396–397: Spiritual Journeys Outside of Mormonism

This episode features two wonderful teachers, pastors, scholars, and clergy from non-Mormon faith traditions sharing their own spiritual journeys and the ways that God has moved in them throughout their lives and ministries. Neither shies away from sharing about their most difficult moments, the pain and confusion, the depression, and many other lonely and hopeless feelings they experienced along the way. In the process, we discover just how unique but also universal the experience of God-wrestling and faith transitioning/deepening really is. And it is a rich blessing to us as Latter-day Saints to hear these journeys and their reflections with different vocabularies and new ways of describing the things of their lives and spiritual walks.

Following the telling of their stories, Father Tom Roberts, an ordained priest in the Orthodox tradition, and Father Martin Arredondo an ordained priest in the Independent Catholic tradition, join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon for a discussion of the phenomenon of faith growth and God’s call to us. They share advice that helped them along the way and/or that they share with those who seek them out now to share their confusion and hurt as they go through their own dark nights and times when God seems distant. Most of all, we get to hear again and again from two powerful men doing the work of God as they understand it to be. May we all seek to find and answer our individual callings, as well.

NOTE: If you downloaded Episode 396 within the first 12 hours of its release (basically before 7am MDT Friday June 23), please delete that file and re-download (or click below to listen). The audio tracks between my two guests and I were slightly out of sync, making it harder to listen to. I have fixed the issue now. I’m very sorry for the hassles and confusion this may have caused. Thank you for your patience!  Dan Wotherspoon

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Links forthcoming

395: Spiritual Mentors and Heroes

Most of us have someone special in our lives, or with whom we’ve become acquainted through reading or listening to, whose spiritual insights, wisdom, compassion, and ways of carrying themselves and meeting the world stand out for us. Some will truly be spiritual mentors for us, others more like heroes. But no matter if it is an intimate personal relationship or not, we are grateful for their influence and for the way they’ve helped us imagine a life and relationship with God or the universe, and shown us approaches to questions and difficulties, that we can aspire to find for (and within) ourselves.

In this Mormon Matters episode, host Dan Wotherspoon interviews three friends—Jana RiessBridget Smith, and Charles Randall Paul—about their mentor/hero. What is it about them that they most admire? How has this person’s influence shaped their own spiritual journey? What ways of being or insights did they share that most affects their own life and thought? What books or works of these people should podcast listeners find if they want to explore more about this person?

Please enjoy this wonderful discussion! Share your reflections, ideas, and questions in the comments section below!

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Links:
Phyllis Tickle: Essential Spiritual Writings (Orbis Books, 2015)
Phyllis Tickle: Evangelist of the Future (Paraclete Press, 2014)
“Emergence Christianity and Mormonism,” Mormon Matters (podcast episodes 123–124), August 29, 2012 (episode 123 features Phyllis Tickle, Brian McLaren, and Jana Riess)
Phyllis Tickle, Emergence Christianity: What Is It? Where Is It Going? and Why It Matters
Phyllis Tickle,
The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why
Phyllis Tickle has many books on the Divine Hours (fixed prayer practice). Too many to list here. Please visit Amazon.com through the portal on this website to find them.
Jana Riess, Flunking Sainthood (blog)
Jana Riess, Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor (Paraclete Press, 2011)
“The Next Mormons,” Mormon Matters (podcast, episode 337), July 22, 2016

Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

Bennett Ramsey, Submitting to Freedom: The Religious Vision of William James (Oxford University Press)
William James, A Pluralistic Universe (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017) or choose another edition. There are several.
William James, Varieties of Religious Experience (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013) or choose another edition. There are several.
Dan Wotherspoon, “A Real Fight,” Sunstone, May 2004 (mentioned in the episode; second half of the essay deals with William James’s sense that we each have important things to contribute to the world)

393–394: Does “Certainty” Hinder Living Faith?

Living faith is a growing faith. It is faith in a living God. It is trust in a trustworthy being (or beings). It is striving to align ourselves with a will conveyed to us by a wise and loving God. In many ways, through a person’s experiences with the Divine, living faith can be “certain” about the existence, goodness, wisdom, and compassion of this Source, but so often we want more. We want exactness. We want to be able to describe and be certain about every detail about God, the Plan for us, how to be “saved,” etc. And we are even encouraged to strive for this kind of certainty. But this encouragement is too often misunderstood as a striving for a certainty of “this” or “that,” or a certainty of “what,” but is that as important as a certainty that comes with a relationship with a “Who” that surpasses all other beings? Can our striving to be “right about God” and these other things actually hinder our ability to truly know God?

