Sunstone 2013: Mormon Bodies: Literal, Metaphorical, Doctrinal

Sunstone 2013 will be held Wednesday, 31 July through Saturday, 3 August, on the Weber State Campus. The theme will be “Mormon Bodies: Literal, Metaphorical, Doctrinal” and the description published in the program reads as follows:

One of Mormonism’s most distinctive attributes is the emphasis on embodiment, including the belief that “everybody ought to have a body,” and that embodiment is not merely a condition of mortality but a crucial step in the journey to becoming like God, who “has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s” (D&C 130:22). Bodies are a primary way we learn about the world, a source of pleasure and temptation, something to be both enjoyed and tamed. How do LDS ideas about sex, sin, illness, disability, food, pleasure, procreation, parenthood, obligation, gender, and godhood affect their experiences of their bodies? How do LDS doctrines of embodiment affect the way Latter-day Saints think, feel, and talk about their bodies?

Jesus had a mortal body, but we don’t like to talk about its suffering, preferring to dwell on his resurrected form. Heavenly Mother has a body, but we are officially discouraged from talking about it. The Holy Ghost, bodiless, is nevertheless constantly making our bosoms burn, or calling tears to our eyes, or standing us up and walking us to the podium during testimony meeting.

What metaphors are hidden in our obsession with bodies? How does our bodily approach to the world both expand and constrain our view of the divine? What is the relationship between spirit and body (is it only the body that must be tamed)? What paradoxes does our view of bodies force us to live in?

Furthermore, the “body of Christ” is a metaphor for the church, but Mormons avoid emphasizing the literal body of Christ, eschewing not just crucifixes but crosses. Why are some literal bodies more important than others? What bodies matter most?

Mormonism also encompasses many different collective bodies: various traditions tracing their roots back to Joseph Smith, and various governing bodies overseeing different communities or texts or enterprises. Finally, in its relatively short history, Mormonism has produced a remarkably rich and diverse body of thought and scripture. How do all these bodies collide against, control, nurture, or support one another?

The deadline for proposals hasn’t been set, but it never hurts to submit early.

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3 Responses

  1. Holly says:

    You can learn more and rsvp on the event page created on Facebook:

    I thought this comment there would attract some interest here:

    We also hope someone will start developing an LDS theory of masculinity–not just paeans to the power of the priesthood, or critiques of patriarchy, but a serious exploration of how Mormon men construct and navigate the gendered expectations they face in LDS culture.

  2. chanson says:

    Wow, great questions!!

    I wish I could go to Sunstone every year…

  3. Julia says:

    @1 Holly-
    That is a fascinating question. Certainly FMH has a feminist viewpoint (even if not everyone thinks their critiques don’t go far enough) and Modern Mormon Men gives some insight to men’s thoughts about the culture they navigate. I don’t think I have ever read a complete theory of masculinity, or even a theory of manhood or fatherhood for that matter.

    I think there is a lot of focus of women’s concerns about the priesthood, that we sometimes give the church a pass on how men are treated unequally within the structure of the priesthood. Especially men who have been victims of sexual abuse, there is very little “space” for male abuse survivors to get counseling and understanding of the lifetime effects of abuse. Women get a lot more understanding and fewer distinct questions about behavior after disclosing childhood sexual abuse. The church seems to have a stricter “standard of behavior” for boys/men than they do for women.

    I may not be able to go to Sunstone, but it will be fascinating to see how people respond to the request for submissions.


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