85–86: “Middle Way” Mormonism

For many Mormons, their faith and relationship to the LDS Church has forever changed from what they were growing up. And this is how it should be. We’re all called to growth and to assuming responsibility for our own life choices, including the most compelling vision of what existence is all about, how we want to live, with whom do we want to associate, what it is that brings us (or promises us, we sense if we keep going) the greatest joy. In the faith and spirituality arena, religions all contain visions of what it means to be a fully flourishing human being (including, for some, divine potentialities), and they outline practices and create communities designed to help foster growth toward their particular vision. The rub comes when communities and leaders, out of utility (trying to meet the needs of the most people or its especially fragile members), or from fear, ideals of protective love, or simply being deeply engaged in day-to-day operations fail to encourage the kind of maturation that life (and even their community’s highest teachings) points people toward. What is someone in the community to do when the greatest focus is on the spiritual needs of children and others who seem to need continuing dependence upon the institution when they themselves are ready to venture into new views, enter into that new relationship with the institution and its founding scriptures, sacred narratives, and communal forms? How does this person live into greater richness when all the messaging seems to call for “safety” within the fold or continued reliance on others’ wisdom and authority?

This seems to be one of the main crossroads faced by listeners to and conversation partners within this and other Open Stories Foundation podcasts and online forums, as well as other places in the LDS “bloggernacle.” In these discussions, the term “Middle Way Mormonism” has arisen (though not without its limitations as a term) as a way to describe the path that some are attempting, which is to negotiate the tensions between no longer accepting all the foundational claims and narratives in their simplest formulations, feeling the need to develop one’s own authentic faith and mature relationship with the LDS church and family members who may not yet feel the same call to explore the rich thickets of ideas and stories and sensibilities that don’t fully align with institutional forms, yet still hoping to remain within and fully engage the Mormon community. It is a path in between the extremes of pure conforming and giving primary responsibility for our religious ideals and the direction we walk to others, and formally leaving Mormonism.

In this episode, Scott Holley hosts a panel discussion on the possibilities, promises, and perils involved in the attempt to live and flourish within these tensions. On the panel are Jared Anderson, Andrew Ainsworth, and Mormon Matters’ usual host Dan Wotherspoon, who, along with Scott, have each spent a great deal of time and concentrated effort in seeking the ideal balance for them. Following a framing that takes them into Middle Way tensions regarding beliefs, behaviors, and ones sense of belonging, what are the prices they see someone is called to pay when she or he walks a path outside the tradition’s well-worn center groove? What are the rewards of staying engaged with a community that one finds oneself out of sync with? What better way might be out there for someone who chooses to disengage from Mormonism? Where are the signs of hope for greater peace and comfort, and where are places of support found for those who choose a Middle Way Mormon walk?

This episode features four different temperaments, four different journeys. Every one who listens will have their unique stories to tell, as well–and we hope you all will in the comments section! We also promise that we’ll soon host similar discussions with those whose social locations differ from the four white, straight men who constitute this panel.

Comments

comments

88 comments for “85–86: “Middle Way” Mormonism

  1. SteveS
    April 2, 2012 at 3:28 am

    I’m looking forward to listening. General Conference is always a hard time for me. I listen to and/or watch all 10 hours each time, and usually come away feeling more frustrated, with no feelings of peace or love. Mormon Matters is one big factor keeping me in the Church at this point.

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      April 2, 2012 at 3:39 am

      Hi Steve,

      We didn’t really plan for this to come out after the close of General Conference (recorded it last Wed and then I was tied up and could only do the post production between sessions yesterday and today), nor does it really address a lot from the angle of what “the Church” or it’s leaders might be doing when they address the main body (we’ve done better discussions of that in other episodes), but I hope it helps you in some good way.

      Best!
      Dan

    • jantaylorriley
      July 26, 2012 at 9:01 am

      If you are frustrated with doctrines, teachings and ideas which are presented to you during all 10 hours of General Conference, then you are still struggling with the concept of aligning your heart and your mind with the will of God.  Think about it.  The example of Jesus Christ was perfect, unwavering, pure, complete obedience.  He didn’t analyze, debate, struggle or even have to come to intellectual terms with any of the doctrines of the kingdom.  He possesses the greatest mind, the greatest intelligence, and also the most submissive and obedient.  He is the exemplar.  That should be enough to tell you everything about the process and path you need to follow if you have an interest in becoming like Him and obtaining what He has obtained.  There is no other option.  Whatever other option or path you feel inclined to follow does not matter, and will give you less than what is possible.

      • Dan Wotherspoon
        July 26, 2012 at 11:20 am

        Do you recognize a difference between obedience to God and dictates of the Holy Spirit as we receive them and obedience to church leaders–general and local? Ideally they’d be perfectly aligned, but nothing in history of Mormonism or early Judeo-Christian religion reveals a clean, unmediated line between God and human beings. Always personality, temperament, wants and desires, human ends in the mix, leading to a slower unfolding of God’s will. Even prophets go through learning and schooling processes, often coming in response to church members who are alerted first or most radically to issues that need attention.

        In the case of this podcast (Mormon Matters in general, as well as this particular episode), no one pretends to be speaking for the prophets and what they should do. We are called to bring our whole hearts and minds to our spiritual walks, and that’s what we’re doing. I don’t know what direction the church will eventually move. My sense of its arc so far has always been toward broader, more profound views of earlier principles, and course corrections that bring us into greater alignment with love and compassion, and openness to new truths. I love B.H. Roberts’ view of the Restoration as continuing to unfold, not it having been fully accomplished in the 19th century. And he invites thoughtful disciples of Christ to help in the work. That’s what I sense we’re trying to do. I feel perfectly in alignment with Christ’s gospel in so doing.

        I believe “Mormonism” affords opportunity … for thoughtful disciples who will not be content with merely repeating some of its truths, but will develop its truths…. Not half—not one-hundredth part—not a thousandth part of that which Joseph Smith revealed to the Church has yet been unfolded, either to the Church or to the world. The work of the
        expounder has scarcely begun. The Prophet planted by teaching the germ-truths of the great dispensation of the fullness of times…. The disciples of “Mormonism,” growing discontented with the necessarily primitive methods which have hitherto prevailed in sustaining the doctrine, will yet take profounder and broader views of the great doctrines committed to the Church; and, departing from mere repetition, will cast them in new formulas … until they help to give to the truths received a more forceful expression, and carry it beyond the earlier and cruder stages of its development.

        B. H. Roberts, “Book of Mormon Translation,” Improvement Era 9 (1906): 713.

        • jantaylorriley
          July 26, 2012 at 3:23 pm

          Whatever the differences may be, God will be the one to resolve them as He inspires, reveals and guides His worthy, appointed priesthood leaders whom He has called to lead the body of the church. He does not resolve, inspire and give some kind of special “light” to individuals in the church like yourself…..and then rely on you to inspire (aka “steady the ark”) your local priesthood leaders. If you actually think this is how the Kingdom of God operates on the earth, you are an apostate in sheep’s clothing.

          You are being proven and tested in one way, and in one way only, and that is to see how obedient you are to your church leaders, general and local. Your ability to be obedient is the essence of what is being proven during your mortal journey. As you demonstrate your obedience to your church leaders, you are demonstrating your obedience to God and the dictates of His Holy Spirit. If you do not understand this, you have not yet experienced the change of heart He requires for entrance into His kingdom. To fancy yourself as one who may be more inspired than your priesthood leaders is to share the same mindset as the one who believed he had the better, more “inspired” plan, right before he got cast out. There really is no difference. Pride…..it’s been a problem forever…..and then the fall.

          Do you recognize a difference between obedience to God and dictates of the Holy Spirit as we receive them and obedience to church leaders–general and local?

          • jantaylorriley
            July 26, 2012 at 3:57 pm

            RE: a difference to God and the dictates of the Holy Spirit as we receive them and obedience to church leaders-general and local?  

            If you believe that there is a difference between obedience to your church leaders — the “general” ones, the ones you have sustained as prophets, apostles, seers and revelators– and the local ones — your bishop and your stake president et al.   

            versus

            obeying God and the dictates of the Holy Spirit 

            then you do not yet know God, the operations of His Holy Spirit.

