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  1. (this is reposted from Mormon Stories)

    I liked the discussion in part 2 (ep. 294) where John was asking if Dan sees those who conclude that there is not something deeper/more profound/more positive within Mormonism (or other religious traditions) are inferior to those who do. I definitely think that the question is deeper than “those who stay in Mormonism” or “those who don’t”. The discussion regards a broader question regarding whether there is a deeper spiritual reality.

    I think that Dan’s position that a lot of it depends on temperament is a pretty good answer, but it also undercuts his thoughts elsewhere. In other words, his thoughts elsewhere seems to be, “There is a spiritual reality (however you refer to it…expansiveness, interconnectedness, etc.,) that we should strive to experience/engage in/be aware of. This spiritual reality can be accessed with some form of discipline (and Mormonism is just one of many paths that one can engage this spiritual reality in), but is typically not a “head” thing, so focusing on “head” concerns misses the mark.”

    (and I think where Dan appears to come off as most “arrogant” so to speak is when he hears the cue of a “head” question and then points out that these are categorically different than what he feels are important questions to spiritual reality. This came up later on with the question and answer on Book of Abraham. As John says, some people can be mature and say, “If Joseph made it up, then I don’t want to be any part of it.” But for Dan…this is still “head” not “heart” and thus is it really not as “mature”. This isn’t a judgment of inferiority, but saying or implying “you’re not *spiritually* mature if you’re still focused on these head questions” just sounds off).

    I think, from this baseline, there is a tension. If there is a spiritual reality and some people are — by temperament — unable to engage with that spiritual reality, doesn’t that imply a sort of spiritual disability? That doesn’t itself imply inferiority (I’m assuming Dan is not intentionally ableist), but it’s very delicate to manage. Are some people “temperamentally” unable to focus beyond “head concerns” (e.g., Did Joseph Smith make up the BoA?) rather than “heart concerns” (e.g., Does the BoA expand me in some other sense?)? What does that imply?

    I’m having this argument elsewhere regarding whether aesthetics is subjective or objective that seems to analogize well. I want to say that aesthetics is subjective — what I may find beautiful or attractive says something about *me* and my *temperament*. If I like a band and you don’t, neither of us is wrong. If I like a piece of art and you hate it, neither of us is wrong. If spirituality is just a matter of temperament without an objective background, then there need not be any judgment to an objective standpoint…but I don’t think Dan would agree that spirituality is just temperament.

    To the contrary, on aesthetics, my interlocutor wants to insist that Mozart is objectively more beautiful than Miley Cyrus, regardless of if the latter is more subjectively popular than the former. There is an implication to me — though he doesn’t explicitly say it — that if you don’t agree, you are just wrong. Factually incorrect. Uninformed or misinformed.

    That’s the impression that comes off with spiritual maturity.

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      It seems to me that John is the only one who ever uses the term “mature.” And it is always uncomfortable for me as it’s a trap question. I mentioned Girard in one of the episodes because his entire theory of conflict is based upon the acts of comparison we do. It’s something that comes from ego space. It’s OUR choice to compare, to measure ourselves against others (ego stuff). But is that a thing we generally understand early in our lives, or is it after we realize by experience that it is pretty much futile, leading to very little good end? It’s the latter, i think.

      So is someone who has lived longer and learned to worry less about comparing themselves as they used to “superior” to someone who has lived a shorter period of time and not found a way out of it yet? I don’t think so, not in any way that should make us feel badly anyway. It’s just life. It’s just gaining confidence in one’s own positions. It’s just feeling more centered. Stuff that can’t really be rushed all that much.

      When I meet people whose spirituality or way of being in the world I admire, I notice. Perhaps I’ll label them “mature.” (I know I used it a decade or so ago in an editorial or two at Sunstone, but I really don’t think I do now.) For instance, in Randy Paul and Gene England, I was grateful to have found potential teachers, but I didn’t resent their extra time wrestling and the fruits it brought them. I didn’t think that I at thirty-six or forty should already be where they are at fifty or sixty, and it never would have occurred to me to ask them (again and again!) to admit to me that they thought how they did their lives is “more mature” than mine.

      In past discussions over the years, Andrew, you’ve not liked my “you kind of have to live into” later stages, so I’m sure you won’t like this version of the same basic argument. Oh well! Another point where we can either take our positions and compare them with equanimity or with thinking that the other person is “judging” me. 🙂

      1. Fair point, Dan. I definitely noticed that there were some terms that John was using that you were trying to avoid.

        And I will concede that I think the question was in some senses a trap question, but I also think in other senses that it points to a legitimate tension.

