42: Pros and Cons of Keeping Mormonism “Weird”

Recent decades have seen a decrease in emphases of and public and internal discussions of many of Mormonism’s most distinctive doctrines and practices–especially some that are often thought of as “weird.” Has this trend of downplaying Mormon differences from mainline Christian views, as well as many of Mormonism’s interesting and unique blend of views about human progression, the nature of God and humans, God’s power and goals for the world, the idea of a Heavenly Mother, and so forth, been a net positive or negative for the tradition? Clearly Mormonism is more publicly accepted today (with obvious exceptions), but would this have happened even without this shift toward emphasizing agreements with other faiths rather than because of it? Have the costs associated with being better accepted been too high? Is the current trend of downplaying differences something that can be reversed? Should it be? How do doctrines and practices come in and out of prominence within Mormonism?

In this podcast, Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists Joanna Brooks, Todd Decker, and Scott Heffernan engage in a far-ranging discussion of these issues and basically have a great time discussing (mostly with great affection) some of these unique Mormon emphases along with their current status within the tradition and whether or not those currently enjoying less of a role will or should stay in the background. In the end, even at nearly two hours in length, there was just too much to be discussed, so this particular episode mostly lands as a good beginning point for listeners to jump in: What are your favorite deemphasized LDS teachings or practices? How do you feel about where the LDS Church is today in terms of what is emphasized publicly or in internal discussions? We look forward to your joining in!

Comments

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86 comments for “42: Pros and Cons of Keeping Mormonism “Weird”

  1. Anonymous
    July 14, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    How can anyone justify claiming that the way Mormon peculiarities are identified “on the street” debases them, and that beautiful “nuances” are overlooked, but then not explain any nuances? That part will always be missing in these discussions, and is a chief indicator of how messed up the peculiarities really are.

    I recognize and appreciate the mention of church leaders disingenuously sidestepping uncomfortable topics, but it seems to me like you did the very same thing, just without their inauthentic level of denial.

    Take the first topic discussed — Mormons getting their own planet. None of the people participating in the podcast deny they’re going to one day rule over at least one planet full of their offspring. However, all of you downplayed this particular peculiarity — something legitimate and actual — by changing the language from “planet” to “world”, or attempting to bend the idea of “becoming like God” by using language like “inheritance”. No nuances were explained. Where are the nuances? Well, here are a few related to the topic I already mentioned:

    God (Heavenly Father) and a spouse that’s de-emphasized by Mormonism, but trotted out when it’s advantageous, had their own heavenly parents, that had heavenly parents, that had heavenly parents, etc.

    Heavenly parents — and, God is among ours — would be obliged to worship and pray to their heavenly parents. When you become a god, and begin to populate worlds (without end), you will also require that all of your spiritual progeny worship and pray to you.

    “Each succeeding generation of gods follows the example of the preceding ones: each generation have their wives who raise up from the fruit of their loins immortal spirits: when their families become numerous, they organize new worlds for them…they place their families upon the same…” – Orson Pratt

    The heavenly directive is to create and populate. Obedience to directives is requisite for achieving a position where one can create and populate throughout eternity. It follows that nobody at this point will disobey the directive. You will pass on that directive to all of your creation. Those that obey will become like you.

    “Our Father Adam helped to make this earth, it was created expressly for him, and after it was made he and his companions came here. He brought one of his wives with him, and she was called Eve…” – Brigham Young

    God has (and every man will too) multiple wives, none of which will ever have as many worlds as he does, because she is not granted (nor is any woman) the same marriage prerogatives.

    Nobody can populate worlds without entering into “Celestial Marriage”. That term used to equate to polygamy on Earth, even when Section 132 was fashioned. “Spiritual wifery” was once decried as pernicious doctrine by Brigham Young and others. (See Journal of Discourses.)

    There will be no unmarried people populating worlds (according to contemporary Mormon doctrine).

    Men that select new wives through the eternities, to populate new worlds, can select from women outside of their Earthly lifespan, and beyond the very planet of their birth. These women will either already be married, or be “lifted up” from a lesser eternal status (or there are no degrees of glory).

    Women will be heavenly mothers to children on multiple planets, but not necessarily together with the same heavenly father.

    How “together forever” will families really be, if heavenly children move on, in due course, with concern over their own innumerable planets, each with innumerable offspring?

    Will there be room for all of this burgeoning expansion in the Universe? What’s a billion times a billion times a billion times a billion, etc?

    • July 14, 2011 at 4:09 pm

      I admit I was unprepared about the planets question. You have quoted a lot of the background information that I did not have ready so thank you for that. The “sidestepping” was unintentional on my part. I’d like to play off your comment on the burgeoning expansion of gods in the universe. There are a few things there. First, when a lot of these ideas you quoted were first formulated I think the general understanding was that the universe was infinite in extension. In modern cosmology we have an understanding that the universe does have a finite mass. It may be bounded or unbounded but probably not infinite. So what happens when we continue spreading and fill it up? Another issue is whether God lives inside our universe or outside it. In Mormonism there is talk of God being obliged to obey natural laws just like us which seems to imply that he lives in this universe. But maybe “natural laws” could apply to laws operative in a multiverse.

      We may have across as denying the idea of our future possibility of creating worlds (or planets, admittedly “worlds” sounds less goofy). I actually do like this idea. As I mentioned, I think it sounds exciting. We are actually able to do some pretty amazing stuff right now to the point that we worry about “playing God”. We are able to redesign living organisms in such specific ways that would have been unbelievable only a century ago. If this progress continues who is to say that in the centuries to come we may not be able to essentially create planets or at least dramatically reshape them. Anyway, that’s me thinking big. I know that’s not really the Mormon doctrine as it has been taught but it’s kind of my modern version of it.

      There was actually a conference at Claremont that discussed some of the similarities between this kind of engineering vision and Mormon thought. Here’s a link. http://mormonism-engineering.org/

      • Anonymous
        July 16, 2011 at 4:38 pm

        The planets peculiarity is just a for-instance (although, that there are interrelated peculiarity tie-ins in those few paragraphs seems interesting to note), and I don’t have a special religious hobby there. But, I’ve certainly given it oodles of thought and research energy, like other topics that have been necessary to ponder in order for me to be authentic and grounded. I just blah blah blahhhed some ideas at the moment, figuratively held my tongue on some opinions, and dropped 2 relevant quotes that I hastily looked up. Thanks for the non-defensive response.

        I also used to like the idea of organizing and forming worlds, or things like the notion that dinosaurs can be explained as an offshoot of that line of thinking, spurred on by verses in the Book of Abraham, or what early church authorities — and authority legitimizes it for Mormons, despite the denial by self-protecting fringe Mormons — had to say. Cumulatively though, there are just too many attendant problems for me to believe this peculiarity (among others), however “nuanced” anyone tries to fashion it. I accept that God could govern from outside the Universe, and I can conceive that what we know as the Universe might not be singular. I can do the big thinking that the romantic relativist in me appreciates when you do it in the podcast. What sinks me are certain intangible and smaller-scope things like… How do we reconcile regression (who made who), or… When this planet becomes a “sea of glass”, how long do the exalted inhabitants remain before moving on, to begin the process of forming their own glass orbs? What happens to the abandoned marble? Some Mormons (and, maybe I was one of those) smugly suggest, without specifying nuances, that it gets recycled. (See earlier dinosaur remark.) For me this sets off a chain of thought related not only to _space_ in the Universe, but to _time_. Again, what’s a billion times a billion times a billion times a billion, etc? Unfathomazillion, that’s what.

        Anyway, the planets thing just typifies my thought process on the other peculiarities.

        Your comment about an early understanding of the Universe evolving into what many now understand about it sparked the thought (in me) that people are often able to retain beliefs because their experience is limited, or they somehow have not taken notice of a larger picture — perhaps issues of time and space in the “planet” discussion. Mormons are conditioned to avoid looking at the larger picture, therefore it stands to reason that antiquated teachings or illogical ideas can still hold sway. Mormons that _are_ looking at a larger picture, despite encouragement to keep blinders on, seem to have other reasons they cling to beliefs — even defending them with logical fallacy, while having important information and thought faculties at their disposal. It’s all good; it’s all understandably human.

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      July 14, 2011 at 11:33 pm

      As I think came out in the podcast from several of us (but I should probably only speak for myself here), I’m fine with there being statements like this where past church leaders really ran with the “planets” ball, just as many have done with other ideas. I can embrace that these kinds of statements were made and have affection that such attempts to make doctrines super concrete are part of the totality of my tradition. But as for statements like these, I put them all in the realm of folks taking a revelatory “hint” or intriguining phrase or sensibility and then expanding on them in all sorts of ways that go beyond the key kernal. Joanna brought up several times in the podcast the tendency to anthropomorphize (not only about God but also to take our known realities here and project them into the eternities such that heaven becomes really cool versions of things we like here), and that’s how I view these statments. Are statements about “our own planets” Mormon doctrines? Heck no. Fun to have floating out there? Heck yes. 

      Because I don’t take descriptors of Gods and eternities in Mormon or any religious discourse to be very seriously literal,  I’m in no way sidestepping difficulties or failing to honor “how messed up the peculiarites really are.” These statements and possible messes one gets into when one starts pushing them too literally don’t weigh seriously enough on my heart or sit in enough of a prominent place in my head for me to be discomforted by them, hence I don’t even recognize a need to sidestep them in my own spiritual journey. I appreciate your voicing your ideas here and can see that you DO take these kinds of statements and ideas super literally or at least want people here or in your wider circle of Mormon contacts to do so you can start applying the kinds of challenging questions you do at the end and perhaps win converts to a position more in line with yours. Have at it. But just know that you and I are playing in different realities. I’ll defend the impulses that send folks off into such speculations and even seriously entertain them as pointing in intriguing and ennobling directions, but I just don’t get too worried about statements, even ones by prominent LDS leaders, that start to try to nail some doctrine down in super concrete terms. 

      Best,
      Dan Wotherspoon

      • Anonymous
        July 16, 2011 at 5:17 pm

        This is just more re-crafting and softening. To claim something authoritatively as fact, when one knows it isn’t or can’t know it is, is deceitful and dishonest. You’re saying that Mormon authorities have been (at best) fibbing. But, that’s really beside the point. To bring things back to where they count… It’s unlikely that you would deny that as you now are, God once was, or that as God now is, you will become. If God creates and inhabits and populates planets, then it follows you believe, together with associated peculiarities, that you will too. To deny it is to deny eternal progression. That’s so “seriously literal” there’s no logical fallacy — equivocating, personal attack, drawing divisive distinctions, misattributing, or other distraction — you can toss out to make it something else.

        I could have been a little more clear with my original comments. I was really only outlining some of the nuances that are claimed, cognizant or not, subordinate to a principal belief, but that are rarely discussed. I’m glad you think that stuff seems a little “out there”. So do I.

