401–402: The Uncontrolling Love of God—Talking Theology and Community, and Meeting a Fellow Traveler in Thomas Jay Oord

This two-part episode features a wonderful conversation with Thomas Jay Oord, an author, teacher, theologian, and elder in the Church of the Nazarene. Jim McLachlan and Brittney Hartley join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon in dialogue with Oord, exploring various ways he views God and us as human beings that have great similarities with Mormon ideas (though they also explore key differences), but positions that also have left Tom in somewhat lonely territory within his faith community. These are also positions, along with his tremendous popularity with students, that have led to his being laid off by Northwest Nazarene University, where he has been teaching for fifteen years. As Tom and the panel reflect upon this painful exile, they note how he is in company with many other faithful and committed teachers and theologians within both wider Christianity and Mormonism who have faced similar dismissals.

But don’t listen to this episode because of this difficulty! Listen instead for the gorgeous and compelling theology Tom presents, especially as he speaks about Love being the primary attribute of God. Along the way, learn about the open theism movement of which he is often grouped, but with whom he differs in key areas. Hear his views about many topics, and when they resonate (and how) with Mormonism, but also his gentle questioning of them and also things about LDS theology and organizational structures that he struggles to see how he might embrace. Hear him reflect on being somewhat marginalized within his church and see if his thinking about “why” he chooses to stay very much engaged with it.

This is a wonderful and engaging conversation. Warning to all who listen, however: You will likely very soon be spending money on one or more of his books! (Which, hopefully, if you do, you will click on the links here on Mormon Matters, and will in that way be supporting the podcast through a percentage it will earn from shopping Amazon through the links or the button on the right side of the page!)



Thomas Jay Oord, The Uncontrolling Love of God: An Open and Relational Account of Providence (InterVarsity Press, 2015)

The Uncontrolling Love of God discussion group

Thomas Jay Oord, Defining Love: A Philosophical, Scientific, and Theological Engagement (2010)

Thomas Jay Oord, The Nature of Love: A Theology (2010)

William Hasker, Thomas Jay Oord, Dean Zimmerman, eds., God in an Open Universe: Science, Metaphysics, and Open Theism (Wipf & Stock, 2011)

Forthcoming book of essays (which includes James McLachlan from this conversation: Uncontrolling Love: Essays Exploring the Love of God, Lisa Michaels, et al, eds. (SacraSage Press, 2017)

Website: thomasjayoord.com

Wikipedia entry for Thomas Jay Oord

Daniel Wright Wotherspoon, Awakening Joseph Smith: Mormon Resources for a Postmodern Worldview, Ph.D. dissertation, Claremont Graduate School (1996)

400: “Yep, We’re Fringe . . . and So Are You!”— Rejecting Toxic “Acceptability” Scripts Sunstone Style!

The 2017 Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium convenes in two weeks (July 26–29), and this episode introduces some of its highlights. But far more than just that, two of Sunstone’s leaders—Lindsay Hansen Park, and Sunstone magazine editor Stephen Carter—speak candidly about the new directions Sunstone has been moving in lately, and the new identity it is embracing. And it is also an identity that many listeners to this podcast will find fascinating and empowering for themselves in their individual lives within the Mormon tradition. Rejecting the foundation’s past attempts to try to bend its focus to convince people that it is not primarily is a group of Mormon misfits who negatively influence the wider LDS Church, it has completely tossed damaging scripts that play over and over in wider Mormonism about who is “in,” who is “out,” who is “heretic,” “apostate,” or a “real” Mormon, etc. Instead it is embracing the motto that “There are many ways to Mormon.” It recognizes the individuality of paths within the Mormon tradition and invites all to come and share about their journeys, beliefs, peculiarities, and spiritual cores. If you’re able to speak well and respectfully of others, Sunstone welcomes you to its gatherings and to submit pieces to be considered for publication. It will no longer play identity games that ultimately only benefit institutions rather than individuals. And just as Sunstone embraces all ways to Mormon—active and fully engaged in the LDS church, post-Mormon, ex-Mormon, fundamentalist Mormon, member of the Community of Christ or groups who separate from the Salt Lake headquartered church, or individuals who are in any other way shaped in some way by the Mormon tradition might think of themselves—might we also consider this attitude and path for ourselves? What might our Mormon journeys look like if we truly internalized the message that our way of “Mormon-ing” is just fine.

Listen in as this approach and embrace of every path (whether others consider it “fringe” or not) is laid out. Along the way you’ll learn more about the history of the Sunstone organization and its development alongside key moments in the past four-plus decades of Mormon history, including those brought on by the emergence of the internet and other things that have led it to seek new ways of connecting with Mormons. And, if you’re interested in learning more about its 2017 Salt Lake symposium and some of its key sessions, and other details such as how to register and how to purchase audio of the sessions should you not be able to attend (or that you missed because there were so many good ones happening concurrently!), you will not be disappointed. Those come in the final third of the episode.

