356–357: (Encore) A Christmas Primer: Exploring the Nativity in Scripture, Legend, History, and Hearts

magiThis is an encore presentation of a December 2011 podcast episode examining the Christmas story as it traditionally gets told—looking closely at what the scriptures actually say and do not say about the birth of Christ and all the pieces of this familiar story. For instance, how do the Matthew and Luke accounts differ—even irreconcilably? What are possible motives behind the Gospel writers’ decisions to shape the stories the way they did? What about Jesus’s place of birth and the reason the family was in Bethlehem (if they were)? Was there a great tax and registration? What about “no room at the inn,” the manger, the star, the magi, the story of Herod killing all male infants under two years old? How did Christmas come to be held on December 25th?

In this episode, Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists Kristine HaglundJared Anderson, and Zina Petersen explore all these questions plus lead a fascinating tour into other parts of the Christmas story. Why are only five women mentioned in the Gospels’ presentations of Jesus’s lineage—and why are the ones listed all women with “questionable” sexual pasts? What are the Twelve Days of Christmas? What is the “Immaculate Conception” and how does it affect theology about Mary and ideas about the Eucharist and other religious devotions? How has pagan history and ideas folded into the history of “Christmas” (not Jesus’s birth but the celebration of it)? The panel discusses solstices and equinoxes, the meshing of calendaring systems, the link between carnivals and holy days, shepherds’ presents to the Christ child, and even a longstanding tradition of “ghost story” tie-ins with Christmas that Charles Dickens resurrected. Why was there a period of time in which Christmas was illegal?

The panel also talks about Christmas music and other aesthetic elements that make this season so compelling for so many. Part of that discussion answers how and why the host and panelists and many other Christians throughout history, knowing all that they know about what likely is and is not factual about traditional accounts, still celebrate Christmas and joyfully sing carols alongside those for whom the stories are less complicated. How can those who “know” we are so often during this time dealing in mythos rather than history (not only with the Christian story but also something like Santa Claus) still experience this season as spiritually enriching?

This is an episode not to be missed! Please join in the conversation below!


Some links of possible interest:

Sunstone magazine article by Stephen E. Thompson, “Away in a Manger,” exploring the differences between Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts, and giving a possible constructive framing of how to view these stories as still worth celebrating. (Mentioned by Dan a few times during the podcast.)

Kevin Barney blogpost at By Common Consent that outlines major considerations in the “When was Jesus born?” line of inquiry. (Also mentioned by Dan during the podcast.)

355: Personal and Spiritual Renewal Following a Difficult Election Season

divided-america_tom-ohalloranMany people are feeling beat-up emotionally and spiritually right now on the heels of such a difficult and ugly election season. Regardless of whether “our” preferred candidate won or not, the election campaign generated great divisiveness, often causing breakdowns in relationships with friends and loved ones—as well as general pessimism over the realization of just how divided and alienated the electorate truly is. As a result of this exhaustion and general sense of malaise many have experienced, three Open Stories Foundation podcast hosts—Gina Colvin of A Thoughtful FaithKristy Money of Mormon Transitions, and Dan Wotherspoon of Mormon Matters—decided it might be nice to talk about this difficult time and various ideas for dealing with the election aftermath in healthy, affirming ways. In the conversation here, they share their own emotions and experiences during the past months and since the close of the election, as well as what has worked for them as they struggle to make sense of what has happened, tend to their own emotional and spiritual care, and as they determine how they want to move forward. May things said here be helpful to others!

Please share your experiences in the comments below.
This is not a podcast about partisan politics, or a place to bash particular candidates or viewpoints. Posts that violate this guideline will be removed.

353–354: Championing the “Addiction” Paradigm with Regard to Pornography/Sex Addiction

sexual-addiction1This two-part episode is a response to a panel of therapists and a neuroscientist who in an earlier episode (347–348) challenge the idea that pornography is physically addicting, suggesting instead that problematic pornography usage is a symptom of deeper issues and therefore the best therapeutic approaches focus less on pornography and more on uncovering these underlying pathologies. In this episode, a panel of therapists and a neurosurgeon whose research centers on the biology behind why the brain seeks what it seeks present why they believe the “addiction” model is appropriate, and share how much richer and more diverse are the therapeutic models they employ than what the earlier panel believes, and is even richer in options than traditional approaches. This discussion also looks much more broadly than the previous episodes into “sex addiction” and its treatment.

This panel, featuring Jackie Pack (LCSW, CSAT–S, CMAT), Alexandra Katehakis (MFT, CSAT-S, CST-S), Stefanie Carnes (Ph.D., CSAT-S), and Donald Hilton (M.D.), along with Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon, dive deep into brain structures and pathways, dopamine and reward and seeking centers, and ways that today’s pornography might be classified as a supra-normal stimulus—meaning that it can elicit responses in humans that are much greater than occur in natural situations. The team dives into a great deal of complex scientific material but keeps things understandable and maintains terrific balance. In the final sections of the podcast, they also discuss misunderstandings about Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT) certifications, introduce its therapeutic models, and discuss the role that religion can play in both creating difficulties for and helping bring about increased sexual health.

ATTN (Wed, 16 November): We have just now closed the commenting for this episode. Much has been shared here, and we appreciate the thoughtfulness many showed in sharing their views and arguments. We will keep the comments closed but still visible. 



