104: Growing Up Mormon—and Fearless

The three guests in this Mormon Matters episode grew up in faithful, committed Mormon homes. In important ways, however, these panelists’ homes were different than what many listeners of the Open Stories family of podcasts experienced growing up in the way that these homes welcomed any and all questions about the faith and encouraged reading and exploration and working through difficult issues. Each home was highly orthoprax—there was no question of commitment to LDS standards, attending church, accepting and serving faithfully in callings—but what a family member had to believe was wide open. For them, Mormonism featured a wide array of ways to orient to the tradition or to God, and the set of claims one had to accept to truly be a Mormon was very small. What was it like to grow up in these homes? What messages about gospel “roominess” or what it means to be “Mormon” did these panelists absorb? How much of the way the parents in these homes did things have found their way into these panelists’ lives as they raise their own families now or think ahead to when they will have children?

I am extremely grateful for the generosity of heart and spirit of panelists Kristine Haglund, Jordan Kimball, and Katie Davis Henderson in sharing so much of their lives in this episode, and I am thrilled to present our conversation to listeners. These are issues that truly hit home for so many of us who are raising children while we are, at the same time, wrestling with our own faith and relationship with God and life’s biggest questions. We hope to teach them “fearlessness” in their spiritual lives but wonder exactly how open we should be with our children about our own struggle toward this type of faith. We want our children to have their own faith journeys, but at the same time we are not sure we want them to experience the sort of “crisis” that accompanied what many of us have or are going through. These are “tire meets the road” issues, indeed. May this podcast episode be a great conversation starter!




17 comments for “104: Growing Up Mormon—and Fearless

  1. Jeralee
    June 14, 2012 at 9:28 am

    Love this, so, so great!  Kristine, Jordan, & Katie, you were a great panel, and I appreciated so much of what you all shared.  I am diving right back in to listen again as I want to deeply incorporate some of the ideas you shared here.  Great job as usual Dan my friend!

  2. June 14, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    What a great conversation. I especially resonate with Kristine’s point of view. I loved her story about reading the scripture in Psalms with the phrase “the beauty of holiness.” I had a similar experience with this scripture when I was 19. I also have a heavily aesthetic point of view when it comes to the church, I have my most spiritual experiences through music and text. Thank you, Kristine, for your thoughts and your story. You are a wonderful role model for me as to the kind of Mormon woman I want to be. 

    • June 14, 2012 at 9:06 pm

       Thanks, Ingrid–always nice when a long digression turns out to be useful 😉

      • Dan Wotherspoon
        June 15, 2012 at 11:06 am

        Too fun that you also were thinking it was a digression, Kristine. I definitely wondered about cutting it, but I really loved your part at the end about your having a connection to Christian liturgical music and regular spiritual experiences as you took part in the daily chapel services at Harvard and how this helped you handle some of the frustrations about what you encountered in LDS settings. I think that’s such a key piece for those struggling: are we feeling connected with something lovely and larger than ourselves? Having these doses of spirit adds amazing perspective and charity when we encounter stuff less than ideal. Anyway, for those reasons, I couldn’t cut! Now glad Ingrid to see that Ingrid found something else very cool in that section!

  3. June 15, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Record for shortest Mormon Matters podcast?

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      June 15, 2012 at 10:58 am

      We always aim for 60 to 70 minutes–finally hit the target! 
      Did you enjoy the break from the 2-hour+ usual?

      • Larrin
        June 15, 2012 at 4:35 pm

        I’m not against long podcasts, but as you say the break is nice. I really liked the podcast. Very fascinating differences from the standard conservative Mormon family I grew up in.

    • June 15, 2012 at 11:12 am

       Dan wisely decided to end before midnight, when I become a punchdrunk idiot and ramble on even *more* incoherently than this!

  4. Meagan
    June 16, 2012 at 8:11 am

    This was a great conversation.  The timing was ideal since this question has been by far the biggest for me since my faith transition (which is still pretty fresh and raw).  I really wanted something concrete as to “here is how you do it” so that I could implement that with my children, who are young and super impressionable.  I’m clearly still adjusting to the whole colorful world of uncertainty and ambiguity.  It’s becoming more comfortable and I just have to give so much of the credit to podcasts like this and guests that are willing to share their experiences.  It has been a serious gift to me.  So thanks!

    I would like to ask Katie if she could elaborate on her comment at the end about sarcasm, if she wouldn’t mind providing an example of how that impacted her and what message she received because of her father’s sarcasm.  If that’s too personal, that’s ok!  I was just intrigued by that comment.  