            His leaders are accountable to Him for their obedience to His revelations to them re: the leadership of His church on the earth.  You are accountable to your leaders, local and general, regarding your sustaining of them and your obedience to them as they reveal His mind and will to you, to the best of their ability.

        • jantaylorriley
          July 26, 2012 at 4:15 pm

          “I believe ‘Mormonism’ affords opportunity–for thoughtful disciples who will not be content with merely repeating some of its truths, but will develop its truths…”

          What????

          Disciples follow and obey.  Prophets reveal.  What then, pray tell, are you?

          Nowhere has God ever given his authority for members of the church to “develop” the truths He has revealed to His prophets.  This is apostate thinking, 100 percent.

          • Guest
            July 26, 2012 at 4:20 pm

            Gee, and here I thought that personal revelation was a core part of Mormonism.

          • jantaylorriley
            July 26, 2012 at 10:08 pm

            Personal revelation for you personally in your own personal life?  Absolutely!  That is entirely different than what is being discussed here.  The discussion going on here is about the inspired few on this particular site who seem to think that they are in a position ….
            as a consequence of their unique paradigms and open and seeking minds…… to discover deeper aspects of the gospel not yet understood and therefore not yet being taught……and thereby be the ones to to expand and bring greater enlightenment to the body of the church on certain topics.

        • jantaylorriley
          July 28, 2012 at 10:11 am

          Only in your own mind do you believe you are developing the truths of the restored gospel.  You may have given yourself that calling (so you have a means of making money?) but no where in the church are any of us called to “expand”  or “develop” the truths of the gospel.  I wonder where you got the idea that was even a legitimate hobby/preoccupation.  From what I have observed about you on this and other sites, you seem to be making a living pontificating, analyzing, fancying yourself as one who believes they  are enlarging and expanding…but to what end? Are you resolving,  testifying, increasing the faith of others and encouraging application of gospel truths?   I ask you this, Dan Wotherspoon.  Is it the honest desire of your heart to increase the faith of those who read your blogs?  Is that your intention?  If it is, then why isn’t that coming through?  You have readers who post on here who are wondering.  Why is that?  Precisely what is your motive and why is it not more obvious?

    • jantaylorriley
      July 26, 2012 at 4:08 pm

      If the inspired words of General Conference, spoken by those who have fasted and prayed about their talks (yes, they do, whether you can accept this or you refuse to believe it, it is the truth) and who speak words of rejoicing in the Lord, Jesus Christ, and rejoicing in the restored truths of His precious gospel (yes, I listen to every word, this is exactly what the talks are about)  and these are the words that make you feel “more frustrated, with no feelings of peace or love” then you are struggling with a prideful heart, a lack of testimony and a spirit which has no really desire to obey.  Repentance is your only hope.

  2. Skippers
    April 2, 2012 at 4:20 am

    FWIW, I loved hearing Dan as a panelist…..

  3. Anonymous
    April 2, 2012 at 7:01 am

    didnt know wotherspoon was such a doubting thomas 

    • jantaylorriley
      July 27, 2012 at 9:42 am

      Beware this website.   These discussions are classic pre-apostate thinking.  Whenever frustrated members of the church, who have particular challenges in their individual testimonies or certain problems with who is in charge of the church, what they don’t “get”, and how things could be improved if these folks here were in charge….and they band together in a forum such as this…..it is only a matter of time before they are all chatting together under the band of “ex-mormons for truth” or whatever they fancy to call themselves………It is just a matter of time…….

  4. Lietta
    April 2, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    Jotting down some of the elements of discussion in the podcasts.  Thoughts.  Speaking French, desiring to get viewpoint across, knowing none listening can understand French.  I would add none listening wish to appreciate French.    Blunt force trauma teaching.  Personal experience in trying to teach in expanding the borders, had a person of position take me aside to explain I needed to pound home the LDS teaching perspective.  Telling children in their teaching class that they will not be with their parents in the after life unless they do these things …. I call that blunt force trauma, while at same appreciating the limitation of the teacher in framing the concept in that manner.  If one sees them self as Mormon, then so be it, part of their own personal definitions of a  progression path, whereas if one does not see them self as Mormon, why would said person which to be identified as Mormon.  Harming someone else’s testimony, therefore being cautious and careful with what you share implies the other is fragile (infantilized) — functioning adults can  discern in accord with where they are on their personal path.  Personal experience with this very thing tells me that if people don’t wish to hear it or go there, they won’t hear it.  Following the rules of the parents while in their home.  Is it really their home or are we all not sharing space in this temporal home and part of that progression or journey is to consider the many views in defining the rules?     I appreciated listening to the various viewpoints among the panelists in this podcast.  Ethics — that is a bigger discussion.  Morals – a different and also bigger discussion.  I would heartily agree that one does not have to be a Mormon to have both, which strongly implies that while there are is a standardization about behaviors that meets the needs of raising up diverse communities, it is, imo, a bit too rigid in unwillingness to embrace other proven standards for raising up moral and ethical peoples, communities.  I personally prefer to see the LDS church widen the tent to be more inclusive, less demanding on insisting on singular interpretation of gospel, while maintaining some of it’s distinctive elements.   

  5. jordan
    April 2, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    Really excited to listen to the rest of this podcast. I definitely will make an effort to be part of this discussion. In the past – I have not listened to the podcasts until much of the discussion feels hashed out. I feel that this topic is important enough to me and I have enough to say about it that I need throw myself into the fray a bit more.

    “Middle Way” or “middle path” mormonism definitely resonates with me. I’ve only listened to the first 10 minutes and in the spirit of engaging in this dialogue I want to challenge the idea of a “middle way” as merely a strategy as put forth by Dan and also challenge Jared’s challenge to Dan that the church organization does not allow this or welcome it. my evolving views have come to include that the “middle path” is more than a strategy or a “moderate” way of being. For me the “middle path” is the way of Christ and from a macro perspective the way of the institutional church as well. 

    Middle path in my experience is not about finding a watered down middle ground to passively exist in. It is rather a dynamic and even uncomfortable place to grow and to gather truth from the dialectics that are part of God’s harmony divine. Christ is strong AND meek, justice AND mercy, acceptance AND change, humble AND bold, empathic AND assertive, god AND man. He embodies all things as a compound in one and represents and activates pull from our necessary and natural fallen state to our process of becoming.

    I have ideas of how even the institutional church promotes this middle path and will share more later.

    i started a blog about this last october but am to involved in the world to really keep up with the cyber one:
    http://harmonydivine.wordpress.com/

    excited to listen to the rest of this and engage more.

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      April 2, 2012 at 10:21 pm

       Glad to have you join in the discussion, Jordan. I hope, however, you will go back and see that I said the opposite of what you’re claiming here. I asserted that it ISN’T a strategy but a way of orienting to the church, God, and all of life as adult to adult–and primarily one that we live into rather than think into or employ as a strategy. I also don’t think your first ten minutes gave you a good picture of what ANY of us were saying: no one is/was claiming that the middle way is an attempt to find a watered down middle ground or that ANYTHING about the middle way would be about passive existence.

      I normally do not engage in challenging anyone’s experience of a podcast, but since you have chimed in so early and so, it seems to me, unfairly in describing the panel’s positions, I have chosen to say–perhaps more to others than you–what is characterized here as panelists positions as are NOT accurate, and that I hope no one will be dissuaded from listening due to these mischaracterizations.

      Now, as for the rest of your comment about the middle way being a dynamic place and full of both/ands, I wholeheartedly agree and believe my comments on the panel (and pretty much every other show this past year) show this again and again. I find Mormonism a fantastic place for growth and the types of challenges that lead to growth. It’s a joke about how often I use the term “robust” in describing the depth and breadth of Mormon theology in all its forms, including practical day-to-day embodiment. I hope you will choose to engage here further. You seem to have a lot of great things to say. But please let’s not waste time and energy putting words and thoughts into others’ mouths. No need to carve out a space by inventing differences that aren’t really there.

