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  1. There are some things that “lag ” won’t help. Do you think that in 100 years Mormons won’t still be claiming Joseph Smith translated the Golden Plates by using talking rocks? Get real. Mormonism is now mainstreaming, and in a big way. In twenty years Brigham Young will be excommunicated for his racism and he blood atonement. In fifty Joseph Smith will be relegated to the position of a great religious leader but not a prophet.

    1. I’m not sure I understand your comment about “lag won’t help.” It seems like you think there is a trend toward softening all LDS stances (and I do, too, but not quite as extreme in my predictions about how far or radical those shifts will be!), so you seem to be thinking that there is a lag but that it’s not a terrible thing? If that is the case, again we agree. My goal in the episode was to help show that as a normal, maybe even healthy, phenomenon. Do you disagree? Do you think any institution can go from A to Z in just one or a few steps and still maintain its ability to function?

    2. Tell you what. Let’s get this thing rolling. Let’s set a goal that in 150 years God will just be a fairy tale. Only count me out.

      1. Rich, Let’s set this goal. That in 150 years Religions will tell the truth. Especially the LDS. They are making some progress but they refuse to go all the way. IE Joseph Smith’s polygamy and the so called convenient “Revelation” in 1840 something. Smith was practicing polygamy in 1830 without a revelation. The LDS Church tries to explain this fact by saying he was “at least reading the Old Testament”. Tell the truth and non mormons will think more of the Mormons.

        1. JoeJoseph:

          “Rich, Let’s set this goal. That in 150 years Religions will tell the truth. Especially the LDS. They are making some progress but they refuse to go all the way.”

          That’s, potentially, kind of a scary thought that the leaders only tell the truth some of the time. That is, it’scary if you have no foundation. If you, however, as the Lord commands in section one of the D&C, trust not in the arm of flesh (v.19), such things won’t phase you. I don’t care if Joseph Smith was drunk every friday night and a constant customer of all the local brothels. Look at Eli and his two sons (1Sam.2-4). They were a couple of crooks and adulterers. God put them in positions they were in and He took them out when He deemed fit to do so, and not after He, first, got our opinions.

          In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we have the Gift of the Holy Ghost. To know truth, when we see it, we don’t need a prophet or anything or anyone else.

          I know. Let’s revise the goal to say that in 150 years we’ll all just grow up.

          1. The gift of the Holy Ghost is actually a LDS member talking to him /her self. This self serving and self fulfilling “gift” is used to deny science, facts and common sense. It is a case of self brainwashing and a case of every time you flip a coin it always comes up the same way.

  2. Great episode, y’all.

    I appreciate that Brad used the parent analogy over the married couple analogy. I think this definitely captures the dynamic better, and also can explain better what happens in a faith transition (and why many folks have continuing problem with the church.)

    Dan, as I have mentioned elsewhere, I think that the basic issue is that the “parent” (the church) doesn’t really do a good job of recognizing that some of its children (members) have grown up.

    I think it was interesting to speak about where the institution is in its own maturation process — to talk of the church itself in being in a child stage or adolescent stage of development.

    I loved Brad’s recognition that one’s personal attributes can change how one perceives/experiences abuse in the church.

    I also loved Katie’s point to say that she feels at risk of being open and authentic about many of her PoV (e.g., women’s ordination).

  3. Great discussion. I find that when these topics are examined from a scientific viewpoint, it all falls in to place and makes sense. The problem I have is that the church claims to be divine and makes huge efforts to convince members of its divinity. However, anyone who looks deeply sees the human fingerprints all over the organization from top to bottom and they have to abandon the entire “guided by divinity” paradigm. The discussion certainly pointed out that all four hosts have taken this view. At that point, the organization loses credibility.

    Since distancing myself from Mormonism, I have participated in a local Unitarian Universalist congregation. (I think JS would be much more happy with the modern UU than he would be with the modern LDS but that is another topic!) Nobody at any level of the UU makes any pretense that they are being directly guided by deity of any sort. It is merely a democratic orginization full of good people trying to make the world a better place. They take pride in their democracy. In my mind, they have much more credibility than the leaders who stand up at GC every 6 months and perpetuate the “guided by divinity” trope that has permeated (infected?) the modern day church. In reality, it is just another man-made organization trying to perpetuate itself. No better than any other man-made organization.

    Again, great discussion. Thanks for your efforts!