Donald L. Hilton, Jr. MD, “Pornography Addiction–A Supra-normal Stimulus Considered in the Context of Neuroplasticity,Socioaffective Neuroscience and Psychology 3 (2013).

Donald L. Hilton, Jr. MD, “‘High’ Desire or ‘Merely’ an Addiction? A Response to Steele, et al.” Socioaffective Neuroscience and Psychology 4 (2014).

Donald L. Hilton, Jr., Stephanie Carnes, and Todd L. Love, “Neurobioloy of Behavioral Addictions: Sex Addiction,” in Neurobiology of Addiction, Alan C. Swain, MD, F. Gerard Moeller, MD., and Marijn Lijffijt, Ph.D., eds (Oxford University Press, 2016)

The list of 10 Criteria for Sex Addiciton (that I mentioned in the episode I would post) can be found in the chapter from the book linked to immediately above.

Alexandra Katehakis, Sex Addiction as Affect Dysregulation: A Neurobiologically Informed Holistic Treatment (Norton, 2016)

Stefanie Carnes, Ph.D., Facing Heartbreak: Steps to Recovery for Partners of Sex Addicts (Gentle Path Press, 2012)

Jackie Pack, co-host, Thanks for Sharing podcast

351-352: “The Policy”—One Year Later

lgbt-policy-rallyOn Thursday afternoon, November 5th, 2015, a leak of new directives regarding LGBT Latter-day Saints was made public, kicking off a tumultuous year within many Mormon circles. What came to be known informally as “The Policy” required stake leaders to excommunicate for “apostasy” any Latter-day Saints who were in same-sex marriages regardless of their belief level in Mormonism and to withhold a baby blessing (which includes having that child entered into the records of the church), baptism, and priesthood ordination and advancement to any child or teen who lives in the home of a parent who is in a same-sex relationship, whether married or not. These directives, published in the church’s Handbook of Instructions to bishoprics and stake leaders, both astonished and struck many Latter-day Saints as flying in the face of their own spiritual sense of what is right and wrong, as well as what Christ would do. It seemed to them, at best, an institutional response (perhaps guided by attorneys who proposed possible legal exposure the church might have on various fronts without clarifying the status of married LGBT Latter-day Saints) to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier in the year legalizing same-sex marriages throughout the country.

The year since “The Policy” offered several indications that the church was standing firm in its position, in one case even seeing the president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles referring to it as a “revelation,” but also both anecdotally and in some actions that came to be known publicly that it might be losing favor and status among the leading quorums. 

In this two-part episode, a wonderful panel of church members—Jana Riess, Benjamin Knoll, Mitch Mayne, Laura Root, and Walt Wood—who have carefully watched from various and interesting vantage points the year unfold with regard to The Policy join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon. What is their sense of how things stand today? What signals are they seeing about the Policy’s waning? What do survey responses reveal about its reception within the church as a whole, and among members from various generations and other categories and life experiences? What do panelists feel about the long-term impact of The Policy within the church? Ultimately will it prove to a pivot point that will actually serve to move the church’s membership more quickly toward acceptance of LGBT members in full fellowship? What are the main sources for optimism about the direction things seem to be moving? How are they themselves maintaining energy to keep engaging in these conversations?

Please listen and then join in below with your own stories, observations and comments!


Links: Forthcoming

Announcing a New Survey about LDS LGBT Policies

Let your views be heard about current LDS policies and teachings about LGBT persons and issues!

cover1-1_mormonrainbowTwo social psychologists, Michael Nielsen and David Wulff, have launched a survey with the hope of learning from all across the spectrum of belief and activity more about LDS understandings of and about LGBT Mormons and issues. This survey offers chances in various places for respondents to type in longer answers to open-ended questions, making it a bit difficult to accurately predict how long it will take to complete the survey. The current estimate is 30 to 40 minutes.

Here is a link to the survey’s landing page. There you can learn more about Michael and David, privacy of your data, and more.

To learn more, please listen as well to the 11-minute interview with Michael Nielsen linked below.

Be part of this potentially important qualitative as well as quantitative survey. Only through means like this can we fully understand how Latter-day Saints connect various parts of their Mormonism with different ideas and experiences.

Take the survey—and then share it with friends and family members. Especially those who may see things differently than you do!

Take the survey here.

Listen to the interview with Michael by clicking the arrow below.

350: The LDS Church’s New Mormon and Gay Website

580-photo-1470596914251-afb0b4510279On October 25, 2016, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a new website, “Mormon and Gay” (www.mormonandgay.lds.org) an update of its previous site articulating LDS positions on various aspects of same-sex attraction. What is the new site like? In what ways is it an improvement on the previous site and its messaging? Did the church make any big missteps through anything on the site? Who is the site’s primary audience?

About five hours after the site’s launch, Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon was joined by Boyd Jay Petersen, Jody England Hansen, Wendy Williams Montgomery, and Christian Harrison to talk about these and other aspects of this site and its launch.

Please join in the discussion in the comments section below!



Mama Dragons’ “Prayer for Open Hearts” Event, 5 November 2016

Boyd Jay Petersen, “Reaching Out and Embracing Ambiguity,” post at Deadwood and Rushing Water blog, 25 October 2016

Jana Riess, “Re-tooled LDS Website Says People Can Be Mormon and Gay–But They Need to Stay Celibate,” Flunking Sainthood blog, 25 October 2016

“Same-Sex Marriage”—LDS Church, newest Gospel Topics essay