Mormon Matters Back to Full Functionality!

MM logoI am really pleased to announce the Mormon Matters website (and other features) have returned to full functionality following nearly a month of hell as we (along with all but one of the Open Stories Foundation websites were hacked and affected by malware). I am incredibly grateful to the hard work of John Dehlin and others he worked with in increasing our security protocols, updating the ways we loaded content to iTunes as well as to this site, etc.–though everything from your viewpoint here at Mormon Matters site should now work the same as before.

Two quick notes:

1. For those who subscribe to Mormon Matters and download episodes from iTunes or other podcast servicing systems, I am hearing that some of you need to now re-subscribe. We are so sorry for this inconvenience!

2. In rebuilding the site, we had to used cached content that necessitated our having to re-launch our most recent episode, 333: Mormonism and Future Generations (originally launched 2 June 2016). So it now shows a different release date.

Thank you for the many queries and worries and good wishes these past weeks from so many of you! It is so gratifying that you enjoy and value the conversations we host here at Mormon Matters.

333: Mormonism and Future Generations

Future MormonIn a wonderful new book, Future Mormon: Essays in Mormon Theology, Adam Miller sets his spirit and intellect loose on the important task of helping clear away debris and then suggesting some possible new framings for Mormonism that might appeal to coming generations. As he writes in the Introduction, “Every generation must live its own lives and think its own thoughts and receive its own revelations. And, if Mormonism continues to matter, it will because they, rather than leaving, were willing to be Mormon all over again. Like our grandparents, like our parents, and like us, they will have to rethink the whole tradition, from top to bottom, right from the beginning, and make it their own in order to embody Christ anew in this passing world. To the degree that we can help, our job is to model that work in love and then offer them the tools, the raw materials, and the room to do it themselves.”

In this episode, Adam MillerRosalynde Welch, and Jim McLachlan join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon for a discussion of Future Mormon and various themes in Adam’s thinking. What common question asked and heard in Mormonism seems too thin to lead us to “load-bearing” answers that might serve us well in the midst of “white knuckle” prayers? Is “truth” static, sitting in God’s mind or heart like a vault waiting to be opened and shared, or is the ideal approach to truth something more dynamic, something that calls on us each, in our lives, to “make” an idea or movement true, to see how far a truth can carry us? Are there more powerful ways to think of “grace” beyond its role in the Atonement and questions about our salvation? Have we in Mormonism skipped over some elements that the apostle Paul might claim are essential, “Christianity 101” kinds of things—and how can these animate our lives in fresh and powerful ways? The discussion moves fast, and at times perhaps might seem a bit too “insider-ish” (as the four panelists talk about things in a book most listeners will not have read), but those moments quickly pass and this is an immensely enjoyable conversation.

Please help continue the conversation by sharing your thoughts and questions below!


Adam S. Miller, Future Mormon: Essays in Mormon Theology (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2016)

Adam S. Miller, Grace Is Not God’s Backup Plan: An Urgent Paraphrase of Paul’s Letter to the Romans (2015)

Adam S. Miller, Rube Goldberg Machines: Essays in Mormon Theology (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2012)

332: Mercy

Mercy Matters coverMercy is a fundamental tenet of the Christian gospel and its descriptions of the attributes of God, and it certainly is a topic familiar to Latter-day Saints. But how often do we actually reflect upon it? Do we imagine it as simply a quality and an characteristic of God that we, too, should strive to attain and embody? Do we mostly think of it only in relationship to the Atonement and God’s grace?

In a wonderful book, Mercy Matters: Opening Yourself to the Life-Changing Gift, Mathew N. Schmalz, a Catholic theologian and teacher, as well as a frequent conversation partner with Mormons (including here on Mormon Matters), speaks of these things but also explores mercy in many other deep and compelling ways. What is mercy’s relationship to reconciliation with others, with “letting go” of ego and our desires to be right, with compassion? How might mercy interact in revealing ways with freedom, dignity, kindness, and truth? In the realm of our relationship with God, how does mercy mesh with forgiveness, suffering, death, and life? Mercy Matters explores all of these topics, but for a theological book, it does it in a very unusual way: it is not at all abstract! Instead, it is completely immersed in Schmalz’s own life, featuring reflections on incidents (many very difficult and not the sort of things one typically expects an author to reveal about himself) as well as on various moments of mercy he has experienced. It is personal, and vulnerable, and all the more powerful for it. I highly recommend this book–as do Fiona Givens and Alonzo Gaskill, my conversation partners, along with Mat Schmalz, in this episode. I believe you will enjoy our discussion very much.

Please listen and then share your reflections and questions in the comments section below!


Mathew N. Schmalz, Mercy Matters: Opening Yourself to the Life-Changing Gift (Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, 2016)

331: Reflections on Two Recent Talks and the Online Reactions They Generated

Excerpts from two talks by prominent General Authorities (one by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, and the other by Elder Richard J. Maynes) have in the past two weeks generated a lot of buzz in certain online forums that many listeners to this program would be familiar with, most of it negative or sarcastic. The reactions came mostly to a few sentences from the talks, presented online largely without wider framing, and sometimes placed as part of memes designed to heighten the impact of the quotations and their being read in a particular way. The memes and presentations themselves suggest how a viewer or reader should react to the words being quoted. But is this a fair—”virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy”—way of presenting ideas, especially those with which we have an issue? Is it fair to the speaker? To the readers? Is it deliberate dissembling? Those who write or pass these along generally know that what they are doing is presenting to some degree a caricature of a speaker and her or his presentation, something deliberately distorting, and they also know that many who encounter the meme or quotations will most likely react the way the intend and very seldom will themselves chase down the fuller context.