    • Joanna Brooks
      July 15, 2011 at 12:21 am

      Chancefrisson:  You are maintaining a radically literalist view of 19th century Mormon speculative theology.  One of the characteristics of that moment in Mormon theology was a projection of grossly physical anthropomorphic functions onto God and the eternal.  It is possible that Mormon theology–even mainstream Mormon theology–is evolving beyond this form of radical literalism, even if in its own quiet way.  Just because Orson Pratt said it, doesn’t make it so.

      • Kevin
        July 15, 2011 at 11:38 am

        I really don’t mean to be offensive in any way, but I don’t see where your comment is headed.

        In your post and several times in the podcast, you appeared to criticize literal belief in Mormon teachings. Fair enough. But are you implying that there is truth to be found in some sort of figurative belief? If so, toward what figurative belief(s) do the teachings point? Or, alternatively, do you mean to imply that the teachings have little or nothing to do with anything that is objectively real?

        For example, you seem to characterize the teaching that God is literally an exalted man, and that he literally has a body of flesh and bone, as “a projection of grossly (“grossly”?) physical anthropomorphic functions.” As you know, this teaching is one of the very core beliefs of Mormonism. Are you saying that it is untrue, or possibly that it is true in some figurative way that nevertheless distinguishes Mormonism from other faiths that characterize God as having personal or human traits?

        I truly do not mean to be rude. But I get frustrated with poorly defined allusions to “nuance” and to things that are “evolving” when it is unclear what point the speaker wishes to make. If the point of this podcast is that Mormon beliefs are simply unusual or amusing, then somebody should just say so. Such a statement would also help to inform the discussion of why more people don’t choose to become or remain part of the Mormon faith.

        • Joanna Brooks
          July 15, 2011 at 10:10 pm

          Hi Kevin:  Thanks for your good question.  I believe that deemphasis and emphasis in current Church teachings as well as statements made by Church leaders suggest that some points in Mormon theology are emerging and some are receding.  I view theology in any tradition as a conversation that changes overtime and reflects the perspectives of those who articulate it.  I also believe that the Church currently includes members with both literalist views on theology, as well as those who have let go of literalist relationships to theology as a defining feature of their Mormonism.  For many people, the answer is “I don’t know,” and yet this doesn’t deter their participation with the best of intentions or their love for the specifics of Mormon doctrine.  

          • Anonymous
            July 16, 2011 at 6:10 pm

            Since I’m already here… What I admire most about you Joanna is the presumption that you seem to operate under that whatever one’s belief, it deserves a place, and is valid. Occasionally that seems to cross over into a presumption that others should naturally appreciate the way you think (which created a minor hiccup in this podcast). But, it’s really your openness that intrigues me.

            I got a sense reading your comment to Kevin that it’s possible to be a little too relativist. What you wrote seems pretty circular near the end. It sounds like you’re saying that the Mormon church is moving into a broader and more figurative realm — one where people can let go of a literal attachment to theology as a defining feature of their Mormonism. I’m hoping for that same thing, along with you! Now, this sounds doctrinally agnostic, but then you finished by mentioning the “specifics of Mormon doctrine” which doesn’t have quite a figurative ring to it. I’m not being combative, but would just like to know what you see as Mormon doctrine that harmonizes with a dissolution of literal teachings. One or two examples will knock over the first mind domino for me, allowing me to think more about this from your point of view. I’m having trouble getting past that obedience requires an anchor of literalness, and that figurist thinking tends toward relativism which precedes disobedience, if only out of indifference.

      • Anonymous
        July 16, 2011 at 5:32 pm

        I was certainly not defending the things I related to the “planet” peculiarity. I just failed to be clear that my intent was to give examples of so-called nuances that people tout as something wonderful, but for whatever reason never discuss.

        Dismissing what a majority of Mormons think as speculative seems merely speculative. And, I think Orson Pratt was just as off target on these kinds of things as the last Mormon authority you may have heard quoted in sacrament meeting likely was.

    • Guest
      July 25, 2011 at 4:37 pm

      Actually we pray to the Father in the name of the Son. Whatever the notions of an inheritance or receiving the fulness of Father through his Son Jesus Christ, I ultimately believe all glory and honor and praises and prayers ascend up unto the Father of all.

  2. Chris
    July 14, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    (President Gordon B. Hinckley with Don Lattin, the San Francisco Chronicle religion writer. The article was dated Sunday, April 13, 1997) [1]
    Q: Just another related question that comes up is the statements in the King Follet discourse by the Prophet. A: Yeah Q: … about that, God the Father was once a man as we were. This is something that Christian writers are always addressing. Is this the teaching of the church today, that God the Father was once a man like we are? A: I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it. I haven’t heard it discussed for a long time in public discourse. I don’t know. I don’t know all the circumstances under which that statement was made. I understand the philosophical background behind it. But I don’t know a lot about it and I don’t know that others know a lot about it.

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      July 14, 2011 at 11:38 pm

      Thanks for supplying one of the quotations that illustrate President Hinckley’s style and why we were talking in the podcast about his being a pivotal figure in the direction Mormonism has taken to deemphasize some of its more interesting parts.

    • July 18, 2011 at 1:19 am

      You’re going to need to source your quote better.  I cant find the quote you gave anywhere.  I can find a different quoting of that article, that is completely different to what you posted.

      Q: There are some significant differences in your beliefs. For instance, don’t Mormons believe that God was once a man?
      A: I wouldn’t say that. There was a little couplet coined, “As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become.” Now that’s more of a couplet than anything else. That gets into some pretty deep theology that we don’t know very much about.
      Q: So you’re saying the church is still struggling to understand this?
      A: Well, as God is, man may become. We believe in eternal progression. Very strongly. We believe that the glory of God is intelligence and whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the Resurrection. Knowledge, learning, is an eternal thing. And for that reason, we stress education. We’re trying to do all we can to make of our people the ablest, best, brightest people that we can.

      http://www.tungate.com/GBH4.htm

      That was just a quick web search for it.  I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard to ask the Chronicle for a copy of the original article.

  3. Tim
    July 14, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    I really hate how Mormons have decided to play fast-and-loose with the Orthodox doctrine of “Theosis” and decided to compare it to Exaltation.

    Theosis is more in line with the doctrine of Sanctification than it is with Exaltation. It’s about taking on the character of God not his divinity.

    I expect more from the participants of this podcast (and Terryl Givens for that matter).  Dan you should know better.

    • July 14, 2011 at 6:34 pm

      I agree that the concept of theosis is different in Mormonism than in Greek Orthodoxy but I don’t recall anyone making that comparison in the podcast.  Is your objection just to the word “theosis”?  I can understand that but it wouldn’t be the first time a word is used differently in different cultures.  There’s a certain level of translation required. I personally think “theosis” is a little more explicit than “exaltation” although “deification” might be even better.

      • Tim
        July 14, 2011 at 7:54 pm

        Sure, Joanna used the word Theosis near the 1:25 mark when she meant Exaltation. Dan did as well near the beginning.

        Exaltation is a perfectly fine word.  Mormons should feel comfortable using it and not confuse people by conflating it with a Greek Orthodox doctrine that happens to merely sound similar.

        It’s particularly ironic is an podcast about “keeping Mormonism weird” that the participants would reach for (and misuse) an Orthodox doctrine that doesn’t have much to do with Exaltation. Theosis does not mean deification.  If you’re proud of the Mormon doctrine of deification, then talk about that and use that term.

        It’s not just a confusion between how the word is used differently in two different cultures.  Mormons only recently, in an apologetic strategy, started pointing out the Orthodox doctrine of Theosis and quite intentionally co-opting the term. 

        It’s akin to me saying that my church is just like the LDS church because we use temples to worship God and never clarifying that by “temples” I just mean our bodies.

        • Dan Wotherspoon
          July 14, 2011 at 11:58 pm

          I haven’t listened to the podcast since doing all the post-production work, but I do recall mentioning theosis a time or two in passing. Not sure in my mind that I would have necessarily been thinking of an equivalency to the LDS idea of exaltation, but if so, I certainly do know the differences and places where Orthodox and Mormon traditions diverge. And if there’s been a recent apologetic strategy to deliberately confuse the two group’s and their views, I was not aware of that and was not trying to do this.

          I’ve done a ton of thinking about Mormon ideas about exaltation and, while honoring the “becoming Gods” part of it as a possibility that fits the spirit and tenor of a universe in which Gods would want peers and not just worshipers, especially if these Gods don’t actually “create” these people but are “working with” them to help them along the same processes they went through to enjoy the divine life they do, I actually focus more on the types of ideas captured in discussions of theosis without spending much time on the “exaltation” end game. I focus on what it might mean to “partake of the divine nature” (B.H. Roberts and other LDS leaders have explored here, too), to align our will with that of God/universe, to be transformed in character to be more Godlike. The end game of all of this? Meh… Not really the point, too distracting, very likely nothing we can really imagine all that well anyway. I like Mormonism’s depiction of unlimited possibilities for an eternal soul, but what those possibilities might look like, I’m just not going to break a big sweat over that. The type of transformations of soul needed before anything huge might unfold in those sorts of experiences are what we need to concentrate on here and now, so I’m very happy to be playing in the same arena with members of the Orthodox tradition and others to try to embody those.

          • Kristine Haglund
            July 18, 2011 at 11:20 pm

            The Orthodox usage of “theosis” also diverges from its use in Western Christianity since Augustine. There’s no question that it’s an idea that is more developed, and therefore more nuanced and specific in ways that differ from the usage in a casual conversation like this one, in the Orthodox tradition. But it’s silly to accuse Givens or anybody else of dissembling by suggesting that Mormon ideas about deification have some similarities with older Christian beliefs about “theosis.” It would be equally silly of a Catholic to say that the Orthodox tradition is prevaricating by using the word differently than Augustine did. This is just what happens when everyone wants to make their theology sound legit by using Greek words for it!

      • Tim
        July 14, 2011 at 7:54 pm

        Sure, Joanna used the word Theosis near the 1:25 mark when she meant Exaltation. Dan did as well near the beginning.

        Exaltation is a perfectly fine word.  Mormons should feel comfortable using it and not confuse people by conflating it with a Greek Orthodox doctrine that happens to merely sound similar.

        It’s particularly ironic is an podcast about “keeping Mormonism weird” that the participants would reach for (and misuse) an Orthodox doctrine that doesn’t have much to do with Exaltation. Theosis does not mean deification.  If you’re proud of the Mormon doctrine of deification, then talk about that and use that term.

        It’s not just a confusion between how the word is used differently in two different cultures.  Mormons only recently, in an apologetic strategy, started pointing out the Orthodox doctrine of Theosis and quite intentionally co-opting the term. 

        It’s akin to me saying that my church is just like the LDS church because we use temples to worship God and never clarifying that by “temples” I just mean our bodies.