      • jordan
        April 2, 2012 at 11:29 pm

         Thanks for your reply Dan. I love your use of robust! Keep it up! And I love your view of Mormonism that I’ve heard from the podcasts and interviews that I’ve listened to so far. I, like you, like to get into the nitty gritty and even approach the tensions that exist internally and inter-personally as we dialogue.

        I hesitated to post after only listening to 10 minutes (for obvious reasons) but I often do this – listen to your podcasts in chunks and think that I’ll jump into the discussion when I’ve completed the listening. But by the time I do finish, time has passed and I have lost some of the points – counterpoints I want to bring up. So I jumped in (earlier than I likely should have) – to give myself more incentive to be in the conversation. And so far it’s worked!    🙂

        My post was poorly worded as it made it sound that my view of the “middle path” is divergent from what the other panelists were saying. The challenges I brought up were directly related to two things that I thought I heard in the narrow 10 minutes that I listened to. 1. I thought I heard the middle way being promoted as a strategy (which I think is legitimate but doesn’t go far enough for me in motivating me to seek that path). 2. I heard Jared challenge you that the institutional church doesn’t allow for or encourage middle path mormonism.

        The other stuff in my post was not meant to come off as a counterpoint to what you guys are saying. As you said, I still need to listen to the rest! and will! Also, I’ll gladly concede that engaging in the conversation this early is a bit hasty and at the same time being engaged by both of you and Jared is very motivating to me to listen to the rest and engage – so thank you and sorry if you felt I misrepresented your work. After listening to the rest I will gladly return and report.   🙂   cheers

        • Dan Wotherspoon
          April 3, 2012 at 12:13 am

          Thanks, Jordan! I’ve been feeling like an idiot for my post and was toying with taking it down and writing you an apology, but then Jared jumped in! Ha ha! Very sorry for what was a pretty chiding tone. VERY glad you are big hearted and willing to see it as fun and motivating for a great discussion to come. Thank you!

          Excited to dive into this more with you and others!

          • jordan
            April 3, 2012 at 2:48 am

            No problem Dan! I am glad the comment remained. Your honest reaction to my post is helpful feedback in helping me remember the considerations when weighing in on such forums. It helps me remember that this disembodied medium is so much easier to misunderstand and be misunderstood than in a face to face conversation. Tone and motives are often hard to communicate. I’ve now listened to the first half and am enjoying it greatly so far. Will listen to the rest and weigh in – thanks.

    • April 2, 2012 at 10:55 pm

      Really glad you are engaging @cf8328b26826c5fe08adc34f4c8589fd:disqus . Yeah, I don’t think the 10 minutes are very representative of the full approach and issues that we discuss. I look forward to hear your thoughts when you have listened to all of it. We talk later about how what we call “Middle way” Mormonism could legitimately be called a Mormonism at least as genuine and true as traditional chapel Mormonism. I still don’t see the message that there is more than way to be a fully accepted member of the Church, but would love to be proved wrong.

      • April 3, 2012 at 5:22 am

        You know, I’m with you on most of this, Jared. I think there’s plenty of leeway within Mormon utterances (be it canonized scripture or prophetic teachings) to warrant radically different approaches to Mormonism, yet there’s this undeniable modern-Mormon zeitgeist that rules the day (calling for literal belief, surety, and confined theology, etc.). 

        Given the things you said in the podcast, however, I get the impression that you believe this zeitgeist is malleable (and are advocating that we work to change it, for the better)? But at the same time, I’m assuming you wouldn’t want to change *too much* about it, because then you’d run the risk of ending up with something that’s no longer recognizable as Mormonism. That said, I’m wondering what, exactly, you’d like to change about the modern-Mormon zeitgeist? Would you just like it to be more pluralistic? Or more democratic? Maybe more _____? I’d love to hear you flesh out your “wish list” for changes that you think would enhance the health of modern Mormonism while still maintaining its distinctiveness. 

        Thoughts? 

        • April 5, 2012 at 7:03 am

          Wow, lots here to respond to. You are correct that I would not want to make Mormonism unrecognizable. I advocate an approach to religion that 1) maximizes benefit, 2) minimizes harm, and 3) maintains distinctiveness. It is #3 that prevents this approach from turning everything into various flavors of Unitarian Universalism (I love that community but they don’t feel very much like a religion). 

          I agree with Robert Wright that most if not all religions have competing traditions and the ability to evolve, especially through selective interpretation. 

          As I said in the podcast, I doubt people self-identify as Mormon without good reason. Mormonism conditioning is powerful and the myths and approaches are etched into our character. I don’t think I could get rid of it if I tried. 

          The biggest thing I would change about Mormonism is to share the message that there is more than one right way to approach Mormonism! I think that if you want to build up the kingdom, you are called to the work as it were. I think that if someone’s approach to Mormonism, religion, and spirituality are forged through their own spiritual efforts and they are able to defend their approach (whether they can articulate it or not), it is valid. I really think wanting to help build the community is the most important requirement. Zion, right? 

          The closest to exclusivity that I support is “God works through all religions, and works through mine the most directly.” Yes, I know that can’t be true of all religions, but I think that *belief* is highly beneficial. Imagine if missionaries knocked on the door and said, “We want to share our beliefs with you, and learn the truths that you have and we may not.” 

          I am talking around your wishlist question. I am working to formulate something called “common ground Mormonism” that everyone from literal believer to atheist could support. I will get back to you on that. 🙂 

          As a beginning: Emphasis on our doctrines that empower women, such as Heavenly Mother and women having the priesthood (which the temple and history teach they do). I think support of “legally and lawfully married” gay couples is defensible. If we emphasized sealing the entire human family rather than what I feel is a misguided focus on the nuclear family even same-sex sealings could work. I think the Word of Wisdom should be followed, but similar to how the Seventh Day Adventists do.. make it REALLY about health than a few arbitrary don’ts. I think tithing should be on increase not income and go to caring for those in need. Let’s focus on the Fourth Mission of the Church. Invite anyone to temple weddings. Or have everyone get married civilly and then sealed a year later. Yes, have temples, but decrease emphasis on them.. save it for the millennium right? Focus on help people living true principles, teach them the gospel in a mature and healthy way. We can focus on our history, on our scriptures, our worldview–all of this will maintain our distinctiveness. But we can live the best of each of these elements. I really love the theology of Mormonism. I love the community, the mutual caretaking, the striving for Zion, the willingness to sacrifice and share. If only all those virtues were focused on building the Kingdom of God and enriching our lives instead of building up a corporation… 

          • April 6, 2012 at 4:45 am

            I respect and very much appreciate your vision, Jared. And I hope for your and others’ success in making it happen. Helping Mormonism toward a place that minimizes harm and maximizes benefit is a wonderful goal. To Zion, my friend! (That is, as long as it’s an interpretation of Zion that is a blessing to the whole world–not one that curses the “residue of the people” on the outside; Moses 7:20). 🙂

            As for your “common ground Mormonism,” I very much look forward to seeing what that looks like. Please do share! I’d love to hear a good, new Mormon-midrash. 

            Many thanks for engaging my question. Peace.

          • jantaylorriley
            July 26, 2012 at 9:12 am

            You are all personifying “the quasi-intellectual blind (only in your own minds) leading the blind” on a level which, I am sure, knows no bounds.  Wake up.  Repent.  Come to your senses.  You are NOT more enlightened than your local priesthood leaders, as hard as that may be for your egos to process.

          • Dan Wotherspoon
            July 26, 2012 at 11:29 am

            Are you open to discussion, Jantaylorriley? Or just jumping in (here and in your other post-blasts today) with a call to repentance? I see many, many problems with the presuppositions you’re bringing to the table regarding the prophetic voice and individual responsibilities to grow into disciples ourselves–those who take upon them the disciplines that will lead them to become like the master rather than remain forever in parent/child or vineyard owner/steward relationship. Does the position you represent truly lead to spiritual growth?

            If you would care to really engage, I invite you to share more about how and why you feel . If not, thank you for your voice. If the Holy Spirit is with you in your call for repentance, I’m certain you will be well-credited with sounding the cry from the watchtower.  

