So … why did I talk at Sunstone if I’m a TBM?By: Stephen Marsh
We are having almost a week of why we blog and where faith fits into blogging and other forums. Part of that has overlapped with discussions about blogs and Sunstone and an number of other topics. That has led to discussions about “safe” zones and communities and some discussing why no one should ever go to or talk at Sunstone, at least if they believe.
In that context, I have to admit that I did talk at Sunstone once. With all the criticism and discussion, I thought I would explain why I talked at Sunstone and why I blog. I’m answering the question “what topic exists that I would feel like going to Sunstone was the [a right] right forum?” Not to mention, why I don’t consider myself a heretic and a reprobate for speaking there. And, the request was made that we “all post about each others’ posts/articles and critique each other.” So I’m doing that, even if in many ways I agree with Bruce Nelson‘s decision and the reasons for it. [And yes, you all are more than welcome to comment on some of my posts at W&T in response -- I've a lot of them].
I’m somewhat on the conservative end of things. I’ve written a series of posts about understanding general authorities that did not include any criticism of them. I’ve been blogging from the believing side of things since 1997. Yes, I may be marginalized in some ways, but I’ve been blogging since before there was a bloggernacle.
So why did I talk at Sunstone, and do I feel all that does is legitimize evil, encourage the wolves and subvert the truth?
Well, maybe, sometimes. But.
I was on a panel that was discussing a point I had made in a blog post.
This is where I started.
So, what have I learned from my personal story?
I have learned that for me, in my patience I keep my soul.
I have learned to keep the commandments because it pleases God, with no other expectation.
The panel was based on my post The Stories We Tell from Mormon Matters:
And I was at Sunstone basically to bear my testimony to people who wanted to hear it.
I closed my part of the presentation with:
But, I have learned lessons because, much to my surprise, God sustained me. I’ve learned that in life or death that Jesus is the Christ. That life is in Christ, not in other things. That virtue is its own reward because virtue itself is the true goal — we seek God, not to trade God in for the things of this world.
That is my story. Now tell me yours. The floor is open to the audience to share with us your stories and ask any questions you might have.
I did it because I believed it would do good, and I feel that it did.
Now there is a lot of discussion of how that is all futile, that there is opposition and opponents. That all we do at W&T is encourage apostasy and disbelief, catering to that view.
The thesis of the critics is that all we do is make the opposition stronger by participating,, that all we do by blogging or engaging is make the world a place that is worse, not better. It comes down to “not only should you not participate at Sunstone, but your blog shouldn’t be here either.” That isn’t what has been said, exactly, but it is exactly where the logic of some posts leads (though not others).
On that topic, another person put it very well, so I am going to quote them (with permission to quote them, I just don’t have permission yet to use their name, though I am grateful to them):
So maybe we are saying the same thing actually. But I would say that the term “opponent” itself taints the exchange, and if we perceive a person or group as opposing, why would we spend time trying to convince them? It’s pretty fruitless IMO to try to convince your opponent of anything. Shake the dust off your feet and be done with it. Only when you can see the other person as a rational, moral actor can you listen well enough to persuade. That’s why I ignore people I think are acting in bad faith (and why other sites ban them).
But that’s what I find confusing about what you are saying about audience vs. opponent. An audience can oppose or support your argument (Bruce’s “safe zones”). Personal discussions are the same. Individuals can be friendly or hostile to what we are saying. When people try to use an audience as a Greek chorus to add credence to whatever they are saying, the comment section is often one “attaboy” after another. To me, that’s not a discussion; it’s an echo chamber. So I agree, it’s not very interesting when people just play for their like-minded readers. A good OP (like good revelation) is provocative.
Let’s look at your last statement for a sec. The point of Wheat & Tares is to defer judgment on who is a wheat and who is a tare, just like in the parable. I’m not sure whom you are calling an apostate. Andrew S? Mormon Heretic? Fire Tag (who is active Community of Christ)? Jake? Mike S? Stephen? Adam? Bonnie? Justin? Guests? Did I miss someone? All God’s children. I wouldn’t grant an open mike to just anyone. They need to have something interesting to say. Belief isn’t a distinguishing characteristic. There are boring people who can’t write who believe. There are boring people who can’t write who are apostate.
I also think you would be hard pressed to prove that I have publicly advocated for the church to change its stance on gay marriage. I went back to my posts to see where I gave you that impression, but I didn’t find it. Sharing my personal or political views isn’t the same as petitioning change in the church, certainly it isn’t to me.
I am definitely aligned with the church (and I assume with you) in advocating for gays to be treated with respect and to find a place for them in the pew. Beyond that, I am curious to see how social change will impact the church (as it has in the past). If the church never changes its stance on chastity with regard to gays, I think it’s probably a burden too great for many gay people to bear their whole lives. But I would never want to foster an environment of hostility or shame that make a difficult situation even more unbearable. As a church and community, we’re better than that.
I was at Sunstone to nourish the wheat, wherever it might be found, to bear testimony with love, to share kindness and truth.
That is, in a part, why I am anywhere I am when I am doing as I should. When I am not, it doesn’t really matter where I am.
So, if you were to speak at Sunstone, why would you speak, what would you say?