    1. Thanks for jumping in, Bill! In my mind there are a lot of potential stops between “guided by divinity” and “just another man-made organization trying to perpetuate itself.” For instance, do you really think most UU folks aren’t seeking God’s/Sprit’s guidance in their lives and church administration? When I affiliated with it pretty regularly some 15 years back, it certainly seemed to still be a Spirit-seeking bunch. I think Mormonism can (and maybe is already in the midst of a transition given what they are admitting in the Gospel Topics essays about prophetic fallibility and confusion–race and BofAbraham are most evident) shift away from some of its extreme rhetoric about being guided in some radical, unique and crystal clear way, and that would be a comfortable position for me. You said that the four of us on this episode have abandoned the entire “guided by divnity” paradigm, which, at least in my case, isn’t true. I am quite comfortable with a church that seeks guidance and works in Spirit in the same ways that I do: seeking, acting on impressions, constantly refining and seeking more light. In this way “I” feel guided by divinity. Certainly I feel like this is far from just running my life based solely on my own devices.

      I would also contend that “no better than any other man-made organization” is a huge overstatement. To me, any organization that at least consults (tries to, anyway) with Spirit, and uses scripture and worthy ideas (but certainly not all ideas in scripture qualify) as reference points in decision making is going to be better than organizations that are driven purely by models concerned primarily by profit and pure growth motives. Disagree? Fight back! 🙂

      1. Point taken. In retrospect, “No better than any other man-made organization” should perhaps be changed to “No better than any other church.” On the whole, most churches do act better than the profit and growth based models. However, many churches are more interested in profit and growth than others, often at the expense of their membership (LDS? Said the cynical apostate!).

        I do, however, maintain that the LDS model of claiming direct revelation and guidance from a coporal being they call God is substantially different from a UU minister (or any other sincere person) calling upon the power of the universe for enlightenment. Divine guidance as seen by the Dan Wotherspoons of the world is substantially different from divine guidance as preached from the pulpit at GC. The talk by Sister McConkie this past October comes to mind.

        Which leads to the macro point: The church that the Dan Wotherspoons of the world believe in is not the church that is preached in GC, taught in Sunday meetings or believed in by the majority of the attending members. The majority of members think Dan is off the rails. Dan’s church is a great church. I could get behind Dan’s church. Dan’s church is divine in a unique way. But Dan’s church has nothing to do with the LDS church as presently constituted.

        I used to teach great EQ lessons full of provocative insights. Some people would only come to EQ meetings when I was the teacher. One day I had an aha moment and I realized that the majority of the brothers in the class did not want me in front. The majority rolled their eyes when I would make a comment from the back row. The majority just wished that I would shut up. So I did! I might be back when Dan is in charge….

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          Dang it, Bill! 🙂 Who needs a majority? Man, you were in “my” church when you were teaching those lessons and making contributions.

          I still feel weird about saying it out loud on the podcast, but I’ll risk it again here. In these areas of greater awareness of historical and social-psychological issues, of the history of ideas (and critiques of those lines of thinking), of the history and nature of scripture, of the complexities of inspiration/revelation, you/we are like the adults in the room. (Likely, in these areas, we’d be among the grown-ups in the room with a bunch of general authorities.) And it can suck. But it has its rewards, as well. Just as in our parenting, we love and want the best for our kids, but we don’t always correct every understanding, nor do we take to heart every time our children tell us to get out of here. But we also find teaching moments, and eventually we see that we are getting through. Even if it’s a begrudging acknowledgment, it’s movement. And, likewise, over-the-top negative reactions also often mean we’ve hit on something close to home that they just don’t want to deal with right then. Once we can learn to see that, a lot of things fall into place.

          In many other areas in my spiritual life and Sunday interactions, I’m far from being one of the grown-ups in the room. God/Spirit regularly calls me to do things that I refuse (or at least delay until it gets so loud I’ll go crazy if I don’t start addressing that thing), and I am also still far too “heady” in so much of my approach to life and how I weigh things/rationalize stuff. And also in the three wards I’ve been in over the past fifteen years, I’ve grown to know and really admire dozens and dozens of people who I can “think” circles around but who completely humble me through how they live their lives. That’s also “my” church, and I’m really pleased by all the things they teach me.

          I know you’re finding a neat peace within your UU associations, and I’m thrilled for you. But if you ever do feel stirrings about perhaps giving your birth church another go (and by “church” I’m mostly meaning fellow members), I hope you will give it–and speaking up when good moments arise–a try.

      2. Dan,

        To me, any organization that at least consults (tries to, anyway) with Spirit, and uses scripture and worthy ideas (but certainly not all ideas in scripture qualify) as reference points in decision making is going to be better than organizations that are driven purely by models concerned primarily by profit and pure growth motives. Disagree? Fight back!

        I don’t want to go fully disaffected on you (never go full disaffected!) but part of many people’s faith crises is coming to the sense that the way the LDS church works as an organization really isn’t all that distinguishable from any organization concerned by profit and pure growth motives.

        I mean, if we throw a Mormon spin on it, growth gets called membership, and profit gets implicated with tithing.

        I think there’s definitely a sense in which you and the panelists have definitely changed how you view what being “guided by divinity” means — in a way that is different than how people prior to a faith transition would see it, and also different from the colloquial ways that inspiration and revelation are talked about from the leadership.

