The yearly Sunstone religious symposium began Wednesday night on The University of Utah campus. The event features hundreds of presenters who are meant to represent a wide spectrum of Mormon belief and nonbelief.
Although it’s been nearly 40 years since Sunstone’s first symposium, the event has gone through a recent evolution. Lindsay Park has been in charge of organizing the symposium since 2015 and her intention has been to widen the tent of who is considered Mormon.
“There’s more than one way to Mormon," says Park. "So we look at Mormonism not as just a noun but as a verb. It’s an active verb. We’re asking people to show up and show us how you Mormon.”
Among those featured this year is a former Mormon bishop involved in LGBT outreach, a stripper who teaches Sunday school in her Arizona congregation and former member of the FLDS church Roy Jeffs, son of convicted felon and polygamist leader Warren Jeffs.
“I was surprised at how welcoming everyone was and it was very eye-opening to me to see that there are people who want to understand and people that want to visit this topic," Jeffs says.
Jeffs says that after he left his faith community he initially felt a lot of shame for ever being associated with it. He wanted nothing to do with anything Mormon-related. But recently he’s taken more ownership of his upbringing.
“I’m Mormon too. I may be atheist, but I’m Mormon," says Jeffs.
This symposium is a place where Jeffs says that kind of distinction is both understood and celebrated. Which was evident in the standing ovation he received following his presentation.
Sunstone continues through this Saturday.