This episode strays from Mormon Matters’ typical panel discussion format, featuring instead four one-on-one conversations between host Dan Wotherspoon and wonderful friends of his who he asked to think about and share share their favorite thing about Mormonism. What it is that they like or love most about Mormonism or life as a Mormon? What idea or practice or cultural uniqueness excites their spirits or compels the most reflection? He got very interesting, even somewhat surprising, answers.
Listen to the “best things” that Lorie Winder Stromberg, Taylor Petrey, Rick Jepson, and Gina Colvin come up with—and then share your own ideas and reflections below!
Lorie Winder Stromberg speaking at the 6 April 2013 launch event for Ordain Women. This is a video of her giving the same presentation she gave at the Claremont Graduate University event she mentions in the episode.
Taylor Petrey, “Toward a Post-Heterosexual Mormon Theology,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 44, no. 4 (Winter 2011).
Rick Jepson, “Godwrestling: Physicality, Conflict, and Redemption in Mormon Theology,” Sunstone, November 2005.
Matters of Perspective audio presentation of the above article, read by the author
The Red Balloon (Blog written by Rick and Wendy Jepson)
KiwiMormon: Mormon Reflections from the Antipodes (Blog written by Gina Colvin)
I think this is an interesting type of episode! You should do more of these! I loved what Lori said her favorite thing about Mormonism was. Before listening to hers, I would have said that my favorite thing about Mormonism is the idea that we can all have all the knowlegde about the physical world and actually be able to create things. But I realize after listening to Lori that in order for what I love the most to work, and being a woman, we would also need the idea that women have to be on the same playing field as men. In contemporary Mormon society, this seems to be less emphasized, and more emphasized is that women are just homemakers (which is not bad at all, though men should also equally be homemakers) and don’t play as much a part in creation as they might like. Most (or all) of the creators mentioned in scripture are men…but then again, most of the people mentioned at all in scripture are men. But I wish that women are emphasized more than they are now as creators as well. Again, thank you for this episode! It’s interesting to hear what these people thought were the best parts of Mormonism.
Dan this was a great episode. These discussions are lots of fun a give us a peak inside the personal minds of many of the people that are often only seen as critical of the church. It is good to see a more detailed picture. Let’s do more of these!
Gina, as a New Zealand Wellington Mission alum from Orem, Utah I didn’t know whether to laugh or be sad about your comment about people from Orem not being able to handle paradox. I guess I just proved your point. I can also say that I’ve heard stories about NZ fast and testimony meetings.
You know I was joking – kinda!
Really enjoyed this podcast. It made me think deeply about my favorite things and it was so fun to hear others too.
The doctrine of Heavenly mother is definitely up there for me too so I’m glad that got covered.
The format was a fun change too. Would love to see this format and topic addressed again down the road!
A creative approach to the episode! For someone as erudite and insightful as you are, Gina, I was completely taken by your fondness for the humanness of the church members. What you describe sounds delightfully off-script and uncorrelated.
Can you recommend some reading regarding your comment about epistemology? I’d like to read a treatment explaining how fundamentalist epistemologies and fundamentalist readings of scripture are a relatively modern phenomenon. And do you know of any articles / books outlining a taxonomy of ways of approaching religion (as mental affirmation of propositional beliefs, or as posture toward the universe and others in the community, or as a set of spiritual practices), as well as tracing the relative prominence of these various approaches throughout history and across various traditions?
Thanks to you and the other guests for many helpful comments. Keep up the great work, Dan!
Good questions. The idea that fundamentalism is a modern phenomenon is pretty axiomatic in the study of religion. In Christian contexts, it arises in response to things like higher criticism of the Bible and evolutionary thinking that was dominant in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Karen Armstrong’s _The Battle for God_ is a popular book, but it reviews some of the history here as it relates to multiple religious traditions. George Marsden’s _Fundamentalism and American Culture_ is another great study that is more specific to the context of American religion.
On the question of different understandings of religion, a good introductory book that I have used in the classroom is William Paden, _Interpreting the Sacred_. It is a very accessible introduction to the question of what is religion. My own understanding of practice is deeply influenced by practice theorists, like Pierre Bourdieu, Judith Butler, Talal Asad, Michel Foucault, and others. I once tried to articulate some of how I see these items relating to the practice of Mormonism in a short piece in Dialogue: https://www.academia.edu/416296/Practicing_Divinity
I hope that helps!!
Perfect! Thanks, Taylor. I’ll check these out.
I loved this episode. Please do more.
Regarding Lorie Winder Stromberg’s interview ……..”Despite feminists’ efforts for many Mormons, God the Mother remains God the Father’s supportive wife perfected, silently plumping pillows and awaiting our return.” Is she saying that THIS is the image our priesthood leaders want us to have of Her? From what conference talk, or lesson manual, or Ensign article did such a dismissive statement arise? I haven’t heard it. Has homemaking, caricatured as “plumping pillows”, now been designated as unimportant? Would she have us believe that our Heavenly Mother is assigned to the kitchen, so to speak, kept in the “shadows” because of this “Patriarchal paradigm”? I haven’t heard that in our doctrine either. I hope there are not now Catholics who were present at her seminar at Claremont University who think that is what we are taught. Such statements are demeaning, presumptuous, and irresponsible. And they mislead the world as to how women are thought of, and treated in our church.