        But the big deal for people undergoing that faith transition is why they should make that transition in defining what being “guided by divinity” entails, especially when it will put them at odds with an institution that also isn’t “there” yet.

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          “Never go full disaffected!” Tropical Thunder always cracks me up!

          Absolutely there are some in church headquarters that view membership and tithing revenue growth as key indicators of the Lord’s being well-pleased with how the church is being run, but if they were to voice it as primary concerns (over, say, spiritual growth of members, their coming to know the peace of atonement, their becoming more compassionate, etc.) I believe they’d be quickly counseled to look and emphasize the deeper things. It’s understandable that they go there at times, and also that we get cynical and imagine that such motives are the primary drivers at 50 East S Temple, but I just don’t think it’s true. And, certainly, if/when we hear something in our own local level that sounds like numbers are the be-all, end-all of how we measure success in the church, I think even the most timid among us could easily redirect the focus to things far more important.

          I’m not sure there’s a good answer to “why” try to push through to the other side. I do remember forming sentences in my head when I’d consider how my spiritual life was different from those of Randy Paul and Eugene England and Armand Mauss and others who I admired for seeming to have found joy in Mormon association even when they were, in my mind, so far ahead of the curve, and I came to name their way of being compared to mine as “spiritual maturity,” but I don’t know that I “decided” to try to be like them for any other reason than whatever led me to want to become an adult in other areas of my life. Just interacting with the world (them as mentors of sorts, as well as complexities of life of all varieties) and finding out (by trial and error/BIG ERRORS) that some ways of being in the world simply “work” better. When we “lean in” to difficulties, we generally end up better off than when we constantly keep our distance or always keep one foot out of the wrestling ring. A “tensionless state” is illusory. As Viktor Frankl states (paraphrase), the real way to peace is to find things that are “worthy of the human spirit” and to get involved with them. Then, when challenges come, we’re centered still in those good things and can far more easily find our way through. Anyway, I don’t know “why” myself, but I think it is/was more that life, and not just spiritual stirrings, kept calling me to step up, so I guess I began down that path and eventually found it far more satisfying than when I was constantly running from tough stuff.

          But none of it happened overnight. And, I know, that’s the hard part to think about when in the midst of turmoil. I can say, however, that many times when it became pretty dark for me, something would happen that gave me a glimmer of hope. I’d hit upon an idea or meet a person or have some kind of spiritual nudge that let me know again that God/Universe was with me, that they/it were supporting my desires and efforts to really understand things more thoroughly and better align myself with Spirit’s deep currents. May it be so for you (and all others at this crossroads), as well.

          1. I guess I’m just entirely more faithless than you on the point of motivation/focus. (Well, yes, that is obvious). For example, I think that the church would only use concerns over “spiritual growth of members, their coming to know the peace of atonement, their becoming more compassionate, etc.” as buzzwords to point to retention statistics. In other words, the reason baseball baptisms are bad (to use an extreme example) is because members who are poorly integrated into the ward/stake, who do not grow spiritually, who do not know the peace of atonement, etc., will quickly drop out of church attendance, meaning they won’t pay as much tithing in the future.

            I mean, the status quo church makes a whole lot of sense when I view it as being motivated like a typical, secular multinational for-profit corporation. It just doesn’t make sense to me when I try to put in deity in the mix.

            I’m not sure there’s a good answer to “why” try to push through to the other side. I do remember forming sentences in my head when I’d consider how my spiritual life was different from those of Randy Paul and Eugene England and Armand Mauss and others who I admired for seeming to have found joy in Mormon association even when they were, in my mind, so far ahead of the curve, and I came to name their way of being compared to mine as “spiritual maturity,”

            But even here, you haven’t addressed the big different in perspective. So for you, you admire all of those folks as having “spiritual maturity.” You phrase things in terms of adult response, maturity, etc.,

            I can in part see this conceptually, but at the same time, I recognize that for many people, they don’t see Eugene England, Armand Mauss, Randy Paul, you, or others as “spiritually mature.” Rather, they see mental gymnastics (which I’m not accusing here), they see your complicit participation in a bad organization, etc., etc., They do not see that as worthwhile to pursue, or as more “adult”.

            So, that’s the difference. It seems to me at the end of the day that maybe that’s just how some people are, and other people just aren’t going to ever fit that or have that. I mean, that’s why my own blog alludes to the Calvinist concept of irresistible grace, because my own intuition is that belief/faith/etc., are not something we choose, and so for those people who don’t have it, we can’t really do anything about that. (This idea, of course, is very at tension with Mormon belief voluntarism and Alma 32 stuff.)

            Thanks for the thoughts on leaning in, pragmatic ideas about living, etc., I’m not trying to suggest that I think a tensionless state is possible. It just seems that life offers plenty enough tension without adding in the artificial tensions of Mormonism.

