at 8:46 pm

    Hi John,

    What’s wrong with “enamored?” I read Starbird’s Goddess in the Gospels a few weeks ago. It’s clear that she’s into things of interest to the LDS, and more especially the Sunstone crowd. With The DaVinci Code connection, and being a hot topic, why not? It’s a good move. The panels look interesting, and I’m sure they will be well attended.

    But Barker has also written on the Divine Feminine, and had even lectured at BYU on the topic in May 2003, and been published in Glimpses of Lehi’s Jerusalem on the topic. Starbird writes about things of interest to LDS, but most of what I read was not new to me. I can appreciate it. I’m just not that excited. I’ve got a 300 page ms by Eugene Seaich on “A Great Mystery” that tells me much more about Jesus and the Sacred Marriage tradition. I’ve even written about Abish, Lamoni, and the Queen in that light.

    In comparison, Barker’s books change the paradigm and make me go back and re-read and re-think everything.

    I have read two papers on Barker at previous Sunstones. So I know there is some interest. My choice of the word “reluctance” is relative to the responses I get at Sunstone to my enthusiam about Barker. For my first paper, I had neither respondent, nor moderator. For the next, Brian Stuy dismissed Barker with one sentence for not being mainstream scholarship, then went on to explain that the Documentary Hypothesis disproved everything LDS believe. Later, I submitted that paper to Sunstone, and Dan’s 2002 response to that paper similarly brushed off Barker as being too unorthodox relative to the academic mainstream and he said that I was too hard on the essay I was responding to. More recently, I suggested I could review “Temple Theology” in terms that he might find acceptable. I attempted to do so, and when he gets around to it, I’ll find out whether I succeeded.

    In the wake of the Barker seminar at BYU, I am aware of at least a dozen LDS scholars corresponding with her. Noel Reynolds told me that the Dean of Religion at BYU has sent copies of “Paradigms Regained” to most of the faculty.

    Best,

    Kevin Christensen
    Lawrence, KS

  17. Dallas on July 22, 2004 at 12:29 am

    Thanks for linking to my rant. I am always surprised that anyone takes the time to read my drivel.

  18. Susan on July 22, 2004 at 2:07 am

    Just curious, Nate. Do you think there is no therapy going on at T&S. No repetition. No. . . . . ????

  19. Jim F. on July 22, 2004 at 2:37 am

    Susan asks: “no repetition?” Don’t I wish!

  20. Kaimi on July 22, 2004 at 9:00 am

    Susan / Jim:

    Repetition is impossible in the blogging format. (See definition: “To blog: to talk about subject online, and by the way, repetition is impossible in this format.”)

    Thus, anything that resembles repetition on the blog must be either “nuance” or “further development” of a subject. I hope that clears things up. :)

    I should note, this reminds me of something I said earlier about same-sex marriage . . .

  21. Nate Oman on July 22, 2004 at 12:44 pm

    Mom: I think that Kaimi has perfectly summed things up here. In particular, I find that each and every thread on SSM marriage brisstles with new insights and never contains any therepeutic venting of any kind. That, of course, is why I read each and every comment…

  22. Ethesis (Stephen M) on July 24, 2004 at 10:45 am

    Any links to essays on Paradigms Regained?

  23. Kevin Christensen on July 24, 2004 at 12:37 pm

    “Paradigms Regained” is a FARMS Occasional paper. $9.95 for the solvent. It’s not online as far as I know. I have a few shorter essays at the FARMS site that contain excerpts or related material. If you do a Google search on “Margaret Barker Testament” you can find a number of her essays online. Things like “Text and Context” about the transmission of scripture, “Beyond the Veil of the Temple,” “The Secret Tradition,” “Where Shall Wisdom Be Found,” and so forth. Plus she’s got an essay called “The Great High Priest” in a recent BYU Studies and another called “What King Josiah Reformed” in Glimpses of Lehi’s Jerusalem. A new essay here gives a non-LDS appreciation.

    http://www.home.earthlink.net/~paulrack/id55.html

    Kevin Christensen
    Lawrence, KS