As I understand it, and I see the wisdom in this ….. we don’t talk about our Mother in Heaven much because we know practically nothing about her. And who controls what information we are given? Our Father.
It’s too easy to assign our own imaginations and perceptions to Her ….. and then false doctrine begins. We don’t know why our Father has given us so little information and we speculate too much about those reasons, but I trust that He knows best.
As always, whenever we have to move forward w/o the information we desire, we must draw on faith. It always comes down to faith and the humility to accept that we don’t have all the answers, and that someone knows more than we do. So until our Father decides that the time is right for us to know more about Her, or if/when women should be ordained for that matter, I will not speculate nor complain nor find fault with His church or His servants. And we will be blessed with all the power we may desire, or need, when He decides it’s best for us. Not a moment sooner.
Brenda, my actual words were, “for many Mormons, God the Mother remains God the Father’s supportive wife perfected, silently plumping pillows and awaiting our return.” Although She has been described in such terms, like you I would hope the majority of Mormons see Her as I believe Mormon doctrine points to: an empowered God the Mother. But you’re right. We know little about Her. I would still assert this says more about the fact that doctrine, even if you believe it has a divine origin, is seen through cultural lenses. And if it is revealed in a culture unused to empowering women–remember, when Joseph Smith taught about a Mother in Heaven, women couldn’t vote in the United States–it is often interpreted through that lens.
Unlike you, I think revelation is usually actively invited, rather than just passively received. It’s often given in response to a question, and there are any number of instances in our history and scripture that suggest this. The Joseph Smith story is, perhaps, the prime example. As Elder Uchtdorf said in the February, 2012, Leadership Training Broadcast, “If we stop asking questions, stop thinking, stop pondering, we can thwart the revelations of the spirit. Remember, it was the questions young Joseph asked that opened the door for the restoration of all things. … How often has the Holy Spirit tried to tell us something we needed to know, but couldn’t get past the massive, iron gate of what we thought we already knew.”
Just a quick comment to say that I loved this episode. All were great; special mention to Rick Jepson who has an amazing gift to provide great insight while being genuinely humble and self-aware.
As a non-LDS, non-denominational Christian I can offer an educated outsider’s perspective of things that are cool about Mormonism:
**The open canon idea – but it needs to NOT be paired with literalistic, fundamentalist ways of viewing Scripture, and it would be better not to have institutional assertions about what exactly is Scripture and what is not. There are so many writings that are in some ways inspired, plus music and art that go where words cannot, but it becomes a problem when other people try to set themselves up as authorities on what exactly is inspired and what isn’t. I think to live authentically we need to make our own mistakes, not just copy the mistakes of “authorities”…
**The very LDS idea that God can inspire even people who formally don’t actually believe in God. A lot of other Protestant denominations have this “You’re either with God or Satan” binary view and no nuance. Having said that, I know some LDS members who pretty much operate on that view as well. Quakers, by the way, also have a version of this idea, “That of God in everyman” – and they look for the light of Christ in people, no matter what their religious affiliations or otherwise.
**The idea that God wants to reveal himself personally to common individuals, not just “special” people – the encouragement of believers to ask God themselves. That’s really cool, and really well developed in LDS belief. What’s not so cool is that, when personal revelation or belief differs from the views and beliefs of the church authorities, people are frequently told that Satan deceived them. It creates a “groupthink” and actually limits a very rich concept.
**The smallish and more nuanced view of hell in comparison with a lot of other fundamentalist Protestant denominations – the view of it as something the individual does to themselves, and not as a giant sort of frying pan wielded by a vengeful deity cast in the mould of a dysfunctional parent. The very positive and redemptive view of God and the optimism around redemption. The blessed lack of evangelical hysteria around hell and, for the most part, the devil. The idea that redemption isn’t just limited to the life span on earth.
And I’m going to say something else: Even thinking that JS was deeply flawed, or even an outright con man, isn’t necessarily a good reason for any reasonably happy LDS to stop going to church. I mean, let’s look at who founded the Anglican church, and why: A king who wanted to get divorced and who routinely had his wives killed when the Pope wouldn’t let him. Does that necessarily take away all the value and goodness found (along with the usual flaws and problems) in the Anglican congregations? I don’t think so.
And Catholicism: Lay Catholics aren’t very interested in declarations made by what they frequently to as “career Catholics” and have said to me, “The congregation is the real church, that’s why I’m here!” (and most amusingly, one Franciscan monk I worked with, who really epitomised living Christianity to me, told me his monastic colleagues referred to the church big-wigs as “The Spice Girls”).
No reason LDS can’t attempt that and reclaim their ground – other than excommunication and church discipline of course, but if you guys started seeing that like Martin Luther King saw his run-ins with discriminatory and unjust laws, as the price you pay for doing what you think is right, then it’s probably going to be less angsty… God bless all of you! 🙂