    • Jeralee
      July 14, 2011 at 9:06 pm

      We must each be looking for different things, and have different expectations for these podcasts when we listen.  I personally very much enjoyed the points and ideas that the panel members shared…and it gave me lots to think about and ponder!  Thanks to all of you, and especially Dan for gathering this group! <3
       

  4. July 14, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    Before you read my comments about this particular podcast, Dan, Joanna, Todd and Scott, I want you to know that I appreciate all your efforts and appreciate many of the things you do for the disaffected, and not so disaffected Mormon community.  Todd, I really appreciate the things you do professionally, and as a blogger and enjoyed your comments about your company.  Joanna, your presentations at the Mormon Pioneer Conference were priceless, and Scott I enjoyed your input as well.  Of course Dan, I really appreciate your ability to organize and bring together diverse people and topics.  Thanks again.

    That being said, this whole podcast unlike, almost all others, turned me completely off viscerally. It’s my problem and I wasn’t able to even finish listening. Obviously one person’s weird belief is another’s normal one. I am not sure exactly the reasons for my bad reaction, but here are some ideas:

    There seemed to be a justification for these “weird” views without denying them or pleading ignorance as President Hinckley did to Larry King.  I appreciate you acknowledging them, but when you characterized them as adding “lovely nuances” to Mormonism it probably turned me off as much as a feminist audience listening to a presenter praising the benefits of polygamy. We all are smörgåsbord believers but to dress up crap to look like food doesn’t make it food, nor does it make us more healthy.  That is my characterization of a number of these weird beliefs, and maybe is a little prejudicial, but it bothers me personally as I used to teach some of them.

    There was a lot of verbosity. I know the moderator and the participants were bloggers, intellectuals, and professors but listening to a number of justifications of these beliefs by a lot of very smart people was disheartening to hear. Sometimes we are most “smart” just saying, “I don’t know” unlike President Hinckely’s answer, “I don’t know that we teach that”, which is like Joseph Smith saying, “I only have one wife”.  Call either what you want, but it is not spin but deception. Your spin was not deception, but it appeared as spin.

    There were not clear answers to which of the “weird” beliefs that the participants accepted and those that were rejected because most of the responses I heard were “nuanced”.  Better than deception, but you didn’t have to spin it for me nor I would guess for most others listening.  Would the participants mind assessing the following with “I believe”, “I don’t know”, or “I don’t believe”?
    ————-
    Adam is God the Father
    Polygamy is an eternal concept
    Mother in Heaven
           — Mother in Heaven has polygamist sister wives
    Preexistence
           — Jesus is not only our spiritual brother but Satan’s also
           — we chose our parents
    Jesus was conceived by God the Father having personal sex with Mary
    God (Mother-in-heaven/Father-in-heaven)
    Blacks are inferior and were fence sitters in the preexistence
    God was once a man like us
           — He learns “precept upon precept”
    Jesus sacrifice does not cover all sins, but shedding of ones blood is required
           — works is required before grace
    If you loved your wife and her adulterous lover it is OK kill both
    Commandments from the Priesthood takes preference over morality or scripture
    Danties were commissioned from God via the Priesthood to carry out those commands
    Proxy ordinances
           — without them our ancestors can not be saved
    Temple ordinances
           — are essential to salvation
           — committing all one has to the Church, not to God
           — knowing the handshakes, tokens, etc is require to get into the top heaven
           — given a temple name
           — Holy underwear is required
    There is more than one God
    There is no hell, or at least for most people
    When the Prophet makes a statement the thinking is done
    The GAs are paid but say that there is no “paid ministry”
    The Church is the only “true” Church
    The Prophet converses with God and gets His/Her direction for Church and World
    The finances of the Church are not public
    Scripture is sacred and the Word of God, but it can be changed
    God is not consistent and changes His mind and His Word
    ————-

    Again thanks for the podcast, but it just hit me wrong.

    Glen

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      July 15, 2011 at 12:25 am

      Glen, 

      Thanks, again, for your regular and energetic participation in these blog discussions about various MM episodes. And thanks, too, for your concerns to be sure we won’t be taking your reaction as personal affronts. Very cool and definitely appreciated.

      I’m going to disappoint you, however, by not being willing to give you specifics about my own belief level on the things in your list. In general, however, I’d say HELL NO to many of them, and instead of “I believe” or “I don’t know” for all the rest, I’d simply have to plead (similar to how I’ve responded in an answer or two above) that I can honor as genuine and even ennobling the impulses behind some of the teachings you list, but whenever ideas are made into such concrete or declarative or propositional statements that call for yay or nay votes, I just am no longer playing that game. Does this mean I don’t believe anything? Not at all. I believe that many spritual sensibilities truly capture something of the character of the universe, point to high and lovely purposes, suggest directions I can follow for a happier, more fulfilling life. But these things I try to ground my life in never feel like words or statements as much as “felt character” or things that somehow “stir” my soul or excite my mind and seem to open up new possibilities. So while I may “believe” there’s something to all of these things, I just don’t of them as “beliefs” in the way I think you are querying us about.

      I can’t speak for the others on this podcast, but whatever role I may have had in leading toward the visceral reaction you have had, my guess is that it’s mostly because of our not connecting at the level of concrete or propositional statements being all that important. I know how frustrating it is when you want a dialogue (or a book or just a person in general) to assume the same things about church doctrines and teachings and practices as you do an then to get a discussion that isn’t focusing there at all. I empathize with that kind of pain! Sorry that was the case for you here!

      Dan

      • July 15, 2011 at 2:40 am

        I appreciate that you don’t take my comments personally.  They come with all due respect and I do respect you guys and gal.

        Maybe, as an engineer/scientist, I am a binary guy.  Physics teaches us at some level that EVERYTHING is binary.  Maybe you have nailed my concern directly, without  knowing it.  Knowing where any of you sat on many of these topics is like trying to nail Jello to the wall (green Mormon Jello to boot)!  It written in the Book from which the Church gets its nickname:

        “But let your communication be Yea, yea; Nay, nay; for whatsoever cometh of more than these is evil.”

        I would suggest to those, that Joanna mentioned, “people out there who are actively scheming for our young ones.
        … And they are. They’re predatory, and it’s offensive to me.” that all they have to do is guide your young ones to listen to this podcast and conversations like it and their job is done!  😉  Not so much because of the weird doctrines but the equivocation of them.  I agree with Kevin that doctrine doesn’t bring people to faith but love, integrity and straightforwardness. Kids are less “nuanced” than most adults, but then for them such is the kingdom of heaven, as one Man put it. 😉

        Glen

        • Dan Wotherspoon
          July 15, 2011 at 4:30 am

          A bit worried about the tone of nailing jell-o comment, as well as the bit about those who want to steal Mormon kids away only needing to have them hear this podcast. I’m not personally offended and still hope to have a good discussion, but clearly we have some strong disagreements about what we each think religion and/or life is all about as well as what Jesus taught.  

          Is this scripture really about saying yes or no to particular propositional statements? I can’t think that’s what Jesus is talking about there. I also don’t think Christ is talking about children’s understanding of life as the stuff that makes kingdom of heaven material but rather faith and trust in God and willing to submit to God’s will. When you look at the stages of faith or really any developmental theory, one must distance oneself from the authority of others, wrestle things out for oneself, and then take responsibility for those decisions for they will be key pieces of what shapes one’s character. What James Fowler points out in his study of how this process maps out in faith contexts is that every religion points toward the highest goal of life as being one’s coming to fully embody God’s/the universe’s will/purpose–toward being willing to submit to whatever that will is. In some ways this appears to be what children do, but as Ken Wilber highlights, that’s really not the accurate (he calls this thought the “pre-trans fallacy”–pretty jargony but basically meaning that to outsiders, those motivations and actions of those in pre-personal and trans-personal stages appear to be the same though they are extremely different). An adult, fully formed, fully tested, fully embodying God’s directives, living a life of compassion that includes fearless fighting for justice, etc. is the real goal (the kingdom of God is within you–recognize it, and all the other deeper teachings point this way). This is a new childlikeness. (In my MS interview, I refer to a quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes about not being willint to give a fig for the simplicity on THIS SIDE of complexity, but being willing to give practially everythiing for the simplicity that lies on the OTHER SIDE of complexity. What I’m talking about regarding the two kinds of childlikeness is basically that same thing. The second one is the true goal.
          Here’s my “yea yea” statement: Life is about transformation and becoming. Teachings/doctrines matter somewhat, but experiencing the divine and walking a divine path oneself is the only way one can ever really gain divine perspectives, embody divine purposes. Life’s not a test in terms of what you believe or don’t believe; it’s a proving ground where we become what we become. 

          I can’t see any wishy-washy, like trying to nail green jell-o to the wall, in this type of yea yea-ness nor that it would be something dangerous to teach youth (at least when they reach that stage of life when “getting real” with them is appropriate).

          Thanks, again, Glen. I always enjoy your contributions. Hope you’ll want to continue this conversation.

          Dan

          • July 16, 2011 at 6:11 am

            You don’t appreciate the “tone” of my comments in regard to “nailing green Jello” and having kids listen to the podcast so as to be stolen away from the Mormon tradition.  OK.

            Probably hyperbole in both instances.  I can appreciate why, as a practicing Mormon, you would not want to go through my list of “weird beliefs” and say yes, no, maybe or don’t know, as it might effect your membership status.  If you advocated polygamy, for example, as taught in the D&C then you could be excommunicated, especially if you practiced it.  Remember, too, that people have been excommunicated for worshiping or advocating worshiping a mother in heaven something that was taught by some in the early Church. Same goes for Adam-God. That  wasn’t my intent, but pointing out to you and the rest of the panelists that not believing in some of these “weird things” yet saying it brought richness to Mormon tradition is a bit schizophrenic at best.

            Testing the Green Jello statement might be difficult, but there would be a way to test the kids with the podcast.  Before they listen to the podcast have them take a standardized test.  Maybe asking them about the five fingers of the testimony glove.  Then have them listen to the podcast and then retake a similar test to see if they have grown in testimony or not!  😉  My hypothesis is they would not, especially if they were allowed to ask questions about some of the “nuanced” weird beliefs that you folks seem to think are beneficial to Mormon culture, yet possibly don’t really believe.  I used to be a Psych major, and maybe it is showing!  😉

            Thanks for the explanation about the scriptures I quoted, although I don’t understand what you were trying to convey except you interpreted them differently. Thanks for trying, anyway.  Here is another about children:

            “… men drink damnation to their own souls except they humble themselves and become as little children, and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.”

        • Dan Wotherspoon
          July 15, 2011 at 4:37 am

          Forgot to mention: I’d love to talk physics with you sometime, too. At least as I understand the quantum realm, it’s anything but binary. No discrete “things,” everything is energy patterns with potential to manifest in an infinite number of concrete ways. Can you help clarify what you meant by the stuff that the universe is made of is binary in nature? 

