343: An Exciting Approach to Scripture

JSmith_Iron_cover_1024x1024A new book edited by Julie M. Smith, As Iron Sharpens Iron: Listening to the Various Voices of Scripture, does  something wonderful. It takes something we all “kind of” know–that not every verse of scripture fits together in perfect harmony with others; that every writer whose words eventually became “scripture” agrees with every other writer–and in the interesting and entertaining format of imagined dialogues between scripture writers illustrates some of those divergent voices and viewpoints. Joining Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon for this discussion are book contributors Julie M. Smith, Michael Austin, and Mark Decker.

In the book, you can hear, among others, Abraham and Job in dialogue about suffering and God’s killing of children (Austin’s piece), Jacob from the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith debating polygamy and God’s laws and their exceptions (Decker’s), and Gospel writers Mark and Luke in conversation about women’s values and roles and the best way to honor them in Christ’s kingdom (Smith’s contribution). These stand alongside others such as John the Evangelist and John the Revelator (treating these as different individuals) on the Divinity of Jesus by Nicholas J. Frederick, Job and John on The Satans by Ronan James Head, Tamar and David on Personal Morality by Jason A. Kerr, Abraham and Thomas on Doubt by Steven L. Peck, Amulek and Alma on the Atonement by Joseph M. Spencer, Hannah and Sariah on Complaint, plus eight other fascinating dialogues. As Michael Austin notes within the conversation in this episode, we as Latter-day Saints too often think of and focus on scripture at the “verse” level versus the chapter and/or “book” level, and in so doing miss so much richness. This book and this discussion begins to show the new and complex and robust worlds that can open when we step back and view what has ended up in our scriptures as the writings of good people wrestling with God and life’s big questions, and who are sharing about their experiences and/or the events that shaped their peoples and giving their best takes on these subjects. It’s then up to us to give their words our consideration and make them springboards into our own spiritual explorations.

Please listen to this episode and share your thoughts in the comments section below!



(A portion of the purchase price of items ordered from Amazon through the links below goes help support Mormon Matters, as well as any from any other Amazon purchases during the same shopping session.)

Julie M. Smith, ed., As Iron Sharpens Iron: Listening to the Various Voices of Scripture (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2016)

Michael Austin, Re-Reading Job: Understanding the Ancient World’s Greatest Poem (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2014)

Mark T. Decker, Peculiar Portrayals: Mormons on the Page, Stage, and Screen (Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 2010)

John Russell, The Mormoness; Or, The Trials of Mary Maverick: A Narrative of Real Events (Mormon Image in Literature),Michael Austin and Ardis Parshall, eds., (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2016)

Mark T. Decker, Industrial Society and the Science Fiction Blockbuster: Social Critique in Films of Lucas, Scott, and Cameron (Jefferson, NC: McFarland Publishing, 2016)

Eric Samuelsen, The Plan: A Play, Sunstone (July 2009)

H. Parker Blount, “Scarlet Threads in the Lineage of Jesus: Four Women of the Old Testament,” Sunstone, (November 2006)

342: Mormon Women’s Position and Organization Names and Titles

beehive girlsThe Summer 2016 edition of the online journal SquareTwo features the results and a discussion of a recent poll of Mormon women about the ways that LDS women’s organizations are referred to, and about the names and titles of women’s groups, as well as women who are referred to primarily through their relationship to their husband’s titled calling: the “bishop’s wife,” the “mission president’s wife.” It also asked for reactions to a proposal to change the wording of the Young Women’s Theme plus the name of the “Young Womanhood” Award (currently the name of the recognition that is the equivalent to young men’s “Duty to God” award. Respondents who thought that discussions of these things or changes were in order were then given a chance to make suggestions for those new names and titles. Following a Salt Lake Tribune blog post about the survey, discussion really took off, netting an large number of comments both supportive of and quite dismissive of the survey and issues it raises.

This Mormon Matters episode, featuring SquareTwo board member and one of the writers of the article analyzing the survey’s results, Neylan McBaine, and Mormon therapist and writer about women’s issues and group dynamics, Julie de Azevedo Hanks, examines the survey and its findings, but also the interesting feedback it has received. What do these responses say about today’s Mormonism, especially in relation to non-correlated, non-official efforts to open up discussions about and propose potential solutions to issues that negatively affect many LDS women?


