338: Mormons and Humor

MORMONISM_FBAre Mormons funny? Do we Mormons have a good sense of humor—in general, or, more importantly, when it focuses on ourselves? In introducing Mormonism to those who are outside the faith and attempting to share how the gospel and Mormon life make sense to or motivate its adherents, can a light-hearted, humorous approach be more effective than “earnestness”? In this episode, we bring together three people for whom the answer to this last question is a resounding “yes”! Yet each also recognizes that there are lines—sometimes fuzzy, sometimes very clear—that one must not cross. Often it is informed by fear of losing the good will and respect of the Mormon audience who, let’s face it, will be among the majority of readers even for books about Mormons geared toward outsiders. This audience may be comfortable with finding humor in Mormon culture and its quirks but possibly will balk as one seeks to examine via humor (and its gifts of providing at times very stark mirrors for things under its gaze) certain practices or teachings. When writing for outsiders (and it’s a good reminder when the Mormon audience will be reading, as well), a humorous approach must watch out for pitfalls such as stereotyping, caricaturing, or not recognizing that a particular view of theirs that might feel like “safe” humor territory to you doesn’t feel so for them.

A wonderful panel consisting of Latter-day Saints who have written or illustrated wonderful books examining Mormonism through fun approaches—Stephen Carter and Jett Atwood (author and illustrator of the new book,Mormonism for Beginners, as well as two volumes of a Book of Mormon comic book/graphic novel called iPlates), and Jana Riess (co-author of Mormonism for Dummies, and author of The Twible)—examine these and many other questions. How does humor function more effectively than taking a serious, laser approach as an aid in our examining things we sometimes miss because of familiarity, or because we are living within certain patterns of thought, or shells, or structures that we forget are not themselves actually the “real” thing? How important is a humorist’s own feelings toward its subject—affectionate, antagonistic, dismissive—in her or his ability to reach their desired audience—and not just to entertain them but possibly also aid in their shifting certain perspectives? It’s a wonderful conversation that also features their recommendations, along with those of Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon, of favorite examples of Mormon humor done well.

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Links to (Most) Things Discussed in the Episode:

Stephen Carter (with Jett Atwood illustrations), Mormonism for Beginners (New Haven, CT: For Beginners, 2016)

Stephen Carter and Jett Atwood, iPlates, Vol I: Alma in the Wilderness (2012)

Stephen Carter and Jett Atwood, iPlates, Vol II, Prophets, Priests, Rebels, and Kings (2014)

Jana Riess and Christopher Kimball Bigelow, Mormonism for Dummies (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2005)

Jana Riess, The Twible: All the Chapters in the Bible in 140 Characters or Less . . . (2013)

Elouise Bell, Only When I Laugh (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1990)

Carol Lynn Pearson, “Walk in the Pink Mocassins,” Sunstone, May 2005

Kristine Haglund, “A Short Post about Equality,” By Common Consent blog, 21 April 2011

Paul Allen, Mormon Tabernacle Enquirer: Latter-day News, Advice, and Opinion (Pince-Nez Press, 2006)

Robert Kirby, The Essential Kirby Canon: 20 Years of Shooting at the Hip at the Salt Lake Tribune (2014)

Robert Kirby, Sunday of the Living Dead (Carson City, NV: Buckaroo Books, 1995)

Robert Kirby, Pat and Kirby Go to Hell (Springville, UT: Slickrock Books, 1997)

Robert Kirby, Kirby Soup for the Soul (Whitehorse Books, 2003)

Fonda AlaMode, Laurie Mecham Johnson, Special Living Lessons for Relief Society Sisters (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1996)

Samuel Woolley Taylor, Heaven Knows Why (Aspen Books, 1994)

Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal (2004)

Announcing A Mormon Matters Retreat: Navigating a Healthy Mormon Journey within the Church

A MORMON MATTERS RETREAT!

“Navigating a Healthy Mormon Journey within the Church”
Led by Natasha Helfer Parker, LCMFT, CST, and Dan Wotherspoon, Ph.D.

