363–364: Mormonism’s Wonderful, Vulnerable God

For many who find themselves in the middle of a faith crisis, casting about for new footing and ways of orienting to life and others, one of largest stumbling blocks is often their view of God. All of a sudden, as they find themselves far more aware of the confusion that marks life on earth, of the horrendous suffering experienced by so many, or the multitude of paths and choices we all must face, the idea of an omnipotent God who is also loving begins to crack. A frequent refrain we’ll hear is for the need to dismiss the idea of a God who regularly helps people with small things such as finding their lost keys yet who does not stop the terrible evils all around, such a that of people being sold into sexual slavery. Interestingly, for Mormons who encounter this disconnect between a God of power and God of love, already built into its theology—however, one that is too often overlooked—is a radically different view of God that mitigates some of this sting. This episode is designed to serve as a reminder of the fundamentally different view of God, God’s power, God’s life, God’s relationship with persons and other existents in this world that Mormonism holds.  And it is these views that, though they don’t make suffering go away, for many Latter-day Saints still allow them to have a deep and abiding faith in a God. For them, it is a wonderful God, even in this God’s vulnerability.

Fiona Givens, James McLachlan, and Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon are three such Latter-day Saints who find the LDS framing of God to be rich, deep, and empowering. They find themselves drawn toward this God who is “in the fray” with the rest of creation rather than being outside it, a God who cannot, even if God wanted to, control what unfolds in life, yet who will always return love for hate, largeness whenever faced with smallness, and who suffers “with” us as we meet life’s vicissitudes. In this two-part discussion, they describe this God and why they are attracted to this Being. They also discuss God’s power and its limits, and how this affects their views of scripture (which often depicts an angry God who destroys cities and persons), and God’s ways of intervening in things like healing. In the final section, they argue as well for the superiority of time over eternity and why a God who exists in time alongside other free agents is the only one they could ever truly love.


Terryl Givens and Fiona Givens, The God Who Weeps: How Mormons Make Sense of Life (Deseret Book, 2015)

James McLachlan, “Of Time and All Eternity: God and Others in Mormonism and Heterodox Christianity,” Sunstone, July 2008

Daniel Wotherspoon, Awakening Joseph Smith: Resources in Mormonism for a Postmodern Worldview (doctoral dissertation, Claremont Graduate University, 1996)

362: Taking Jesus Seriously

a-christianMeet in this podcast two wonderful, active Latter-day Saints who are “alive in Christ,” Jesus focused, and modeling in their wards and circles a robust faith in Jesus Christ and the transformative power of the Atonement in ways that stretch far beyond forgiveness of one’s sins. They are on engagement paths that both thrill and challenge them (and even frightens them at times) as Jesus continually surprises and calls them into deeper relationship. In this conversation with Mormon Matters host Dan WotherspoonBilly Phillips and Tom Gleason share their stories–quite different from each other–that led them to direct encounters with Jesus that have changed their lives and orientation toward God and their spiritual paths, and also share their views of worship that have been known to stretch the comfort zones of some of their fellow saints. How might Mormonism embrace more enlivened worship and expressions of faith related to a God who actively breaks open previous conceptions? Can Mormonism embrace a less “safe” Deity that, once in contact with, will draw those who experience at this level into a different type of engagement with the church–and, especially, its traditional, “acceptable” ways of doing things?


Unity Gospel Choir webpage

361: Joy Amidst Sadness: Kim Puzey’s Journey to Peace

kevin-kim-dan-sept-19-2016This episode continues a conversation with one of the panelists from the previous installment, Kim B Puzey. Picking up where we left off in his life story, it explores with Kim more about how he joyfully orients toward Spirit and what is most valuable even as his life has been full of struggle and pain, such as the loss of his father at an early age, long battles with depression, deep feelings of existential angst, and much more. Kim has emerged from this life of questioning and learning from difficulties with a fantastic sense of peace that naturally draws many to him, as they find in him an authentic and thoughtful mentor and model for a spiritual journey well walked. Friend of the podcast, Kevin Kapp, joins Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon in interviewing Kim.