            I mean, it seems to really drill down to different experiences. Whether it’s having “glimmers of hope” or whatever…or not. But the frustrating thing is that this doesn’t seem to empower one in his pursuit of faith or whatever. I can’t *choose* to have a glimmer of hope. I can’t *choose* to experience the “Spirit’s deep currents” (or even be aware of such). So in that sense, my destiny at church is very much decided by the universe, by my stake, by my ward, by my personality, etc.,

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            Fun exchange, Andrew. You definitely are far more cynical than me on church motivations, esp regarding tithing as the driving force. Again, no way that could ever be named out loud in any church meeting and not be shot down. It can subconsciously affect how some do their jobs, and perhaps it is one way they measure their success, but it can’t, and I say isn’t, primary.

            Re the church making sense as a corporation but not if it has deity in the mix, I guess I just draw on my studies of other religions and see how thoroughly human they all are. Even those enlightened Buddhists fight like crazy over various things and approaches, and there is corruption and puny brains involved at all levels. But overall things move forward, and not always just because they are forced. I think there’s a dynamic with Spirit, a constant dance between worthy ideals and current reals, that is far more active in religions than profit-driven corporations.

            Spiritual maturity, to me, feels a lot like regular maturity: The ability to see many sides to each issue. Making peace with fallible people, including/especially ourselves. Understanding tensions between individuals and organizations, and therefore being centered ourselves in our values that allow us to engage from a position of strength, and to actually be change agents in the world. Laughter and celebrating any successes as important. Understanding how change happens, and seeing that it does. Discipline (and in religious terms, “disciplines”–practices that foster openness to the deeper currents, regularity in trying to silence as much as possible the noise of our minds and all that comes in life’s stresses). One of my favorite Krista Tippetts reflections came as she spoke of similar characteristics of her guests on the show (all/most definitely of what I’d call spiritually or life mature), where she said that they all see the good of their religions/philosophical systems, but they are all also absolutely aware of all the pain and smallness and ugliness of things that had been done/are being done by those acting (they think) in alignment with them, and then after acknowledging that past and present, both good and terrible, these folks wake up in the morning and say “yes, and…” And they get busy living and making a positive contribution in whatever ways they can, big or small. THAT is the closest thing I have right now to a definition of “maturity.”

            To be continued…

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            Re not seeing Paul, Mauss, England, me as adult, I just don’t think it’s a concern. Eventually life will show or not what is bigger and more stable, what is richer or thinner, what is “worth” doing or not. All anyone can do is act out of good faith (and trust that others are acting out of good faith, as well). Allowing other worries in can only lead to frustration and unnecessary (as it’s SO uncontrollable) expenditures of energy that could go to more constructive things.

            Re spiritual talent (big shorthand) as given or not. I think to some degree you are right. Temperaments are real, and vary greatly between people. Certainly some seem to have a more porous boundary between the seen and unseen worlds, seem to more easily sense energies below the surface and allow them to flow into waking consciousness. William James, who is by far my favorite thinker, saw himself as “tone deaf” to the music of the Spirit. Yet, even as he claimed this, he could never fully shake that “something More” existed beyond his conscious mind, and that this More had affects not only in the world at large, but in his own life. At then end of Varieties he talks of his deepest self crying out “Bosh!” when confronted with the claim that he is only as deep as what he could weigh, measure, see, speak about, etc.

            Where I’d disagree with your Irresistible Grace appropriation is that it grants too much power to God (at least in Calvin) or the Universe as actor rather than ourselves. I know it’s different for everyone, but somehow I think the key for a lot of us is simply a willingness to yield ego’s control, it’s desire to run it all, to be in charge. (Read any of a huge number of mystics/yogis/positive psychologists on this dynamic.) And I’m not sure I would have known or ever become “open” to letting Spirit be part of my life were it not for how badly my ego did running things. It took pure brokenness, nearly choosing to end it all, final desperation before I could admit failure. Then I could finally begin to yield. Slowly, surely I began to feel those energies, and the long road (one I’m still on) to transformation began. So perhaps you’re just luckier/wiser than me that you haven’t totally effed things up as much as I did/do when just working on my own. I don’t go with you fully on our not being able to “choose” to become more open to Spirit and begin to experience hope/deep currents, etc. There are lots of other ways that seem to work for many people in terms of beginning to yield–i.e., we can choose to put ourselves in situations/postures/states of being that seem to be most successful in fostering the flow. Most religious disciplines, or practices like yoga that have a strong mind/body/spirit element but not a strong didacticism, work to get us out of our minds, thus allowing access to wider awarenesses, etc.. But, in one way in favor of your “irresistible grace” theme, I’ve never yet been able to force the flow of Spirit or order it up on demand. When it happens, it feels far more passive on my end. I’m taken/carried. Still, I think the frequency of this happening can be aided via disciplines that don’t focus on a “mind- or language- first” orientation to the world.

