As we in the LDS Bloggernacle continue to process and strive for healing and renewed hope during this time of unease and pain caused by the recent church disciplinary actions for public LDS voices, it is important to hear helpful framings from experienced and wise friends. Moderated by Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon, this episode features a conversation between Natasha Helfer Parker, Ronda Callister, Chelsea Shields Strayer, and Maxine Hanks.
Our great thanks to the Faith Again study group in Salt Lake City for the impetus to bring this panel together. We all agreed not to record the conversation that took place the evening we met with them, but we are buoyed by the group’s enthusiasm for our reconvening the panel to present to this wider audience.
Dan, I can’t thank you enough for helping me put this together for our Faith Again group. Your choice of panelists was superb and your moderation spot on. Each panelist I’ve grown to love and appreciate both in who they are and in how they live their faith with integrity. Discussions like these can help people from disparate vantage points appreciate the other’s feelings and vision. And hopefully, it will encourage all of us to be unafraid to follow meekly where the Spirit leads us without judgment of those who see it differently or take a different route. We all need each other. We are all family. Whatever the question is, love is the answer.
Much wisdom here, folks. I love the perspective of ‘we don’t have the whole story until we have all the stories’. Research has shown that killing another human being up close and personal exacts profound psychological costs on the killer. I would imagine the same holds true to a lesser degree for those tasked with forcing another out of the Church™.
Thank you, thank you, thank you! Can’t say it enough. As Kevin noted, I also appreciate the caution that we don’t have the whole story until we have all the stories. I remain a little less optimistic than some, so it will be interesting to see what unfolds from here. At least for now, this podcast provides an oasis for those of us who are in the middle of the desert.
I really wish we could get a more thoughtful conservative point of view on these discussions. I just feel like some of the commentary in these discussions need a little more pushback.
I feel like the result is a bit of straw-man critique. I think there are a lot of good points being made here but there’s not enough empathy toward the positions of the other side and not near enough attempts to recognize the diversity of opinions.
The tone feels like the smart folks are on the left and most TBM’s are naive and blind followers. Neither of which are close to true – I’m oversimplifying my critique, but having competing voices on these discussions will vet this much better.
Maybe the smart TBMs should have their own podcast where they discuss these issues as thoughtfully and openly as on MormonMatters. Is that already happening? Can you point me to the TBM podcast where they discuss the issues and problems associated with church?
Also, I would be interested if you could provide a couple of the straw-man critiques from this podcast. That might help us figure out how a TBM perspective could help.
Actually I really much prefer the Diane Rehm, NPR model of panel discussions, where you get the smartest people possible with different positions and perspectives of the issue. They usually have someone on the right, someone on the left and someone with a more neutral, but expert perspective. The result is an incredibly smart discussion that doesn’t devolve into group think where points of view are carefully delivered knowing the lazy opinions will be challenged. And Diane Rehm is an incredible moderator. That’s obviously a high standard, but I don’t think Mormon Matters is that far away from it.
It’s actually tough to criticize this podcast too much because the panelist are all very smart people (smarter than me) and I definitely benefit from the discussion. But at least another voice who can defend the church’s position would help tremendously.
I understand if the point of this podcast is more to provide a forum for liberal Mormon thinkers to vent, it’s fine, and maybe the podcast is not meant for someone like me who prefers to hear opinions challenged.
I don’t have time right now to site specific straw-man examples (they are a bit subtle and will require me to re-listen to the podcast parse them out), but I’ll do so tonight. I just wanted to get this off my chest now.
Scott, I, too appreciate Diane Rehm on NPR. But, I’m not sure Mormon Matters and Diane Rehm have the same objective. My takeaway–this podcast was about feminism, church discipline past and present, what can we learn, where do we go from here. The Church, its PR machine, and those in agreement aptly and amply voice their opinions in public settings, in church meetings etc. Those of us who aren’t in agreement with Church actions/statements etc have only the “bloggernacle” to hear and share alternative views. There is little empathy for diversity among “mainstream” Mormons that I’m aware of, though it can vary depending on where one lives. For example, SF Bay area differs greatly from the conservative area of CA that I currently reside. In the wards I’ve lived in across different parts of the country, the conservative view prevails. So, someone like me, in order to not be “disruptive,” silently supresses our thoughts and views. I had no idea there were Mormons with liberal views until I stumbled upon Mormonstories and Mormonmatters 5 yrs ago.
That said, I would be sincerely interested in hearing any specific points or challenges you have to the “lazy opinions” expressed here.
Thanks for this comment and I agree with you here mostly. I definitely think these podcasts and discussions are valuable and useful.
And if this is just going to be a safe place for liberals to vent and to discuss issues amongst themselves, I guess I don’t have much to say about it. It’s just not something I’m all that into.
I personally feel, though, that where true innovation and creativity and growth occur is at points of tension. And that we need to have our own prejudices and points of views challenged to smooth out the rough parts of our points of view.
I agree that often its hard to find a safe place to express opinions especially in very conservative church congregations. But I hope that liberals avoid the temptation to create their own equivalent echo chambers where conservative voices dare not tread.
I have my own personal experience with this side of things by the way.