          • jantaylorriley
            July 26, 2012 at 3:31 pm

            The only individual responsibility aka “disciplines” that you are commanded to take upon yourself is the one to be obedient.  Obedience proves trustworthiness.  And now you know how Jesus Christ became a God.  Perfect obedience.  That should tell you everything you need to know about becoming the vineyard owner/steward.  Christ is your example.  Obedience.   Your pseudo-“intellectual” (not) suggestions that you, or any of your pontificating comrades, are in a position worthy of adding anything enlightening to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and its revealed doctrines that somehow the leaders of the church, in their callings as prophets, seers and revelators are currently missing, are profoundly misguided, at the very least.  

          • Dan Wotherspoon
            July 26, 2012 at 7:26 pm

            So your answer is no on actually engaging, which involves openness to more than just one angle. No problem.  I won’t try to draw you out any longer. Thanks for your testimony.

          • jantaylorriley
            July 26, 2012 at 9:25 pm

            I find it interesting that your perception/definition of “openness” requires being open to YOUR particular perceptions as opposed to the openness of heart as in the submissive and open heart of a child to the direct, clear and immoveable teachings of the restored gospel and its doctrines as taught by holy prophets and apostles.  lol  This is what “quasi-intellectuals” do….they change definitions of words like “openness”  to make themselves look like the attractive thinkers.

          • jantaylorriley
            July 26, 2012 at 10:21 pm

            I’m wondering if you understand that Jesus did not entertain more than one angle.   How would you have felt with His total adherence to one angle on any single doctrine?  There’s a little phrase here that suits this discussion perfectly:  

            “You ENTERTAIN doubt.  You EXERCISE faith. ” These two small sentences reveal everything about the condition of one’s heart.  The posts on this site, especially those by Dan Wotherspoon,  are all about entertainment and nothing about true faith.  

          • jantaylorriley
            July 27, 2012 at 9:20 am

            I would be interested in knowing how old you are.  Age please?  I see these kind of pseudo-intellectual-“religious” discussions typically being had by college age-graduate school age people.  I would be sincerely surprised if you were older than twenty-something. (No offense intended. )

          • Gap
            May 6, 2012 at 4:25 am

            Wow Jared … You put my wish list into the words I couldn’t ! If only!

          • jantaylorriley
            July 26, 2012 at 9:09 am

            The ego that is being revealed on this site, and in these posts is truly incredible.  How do you get to a place where you actually think you have greater ideas on how to improve the kingdom of God than the Lord’s divinely chosen prophets and apostles?  Incredible!

      • jantaylorriley
        July 26, 2012 at 9:05 am

        Something is being lost here and that is the admonition of Jesus Christ to His followers to be one, in the same way that He is one with the Father.  In oneness, there is no doctrinal diversity.  Oneness is oneness.

  6. Anonymous
    April 2, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    Jared,

    I ways enjoy your perspectives.  As well as all of the panelists.  Jared i have some more detailed questions for you and would like a more extensive conversation then is really appropriate to be done here as a comment.  Can you e-mail me at gailf@gmail:disqus .com?
    Thanks,

    Gail

  7. Paul Barker
    April 3, 2012 at 4:25 am

    I never said the middle way would be easy…
    That was SO awesome ha ha. Great post guys!

  8. Paul Barker
    April 3, 2012 at 4:37 am

    Love the “this is my house too” – “[Brigham], it is my church as much as it is yours” – Robert Gardner to Brigham Young

  9. April 3, 2012 at 4:49 am

    I still have about 40 minutes to go (listening while driving just isn’t going to work, since my office is only 15 minutes away from my house, so I took some time to listen at home), but so far my thoughts:

    I’m most impressed with Jared. I sometimes think he is trying so hard to wrap up his thoughts to be palatable that he doesn’t let them boldly stand on their own. But that definitely is not the case in these two episodes…several bold statements.

    I think the podcast kinda skirted around this issue (especially when the panelists discussed issues of duplicity, etc.,) but I think there still could be something to say: often, I see there being this huge drive to disassociate from the idea of “middle way mormonism.” People want to call it so many other things, and they don’t want to identify as middle way. I guess I can understand in some senses why this would be: as was mentioned in the podcast, to use the term “middle way” reifies the boundaries that the middle way Mormon is presumably fighting against. 

    But at the same time, I still can’t help but feel that there are some issues around not owning up to the fact that hey, your Mormonism is very different than the orthodox, “TBM” Mormonism.

    And maybe what that entails is the bold assertion (as was brought up in the podcast) that *your* Mormonism is defensible, legitimate, etc., Perhaps even more so than what we modernly call “orthodox” Mormonism.

    I loved the discussion of whether or not the Powers That Be “own” Mormonism (and thus, members are like children who must pay the rent) vs. whether members inherit Mormonism (and thus shouldn’t have to “buy” it.)

    I guess the main reason I’m rambling is because with such a long podcast, I can’t really focus on any one overriding theme…

  10. April 3, 2012 at 4:54 am

    Kudos to the panel! My favorite MoMatt podcast so far, by far. Thanks, all.

    I love Jared’s comments on principle-based ethics. I dig Dan’s optimism regarding positive change in the future (“shift happens!”). And I appreciate Andrew’s thoughts on balancing self-sacrifice and personal well-being. Oh, and Scott did a bang-up job facilitating everything so smoothly and thoughtfully. Great stuff all the way around.

    Now, I wish I had some questions/thoughts/reactions to contribute to enliven the discussion, but all I can really think to say right now is: “Amen.”

  11. April 3, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    @289df0ea796167351e0fcba19ec9288f:disqus , very important critique. As I said to Dan at the end of the podcast, I am very aware that he and I for example share privileges and advantages in common–we are both white men with PhD training in Religious Studies. In addition I think we both naturally think like theologians and philosophers. This realization humbles me and prevents me from cavalierly suggesting that everyone should be able to make this paradoxical, tension-filled approach work. That said, a few responses. 

    1) We all have differing levels of DESIRE and ABILITY to make the middle way path work. The hardest situation is when people feel forced into the middle way by loved ones, by social or professional consequences, and don’t have much of either! 

    2) I think there are a few keys that can help people successfully navigate non-traditional approaches to Mormonism. I think the institution should do this, but we can also remind ourselves that there is more than one way to be a good Mormon, that it is ok to have questions. This is where I think standard Mormon doctrines (if those apply) can help… we can find confidence in our personal revelation, in our inner peace, in the happiness and well being that we feel as a result of living as we feel we should. This can decrease the dissonance that comes from walking an impossible path. I fully acknowledge that the standard messages of the LDS Church do not support this fully, and that is what I meant in the beginning of the podcast when I said the Church currently only affirms one way to be Mormon. 3) One area where specialists can help, and this is where Mormon Matters and other resources are valuable, is to share perspectives, approaches, and vocabulary, as well as a powerful support system, that facilitate a variety of approaches to Mormonism. I have been moved and gratified when people have shared with me that my opinions and words have enabled them to articulate and crystallize their own feelings and views. 

    I would also be open to anyone talking to me about how to personalize my approaches to their situation. To sum up, I think the two most helpful resources are 

    A) Using whatever framework is most effective in finding “enlightened self-centeredness”, a feeling of assurance that God is pleased with us, or that we are doing what is best for us and our loved ones. 

    B) Tapping into communities and available material for practical discussions and support. There are so many amazing resources, especially online. 

    • Jason
      April 5, 2012 at 2:47 am

      Your comment about being trained (PhD’s) and thinking like theologians
      and philosophers reminded me of the point in this podcast where you mentioned the philosopher friend who seemed to look down on those who had not thought critically about their life & beliefs. I have a friend studying philosophy from whom I pick up a similar vibe. This attitude bothered me to the point that we stopped socializing and even communicating, which I was always rather disappointed about.

      Something that I have been thinking about quite a bit since having discovered the podcast a couple of months ago – and listening to many old episodes and thinking critically about the topics presented to determine how would I frame my thoughts on the topic and whether, or how much, I agree with what is presented – is that I wonder if I might be able to re-establish a dialog with this philosopher friend because I have a different attitude now towards the things he would frequently talk about thanks to the much more approachable way this podcast touches on those types of philosophical arguments/issues in a very digestible and inviting way. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to discuss these things with my friend, but his way of bringing it up and discussing it was very brash and not inviting compared to the way you guys do it.

