The Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium is an annual gathering of scholars, historians, novelists, feminists, activists, and anyone intellectually curious about Mormon culture and history. Now in its 30th year, the symposium is a forum for liberals and conservatives, heretics and orthodox, atheists and believers, a place where free and open discussion is explored and encouraged.
This year’s theme, “Zion’s Sisterhood,” focuses a number of presentations on feminist topics, ranging from “Sex and the Heavenly Mother,” women and the priesthood, and “The Achievements and Ironies of Women’s Religious Creativity” (the free opening lecture Aug. 12). With more than 300 sessions, there is something for everyone. Highlights include presentations on Utah County’s Dream Mine, Gnostic retellings of Adam and Eve, discussion of the temple ceremony depicted in Big Love, the controversy over Book of Mormon witnesses, polygamist wives talking about their experiences, and even a panel on the mythic and religious elements of vampires and Twilight.Along with a wide variety of challenging history and thorny theological debates, the symposium isn’t afraid of tackling the increasingly important issues of homosexuality and religion. Stephen Williams will screen his short film Voicings, a story about a devout Mormon husband and his secret gay life. The Gay Mormon Literature Project is a panel exploring Mormon and gay themes in film, books and plays. And pioneer researcher Dr. Caitlin Ryan discusses the influence of families on their LGBT children.
The Sunstone Symposium offers a unique experience for the adventurous and those curious enough to challenge their mind—and maybe stretch their soul.
Sunstone Symposium @ Salt Lake City Sheraton, 150 W. 500 South, Aug. 12–15. Registration and ticket prices vary. www.sunstonemagazine.com
Originally published in Salt Lake City Weekly, 08.13.2009