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  1. I love the recentering the discussion that we need to move away from abstractions about what eternal life/godly life entails, and I love the concept that this involves life and living…the “short list” per Carlisle — things like autonomy, personal dignity, a sense of self-direction, etc., etc., I like the idea that faith crises can be connected to these ideas, and that concerns about “beliefs” may actually be a few steps removed from more basic concerns about “short list” items.

    But I don’t think the problem is that the church or people in the church or whatever fail to move away from abstractions into the specifics. Rather, I think the issue is that the church definitely has specifics, but these specifics often do not promote autonomy, a sense of self-direction, etc., I think it’s because of the one-size-fits-all approach that gets going (even if you can find quotations or ideas that suggest that maybe sometimes people can make their own choices and not fit the pattern/ideal, as it were, it’s the fact that the church absolutely preaches one sort of ideal.) Carlisle asks at some point in part 2, “I want to do better, but what does better look like?” He answers his own question: “I want them to have life, more fulfilling and abundant.”

    I don’t think any Mormon would disagree with this. But the problem is that even here, different people have different ideas about what makes a life more fulfilling and more abundant.

    For example, Phil talked in this section (around 12 minutes of part 2) about community, growing relations, etc., etc., etc., But it’s important to note that the church doesn’t disagree that community, relations, etc., are important. To the contrary, it really really really emphasizes community, relations, family, etc., So what’s the problem? It’s that the church defines which kinds of relationships are good and which are bad in a way that stifles people — e.g., defined gender roles, heteronormativity, patriarchy, etc., etc., etc.,

    I think that Dan’s shift in part 2 (around 16 minutes) about looking beyond the mind/belief/head space to moving into more spirit/living/heart space is probably what he wanted the discussion to be from the beginning. I’ve sensed this as a theme in many episodes, so I was able to track with this a little better. I understand conceptually Dan’s point about how having his spirit warmed kinda changed his sort of attitude on those things: the idea that it didn’t really “resolve” the problems, but it cast it into a different light that allowed those problems not to overshadow the good has always been interesting to me (especially the thought around 20 minutes of part 2 where he says that it doesn’t feel like he is “selling out is intellect”…which is a common criticism he probably gets from a lot of people. It just doesn’t *feel* right to set aside the intellectual issues or the lived issues), but I have a couple problems with this shifting:

    1) It seems to me that Dan wants to pin faith crisis issues in the head space (so the solution: move outside of one’s head, and learn to appreciate the heart space stuff, and rebalance the two. As Dan says, “Where else other than religion can you seriously engage matters of spirit?”)

    In thinking about my criticism, I was able to connect the first part of the podcast to this second part: my criticism is that I actually would probably agree with Carlisle that faith crisis issues discussed in a “head/belief” way actually have deeper roots with heart/lived experience issues. IOW, we could probably go into how every issue that shows up as a reason for faith crisis drills down to perceived decreased autonomy, lack of fulfillment, decreased personal dignity, etc., And if that is true, then that’s a different challenge for Dan. People are resistant to the concept of spirit because religion has soured them on “the religious life.” So it doesn’t feel like throwing baby with bathwater in a move to secularism, scientism, atheism, etc., because it doesn’t feel like there was a baby.

    2) I understand that somehow, by re-engaging in matters of the “spirit,” Dan has moved away from a place of being head-focused, but I don’t know how you get people to that position. IOW, for someone who doesn’t feel there is a baby, who doesn’t feel the spirit, who doesn’t perceive that thing, then it seems that having those sorts of spiritual experiences that recontextualize things is entirely situational and arbitrary. (I thought a question that was asked about love/grace/gratefulness was great…is love something one can do after one has a solid base? Or does love fuel the solid base? In this example…can one more gently live and appreciate Mormonism once one has certain needs in their life met? If so, I think there is going to be a problem, because Mormonism *doesn’t meet those needs*. But if that is not a prerequisite, then the challenge is different — convincing people that sticking with it comes first, and that having needs met follows. P.S. I LOVE that Carlisle brought this back up in part 2 around 22 minutes. Dan arguably only got to the place where is now within Mormonism because he built a secure base with spiritual practices from *outside of Mormonism* and then started seeing those things within Mormon ideas, scriptures, concepts.)

    I listen to a lot of Mo Matters episodes (especially the ones where Dan is talking a lot), and I still really believe that Dan’s viewpoint is not very generalizable. It still seems a little opaque. There’s still a piece that has not really been explained sufficiently IMO. Something there where Dan’s operating on one wavelength, a lot of other people are operating on another, and the dial to change wavelengths is not known. I mean, sometimes Dan puts it as a matter of engaging in spiritual practices, but those don’t really do much for a lot of people. Other times, Dan puts it as a function of living into life, getting more experience with life, something that comes with age and maturity (e.g., noting that moving stages in Fowler is supposed to take *decades*), but this isn’t very satisfying — that suggests that there’s not really much we can do about it (que sera sera), and more troubling, since not everyone moves past certain stages in a Fowler system, it suggests that that awareness might just not be for some folks.