In this episode, Kristine Haglund and Jon Grimes join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon to explore the two talks in question and what unfolded online. They each certainly take exception to things said in each talk, the way they were said, or in some other way wish various ideas had been presented differently, but they also attempt to give much fuller context to the speeches, their settings, and other factors that mitigate against much of the full-on negative or exasperated reactions that unfolded. The conversation also takes important turns in other directions, for instance toward the way Latter-day Saints (and others) read or use scripture, as well as about the nature of religious experience and how humans tell of them.

After closing the conversation with the two panelists, Dan Wotherspoon then speaks for a few minutes about another recent talk, the BYU commencement address by Elder L. Whitney Clayton, that he feels also suffers from distortions in certain online conversation about parts of it.

Please listen and then share your questions and comments below!


Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, untitled address to Tempe, Arizona, LDS Institute, April 2016

Elder Richard J. Maynes, “The Truth Restored,” worldwide devotional address given 1 May 2016

Eugene England, “On Spectral Evidence,” originally published in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26, no. 1 (Spring 1993), version here from the Eugene England Foundation website

See below for link to the version of “Where Can I Turn for Peace?” by Chelan Hunt Clason recorded for the new Mormon Matters podcast bumpers


330: Mormonism’s Jesus

Mormon Jesus coverJohn G. Turner’s recent book, The Mormon Jesus: A Biography (Harvard University Press, 2016) presents a wonderful overview of the various ways Mormon scripture, leaders, and lay members understand Jesus Christ—and how these views developed over time, and why. As a non-Mormon historian and scholar of religions, Turner approaches this subject in a way not easily imitated by LDS scholars, seeing things about the teachings about Christ in the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible, and other texts through lenses and thought frameworks that are unencumbered by decades of Mormon interpretation or assumptions that they will all be consistent with each other. Tackling not only LDS scripture, but also messages about personal religious experiences, the role of prophets as mouthpieces for Christ, changing views about the Second Coming, understandings of Jesus as our “elder brother” and the “son of God,” as Jehovah of the Hebrew Bible, whether or not Jesus was married and the place of Second Anointings in LDS theology, and also Mormon depictions of Jesus Christ through various artistic media, Turner presents a rich and interesting array of ideas, controversies, and official (as well as folk) beliefs and the story of their development. Mormonism, for Turner, is thoroughly Christian, with many of its ideas about Christ congruent with (or with roots in) at least some lines of thought in wider Christianity, but with others quite striking or unique.

In this episode, John Turner joins a podcast favorite, historian of LDS doctrine Charles Harrell, and Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon in an engaging discussion of several of the books’ subjects and arguments. As always, we discover that Mormon doctrine is not  straightforward, nor did it evolve to its current positions via a clear revelatory path—which is just one reason it is always so fascinating!

Please listen and then share your comments in the discussion section below.

First time users of the World Table comment system will need to sign up with a link to their Facebook or Gmail or another system, and afterward will be able to comment and respond in regular ways (but with additional options to evaluate the discussion).


John G. Turner, The Mormon Jesus: A Biography (Harvard University Press, 2016)

John G. Turner, Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet (Harvard University Press, 2012)

Charles R. Harrell, “This Is My Doctrine”: The Development of Mormon Theology (Greg Kofford Books, 2011)

329: Addiction and Recovery Series—Part 4: Being an Addict and Mormon

This episode, the fourth in the Mormon Matters series on Addiction and Recovery, features the stories and insights of two wonderful people, James Cottrell and Bill Casper, whose journeys with addiction and recovery intersect in nearly every moment with their Mormonism. All guests in this series have been LDS, and what was just said above about the intersection between their addictions and religion applies in many ways to all of them, but in this episode we make it far more a focus than in the previous three. And it yields quite interesting results, especially on the topic of “confession” and getting “right” with one’s  church—something the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous suggests but that often does not receive much emphasis in contemporary AA circles. In this case, James and Bill speak openly about how important this step was for them in their recovery and their growing confidence that it will continue—recoveries that previous featured re-lapses (in James’s case, largely, he feels, because he had skipped this step). Raising this question here led to a conversation about confession to ecclesiastical leaders in general that went into places that we don’t often talk about in the Mormon Matters community of listeners or in similar circles. More than in the previous episodes in the series, James and Bill go into the spiritual transformations they have undergone in the process of their recovery, the power of the various steps in facing addiction, the importance of meeting with others going through similar things, and much more.

Warning: This episode features “tire meets the road” Christianity.

Please listen and share your thoughts in the comments section*** below!

***This episode marks the first one in which we’ve shifted exclusively to the World Table commenting system. We are one of twelve blogs taking part in beta testing this new way of working toward improved online conversation. Prior to your first post, it requires a very quick sign-up (just a link to a Facebook, Google account, etc.) and then you’re ready to go, and you won’t ever have to sign in again for this or other World Table system sites. I hope you will enjoy being part of this experiment that we hope will one day become the standard for all websites that hope to have a higher ratio of thoughtful posts in their comments section!