413: The New Plan for Relief Society and Adult Priesthood Meetings

On 25 August, the Church announced a new plan for Relief Society and Priesthood meetings to begin January 2018. Instead of focusing two weeks each month on lessons drawn from a teachings of the prophets manual (this year studying President Gordon B. Hinckley), those two weeks will focus on recent conference addresses, but will allow each individual Relief Society or quorum to choose which ones to focus on. The first week of the month will now emphasize counseling together about local issues and needs. And the fourth week will take on a topic outlined by the general church leadership, with the November and May issues of the Liahona and Ensign alerting us to those topics and providing guides and ideas for studying them.

This episode gathers three wonderful church watchers to talk together about this new plan. Stephen Carter, Cynthia Winward, and Walt Wood join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon to discuss how each of these elements of the new plan might unfold. What do they think are the best features? What are their hopes and dreams for those? What drawbacks do they foresee, and how might we mitigate against them?

In the second half, Stephen lays out two different models for church teaching–one that we usually default to in our gatherings together, which he calls the “hermetic” model; the other, which only occasionally rises up but which he hopes can become much more the norm, that he calls the “exploratory” model. The whole panel then reacts to this new ideal and shares ways they can see those of us in the internet Mormon world aiding in its coming into being.
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Links:
From lds.org:

“Church Announces ‘Come Follow Me’ for Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society”

“A New Sunday Experience,” FAQs about the new program

“379–380: Effective Teaching in the Church,” Mormon Matters, 6 April 2017 (featuring Stephen Carter and Kristine Haglund)

Dallin H. Oaks, “General Authorities Teach General Rules,” video clip of a section from, “The Dedication of a Lifetime,” delivereed May 1, 2005.

Stephen Carter, “How to Use the Total Perspective Vortex in Your Very Own Sunday School Class,” Sunstone, March 2005

412: Announcing the October 2017 Mormon Matters Retreat

This short episode, a conversation between Natasha Helfer Parker and Dan Wotherspoon, offers descriptions and registration details about the upcoming Mormon Matters Retreat, to be held in Salt Lake City October 13th–15th. You can also find more information here.

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Retreat basics:

Schedule:

Friday (13th): 6 to 10 pm

Saturday (14th): 9 am to 9 pm or later
(includes lunch and dinner, and entertainment afterward—much of it starring you!)

Sunday (15th): 9 am to 5 pm (lunch included)

Cost: $200 per person; $350 per couple (even two friends or family members deciding to register together). This is a significant registration fee reduction from previous Mormon Matters and other Open Stories Foundation retreats.
To register, click here. Thank you!

Scholarships: If you cannot afford to pay to attend, or can only swing some of the cost, please inquire abut partial or full scholarships and volunteering. We are working hard to encourage people to donate funds for others to attend, and we are happy to put you on a waiting list to see what might unfold.

If you would like to donate a scholarship (or two, three, etc!) or put any amount toward the scholarship fund, please click here.

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

Announcing an October 2017 Mormon Matters Retreat

A MORMON MATTERS RETREAT!

“Understanding and Navigating Healthy Perspectives and Journeys within Mormonism”

Led by Dan Wotherspoon, Ph.D.
Natasha Helfer Parker, LCMFT, CST,
13 – 15 October 2017, SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH

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Many of us find ourselves a bit outside the Mormon norm but still feel committed to continue our journeys as engaged members of the church, or we are committed to a spouse who chooses this. 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 with family, friends, and loved ones, 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
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To register for the retreat: click here. (After registering, participants will receive more detailed information about venue, parking, lunch and dinner options, etc.)

Cost: $200 per person; $350 per couple (even two friends or family members deciding to register together). This is a significant registration fee reduction from previous Mormon Matters and other Open Stories Foundation retreats.

Scholarships:
If you cannot afford to pay to attend, or can only swing some of the cost, please inquire abut partial or full scholarships and volunteering. We are working hard to encourage people to donate funds for others to attend, and we are happy to put you on a waiting list to see what might unfold.
If you would like to donate toward scholarships, please
click here! Thank you!

Schedule:

Friday (13th): 6 to 10 pm

Saturday (14th): 9 am to 9 pm or later
(includes lunch and dinner, and entertainment afterward—much of it starring you!)

Sunday (15th): 9 am to 5 pm (lunch included)

Contact and Further Information:

For questions about meals or other logistics:
Lorri Wotherspoon: lorspoon@gmail.com

To learn more about retreat content, purposes, what to expect, or to inquire about possible scholarships that would allow you to attend:
Dan Wotherspoon: dan.wotherspoon@me.com
Natasha Helfer Parker: nhelferparker@gmail.com

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

410–411: (Encore) Theologies of Nature: Mormon Resources for Thinking about Natural Disasters

This is an encore presentation of a podcast conversation we had in April 2011 on the heels of the then-recent Japanese earthquakes and tsunamis. With Hurricane Harvey currently devastating Houston and surrounding areas, it’s as timely now as it was then. Are there theologically and pragmatically healthy discussions to be had within Mormonism about nature, and especially natural disasters? Often we hear claims that the upheaval and suffering caused by earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, tornados, famine, and the like are “God’s will,” that God is sending a message through these events. And certainly there is certainly scriptural precedent for that view, and even modern prophetic utterance. But are there other, more nuanced and perhaps more ennobling ways to frame natural disasters within a theistic worldview? And if there are ways of seeing these upheavals that can lead to increased faith or broadened and deepened spirituality or love for God and the world, are any of these healthy approaches hinted at or embedded in particular Mormon views and practices?

