Sunstone at a Crossroads
The LDS magazine's future as a unique forum for critical Mormon thought appears to be in limbo.
BY: Bob Mims
For Elbert Peck, the profound irony of his 15 years at the helm of the Sunstone Foundation is that the independent, often controversial voice of LDS intellectuals became anathema to the very church it sought to understand.
"Sunstone is people sharing information, experiences and perspectives, growing, stretching and changing," said Peck, who resigned as managing director and editor/publisher of Sunstone magazine in early June. "It was never intended as an attempt to change the LDS Church or Mormonism."
Still, Sunstone became inextricably linked with such hot-button issues as the roles of gays, blacks and women in the church, the historicity of the Book of Mormon and even the veracity of LDS Church founder Joseph Smith's recorded visions.
Now, with the departure of Peck -- described by friends and foes alike as a charismatic, creative and organizational genius -- Sunstone's future as a unique forum for critical Mormon thought appears in limbo.
The question: Can Sunstone, seen by church leaders as a purveyor of faith-eroding inquiry, once more attract the conservative and moderate Mormon scholars who wrote for Sunstone magazine and spoke at its symposiums alongside their more liberal, even edgy, colleagues?
Indeed, is there still a need for Sunstone?
Peck, who allows that ongoing tension with the church -- along with exhaustion -- led to his "burnout," is both hopeful and skeptical. As long as Sunstone remains an open, unrestrained forum, he doubts it will ever be tolerated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"There is an exercise of control [in the church] very much against the open discussion principle," Peck said. "When you get called in by a bishop and told, 'This is not helpful to the church,' a lot of [Mormons] salute and say 'OK, my first allegiance is to the church.' "