  4. This was an excellent podcast (as always). I appreciate the conversation and the viewpoints shared.

    The portion where you discussed having a “genuine relationship” with another person who may have a different view of things than you do, and sincerely wishing them to flourish, brings to my mind an interesting quote from Thomas Jefferson. May I share this?

    “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.” – Thomas Jefferson to William Hamilton, April 22, 1800

    He continues…”I owe to it the opportunity of placing myself justly before you, and of assuring you there was no person here to whom I had less disposition of shewing neglect than to yourself. The circumstances of our early acquaintance I have ever felt as binding me in morality as well as in affection: and there are so many agreeable points in which we are in perfect unison, that I am at no loss to find a justification of my constant esteem.”

    Great language, a great sentiment!

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      Thanks, Terry! Love those!

      My turn. From C.S. Lewis (talking about his friend Owen Barfield–the “second friend.”):

      The First [Friend] is the alter ego, the man who first reveals to you that you are not alone in the world by turning out (beyond hope) to share all your most secret delights. There is nothing to be overcome in making him your friend; he and you join like raindrops on a window.

      But the Second Friend is the man who disagrees with you about everything… Of course he shares your interests; otherwise he would not become your friend at all. But he has approached them all at a different angle. he has read all the right books but has got the wrong thing out of every one… How can he be so nearly right, and yet, invariably, just not right? He is as fascinating (and infuriating) as a woman.

      ________

      The last bit about “a woman” makes me smile, too. I wonder if he’d dare say that again today! Billy Joel did, to some degree, in “Always a Woman to Me,” but likely not something to easily get away with in this day and age. 🙂

  5. There was some discussion about abuse in the podcast. The wrestle I have at this time is what institutional spiritual abuses are my young children exposed to or threatened by and is it something I should be trying to mitigate as a parent? How?

  6. Ahhh! This episode could’ve been 10 times longer and I still would have been left unsatisfied!

    What a great conversation and a great bunch of panelists. I loved how Katie got personal too. The parent/child dynamic seems like a great fit too instead of the marriage relationship. I really appreciated that insight. And Mary Beth is so well versed in stages of development, I could listen to her talk for hours.

    I want to put in a plug though for Dan doing an episode all by himself at some point where he talks about the specifics of how he makes it work and his own stages of faith in detailed ways. I know that Dan’s sort of done this before but it’s always been to highlight Fowler’s work or others, and I think we could use the some gospel according to Dan. I still feel like I don’t totally understand where you’re coming from at times, Dan, and how you’re making it work in the weekly meetings, in home life, in callings, etc. For example, do you feel called to minister in Mormonism? Is that the main reason you stay? You’ve mentioned that you love certain slants that Mormonism has, but what are they? What are the things that keep you in love with Mormonism despite all its’ flaws?

    I have a billion other questions for you, Dan, and I’d really love to have an episode where you take center stage.

    1. I think there should definitely be an episode of Dan on his own…especially to talk about what it took (other than just time…) to move away from any particularly angry/upset periods of faith transition. Dan has alluded to this in some past podcasts, but that always seem to get glossed over.

    2. CC,

      I think that me and another guest tried to accomplish at least some of this in episode 249-250 but, frankly, the conversation could have lasted 20 hours and I still wouldn’t have exhausted everything I wanted to discuss. Because of time constraints, we had to limit our questions to just a few. Also, Dan’s Mormon Stories interview was great. I think it is 4 hours or so and I really appreciated it.

      1. Yes, Adam, the Being Authentic Within Mormonism and the Mormon Stories interviews are both fantastic! And I appreciated how you pinned down Dan in many respects during your interview. I just want MORE!

        I just think there are so many of us that are trying to make it work and searching for ways to become more adult, but it’s so helpful when we can see how others have done it before us. Up until more recently (last couple of years), I didn’t even know it was possible to be an adult within Mormonism. I just kept trying to make old stuff work and I was miserable. But I don’t want to just flee either because Mormonism will always be part of me, it’s the thing that got me here in the first place. I just want to renegotiate the terms of the relationship in ways that allows me to have integrity and to actually show up as me. It’s hard stuff! I’m so grateful for this podcast though–it gets me thinking about good things.