    At 30 minutes (and more at 32 minutes): Carlisle talks about how conventional religion has the seeds to look outward, but that it can also be the most inward-focused. I think this can relate to the theme of the earlier podcast episode with Adam Miller on “Grace is Not God’s Backup Plan” on the idea that being an insider and having the law — but not having the right relationship to it — can be the biggest stumblingblock.

    i think i could make a comparison between that episode and this one. Basically, let’s say that we have a lot of people who are burnt out with Mormonism basically because we are the “insiders” whom the law sold into sin. You are saying something like, “But guys, this law really is pointing to grace first!” whereas we are saying, “You know, I’m burnt out on trying to keep up the ratrace of the law, keep of the rat race of appearances, the judgmentalism of the law, etc., etc.,” And you’re saying, “Yes, and that is the cusp of a great transformation! Just a little bit further — this should point towards grace…that rat race, the judgmentalism, etc., are sin, which is in rebellion to grace.”

    There is a shift in perspective and awareness that has to be taken, but how that happens is uncertain and unknown, since we are raised and steeped in the law as insiders…we have to find grace by turning things upside down, somehow. But if we are turning things upside down, then it’s easy to say, “why not just throw this away?”

    1. Andrew, Again, like with the last podcast, thank you so much for your words. You articulated what I wanted to say but I’m gonna try to add just a few of my own words. In this podcast, I felt like they were all operating under the big assumption that it’s all true and it’s our own discontentment that made us question. Our engagement wasn’t working therefore we find problems where others don’t. Okay…I concede that seems reasonable, but doesn’t explain all the rest of the story. And plenty of people were happy and successfully engaged when they began to question some things. I’m trying to be honestly introspective, but man, I do not feel understood. I know Dan knows how a lot of us feel, but parts of this podcast seemed to be for in case the COB was listening.

      Parts of this podcast reminded me of reading Letter to a CES Student. The gospel and church sound great there, but that’s not what is going on in church, in conference, in the Ensign, in the culture. Don’t worry about the truth claims and all the details, focus on transformation. I agree with the transformation part – Joseph taught it, Christ taught it. But the church and everything we hear at church is all about dubious truth claims, arrogant and insensitive exclusivity, hedges around the laws, fear, shaming, conformity, and Moroni’s promise. I am a product of 47 years of cluttered Mormonism. What I am is what they fed me. They want to keep us dependent, I get that. They don’t truly want our transformation because then we don’t need them. But staying, to help, involves having to ignore or endure so much. I feel like I can now look where the original finger was pointing, and other fingers, and continue my journey, leaving the raft at the shore.

  2. I listened to this while I was out for a walk with my toddler. Several times I found it difficult to process the conversation and push the stroller at the same time (luckily my daughter brought me back to reality by shrieking at the top of her lungs, “GO MOM”). About 6 minutes into the 2nd part, someone spoke about “characterizing the person who doesn’t find the church satisfying anymore, (because of pride, theology, recycling of manuals, etc).” That really made me think. I’m certainly in that category. Faith crisis hit about 2 years ago and even though I reconciled many of the historical and theological problems, I found myself becoming less and less active (born and raised in the church – 35 years of activity). I still can’t put my finger on exactly why I don’t want to go back. I mean, I want to want to, I just don’t want to, you know? Then I thought back to what one of you said early on in the first part about mindfulness and I realized that that has something to do with my current situation. When you start learning what it is to actually be mindful in your life, it’s hard to imagine going back to a space where you’ll still be expected to conform. It would be like working hard to learn the art of eating mindfully and then joining Weight Watchers simply because you enjoy the group interaction. Weight Watchers isn’t about mindfulness as much as it’s about weight loss (no offense to Weight Watchers). Healthy weight management can only exist when people learn to listen to their bodies and be mindful about what they put in their mouths. Once they reach that point, they won’t ever need Weight Watchers again (I live in the nutrition arena so this example resonates with me). I think the 40 and under generation (myself and my husband both fit into this group) struggles more with the idea of obedience to authority without logical, concrete reasons to work with. It’s weird, I know. I would actually say that I have a much more expanded and applicable understanding of mormon theology now, but I don’t want to go back to that space of being told how I have to live it. So yeah, maybe that fits in with pride. I don’t know. Totally just shooting from the hip here. Any thoughts on this?

    1. Annie, I get that you feel the church may not have much to offer you (I’ve been there), but being part of a faith community is important. “Why Church” by Phil Yores (non-Mormon author)provides a good perspective. Based on your experience growing up in Mormonism and experiencing a shift to mindfulness, you likely have a lot to offer a faith community, Mormon or not (for what its worth, I don’t think you’re prideful).

    2. I agree Annie. I think the answer to the presenters question of what could the church do more is just what you perceived. To force a one way of thinking approach does not work for some people. I dont think you have to change the other’s who it does work for but why can’t they for example have a sunday school class for non traditional believers? Same lessons but just a different angle. Without giving people like us a status or place in the church they will continue to lose us I think unless you can do what the presenters suggested. Which is HARD WORK.