V.H. Cassler and Neylan McBaine, “What’s in a Name?: SquareTwo Poll Survey Results on the Naming of Women’s Positions and Organizations in the LDS Church

Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Mia Maids? Mission Prez’s Wife? Please, in the name of all that is holy, change these outdated monikers, LDS women plead,” Following Faith blog, Salt Lake Tribune, 12 August 2016

Neylan McBaine, Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Women’s Local Impact (Salt Lake City, Greg Kofford Books, 2014)

Julie de Azevedo Hanks, The Assertiveness Guide for Women: How to Communicate Your Needs, Set Healthy Boundaries, and Transform Your Relationships (Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, 2016)

Julie de Azevedo Hanks, The Burnout Cure: An Emotional Survival Guide for Overwhelmed Women (American Fork, UT: Covenant Communications, 2013)

The Mormon Women’s Project website

341: Teachings about War in the Book of Mormon



As the LDS Sunday School Gospel Doctrine curriculum turns in coming weeks to the later chapters of the book of Alma and the stories they contain about Captain Moroni, the Stripling Warriors, along with various wars and war strategies, assassinations, and other accounts of events that unfolded between the Nephites and Lamanites, we are pleased to host this discussion that aims to assist with in-class experiences. Joining Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon are wonderful scholars and thinkers, and also current Gospel Doctrine teachers, Patrick Mason and David Pulsipher, for an examination of various ways to better understand some the messages about war within the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants. How can we separate what is merely “descriptive” of events that took place within the history of Book of Mormon peoples from that which are “prescriptive” attitudes and actions that God endorses? How might understanding Mormon as the primary narrator of these sections give us a better sense of why certain things are there, or are presented in the way they are? In what ways might Mormon’s accounting for the events that take place also be evidence of his own journey that led by the time of his death to his having a different attitude towards war? How should we as Latter-day Saints engage D&C 98’s teachings about war and when violence is justified against one’s enemies in concert with the messages found within these sections of the Book of Mormon? And there is much more!

This is a fantastic discussion with great richness and wisdom for approaching these scriptures and setting up conditions for possibly very good discussions within our upcoming Sunday School classes. As well as in our own spiritual wrestlings, of course! We invite you to share your reactions, ideas, and experiences in the comments section below. Thank you!



Patrick Q. Mason, J. David Pulsipher, and Richard L. Bushman, War and Peace in our Times: Mormon Perspectives (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2012)

J. David Pulsipher, When We Don’t See Eye to Eye (American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communications, 2014)

Patrick Q. Mason, Planted: Faith and Belonging in an Age of Doubt (Maxwell Institute and Deseret Book, 2015)

Patrick Q. Mason, The Mormon Menace: Violence and Anti-Mormonism in the Postbellum South (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011)

Eugene England, Making Peace: Personal Essays (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1995)

Grant Hardy, Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Guide (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010)

339-340: Mercy and the Atonement

Gods-definition-of-Love_3This episode (in two parts) is a continuation of an earlier discussion of Mercy (Episode 332, March 2016) but also very different, focusing this time on “mercy” as it functions for so many as a theological concept rather than the way it should: as something transformative in our spiritual lives. The conversation starts out a bit nerdy, with host Dan Wotherspoon laying out some framings about mercy that he senses are very much in play within Mormonism, but it soon turns into a very approachable and insightful discussion of far more powerful understandings of God and the plan of salvation, and especially the concept of “sin,” than one typically encounters. Joining us again are wonderful scholars, authors, and conversationalists Mat Schmalz, Fiona Givens, and Alonzo Gaskill.

This episode represents very well the wideness of views possible within Mormonism and wider Christianity, in this case Catholicism, as well as their power. If in the past you’ve been turned off by “thin” discussions of religion and the way it is presented, I think this is an episode that could help you reconsider the richness that is present but that only needs a bit of prodding to burst forth.

Please listen and then add your thoughts in the comments section below!



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

Terryl Givens and Fiona Givens, The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2012)

Terryl Givens and Fiona Givens, The Crucible of Doubt: Reflections on the Quest for Faith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2014)

Stephen H. Webb and Alonzo L. Gaskill, Catholic and Mormon: A Theological Conversation (New York City, Oxford University Press, 2015)

Alonzo L. Gaskill, Odds Are You’re Going to Be Exalted: Evidence That the Plan of Salvation Works (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2015)

Alonzo L. Gaskill, The Truth about Eden: Understanding the Fall and Our Temple Experience (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2013)

Alonzo L. Gaskill, The Lost Language of Symbolism: An Essential Guide for Recognizing and Interpreting Symbols of the Gospel (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2012)

Alonzo L. Gaskill, Sacred Symbols: Finding Meaning in Rites, Rituals and Ordinances (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2011)

Announcing A Mormon Matters Retreat: Navigating a Healthy Mormon Journey

Listen to the following conversation about this upcoming Mormon Matters retreat and others that take place under the Open Stories Foundation umbrella and that will be announced soon!


“Navigating a Healthy Mormon Journey”
Led by Natasha Helfer Parker, LCMFT, CST,
Marty Erickson, LMFT, Ph.D, and Dan Wotherspoon, Ph.D.


13754408_10154374696891018_3992030739198989804_nMany of us find ourselves a bit outside the Mormon norm but still feel committed to continue our journeys as engaged members of the church. This retreat is focused on building community among and strengthening Mormons like us in the following ways:

• Navigating faith development in adulthood, including the integration of new and enriching perspectives within a less-traditional Mormon paradigm
• Creating and nurturing healthy relationships, especially in light of faith and worldview differences
• Finding ways to full and healthy sexuality
• Raising children in ways that encourage them to have confidence and depth as they negotiate various Mormon terrains
• Finding friends/community who have similar outlooks and can offer support

Marty ABP 2014____________

for the retreat: click here
After registering, participants will receive more detailed information about venue, parking, lunch and dinner options, etc.)