  7. I appreciate Dan giving us this list of different relationships between God and us. Let’s keep it in our minds, though, as Dan sure seems to, that, as he said, these are relationships between God and us, not between the church, and much more specifically, the church leaders and us. Can prophets make mistakes? Sure. But the next question is: What’s that got to do with anything?
    They are in those callings because God put them there for reasons that are, probably, none of our business and he will take them out when HE sees fit. About thirty years ago I was teaching a lesson in EQ on what it was to be a Christian. I said that a sign on the front lawn doesn’t make a person a Christian. I said that the name Jesus Christ in the first of about thirteen sentences on the back of a 3 X 5 card doesn’t make a person a Christian. I than told them that definition of the word Christian should be – a disciple of the Lord, Jesus Christ – that the citizens of ancient Antioch had it right. To my great surprise, one person, a visitor (member), disagreed quite strongly. I remember thinking – How can this be?……Ok, people. Brace for impact. I, later, learned he was from Utah – just a bit of histocracy. I think over in StayLDS we decided that histocracy was important, too. At least, I did. Ok, on with the subject.
    Remember, in the Old Testament, about Eli, the high Priest, and his two sons? Eli had his good points but his two sons were a couple of adulteress crooks. But the real eye opener of the whole thing is how long it took God to get them out of church leadership. If I read that account right, there were children who grew to adulthood under that kind of leadership in the church the and prophet, Samuel, was one of them. What I learn from all this is that when God chooses his leadership, insurrection is not an option. What you do in these kinds of situations is – you make do! You tough it out. No matter how stupid things get, the presence of His chosen leaders makes it His Church. How often have I heard the subject of other churches not considering us Christians? Can you get that – we want to be Christians, but we don’t want to be disciples. Doesn’t make sense………AT ALL!!

  8. Dan,

    responding outside of threaded comments, because…threaded comments can get pretty hairy.

    We’ll just have to be at an impasse on tithing/membership numbers. It’s not a central concern here.

    All I’ll say on that topic is this:

    Re the church making sense as a corporation but not if it has deity in the mix, I guess I just draw on my studies of other religions and see how thoroughly human they all are.

    Yes, all religions seem thoroughly human to me as well. The difference just seems to be that you see a “dynamic with Spirit” involved, and I don’t.

    Moving on to the more interesting (IMO) topic of spiritual “talent”,

    William James, who is by far my favorite thinker, saw himself as “tone deaf” to the music of the Spirit. Yet, even as he claimed this, he could never fully shake that “something More” existed beyond his conscious mind, and that this More had affects not only in the world at large, but in his own life. At then end of Varieties he talks of his deepest self crying out “Bosh!” when confronted with the claim that he is only as deep as what he could weigh, measure, see, speak about, etc.

    I get this. I know folks who are like this as well. But I think that this also doesn’t account for the folks who consider them/ourselves “tone deaf” but who never perceive the “something more.” I mean, at best, I can say to myself, “Well, there are other people who talk about it, and they seem to think a whole lot on this topic, so out of good faith, I can’t just write them all off as referring to nothing.” (Although there are some folks, obviously, who will do just that.)

    Where I’d disagree with your Irresistible Grace appropriation is that it grants too much power to God (at least in Calvin) or the Universe as actor rather than ourselves.

    I anticipated your disagreement here. But that’s the only way I can conceptually make sense of deity. It totally makes sense to me if there is a deity but he has programmed some folks to be utterly unaware of him, utterly unable to seek and find him out, etc., Obviously, that grants too much power to God — but that makes sense to me.

    I know it’s different for everyone, but somehow I think the key for a lot of us is simply a willingness to yield ego’s control, it’s desire to run it all, to be in charge. (Read any of a huge number of mystics/yogis/positive psychologists on this dynamic.) And I’m not sure I would have known or ever become “open” to letting Spirit be part of my life were it not for how badly my ego did running things. It took pure brokenness, nearly choosing to end it all, final desperation before I could admit failure. Then I could finally begin to yield. Slowly, surely I began to feel those energies, and the long road (one I’m still on) to transformation began. So perhaps you’re just luckier/wiser than me that you haven’t totally effed things up as much as I did/do when just working on my own.

    This is also a big conceptual possibility. My life has been pretty great and I can recognize and appreciate that. I can recognize and appreciate that that probably deprives me of some experiences that others may have. But if the “choice” I have to make to experience that stuff is “nearly wreck my life and hope that in desperation, I experience something greater than myself,” I’m not sure if I’m going to ever consciously decide to do that.

    Still, you have also preemptively addressed that…

    I don’t go with you fully on our not being able to “choose” to become more open to Spirit and begin to experience hope/deep currents, etc. There are lots of other ways that seem to work for many people in terms of beginning to yield–i.e., we can choose to put ourselves in situations/postures/states of being that seem to be most successful in fostering the flow. Most religious disciplines, or practices like yoga that have a strong mind/body/spirit element but not a strong didacticism, work to get us out of our minds, thus allowing access to wider awarenesses, etc..

    So, my response here is that even if one does these things…practices “religious disciplines,” that doesn’t result in the same response for everyone. I get that some people can meditate and have these sorts of experiences. Other people can meditate and experience nothing. I am very very very familiar with the LDS concept of “stupor of thought” because that’s every single prayer, every single attempt to meditate, every single attempt at anything remotely spiritual.