          • July 16, 2011 at 5:06 am

            Binary might be the wrong word.

            Would you agree that modern physics tells us that everything is energy?

            Physics asserts that a light photon is a distinct package whether you view it as a wave or a particle. It is either there or it is not.  This applies, as far as science knows, not to just light, but to all energy.  They call that packet quanta. And that is probably a better word than binary.

            The same kind of “quanta” level can be found in the function of the brain at the neuron level.  Either a neuron fires or it doesn’t.  Unlike our traditional digital computers, our brain does not run sequentially, but massively parallel – that is firing many neurons simultaneously.  However, at the lowest level it is another on-or-off thingy!  Great scientific word, don’t you think? 

            One of the challenges to those of us who are Black-or-White thinkers is to find the right level to which one can ask yes/no (binary) questions and then work our way up to more complex patterns and hypothesis that can be proved experimentally or at least validated with existing evidence. To do that it is critical to define one’s terms for understanding and communication.

    • BenjaminNShaffer
      November 12, 2011 at 12:02 pm

      Adam is God the Father: Yes, probably misunderstood by most readers, but true. God is the first of the human family, we are his children “I am a child of God” The first of the human family can also be called Adam, or an Adam, so it is more of an expansive doctrine about our relationship to deity and less of a biblical equivalent to the garden story of Adam and Eve, but yes I accept the true parts of that doctrine and will leave the theories for another time. Polygamy is an eternal concept: Well, Families can be together forever, and some of those families are polygamous, so yes it is eternal. That is the whole idea of eternal marriage. Note that D&C section 132 is the only place in Mormon scripture where either the doctrine of polygamy or eternal marriage is mentioned and is not distinguishable. Anyone who wants to accept eternal marriage must by both logic and scripture accept polygamy also. 
      Mother in Heaven: Yes, Absolutely       — Mother in Heaven has polygamist sister wives: yes, no doubtPreexistence: yes,  no other view makes sense to me…       — Jesus is not only our spiritual brother but Satan’s also: in some sense yes, Not that I think of there being a great brotherly affection between them, but this seems a crude way of asking if I believe that they are both of the same ontological type, the same species so to speak. The only answer to that is yes. All intelligent beings are of the same type in Mormon doctrine. God, angels, men, spirits, devils, you name it, we are all intelligent beings, and therefore we are all “brothers” or at least all beings with “personhood” in that sense.  But by picking out Jesus and Satan and trying to draw a parallel simply between them seems misguided.        — we chose our parents: Never heard this one, and do not accept it at face value. I do however believe in a type of Karma, which Mormons usually refer to as the law of restitution. (See Alma 42) So in one sense we determine our next life by our actions in this life, and this applies also to the previous spiritual life. Thus our actions in our past life or lives, should naturally have an effect upon our life now in some way. whether this has any effect on our parents? wow, like I said this one is new to me. Jesus was conceived by God the Father having personal sex with Mary: Yes. of course! Don’t you know where baby’s come from? didn’t you ever get “the talk” about the birds and the bees? if not let me just point our that sex leads to babies, and as we celebrate every Christmas, even Jesus was once a baby.  God (Mother-in-heaven/Father-in-heaven) Yes. what kind of god lacks the completeness of both gender identities? If “God” were only masculine and had no understanding of anything feminine then where did the feminine come from? Blacks are inferior and were fence sitters in the preexistence: This is similar to the question of choosing our parents that you asked above. our race is determined by our parentage. I think it is dangerous to declare anything about our past lives with certainty. I cannot remember. But Blacks are inferior? In what way? True the priesthood was once withheld from that bloodline, but it has been withheld for one inscrutable reason or another from every blood line at one time or another. Not being ordained does not make anyone or any race or culture inferior. Nor does having the priesthood make anyone superior. The priesthood is a rare thing, and when it is there it is more of a covenant obligation for the bearer, than anythingGod was once a man like us: Sure. If we are of the same ontological type, or of the same family, and since it is clear that God is infinitely greater than man, and since we are both learning growing beings of intelligence, it stands to reason that at some point God was more like we are now, and someday we will be more like him. If he is our Father in Heaven, then as they say the apple does not fall far from the tree.        — He learns “precept upon precept” : How does anyone learn? it is that same way! Would you argue he learns in some other unnatural way?  Jesus sacrifice does not cover all sins, but shedding of ones blood is required: Jesus’ Sacrifice covers ALL sins. But that does not mean that in some instances the Law does not require capital punishment. I realize that this form of punishment is increasingly less popular in modern law, but there are some statements about when it is necessary to execute a criminal, and not just turn the other cheek and let him walk away. Most of the quotes to the effect that shedding someone’s blood is required come from the days of Brigham Young when there was no prison system, and capital punishment was common the world over for dangerous and violent offenders. Why make the legal necessities for that time into a doctrine?        — works is required before grace: this is true, and a doctrine accepted by all of Christianity. We must first at least have faith in Christ, or we cannot be saved. When did you ever hear of a Christian that did not believe that you must accept Christ as your personal savior (works) before you can be saved?  Does this type of works namely exercising your faith in his grace have anything to do with works like giving alms etc? NO!If you loved your wife and her adulterous lover it is OK kill both: wow. I’m definitely not Ok with that! And i do not know of a time when anyone has ever been ok with that! Is this supposed to be in your view a doctrine? I think you have been misinformed.  Commandments from the Priesthood takes preference over morality or scripture: NO! Definitely NO! If any leader attempts to lead people astray they will loose their priesthood. (D&C 121) NO ONE should EVER disobey God because a man said they thought it was a good idea. Any man who gives instructions against the commandments should be brought to justice. Danties were commissioned from God via the Priesthood to carry out those commands: “Those Commands”? Which commands? Danites are a Mormon myth. If any existed at all then it was only during the battle of crooked river perhaps? or maybe the victims of the Hauns mill massacre? Brigham young is purported to have had a few people killed, but as governor this was more legal and less secret than some legend about “angels of vengeance” or some such. Proxy ordinances: Yes.        — without them our ancestors can not be saved: and we cannot be saved without our ancestors. I realize this may be too Taoist for most westerners to accept, but we belive that it is not about individual salvation, as much as about the salvation of all mankind. Temple ordinances       — are essential to salvation: I’d say essential to Exaltation. Salvation is simply to go to heaven. Temple ordinances are not for everyone, they are only for those who desire to make a holy covenant with God that they will become like him. Most people have no such desire, and so these esoteric temple practices are not for them.        — committing all one has to the Church, not to God: NO! a thousand times NO! I actually have very little confidence in “the church” as a mortal organization. Anyone who builds on any other foundation but the rock of Jesus Christ the redeemer will not be able to withstand.        — knowing the handshakes, tokens, etc is required to get into the top heaven: Yes. but do you really understand your own question? Mudras, or signs and tokens (Hand positions) are significant ancient symbols for profound teachings.        — given a temple name: yes this is mentioned in the book of Revelations chapter 3 I think? Also not just a formality, this is profoundly symbolic.        — Holy underwear is required: same as above. this is both scriptural and profoundly symbolic. Again unless you have desires to become like God, why would you want to delve into complex symbolic esoteric practices? Do you have the same objections ot the multitudes of symbols in other religions? The meditation and esoteric practices of all religions are both significant to them and appear strange to outsiders. You may as well ask a catholic if they really think that incense will carry their prayers to heaven.when the smoke clearly dissipates before it can leave the cathedral. or ask a Buddhist if they think that avolaaliketshivara really has one thousand physical hands coming out of his back. There is more than one God: Call it a trinity if you like, or the father AND the son. But unless you insist that Allah is one! Then you could say that all christian’s believe this.  There is no hell, or at least not for most people: nice eh? Why would you want hell? Even the Jews reject the idea of “Hell”  When the Prophet makes a statement the thinking is done: HELL NO! I think inquiry is the most fundamental of all Mormon beliefs! I do not accept anything I cannot verify for myself! The GAs are paid but say that there is no “paid ministry”: Hypocrites sometimes aren’t they? It is worth noting however that this is a very small number of paid clergy, all local leaders are unpaid.  The Church is the only “true” Church: if you are asking if we think we have a monopoly on every possible truth, then no that is not what this is intended to mean. I actually do not believe the church is true, so you wont get any defense from me. I think what they are trying to say is that the church is intended to accept all truth. The Prophet converses with God and gets His/Her direction for Church and World: That is what prophets do… that is what they did in the bible. Personally I do not think that Thomas S Monson is a prophet. Simply because he does not prophecy. But if he did have some revelation some time I think that would be great! The finances of the Church are not public: true of most churches. Is this problem?Scripture is sacred and the Word of God, but it can be changed: NO! Scripture can be translated and it can be applied in different ways, but the Gospel is unchanging and eternal. God is not consistent and changes His mind and His Word: Again NO! I believe all the words of all the holy prophets since the world began. God is eternal and unchanging. God does not change his word. “Not one jot nor title shall pass form the law but all shall be fulfilled”! 

      I hope that these specific answers are helpful to you! 

      • November 12, 2011 at 5:55 pm

        Benjamin, thanks for the thoughtful answer without nuance nor ambiguity (well on most subjects).

        In regards to “Adam is God the Father”, you have told me what you believe but do you believe that is what Brigham Young taught?

        Are you a practicing polygamist?  If not, why not?  😉

        Never heard we chose our parents in the pre-existance?  Interesting.

        What leads you to believe in polygamist Mothers in Heaven?  Do you worship them?  If not, why not?

        Do you believe that rocks have intelligences?  All beings in heaven are the same type of intelligence?  Maybe, but isn’t that like saying that all physical forms are energy?  Not too helpful.

        Blacks – I was taught that Blacks didn’t receive the Priesthood because they were fence sitters in the pre-existance. There are some statements by some of the early Mormon church leaders which substantiated that belief.

        You say you don’t believe in the LDS (Utah Church) and therefore its leaders, do you believe that any leaders over the history of the Restoration ordained of God?

        Commitment to Church not God – Been through the LDS (Utah) temple?  Ever heard of the Law of Consecration as taught there?  Guess you don’t want to be a God, eh?  😉

        So you believe that Christmas is also a celebration of sex, including the “Overshadowing” by the Father having sex with an espoused woman.  I guess that is not far fetched as Christmas came from celebration of fertility originally.

        Holy under ware – do I personally have objection to similar symbolism in other religions.  Yes, for myself. 

        Finances of the Church – I don’t know which Churches you have attended, but most that I have investigated have not only a local budget and financial statement, but a summary one for the parent church in which they are associated. While attending an RLDS (OK that was a while ago) it was very refreshing to see a financial statement. Not being open financially the Church can spend/invest its money anyway it likes. Like on high rise condos in SLC.  I don’t have a problem because it is now not my money, but I did when it was.

        Killing an adulterous wife and lover if you loved them both.  Isn’t that what Brigham Young taught?

        If you don’t believe in the Church (LDS – Utah) but believe that temple ordinances are essential for Exaltation, you won’t be exalted?

        If God is still learning, then by definition he can make mistakes (sin)?  That would imply that He is not all-powerful, nor all-knowing, nor created all things.  If that is the case why should anyone worship Him?

        I would be interested in seeing how some of the podcast’s participants would respond to some of your characterizations of your believes and if that is what they meant in keeping the Mormon beliefs weird.  Man, they are weird and a bit more so than the faiths you mentioned.  Weird can be OK, but I am not sure the podcast participants would be comfortable with all the weirdness that you mentioned as healthy view of Mormonism, even if it is true.  You have convinced me more and more that Mormonism is very weird and all liberal Democrats should ask the Mormon Presidential candidates to explain why they believe in such weird stuff!  ;-0

        Glen, WA7KSE

  5. July 14, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    I really liked this podcast.  I still like a lot of weird Mormon ideas about the nature of the universe, even if I do not believe them to be strictly true.  Mythology is a very interesting subject.  Thanks!

  6. Kevin
    July 15, 2011 at 1:04 am

    I enjoy Mormon Matters, but I was disappointed in this episode.

    First, I was befuddled by the implication that people would (or perhaps should) be inclined to accept Mormon theological and cosmological beliefs because they are interesting, or robust, or rich, or nuanced. Most people accept beliefs because they find them to be true. This fact, which seems plain, received virtually no attention.

    Also, there was quite a bit of discussion about Mormonism’s unique perspective on the family. I think that many Mormons misunderstand how the Church’s views of the family are perceived by those outside the faith.

    Mormons often point to the belief that “families can be together forever” as something unique to Mormonism, or at least as something that is put forward with unique emphasis. But most people who have faith in an afterlife already believe that families can be together forever.

    More to the point, many non-Mormons who have some familiarity with Mormonism see the religion as having unique beliefs about family separation, not family unity. Non-Mormons often see Joseph Smith’s theology as one that emphasizes God’s willingness to separate family members unless certain rituals and practices are carried out. For example, many Mormons appear to believe that they will be eternally separated unless each family member is baptized into the LDS church, marries another LDS member, pays tithing to the Church, and performs other acts that seem, at best, tangentially related to living a Christ-like life. Few other faiths hold similar beliefs.

    It was also striking to hear Joanna Brooks say that “there are people out there who are actively scheming for our young ones. … And they are. They’re predatory, and it’s offensive to me.” I’ve never heard a Mormon say something like that. Obviously, Mormons are the last people who should be offended by missionary activity.

    Finally, there was almost no discussion about the real reasons why people join any faith, church, or denomination. I think that it rarely has to do with doctrine. More often, people see something in the community of the faithful that appeals to them, that seems helpful and kind and good. Many Mormons are indeed helpful and kind and good. But many non-Mormons are simply put off by the Church’s centralized authority, correlated teachings, sexist view of women, emphasis on revenue, furtiveness about its history, ill treatment of its missionaries, and lack of spiritual nourishment in its services.

    Doctrine is just doctrine, but the practice of any faith is its reality.  

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      July 15, 2011 at 5:03 am

      Agree with you in most of the things you say and point out, Kevin. Especially that practice is pre-eminent.

      And, of course, no one and especially me would claim that every podcast is completely awesome and covers every important point with no one ever mispeaking. But since there seem to be more comments about this one really missing the mark than usual, I’ve begun to think about what that might be the case. And here is what I think might be happening. 

      The Mormon Matters podcast is about current news or cultural trends (Mormon culture, but also the wider culture at times), and we get a panel to talk about it, raise some ideas, etc. This current podcast did that, too. I titled it “Pros and Cons of Keeping Mormonism ‘Weird'” because I saw it at that level: has this trend to get along better with others by downplaying some of Mormonism’s more unique teachings, places of divergence with mainstream Christianity, etc, but a net good for the tradition? 

      What’s happened here that I am speculating may be a main cause for more “missed the mark” comments is that in the first half of the podcast we talked about some of these ideas and practices in specific terms, which raised the “but is this a true or false/helpful or harmful teaching?” issue for some listeners. Given what I imagined we were doing in the podcast (speaking of this trend and its consequences with specifics only raised in service of that goal) I never had a thought in my head that in our listing of things and having fun with some of the nuances, etc., that we were in a space of trying to weigh their veracity or lack thereof. Hence the presence of terms like “rich” or “robust” and speaking of our “affection” or lack of affection for some things now deemphasized. The fun I think we were having there was to simply remind ourselves and listeners about some of Mormonism’s more distinctive flavors and approaches to life, creation, God/human relationship, etc, but all of it in service of the bigger questions of the second half: How and why do these teachings/angles rise and fall in Mormonism? Is the deliberate downplaying of them a wise strategy or not? What substantive and attractive worldview or practices are left and do they have the same sort of bite and attracting/sustaining power that the more robust cosmological and metaphysical ones brought to the faith? etc.

      True or false on any specific teaching–especially captured in particular, concrete language? Perhaps it’s an important question for some things (I’m not all that convinced!). But weighing true versus false certainly wasn’t the type of question on the table this time nor has it been in any other MM podcast that I can think of.  Maybe we should do an episode on why we don’t do episodes centering on true v. false! What do you think?!

      Thanks for engaging here!
      Dan

  7. July 15, 2011 at 3:10 am

    Seeing as so many commenters start with judging the merit of the podcast, I’ll follow suit in my own way.  I found the podcast more valuable than most of the comments criticizing it.  Some great points have been made, but many tired, useless, and even misleading ones.

    I’m in the middle of my bar studying so I don’t have a lot of mental energy left right now, but here is the obvious point that hasn’t yet been mentioned:

    If the Church emphasized Heavenly Mother more, more feminists would join the Church and more chauvinists would leave it (or at least shut up).  If the Church emphasized the Word of Wisdom’s statements on meat more, more vegans, vegetarians, and animal rights folks would join.  Oh yeah, and we’d all run a lot less wearily, and walk without keeling over so much.  If the Church emphasized D&C 98 more, more pacifists would join the Church.  And finally, if less chauvinists, and more feminist vegan pacifists joined the Church, I, for one, would have fellowship.  As is, I usually don’t feel like I do.  

    Just sayin’

    • July 15, 2011 at 7:51 am

      Maybe I’m just weird, but I’m not seeing the obvious point that you say is there in your third graf.  Do you really think it’s self-evident that some fresh doctrinal dub mix would pack the pews?     

      • July 15, 2011 at 11:00 pm

        I’m not saying it would pack the pews, but rather, it would be more appealing to different people than it currently appeals to.  I’d imagine it’s kind of hard to be a vocal feminist, vegan, pacifist in the Church right now.  If the doctrines were different, that would be different.

  8. LarryW
    July 15, 2011 at 3:14 am

    I love lamp

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      July 15, 2011 at 4:39 am

      Postmodern or surrealist comment? I can dig that. Let’s play!

  9. July 15, 2011 at 6:36 am

    So I forget to mention this one in the podcast, the Law of Consecration.  It’s the perfect example of an LDS doctrine that has been introduced a few times but hasn’t really taken off.  I know Hugh Nibley was frustrated by this and a lot of his speeches about this you can read in “Approaching Zion”.  This is something I would like to see emphasized more.  A lot of potential for positive social change here.  I guess building on that, the whole concept of Zion as a society of people who look after each other and have no poor among them is a swell idea too.

  10. Ubik1967
    July 15, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    I almost stopped listening to this episode and probably give on this podcast. But I first wanted to know why. If something bothers me I can often learn something about myself or about it more deeply if I dig into the why it is making me uncomfortable.

    This group discussion sounds like a group of people self-affirming their stage-5 state caught up in a vortex of thoughts and words. Maybe there is an audience out there that enjoys listing to this to sustain this blog, but I doubt it. 

    It’s a difficult problem however. As soon as someone says something concrete you are going to upset people (and this is clearly an anathema for you). Mormon intellectuals are in a trap and I think this episode is a very clear demonstration of this.  

    So why did this episode (and other recent ones) make me uncomfortable? Because no kind person enjoys listening to magnificent creatures trapped in a cage – no matter how beautifully and hypnotically they have learned to sing in it.

    My advice – get people on that have hard opinions on current events that are OK expressing them concretely.  Resists the urge to self indulge in riffing in this happy place of the purely intellectual realm with people you personally enjoy. Be the soft to the hard. Don’t forget: “opposition in all things”. Of course that’s assuming  John is willing to give up some of that space…

    • Anonymous
      July 16, 2011 at 6:30 pm

      Yes! I also sometimes think the discussions have masturbatory feel to them. (Pardon my allusion.) I almost gave up on the podcast after the “Negro Doctrine” one — just awful.

      A couple of things that relate to what you’re expressing came to mind while I listened:

      1. To say that I misunderstand your beliefs merely because I elected to use a term to describe them, instead of one you claim as proper, just makes it seem like you wish to disguise what’s real for your own protection.

      2. The verb “to nuance” is being used as a more elegant way to say “to cutesify”. Describing something in quaint or charming terms doesn’t justify believing in it any more than thinking that because baby crocodiles are darling makes a commitment to own one as a house pet or draught animal a good or useful idea.

  11. July 15, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    The overall negative reaction to the podcast is interesting. I’m still trying to process it. It’s not my favorite MM podcast (see ep. 27: Mormons and their Leaders), but I thought it was light and fun and fairly entertaining (at the very least we got to see Dan get frustrated with Joanna). Perhaps some were just expecting something different, and were disappointed when those expectations were not met. It’s like an Adam Sandler movie. If you go to Big Daddy expecting to see something comparable to Raising Arizona, you’re going to leave angry and wanting your money back. But if you know what you’re getting into, you can enjoy it for what it is. Not that I think this episode was an Adam Sandler movie, just illustrating a point. I think it was more like a So I Married an Axe Murderer. Keep your expectations low and you’ll always be pleasantly surprised.
     
    I think some of the comments make very fair points about problematic teachings. I’m not personally interested in being an apologist. Nor am I interested in detailing my exact level of belief (or disbelief) on every doctrine. My beliefs are my own and I’m not out to convert people to my way of thinking. Suffice it to say that I am not a black and white thinker, and my views are fluid and subject to change. As I understood the purpose of the podcast it was to 1) express some affection for teachings that are somewhat unique to Mormonism, 2) discuss that some of these teachings are no longer talked about on Sunday and how that process happens, and 3) discuss some pros and cons to not emphasizing those teachings anymore.
     
    Dan’s comments on the thread regarding truth, literalness, myth etc. are WAY more eloquent than I could produce, so I’ll just assert, “What he said.”

    • July 15, 2011 at 4:48 pm

      Hi Scott,

      Is being a “Black and White” and having views subjected to change incompatible?  I would suggest that “Black and White” thinking is not the same as dogmatism.

      Glen

      • July 15, 2011 at 8:05 pm

        Hi Glen,

        I agree. That’s why I mentioned them both and not just one or the other. Definitely not incompatible.

  12. July 15, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    Discussing the weird Mormon stuff is ambitious!  I love it!

    I love the LDS doctrine that humanity and the world was organized within the laws of the Universe.  I think it’s great because it shows a foundational respect for science that common christianity doesn’t have (and it shows).  

    • Joanna Brooks
      July 15, 2011 at 10:01 pm

      Thanks, Lisa.  It is ambitious to talk about our theology–especially in a way that isn’t about evaluating “TRUE” or “NOT TRUE.”  Mormon theology is a discourse, with a history; it reflects the historical moments in which it has been shaped and the personalities and worldviews that has shaped it.  It does change over time.  Discussing the beauties and the odd bits of our theological heritage is, to me, an expression of respect for the whole.  

  13. Karensegal
    July 15, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    Seriously though, if you’ve been a Mormon your whole life, it is hard to see outside of it to note how utterly absurd it sounds – the Mormons are going to have their own planet?  Jesus popped into America? (Well, thats patriotic if nothing else). It is as absurd as the Scientologists and Xena or whatever the name of that god is and the thetans.  I realize that it is next to impossible to truly step away and realize that, well, this Mormon stuff makes no sense.  Same for fundamentalist Christians, scientologists, JWs, etc.  I’d say, instead of debating about keeping Mormonism weird (ha, by the way, Portland, Oregon has its own take on that, ‘keep Portland weird,’ and delightfully they do) try and see if you can step away from what was implanted in your brain however many years ago.  Now that would be a challengef.

    • Joanna Brooks
      July 15, 2011 at 10:02 pm

      Hi Karen:  I think you’re tangling with the wrong bunch of panelists if you think that none of us has been able to reflect critically on Mormon tradition as we’ve inherited it.

  14. Jacob M
    July 15, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    Im really confused by all the negative responses to this podcast. Coming from a Mormon perspective, I thought that it was a timely introspection about both what it can mean to be Mormon and how we approach our “weirdness” or peculiarity.

  15. Joanna Brooks
    July 15, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    Final note–Karen, if anyone thinks Mormonism is exceptionally strange, they might look at particularly doctrinal renderings of Buddhism,  Hinduism, or Native American oral traditions. Strange and “absurd” is truly in the eye of the beholder.

    • Jacob Brown
      July 17, 2011 at 6:08 pm

      What is exceptionally strange about Mormonism isn’t the particular beliefs. It is that in its modern form, it is still normal for Mormons to be expected to believe literally in all the truth claims it offers. My devout Christian, Buddhist, and Hindu friends struggle much less with religious plurality than I did as a Mormon. They are comfortable with the tradition they inherited or assumed, because like the panelists here, they don’t take them too seriously.
      The truthfulness of Mormonism depends on the falseness of other traditions, and the success of Mormonism depends on the failure of other faiths.  Just ask one of the Twelve, but not on TV.Most religious traditions have dropped this sectarianism for denominationalism by now. Some more ancient traditions dealt with stuff a really long time ago. It makes Mormonism seem really immature. We just need to give her time I guess.

  16. Larryw
    July 16, 2011 at 4:19 am

    Why is it when you need a loan from a bank, you have to prove to them that you basically don’t need a loan to get it?

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      July 18, 2011 at 4:51 pm

      Fun the first time you threw in a non-sequitor. Now I want to hear you relate your strategy to this thread.

  17. Bill
    July 16, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    Let’s make things very simple:  Most (all?) of the truly “wierd” issues that have been discussed can be classified as SPECULATIVE theology, not church doctrine.  End of story.  Like Joanna said, “Just because Orson Pratt (or Brigham Young or John Taylor or Joseph F. Smith or Bruce McConkie or….) said it, doesn’t make it so.”

    • Anonymous
      July 16, 2011 at 9:49 pm

      Wow! This is a textbook example of cognitive distortion (not to mention sweeping generalization, denying the antecedent, and begging the question — logical fallacies).

      Keep things simple? Anyone interested in parsimony would allow these peculiarities to vanish, if not expel them ASAP from their spheres of existence. The whole idea in the podcast was to “hold on to the nuance and complexity” of these peculiarities, which is far from simplicity. Just because Young, Taylor, Pratt, Smith or McConkie said something doesn’t make it true, and some would say it should likely instead be suspect. I agree with that, but it has no bearing on whether Mormon peculiarities are weird. It just identifies some of the source for the weirdness. Aside: If those men are not authoritative, and their statements so speculative, then they shouldn’t be in the current rotation, especially places of prominence, of gospel study (read: Mormon doctrine).

      Here’s a list of the peculiarities, in the order they were brought up in the podcast. I eliminated peculiarities that 3 of the 4 participants delivered as (highly speculative) personal interpretation, etc. What are the truly weird things on the list? What things on the list are theological? What things are _not_ speculative? What things are merely mythos or legend? What things were left out? United Order? Three Nephites? What else?

      Over half of the things in the list are doctrinal topics that are endorsed by every Mormon ecclesiastical leader I’ve met. Please take them to your leaders and ask them to endorse or deny. Please let their reactions and responses be the _beginning_ of the story for you, and not its end.

      Garden of Eden in MO
      Jesus and Satan are brothers
      Kolob
      “own planet”
      “magic underwear”
      pre-mortal existence
      differences in concept of agency
      purposefulness of “embodiment”
      everything has spirit
      satan controls the water
      bigfoot-as-cain
      end of the world/last days
      accessories/props — oil, seer stone, etc.
      mother in heaven
      three degrees of glory
      work for the dead
      genealogy
      intimate relationship with god
      personal revelation
      god as a person
      polygamy
      sealed together
      differences in concept of angels
      views on blacks
      Book of Mormon/other scriptures

    • Ubik1967
      July 17, 2011 at 1:24 am

      And just writing what you just wrote doesn’t make it so. What is Mormon doctrine? Does it include the book of Mormon being a literal history? Because that is weird.

  18. Marion Wolfe
    July 17, 2011 at 2:10 am

    I’ve listened to all the episodes of Mormon Matters but haven’t commented before. However, like many others, I was frustrated by this podcast, and reviewing the comments, I hope I can add some things that haven’t been said.

    I understand that the panelists weren’t necessarily interested in looking at these issues in terms of true/false binaries, which is fine if your point is to just say how interesting/crazy/fun these doctrines are from an objective, outsider’s point of view. But for most Church members, the literal veracity of these doctrines is a point of utmost importance that has eternal consequences. Even if you don’t believe this (that is, you don’t think that believing these things is necessary to your eternal salvation), you ignored the potential consequences of these doctrines for those who do see them as literally true (or literally false). You also seemed to be implicitly criticizing those who struggle with these doctrines or want to distance themselves from them because they don’t find them “fun” or “interesting” but instead think that they’re disturbing or just plain wrong. Just saying, “I don’t see it in terms of true or false” doesn’t solve this problem for me.

    Let me give an example: You talked about the Mormon view of heaven as if it’s obviously superior to a traditional Christian view of heaven vs. hell. At one point you even agreed that there could be nothing bad about using this idea as a missionary tool, that it would only help the Church. But, like others have pointed out, you never mentioned the incredibly problematic aspects of a three-tiered heaven, for example family members being eternally separated if some of them don’t join the Church or aren’t sealed in the Temple. Trying to “nuance” yourselves out of this potentially very real consequence doesn’t help the people who believe that (or are told that they should believe that) Temple work is literally essential for salvation. I think that the Mormon view of heaven probably alienates more potential converts than it convinces since most people like to think of heaven as a place where everyone is equal and equally rewarded, not a hierarchy where the Mormons (that is, married Mormons) are on top and everyone else has to serve them.

    To make this a little more personal: When I decided to join the Church, one of the first things my mom said to me was, “So you think you and your husband will be in the higher part of heaven and your dad and I will be in a lower part.” No, I don’t think that, but within Mormon doctrine there’s no way to get myself out of this problem except by telling my mom that after she dies I’ll baptize her so that she can become a Mormon too. Believe me, this is not what she wanted to hear.

    I liked your positive spin on some topics that for me seem incredibly problematic and worrisome. It helped me to see how others like me can choose to stay in the Church. However, I was bothered that you ignored other possible (negative) reactions to the “weirdness,” particularly from those (like me) who don’t particularly like many Mormon doctrines.

    • July 17, 2011 at 5:59 pm

      Hi Marion.  I’m glad you brought up the issue of the three kingdoms.  I don’t think we were trying to avoid the issue you bring up.  It was just that we didn’t get to it.  We had hoped that people would bring up further points for discussion as you just did.

      There is a history of different views on this topic.  Some believe that three kingdoms are temporary designations and that everyone can eventually make it to the top kingdom while others believe that your placement is permanet.  On one end we have Bruce R. McConkie who said that this was a “deadly heresy”.  Bruce R. McConkie is probably in the majority here but there are a number of others who believed it possible to progress between kingdoms.  Consider this quote from James E. Talmage:

      “It is reasonable to believe, in the absence of direct revelation by which alone absolute knowledge of the matter could be acquired, that, in accordance with God’s plan of eternal progression, advancement from grade to grade within any kingdom, and from kingdom to kingdom, will be provided for. But if the recipients of a lower glory be enabled to advance, surely the intelligences of higher rank will not be stopped in their progress; and thus we may conclude, that degrees and grades will ever characterize the kingdoms of our God. Eternity is progressive; perfection is relative; the essential feature of God’s living purpose is its associated power of eternal increase.”  – The Articles of Faith [1899 edition]
      pp. 420-421 

      There is a list of some “pro progression between kingdoms” quotes on the New Cool Thang blog. 
      Here’s a link. http://www.newcoolthang.com/index.php/some-pro-progression-between-kingdoms-quotes/

      I come down in the camp that salvation is universal and that everyone will be able to reach the top-of-the-top kingdom unless they choose otherwise.  I agree that the permanent three-tiered heaven is just as problematic as the heaven-hell division.  In a way we have just moved the boundary between Heaven and Hell up into the Celestial kingdom between those who are not married and those who are.  This doesn’t sit right with me either.  That’s why I prefer the alternative view.

    • Ella Menno
      July 17, 2011 at 7:52 pm

      I absolutely agree.  I am not a literal believer.  My mother is.  I left.  My mom now believes I am lost and we will not be together in the hereafter.   Because my children are not baptized by our choosing until they are fully able to comprehend what it means to be baptized we are risking their salvation, according to her.  She is nearly willing to divorce my father because he doesn’t believe in the prescribed way so he does not hold a temple recommend.  He can’t raise her in the second coming and will not be with her in the celestial kingdom, she believes.  We won’t be with her so we don’t count anymore.   That “weirdness” may not be something the panelists have to deal with, but my family does.  How can that be reconciled.  It is damaging to everyone involved.