      I wrote all that mainly so I could give meaning in saying to Jared, Dan, Jana and all the rest from this episode and all the others: thank you for discussing these topics and making the discussion inviting and understandable yet thought provoking.

      • April 5, 2012 at 7:07 am

        Thank you so much for this comment @03c6a65f4e27d707dfc25e46954b9b2e:disqus . Thinking well and communicating well are two separate skills/gifts, so I am gratified to hear that this podcast has panelists who do both well! I lament our lack of specialists in Mormonism (both training and taking advantage of them). I agree that one of the contributions of Mormon Matters is to provide models, vocabulary, approaches and examples that become resources as people find them useful.

  12. Jeralee
    April 3, 2012 at 5:07 pm

     When I hear “Robust” I feel a warmth of knowing I am at Mormon Matters with Dan Wotherspoon, and that’s a great place to be!   My mind has been expanded to so many “Middle Way” paths.  Wow!  I do agree with Jared that in some way we are all Cafeteria Mormons. In my experience as I live my life I find that my thoughts and feelings about many things in the Church have changed.  I love the way Dan put it that you can find fault in Joseph Smith (one of my snags), but maybe what is more important is “being more interested in what Joseph Smith pointed me toward.”  For me there is great value in living within the framework of the Gospel and Church that I have loved, and still find great value in, while recognizing it’s imperfections. Because that is not the case for everyone, I feel there is great value in this discussion, so thanks to all for a thoughtful, expansive podcast!

    Great job Scott on hosting this panel! I love and deeply appreciate what Dan has created here as a positive and *safe* place to discuss and learn new ways of thinking! Go Mormon Matters!

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      April 3, 2012 at 8:44 pm

      Now I’m going to keep using “Robust”! Love it. Thank you, Jeralee, for this and other comments everywhere and all the other ways you support the podcast. You know it’s a mutual admiration society we have going on.

  13. Sherahbethhoron
    April 3, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    Awesome.  I’m 37 minutes in and just heard Dan’s explanation of his position on Joseph Smith, and I just want to say THANK YOU! for explaining exactly how I feel.  Hehe… “And God says, ‘Dammit!…””  Love.  I love your nuanced view of him.  Aren’t we all that frustrating combination of righteous and flawed.

  14. KC
    April 3, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    Dan loved you as a panelist. Really enjoyed this podcast and everyone involved. This podcast alone is worth another donation to the show.  Let me grab my credit card.  Intriguing discussion about individual responsibility in speaking up, correcting false ideas, rocking the boat, and where the line is between our right and responsibility to dissent and speak up and others right to remain blissfully ignorant but happy and content in their place of faith. 

    Jared, you stated here and on other podcasts that you are very careful and go to great length to avoid disrupting someone elses faith. Think on other occasions you use the car analogy, you dont want to take away the car they use to go to store or take kids to soccer (something like this anyway) they need this car. 
    But here is my issue. I spent 10 years wondering if I was loosing my mind, wondering what was wrong with me because I was doing everything the church and leadership tells us to do receive answers, get guidance, live the good life etc .etc. but nothing I believed in was working anymore. I nearly had a breakdown at the dissonance between the promises the church preaches and the reality of what I was experiencing in my life. Nothing made sense and I felt like I was loosing my mind trying to figure out why the gospel was not working anymore. It wasn’t until I finally had the courage to  Google and start looking into the foundational narratives the church teaches to discover that maybe just maybe much of what I believed was either false or certainly not what it was represented to be. For the first time in a decade I had some peace. I wasn’t loosing my mind after all.  I wish I had known 10 years ago what I know today. I would not have made decisions that have come at such tremendous cost. So, I wish you (not you personally but someone who knew of these things) would have spoken up and woke me up. I would be so much better off today.  Sure, tact and appropriateness must be considered but speak the Truth for heavens sake. The Truth shall set you free!  Jared, like your analogy of the surgeon and the patient who needs amputation. Our attempts to spare people pain may ironically be just the pain they need to get better.   I have not figured out exactly how to do this yet, but  I wish the surgeon had come 10 years ago, I would be in much less pain today. 

    • April 3, 2012 at 7:51 pm

      @96cde25443e038b70c4f190400f706bd:disqus , your comment reminds me how my views have shifted and sharpened over the last year. I feel much more an advocate for personal well-being, even at the cost of relationships, especially with the institutional Church. Yes, religion has value, and many people feel the need to stay in the Church for social reasons, but I am on fire concerning the reality that we cannot encourage or enable people to sacrifice themselves on the altar of social acceptance or religious devotion. Yes, a degree of putting others over self is necessary (think parenting!) but religion and LDS doctrine/culture encourage it to what I feel is a dysfunctional degree. 

      So my primary message I want to share is: Be well. Be happy. Follow your best wisdom, your hard-won truth. Do so as carefully as possible, preserve relationships if you can. But live your life, and live it well. Pay the price that you must. 

      Thinking especially about my children, I hope that all of us would sever our ties to religion or any other relationship before we ourselves are destroyed. To continue the car analogy: 

      I will instill in my children enough self-respect and self-care that their caring for themselves (and hopefully family) will be stronger than their relationship to the Church. As I said in the other thread, I live this way and I will try to pass it to my children, that the relationship with the Church will break before they do. It is kind of like how cars are designed to absorb all the impact of an accident, being destroyed so that the lives within are preserved.  

      So I would again say yes, I care for the institutional Church. I sincerely want what is best for it. I have constructive ideas pertaining thereto. But given current realities we must all care for ourselves and our loved ones first and foremost. I will not be silent when so many suffer.

  15. April 3, 2012 at 8:10 pm

    I would also vehemently state that in order for the LDS Church’s demand to give everything to it (which as we know is explicit) to be ethical, what the Church gives in return and the way it treats its members would need to be far different than it currently is. 

    • April 3, 2012 at 11:47 pm

      Jared, I kinda’ agree. But I’m wondering *how* different? (Or in *what ways*?)
      I tend to think that the way things run right now (e.g., lack of disclosure about financial issues, ambiguity regarding doctrine, authority-driven decision-makers, etc.) tends to create a *mystique* about Mormonism that motivates folks to give so much. 

      I don’t doubt that if things were different then some folks would be *more* devoted. Yet again, I also feel pretty sure that if things were different than other folks would be *less* devoted.  But I guess that all depends on the kinds of changes you’re alluding to. Does what you have in mind allow for a possible change in flow both ways? Or do you project a uni-directional positive? Just curious. 🙂

      • April 5, 2012 at 7:13 am

        @tylerrenshaw:disqus , I disagree quite strongly that it is the “mystique” that motivates. Unless you mean that people are prevented from seeing problematic elements that would decrease their desire to give, and that isn’t something that should be preserved! People give and serve and care because they feel they are giving to God and participating in something meaningful, trusting that they will be blessed for doing so.

        This is a very important point…. I don’t think ANYONE should be as devoted as Mormonism demands as things currently are. Do we want people to be willing to spend as much time away from their families as the Church can demand? Really? Do we want devotion that leads people to give away their life savings to questionable political ends? Switching religions, do we want devotion that leads to suicide bombing? 

        I strongly feel there needs to be checks against extreme devotion. The best religions are a resource for their members, facilitate service, give back in demonstrable ways. 

        Oh, I didn’t say above that Mormon worship is pretty lame, for no good reason. Let’s have clapping, shorter meetings, better music. I would love architecture somewhere between “meetinghouse” and temple. Perhaps just stake centers? Or use the temples more fully? 

        I think that there could be a form of Mormonism that would maximize both devotion to the institution and well-being of the members. 

        As I have said elsewhere, I think that religions can be so good they don’t need to be true (because participation justifies itself in the here and now). 

        • April 6, 2012 at 5:18 am

          Good point, Jared. Maybe “motivate” was a bad word choice. How about “facilitate”? I was trying to say that the way things roll in the Church makes it more likely (or maybe easier?) for more people to give more of their lives, mostly because they experience the power and goodness associated with the Church (e.g., being spiritually fed/led and connected with others), which motivates them to engage with it further or more intensely, while at the same time lacking insight into the inner-workings of things (e.g., how their money is being spent and how decisions are being made) that might slow them down or at least cause hesitation (or call for careful consideration). 