Christian theologian and author Peter Enns thinks so, and many Latter-day Saints through their own faith journeys and evolution have also come to feel less certain about “certainty about” God and more certain about paths God wants them to follow, paths that they feel are leading them to truly embrace the full and abundant life that Christianity, including Mormonism, teaches about.

In this two-part episode, Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon is joined by four wonderful and thoughtful Latter-day Saints—Jeff ChristensenDoug ChristensenJana Spangler, and Jay Griffith—for a discussion of these and several other issues related to the problems of “certainty,” some of it based upon Enns’ book, The Sin of Certainty. It’s a fantastic discussion, rich in insight, and includes stories from each of their own lives and faith journeys. Don’t miss it!

NOTE: Upon first release of this episode, the majority of Part 1 (Episode 393) did not play in both speakers (ears). This has been corrected. But to access it as it should have been initially, you can either refresh this screen (Mormon Matters podcast) and use the play button on the site, or re-download it via iTunes or whatever podcast app you use. So sorry for this hassle!  Dan Wotherspoon
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Links:

Peter Enns, The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires Our Trust More Than Our “Correct” Beliefs (HarperOne, 2016).

Peter Enns, The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It (HarperOne, 2015).

 

390–392: Mormon Women Gaining Spiritual Confidence within a Patriarchal Church

The title of this three-part episode says quite a bit about it. Several weeks ago, Mormon Matters released a conversation, “Gaining Spiritual Confidence,” featuring three men sharing their journeys toward and insights about a strong sense of their own spiritual connection with God/Spirit. It was terrific—but as a listener pointed out, if featured three men and wondered how the conversation might have been different if it had also featured women’s voices. Hence this conversation was born. Three powerful women, activists, seekers, thinkers, and Mormons—Julie de Azevedo HanksBryndis Roberts, and Jenne Alderks—join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon for a deep and far-ranging discussion about their personal spiritual odysseys and the various obstacles that often arise in the path toward spiritual confidence that are specific to women. And Mormon women, especially. They discuss the dual messaging women receive about being confident and yet, within Mormonism, always falling under the stewardship of men, the problem of embodied Gods who are all male (though Mormon leaders are nodding more and more toward a Heavenly Mother, or the use of “Heavenly Parents” when speaking about God, it’s not anywhere close to sufficient), about the way many LDS men prefer women to speak softly and in less-than-direct ways (think “Primary” voice).

Whereas the earlier episode on spiritual confidence focused primarily on personal confidence, this conversation spends a good amount of time on confidence within “communities,” including discussions of how to speak up, act, prepare for, and what to keep in mind, when we find ourselves in conflict with others. It also includes a section on the importance of spiritual confidence—a strong and clear connection with God and/or our sense of “calling”—when we step into an activist’s shoes.

You will not be able to stop listening to this conversation. It’s truly terrific, with great energy and diversity of life paths and perspectives. Tune in!

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Links:

Julie de Azevedo Hanks,The Assertiveness Guide for Women (New Harbinger Press, 2016)

Julie de Azevedo Hanks, The Burnout Cure: An Emotional Survival Guide for Overwhelmed Women (Covenant, 2013)

388–389: Our Brains and Faith

Our faith lives, including how we orient toward the world, God/Spirit (or whatever we consider the highest center(s) of value and power), and ourselves, are fed by many things. Some we can easily identify. Others—perhaps the majority, and especially the ones that are wired into various neural pathways—are hidden, unconsciously held, and only show themselves to us through inner work.

In this two-part episode, we examine some of these harder-to-spot orientations through a schema partially developed by Russell Osmond, Ph.D., and then apply it to Mormons and various aspects of Mormonism. In particular, we look at four questions/quadrants—Why, What, How, and Who—that all of us are familiar with even though we likely don’t recognize how we orient toward one of them more than others. Nor have we likely analyzed how that orientation (especially when ours is different than those of friends, family, and co-workers) has contributed to some of the frustrations and struggles in communicating with them about the importance of certain things that are obvious to us. Each orientation carries its own gifts, but each also entails certain blindspots with respect to the others. When we can recognize and understand our brain’s own wiring and preferred mode for meeting key aspects of life and our world, as well as recognizing those same things in others, we can move meaningfully toward greater understanding, bridge building, and problem solving. And who wouldn’t want that? Especially in the faith arena?