I don’t consider myself any kind of ‘liberal’, and I don’t want the priesthood (obviously I’m female)–
but the reason that a ‘mainstream’ person can’t be brought into these sorts of discussions is that such a person doesn’t exist–
mainstream Mormons (TBMs; I used to be one, and I was quite conservative politically until 2001, but I am certainly not progressive now)
have ‘the church’ to defend the church, and they have the power. They have the church’s PR set-up–
it’s not an equal panel in the church; anyone who has come up against it (and believe me those of *us* with no so-called liberal or radical ideas who have come up against that power know how real it is)
All of my friends (maybe former friends now) who are still neo-conservative will turn off the moment “unrighteous dominion” is mentioned; they simply can’t accept that it could happen in ‘the church’.
Who are you going to get?
I agree with this as well. I’m not sure how easy it would be to find smart, thoughtful, eloquent conservative voices. I know John Dehlin has done it on Mormon Stories, but I’m guessing it’s tough for him as well.
The world would be a better place if we could have these discussions is all I’m saying.
Sounds good Scott. Ironically, I get pissed because this podcast is not more critical etc. The dynamic you propose would create an environment that is just not in Dan’s wheelhouse. I mean the guy could do it but Dan playing traffic cop for people like Ralph Hancock is just not the vibe of this podcast.
I think what you are suggesting is a new kind of podcast. I think it would be great to listen to the competition of ideas and rationals between TBMS and non TBM members.
As an aside, I think the most fascinating thing about such a format would not be the juxtaposition between conservative vs liberal but rather literal believing vs non literal believing positions. I mean that is what it really comes down to…..
Just wanted to get back to you here. I will admit my critique is extremely subtle and soft. The panel is obviously very smart and they are expressing opinions from a place of expertise so it’s really difficult to criticize them…
But I wanted to give you specific examples, so I just re-listened to the first hour and here are a couple:
1) One of the panelist talks about how, historically, the way change happens, is that it requires an interplay from both moderate and radical voices. You have the protests and the demands from the radicals coupled with the moderates who are working from within the institutions and through their relationships with leaders. Woman’s suffrage was the example used, but the black civil rights movement is another. What always gets lost in these types of discussions, though, is that it presupposes that the liberal position is always the right one. And it’s up to the conservative church to catch up to the progressive, more correct position. This is, in my mind, the major weakness with the liberal movement and it’s why strong conservative voices are so essential. Because sometimes changes occur for the worse. Sometimes liberal movements are movements in the wrong direction. And there are side effects and unexpected negative consequences. And the problem here is that liberal voices conveniently leave out more problematic historical examples, say the current destruction of the family in poor American neighborhoods that is one possible consequence from looser divorce laws and the 1960’s sexual revolution.
Ross Douthat makes powerful and beautiful points along these lines in his book, “Bad Religion” where he explains why we need orthodoxy in America and why our country is suffering because of our move away from the traditional church.
This isn’t exactly a straw-man problem, but I think it’s one example where the point of view is too narrowly explored in this panel.
2) Later in the podcast another panelist describes the tension between the older leadership in the church that demands respect and the younger generation that wants that respect to be earned. And that church leadership must earn that respect by being transparent and honest about our history. There was a little push-back here, but I think this is problematic in much more significant ways.
For one thing our church is not the only institution that white-washes history. How about our schools that teach American history. History itself is just a really, really, really tough subject. First of all, it’s hard to approach history objectively, as Bushman describes in the preface of his book “Rough Stone Rolling” – he explains how the faithful are compelled to gloss over the difficult parts of Joseph Smith’s life to “protect their own deepest commitments”, but for the exact same reason, those who leave the church accentuate the negative to “justify their decisions to leave.”
It requires intense scholarship to get it right, and even then we often don’t. We just don’t have all of the information, too much time has passed and not every aspect was documented, we live in a different age and its difficult to fully empathize with an historical point of view in the full context of those times. And finally, its unrealistic to turn church congregations across our globe into bastions of church historical study. This is problematic at best and it misses the point of what church is supposed to be about. It’s primarily about developing a relationship with God and every lesson is designed toward that purpose. So, history is ultra-simplified within a Sunday school context simply out of necessity in my mind.
Again, this is not exactly a straw-man error, but another example of how they took a far too narrow point of view.
There are other examples around the purpose of church discipline, how and why they may be necessary, etc., etc. All of this is very complex, with a lot of depth and breadth possible.
I apologize for the long comment, but I hope this captures the essence of my discomfort with the panel discussion and the need for a conservative voice to provide necessary pushback that can only enrich and broaden the discussion.
I agree that we can learn from others with differing viewpoints, it can cause us to dig deeper IF we are open to learning.
I agree we get white-washed versions of history–(such as whitewashing history by portraying our founding fathers as unified in application/interpretation of the Constitution). I also have pondered how/when to include a more accurate historical church history into curriculum. (One small example, Eliza Snow is represented as one of Brigham Smith’s wives, NEVER has one of Joseph Smith’s plural wives). The reason for whitewashing is worth examining. For example, is history “whitewashed” sometimes for brevity? Are historians/writers “punished” for bringing out “inconvenient” facts?