  3. Pingback: Beyond Belief and Unbelief: The Abundant Life | Irresistible (Dis)Grace

  4. I remember in college that I was excited to sign up for my first physics class – something I knew I would love. After about 2 classes I realized I didn’t have the right math yet and I had to drop the class, because I just couldn’t follow how to do the problems even though I had a not-too bad grasp of the physics.

    Well this podcast brought this same feeling back. I sense there were some real jewels of thought, but I couldn’t quite get.

    No offense to the podcasters. In fact I really hope this does not offend any of them. The main reason I post it is I have a feeling some others might be in the same boat as me. Line upon line (and I have a few more lines to get)

    Thanks guys 🙂

  5. One spin on Annie’s thought pattern for me is that of religious teaching vs. scientific discovery. I feel much enrichment in the understanding geologic processes of our earthly home. In the Doctrine and Covenants, Joseph indicates revelatory support for such learning. However, some teachings of the Church seem to conflict with or at least culturally seem at odds with such learning. For me, I find that I have to often suppress, particularly in public church participation, my own enriching thoughts and findings. Thus my deeper life meanings remain silent for me to enjoy all the while others may promote openly what is held as culturally in common. This tends to isolate me from my faith community. When someone feels isolated, it at times becomes easier to begin poking holes in the belief system to explain why one feels isolated. So on Monday morning one spends the week attempting to fix what was experienced socially on Sunday. After a long while, inactivity or leaving the institution seems like a better cure than to stay. As I have aged, I have become more and more comfortable with attending and not sharing my deeper meanings in order to remain socially connected. However, I suspect others feel such behavior is not authentic and wonder why?

    1. Yes. This exactly CorveyMichaels. I got so tired of sitting through church meetings feeling like I couldn’t actively participate. And let’s be honest, once members of your ward realize that you’re one of those “free thinkers” you’re basically labeled as such and suddenly everything is different. We were mysteriously removed from callings and not given new ones. If I were an outrageously strong, confident person, this kind of thing wouldn’t phase me. But alas, I care about fitting in (like most people I would imagine). On the same note, I don’t consider myself as having been “offended” at all. I love my ward to death. I guess I just don’t see how I will ever be accepted in this faith community without compromising my authenticity. Maybe I need to give it a few more decades. Ugh!!!

      1. Annie, I completely understand and oh yes that label “free thinker” once placed changes the relationships. Several years ago, I may have set the record for the shortest stint as a counselor in the Young Men’s program, just under 3 months. I am unsure exactly what happened but I do link it to concerns about sharing my thoughts regarding a mandatory white shirt requirement or a young man would be prevented from passing the sacrament. A lesson learned for me. I am not sure of our place, boarder landers or gappers, as Dan has coined. But I do believe we have a place in our faith community even in our doubts about each other. I am committed to continue in the faith.

  6. Has anyone here listened to the “Psychology of Religion” series on MS? Very good. I was always very suspicious of anything to do with my beliefs that might have been the direct result of obvious social pressure in religious groups, which is why I’ve not spent long stretches of time in very dogmatic organisations without taking regular breaks. I kind of found that being around the more dogmatic organised religions too long had an adverse effect on my spirituality and on my ideas about God. Spending time with Quakers, Buddhist or Sufis did not have this effect, but also didn’t allow much spiritual sharing – though plenty of political and personal sharing as these groups seem to attract left-leaning, close-to-nature, literary, poetic types of people, kind of like MM, MS and GMS! 😉

    As a sort of side note: The thing that most undermines the idea of a personal God to me isn’t the problem of evil and all the usual suite of such arguments, but that I think it’s patently untrue, unfortunately, that everyone who seeks with their whole heart will find. I’ve seen too many people who really did seek, and just got silence…

    1. Addressing your side note, for me in seeking I found much silence until I realized that the whole evil, sin, and devil stuff was not something stemming autonomously or existing separately from myself. I still cannot empirically say whether there is a devil or some being. But once I accepted that those fruits are within myself as a innate response stemming from my birth here in this world, I found that the silence broke away into understanding that there also was a divinity within myself. For me, the forty day temptations of Jesus, turned into using the forty days symbolically in my own spiritual journey to put such evil behind me sort of speak and bring forth the divine that is innate within also.

  7. I don’t mean to be too much of a literalist, but after listening to Brother Hunsaker’s articulation of the elements of human fulfillment, and his lament that these elements aren’t core to our conversations, I began a scripture-quest to find them. I have to say that without mental gymnastics, I was unsuccessful. The King Follett Discourse was the closest, wherein I found pieces of autonomy (self-determinism), relational-ism, intellectual immortality, and grace/compassion described as components of “an eternity of felicity”. I would be interested in knowing whether I’m re-tracing others’ steps in this endeavor and whether any other sources contributed to the creation of the short-list.

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