26 – 28 AUGUST 2016, SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH

13754408_10154374696891018_3992030739198989804_nMany of us find ourselves a bit outside the Mormon norm but still feel committed to continue our journeys as engaged members of the church. This retreat is focused on building community among and strengthening Mormons like us in the following ways:

• Navigating faith development in adulthood, including the integration of new and enriching perspectives within a less-traditional Mormon paradigm
• Creating and nurturing healthy relationships, especially in light of faith and worldview differences
• Finding ways to full and healthy sexuality
• Raising children in ways that encourage them to have confidence and depth as they negotiate various Mormon terrains
• Finding friends/community who have similar outlooks and can offer support

Dan_Sig Book portrait

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Register for the retreat: click here
(
After registering, participants will receive more detailed information about venue, parking, lunch and dinner options, etc.)

Cost: $375 per person (inquire abut partial or full scholarships and volunteering)

Schedule:
Friday (26th): 6 to 10 pm
Saturday (27th): 9 am to 9 pm or later
(includes lunch and dinner, and entertainment afterward—much of it starring you!)
Sunday (28th): 9 am to 5 pm (lunch included)

Contact and Further Information:

For questions about registration, logistics, etc.:
Amy Wengertamy.mann8@gmail.com

To learn more about retreat content, purposes, what to expect, etc.:
Natasha Helfer Parker: nhelferparker@gmail.com
Dan Wotherspoon: dan.wotherspoon@me.com

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We look forward to seeing you there! I know it will be something everyone will really enjoy as well as receiving great perspectives, renewed energies, and making new friends!


Note:
This will be the first of what we hope are many Mormon Matters retreats. Right now, we are thinking quarterly, and with each retreat focusing on the key issues above but also with good variety of additional topics.

337: The Next Mormons

Jana RiessStandout Mormon author, scholar, and commentator Jana Riess is working on her next book, which will focus on Mormonism’s “Millennial” generation (those now between ages 18 and 35) and their spirituality, religiosity, views and attitudes toward aligning with institutions, and much, much more. It will be titled The Next Mormons. In service of that project, she is actively interviewing many, many people, and has just this week launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a massive, representative national survey of four generations of Mormons, seeking to find key areas of difference that can help illuminate what is occurring among the generation of Latter-day Saints just entering serious adulthood. This episode shares Jana’s vision for the importance of these interviews and studies and the information they will yield, but Jana and co-panelists David Campbell and Derrick Clements, along with Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon, talk about several themes and trends we are now beginning to see come forward among Millennials. The discussions are fascinating, ranging from Millennial “seeking” to attitudes towards marriage and family, as well as experiences in church settings such as temples, sacrament and other meetings, singles and mid-singles wards, etc. It is enough to definitely wet our whistle and become even more thirsty for more information to come forth, especially through Jana’s capable, enjoyable, wonderful head, heart, and hands.

Please listen to the conversation, visit the Kickstarter (it only runs through Friday, July 29th), and join in the dialogue below!

The Next Mormons Kickstarter Campaign

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Links:

336: The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy

Ghost of Eternal Polygamy coverIn this episode, author Carol Lynn Pearson joins Mormon Matters host, Dan Wotherspoon, for a one-on-one conversation about her new and extremely powerful book, The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy: Haunting the Hearts and Heaven of Mormon Women and Men. In it, Carol Lynn embraces two roles: the first, the position that many have ascribed to her of “wise-woman elder”; the second, “storyteller,” which role no one has ever filled better. From the gifts associated with these titles and her own huge heart and great power drawn from her love of her Mormon people, including its founder who instigated the practice and doctrine of plural marriage, she presents the most compelling portrait to date of the dramatic, heartbreaking, confusing, and emotionally devastating effects of polygamy’s continued haunting presence in today’s Mormonism, a Mormonism that ostensibly ended the practice of plural marriage more than a century ago. Through wonderful confluences of her own stories, the stories of women and men in early Mormonism, as well as stories drawn from thousands of responses she received from people who participated in a survey asking about their understandings of polygamy in past-, present-, and future-day Mormonism, along with terrific research and gathering of wonderful insights from Mormon and non-Mormon teachers and scholars, a compelling picture emerges that strongly suggests it is time to admit the practice is, and has always been, a terrible mistake—one that produces pain and heartache and leads to distancing from God and our highest selves. It is certainly not God’s own form of marriage, nor the Divine’s desires for us. In beautiful and loving ways, Carol Lynn shares reasons for seeing this conclusion about polygamy as an error of Brother Joseph’s as the most forgiving and healing stance toward it we can take, and one that she believes Joseph himself would agree with and encourage us to work to bring it to an end.