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



M. Sue Bergin, “Keeping the Faith,” BYU Magazine (Spring 2014). Mentions Kim and some of the faith development dynamics in his family.

360: Faith and Doubt: Balancing Truth, Goodness, and Beauty

ogden-book-coverDoubting our long-held views of the world, especially if firm faith positions are part of it, is a high stakes matter. Not only do enter into a new relationship with one’s own whole way of thinking, which is stressful enough, but family dynamics and friendships and our social groups most often also begin to feel different. We’re now different, and we need to reorient in ways that incorporate our new views. But many times family and other loved ones fail to understand what we’re going through. We often fail to understand what we’re going through! It all feels so big, so dramatic. It is hard to manage these changes gracefully.

Is there help? Are there different ways to frame what we and they are going through as we find ourselves shifting from familiar pathways and interpersonal dynamics? Jon Ogden has written a terrific book that just might help. Called When Mormons Doubt: A Way to Save Relationships and Live a Quality Life, it reminds us of deep wisdom we often forget. Invoking the Ancient Greeks and moving us forward in time, Ogden highlights three key values and ways of understanding—Truth (the realm of philosophy), Goodness (ethics—what is moral, how should I act?), and Beauty (aesthetics, experiential knowing, judging between things)—that often become out of balance with each other. In “faith crisis,” truth often leads out (how does what I am leaning match with “Reality” or what I previously held as true?). But in that struggle, we’ll often leave the other ways of knowing and judging behind. How can we avoid that?

In this episode, Jon Ogden is joined by Jeralee Renshaw and Kim Puzey, who along with Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon engage in a lively discussion of these important areas and how they can inform various aspects of our faith struggles. But mostly it is a conversation that hopefully presents four Latter-day Saints who have come to appreciate all three values and have incorporated them in a balanced way into their own lives and spiritual journeys. Hopefully you’ll find them to make good sense and this episode something that might assist you as you transition into these new ways of seeing the world and being with others.



Jon Ogden, When Mormons Doubt: A Way to Save Relationships and Live a Quality Life, 2016


358–359: Improving Our Conversations about Important and Emotional Topics

conversationHow many times have we inadvertently offended a person or group of persons because we simply aren’t thinking about how the things we say might strike them? Because we are in a hurry? Because we are writing or speaking while our emotions are high? Because we signal that we care less about them than we do about our being “right”? Conversation is hard work, especially the kind in which we truly connect with other persons. It can be scary to make ourselves vulnerable to the influence of others, to risk possibly having to change our perspectives—and maybe even admit that we are wrong or owe a big apology. Add in that the extra stress that arises when we talk about religious things for which the stakes feel so high and which has been presented to us as “the” truth of the matter.

In some ways, upsetting, mischaracterizing, or not imagining in advance one’s entire potential audience is inescapable. But there are definitely practices and reminders that can help keep our conversations from going sideways as often and with fewer deep and damaging effects to our public and personal relationships. Lindsay Hansen ParkRussell Osmond, and Jacob Hess are three great practitioners and thinkers about effective group and interpersonal conversation and relationships, and today they join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon for this two-part episode in which they share stories of conversations gone well and poorly, as well as talk about best practices (and things to avoid!) for effective communication on both large and small scales.



Dialogue/Converation Aids and Groups:

Allsides Dictionary

Learn about the 2017 Essential Partners 3-Day “Power of Dialogue” workshops coming to Utah

The Village Square–Utah (with links to other groups in the U.S.)

National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation

Living Room Conversations

Edward Kimball reading and interview:

Edward L. Kimball, “Spencer W Kimball and the Revelation on Priesthood,” BYU Studies 47, no. 2 (2008). Free Link

Edward L. Kimball, “Confession in LDS Doctrine and Practice,” BYU Studies 36:2 (1996-97). Free Link

Edward L. Kimball, Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball (2005)

Interview, “Edward Kimball, Son of Spencer W. Kimball,” Mormon Stories Podcast, March 2010

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.)