What is Sunstone?

The Sunstone Education Foundation started in 1974 as a magazine that published on Mormon “experience, scholarship, issues, and art.” Then, in 1978, it branched out into symposia and regional conferences.

Today, more than 40 years later, the Sunstone Salt Lake Symposium draws together more than 1,500 attendees to talk about Mormon history, theology, politics, culture, and more. The attendees hail from all over the Restoration spectrum.

Because the Symposium hosts such a diversity of thought and belief, it can be a challenge for attendees to interact constructively with people who have opposing views. But this challenge is also an opportunity to expand our minds and empathize with each other. As Joseph Smith put it, “by proving contraries, truth is made manifest.” 

To participate in Sunstone you only need to have an interest in Mormonism and a willingness to engage respectfully, thoughtfully, and intelligently. 

Come, join us!

What to expect at the symposium:

Each summer, the Sunstone SLC Symposium hosts over 150 presentations on Mormonism, given by scholars, writers, podcasters, and activists from many points on the orthodoxy spectrum: mainstream Latter-day Saints, fundamentalists, polygamists, non-Mormons, ex-Mormons, and members of the many different sects of the Restoration movement. You can view our current program here.

The sheer number of Symposium sessions might seem overwhelming, but we’re here to help. 

How to attend:

  • Register online at sunstone.org, (You can register at the door, but it’s a little more expensive). Make sure to add a ticket for the Saturday evening BBQ. It will be recorded as “Awesomest Mormon Party Ever” in your Book of Remembrance. 
  • Watch your inbox for updates and info about the conference
  • Register for our New Attendees Dinner Orientation
  • On the morning of the conference, park in the Alumni House lot on the University of Utah campus.
  • Walk to the Olpin Student Union building. (Or sprint! The first 50 attendees each morning get a “door buster” prize!)
  • Pick up your name badge and program at the registration/check-in desk.
  • If you need childcare, it will be available onsite for $1 an hour.
  • Flip through the program and mark which of the 5–8 concurrent presentations you’d like to attend each session. If you plan to attend a popular presentation, make sure to get there early—seating is first come first served.
  • The Student Union food court (downstairs from the Symposium) will be open for lunch on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday there will be food trucks on the patio. Our food guide has more info!
  • Don’t miss our evening plenary sessions. These are the highlights of the Symposium!
  • Bring a little extra cash. Benchmark Books will be hosting a book store onsite. And you’re sure to see something amazing on Handcrafters Row where Mormon memorabilia and crafts will be for sale
  • Saturday evening, party with us at the BBQ! (You bought your ticket, right?)

That’s everything! Get ready to have a great time with your favorite Mormon scholars, historians, podcasters, bloggers, and friends!

FAQs

FAQ

1.Can I register for individual sessions?

Yes. Individuals sessions are $15 each, but once you hear one presentation, you’ll likely want to stay for more. It is a better deal to register for the entire conference.

2. Does the Symposium offer discounts?

Yes. People who volunteer for one day of the conference can attend the rest of the conference at a discounted rate.

3. Is Sunstone anti-Mormon? Will I get in trouble with my church leaders if I attend?

Let’s put it this way. Sunstone’s director of publications is the Sunday school president for his LDS ward. The majority of Sunstone attendees are active Latter-day Saints, and are often a part of the lay leadership (bishop, Relief Society president, stake president, etc.).  They actually find that the Symposium strengthens their interest in Mormonism and gives them fresh ways to approach it. Come see for yourself how big, vibrant, diverse, and open a gathering of Mormons can be!

4. Is Sunstone too faithful or apologetic to those who have left the Church?

Let’s put it this way: Sunstone’s assistant director is the host of the podcast A Year of Polygamy. In other words, we’re not afraid to talk about the hard stuff. But instead of hashing out the same old arguments, we encourage our attendees to forge new insights amongst themselves. This can only be done when we talk respectfully, intelligently, honestly, and openly. We hope everyone leaves the Symposium with at least one of their ideas tantalizingly challenged.

5. Can I bring my children?

Children two and under are permitted into sessions as long as parents make sure their children are quiet. If your child is loud or distracting, please take them into the hallway. Children over three are welcome to attend Children’s Workshops in the den of the Student Union. Prices are $1 per hour, per child.

6. How can I be a part of next year’s Symposium?

The Call For Papers deadline is March 1, 2018, though you can definitely submit your presentation before then. The 2017 Call For Papers will open September 1, 2017.