398–399: Staying Actively Engaged in Mormonism

This two-part episode is a co-release with the Mormon Stories Podcast. It is a discussion that took place on 29 June 2017 in front of a live internet audience featuring John and Margi Dehlin interviewing (and conveying audience comments and questions for) Jeralee Renshaw, Mark Crego, and Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon. Jeralee, Mark, and Dan are three of the moderators of the Facebook group, “A Thoughtful Faith Support Group” as well actively engaged members of the LDS Church. The interactions between the panel, hosts, and audience range from subjects such as “How is it you have managed to stay actively (and happily) engaged with Mormonism while knowing what you know of the issues and complexities that trouble so many people?”, to questions about the Facebook group and interactions there, to assessments of whether or not it is more or less difficult to remain engaged as a Mormon with nuanced views at this time than in the past, and much more!

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


Links forthcoming

395: Spiritual Mentors and Heroes

Most of us have someone special in our lives, or with whom we’ve become acquainted through reading or listening to, whose spiritual insights, wisdom, compassion, and ways of carrying themselves and meeting the world stand out for us. Some will truly be spiritual mentors for us, others more like heroes. But no matter if it is an intimate personal relationship or not, we are grateful for their influence and for the way they’ve helped us imagine a life and relationship with God or the universe, and shown us approaches to questions and difficulties, that we can aspire to find for (and within) ourselves.

In this Mormon Matters episode, host Dan Wotherspoon interviews three friends—Jana RiessBridget Smith, and Charles Randall Paul—about their mentor/hero. What is it about them that they most admire? How has this person’s influence shaped their own spiritual journey? What ways of being or insights did they share that most affects their own life and thought? What books or works of these people should podcast listeners find if they want to explore more about this person?

Please enjoy this wonderful discussion! Share your reflections, ideas, and questions in the comments section below!

Phyllis Tickle: Essential Spiritual Writings (Orbis Books, 2015)
Phyllis Tickle: Evangelist of the Future (Paraclete Press, 2014)
“Emergence Christianity and Mormonism,” Mormon Matters (podcast episodes 123–124), August 29, 2012 (episode 123 features Phyllis Tickle, Brian McLaren, and Jana Riess)
Phyllis Tickle, Emergence Christianity: What Is It? Where Is It Going? and Why It Matters
Phyllis Tickle,
The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why
Phyllis Tickle has many books on the Divine Hours (fixed prayer practice). Too many to list here. Please visit Amazon.com through the portal on this website to find them.
Jana Riess, Flunking Sainthood (blog)
Jana Riess, Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor (Paraclete Press, 2011)
“The Next Mormons,” Mormon Matters (podcast, episode 337), July 22, 2016

Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

Bennett Ramsey, Submitting to Freedom: The Religious Vision of William James (Oxford University Press)
William James, A Pluralistic Universe (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017) or choose another edition. There are several.
William James, Varieties of Religious Experience (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013) or choose another edition. There are several.
Dan Wotherspoon, “A Real Fight,” Sunstone, May 2004 (mentioned in the episode; second half of the essay deals with William James’s sense that we each have important things to contribute to the world)

393–394: Does “Certainty” Hinder Living Faith?

Living faith is a growing faith. It is faith in a living God. It is trust in a trustworthy being (or beings). It is striving to align ourselves with a will conveyed to us by a wise and loving God. In many ways, through a person’s experiences with the Divine, living faith can be “certain” about the existence, goodness, wisdom, and compassion of this Source, but so often we want more. We want exactness. We want to be able to describe and be certain about every detail about God, the Plan for us, how to be “saved,” etc. And we are even encouraged to strive for this kind of certainty. But this encouragement is too often misunderstood as a striving for a certainty of “this” or “that,” or a certainty of “what,” but is that as important as a certainty that comes with a relationship with a “Who” that surpasses all other beings? Can our striving to be “right about God” and these other things actually hinder our ability to truly know God?

Christian theologian and author Peter Enns thinks so, and many Latter-day Saints through their own faith journeys and evolution have also come to feel less certain about “certainty about” God and more certain about paths God wants them to follow, paths that they feel are leading them to truly embrace the full and abundant life that Christianity, including Mormonism, teaches about.

In this two-part episode, Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon is joined by four wonderful and thoughtful Latter-day Saints—Jeff ChristensenDoug ChristensenJana Spangler, and Jay Griffith—for a discussion of these and several other issues related to the problems of “certainty,” some of it based upon Enns’ book, The Sin of Certainty. It’s a fantastic discussion, rich in insight, and includes stories from each of their own lives and faith journeys. Don’t miss it!

NOTE: Upon first release of this episode, the majority of Part 1 (Episode 393) did not play in both speakers (ears). This has been corrected. But to access it as it should have been initially, you can either refresh this screen (Mormon Matters podcast) and use the play button on the site, or re-download it via iTunes or whatever podcast app you use. So sorry for this hassle!  Dan Wotherspoon


Peter Enns, The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires Our Trust More Than Our “Correct” Beliefs (HarperOne, 2016).

Peter Enns, The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It (HarperOne, 2015).