Even amidst the many difficult topics and stories the book engages, Carol Lynn retains a positive outlook and reasons for imagining a hopeful, post-polygamous future. She does not leave us with a full de-construction without offering a new vision: moving from “Patriarchy to Partnership,” which, itself, is already a reality she and leaders she works alongside have already begun to know and embody. It is nearly impossible by book’s end for us to not want to join together with great energy in a wonderful (even worldwide, beyond Mormonism) healing adventure.

Please listen to this conversation, which includes Carol Lynn reading many incredible passages from the book, and then add your thoughts, questions, and experiences in the comments section below!

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Link:

Carol Lynn Pearson, The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy: Haunting the Hearts and Heaven of Mormon Women and Men (Walnut Creek, CA: Pivot Point Books, 2016)

335: Hope

HopeIn commenting about Hope, Patrick Mason writes: “The three great Christian virtues are faith, hope, and charity. The first and the third receive significant attention, but hope—like many middle children—sometimes gets lost in the shuffle” (Planted, 123). Mason is right. How often do we examine this important virtue/quality/gift/fruit? In this episode, Patrick Mason, Brian Hauglid, Bridget Jack Jeffries, and Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon try to remedy this neglect, diving into various facets of Hope: what it is, how it is gained and allowed to flourish, and its various guises within religious as well as secular systems of thought. The panel also examines specifics of Christian Hope—including its sense that for believers, in the end they know Christ and justice and mercy and all virtues will emerge triumphant—and in what ways this sensibility can serve both wonderful motivations to action and, at times, personal complacency. Jeffries also helps Latter-day Saints come to better understand differences and complements between Mormonism and Evangelical Christianity on this as well as a few other theological subjects. Each panelist also shares about personal trials in their lives and where their sense of hope finds its firmest footing.

Please listen to this terrific discussion, and then join in through the commenting system below!

Link:

Patrick Q. Mason, Planted: Faith and Belonging in an Age of Doubt (Maxwell Institute and Deseret Book, 2015)

334: Growing and Living a Fully Engaged Mormon Life

Once someone has begun to explore ideas and have experiences that are not outlined explicitly within the typical Mormon curriculum, it is often very difficult to find footing again within our own spirits, as well as among LDS family, friends, and communities. If one chooses to push through these difficult transition periods, however, many have found that wide and expansive aspects of Mormonism begin to unfold again, and that Mormonism can be a wonderful home once more for continued spiritual development. They find perspectives or learn from various experiences new ways to engage fully with nearly everyone they have always loved and lived their lives in orbit with, even if these others no longer are following similar adventurous paths, nor anymore really understand them and all they have and are going through.

This episode is a recording (with video also available) of a live event that took place on June 15th, 2016, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Hosted by Mormon Stories podcast as part of its live events series, this evening’s program was a conversation with several members of the church who have once more found peace within their Mormon journeys and who are engaging it and living their lives with energy and hopefulness within the tradition even while still fully aware of its many difficulties and challenges. The panelists are: Gina Colvin (Host of the A Thoughtful Faith podcast), Thomas Wirthlin McConkie (Author of Navigating Mormon Faith Crisis), and me, Dan Wotherspoon (Host of the Mormon Matters podcast). The convener and host for the evening is John Dehlin (Host of the Mormon Stories podcast). John’s guidance for the conversations was terrific and led to some wonderful discussions, sharing of insights, fun (and perhaps slightly “blue”) moments of genuine humor, and an overall fantastic evening. The close of the session also featured powerful and heartfelt emotions and questions from audience members.

Please listen (or watch!) and share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below!

Here is the video of this event:

Link:

Thomas Wirthlin McConkie, Navigating Mormon Faith Crisis: A Simple Developmental Map (2015)