327–328: Explorations in Depth—The Two Lost Sons and Growing in God

Phil McLemoreThis episode departs from the typical Mormon Matters pattern in that it features a conversation with just one guest rather than a panel. But what a guest! Philip McLemore is a former CES instructor who then served for twenty-one years as an LDS chaplain in the Air Force and then another eight years as a hospice chaplain. During these times he underwent a dramatic spiritual transformation that was instigated and nurtured by a his beginning a serious meditation practice. Ultimately he was ordained within the Kriya Yoga tradition, which was brought to the U.S. and the west by Paramhansa Yogananda, and Phil now teaches meditation (in person as well as online) that is quite typically eastern in the form of his practices, but with the teachings centered primarily on the mystical and yogic path and the resources for it that abound within Christianity and Mormonism.

In today’s conversations, Phil and Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon explore in depth insights from two sources that Dan refers to quite often in Mormon Matters episodes as matches between these and that week’s topic come up. Dan’s interest in both things come from Phil—one is his reading of the Prodigal Son parable, which is better named the Parable of the Two Lost Sons—and the other is a five-stage model of spiritual growth and changing/deepening one’s relationship with God that Phil developed and that draws upon scriptural labels and metaphors for each stage.

Part 1 (Episode 327) overviews Phil’s journey from Mormon convert at age 19 to where his present interests, spirituality, and practices are today, and then does a deep dive on the Parable of the Two Lost Sons.

Part 2 (Episode 328) begins with an exploration of patterns and models found in great religions (including Mormonism) that ultimate culminate in ceremonies and then (hopefully/ideally) transformed lives that find a perfect balance of femaleness and maleness and the energies associated with them. This is preparatory work for the introduction of Phil’s five stage model, which culminates in what he names the “Beloved” stage, a mystical union with God. As Phil states in the podcast, friends share, but lovers unite.

These are powerful conversations with insights that might very well be pointers to “the” ultimate task of life, the kinds of transformations through which we find the divine nature unfolding within us. Let us know what you think! Please share your thoughts and questions and insights through the World Table commenting system below.

______________

Links:

Philip G. McLemore, “Mormon Mantras: A Journey of Spiritual Transformation,” Sunstone, April 2006

Philip G. McLemore, “The Yoga of Christ,” Sunstone, June 2007

Philip G. McLemore, “Hindering the Saints: Taking Away the Key of Knowledge,” Sunstone, September 2012

Meditate with Phil” website (to explore a five-part seminar on meditation and various philosophies and approaches; also to sign up for a monthly subscription with several important benefits)

The Hymn of the Pearl,” from The Acts of Thomas. (Gnostic Society Library version).

Excerpts from “The Hymn of the Pearl” plus Carol Lynn Pearson’s poem “Within,” a handout prepared by Dan Wotherspoon for sharing in LDS circles.

326: Addiction and Recovery Series—Part 3: One Family’s Story of Overcoming Pornography Addiction and Its Negative Effects

Ashlynn and CobyThis episode, the third in our Mormon Matters Addiction and Recovery series, features another hopeful story, though it takes us through some very dark times before focusing on the light and healing ultimately found. This story, told by Coby and Ashlynn Mitchell, and aided by series co-host Bill Turnbull, takes us through Coby’s twenty-plus year addiction to pornography (which had its roots when, at age seven,  he was first introduced to a friend’s stepdad’s pornography collection), its effects on and following his mission, its pervasive influence in the first fourteen years of his and Ashlynn’s marriage and the ways it interfered with their ever really experiencing true intimacy, its role in his engaging in two inappropriate and sexually tinged emotional affairs, as well as Ashlynn’s suffering the devastating effects of betrayal trauma. It also gives an account of their recovery processes, healing aided by terrific specialized therapy, the establishment of good, new habits for relieving physical and emotional stresses, as well as aid that came in interesting ways from Coby’s mother who had been dead for several years. It also addresses spiritual growth and new discoveries about the Atonement and its effects in our lives as we seek to forgive ourselves and others, and when we finally choose to surrender to it, to actually “experience” it firsthand (something far different than how we normally think we “understand” it). Finally, Coby and Ashlynn share their story of ridding themselves of shame, so much so that much of their lives now are dedicated to being open about their experiences and assisting others going through similar struggles.