    But I’m not familiar with “the flow.” From my experience, I have to either conclude 1) it doesn’t exist, 2) I’m “doing it wrong”, 3) it cannot be consciously sought out — it is a unwarranted gift, or 4) I’m just broken (and that’s the sort of connotation I get from the talk of “tone deafness” or “spiritual blindness” or things like that) since I am not “aware” of it.

    Personally, I’m OK with 1 or 3. I’m over 2 as an explanation because of the church, and I’m over 4 for my own personal life sanity.

    1. Post
      Author

      Great responses, George. Thanks! I know from reading you and watching you interact online for a couple of years now how committed you are to figuring all of this religion stuff out, so know that I’m an admirer. Let me risk, though, just one more set of ideas to throw out at you, and which may sound contradictory to what i just said about the intensity of your inquiries, but they’re not. Just extra ways of saying things that might have a chance to be something to give you additional data or fuel for the fire.

      I completely understand your responses to those four options. And they seem reasonable. I’d add a fifth one, though, which would center on persistence, practice, putting self in situations where one truly opens to anything. In some ways this suggests another “p” word: pragmatism. Besides “stupor of thought” or “burning in bosom” (and I think we as Mormons are very much harmed by practically limiting “answers” of “knowledge of spiritual things” to those two options–and when you use “doesn’t result in the same response for everyone” I think that might be what is coming through), I’d want to expand the criteria for experiencing spirit/answers to include examining if life seems to go better, we really feel better, we are more patient, joyful, compassionate, etc. (as it is described in Galations 5, these are “fruits” of the spirit–they grow, often slowly–and not ones that “burning” or “stupor” really capture) when we do those practices. (And it’s not necessarily “when” we’re doing them as what emerges from doing them. Also, many meditation programs teach that it often takes several weeks of consistent practice to begin to really start sensing the benefits.) Anyway, pragmatism is my main approach to discovering truth. How it works in my life, as well as “inside” me as I experience whatever comes my way. Kind of a body knowing as much as anything else.

      All my best!

  9. Fascinating episode. At the end, it was discussed how the church is most definitely changing in positive ways. I agree. I also disagree. It IS changing. Statements on race, LGBT, and women are definitely changing. But simultaneously I can observe how it is NOT changing, or if it is, changing in reverse.

    For example, the modesty rhetoric toward our YW (and even our RS women) is undeniably worse than ever. I grew up when tank tops and mid thigh shorts were just normal clothes. Same with off the shoulder or sleeveless gowns. In other words, shoulders and lower thighs were NOT immodest parts of a woman’s body. Even 2 piece swim suits were seen as normal so long as they weren’t string bikinis. Now look at today. The temple garment coverage has been made the new definition of modest whether you’re an endowed temple garment wearing adult or a 3 year old toddler.

    I also grew up with the assumption that decaf coffee was a perfectly acceptable substitute for the real deal because of how many adult members I knew in my ward that openly drank the stuff. They continued to hold callings and temple recommends.

    And I grew up in Utah.

    To me, it seems like the theology may becoming less orthodox, but the culture/practices are becoming more so.

    I have a theory – I don’t know if it’s right or wrong, but in my experience I often see the most TBMs also be the most willing to serve wherever called, and serve diligently. (I recognize that’s not always the case, but hear me out.) It’s natural that members who grow up with such conviction and certainty, having never dealt with deep faith crises often brought on by deep study, can tend to serve in their callings with equal conviction as a natural consequence to their certainty and devotion. (Again, not the only case, but perhaps more so than not.) And when you become known to serve whenever called, and serve well, you’re often called to bigger and heavier callings – also as a natural consequence of being a reliable member. So in a way that member may end up climbing the proverbial calling “ladder” (so to speak) until he/she is in some big time local or even wider than local leadership positions (and now having more public influence in voice and deed). I wonder if this occurrence bears any weight as to why on paper we’re may be evolving in progressive ways while at the same time, in more practicing ways, we appear to be more orthodox than ever.

    Take politics for example. It sure feels like more than ever, being a faithful member means being a right wing conservative Republican. I know of many who would question a member’s faithfulness as a member if they weren’t. Take this article as a shameful (albeit probably not all that unusual) example of that type of ultra-orthodox thinking. http://www.jewishjournal.com/jews_and_mormons/item/good_riddance_to_harry_reid_the_mormon_senate_leader

    Perhaps the fact that we’re a growing, global church now, has something to do with how watered down, basic, general, & un-nuanced some of our teachings seem compared to the past. Maybe that plays a role in this. But even that seems like a paradox. Shouldn’t we be more unorthodoxed, more nuanced as our membership grows outside of our western culture, Utah roots?

    Perhaps it comes from how much we seem to talk as a church about being “behind enemy lines” now, how the world is more corrupt than its ever been, how we use the phrase “be in the world, but not of the world” to talk only about how to not be “of the world” and neglect to talk about the “be in the world” part. Maybe all of this COMBINED contributes to what feels like a deeper line in the sand being drawn between what a good member dresses like, sounds like, thinks like, votes like, etc.