Cost: $375 per person (inquire abut partial or full scholarships and volunteering)

Friday (26th): 6 to 10 pm
Saturday (27th): 9 am to 9 pm or later
(includes lunch and dinner, and entertainment afterward—much of it starring you!)
Sunday (28th): 9 am to 5 pm (lunch included)

Dan_Sig Book portrait

Contact and Further Information:

For questions about registration, logistics, etc.:
Amy Wengertamy.mann8@gmail.com

To learn more about retreat content, purposes, what to expect, etc.:
Natasha Helfer Parker: nhelferparker@gmail.com
Dan Wotherspoon: dan.wotherspoon@me.com


We look forward to seeing you there! I know it will be something everyone will really enjoy as well as receiving great perspectives, renewed energies, and making new friends!

This will be the first of what we hope are many Mormon Matters retreats. Right now, we are thinking quarterly, and with each retreat focusing on the key issues above but also with good variety of additional topics.

338: Mormons and Humor

MORMONISM_FBAre Mormons funny? Do we Mormons have a good sense of humor—in general, or, more importantly, when it focuses on ourselves? In introducing Mormonism to those who are outside the faith and attempting to share how the gospel and Mormon life make sense to or motivate its adherents, can a light-hearted, humorous approach be more effective than “earnestness”? In this episode, we bring together three people for whom the answer to this last question is a resounding “yes”! Yet each also recognizes that there are lines—sometimes fuzzy, sometimes very clear—that one must not cross. Often it is informed by fear of losing the good will and respect of the Mormon audience who, let’s face it, will be among the majority of readers even for books about Mormons geared toward outsiders. This audience may be comfortable with finding humor in Mormon culture and its quirks but possibly will balk as one seeks to examine via humor (and its gifts of providing at times very stark mirrors for things under its gaze) certain practices or teachings. When writing for outsiders (and it’s a good reminder when the Mormon audience will be reading, as well), a humorous approach must watch out for pitfalls such as stereotyping, caricaturing, or not recognizing that a particular view of theirs that might feel like “safe” humor territory to you doesn’t feel so for them.

A wonderful panel consisting of Latter-day Saints who have written or illustrated wonderful books examining Mormonism through fun approaches—Stephen Carter and Jett Atwood (author and illustrator of the new book,Mormonism for Beginners, as well as two volumes of a Book of Mormon comic book/graphic novel called iPlates), and Jana Riess (co-author of Mormonism for Dummies, and author of The Twible)—examine these and many other questions. How does humor function more effectively than taking a serious, laser approach as an aid in our examining things we sometimes miss because of familiarity, or because we are living within certain patterns of thought, or shells, or structures that we forget are not themselves actually the “real” thing? How important is a humorist’s own feelings toward its subject—affectionate, antagonistic, dismissive—in her or his ability to reach their desired audience—and not just to entertain them but possibly also aid in their shifting certain perspectives? It’s a wonderful conversation that also features their recommendations, along with those of Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon, of favorite examples of Mormon humor done well.


Links to (Most) Things Discussed in the Episode:

Stephen Carter (with Jett Atwood illustrations), Mormonism for Beginners (New Haven, CT: For Beginners, 2016)

Stephen Carter and Jett Atwood, iPlates, Vol I: Alma in the Wilderness (2012)

Stephen Carter and Jett Atwood, iPlates, Vol II, Prophets, Priests, Rebels, and Kings (2014)

Jana Riess and Christopher Kimball Bigelow, Mormonism for Dummies (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2005)

Jana Riess, The Twible: All the Chapters in the Bible in 140 Characters or Less . . . (2013)

Elouise Bell, Only When I Laugh (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1990)

Elouise Bell, “The Meeting” (contained in the book, Only When I Laugh) and an online version of the rest of the book available here.

Carol Lynn Pearson, “Walk in the Pink Moccasins,” Sunstone, May 2005

Kristine Haglund, “A Short Post about Equality,” By Common Consent blog, 21 April 2011

Paul Allen, Mormon Tabernacle Enquirer: Latter-day News, Advice, and Opinion (Pince-Nez Press, 2006)

Robert Kirby, The Essential Kirby Canon: 20 Years of Shooting at the Hip at the Salt Lake Tribune (2014)

Robert Kirby, Sunday of the Living Dead (Carson City, NV: Buckaroo Books, 1995)

Robert Kirby, Pat and Kirby Go to Hell (Springville, UT: Slickrock Books, 1997)

Robert Kirby, Kirby Soup for the Soul (Whitehorse Books, 2003)

Fonda AlaMode, Laurie Mecham Johnson, Special Living Lessons for Relief Society Sisters (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1996)

Samuel Woolley Taylor, Heaven Knows Why (Aspen Books, 1994)

Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal (2004)