This is a fantastic conversation. I know you will gain much from it. I sure have! Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below!

_____________

Links:

Elder Dale G. Renlund, “Latter-day Saints Keep on Trying,” April 2015 General Conference talk

Short video of Coby’s story

Ashlynn’s Story: Why I Stayed after He Cheated, Fight the New Drug website

Ashlynn and Coby’s website

Ashlynn and Coby’s Facebook page

Email address to contact Ashlynn and Coby

 

325: Addiction and Recovery Series—Part 2: Effects on an Addict’s Family

This episode contains a hopeful story, though one difficult to hear in all of its details. Ultimately the marriage of Christian and Kelle Smith has survived the horrible ordeal of Christian’s addictions to pain medication, and eventually to other drugs and methods he used to escape paralyzing anxieties. And, in many ways, their marriage is much stronger and far healthier than it was before things got really bad. But it is still, six years-plus into Christian’s sobriety, very much a work in progress. It is a privilege to listen in as they share their stories and wrestlings, and we wish them continued healing and trust. We can all learn so much from them about addiction, about ways to watch that we are not enabling the addicts in our lives to continue in their self-defeating behaviors, about discovering self-worth, about what makes genuine relationships (with spouse, children, extended family, and more), and most especially about the spirituality and strength that can come from fearless honesty and finding and accepting God’s and others’ love.

I am grateful to be joined again by my co-host in this multi-episode series on addiction and recovery, Bill Turnbull.

Please listen and share your stories and thoughts in the comments section below. We highly encourage you to try the World Table commenting system. In the coming weeks, we will switch to its being our only one.
___________

Links:

President James E. Faust, “The Power to Change,” Ensign (November 2007)

Inspire Addiction Recovery

Alcoholics Anonymous (Big Book), online edition

Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (paperback)

 

323–324: New/Old Wisdom from Mormonism and Other Traditions for Facing the End of the World

Charles Shiro Inouye has just written a fantastic book, The End of the World, Plan B: A Guide for the Future (Greg Kofford Books, 2016). In it, he demonstrates how the most popular ways of framing Apocalyptic narratives—as a violent and cataclysmic event that makes clear the triumph of justice in which the wicked are punished and the righteous rewarded—does not actually match the fullest view on this subject as taught by the great world religions. Justice as the supreme virtue reigning over the end of all things has never been the main point, nor is it the best understanding of that virtue. Certainly it is important, but justice is intended to ultimately lead us toward compassion and a viewing of the world and its inhabitants, human as well as other forms of life, as God does, or as Dharma or the Tao attempt to call us toward. Apocalyptic teachings—with the word “apocalypse” referring to the great “revelation”—whether applied to the final end of the world and human inhabitants, or to our own end of the world that comes with our death, are instead designed to lead us into self-examinations of the world’s conditions, what justice would demand, including its implications for our lives, our own complicity in suffering or unfairness that comes from our communal lives, as well as the sobering realizations that agency will always make it impossible for us to ensure that our children will choose our same values as theirs. The teachings are not to make us feel smug that we’ll the “saved” remnant when the final bell might toll for the earth. Instead, what justice is designed to do, ultimately, is to lead us through sorrow to a state of coming to recognize as our own state of being what it is that God sees, and to then turn in compassion toward those not yet understanding the true nature of reality and the highest forms of fulfillment. It is to call us to be “saviors on Mount Zion,” to the path of the Bodhisattva who postpones her or his own entrance into Nirvana in order to be with and teach and model compassion to all forms of life, to the “hero’s journey” described by Joseph Campbell and others that is and embodied in so many stories the world over and in every generation of the one who passes through trials and sorrows, learning from each challenge how she or he has falsely identified with various aspects of life that have prevented their true nature from fully shining forth, only to then come to grasp the life of the Gods and then return to her or his community as a teacher/savior. “Plan B” encompasses learning and turning of these sorts. It is a powerful way of understanding so much that is compelling at the heart of the great world religions, so much that is on the path of a genuine spiritual adventurer.