7. How do I find out more information about the symposium?

Here’s the landing page for all symposium-related information. Don’t forget to register!

8. Do you hold events in other areas?

Yes! Sunstone is expanding! While the SLC Summer Symposium is our biggest event, we also hold smaller regional conferences in many locations. Check out our current event schedule. 

Mission of Sunstone

Mission

The mission of The Sunstone Education Foundation is to sponsor open forums of Mormon thought and experience.

We examine and express the rich spiritual, intellectual, social, and artistic qualities of Mormon history and contemporary life. We encourage humanitarian service, honest inquiry, and responsible interchange of ideas that is respectful of all people and what they hold sacred.

We aren’t alone! Check out some quotes from LDS and Mormon leaders below:

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“I admire men and women who have developed the questing spirit, who are unafraid of new ideas as stepping stones to progress. We should, of course, respect the opinions of others, but we should also be unafraid to dissent–if we are informed. Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought, and in that competition truth emerges triumphant. Only error fears freedom of expression… This free exchange of ideas is not to be deplored as long as men and women remain humble and teachable. Neither fear of consequence or any kind of coercion should ever be used to secure uniformity of thought in the church. People should express their problems and opinions and be unafraid to think without fear of ill consequences. … We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it.”

— Hugh B. Brown

“I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodist, and not like the Latter-day Saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammeled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.”

— Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 5:340

“If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.”

– President J. Reuben Clark

“…regardless of your circumstances, your personal history, or the strength of your testimony, there is room for you in this Church.”

— President Dieter Uchtdorf

“I think you’d be as aware as I am that that we have many people who are members of the church who do not have some burning conviction as to [the origins of the Book of Mormon], who have some other feeling about it that is not as committed to foundational statements and the premises of Mormonism. But we’re not going to invite somebody out of the church over that any more than we would anything else about degrees of belief or steps of hope or steps of conviction. … We would say: “This is the way I see it, and this is the faith I have; this is the foundation on which I’m going forward. If I can help you work toward that I’d be glad to, but I don’t love you less; I don’t distance you more; I don’t say you’re unacceptable to me as a person or even as a Latter-day Saint if you can’t make that step or move to the beat of that drum.” … We really don’t want to sound smug. We don’t want to seem uncompromising and insensitive.”

– Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

“Let us have the courage to defy the consensus, the courage to stand for principle. Courage, not compromise, brings the smile of God’s approval. Courage becomes a living and an attractive virtue when it is regarded not only as a willingness to die manfully, but as the determination to live decently. A moral coward is one who is afraid to do what he thinks is right because others will disapprove or laugh. Remember that all men have their fears, but those who face their fears with dignity have courage as well.”

– Thomas S. Monson, “Courage Counts,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 41.

“As a means of coming to truth, people in the Church are encouraged by their leaders to think and find out for themselves. They are encouraged to ponder, to search, to evaluate, and thereby to come to such knowledge of the truth as their own consciences, assisted by the Spirit of God, lead them to discover. Brigham Young said: ‘I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security. … Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not’ (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1941], 135). In this manner no one need be deceived.”

– James E. Faust, “The Truth Shall Make You Free,” Ensign, September 1998

“Brothers and sisters, as good as our previous experience may be, if we stop asking questions, stop thinking, stop pondering, we can thwart the revelations of the Spirit. Remember, it was the questions young Joseph asked that opened the door for the restoration of all things. We can block the growth and knowledge our Heavenly Father intends for us. How often has the Holy Spirit tried to tell us something we needed to know but couldn’t get past the massive iron gate of what we thought we already knew?”

– Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Acting on the Truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Worldwide Leadership Training, 2/11/12

“In this Church there is an enormous amount of room—and scriptural commandment—for studying and learning, for comparing and considering, for discussion and awaiting further revelation. We all learn ‘line upon line, precept upon precept,’ with the goal being authentic religious faith informing genuine Christlike living. In this there is no place for coercion or manipulation, no place for intimidation or hypocrisy.”

– Jeffrey R. Holland, “A Prayer for the Children,” Ensign, May 2003

“Some are lost because they are different. They feel as though they don’t belong. Perhaps because they are different, they find themselves slipping away from the flock. They may look, act, think, and speak differently than those around them and that sometimes causes them to assume they don’t fit in. They conclude that they are not needed.  Tied to this misconception is the erroneous belief that all members of the Church should look, talk, and be alike. The Lord did not people the earth with a vibrant orchestra of personalities only to value the piccolos of the world. Every instrument is precious and adds to the complex beauty of the symphony. All of Heavenly Father’s children are different in some degree, yet each has his own beautiful sound that adds depth and richness to the whole. This variety of creation itself is a testament of how the Lord values all His children. He does not esteem one flesh above another, but He “inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; … all are alike unto God.”

– Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Concern for the One,” Ensign, May 2008

“Sometimes, well-meaning amplifications of divine principles—many coming from uninspired sources—complicate matters further, diluting the purity of divine truth with man-made addenda. One person’s good idea—something that may work for him or her—takes root and becomes an expectation. And gradually, eternal principles can get lost within the labyrinth of “good ideas.”  This was one of the Savior’s criticisms of the religious “experts” of His day, whom He chastised for attending to the hundreds of minor details of the law while neglecting the weightier matters…Because love is the great commandment, it ought to be at the center of all and everything we do in our own family, in our Church callings, and in our livelihood. Love is the healing balm that repairs rifts in personal and family relationships. It is the bond that unites families, communities, and nations. Love is the power that initiates friendship, tolerance, civility, and respect. It is the source that overcomes divisiveness and hate. Love is the fire that warms our lives with unparalleled joy and divine hope. Love should be our walk and our talk.”

– Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Love of God,” Ensign, November 2009

“Some members exclude from their circle of fellowship those who are different. When our actions or words discourage someone from taking full advantage of Church membership, we fail them–and the Lord. The Church is made stronger as we include every member and strengthen one another in service and love.”

– Jeffrey R. Holland, “Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction,” Liahona, October 2007

“We have heard men who hold the priesthood remark that they would do anything they were told to do by those who preside over them (even) if they knew it was wrong; but such obedience as this is worse than folly to us; it is slavery in the extreme; and the man who would thus willingly degrade himself, should not claim a rank among intelligent beings, until he turns from his folly. A man of God would despise the idea. Others, in the extreme exercise of their almighty authority have taught that such obedience was necessary, and that no matter what the saints were told to do by their presidents, they should do it without any questions. When the Elders of Israel will so far indulge in these extreme notions of obedience as to teach them to the people, it is generally because they have it in their hearts to do wrong themselves.”

 Joseph Smith, Millennial Star, Vol. 14, Num. 38, pp.593-595

“More thinking is required, and we should all exercise our God-given right to think and be unafraid to express our opinions, with proper respect for those to whom we talk and proper acknowledgment of our own shortcomings. We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it. The church is not so much concerned with whether the thoughts of its members are orthodox or heterodox as it is that they shall have thoughts.”

– Hugh B. Brown, “A Final Testimony,” Edward B. Firmage, The Memoirs of Hugh B. Brown: An Abundant Life, Signature Books, Salt Lake City, 1988, pg. 135-140  http://www.sciencemeetsreligion.org/lds/brown-final.php

“But while the Atonement is meant to help us all become more like Christ, it is not meant to make us all the same. Sometimes we confuse differences in personality with sin. We can even make the mistake of thinking that because someone is different from us, it must mean they are not pleasing to God. This line of thinking leads some to believe that the Church wants to create every member from a single mold—that each one should look, feel, think, and behave like every other. This would contradict the genius of God, who created every man different from his brother, every son different from his father. Even identical twins are not identical in their personalities and spiritual identities.  It also contradicts the intent and purpose of the Church of Jesus Christ, which acknowledges and protects the moral agency—with all its far-reaching consequences—of each and every one of God’s children. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are united in our testimony of the restored gospel and our commitment to keep God’s commandments. But we are diverse in our cultural, social, and political preferences.  The Church thrives when we take advantage of this diversity and encourage each other to develop and use our talents to lift and strengthen our fellow disciples.”

– Dieter F. Uchtdorf April 2013, “Four Titles”

“The first and fundamental principle of our holy religion is, that we believe that we have a right to embrace all, and every item of truth, without limitation or without being circumscribed or prohibited by the creeds or superstitious notions of men, or by the dominations of one another, when that truth is clearly demonstrated to our minds, and we have the highest degree of evidence of the same.”

– Joseph Smith, Jr., Letter from Joseph Smith to Isaac Galland, Mar. 22, 1839, Liberty Jail, Liberty, Missouri, published in Times and Seasons, Feb. 1840, pp. 53–54

“I want to say to my friends that we believe in all good. If you can find a truth in heaven, earth or hell, it belongs to our doctrine. We believe it; it is ours; we claim it.”

– Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young. Selected by John A. Widtsoe. 1941.

(Quotes originally found on Mormonstories.org)