        Like, I think that you’re trying to separate any sense of judgment from the equation…but when we get into questions of maturity vs immaturity, that judgment seems implicit (even if unintentional). Even to say, “This is something that comes with age, so don’t worry about it” implicitly raises questions on any one who is at or around your age (just as an example) who nevertheless thinks and believes differently. So, sure, let’s say 20, 30, or even 40 is not old enough. But assuredly, not every 50 or 60-year-old is going to think or believe similarly on this front.

        As you mentioned, talking about different temperaments seems to be a good way to resolve the tension in part…but….i dunno.

        In past discussions over the years, Andrew, you’ve not liked my “you kind of have to live into” later stages, so I’m sure you won’t like this version of the same basic argument. Oh well!

        It’s not that I dislike this argument per se. It’s that it undercuts a model of autonomy and agency that is otherwise implied (maybe not by you, but by many others). If faith and spiritual experiences are built through spiritual practices, discipline, and so forth, that’s one thing. If faith and spiritual experiences are accumulated and acquired through the normal development of a live, or a slam down to “rock bottom”, or just the “randomness” of chance and temperament, that’s something different. Maybe you’ll get to stage 5…or maybe you’ll stay at stage 4 or 3. Again, I understand that from your perspective, there is not a judgment of difference between these different stages, but it seems to me that in your urging people to continue pursuing a spiritual life, you’re implying that we have the agency to do such.

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          Always good to engage with you.

          I hope people pursue a spiritual life, for sure, but in that I’m mostly saying “Here’s where my peace, my feeling that life is meaningful and what I do significant has come.” If someone can find those things (to me, pillars of an abundant life) outside of attunement with deeper energies (that I refer to as spiritual energies), more power to them. Again, I think it’s all in our biographies. We share our experiences with each other the best we can, and that’s the best we can do. No sense of magic formulas or one size fits all.

      2. I listened to all four episodes (both sets of interviews) and it seems to me that the entirety of them was John’s attempt at gaining validation from Dan. A careful listen actually reveals John virtually begging for the validation. I was a little frustrated that John wouldn’t open himself up to some better substantive dialogue. Dan, your patience is to be commended.

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  3. John & Dan, this was a fun listen. Generally, my thoughts and experience align with Dan. Notwithstanding that my own journey took almost 20 years before I began to find the peace within and relinquished the need to be heard or hear a deeper understanding within the Mormon community. I looked at other faiths and could seem many of the same patterns I see in Mormonism and could not find a place where I would experience or find any relief. So, I stayed LDS and akin to Dan I am beginning to look at Mormonism very different than the literal need to have everything to be factually truth. I also lack the ability that Dan has to verbally express how I got to where I am centered. I have also maybe less centering experiences than Dan. But nonetheless, they have happened. I agree with Dan that the expansive motifs within Mormonism I love and cherish and anchor me. I am now more happy a being a Mormon than ever before. I agree that tension will always exist in family, faith community, work place and among my neighbors where I live. These places have and are the refineries of my life.

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      Awesome, Corvey! (And not because it’s where I landed, as well.) So pleased you have found your way to a fulfilling peace.

  4. Dan

    I just wanted to thank you for doing this interview and for the other episode as well where you interviewed (or tried to at least) John dehlin. I kind of feel John sort of hijacked the interview. But thank you for your calm and peaceful temperament. Let’s just say if it were me interviewing John I would not have stayed so calm. I am what many might call a TBM. I have friends who are atheists, agnostic, mormon, ex-mormon and some days I feel really good discussing our disagreements and can love and accept where they are amd take in the larger picture and then other i times i get upset and a bit angry. I’m 40 years old and perhaps I’ll finally learn how to just love and accept and not get upset and resort to judgement. So I admire your “maturity” if I can use that word. You handled it so well. I look up to you Dan. I hope one day I’ll get to meet you in person. My dad has met you a few times. He went to lunch with you during a Sunstone symposium a time or two back in the day. You’re a spiritual giant in my book and I keep struggling and working through that tension hoping I’ll get there. Because I know deep down what I really want more than anything is to just love people. No matter who they are and where they are on this path we call life. As soon as I get a little extra money, I want to make a donation. Mormon matters has helped me navigate a faith crisis that I went through several years ago. I found this podcast at just the right time and I don’t think it was coincidence. As soon as the crisis began and I was angry and felt like leaving the church, suddenly out of nowhere my wife mentions this podcast called mormon matters and said I should check it out. Well thank God I did. Thank you Dan. I love you man.

