360: Faith and Doubt: Balancing Truth, Goodness, and Beauty

ogden-book-coverDoubting our long-held views of the world, especially if firm faith positions are part of it, is a high stakes matter. Not only do enter into a new relationship with one’s own whole way of thinking, which is stressful enough, but family dynamics and friendships and our social groups most often also begin to feel different. We’re now different, and we need to reorient in ways that incorporate our new views. But many times family and other loved ones fail to understand what we’re going through. We often fail to understand what we’re going through! It all feels so big, so dramatic. It is hard to manage these changes gracefully.

Is there help? Are there different ways to frame what we and they are going through as we find ourselves shifting from familiar pathways and interpersonal dynamics? Jon Ogden has written a terrific book that just might help. Called When Mormons Doubt: A Way to Save Relationships and Live a Quality Life, it reminds us of deep wisdom we often forget. Invoking the Ancient Greeks and moving us forward in time, Ogden highlights three key values and ways of understanding—Truth (the realm of philosophy), Goodness (ethics—what is moral, how should I act?), and Beauty (aesthetics, experiential knowing, judging between things)—that often become out of balance with each other. In “faith crisis,” truth often leads out (how does what I am leaning match with “Reality” or what I previously held as true?). But in that struggle, we’ll often leave the other ways of knowing and judging behind. How can we avoid that?

In this episode, Jon Ogden is joined by Jeralee Renshaw and Kim Puzey, who along with Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon engage in a lively discussion of these important areas and how they can inform various aspects of our faith struggles. But mostly it is a conversation that hopefully presents four Latter-day Saints who have come to appreciate all three values and have incorporated them in a balanced way into their own lives and spiritual journeys. Hopefully you’ll find them to make good sense and this episode something that might assist you as you transition into these new ways of seeing the world and being with others.

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Link:

Jon Ogden, When Mormons Doubt: A Way to Save Relationships and Live a Quality Life, 2016

 

Comments

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15 comments for “360: Faith and Doubt: Balancing Truth, Goodness, and Beauty

  1. Kajsa Berlin-Kaufusi
    December 15, 2016 at 11:16 am

    Listening now while I put away laundry…thank you for your dedication and passion. It has impacted me for the better.

    On a lighter note-taking you for giving a part-time academic full-time mamma some brain food:) I have 2 boys under 3. Finding catharsis for my pent up desire to discuss and consider can be difficult!

  2. December 15, 2016 at 11:36 pm

    I loved this podcast but I have a quibble with terminology because I think it confuses the issue a bit. I’m not sure truth is the write word when describing one of the three legs holding up the foundation of a balanced life. Truth, goodness and beauty sound good and it’s poetic and it makes sense but only when you distill all of the common uses of truth out of it and leave with it only this sort of academic, empirical view of reality.

    I take issue with that because even in this discussion I heard the term truth used in different contexts that I think confused the conversation – for me anyway. When Jeralee said small t, truth, verses big T truth, she was getting at, in my opinion something different then I think Jon implied when he was using the word.

    I think, maybe the better word would be knowledge perhaps? And I think truth is the encapsulation of all three of these things – knowledge, goodness and beauty and if that is correct, I think testimonies at church make more sense with this notion of truth. I can say I know the church is true when I really mean I had a transcendent experience with God while participating as a Mormon in some way, an experience Ogden categorizes as beauty but then leads someone into a truth statement which I think has merit.

    And if truth is something that sits above the three – knowledge, goodness and beauty, then it puts all endeavors into the game of seeking truth – art, religion, science, etc. Just different tools, used in different ways and in different contexts all helping us to push forward into understanding the world.

    • Jeralee
      December 16, 2016 at 1:43 pm

      Thanks for your comments Scott! I think you may be right, that my use of “truth” may have been confusing. As you know, in our online discussions as well in trying to talk about this word, we often have difficulty in describing what it means, as that does seem to vary from one individual to another.
      What I was trying to describe is that “Truth” no longer has the same meaning, depth, importance to me as it once did, and so I do not put all my value there, and that seems to have been helpful to me.

      • December 16, 2016 at 4:14 pm

        Thanks Jeralee, it seems though that for Jon Ogden truth mattered more than it does to you? If you equate truth with academic knowledge and curiosity as he does as a necessary third leg required for a balance life? There is a bit of a de-emphasis here in that compared to someone whose whole foundation stands on very specific religious truth claims that determine salvation and eternal happiness and I think that’s also who Jon Ogden is directly addressing (having not yet read the book).