    The other day my 5-year-old daughter wanted to read the “My First Church History” book and so we began reading it and there is a brief story about the translation of the Book of Mormon.  The picture is of Joseph Smith putting his finger on the plates with his left hand and a feather pen in his right hand as he is translating.  Pretty misleading.  But my daughter is five, so what does she know about the process of translating?  What do I know, for that matter?  Not much, but I decided to use that moment and just start the conversation about what little we are aware of about the translation process and for starters: Joseph had multiple scribes.  🙂  

    My point about that story is to ask the panelists: how do you choose to handle moments like those where something is portrayed inaccurately and your child hasn’t necessarily asked the question (because they don’t know enough to even HAVE a question)?

    Thanks again for a wonderful podcast!  Dan, the work you are doing is so helpful and I am so appreciative.  And I actually love the long podcasts–the longer the better.  It helps me look forward to doing the laundry and dishes. 🙂

    • June 17, 2012 at 7:11 am

       Meagan–that’s a great question, and I don’t think I have a great answer. I think in that situation, I’d try to watch my child for cues–is she interested in that picture? Is this a part of the story she’s paying attention to? If it’s a book she wants to read over and over, then there are likely to be opportunities to address it. If it’s not, if it’s just a casual read, I might let it go, and just make sure that there’s a family home evening lesson somewhere down the line where the history is taught more fully.

      And I guess that’s another point I should have made, but didn’t–it’s not very important to me to “debunk” the stuff the kids might hear from their Primary teachers, but it _is_ important to pro-actively teach the gospel as I understand it, and make room for family discussions. Being super-observant with things like Family Home Evening and family scripture study, ironically, provides the best structure I can think of for being a little subversive 😉

  5. Daniel Bartholomew
    June 17, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    I thought this was a very good podcast and an interesting listen.  Thanks!

  6. Jeff
    June 20, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Kristine –

    I really enjoyed your previous talk about your father where he in turn talked about beauty, aesthetics, and imagination.

  7. June 20, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Thanks for doing this, Dan–this was the way I grew up, with two thoughtful professors as parents that had Dialogue and Sunstone sitting around and weren’t afraid to talk to us about our concerns and thoughts, and it’s great to hear people with this type of background be more fully highlighted.  It’s a rather selfish thought, I know, but it’s great to see public recognition of my own upbringing as a valid one that I often need to explain or deconstruct in online Mormon conversations.

  8. Laura Long
    June 28, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    Thanks for this EXCELLENT podcast!  I was attracted by the title, “Growing up Mormon–and Fearless.”  The title drew me in because I have realized over the past several years that fear has always been (and continues to be) a huge element in my Mormonism–fear of not being “good enough,” not “believing enough,” or of “asking hard questions.”    In listening to your panelists, it dawned on me that I grew up in a very different type of home.  My dad was a non-attender and NON-orthoprax Mormon (although fantastic man!) for the first 18 years of my life.  My mom, on the other hand, although a wonderful, loving person, and an active church member, could simply not abide a serious, questioning conversation about the gospel. 

    Therefore, as a kid/teen I was left to my own devices and some conversations with friends to try to figure out all the questions I had.  I felt as if to stay a member, I had to “shelve” things, and so I did.  Fast foward 30+ years later, and a severe family crisis has completely “unshelved” every question I ever had, and thus completely deconstructed my faith.  However, in listening to these speakers, I realize part of my current problem may be that I never had the permission or chance to ask the kinds of questions I’m asking now in any sort of supportive faith environment.  

    No final answers yet–just rethinking some things in a healthy way as a result of your ideas. 

  9. Jessica Bischoff
    July 4, 2012 at 9:49 am

    I really enjoyed this. The comments by Jordan and Kristine about letting their kids ask their own questions was especially useful to me. Also, the idea, from Kristine’s life, to question and doubt certainty. Thanks guys!

  10. Chaste_and_Benevolent
    July 14, 2012 at 7:18 am

    Interesting podcast. Thanks.

    I remember the first time I heard the quote from Hugh Nibley, to the effect that as long as he obeys his priesthood leaders, a good Latter Day Saint was can believe whatever he wants.

    It reminded me of a novel I read years ago, in which a newly acquired slave tells his master, “I may have to obey you, but you can’t make me believe anything.” To which his master laughingly replies, “As long as you obey me, why should I care what you believe?”

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