      There are many members who are literal believers for whom non literal believers are as dangerous as “anti-mormons” and might as well be labeled as  “apostates”.   In fact, this podcast, would be considered as “apostate” to a large number of active members.  The “weirdness” is Truth to them.  They hold temple recommends.  They teach Sunday school, relief society, and priesthood lessons.  They are local leaders who hold the religious reigns for their flocks.  They will not tolerate “cafeteria” members and seek to root them out of their midst.  Where does that leave us?  As John Dehlin said, we have the numbers, but non literal believers and cafeteria members are leaving by droves as the statistics have shown, perhaps because they do not feel welcome in church.  If it were a more welcoming place for people like me, I would probably still be attending.  But the fact is that it is not and teachings of the  Bretheren in General Conference, while not addressing a lot of the “weirdness” directly, gives literal belief a pass and condemns the unorthodox.

      • Marion Wolfe
        July 18, 2011 at 3:54 pm

        Todd, thanks for your thoughtful comments. I appreciate that you considered my concerns, and I definitely agree with your alternate way of looking at the three kingdoms. But like Ella, I see a real danger in a literal approach to many of the “weird” doctrines that you brought up on the podcast. The three kingdoms is only one example. The four of you seemed to see these doctrines/beliefs as intellectually interesting, which is great if you’re studying them from an academic perspective, but many members are completely invested in the literal “truth” of the Church, and this is what keeps them in, not the “richness” or “nuance” of the ideas. I think if you’re trying to get converts based on “richness” or “uniqueness,” you’re fighting a losing and potentially morally suspect battle.  I would rather not try to convince people to join the Church, as
        interesting and appealing as I may find it, if they’re going to be pressured into
        literally believing things that I find  incredibly problematic when I
        really examine the implications. I guess I just wish that the podcast had addressed the dangers/problems of a literal perspective more, rather than taking such a rosy approach.

        Thanks again to all four of you for your perspectives. I’m not trying to discount anything you said – just point out where I personally found it lacking. Maybe part of my problem was the title – “pros and cons” when you really only addressed pros. A framing like “What we like about the Church’s weirdness” might have avoided many of these negative reactions.

        • Dan Wotherspoon
          July 18, 2011 at 4:45 pm

          Hi Marion,

          Forgive my jumping into this thread that is going between you, Todd, and Ella. I agree that we on the panel were focusing on doctrines at the level of how interesting or unique they were, and how they added to some of Mormonism’s flavor, but know that we certainly are all aware of how concretely people take certain ideas. As I’ve said in other responses to comments above, this podcast, like all the other Mormon Matters ones, talk about trends and news within the Mormon world, not the truth or falseness of the doctrines. For instance, nowhere in the Mother-in-Heaven discussion (to the best of my memory) did anyone ever wonder outloud if it’s a true doctrine. It’s just not a question this podcast has traditionally worried about. Hence where you say, “Maybe part of my problem was the title – “pros and cons” when you really
          only addressed pros,” I see you as misreading the title more along the lines of “The Pros and Cons of Keeping Mormonism’s Weird Teachings” and seeing our general fondness for those weird teachings (seeing us as “pro” these claims), when our whole framing was the way the de-emphasis of many of Mormonism’s unique teachings/flavors have helped or hurt the tradition (that’s what I mean by the pros and cons of keeping the tradition weird–seeing that I think we’ve tried to make it “less weird” and am not really digging that trend). We were aiming at pros like greater acceptance in today’s mainstream for Mormonism, such that two candidates are now possibly electable as president of the US, versus the cons of turning the tradition into something hardly recognizable as unique. There we were definitely mostly, I think, talking “cons.” Make sense?

          Perhaps I will figure out a framing and will convene a panel in the future that will discuss Mormon ideas at a true/false level, and that will talk about the pros and cons of literal versus non-literal ways of believing. Such a show would be a break from what Mormon Matters podcast has been all about so far (even before I took over in March, though I can’t say I’ve gone back and listened to the ones from the first run), hence my hesitation (but also my explanation for why we as a panel did not even think of talking about these ideas as if they were true or false statements about the nature of God, humans, the universe and its purposes, etc.).

          Best,
          Dan Wotherspoon

          • July 19, 2011 at 7:35 am

            Well, if you go that route, at least don’t let it go on for more than an episode or two.  😉 Pretty much all of Mormon-related discourse is centered around the true/false question.  There are a gazillion places on the internet folks can go to hash those sorts of things out (and I have needed and used those resources myself over the course of my faith journey).  But there are only a couple of places Mormons can turn when the true/false question no longer becomes all that important, and I really value Mormon Matters for being one of those places!  🙂

            For what it’s worth, I really enjoyed this podcast.  It reminded me why I love being a Mormon.  So thank you!

  19. Tatiana Boshenka
    July 17, 2011 at 3:33 am

    I think the people who are talking about getting their own planet are way behind the times, actually.  I read in a scientific journal a long time ago that scientists could some day create their own universes with big bangs of their own in the lab.  Apparently these universes wouldn’t take up any space in ours.  I’m guessing about this particular facet of the weirdness of Mormonism that the entire universe would be engineered and created by our far future godlike selves as part of the process of eternal progression.  Single planets?  Pshhh!  No reason to set our weird-Mormon ambitions so low!

    • July 17, 2011 at 5:41 pm

      Love this!!  I hadn’t even thought of that.  I was thinking that we already have the ability to do things that our ancestors might consider god-like.  As an example, I am amazed at our progress in the field of biotechnology.  To be sure, there is a potential danger in all of these developments but I have never been opposed to “playing God”, possibly because of my religious background.  While there is a view that we should not tamper with God’s creations or, at a more secular level of dialogue, the natural processes of the earth, we could also view our technological developments as one form of our creative progression.  Your comment on creating universes takes it to a whole new level.  Good stuff 🙂

  20. Jacob Brown
    July 17, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    The discussion highlights the diversity of opinion and doctrinal positions in Mormonism that I didn’t realize as a very literal believer. Many of these fringe beliefs are strengths as well as weaknesses in our theology. They feel like attempts to provide creative solutions to theological conundrums, but mostly I feel they have no real advantage. Just new solutions with new problems.Another weakness and strength of Mormonism is that it has no constitution or fixed canon. Continuing revelation allows the tradition to be gradually molded or suddenly reshaped by the institution in power. This adaptability has played importantly into Mormonism survival. However, the inability to pin anything down makes it difficult to decide what is even official doctrine. See? New solution with a new problem.The source of the doctrinal richness of Mormonism is the freedom that early members felt in being amateur theologians. For many decades, professional theologians have been derided and deep doctrinal discussions have been banned as useless and speculative. It seems to me that the current course of the tradition as oriented by the institution will have the doctrinal richness continue to fade to blandness.This is why I love things like Mormon Matters, Mormon Stories, and Mormon Expression. They challenge me to think and open my heart to the new.

  21. Joanna Brooks
    July 17, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    Thanks, Jacob. I find your comment incredibly insightful. Thanks to everyone who has participated in this blog.  I think for me the discussion has highlighted how Mormonism really does host a range of belief orientations.  I’m always grateful when we can engage one another across differences without resorting to heavy-handed judgment.  That kind of exploration and candidness is Dan’s hallmark.  I look forward to more of his work and am always happy to be a part of it when invited.

    • Jacob Brown
      July 23, 2011 at 4:31 pm

      I love your insight and elequent contributions to the podcast. I have to say that one thing that has surprised me about you is how sensitive you are about people making fun of garments. I think I have seen you react pretty strongly on facebook, your blogs, and in these podcasts a few times to this particular issue.

      I guess I grew up with garments being a literal “shield and a protection” and now I laugh at myself for believing it. I can understand a general defensiveness when someone mocks your tradition. You seem to be understanding about non-Mormons amusement at other Mormon weirdness. What is it about garments?WE NEED A PODCAST ON GARMENTS. Seriously. (Or did I miss that one?)

  22. Karensegal
    July 18, 2011 at 3:22 am

    Joanna – I absolutely agree that other traditions – the ones you’ve mentioned and others, including fundamentalism in Christianiy, Judaism and Islam, all certainly have absurdities. But that is similar to saying two wrongs make a right – in other words, Mormonism can have absurdities because other religions have absurdities.  I feel that that is a weak argument in defense of, again, absurdities. You (the generic you) may not find that the ‘burning under the breast’, Jesus living on another planet and black-skinned folks having the mark of Cain until 1978 when they were allowed into the priesthood to be absurd, but to those not fixed on those ideas, they are. And I would absolutely say the same about other religious traditions and some of their ideas – if you are told something often enough and by enough people, you will believe it.
       I also respect that you have thought critically about Mormonism.  But as I said, I think that critical examination can only get you so far.  What you learn as a child is very nearly impossible to move completely away from.  I absolutely include other religious traditions in that – for example, many move from fundamentalist Christianity to a more liberal bent but still do not completely leaave it.  I’ve met and taught (English as a Second Language) to many lovely Saudi women – none of whom find any absurdity in the fact that they are not allowed to drive and that they must be covered when out in public.  These are extremely intelligent women, most scientists, who I”m fairly certain have spent many an hour examining their faith.  But they have been brought up in this and are surrounded by others with the same ideas.
    I am certainly not above believing in absurdities myself – I’m more than certain there are many that people could point out to me.  A tiny and rather absurd (ha) example –  I was raised to believe that when driving, you couldn’t have the air-conditioning (or heat) and the radio on at the same time as it would drain the battery.  I still believe this even though it has been pointed out to me again and again that this is not so.  Again, a silly example but it makes the point.
    Now there are certainly adults who convert to Mormonism as there are adults who convert to other religions but the are more the exception than the rule.
    I’ve long admired the Mormon sense of community and caring for each other.  But it is that same community that reinforces its beliefs to everyone in that community.  To make an admittedly poor analogy, you (the generic you) may be pushing against the walls of a room while others sit in the middle, but you are still in the room.  I’m not sure it is all together possible to move completely out of that room as it were. It has been done, of course, and continues to be done in all religious traditions, but I think it takes more than critical analysis to truly see outside your tradition’s box.  Analysis of one’s faith can only go so far as the ideas learned from childhood become fossilized, as it were, into a person’s brain, and cannot so easily be rooted out.  Not that they should be necessarily, especially if they provide a sense of self and place in the world and hope.
    Thank you for allowing me to participate in this forum.

  23. Ella Menno
    July 18, 2011 at 3:47 am

    “Analysis of one’s faith can only go so far as the ideas learned from
    childhood become fossilized, as it were, into a person’s brain, and
    cannot so easily be rooted out.  Not that they should be necessarily,
    especially if they provide a sense of self and place in the world and
    hope.”

