Today is my first day at Sunstone. Several people have asked me recently why I go to Sunstone, especially given my relationship to the church. Since I've already written something that addresses that question, I'm posting it here. This essay was published last year in Sunstone's print journal. It's kind of long, but if you're interested, here it is.
"What are you doing at Sunstone, then?"
It's a question I am asked each year. Sometimes the question is posed with genuine curiosity; sometimes it's an accusation. Why would someone who isn't a practicing or believing Mormon attend a symposium on Mormonism? It's also a question I asked at one point. Although I had read, subscribed to, published in, cited in my own scholarship and learned from the print version of SUNSTONE for years, I never attended a symposium until 2001--and the decision finally to do so wasn't easy. Early in 2001 I submitted an essay for publication; a few months later I got a message from Dan Wotherspoon, letting me know that he'd accepted the essay, and requesting that I read a version of it at the symposium. I told him I'd think about it.
"Why would I want to go to that?" I asked myself. "It's all fine and good in print, where you can read what intrigues you and ignore what doesn't, and nobody interrupts the author in the middle of a point. But this live version...I'm sure it'll just be a bunch of disgruntled inactives arguing about stuff with a bunch of bossy hard-liners"--and I'd seen and participated in enough of that already. But Dan was graciously, persistently insistent that I'd enjoy the symposium, so I queried a few friends who had attended.
"Of course you should go," they told me. "For every panel that doesn't interest you, you'll find one that does. And you'll meet so many incredibly cool people."
So I went. And Dan and my friends were right--so right, in fact, that I've been back every year since, and plan to go again. But what is it that draws me?