In this two-part episode, author Charles Shiro Inouye joins Charles Randall Paul, James McLachlan, and Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon for a discussion of these elements present in the great traditions, and which serve–whether distant or immediate–as a call to us all, as something we recognize in our deepest core as the common denominator of our spiritual heroes. Toward the end, the panelists also speak of connections and differences between eastern ideas about “non-attachment” and “nothingness” and LDS (and other western) notions of “eternal” families/relationships. Are there also connections between these concepts and the call of Zion for its members to be of “one heart and mind”?

We hope you will listen to this episode and then share your ideas and questions in the comments section below. We encourage you to use the World Table comment system as Mormon Matters will soon be switching to it exclusively.

To learn more about the World Table system and its purposes, please view this short video.

___________

Links:

Charles Shiro Inouye: The End of the World, Plan B: A Guide to the Future (Greg Kofford Books, 2016)

If you purchase this book via the link above, a small portion of the purchase price will go to support Mormon Matters. Please shop away, and while there on Amazon via this portal, purchase more things (your shopping for other things will also aid the podcast). Thank you, so much!

322: How Does Apocalyptic Thinking Factor into the Recent LGBT Policy Change and Reactions to It?

In the three months since the Church announced its new policy regarding LGBT persons and their children, we seem to increasingly encounter talk among LDS leaders and members that seems integrally tied to aspects of Christian and Mormon thinking about the Apocalyse: the end times prophesied to be proceeded by great calamities as well as the choosing of sides, a separation of the sheep from the goats, a time when even the very elect can be deceived, a time of judgment against the wicked and triumph for the for the good. Does the continued (or increased) presence of rhetoric associated with the “end times” help explain how the new policy might have found such a clear path into LDS policy, as well as how easily it has been accepted by many within the fold who don’t understand the need for it themselves but choose not to speak up about it as much as they might otherwise? How is the notion of a looming Apocalypse affecting the way certain messaging around LGBT (and other) controversial issues are framed? Is it aiding in the creation of a stronger notion of in- and out-groups, LDS “identity,” and other forms of boundary maintenance? Is this a new phenomenon, or simply a continuation of ways other controversial and seemingly challenging issues have been talked about in the past? If we so desire, how might we counter the effects of such thinking in today’s Mormonism?

 

Please listen to this discussion between two fantastic thinkers and church watchers, Mark Crego and Jason Nelson Seawright, and Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon and then share your thoughts in the comments section below!

_________

Links:
B. Stanley Benfell III, “Watching,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26, no. 3 (Fall 1993), 143–150.

Dan Wotherspoon, “Through These People,” Sunstone 142 (September 2006), 11–13.

320–321: Addiction and Recovery—Part 1: Personal, Family, and Spiritual Dynamics

In this two-part episode, the first in a Mormon Matters podcast series on the many dynamics of addiction and the processes of recovery, often including positive spiritual growth, Bill Turnbull, a missionary in the LDS Addiction Recovery Program, co-hosts with Dan Wotherspoon a discussion with Preston Dixon and Tyson Dixon, two brothers who are both recovering addicts with LDS backgrounds and who now work full-time assisting others in their recovery. In the conversation, the brothers share their own stories of both their addiction and recovery processes, as well as teach about the physiological effects of addiction that can really us understand why stopping the behavior isn’t simply a matter of will power. A very interesting and powerful aspect of their story is how it is also a story that involves their entire family learning to examine its own dynamics, not only as these contributed to a shaming environment from which Preston and Tyson sought to escape through drugs, but also ways they could assist in their recovery—to staggeringly positive results. The conversation focuses a great deal upon the spiritual power that can come into one’s life as a person fearlessly faces his or her own struggles and where her or his own life, unaided by the Spirit, has led them. It also introduces listeners to 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, along with the LDS Addiction Recovery Program.

This is a powerful episode, the first of several to follow on various types and aspects of addiction and recovery. Please listen and then share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below!

Links:

12 Steps to Change (LDS Church video series). Preston Dixon is featured in Step 2 video.

Landscapes of the Mind,” Mormon Channel video on the brain and addiction as a disease. Hosted by Dr. Kevin McCauley

Renaissance Ranch (LDS-based Drug and Alcohol Treatment)

Renaissance Ranch Outpatient Program

Alcoholics Anonymous (Big Book), online edition

Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (paperback)