It is important to delineate facts and limits of historical representation. A journal entry represents the writer’s view or personal experience of a situation. Other’s involved in the situation might have a differing experience or view. Dates, times and places are less open to dispute.
“What always gets lost in these types of discussions, though, is that it presupposes that the liberal position is always the right one. And it’s up to the conservative church to catch up to the progressive, more correct position.”
Perhaps some view “progress” as all good–but I don’t think most people would argue that progress is all good or all bad. History and progress are messy. Your example of no-fault divorce certainly made it easier (and socially acceptable)for women to get out of abusive situations (I would also note that divorce laws vary greatly from state-to-state, some adopting “no-fault” much, much later than others). Additonally, our more “permissive” society with negative side effects also has positive side-effects such as providing space and recourse for victims of abuse, discrimination etc.
Lovely healing thoughts. Thank you for comforting those who stand in need. Just beautiful. Thank you.
I needed this. Thanks.
I am a big Mormon Matters fan, but I have to say that this podcast left me frustrated and disappointed. We are only being presented with one side of an issue which has many different view points. In the interest of intellectual honesty, can we please have a podcast on this issue that represents a more diverse perspective. Thank you!
A fascinating and fair request, Anita. What additional viewpoints would you have in mind?
Well, Kevin, how about a believing mormon who thinks the disciplinary actions are justified and necessary for the good of the individuals involved. Also, maybe a mormon who is not in favor of the disciplinary actions, but thinks they are justified because they are in line with what the church teaches and should have been expected. There are many different points of view.
I am a post faith transition mormon who loves the church regardless of the fact that I do not believe everything it teaches. I think the church has a right to conduct itself according to its teachings. It is a church, not a political party or a social action group. There are many members of the church who do not believe the same things that I believe, but they have as much right to their beliefs as I do to mine. I can voice my opinions, but I do not have the right to insist my beliefs be adopted by being disruptive in any way.
I strongly disagree with some of Kate Kelly’s methods, even though I agree with her in principle. I think she should have expected to be disciplined and not be playing the victim. I love Mormon Stories and think John Dehlin has an important role to play in helping Mormons through faith transitions. However, overall his podcasts tend to be negative towards the church and I don’t think they need to be. I don’t think John should be excommunicated and hopefully he won’t be.
I love to hear the many diverse opinions. They make me think and help me grow spiritually as a person. However, I don’t agree that we have a right to try and force the church to change.
I really thought about not bothering to listen to these two episodes. I was like why bother seasick? This is just going to be yet another discussion where really smart people spend a of hours talking in coded language and beating around the bush.
I was wrong. There was something more direct and clear in these two episodes from the panelists that I have not heard before and it was refreshing. Smart people are more effective when they are free to say what they really think and are not afraid.
I often times think that when these same people are speaking privately with each other, that those conversations are way more frank and honest and direct than what we get in the actual podcasts. I believe the more we can take those back room discussions and opinions public the better.
a woman began talking about being worried about the heartache that could be caused.
Thank you; thank you; thank you. Someone very close to me has really suffered from this. My loved one does have parents who understand (obviously this is my child)–
and will listen. But this has been a time of divisiveness that is much more powerful than many people have even begun to understand.
How wise this woman is!
When the blogmaster of a tiny, sympathetic and supportive of all good things blog which my loved one enjoyed was disfellowshipped, simply by being a member of OW, my loved one reeled from the shock of it. Not knowing that person other than on a blog, the helplessness to reach out was powerful.
I hope with all my heart that that silence triggered by fear will be avoided.
The problem is that it is very difficult not to be angry with those who have stirred this all up–(well, yes, leaders, though some declare the ‘church’ leaders have nothing to do with it; others question that)
and that anger is not good and does no good. But it is very real, especially among the young ones. These young ones are very angry, and many of them, who once loved the church, no longer do.
Trying to get them to remain, because the church needs them, and they need the church, is difficult when most of those left appear heartless to them.
Just listened to ‘Perspectives on News of Possible Excommunications of LDS Activists, Part 1 to 5’ [231-235] and ready to listen to this one, however was abstracted by the comments.
Already for some time I read the term TBM.
Although I understand it’s short for a mormon living the churchprinciples strictly, I still can’t figure out what it’s short for.
I don’t come any further than Totally Brainwashed Mormons, but the way you all use it, I think this is probably too rude ?
Help ! Could anyone help me out what TBM is short for ?
Adrie de Jong
True Believing Mormon. Some think of it as True Blue Mormon.
Thank you so much !
True Believing Mormon sounds so much sweeter and I rather think of my friends in church this way than what came into my mind ! Thank you for correcting me ! :o)
I started listening to your podcast last week ! Loved ‘Jesus Christ in Mormonism’ and these about Kate and John’s situation. Because my english understanding is not faultless I have to listen to them several times to finally understand them correctly. You are doing a great job !
Thank you so much for all the work you do !
Adie de Jong
Pingback: 057: Mental Health Benefits & Risks of Religion - Part 1 | Mormon Mental Health Podcast
Pingback: 057: Mental Health Benefits & Risks of Religion – Part 2 | Mormon Mental Health Podcast