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Sunstone topics span globe and history

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Taking the LDS Church global, what's universal? what's cultural? — "Pianos and Drums . . . Lessons from Africa" will be addressed in the opening session of this year's Sunstone Symposium, Wednesday, Aug. 2, 8 p.m. at the Salt Lake Marriott Hotel, 75 S. West Temple.

The LDS Church's 20-year history in Africa will be the catalyst for this panel discussion that will examine the separation of gospel from culture.

Elbert E. Peck, executive director of Sunstone, said a lot of church members wonder about the culture/gospel separation, and he's excited about the five panelists who all have first-hand church experience in Africa. Included in that panel is former Utah Gov. Norm Bangerter, who was an LDS Church mission president to South Africa.

Sunstone is an independent group not affiliated with the LDS Church. It promotes Mormon experience, scholarship, issues and art. This year's Sunstone Symposium runs four days, through Saturday, Aug. 5, and includes a wide range of topics, including a number of discussions about both historical and timely subjects.

Peck said the subject matters in the symposium are primarily based on what submissions contributors provide. There is no theme for the symposium.

Still, he's pleased there are some good historical discussions in this year's event.

"We welcome that," he said. "We want to address things from all different perspectives."

Peck isn't sure how many people will register for this year's symposium. There was a drop in attendance two and three years ago, but 1999 rebounded and featured about 1,000 total participants.

Some other sessions he's excited about include are "American Religion and the Third Transformation of Mormonism (Aug. 3, 2:15 p.m.); "DNA on the Witness Stand" — an evolutionary examination by a professor of anatomy and anthropology (Aug. 3, 4:45 p.m.); and "A Priest Forever according to the Order of Melchizedek" — LDS and Catholic traditions in the priesthood (Aug. 4, 3:30 p.m.).

"Should Churches Seek Forgiveness?" (Aug. 5, 11:15 a.m.) is a panel discussion that will include a former LDS bishop the Rev. Carol Tanner Irish of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah the Rev. Rodger Russell of the Holladay Baptist Church, Deacon Owen Cummings of the Catholic church and Armand L. Mauss, former editor of the Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion.

Historica topics of note are "A Family Systems Approach" to the coming forth of the Book of Mormon by the Smith family (Aug. 3, 8:45 a.m.), "The Mark Hofmann Affair Fifteen Years Later" (Aug. 3, 4:45 p.m.), and "Martin Harris: The Kirkland Years, 1831-1870" (Aug. 3, 3:30 p.m.).

The successful movie "God's Army" is also examined in one general session (Aug. 3, 8 p.m.) and Peck said a combined session on humor — "The Ten Commandments of Mormon Humor" and a look at church humor after the J. Golden Kimball Era (Aug. 4, 12:45 p.m.) are likely going to be nothing more than fun entertainment, a contrast to the general scholarship tone of Sunstone.

The Symposium will also have a book show, art exhibit and auction. Next year Sunstone hopes to have its own Web site that will include a complete Symposium schedule online.

Admission prices are $60 for all sessions in advance, or $70 at the door. Admission for single lectures is $5 during the day and $7 for evening sessions. There are also student, half-day and single day admission prices.

For more information on the Symposium, call 355-5926. Complete program copies are available from the Sunstone office, 343 N. 300 West, Sam Weller Books or Benchmark Books.

E-mail: lynn@desnews.com