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.
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.
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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!
B. Stanley Benfell III, “Watching,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26, no. 3 (Fall 1993), 143–150.
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!
This episode is the second part of a co-released (with Gina Colvin and A Thoughtful Faith podcast) podcast discussion with Patrick Mason and Boyd Petersen based upon ideas contained in Patrick’s book, Planted: Belief and Belonging in an Age of Doubt. Whereas Part 1 covered discussion points found primarily in the book’s first five chapters, this episode centers on themes and arguments in Chapters 6 through 10.
In this episode, the discussion centers primarily upon God’s call that we “give heed” to the words of his prophet, and by extension all others called to be prophets, seers, and revelators, but to do it “in patience and faith” (D&C 21:5). In other words, God knew ahead of time that he was calling fallible human beings to these important roles, and that our interactions and wrestles with their words and teachings would require our great patience. The panel discusses this instruction, as well as the wider definition and scope of the term “prophet,” and whether all prophets have the same calling and function in the same way. They also discuss a choice (perhaps unconscious and certainly understandable) members of the church have made to “defend” prophets against charges of their weaknesses and fallibility rather than admit, as scripture overwhelmingly suggests is the case, these occasional lapses of character or ability to receive clear direction from God. Would we have chosen this second route, how different might this church be–and how helpful to our faith and ability to listen to their counsel and decisions had we not placed them upon such a high pedestal.
The discussion also focuses a great deal upon “how” to press forward (and why it is important to press forward) in church community even when it is very difficult. In the book, Patrick holds up the examples of Claudia and Richard Bushman, Lowell Bennion, and Eugene England as examples of those who engage Mormonism faithfully while maintaining their own independence when it comes to discerning God’s will in their lives and where they believe it tells them to focus. England is discussed the most, especially how his entire way of being within the Church was based upon his understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ, interacting with leaders and others in ways Jesus taught.
An excellent section of the discussion also looks closely at two types of interaction styles when it comes to challenging the status quo within Mormonism (and in most every struggle for change): the gradualist approach (seeking to work carefully and in styles mostly understood by the group) vs. more revolutionary-minded efforts (designed to bring about change very quickly). Both ways are given their due, including the moral burdens those who work in these ways must each bear.
This is an excellent and spirited podcast addressing core issues in today’s Mormonism. Please listen carefully and share your thoughts in the comments section below!
For many of us, the discovery and confirmation in early November 2015 of a new Church policy regarding LGBT couples and their children have led to tremendous despair–pain refreshed again just two weeks ago, on January 10, 2016, as President Russell M. Nelson while speaking to a church-wide audience of Young Single Adults assured all listening that the policy had come about through revelatory processes that convinced him and every member of the Twelve that this is what God has directed to be done. Prior to his address, as well as in the weeks since, many rumors have swirled about how the policy came to be, few of them matching well President Nelson’s description of the processes.
In this Mormon Matters episode, panelists Maxine Hanks and Tom Christofferson, along with podcast host Dan Wotherspoon, approach the events of these past two-and-a-half months in a different way than what has become typical in most areas of the LDS Bloggernacle. Rather than worry about the “behind the scenes” reports of all the events and persons who were the driving forces behind the new policy and wondering what all that meant for the current state of leadership within the Church’s leading councils, they have chosen to simply start with the Church’s own narratives–its statements related to the policy (the Handbook wording, Elder Todd Christofferson’s interview, the First Presidency clarification letter, and President Nelson’s talk)–as the best clues we have to the leaders’ wrestlings over LGBT issues, and to use these as lenses for starting conversations that face squarely exactly where the Church–leaders as well as all of us in the Mormon community–is right now on these matters. The panel has chosen to approach it from a stance of: “Here is the reality. Let’s look at all of this, at ourselves, at those around us, and figure out for ourselves our responsibility. What is it that God and our life experiences and own revelation is calling us to do? Might we come to see the announcements about this firm stance as a starting point for the real work of discipleship and Zion building?”
Please listen in at the various framings they come up with for what this moment means for the Church in its history, and with regard to their own sense of duty at this pivotal time. Then please share yours!