396–397: Spiritual Journeys Outside of Mormonism

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

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

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

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Links forthcoming

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9 comments for “396–397: Spiritual Journeys Outside of Mormonism

  1. Maria Florez
    June 23, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    Hello ! Thank you for inspiring information. I really enjoyed the fellowship displayed by the participants. Keep up the quality work.

  2. Martha Castillo
    June 23, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    I have to say that this podcast was very emotional as well as interesting. Emotional because it is nice to hear how someone’s journey in life has brought them closer to God. No matter how hard the trails in life are, these gentlemen continue to speak to God and ask for continued help. They are living proof that now matter how low in life you feel you are, God is always there to lift your up again, all you have is ask, give all your fears, troubles and burdens to him and he is there to listen.

    This podcast was very interesting to me because it is amazing to hear someone so well verses and appreciated of the Mormon faith when they were raised completely Catholic. It is a breath of fresh air to hear how open minded they can be to other Religious Faiths. I look forward in hear more from both Pastors.

  3. Shawn
    June 24, 2017 at 11:40 am

    I haven’t had the chance to listen to these interviews yet. But, did you contact any of the Orthodox parishes in the SLC/surrounding areas? Seems like there might have been some better options for interviewees. Also, consider checking out http://mormontoorthodox.blogspot.com for more stories.

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      June 28, 2017 at 7:06 am

      Hi Shawn, this episode really isn’t/wasn’t about the Orthodox church but faith journeys. One of our guests simply is ordained in that tradition. Also, I try every time I can to keep the podcast from being too Utah-centric, and Salt Lake-centric especially! 🙂

  4. Carla McClure
    June 25, 2017 at 10:06 pm

    I second the comments from Maria & Martha. Thank you, Dan, for continually bringing us interesting people and ideas. And thanks to your guests for their willingness to share their experiences and insights. I took a long walk by the Kanawha (can-awe’-uh) River here in West Virginia as I listened, and I witnessed one of the most magnificent sunsets ever as they were discussing how being in Nature can put you in touch with the spiritual. Serendipity. Wish I could upload the photo I took.

    When I got home, I wanted to post about this episode on my Facebook page–then quickly realized that many of my church friends there might find this conversation worrisome or even disturbing rather than inspiring, so I shared it only with those I knew would appreciate it and benefit from listening.

    I need to check my account to make sure I’m still a donor. It just occurred to me that I haven’t checked for a while. I would hate to think I’m getting the benefits without supporting the podcast. Take care.

  5. June 28, 2017 at 7:40 pm

    This was a very interesting couple of episodes, mostly because, yet again, it was soooo foreign and unrelatable to my experience.

    I will say, Dan, that I appreciated your pushback to Tom and Marty that not everyone has the sorts of spiritual experiences that they have had, but I don’t think they really got it. (And to be fair, I don’t think they *can* get it. They have, as you pointed it out, always had it, so their entire spiritual journey is based on first having an independent spiritual grounding apart from institutional religion.)

    But obviously, I cannot understate this — this doesn’t happen for everyone. This isn’t something everyone can choose. People can try to pray and meditate and read the scriptures and do whatever else, but it doesn’t always lead to any sort of spiritual experience.

    Telling people to have hope in God is a nonstarter when God doesn’t seem to want to communicate with everyone the same — because when someone doesn’t have direct experiences, then what can happen is that their only indirect evidences of God is from what they’ve seen and experienced from often abusive or dangerous ecclesial and institutional structures. (I know that both Tom and Marty discussed that one shouldn’t trust in the arm of flesh, and I get that theoretically. I’m just pointing out that for some people, there will be no way to tell what is the arm of flesh vs what is anything else because the arm of flesh is palpable and real, and God is opaque and hidden. Not only that, but the arm of flesh will insist that it is authoritative for God. For many people, entire lives will be socialized to believe that the arm of flesh speaks for God and those people will have nothing else to contest that because *they have access to people but they don’t have access to spiritual experiences.*)

    At some point in the podcast, one of them mentioned that when some people lose hope, then suicide becomes possible. And that if people had a grounding in their own worth in God, then they wouldn’t give up like that.

    But let me paint an alternative picture: I see that when people have hope in destructive theologies, and they don’t fit in with those theologies, then suicide becomes possible. I’ll bring up the big guns — we’ve got the November exclusion policy for Mormonism, but really, it’s decades if not centuries of heteronormativity rejecting LGBT folks. For lots of folks, their only understanding of God and spirit is what they have heard from their church and the scriptures, etc: that they are objectively disordered and fundamentally flawed.

    I offer an alternative path: what happens if these people can reject the strictures of religion and spirituality? They can come to develop their own values and their own self worth rather than abdicating it to an institution or to concepts of spirituality that rejects them. To me, the sort of grounding or structuring of faith was when I *stopped* trying to force faith. When I was able to say, “I don’t have to listen to what other people say or think,” then I was able to get rid of a lot of negative thinking that was coming from people’s theologies and doctrines.

    Tom says that if life is good, then God is good. but when God is hidden to you, then therefore tying goodness to God, then goodness will be hidden to you.

    But if you can say: no, I’m not going to tie goodness to God, then you can seek it and search for it in front of you!

    I think so many people fall apart in faith crisis not because they have rejected God, but because they have been taught that goodness must be tied to God. And so, rather than recognizing that morality and flourishing can be accomplished without a church, without spirituality, without theology, that’s what leads to “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”

  6. Father Tom Roberts
    June 29, 2017 at 6:54 pm

    With all due respect, Andrew, has missed the point of the entire interview and discussion. I’m posting a response not so much as a reaction but to tell others why understanding other faith journeys is so important. No one sees his/her life as we stated, exactly the way it is. C.K. Chesteron stated if you don’t know the teachings of others, you don’t understand your own faith journey. Yes, each faith community has its own jargon. However, Latter Day Saint Christians should resonate with claims of others about the one true church, apostasy and disfellowshipment. My prayer was that others would understand the expulsion from one’s own faith tradition. Obviously, minorities and oppressed people of any type can take on a defensive posture and not understand what is really being said and what could benefit their growth by listening to other viewpoints. I’ve debated with love and respect high priest from covens and had loving discussions with wicken priestesses. We respected each other for the development that went into each of our vocations. We learned a lot about we thought we knew about the thought process of others. Even the moderator’s statements about God working in all traditions was not properly understood by Andrew. In our culture, we are loosing common decency and respectful dialogue between each others as humans in our journeys. Even if we have to go back to nothing else but our common humanity, this might help our culture make a fresh start. Understanding others is not based on agreement but proper listening, asking questions and gleaning information. It is my sincere hope and prayer that podcast such as these can help in that process. As a priest, it is a violation of my oath not to stand for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I do so because of the Lord I’ve been called to serve not for any man’s religion. Sincerely, Father Tom

  7. June 30, 2017 at 8:52 am

    However, Latter Day Saint Christians should resonate with claims of others about the one true church, apostasy and disfellowshipment. My prayer was that others would understand the expulsion from one’s own faith tradition.

    I totally agree with this. I think there’s a lot of stuff exmormons recognize from reading and hearing stories from ex-JWs, ex-muslims, and so on. And there are commonalities about faith crises in each of these religious groups (and others) that help to explain why folks in these traditions often tend to reject religiosity in general.

    Dan’s project with Mormon Matters seems (whether overt or covert, but I’m pretty sure he’s been explicit about it in several episodes) is to model forms of spirituality where one gains independence from one’s tradition without leaving it — having an anchor in the spiritual that allows one to cope with the imperfections of human institutions, as it were.

    I am just pointing out that one of the things we can point out as a commonality is that “folks who stay” seem to have very different sorts of experiences with whatever they will call deity — and that these experiences are not voluntary or chosen, and so often not replicable or generalizable. What this means is that, when you are hoping to change culture or have respectful dialogue or whatever, if you assume these kinds of experiences are available to everyone (regardless of whatever you call it), then that is a grave misjudgment. At best, you cultivate an ecumenism or interfaith dialogue that can only go so far as to have theists circle around to lament about how atheists are just so mean and just don’t get it.

  8. Father Tom Roberts
    June 30, 2017 at 8:43 pm

    Dear Andrew, It seems like some of your protests has to do with the pre-programming that religious traditions and all human entities promulgate to some extent. As we grow in life, I believe we should become more responsible for what we accept and what we reject. I’m sure this is an individual matter that each person has to decide for him or herself. We grow in stature and responsibility. We are instantly born with it. I read atheist literature and read symposium speeches from atheist academics. I have been enriched from their perspective. Sometimes we need to understand the opposite or more moderate ends of the compendium to help us balance and understand our own point of view. May our opinions be open to responsible scrutiny and may we treat each other with dignity which comes from personal maturity and security. Thank you for the tone of your response. Best wishes always, Father Tom

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