|Me presenting at the Arizona Sunstone Symposium|
I was nervous. I wasn't sure what to expect. Upon entering the building and registering, we met Lindsay Hansen Park, the director, and the host of the podcast "Year of Polygamy". She had interviewed me for the podcast via Skype back in January, but this was the first time we were meeting in person.
All through the day, there were concurrent sessions, so it was hard to pick which ones to go to. Martha and I attended the first session given by Dr. Sujey Vega from ASU - a fascinating presentation on the history of Mormon latinos in Mesa, Arizona. Next, we attended a session given by sex therapists, Natasha Helfer Parker and Kristin Bennion on sex addiction. Mainly, that our view towards sex, pornography, and addiction cause damage - something that I happen to agree with. Then we had an amazing lunch, provided by a Cuban restaurant called Republica Empanada - Cuban empanadas. They were to die for. While we ate, we were given a hilarious slide presentation by Jerilyn Pool called "Mormon Food Studies in Trump's America". It was wickedly funny and left me in stitches.
|Me with Lindsay Hansen Park|
After lunch, Martha and I split up. She attended a class on how to broach the subject of pornography with your children while I went to a panel of former Mormons called Infants on Thrones about Echo Chambers, or surrounding yourself with people who agree with you and how dangerous that is.
Next came time for me to do my presentation. I did alright. You be the judge. I am posting the presentation below in three videos, including the Q&A session. I really enjoyed it, and people seemed genuinely interested and polite. There were a couple of people who told me that they drove all the way from El Paso just to see me speak.
Next, I attended a break-out session - a discussion on having difficult conversations with Mormons who disagree with you. It was very enlightening. Then Micah Nickolaisen of A Thoughtful Faith podcast led a fascinating discussion on psychedelics and Mormonism, speculating on how these might have influenced Joseph Smith. As someone who has experimented with psychedelics, I found the entire notion interesting. The keynote speaker was Thomas Murphy, a history professor from Washington. He is a nice man, and we had an interesting private discussion about the Third Convention, Margarito Bautista, and Ozumba - topics that should interest any Mormon fundamentalist. He gave a presentation on repatriating artifacts that Mormons have stolen and co-opted back to the native tribes. Then the conference ended.
It was a very refreshing and educational experience for me. First of all, it was invigorating to be accepted - and not maligned - for who I am by a group of Mormons. Then, it was a highly liberal conference. Generally, most fundamentalist Mormons are conservative, and I am not conservative. The change of dialogue was refreshing to me. Next, I have learned that I need to expand my scope of Mormons further. In recent years, not only have I had discussions with mainstream Mormons and people of different fundamentalist sects, but I have learned to include people of other Restoration movements, like the Community of Christ. Now, I realize that I must include former Mormons - people who have left the LDS faith for whatever reason. There were gay ex-Mormons, the parents of gay ex-Mormons, people who have left the Church over personal or doctrinal issues. And yet these people were here, at a conference, discussing Mormon doctrine and history. They are still Latter-day Saints, in my book, even if only culturally. We need to create a broader scope of who our brothers and sisters are. We need to learn t bring discussions to the table, even when we are disagreement with people. And yes, I heard many things I disagreed with. But at the end of the day, there was not one person there that I would not embrace as a brother or a sister. And I hope they felt the same,
When we left, Martha and I went out to get our sushi fix before driving home.
My presentation is found below in three videos: