415: “That We May Be One”: A Gay Mormon’s Perspective on Faith and Family

In his new book, That We May Be One: A Gay Mormon’s Perspective on Faith and Family (Published by Deseret Book), Tom Christofferson shares his story of coming to terms with being gay, leaving Mormonism for several decades, and then deciding to reunite with his beloved faith community. Along the way, it tells of his remarkable family and their reactions to his coming out and fully embracing as part of their family his longtime partner, a ward and stake in New Canaan, Connecticut, that welcomed him and his partner with open arms even though there was no sense, given their relationship, that they’d join the church, and a wrenching decision that followed when Tom felt called to seek baptism again and enter into full fellowship with the Saints. The book, and this interview, shares intimate peeks at Tom’s spiritual life, his hopes for what might open up within Mormonism as he shares his story so publicly. Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon also queries Tom about difficult doctrines in Mormonism that can and seem to present obstacles to the church’s fully embracing LGBTQIA members, as well as worries from people who know Tom’s basic story but fear it will be used by certain LDS parents as the new standard for their own gay children: “If Tom can return to stay Mormon and be celibate, so can you.”

Please listen and enjoy getting to know this wonderful, spiritual, open-hearted man.
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Links:

Tom Christofferson, That We May Be One: A Gay Mormon’s Perspective on Faith and Family (Deseret Book, 2017), paperback

Gregory Prince, “Science vs Dogma: Biology Challenges the LDS Paradigm of Homosexuality,” Tanner-McMurrin Lecture, delivered 27 October 2017, Salt Lake City Utah

Watch video here
Read manuscript here

414: (Encore) Engaging Constructively with General Conference

The October 2017 General Conference season is upon us. Having started last weekend with the Women’s session, it continues September 30th and October 1st with four general and one priesthood session. For many who have undergone (or are undergoing) a shift of faith, engaging with general conference can sometimes be a difficult experience. Because of new perspectives we’ve gained, it’s impossible to avoid certain changes in attitude toward conference talks and proceedings. For many of us, these are healthy shifts, emerging from spiritual growth and increasing confidence in what we believe God is calling us toward. Yet it takes quite a while to “normalize” in this new way of viewing conference and the role and abilities of prophets in guiding the church or serving as God’s mouthpieces. We can listen respectfully, yet with eyes wide open to the human beings called to these roles and the mixture that is their words and ideas in conjunction with what they sense God is leading them to speak about. But for others of us, especially those in the early years of a faith shift, or for whom some very large change has come into their life or who have become quite activated about certain topics, conference talks that don’t match what we’d ideally like to hear can be very upsetting. 

In this episode, we are treated to thoughts about conference from Carol Lynn Pearson, Patrick Mason, and Mark Crego, three wonderful, experienced church members and conference watchers whose experiences over the years have matched those of many listeners. At times each has felt in great harmony with what is shared in conference, at other times quite devastated by it. But by pushing through, they have gained good awareness of what conference is and is not, what we might reasonably expect from it, and how to celebrate the wonderful talks and not over-react to the ones that disappoint or can even feel to them spiritually dangerous. We hope through listening you can have an engaged and constructive conference weekend. 

413: The New Plan for Relief Society and Adult Priesthood Meetings

On 25 August, the Church announced a new plan for Relief Society and Priesthood meetings to begin January 2018. Instead of focusing two weeks each month on lessons drawn from a teachings of the prophets manual (this year studying President Gordon B. Hinckley), those two weeks will focus on recent conference addresses, but will allow each individual Relief Society or quorum to choose which ones to focus on. The first week of the month will now emphasize counseling together about local issues and needs. And the fourth week will take on a topic outlined by the general church leadership, with the November and May issues of the Liahona and Ensign alerting us to those topics and providing guides and ideas for studying them.

This episode gathers three wonderful church watchers to talk together about this new plan. Stephen Carter, Cynthia Winward, and Walt Wood join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon to discuss how each of these elements of the new plan might unfold. What do they think are the best features? What are their hopes and dreams for those? What drawbacks do they foresee, and how might we mitigate against them?

In the second half, Stephen lays out two different models for church teaching–one that we usually default to in our gatherings together, which he calls the “hermetic” model; the other, which only occasionally rises up but which he hopes can become much more the norm, that he calls the “exploratory” model. The whole panel then reacts to this new ideal and shares ways they can see those of us in the internet Mormon world aiding in its coming into being.
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Links:
From lds.org:

“Church Announces ‘Come Follow Me’ for Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society”

“A New Sunday Experience,” FAQs about the new program

“379–380: Effective Teaching in the Church,” Mormon Matters, 6 April 2017 (featuring Stephen Carter and Kristine Haglund)

Dallin H. Oaks, “General Authorities Teach General Rules,” video clip of a section from, “The Dedication of a Lifetime,” delivereed May 1, 2005.

Stephen Carter, “How to Use the Total Perspective Vortex in Your Very Own Sunday School Class,” Sunstone, March 2005

412: Announcing the October 2017 Mormon Matters Retreat

This short episode, a conversation between Natasha Helfer Parker and Dan Wotherspoon, offers descriptions and registration details about the upcoming Mormon Matters Retreat, to be held in Salt Lake City October 13th–15th. You can also find more information here.

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Retreat basics:

Schedule:

Friday (13th): 6 to 10 pm

Saturday (14th): 9 am to 9 pm or later
(includes lunch and dinner, and entertainment afterward—much of it starring you!)

Sunday (15th): 9 am to 5 pm (lunch included)

Cost: $200 per person; $350 per couple (even two friends or family members deciding to register together). This is a significant registration fee reduction from previous Mormon Matters and other Open Stories Foundation retreats.
To register, click here. Thank you!

Scholarships: If you cannot afford to pay to attend, or can only swing some of the cost, please inquire abut partial or full scholarships and volunteering. We are working hard to encourage people to donate funds for others to attend, and we are happy to put you on a waiting list to see what might unfold.

If you would like to donate a scholarship (or two, three, etc!) or put any amount toward the scholarship fund, please click here.

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We look forward to seeing you at this event! We know it will be something everyone will really enjoy as well as receiving great perspectives, renewed energies, and making new friends!

_______

Listen here

Announcing an October 2017 Mormon Matters Retreat

A MORMON MATTERS RETREAT!

“Understanding and Navigating Healthy Perspectives and Journeys within Mormonism”

Led by Dan Wotherspoon, Ph.D.
Natasha Helfer Parker, LCMFT, CST,
13 – 15 October 2017, SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH

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Many of us find ourselves a bit outside the Mormon norm but still feel committed to continue our journeys as engaged members of the church, or we are committed to a spouse who chooses this. This retreat is focused on building community among and strengthening Mormons like us in the following ways:

• Navigating faith development in adulthood, including the integration of new and enriching perspectives within a less-traditional Mormon paradigm

• Creating and nurturing healthy relationships with family, friends, and loved ones, especially in light of faith and worldview differences

• Finding ways to full and healthy sexuality

• Raising children in ways that encourage them to have confidence and depth as they negotiate various Mormon terrains

• Finding friends/community who have similar outlooks and can offer support
____________


To register for the retreat: click here. (After registering, participants will receive more detailed information about venue, parking, lunch and dinner options, etc.)

Cost: $200 per person; $350 per couple (even two friends or family members deciding to register together). This is a significant registration fee reduction from previous Mormon Matters and other Open Stories Foundation retreats.

Scholarships:
If you cannot afford to pay to attend, or can only swing some of the cost, please inquire abut partial or full scholarships and volunteering. We are working hard to encourage people to donate funds for others to attend, and we are happy to put you on a waiting list to see what might unfold.
If you would like to donate toward scholarships, please
click here! Thank you!

Schedule:

Friday (13th): 6 to 10 pm

Saturday (14th): 9 am to 9 pm or later
(includes lunch and dinner, and entertainment afterward—much of it starring you!)

Sunday (15th): 9 am to 5 pm (lunch included)

Contact and Further Information:

For questions about meals or other logistics:
Lorri Wotherspoon: lorspoon@gmail.com

To learn more about retreat content, purposes, what to expect, or to inquire about possible scholarships that would allow you to attend:
Dan Wotherspoon: dan.wotherspoon@me.com
Natasha Helfer Parker: nhelferparker@gmail.com

We look forward to seeing you at this event! We know it will be something everyone will really enjoy as well as receiving great perspectives, renewed energies, and making new friends!

410–411: (Encore) Theologies of Nature: Mormon Resources for Thinking about Natural Disasters

This is an encore presentation of a podcast conversation we had in April 2011 on the heels of the then-recent Japanese earthquakes and tsunamis. With Hurricane Harvey currently devastating Houston and surrounding areas, it’s as timely now as it was then. Are there theologically and pragmatically healthy discussions to be had within Mormonism about nature, and especially natural disasters? Often we hear claims that the upheaval and suffering caused by earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, tornados, famine, and the like are “God’s will,” that God is sending a message through these events. And certainly there is certainly scriptural precedent for that view, and even modern prophetic utterance. But are there other, more nuanced and perhaps more ennobling ways to frame natural disasters within a theistic worldview? And if there are ways of seeing these upheavals that can lead to increased faith or broadened and deepened spirituality or love for God and the world, are any of these healthy approaches hinted at or embedded in particular Mormon views and practices?

We know you’ll enjoy this dynamic discussion between Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists George HandleyDuane Jeffery, and Joanna Brooks. We encourage you to also visit and contribute to this episode’s blog discussion.