For some of us, lapsed subscriptions are a way of life. The parade of reminder cards, the inevitable gaps in coverage — they are as familiar as morning and evening. On rare occasions, this trait leads to vistas the zealously up-to-date subscriber will never see.
After my Sunstone subscription lapsed, the letters began. “Did you know that your subscription has lapsed?” Like a kindly, not-too-insistent home teacher, the letters reminded me that Sunstone missed its inactive sisters and brothers. A later conversation over tacos further highlighted the absence. All that remained was for me to settle up the financial side of things — that once-a-year ritual, not unlike tithing settlement.
The package arrived a few days later. It was a large, stuffed manila envelope. I wasn’t sure what it would contain. Some book that I had ordered a few weeks ago and forgotten?
Beanie babies Spare motorcycle parts and other very manly things, ordered from eBay? A package from the grandparents?
The care package contained two issues of Sunstone, no doubt sent to commemorate my return to full activity.
The arrival of two issues in a single package created severe moral dilemmas. Should I first read John Remy’s piece on Japanese and Mormon funeral rites? Robert Rees’s piece on Mormons and urban legends? The Dennis Potter article? The Harry Potter article? Or should I just skip to the comics, as usual?
The thousand individual resolutions of these dilemmas have been fun and informative. I’ve really enjoyed reading Blount’s piece about the women in Jesus’s lineage. Each of the four pre-Mary women was independent in her own way, and they each defied cultural norms to one degree or another. Blount’s piece ties it together in a fun way.
I also enjoyed the interviews with three couples discussing faith issues in marriage. The piece doesn’t give any clear-cut answers, but instead sets out some of the individual journeys and decisions of different couples. Seeing how others navigate these questions was interesting and informative.
Rees’ piece on urban legends was great. I had heard some of these urban legends before, such as the World Trade Center rumors. I enjoyed the thorough debunking Rees provided of some of these, as well as the questions and discussion on why such rumors seem to take root so easily in Mormon soil.
I would have missed Louis Moench’s piece on Mormonism and mental health, except that my wife drew my attention to it. I’m glad she did. Interlaced with discussions of the experiences of many individual members with mental health issues in the religious context are broader observations like this one: “”Religion in general, and Mormonism in particular, do not cause mental disorders. However, because of its central position in the believer’s life, religion often becomes the matrix on which psychopathy finds its expression.”
(And yes, John’s article was an interesting read as well. I was disappointed, though, by his failure to examine the similarities and differences between funeral potatoes and sushi.)
In general, I’ve been enjoying the new abundance of suddenly flowing waters. I know that they’ll subside in time; but by then, I’ll be looking for another issue in the mailbox. I can’t say for sure that this abundance is truly enough to convince me to leave behind my lapsed-subscribing, vagabond ways — old habits die hard — but it’s a pretty good argument in favor.
Recently, Dan Wotherspoon posted some thoughts at Sunstone Blog, in response to criticisms of Sunstone’s recent tone. He wrote that “remaining true to Sunstoneâ€™s core mission, to its commitment to faith and to the good thatâ€™s in Mormonism, is the only recipe for continued Sunstone success (or even survival) as a relevant and constructive forum.”
I’m too young to remember any of the long-lost glory days; I’m one of the five percent (or is it seven?) who are under thirty-five and who read Sunstone anyway. I’ve read about some of the past upheaval, and I know that various stages of tone have played a significant role in the magazine’s evolution.
What matters most to me at present, though, is that I get a magazine that discusses interesting issues, in interesting and informative ways. And I think I’ll be quite happy, as long as I continue to receive issues that regularly remind me of my newly-activated-member care package.