This edition of the Mormon Matters podcast features Russ Osmond and Henning Mueller in conversation with host Dan Wotherspoon in which they introduce and engage with the four-quadrant model and its revelations about different brain vocabularies, paying special attention to its effects on faith and faith journeys. Why does new information or changes in policy cause deep crisis for some but not for others? How can understanding the gifts of other vocabularies help alleviate some of this suffering and lead us to fuller understandings of ourselves and others, as well as the way God or Spirit or the Universe works? This model is also fascinating in helping explain various phases of Mormon history, as well as what is occurring within the church right now. Henning adds great insight to all of this from his perspective as a German citizen and student of European religion and contemporary trends within Mormonism. He also, near the end of Part 2, offers a wonderful description of what it means to have a “living God,” and how those who associate with the traditions of the Restoration should embrace the principle of continuing revelation in far bolder ways than most currently do. You won’t want to miss that section, nor this whole conversation between two old friends and an interested and enthusiastic moderator.

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Link:

To gain free access to the My Motivators assessment tool talked about in the podcast, please write to Russ Osmond at blindspotspivots@gmail.com. Mention to him that you are a Mormon Matters listener and he will set you up. Thanks, again, Russ!

387: LDS Church Changes to Its Scouting Program

On May 11, 2017, the LDS Church announced it is dropping Varsity and Venturer Scouts as the primary program for its U.S. and Canadian young men ages 14–18 effective at the end of the 2017 calendar year. In its place, the Church is asking leaders of these groups to now enact the guidelines and suggestions for youth this age that are already in place in the rest of the world. At the moment, the church has made no change to the Cub and Boy Scout programs for these North American youth ages 8 to 14. Reactions to the news ranged from surprise and confusion to disappointment among some and celebration among many others. What is the church saying about this change? What led to it? What other factors besides those in the press releases might also be at play here?

In this episode, we turn for perspectives and processing of this news to four experienced church members who, from various roles and vantage points, all have a great deal of experience with the scouting program, including at these older ages. Chris Tucker, Cynthia Winward, Matt Jones, and Walt Wood join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon for a far-ranging discussion of scouting within the church and possible reasons church leaders felt the program wasn’t meeting the needs of those boys ages 14 to 18. They discuss everything from the rule changes the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) made with regard to gay leaders and the inclusion of girls in the Venturing program, to the unwieldy nature of BSA rules and regulations and intense trainings and time commitments required of leaders, who, for the most part, consider scouting just another “calling” and don’t truly embrace the whole BSA program, to the changing interests and demands on youth, especially as they enter their mid-teens. They discuss possible financial factors such as lawsuits and financial settlements from injuries the occur during high adventure and other activities to the inequality between the monies spent on and emphases on Young Men’s vs Young Women’s programs and awards. They ask and speculate on possible factors for the change, such as the decline in the number of young men choosing to serve missions, and perhaps a desire to focus the boys’ gaze even more directly upon just the church and its social networks. They discuss the “achievement” culture within the church and world, with its pros and cons. Though the discussion here was prompted by the news of the change in the program, it goes beyond its scope to many interesting and important deeper cultural and societal issues. It is a great conversation!
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Links to News Stories:

Mormon Church Takes Steps Away from Scouting; Does Total Exit Loom?,” Salt Lake Tribune, 11 May 2017

Mormons Drop Scout Program for Older Teens,” Deseret News, 11 May 2017

First Presidency letter announcing the Changes

Questions and Answers about Changes to Young Men Program,” LDS Newsroom, 11 May 2017

What You Need to Know about Today’s Announcement,” Deseret News, 11 May 2017

Top BSA Leader, Who is LDS, Hopes Scouting-Mormon Marriage Lasts, But He Is Not Sure It Will,” Salt Lake Tribune, 11 May 2017

Here’s How the Internet Reacted to LDS Church’s Announcement to Drop Scouts for Older Teens,” Deseret News, 11 May 2017

2015 LDS Newsroom response to news of the BSA vote to allow Gay scout leaders

New Program for 14–18 Young Men:

Aaronic Priesthood 14–18 Activities,” LDS.org (This link contains the program already in place outside the U.S. and Canada.)