          I, too, sincerely believe that most members give and serve and care for the right reasons. That’s one of the main reasons I love Mormonism–the people are, on the whole, so good! Yet I think if things were different, if there was more transparency and more pluralism, those right reasons might become more complicated (and thereby, maybe, become less “right”?). 

  16. KCK
    April 3, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    This question applies directly to Jared, however, feel free to chime in with some advice.

    Jared,

    I think your stance  regarding meeting with church leaders and undergoing the interviewing process may have a weakness in that it does not easily translate to a typical member. Now defining typical member here is hard but my point is that to sustain that level of confidence requires to some extent a high level of expertise and confidence in yourself, church doctrine and authority. I am sure there are numerous members who don’t have the same high level of confidence as you.

    Also, lots of members may not be perceived by the interviewer as an expert. This may take away some of the members bargaining power and may influence the interviewer to be less willing to have a more open stance towards the interviewee. All of this may be increased more if the members is still in the middle of a faith crisis.

    Your stance is wonderful for well developed and confident members. What would you propose for someone who maybe a little less confident?

    Thanks, KCK

  17. Doug Brayley
    April 3, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    Regarding the analogy of having an important point to say in French, but your audience doesn’t speak French:  Why keep going back to a group that doesn’t speak your language? 

    • April 3, 2012 at 10:56 pm

      By definition I think Middle Wayers are at least bilingual. 🙂 Unless they were raised with a particular version of Mormonism at tension with the standard approach, which does happen. 

      In my experience the question would be, Why stay with a community that only speaks the language you were raised with, and not the language you can now best express yourself in? 

      I have communities where I can speak my new language, be fully authentic, and other communities where I need to translate myself. I think that scenario is pretty normal in life. 

  18. April 4, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    Really enjoyed the podast. Jared, I’m hoping you can help me understand one of your positions. In response to Scott’s question about Middle-Wayers contributing to the damage the Church does, you essentially stated that speaking out in opposition to those practices is the real difference. Please explain further, how exactly one can speak out in the LDS Church.

    The great thing about living in a grand but deeply flawed America is the great hope I have in the ability for one person to make a difference and change things. The LDS Church on the other hand is not even close to this model – and Mormons even pride themselves on this fact (follow the prophet…) In fact, THAT in and of itself is ONE of the big problems. So, how much speaking out can one really do? In Sac. meeting? In Elders Quorum? Can you really feel comfortable deriding the City Creek Mall, for example, in the middle of a Elders Quorum/RS lesson? I just don’t see where this can occur in a way that will actually make a difference. Ironically, the ward I’ve been in that are most open to free thinking are the least likely to need to hear the protest. Is speaking out good enough to ethically cover you – even if your voice contributes nothing to change of any kind?

    Using Joanna Brooks and CL Pearson as examples is actually not very helpful to me BTW. I don’t have the privileges and costs of a national audience.

    • April 4, 2012 at 5:34 pm

      You address two issues: Productivity and feasibility. 

      1) Yes, I think that we can trigger paradigm shifts by what we share, even if it is in only a few people. My specific point to Scott was that if we speak out against what we feel is harmful in the Church, we are not guilty by association. So if we speak out against Prop 8, we are less culpable in the damage the Church does to gays. I think this is one of the biggest arguments for middle wayers to stay active…. we can share what we feel are the best and healthiest parts of our tradition while helping minimize the harm. 

      2) How feasible speaking out is depends on a complex variety of factors. I think that is up to each of us to determine what we can do and how best to do it. 

      But a critical contribution of the internet, Mormon Stories, Mormon Matters, and all of these discussions is to show each other that there IS another way, that there is more than one way to be Mormon.

      And even if the institutional Church does not immediately accept those ways of being Mormon, we can support and validate each other, which in itself is empowering.
      I hear you on the Joanna Brooks and Carol Lynn Pearson examples. 🙂 But the good thing is we can point to their examples and learn from their language. 

      I have gotten away with saying a lot in my own ward, but I also realize that because of my education people assume I know what I am talking about. I have: 

      1) borne my testimony of the limitations of knowledge, talking about the advantages of saying “I believe” rather than “I know” one of which is not alienating those who can’t say “I know”, and I included myself in that category. 

      2) I consistently bear my testimony not of the testimony glove topics, but on love, acceptance, my feelings about religion, spirituality, Jesus, etc. 

      3) In Sunday School I brought up the idea that if we would live our lives differently if we knew our existence ended at death, we should probably examine how we live our lives. 

      4) In Sunday School I translated the parable of the Good Samaritan into Mormon terms… that a tattooed, alcohol and coffee drinking, gay former member is more holy than a General authority who rejects his gay son. 

      5) In Sunday School I was subbing and talking about the diversity of early Christianity and how much tension Peter and Paul had between them. 

      6) In priesthood I shared that I think Prop 8 was one of the biggest mistakes the Church has made and that it will come to regret it. Those are the examples that come to mind.

      • jordan
        April 4, 2012 at 5:46 pm

         Love this reply Jared. You mentioned in the podcast that a very conservative and orthodox member of the ward often thanks you for your comments. You mentioned that he does so without knowing what you really think about things. When I first heard this my first thought was… how does Jared know this man doesn’t know.  ; )

        I really think orthodox and true believing individuals are so much further ahead and more accepting than they get credit for in the blogosphere. i understand there is deep hurt and harm done and yet i also think we need to not assume going the other way.  love the comments you’re making in your ward – and believe they are totally in line with even true belief “mormonism.” a member of my stake presidency said form the pulpit last year, “the older i get, the less i know.” and he added something about the validity of saying i believe in your testimony.

        great stuff thanks.

        • April 5, 2012 at 7:16 am

          @cf8328b26826c5fe08adc34f4c8589fd:disqus , I agree with you that the internet-Mormon types should never write off our believing friends, families, and loved ones. Sometimes they are ready and would be open to more than we share. At the same time, I think it better to err on the side of caution and care because of what is at stake on both sides–the faith of one and legitimacy and relationships on the other. 

          I try to base my estimation of what people are ready for on past interactions, so it is a personal judgment. And I do push the envelope as much as I can. 🙂

  19. jordan
    April 4, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    So I finished the podcast and really loved it. I found myself hearing many of my thoughts echoed in Dan’s comments. Dan – I feel like we’re very much on the same wave length regarding approaching Mormonism.

    Really liked the back and forth between Jared and Andrew
    about the two issues of talking to your audience and drawing the line at harm. I
    though Andrew was right to bring up the subjectivity of both of those ideas
    and Jared’s response to Andrew was great as well. 

    Good job by the host. Steered the ship well and added meaningfully.

    Glad that Dan voiced that the bread crumbs are there for
    those who have questions. This is year I completely agree and think that even
    though church can do this more (and is doing this more as Jared noted) there
    already is so much there. Heavenly parents, contradictions galore in the
    scriptures, and in correlated manuals, very much room to wrestle with what
    we’re taught and in my wards there has seemed to be tolerance for a lot of this
    wrestling. I can also understand the impatience of people who feel like they don’t want to settle for a culture of waiting for bread crumbs to pop up or be randomly discovered. I don’t experience learning and growing in the church’s 3 b’s in that way. I imagine that many people do and can see how it would make sense for some to stay and wait around. Yet, I like Dan have that desire to convince someone that there could be much growth and fulness of joy (individual, familial, communal, and institutional) in both the patience and action that comes in approaching mormonness with the school of love mentality of Eugene England.

    That being said I can also understand that many feel  that there is no room for wrestling or their
    initial version of Mormonism was not okay with this and there is great
    intolerable discomfort in seeking a middle path. Of course Andrew pointed out
    that people that leave also feel great discomfort.

    I have more to say about an argument that Mormon orthodoxy and “true belief” not only welcomes but encourages a middle path as I understand it. Jared brought up this briefly. Will get back to work and try to post those thoughts soon.