    I love this.  I had a non Mormon friend comment to me just yesterday after having a discussion of religion that she couldn’t believe how entrenched in the “weirdness” I still am even after leaving the church and seriously examining my faith.  There are threads that are interwoven into a lifelong Mormon’s psyche that are difficult, if not impossible, to truly find and discard.  Growing up I was taught the “Mormon Doctrine” doctrines as Truth.  Sometimes, even though I am consciously able to say to myself that I don’t believe polygamy will be required in the Celestial Kingdom, if there is a Celestial Kingdom (for example) but there is that nagging “what if it’s true” feeling.

    Perhaps in the future, as more people become less literal believers, the weird doctrines will find their place as folk doctrine that was never meant to be interpreted as literal and we won’t have to deal with them coming up in church.  I don’t hold up much hope for it happening in the near future, though, as we seem to still be in a retrenchment phase. 

  24. July 18, 2011 at 3:57 am

    Just in case anyone is interested, I mentioned in the podcast an Ensign article I had read about Kolob.  I think this was the article.  The section titled “Jesus Christ and the Universe” about half-way through was the part I had remembered where it talks about the symbolic meaning beyond the stars and planets.  Here is a link.   http://lds.org/ensign/1997/03/the-book-of-abraham-a-most-remarkable-book?lang=eng&query=kolob

  25. Dan Wotherspoon
    July 18, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    I was recently alerted by someone to a June 2012 statement in the LDS Church’s newsroom that, my contact says, “speaks to some of those broad themes you and the participants addressed in the podcast.” I agree.

    Of the statement, this friend then goes on to say, “The piece tries to ground the public discussion about Mormons in something a bit more substantial than the usual fare. It seems that whenever Mormons are discussed in the public it is mostly in the context of presidential politics, ballot initiatives, or TV shows on modern-day polygamy. But the beliefs and values that have made Mormons tick are rarely examined. 

    This commentary is an effort to elevate the discussion, change it from Mormon quirks to Mormon aspirations. It does not aim to be a comprehensive description of Mormons, just a framework that provides readers a sense for our beliefs, couched in recognizable principles. Here’s a link and excerpt:

    http://newsroom.lds.org/article/permanent-things-toward-an-understanding-of-mormons

    • Jacob Brown
      July 23, 2011 at 5:10 pm

      It is really strange to read that article. Of the three main bullet points, “identity”, “community”, and “eternity”, I think only “eternity” would have resonanted with my previous literalist faith. The term “identity” only brings to mind the YW program. Otherwise, it doesn’t sound like anything I ever heard talked about. The term “community” seems really out of place since I grew up in a time when the church has seemed obsessed with individual responsibility, personal accountability, and self reliance. I agree that Mormons create strong communities, but I don’t think many people talked about community much. It probably sounded too much like the stuff (Socialism, Communism, Liberalism) Benson and others openly labeled as evil.
      I guess as a missionary church we tend to empahsize those things that make us different and compelling. Since I was a missionary with the 1986 version of the discussions, we always taught in the first lesson about Joseph Smith, The Book of Mormon, and modern revelation. Whereas we focused on the _restoration_ of the gospel, the new “Preach My Gospel” seems to focus on the _message_ of this restoration instead. Things have changed.I don’t know if it is fair to say that this “elevates the discussion.” I just think it a different approach. There are many reasons why the LDS Church would want to emphasize differences, and there are many reasons why it would want to emphasize similarity.I guess it wouldn’t be hard to argue that right now the Church is trying really hard to fit in. I think in general, the church has become much more mainstream in the last 20 years. I think the few PR hiccups we have been through are due to some particular personalities high in leadership stepping out on their own to tackle issues they feel strongly about. We have just been unlucky sometimes with the issue they pick or the side they pick on the issue.

  26. jed
    July 19, 2011 at 1:01 am

    I am a bit suprised at all the heat the panelist are taking from this podcast. It feels like a discussion we once had in gospel doctrine when I was teaching years ago. I read a statement about Joseph Smith using a seer stone he borrowed from Sally Chase. Lets just say that the disscusion became very animated and people actually woke up and really had to think about where they stood on issues.

    I feel very odd in admiting this but I really agree with Joanna Brooks, because I usually dont, but after listening to this I realized that the things in mormonism that keep me interested and engaged are alot of the same things that she brings up. I am a very abstract thinker when I comes to theology and history. Mormonism had this incredible speculative begining and I think the problem was that the dialouge that was exploring these “weird” ideas was prematurely silenced at the turn of the century.

    I totaly got that you guys werent making true false judgements and I am so glad that you did not. I think that simply bringing them up and talking about them in a neutral way was perfect. People can decide weather they believe or not on thier own. I just love that you provide a place to discuss this stuff and I would like to hear more of how you “spin”,   “nuance”, “interpret” this odd mormon cosmology.

  27. Karen
    July 19, 2011 at 1:31 am

    Ella – what you said resonated with me.  I’ve read some things from ex-Scientologists and they are using Scientology terms so extensively that I don’t think they realize that anyone from outside of it wouldn’t understand what they are referring to.  It’s rather fascinating.
    I do admit and I’m sure it is obvious that I am rather interested in what keeps people in religion.  I note many folks on here use the term, ‘inheritance’ which i take to mean either an inheritance from God or from their ancestors. I note that some Christians use that idea too – this is what we were raised in and hence it is ours.   I have a lovely Sikh co-worker who is very open to my asking her questions about what she does in the temple – she noted that since it has always been her world, she still finds it strange that I (and others) don’t know what goes on.
    Again, perhaps belabouring the point too much with another awkward analogy, if I am told over and over by everyone I respect and love and by my peers that pink is blue, then darn it, pink is blue.  Now, I’ll certainly know people who say, no, pink is pink.  But i will think that they just haven’t realized yet that pink is blue or that the spirit hasn’t revealed it to them.
    I may search for different shades of the blue because I have a deep intellectual curiousity but still, I’m thinking pink is blue.
    Eeek, what an annoying analogy.

  28. July 19, 2011 at 8:14 am

    Loved the podcast, but the comments are almost as fascinating.

    My $0.02: we’re in the middle of a major transition right now, not just within Mormonism, but in the larger culture.  In generations past, questions of true and false were supremely important.  Now the winds are changing, and the rising generation is letting go of the idea that one can fully comprehend capital-T Truth (especially when it comes to God), and has become more concerned with issues of utility, resonance, and narrative value.  It can be very difficult for people from these two perspectives to dialogue, because the criteria used to determine the worth or “truthfulness” of concepts and doctrines are so vastly different.

    You can see this tension being played out in the comments.  It’s really interesting to watch.  Maybe a great question to discuss at some point on MM would be, “what’s the point of believing or engaging in a faith tradition if you have minimal investment in its literal truthfulness?”  Some people will write it off as wishy-washy mumbo-jumbo (which it totally is, right?), but I think it it would be a wonderful discussion anyway.  🙂

    • Ubik1967
      July 20, 2011 at 6:20 am

      If this kind of relativistic truth really is our future then may god help us. I would say the exact opposite is happening and that explains the growing dissatifaction toward “weird” religious beliefs. The church knows it via polls and is correlating it out of existence.

      • July 20, 2011 at 3:58 pm

        It’s not relativism, but a different way of discerning and relating to spiritual truth that is less concerned with literal fact than symbolic and utilitarian applications.

        All religious beliefs are weird.  That doesn’t make them false or useless.

        • Ubik1967
          July 20, 2011 at 5:54 pm

          You can have the same discussions and experiences by reading great fiction – but it is not the external world – ie. Facts. Things that are not fact are fiction – fiction is not false it is simply fiction. Fiction is by definition not claiming to be real or factual. 

          Playing an immersive video game (or taking drugs) can be stimulating and emotionally moving but it is not and never will be the actual external world. 

          Maybe that’s how to do it – treat it as all  fiction. That’s cool. But I would be careful not to let it become your working model of reality.  

          • July 20, 2011 at 7:33 pm

            Thanks for dialoguing with me, Ubik1967!  It’s fun to talk about stuff like this.  🙂

            I like to think of it like language.  There is nothing inherently meaningful in language.  The word “tree” is not a tree: it’s a combination of sounds and letters that, of themselves, are meaningless, but together describe or point to something that does exist in reality — a meaning we can agree upon because we place a shared value on that particular combination of sounds and letters.

            Religion is a form of language that is reflective of reality, too — except that this reality is unknowable in its fullness.  So it uses miracle, mystery, parable, ritual, practice, and more, to provide glimpses or windows into it.

            Are there people who are convinced that the symbols are literally reflective of actual reality in its fullness?  Sure.  I think they’re wrong, but that’s okay.  I’m wrong about lots of stuff myself — maybe even this.  🙂

            You can draw parallels to fiction or other works of art; I’m not uncomfortable with that.  Art and religion both provide access to deeper truths that aren’t easily known otherwise — though we shouldn’t conflate the two too much, as they’re not exactly the same thing.

  29. July 25, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    http://songofgod.com/resources/eroel2.7_seeing-god.html

    Talk about weird, that is an link of someone who claims to have seen both Heavenly Father, and Heavenly Mother!  Anyone ever heard of him?  

  30. July 28, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    I skimmed the comments so not sure this was covered, but I think Dan pushed a little too strongly on Joanna’s “animals have spirits” idea. I don’t have time to look up the references now, but we are taught that animals are exalted in the celestial kingdom (D&C 77?). Abraham presents all things, from simple matter and elements to plants and animals all the way to humans, as having agency and obeying or needing to choose to obey God. And of course Moses talks about the earth having a spirit and crying out to be cleansed. I agree that the animism in Mormonism is very appealing.

  31. August 4, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    I really enjoyed this podcast, as I have all of them. The “weird” things about Mormonism are often the most beautiful, and the things that aren’t beautiful are at least interesting. I hope that Mormonism can make some much-needed changes without losing its distinct flavor. 

  32. Michael Carpenter
    September 14, 2011 at 2:54 am

    (Sorry, I’m a little behind on podcasts…) 

    Johanna seemed to imply that Satan controlling the waters was a folk doctrine. I refer you to D&C 61:

    On the third day of the journey, many dangers were experienced. Elder William W. Phelps, in a daylight vision, saw the destroyer riding in power upon the face of the waters.

     5 For I, the Lord, have decreed in mine anger many destructions upon the waters; yea, and especially upon these waters.

     14 Behold, I, the Lord, in the beginning blessed the awaters; but in the last days, by the mouth of my servant John, I bcursed the waters. 15 Wherefore, the days will come that no flesh shall be safe upon the waters.I was routinely told that this is the reason missionaries are not allowed to swim and may not ride in any kind of boat without permission from the mission president. Note that this section was revealed as part of the return of Zion’s Camp. There’s all kinds of questions that could be brought up about that. It isn’t folk doctrine, it is scripture. Weird scripture, maybe. But, scripture. 

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