Sunstone, LDS Publishing and the Signaturi

The Sunstone Symposium is being held later this week (Aug 6-9, 2008 at the Sheraton Salt Lake City Hotel). I have never attended a Sunstone Symposium. I have never felt the need. From my contacts in LDS blogging, I know many who will be attending. What is the Sunstone Symposium, you ask? I quote from their web site:
"The Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium is an annual gathering of Latter-day Saints, scholars, and others interested in the diversity and richness of Mormon thought and experience and who enjoy pondering the past, present, and future of the unfolding Restoration.

"Hosting discussions from all disciplines and presentations of all kinds, the symposium is based upon the principles of an open forum and the trust that both the cause of truth and the society of the Saints are best served by free and frank exploration and discussion."
Sunstone meets a need for some members

Some my wonder why there is a need for an organization like Sunstone. Are the intellectual needs of the members not being met through the regular Sunday School, Priesthood and Relief Society meetings of the church? Perhaps there are other needs that are being addressed there. Here is more detail on the purposes of the Sunstone Education Foundation:
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a vibrant religious tradition with a diverse membership that has widely differing needs. For many Latter-day Saints, one of these needs is free and frank exploration of gospel truths as they relate to the complexities of today’s society.

"Some crave stimulating discussions of contemporary scholarship, literature, and social issues. Others find great comfort being able to read, hear, and share personal faith journeys, including all their twists and turns and occasional uncertainties.

"Through its many forums, Sunstone serves these Latter-day Saints and many others for whom life and faith is a wonderful but unique adventure. Sunstone brings together traditional and non-traditional Latter-day Saints, promoting an atmosphere that values both faith and intellectual and experiential integrity."
Signature Books in the LDS Community

When one purchases LDS books these days, they almost invariably come from the primary outlet of Mormon-related published works, Deseret Book, owned by the church. Up until a few years ago, Bookcraft was the biggest competitor in the LDS publishing area. They were acquired by Deseret Book, which also recently bought out the smaller LDS discount chain, Seagull Books.

One of the publishers of LDS books that is somewhat controversial because of the subjects and the selection of authors is Signature Books. Let's just say that they publish interesting material. I'm not saying their offerings are not faith-promoting. I'm just saying that their product offerings are not always considered in line with the orthodox view of the Mormon community.

I'll admit that I have a lot of titles from Signature Books in my library. Some of their history and biography volumes are first rate. They have also published some of the books that have given the leaders of the church real cause for concern. Grant Palmer is published by Signature as is D. Michael Quinn. Their historical works are very influential in some circles of the church.

The Signaturi

A long time ago, a conservative LDS blogger by the name of John Redelfs wrote much about those who loved to read and quote from authors published by Signature Books. He was very active in the early days of Internet LDS discussion groups from the early 1990's and of which I was a small part. I have always appreciated his essay entitled, "Who are the Signaturi?"

John asks that his essay be reproduced in it's entirety and since it is rather lengthy, I will not include it here. He may be a little harsh in his critique of the group of people he identifies in his essay but I find it a bit humorous and well worth reading. I'm not sure if he intended it to be humorous but it is both that and sad at the same time.

At one time I agreed with John's viewpoints in his essay wholeheartedly. I'm not so sure that I do anymore. I wonder if I'm getting more tolerant in my old age. In my blogging I have made some wonderful friends with whom I carry on private conversations discussing faith, testimony and the study of the gospel. Some of my new friends may fit into the realm of the Signaturi.

Questioning and challenging

A long time ago, fellow blogger S. Faux of Mormon Insights asked for my views on the method employed by many today to learn and grow in this church. The orthodox method is found in section 109 and again in section 118: "And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith."

Is it old-fashioned to learn this way - to put doubts on the shelf and to diligently study things out through long hours of reading and pondering? It seems there has arisen a new way of learning in today's Internet, fast-everything society - by questioning and challenging others who seem to have established and settled themselves through diligent study and thought provoking writing.

Now, don't get me wrong. There are lot of young, intelligent denizens of the Bloggernacle that are incredibly well-read and versed in the hot topics of our online community - like God's life before he was a God, how Jesus was conceived, the specific fate of sons of perdition, teachings about Adam as God, plural marriage, blacks and the priesthood and all kinds of other hot topics.

Summary and conclusion

I have been re-reading an essay from Robert L. Millet as published in the Religious Educator, vol 4, no 3, 2003. It is entitled, "What is our Doctrine?" We are invited to teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom. Blogging has given this commandment from the Lord a whole new avenue. It seems to me that most of the LDS Blogs I visit are read only by other LDS bloggers.