  20. CatherineWO
    April 4, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    Thank you for this thought provoking podcast. I will need to listen to it again to glean the real meat of it, but I have much to think about with this first listening. I agree with much of what Dan and Jared have to say about this middle-way Mormonism and have tried to find this place for myself. From the very beginning of this discussion, however, I couldn’t stop thinking about what a difference experience it is to be a man in the Church than to be a woman. I’m so glad that you acknowledged that at the end of the podcast, where Jared recognized that if he were a woman, his approach to the Church would likely be different. From personal experiece with Church leaders and from observance of general attitudes, policies, doctrines and culture concerning women, I find it increasingly difficult to navigate any kind of middle way and maintain sanity and self-respect. Listening to two days of conference this past weekend went way over my toleration limit, and it has been a very difficult few days since then.
    Thank you also, Jared, for you comment above about “doing what is best for us and our loved ones” and tapping “into communities and avilable material for. . . support.” I attended the Sunstone Symposium for the first time last summer and felt a degree of comfort and acceptance which I did not know was possible within Mormonism. I too am finding my greatest comfort in the “fringe Mormonism” community. However, I sometimes wonder if engaging with that community may add to my angst and frustration with the Church to some degree. It is difficult to find a balance between anger and peace. 

    • April 5, 2012 at 7:22 am

      @43002ff655bdb65175da428fd25c1fd0:disqus , we are very sensitive to how different the Church experience is for men and women. From the planning stage of this episode I have strongly felt that we need another “Middle Way Mormonism” episode with all women. Let’s make it happen @mormonmatters:disqus  🙂 Perhaps have a female guest host even. 🙂

    • April 10, 2012 at 7:45 pm

      Amen Catherine. My main struggle with remaining active in the Church is weighing protecting myself and my daughter (and son actually) from the harm of patriarchy, with wanting to stay to help the women still there and still unhappy but unaware what is contributing to that unhappiness…Its a lot harder to navigate a middle way as a woman. But in someways its easier…(if you don’t have the possibility of leadership positions, there is less to lose in speaking out!) Weighing these cost/benefits would be a wonderful podcast.

  21. Anonymous
    April 5, 2012 at 2:49 am

    I would like to respond to Jared’s comment about working toward a type of “circuit-breaker” that will cut away the Church it the stresses it imposes on the spouse, child or their relationships exceed their strength to bear.

    This will come across as a bit morose, but I think we need to consider the fact that the LDS “Gospel” is specially designed to subvert this goal. It lurks behind the pithy principle, “families are forever.”

    The power of Mormonism lies in its institutionalization of the family. By turning the family into a basic institutional unit, it leverages those deepest bonds to hold onto people to serve its ends – at least those that emerge from “30,000 feet” – such as those best expressed in numbers, as in members, temples, dollars, properties, businesses, …

    Traditional Christianity did enough when it invented hell for individuals. The Mormon innovation was to offer overtly benign 2nd and 3rd class heavens with the highest level subliminally packed with the threat of eternal separation from one’s dearest companions.

    So, behind that sweet primary hymn lurks an ugly manipulation that begins its work a few years after the indoctrination is complete. And when the institution tugs at its conditionally-eternal families, it almost always gets the numerically larger fragment. This is the statistical truth most appreciated by those who direct this domain from 30,000 feet.

    • April 5, 2012 at 7:38 am

      @JTurn:disqus , I acknowledge that many of the beneficial elements of Mormonism have dark undersides, and focus on the family is one of these. Mormonism excels at conditional love. We love and support you… as long as you are a good Mormon, our type of Mormon. The institutional Church also has abundant conditioning and policies/approaches that discourage this breaking. I see all of that. 🙁

      Can I respond by saying that though your points are present within Mormonism, there are also “equal and opposite” theologies and traditions that encourage empowerment, that put things in eternal perspective, and encourage love of family and all people independent of Church membership? And even if these messages are not clear enough, all it would take is a few well-placed Conference talks, Ensign articles, and lessons in the curriculum to plant them within Mormon culture. That is one of the beautiful things about Mormonism, how it can adapt and progress–at least in theory.

      It will be very difficult to create that “circuit breaker”–I like that term. I don’t know what else to do than try though. Trust me, I will err on the side of protecting my loved ones.

      • Anonymous
        April 5, 2012 at 6:26 pm

        Jared,
        Thanks for your response.  Yes, I am aware of such traditions, and I shouldn’t have implied that this is all there is.  “On the ground” Mormonism, particularly in the small East coast branches and wards that I attended (and that my family still attends) is mostly about people supporting each other through thick and thin. 

        I also have a friend who left the Church and is now doing wonderful work as a Unitarian minister in Vancouver.  His congregation is deeply involved in humanitarian work.  And I have friends who are deeply committed to congregations that embrace Christian “liberation theology.” There are wonderful traditions and new ones emerging.  

        I liked what Andrew said about him still being a member of the human race and this motivates his desire to do some good in the world.  Institutions do have the potential to bring people together to do more good as a group than can be accomplished individually.  Unfortunately, they also have an equal potential to take on these self-sustaining characteristics. They gradually emerge as these “superorganisms” that evolve survival and growth mechanisms that subordinate the flourishing of the individual.  But I dare not stretch this metaphor to far.

        I have really enjoyed your contributions to these podcasts.  I appreciated Andrew’s and Dan’s here as well.  And Scott did a great job leading the discussion.  Thanks.

        Cheers

        JT  

    • Anonymous
      April 8, 2012 at 8:16 am

      Something I’ve been wondering lately is whether the doctrine of conditional eternal families is paradoxical or not. Aren’t all of God’s children on Earth related in some way? Do non-Celestials get re-veiled in the after-life or something? I thought all God’s children were to take the knowledge gained in this life to the next.

      Any doctrinal references out there concerning exactly what happens in the after-life to unsealed (non LDS) families who reject their proxy ordinances?  Are the masses going to be divided into innumerable separate heavens (actually sounds a bit like hell that way)? Or are we just left to our own devices when trying to understand the mystery of how God will affect the awful eternal loss of family ties?

  22. Beatrice
    April 5, 2012 at 3:59 am

    Jared,

    Like CatherineWO, I was also thinking about the comment about how your approach would be different if you were a woman.  While you mentioned this in passing a couple times in the discussion, I wonder if you could flesh it out a bit more.  So, do you think you would be more likely to leave if you were a woman because the cost of staying would be higher than the cost of going?  From your perspective, what are specific costs or challenges of staying that you don’t have to face because you are a man?

    I also think this raises an interesting moral and philosophical question.  Is it morally justified to continue in an organization that is sexist, racist etc. when you disagree with the discrimination but you are not the target of the discrimination?  One could argue that by staying you hope to change the discrimination, but one danger here is that women who can’t handle the discrimination leave so the only supporters you are left with are men who don’t like the sexism.  But, those men are unlikely to convince the women who stay that the system should be changed.  Does that make sense?

    Basically, I think that the cost of staying may be higher for women (because the discrimination is targeted at them), but the cost of going is also really high (because there will be no women left advocating change and thus change is unlikely to happen). 

    • April 5, 2012 at 7:24 am

      You bring up excellent questions, Beatrice. As a Mormon woman, I am finding it increasingly more difficult to participate fully right now. For me, the cost feels too high. I feel like I need to protect my own soul and well-being over the possibility of changing the institution. Perhaps down the road I will feel differently. My children are also constantly on my mind. I have not figured out what the best approach is regarding them. This has become a recurring discussion in our house– Can we give our children a Mormon identity while minimizing the possible harm and indoctrination sure to happen with regular attendance and participation? I just don’t know. 

      • April 5, 2012 at 7:52 am

        I defer to the most important woman in my life on this one @192af36bb9953fb96814cdb6484f85b6:disqus . 🙂 

        I see my position similar to how I am also a “straight ally”. I fully, completely support Katrina or my daughters or any other girl/woman needing to distance herself from the Church. I have felt second-class in a few ways in Church (being divorced is a biggie), but I am also in a position of power in some ways–people listen to me. I can only imagine what it would feel like to be a woman in the Church. Here are a few thoughts I wrote about my concerns. 

        http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/?p=7875 

        That said, I feel I can speak out against patriarchy and for feminism as a male and perhaps have influence from the inside. As I said, I think we are justified in being part of an organization with some elements we love and others that concern us if we are a force for encouraging the first and challenging the latter.