We know you’ll enjoy this dynamic discussion between Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists George HandleyDuane Jeffery, and Joanna Brooks. We encourage you to also visit and contribute to this episode’s blog discussion.

407-409: The Wilderness of Faith

This three-part episode features Kim Puzey and Lisa Scott, two brilliant and insightful people who are deeply familiar with both wilderness living and faith journeying. Drawing on their backgrounds as guides for wilderness experiences (some chosen by participants, while others were offered as options for adjudicated youth who otherwise would have been sent to jail), Kim and Lisa share lessons not only related to survival in wilderness areas and that help us understand the growth and development of most of those participating in these adventures, but also from their own lives as faith explorers, walkers of spiritual and cultural terrain not always visited by the majority of Latter-day Saints. Both are wonderfully articulate and brave in their storytelling about what it’s like to be “off the map.”

How do “wilderness” and the “wilderness of faith journeys” relate? Quite a bit! We anticipate you’ll be captivated by this discussion!

403–406: Revelations of Joseph Smith and Others: A Naturalistic Hypothesis

In her very important new book, Revelatory Events: Three Case Studies of the Emergence of New Spiritual Paths, historian and religion scholar Ann Taves offers a naturalistic framing for revelation, in this case extending it to the complex issue of founding figures of a religion or spiritual communities and their close followers believing the sources of the revelations were outside of themselves. In the three case studies Taves examines, Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism, claimed visitations from God and angels, and produced revelations that came in the voice of “the Lord”; Helen Schucman, producer of the Course in Miracles and several supporting works, claimed to be scribe for “the Voice” (believing it to be the voice of Jesus Christ); and Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous and his associates, though not claiming the words of the group’s Big Book resulted in direct revelation from a specific personality, felt under the inspiration of some Higher Power. Like Smith and Schucman, however, Wilson shared in some circles about an encounter with a Divine source in which he felt “called” to and in that experience also came to believe he would be empowered to “dry up all the drunks in the world.” Employing her considerable skills as an historian, with a special emphasis on religion in America, and drawing from research and findings from neuroscience and several cognitive science and social science fields, Taves puts forth a plausible hypothesis about the various mechanisms at play within the minds of the founders of these traditions/paths and their early collaborators that might explain their claims of revelations from suprahuman sources without positing the need for separate spiritual and material worlds, while at the same time not claiming that experiences such as these were/are delusions. It is a fascinating book that mines rich and varied fields and source materials, and introduces these to findings that are emerging in studies of psychology, social psychology, brain science, hypnotism, creativity, organizational emergence, and more.

In this four-part episode, neuroscientist and lifelong Mormon Michael Adam Ferguson joins Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon in interviewing and interacting with Ann Taves about her book, its hypotheses, her sense of the promises and limits to the fields of study that she is working in, and her own way of making sense of and honoring revelatory events and the power of religion while she is working and positing explanations within naturalistic frameworks.

Part 1 (Ep. 403) primarily introduces the book and its scope, and particularly the stories of and key moments within the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous and the emergence of A Course in Miracles. It also draws a few early comparisons between Joseph Smith and the founders of those spiritual paths.

Part 2 (Ep. 404) explores Taves’ hypotheses about what is going on within the minds of these founding figures during the times they believe they are in direct communication with suprahuman personalities, as well as during the early periods of their groups’ establishment.

Part 3 (Ep. 405) features very active discussions of diverse questions and topic areas, ranging from why might a Divine source “reveal” quite different things about the nature of Reality, to the difference between practical and theoretical metaphysics, to the qualities that might lead one to be classified as a “spiritual genius,” to group genius, to delusional experiences, and more.

Part 4 (Ep. 406) reflects on the probative value of Taves work and the research she cites, as well as directions she hopes to take these things in order to ascertain the scope of their explanatory powers, and then moves into more “pastoral” areas as the panelists assess the value of religious symbolism, praxis, communities, and other gifts of religion and religious systems even if naturalistic arguments, with its claims of a non-dualistic reality, were to win the day.

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Links:

Ann Taves, Revelatory Events: Three Case Studies of the Emergence of New Spiritual Paths (Princeton University Press, 2016)

Ann Taves and Steven C. Harper, Joseph Smith’s First Vision: New Methods for the Analysis of Experience-Related Texts, Mormon Studies Review 3, no.1 (2016)

Joseph Smith’s Use of a Seer Stone in Bringing Forth the Book of Mormon,” Mormon Matters podcast 287–288, featuring Ann Taves, D. Michael Quinn, Ron Barney, 10 August 2015

Michael Adam Ferguson and Benjamin Knoll, “A Conversation with Michael Ferguson on the Neuroscience of Spiritual Experience,” Rational Faiths podcast 113, 2 November 2016

Charles Randall Paul, “Does God Always Reveal the Same Thing to Everyone?: On Sustaining Peaceful Conflicts Over Religion,” Sunstone, May 2003

Video of sessions in the “New Perspectives on Joseph Smith and Translation” conference, Utah State University, 17 March 2017, sponsored by the Faith Matters Foundation and the USU Religious Studies Program

Daniel Wright Wotherspoon, Awakening Joseph Smith: Mormon Resources for a Postmodern Worldview, Ph.D. dissertation, Claremont Graduate School (1996)

D&C 20:5–12 (early account—possibly 1829—of the First Vision that is often overlooked)