Are we fulfilling the vision of Elder Ballard when he invited us to participate in the dialogs that are going on in the new media? Many of us have been publishing on the Internet in one form or another for many years. There are also many, many new LDS blogs springing up every day. We are all reaching out to share the gospel in our own way and reaching many different audiences.

How are these three topics related - Sunstone, Signature Books and LDS blogging today? I believe they are all helping to meet a need for expression that cannot be found anywhere else. I'm not sure that I agree with this new method of learning - the questioning and challenging - but if that helps someone come to a greater understanding of the gospel then I'm all for it.

Comments

S.Faux said…
Fascinating. Also, Redelf's definition of the Signaturi. And, yes, it is sort of funny and sad at the same time.

In a few days I will be posting an essay that builds upon the following text:

President James E. Faust said,“Do not let your private doubts separate you from the divine source of knowledge” (“Lord, I believe,” Ensign, Nov. 2003, p. 22).

I think it is fine to be as "intellectual" as one wants to be in the Church, but we should NOT violate commandments that will risk the ability to renew one's temple recommend. We should NOT actively impair others ability to develop faith, repent, take the sacrament, accept the atonement, and be prompted by the Holy Ghost.

In the Church we cannot be a debate society. We must operate upon the law of harmony. This means we can have all kinds of opinions, but it is counterproductive to impede the official counsels of the Church.

I have a "line upon line" testimony built over many years. Sure, I have little doubts here and there, but in the big scheme of things they are VERY insignificant. And, they grow smaller by the year. One of the great lessons of my life was to learn to not let little doubts close the doors to divine knowledge.

I very much believe the Church is well designed for ALL types of people, even the university-types.

One of the best ways for me to learn is directly from the scriptures. I study them with the same vigor (and more so) that I would study a science textbook.

There are NO true intellectuals in the Church who are ignorant of the scriptures.
Rich Green... said…
I am extremely new to the world of blogging. I recently became interested as a result of Elder Ballard's talk. I have many business contacts who call on me regularly. Most of them live outside of Utah and know little or nothing about the LDS faith. Questions about "Mormons" frequently enter my conversations. My intention with my blog is to use it as an easily approachable tool for spreading the Gospel. I can refer interested people to my blog, which will refer them to other LDS sites, scriptures, and discourses that further support and explain my assertions.

As for acquiring knowledge, we are blessed with so many resources. However, the more I learn, the more I conclude that the fastest and best way to acquire knowledge is through diligence and obedience (D&C 130:18-19). If we can live our lives such that we can be worthy to be taught by the Holy Ghost then we will have access to the Light and Truth that exceeds most, if not all, written works on the Gospel.
Mark IV said…
Time,

You might be interested in these ancient links:

At T&S: Is Signature Books an anti-Mormon Press?

http://www.timesandseasons.org/index.php?p=1605

And at BCC:

Who are the Ignoranti?

http://www.bycommonconsent.com/2006/03/who-are-the-ignoranti/
Mark IV said…
Tim, duh. Sorry for misspelling your name in the previous comment.
CMalone said…
Intellectuals are the kind of people who look at a lovely sunset and don't just see the pretty pinks and reds of the sky but they want to know what form of gas is in the atmosphere, the position of the sun, the position of the earth, the make up of the sun and the earth, the rotational pulls that brings us in orbit with the sun, and so forth.

They are not content to just look at the sunset and enjoy it. I think that's the same way with the gospel. Some people accept, read and believe. Others must dissect and then some--fall out of belief.

I'm right sure there isn't some point of the gospel teachings that someone will not disagree with and delve into the unknown to prove their point.

Food for thought!
Bryce Haymond said…
Thanks for your post Tim. Very timely.

I love the scripture which reads, "And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith" (D&C 88:118). I think many in the Bloggernacle nowadays forget the latter portion of how we should seek learning.

Our learning serves us nothing if it is not done in the light of faith in the gospel and in those whom the Lord has appointed and anointed as His servants on Earth. When we don't learn by faith the prophets warn us, "O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God" (2 Nephi 9:28-29).

There is much to be pondered, thought about, and discussed in these verses of scripture.
backandthen said…
"Are the intellectual needs of the members not being met through the regular Sunday School, Priesthood and Relief Society meetings of the church?"
If my intellectual needs were met at church I would not surf the net as much during the week!!!!

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