        Again, we need a female middle way episode!! These episodes touch on elements, but more remains to be said about specific challenges on being female in the Church. 

        http://mormonmatters.org/2012/01/31/72-effecting-change-in-the-church/ 

        http://mormonmatters.org/2011/08/30/49-mormonism%e2%80%99s-messages-about-motherhood/

        http://mormonmatters.org/2011/05/03/30-mormon-women-and-equality/

        • Beatrice
          April 5, 2012 at 7:39 pm

           Yes, I would love to hear a female middle-way episode!  Although I am certain there are many similarities between middle-way men and women, I feel that both the costs of leaving and the costs of staying can be very different for women.  For example, even though staying can be very, very difficult if you are directly facing discrimination (instead of witnessing discrimination against others), I have come to know many women in online communities that feel strongly about staying because they want to improve the status of women in the church.  I think part of the reasoning behind this is that true change can only happen if it comes from within the group that wants the change.

          • Beatrice
            April 5, 2012 at 7:43 pm

             or I should say “from within the group that the change directly impacts.”

          • April 10, 2012 at 7:49 pm

            Amen Beatrice. Thought I’d throw in this quote from Sonia Johnson as a thank you to Jared and other feminist men I know “It is time for us to ask and expect our husbands, our fathers and brothers, our male friends, the public figures and famous men who say they care about justice for women to make sacrifices for us, to take risks, professionally, economically, emotionally – in all ways.”

    • April 10, 2012 at 7:52 pm

      I feel like my benefit to staying is really about helping the women in my direct contact protect themselves from the harm of patriarchy. I actually think the greatest way to change the Church’s treatment of women is for a mass exodus. What says women aren’t happy as much as no more women at church? Its a gamble though for sure…

  23. April 5, 2012 at 7:25 am

    I just want to express how moved I am that people are finding this episode so helpful, and that feedback is so positive. The subject of multiple approaches to Mormonism is sensitive and easy to misunderstand, and we as panelists are really putting ourselves out there, so it means that much more that our offering is well received. 

  24. CatherineWO
    April 5, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    Thank you, Jared, for continuing the discussion with your many comments. I would love to see a Mormon Matters podcast focussing on middle way Mormon women. I identify with Katrina’s comments about the high cost of participation. I simply cannot engage with it right now. Yet, the cost of leaving is also great when my husband, children and grandchildren are all relatively active in the Church. It helps that I have a very sympathetic husband, who sees very clearly the discrimination against me personally and against women generally on every level of the Church, but I feel so torn. Sometimes it is easier to just bury the emotion, but here I am discussing it again. Emotionally, I cannot stay, but I seem just as incapable of leaving. Thank you for  your understanding and your willingness to share your knowledge, wisdom and experience.

    • April 10, 2012 at 7:57 pm

      Catherine, more women then I expected feel the same way. Just not enough support. I really think we are on the brink of something in Church history with respect to women and both women who stay and women who leave are contributing to that change!

  25. April 7, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    I am not sure if I agree with the issue of harm being the dividing line between standing up for a belief or not. This has probably already been mentioned, I didn’t read through all the comments, but one issue I was thinking of in regards to Jared’s comments about openness and honesty is the issue of information that is asked for versus information that is not. If I walked into a mosque, no one would think it disingenuous of me to not tell them all I disagreed with their beliefs, in fact, it would be rude and disrespectful. But if someone asked, do you agree with us and I replied ‘yes’ that would be disingenuous. Also disingenuous would be if I were to get up and tell the audience I believed like them. At the same time, if I were to attend a Mosque and someone who is obviously not a Muslim, there would not be the tacit sense of me approving of and confirming my belief in their doctrine. But if I attended every week there might be. However, I still don’t think it would be appropriate for me to voice my disbelief, EVEN IF I thought their beliefs caused harm. If I showed up at their Mosque every week and made a critical comment every time they said something I believed was harmful, I think instead of being full of integrity, I would just be a dick. I think at a certain point the right thing isn’t to be ‘genuine’ or ‘sincere’ at other people’s expense. If you are going to choose to participate with a group of people you disagree with, I think one should either stay quite unless asked or not attend. 

    • April 7, 2012 at 9:33 pm

      I hear what you are saying, but I think there are different ethical criteria if you join a group with limited disclosure (not saying that is already wrong) or if you *already belong* to that group and are trying to manage it the best you can. 

      If you inherit a worldview, you don’t need to buy it. 🙂

  26. April 7, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    I am not sure if I agree with the issue of harm being the dividing line between standing up for a belief or not. This has probably already been mentioned, I didn’t read through all the comments, but one issue I was thinking of in regards to Jared’s comments about openness and honesty is the issue of information that is asked for versus information that is not. If I walked into a mosque, no one would think it disingenuous of me to not tell them all I disagreed with their beliefs, in fact, it would be rude and disrespectful. But if someone asked, do you agree with us and I replied ‘yes’ that would be disingenuous. Also disingenuous would be if I were to get up and tell the audience I believed like them. At the same time, if I were to attend a Mosque and someone who is obviously not a Muslim, there would not be the tacit sense of me approving of and confirming my belief in their doctrine. But if I attended every week there might be. However, I still don’t think it would be appropriate for me to voice my disbelief, EVEN IF I thought their beliefs caused harm. If I showed up at their Mosque every week and made a critical comment every time they said something I believed was harmful, I think instead of being full of integrity, I would just be a dick. I think at a certain point the right thing isn’t to be ‘genuine’ or ‘sincere’ at other people’s expense. If you are going to choose to participate with a group of people you disagree with, I think one should either stay quite unless asked or not attend. 

  27. April 10, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    I’d just like to say that I appreciated Andrew’s contributions to this podcast! It was a great balance of perspectives. 

  28. Eric Wadley
    April 17, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    I loved Dan’s throwback’s to Gene England’s take on tension within the church. Frankly it is one of the few redeeming qualities that I can see as a reason that I need to stay within the organization – however it must be recognized, as I think someone pointed out, that sometimes that tension can tip from constructive tension to destructive – which has happened to many – our culture and this damn bureaucracy has to change, it is just too harmful right now for too many.  Maybe 40 years ago I could have thrived within uncorrelated Mormonism but its sucking the life right out of me now. Anyway thanks guys for another quality podcast! 

  29. Lizanell Boman
    May 3, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Jared,  I love the idea of a religious idiolect (Although I confess I had to look it up to fully understand it)  I think we ALL have our own way of living Mormonism but it is a matter of degrees. (Haha! I started writing this while I was listening and actually wrote that RIGHT before you said that there were degrees to it)  Lots of great discussion in the thread here as well.  Personally, I’m ready to start the Jared Anderson fan club!

  30. Hopefully Observant
    May 15, 2012 at 11:41 am

    New to MormonMatters, enjoying the variety of thought and debate. Thank You.

    It’s interesting, in that I have lived in two countries, and five states (west coast, mid-west and southwest) during my Church tenure of  28 years. I have been active the entire time. I have been a part of and observed countless gospel discussions, classes, meetings, seminars, home teaching sessions, etc during this time, including a full time mission and leadership positions.

    My experience has been that there are huge differences in what the various members in different areas understand and believe to be church doctrine! It does not appear to be a function of length of membership, age, education or other easily discernable factors.

    It seems that decades of correlated curriculum may give the appearance of universal standards and beliefs but I do not think that’s the case. The bottom line is that people who consider themselves as active members in good standing think that others in the church really know and believe what they do, they just don’t mention it much!
    There is a certain harmony that evolves amongst those who serve one another, become friends, etc that is hard to quantify and explain.

    Clear as mud, right?   

  31. Drewskione
    June 17, 2012 at 1:14 am

    I am a 23 year old Catholic making a switcharoo to the LDS Church in late July.  I have a melange of the views I have heard on this podcast, but what makes me peculiar is that as a “middle-way Mormon” of sorts, I am asking for a baptism, not a temple recommend.  

  32. JBS
    January 4, 2013 at 8:35 am

    Everything about the temple drives me away from literalism and towards metaphor and symbolism.

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