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      Can’t wait to have you introduce yourself to me privately. Please do!

      Until we meet, all my best as you continue in your journey. I love the energy with which you are taking it on!

  5. Dan,

    This was a great episode. The timing was very good for me. I’ve been in this wrestle for about 3 years now and yesterday I was just feeling like I was suffocating, feeling trapped by my ties to Mormonism, etc. You model a place that I think is wonderful and where I might want to be. I was particularly inspired by your response to John’s question about the gay man laying on the tracks. “And he wouldn’t be on the tracks if I left?” or something to that effect. You are a powerful advocate for maintaining ties with the community you are already connected to and trying to make a positive impact.

    Two questions for you, Dan:
    1. You make mention of devotionals. What do you do for that (if you don’t mind sharing)?
    2. Did the ideas of Mormonism maintain their beauty for you even when you were in the middle of your wrestle, or did it just take time for you to recapture the vision? I see a lot of people I admire talk about the big ideas of mormonism, and I can kind of get a glimpse of it, but it just doesn’t resonate with me much these days.

  6. Dan, thank you so much for this. I resonate a lot with the need to look at both sides and not jump to conclusions. (Some people get annoyed with how much I deliberate over certain things) A lot of people have displayed frustration with your non-black-and-white approach but in my experience there is very little about our world that works that way. There is beauty in the gray if you’re willing to seek it out and it covers a much broader spectrum of understanding. Your perspective is very much appreciated by myself and others.
    I would like to have understood more of John’s side but his insistence that you change your tone so as not to upset others while at the same time using such blunt language to support his position came across as a double-standard.
    Also, I second Steve’s request.

  7. Hi Dan and John

    Great set of episodes, loved the interplay between you guys, and how you can challenge each other and still have that love and respect! You are lucky to have that.

    Apologies if this is a cliche question but I have to ask Dan

    I feel your Mormonism is quite different to the one in place in most units, and one that is not taught from the pulpits of the church. The one I have personally experienced is one where I have to have a belief in the historicity of the Book of Mormon and have s straight testimony in the leadership of the church before I can even bless or baptise my own children, or teach a class or participate in an meaningful way in my local unit.

    Looking at some of the up and coming GA,s it may get worse before it gets better

    Don’t you get tired of participating in an organisation that is so different from what appears to be your liberal view? Wouldn’t somewhere like the Quakers or the community of Christ be more compatible?

  8. I think one of the things that frustrated me the most about this interview was that John seemed to view Fowler’s stages of faith only through the context of Mormonism instead of understanding it on a more general level. It seemed he completely missed the points that Dan was trying to make and was dismissive of Fowler because he couldn’t see it through any other lens. As someone with a psychology background (John), that was really surprising to me.

    John seemed to be more interested in definitive and qualitative answers (black and white thinking?) than understanding. I get why he was asking those questions and making those statements, I’ve asked them many times myself. But listening to this interview, I could see that John (and myself in the recent past) was missing the point.

    The main issue I see with making an abrupt choice to go is that, theoretically, you’re still going to be in the stage you were before. If you were in a stage 4 frame of mind inside the church, you’ll still be a stage 4 out of it. You aren’t suddenly “enlightened” or “mature,” no matter what choice you make, to stay OR go.

    Taking the time to work through your faith doesn’t guarantee any result except that time will pass.

  9. Dan, would you please put your Amazon affiliate link to work and post links to the resources – the articles and books – you mentioned in the podcast? Thank you!

  10. I wanted to speak to John’s question of “are there more progressive members in part because of what Dan does?” (That’s not the exact question, but it’s the one I have part of an answer to.)

    This is over a year from the air date of this interview. When this interview aired, I had no idea who either of you were. I was a happy little orthodox Mormon. I let the gospel cover many things that were off in my life. (It actually works just fine that way if you stay firmly in the mainstream of Mormonism.) My husband has started a faith journey which has pulled me (kicking and screaming) into one as well.

    Through this journey I have found so many people who, when introduced (gently and with love and patience, not anger and vengeance.) are more than willing to reconsider and reframe many parts of the gospel. One of the big complaints from those leaving the church is that they don’t like the “black and white” thinking they see within. It is my experience that many, many members are excited and anxious to get the full set of crayons. Many of them have collected quite a few colors already. Many just don’t recognize when they are showing them.

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