    At any rate, it’s perplexing to me as I see on one hand a broadening of belief – the progressive evolution talked about in the end of the podcast, but on the other hand I absolutely see a narrowing of it as well. What gives?

  10. Pingback: 4 Spiritual Practices for An Atheist Ex-Mormon | Irresistible (Dis)Grace

  11. Most interesting podcast! Thanks to the moderator and panelists. Each was great! For perspective, I’ve listened to over 100 pods on Mormon Stories, Mormon Matters and A Thoughtful Faith. I consider myself progressive in some ways, but recognize that the term comprises a continuum of thought. Two issues I’m concerned about seem to be pervasive in discussions by progressive panelists.
    1) There is a lack of discussion of any decision making relative to religion based on spiritual sources. Most issues are only discussed and evaluated from a rational perspective. I recognize that for some progressives that may be all there is, but I don’t feel that is universal among progressives. I don’t recall anyone, though I’m sure it has happened, saying something like, “Though to me, rationally the issue of Book of Mormon historicity is pretty weak, my spiritual witness—what I think God is telling me—is strong enough to allow me to choose belief.” The panelists are happy to get personal about their rational thoughts, but rarely about their spiritual thoughts. Why is this? In my judging self, I wonder if, since many of the panelists are academics, that they think it’s below them or unprofessional to mention personal spiritual experiences in any public forum or that it would weaken their case. I think always omitting this part of our discussion causes orthodox members to inaccurately discount progressive ideas and the person sharing them as doubting and unbelieving which is doing a disservice to the progressive cause.
    2) Why do progressives feel so comfortable professing to be standing on a hill looking at the future as ensigns to the church? Why do we rarely, if ever, hear any humble qualifying words? While the more vocal progressives are the first to state the errancy in the prophetic mantle of the institutional church, their tone and phraseology seem to indicate they feel themselves to be inerrant. Why do many progressives apparently think that moving toward ‘truer’ Christianity always, and apparently by default, means moving toward more liberal views? For some issues, why not the reverse? It would be interesting for a range of progressive panelists to have a podcast for the purpose of having a self-evaluation and discuss the progressive movement and where its weaknesses lie, where it might be wrong and how to tell when it has slipped into excessive relativism and wholesale universalism they currently may or may not want to avoid. And, what is the ultimate end they seek?

  12. Clarification to my last post. I didn’t mean to be indicting the panelists of this podcast. My comments are more a reflection of issues bothering me over time and I finally decided to publish them. In fact, Marybeth Raynes, and Brad Kramer in this podcast made specific statements indicating they didn’t want their comments too generalized or taken to mean they are trying to guide the whole Church. Thanks again for some great insights!

  13. Karl Stum,

    I think you’re going to definitely want to listen to any podcast episodes from here or elsewhere where a progressive/liberal Mormon is speaking with a disaffected Mormon (or someone less on the believing side of things.) I can’t think of specific podcast episode numbers off the top of my head (although if I thumbed through the episode lists, I could probably think of something), but I hear many times the podcasters speaking about the spiritual concerns.

    I mean, a main theme going through Dan Wotherspoon’s story is that we need to live less “in our heads” so to speak, and live more “with our hearts.” I think it’s a major theme for him that he talks about how even as he knows the “rational” concerns, he still has gone through and is going through a spiritual maturation process on other areas — and that he encourages others to be open to spiritual experiences beyond the solely rational.

    I don’t know why you’re not hearing this, because to me, that is the most striking thing about, say, Mormon Matters, or A Thoughtful Faith. These are decidedly not disaffected podcasts.

    I think that orthodox members may discount progressive members for a different reason.

    As to your second point, I can’t speak for anyone else (since I am a disaffected person, not a progressive Mormon), but it seems to me that the progressive Mormon testimony is solidly built from spiritual experiences rooted in the things that they find encourage expansiveness, openness, acceptance, things like that. So, to the extent that “truer Christianity” seems to align with moving toward more liberal views (and as you note, i don’t think they are claiming to have institutional authority here), it’s not because they are just taking cues from politically liberal or politically progressive views, but because they have spiritual witness of the joy that comes from these expansive, accepting ways.

    Like, they are not being relativists on this point. They clearly see a vision of what is good and righteous. It’s not just “anything goes.”

    1. Andrew,
      Thanks for the response. Additional perspectives are useful. In thinking about what you said, I do get that progressives are engaging with their spiritual sides. Maybe my feelings are biased by too many pods from Mormon Stories.

      1. For whatever it’s worth, I think Mormon Stories is a very different story, and there are a number of reasons for that. John Dehlin definitely doesn’t seem to be at a similar “place” as Dan Wotherspoon.

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