        But I guess I’m wondering if there is yet a third way of looking at it?

        Or really, I’m suggesting there doesn’t seem to be a strict understanding or agreement of what we mean when we use the word truth and that is causing a lot of misunderstanding and confusion and I felt that even in this podcast discussion to a degree.

        I kept thinking in my head “precision in language” having just recently read “The Giver” with my kids :-).

        • February 6, 2017 at 10:41 pm

          I actually agree with this. When Dan related this to the big three areas of philosophy, i was personally thinking that the alignment should be epistemology, ethics, and aesthetics…and epistemology really is about knowledge, not “truth”. (Each of the three are about truths…but epistemology is truths about knowledge, ethics is truths about the good, and aesthetics is truths about the beautiful.

  3. Matt
    December 16, 2016 at 10:20 am

    Great discussion. I enjoyed the perspectives from all those that participated.

    Perspective/paradigm is the driver of any faith transition and I think Jon’s model is a valid and very useful way of looking at religion and life.

    One thought that came to my mind is that it seems to me that the structure of the Church seems to cause men and women to have different experiences in their religious experience.

    Priesthood classes tend to primarily focus on Truth and knowledge with some tangential references to priesthood duty, which we could probably relate to goodness. Beauty is not much of the equation.

    Relief Society tends to have a good balance of them all. Truth is a focus during instruction, goodness is found in visiting teaching, and beauty is supported through organic service projects and consistent activities.

    I may be wrong, but it does appear this way to me.

    Thanks again for the great episode,

  4. Terri
    December 21, 2016 at 9:26 am

    One of my favorite episodes! I really enjoyed hearing from Dan, Jon, Kim, and Jeralee. When I take a break from church and listen to podcasts like these, I think, “ok, I can make this work. I will just focus on working to meet people where they are and lift where I stand,” as Jeralee eloquently said. I also loved the Clayton Christensen example. But, then I go to church for a few weeks and hear the consistent messages of truth claims being of primary importance, sustaining the brethren (which I interpret as doing everything they say no matter what) and duty. Maybe it depends on the ward experience, but the type of goodness that was discussed in the episode, while certainly there in the church, the ward, is not in the fore. So, then I think that I will make it my objective to put it in the fore. But, I just get discouraged because I’m consistently bumping up against these other more duty-bound, truth-bound paradigms. Then, I’m like, Why do I even bother? If all they want is for me to sustain the brethren and testify that I know Joseph Smith was a prophet, then what am I here for? Maybe I’m just lazy and don’t want to push it or stand out. I don’t know.

    I have an extremely difficult time with the “my way or the highway” mentality in general and in religion in particular. When I was 100% active and believing, I also had a problem with it, but I think I was able to reconcile it with the thought that we are doing so much good, it outweighs any of this thinking. I don’t know why this thought doesn’t resonate with me anymore after my faith transition. I really struggle with making being active work for me and I haven’t found a way yet.

    I really loved this episode though and the different thoughts and views that were shared and look forward to reading Jon’s book! Thank you!

  5. Brad Christenson
    December 22, 2016 at 5:29 pm

    Periodically I come out to Mormon Stories/Matters to see what has happened to the Mormon paradigm I left a couple of years ago and see what John and Dan are now peddling (hehe). Thank you for this insightful discussion, it is always provoking to be inspired to think more on concepts I feel I have already come to some terms with and realize I’m not quite done. Having grown up in Salt Lake City in the 60s and 70s in a non-Mormon household (very much an outcast in that era) and then converting at age 20 (dang pretty Mormon women) serving a Mission at 21, Temple marriage at 27, kids and all the rest (callings, Temple ordinance worker for many years etc.) until now at 58 I am once again on the outside. When I read or hear of others struggling with family as a result of their departure, I feel lucky that as the only member in my family it was so easy to leave. Those in the faith were quick to divorce me in case I had something contagious, and my family who had always accepted me still did and do. I have had many experiences I would call spiritual, but I was raised by an atheist (Mormon hating) mother, and feel I have had many of these special out of world feelings in and outside of Mormonism.
    I don’t normally comment on podcast although I have a lot of gratitude for all the efforts, thank you all – this one sparked me – mostly the references to it will all work out in the eternities and we shouldn’t conclude all is lost forever. I appreciate the sentiment but this seems to be in conflict with the core faith, the difference in the degree of effort/reward paradigm, the condescending view that the one truth once left will damn forever etc. Having had two of my three children leave first it has been an interesting journey. I come from a great educated/intellectual family, and never really bought in to the theory that only the best and most honest people will find Mormonism, the others are just not chosen enough view because the best people I knew were on the outside. Having sat lonely in the temple as the only member of my family on my wedding day should have been my first clue as to what a dividing doctrine us and them really is. Once we doubled down on our judgement for the LGBT community I knew what I had always felt to be true, I was raised to be and always would be on the outside.
    Anyway sorry to ramble but I just want to say the three legs can all be found to their fullest outside of the faith. Mormonism has no patent on good, god, truth, goodness or beauty. I have felt all of those things inside the faith and most certainly outside the faith as well.

  6. Sarah
    December 23, 2016 at 7:12 pm

    I really liked this episode and could relate to much of it, though possibly in a different way than some. Near the end when they talked about the examples of marriages and how someone has made it work I saw so much in that. I am the believing spouse of a transitioning member. I can see how if my husband was never able to see the beauty and goodness I value in the LDS faith how hard that would have been, and how likely I would have been to double down and dig my heals in. Yet when we were both able to concede that the other has real and valid points we could start to find (and deepen) the relationship that we have. I am a member of a facebook support group for spouses of people going through a faith transition. I see this over and over (and over and over in myself too…) When there is no room for finding goodness, beauty or truth in each spouse relationships and families are weakened and destroyed, when there is, no matter where each spouse ends up worshiping (or not at all) relationships and families grow and thrive

  7. December 27, 2016 at 10:19 am

    Thank you Dan for including a couple of older voices in this podcast. Not that you never include the stories of 60 plus people, but frequently the focus is with the younger generations. There are many of us baby boomer parents who have faithfully taught and trained our children in the church, supported them on missions, given hours and hours of service in the church only to see our adult children with the internet and life experience slip away into inactivity and faith crisis. We raised five thoughtful accomplished daughters and sons where the Book of Mormon was read aloud together as a family every year through out their years in our home. They are still great people, but now only two are fully active. So, I listen and hope and pray that the faith crisis we are experiencing individually and as a family is taking us to a better place. The community of the church is still a place where true service can be given, and hopefully we are growing to become more inclusive, less dogmatic, and less judgmental.

  8. Tiani
    January 5, 2017 at 3:50 pm

    I decided to start with this podcast before listening to the more in-depth Kim Puzey podcast (I still haven’t heard the next one, but I definitely will). Let me just thank each of you for a terrific podcast. Each of you had real gems to share. Thanks for writing your book, John. It all sounds good, but one of your examples was particularly helpful to me. Jeralee and Dan, I have met you each briefly, at different times, and of course have been exposed to many of your words, but each time I actually listen to a good conversation, I feel like I get to know you better, and it’s nice. Kim B. Puzey, I’ve never met you, have enjoyed many of your words online, but this was my first opportunity to really hear you. What a treat! I look forward to the next podcast.

  9. RonB
    January 11, 2017 at 6:17 am

    Excellent podcast. I have purchased the book and want to thank John for writing it. As always, you all have helped me think and seek understanding. Thank you Dan for your podcast, looking forward to many, many more.

    • RonB
      January 11, 2017 at 6:36 am

      Sorry Jon. I didn’t mean to misspell your name.

  10. February 6, 2017 at 10:50 pm

    I’m only partway in this episode, but I wanted to say a thought struck me when I was listening on.

    It seems to me that not only can individuals be out of balance, but religions can be as well. This was touched on a bit in the discussion, but Mormonism as a religion prioritizes beauty. That is, one knows the truth by one’s spiritual experiences.

    So, in Mormonism, faith crises need not just a crisis about facts. Obviously, it can be a crisis of beauty too (learning about things moves one to horror, as was discussed).

    But it could merely be a lack of spiritual experiences. Since those are so heavily prioritized, then doing all the ‘right things’ and getting only silence back can itself be demoralizing.

    It seems other faith traditions can do a better job of having more of a balanced perspective. Like, for how “inaccessible” the traditional Christian God (“Gawd” from the other podcast episode) is said to be, there’s a lot more rigorous “logical” “truth” arguments for that kind of God than are typically seen for Mormonism.

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