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  1. I’m so disappointed with this episode. I’ve been on the MoMatters/Dan Wotherspoon bandwagon for a long time. But this conversation sounded like the same baloney we get in conference. “Maybe that message wasn’t meant for me?” Let’s at least call a spade a spade. I counted nine (!) talks for which doubt was a central focus. With the possible exception of Uchtdorf’s first talk, every single speaker took aim at doubters and the evil Internet. None of the “we have space for you here” from past conferences. These guys are doubling down. Going on the attack. Holland’s telling mothers that they will share the blame. The talk by Elder Schwitzer, in particular, was probably the most arrogant, self-congratulatory call to stamp out any and all unorthodox thinkers that I’ve ever heard. I was hoping this podcast would calm me down. Instead, it pissed me off even more. I’ve long been in the “middle-way” camp. But if middle-way means blatantly ignoring direct attacks… then maybe JD and MoStories is really the only path the future can hold.

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      Thanks for jumping in.

      Besides Elder Schwitzer’s (and reading it, I can see that we should have included it), and I’m assuming the four talks we focused on, what are the other four that you singled out as having doubt as a central focus? (Schwitzer’s, though, wasn’t about doubt so much as standing up against the world and its arguments.)

      In your comments you seem just as upset that no one argued “we have space for you here” the way some did in previous conferences. Am I reading you right? If you were to quantify, how much is your upset about what was actually said versus what was missing? In our discussions, we tried to focus on what was said, certainly, but also noting a difference in “how” these messages are “heard.” Did any of that make sense to you? Were the actual messages so damning of doubt and the internet (to me, besides Stanfield’s, they weren’t) or were you listening for positives that weren’t as prevalent this time around?

  2. Uchtdorf’s talk included this paragraph:

    “Brethren, let me be clear: there is nothing noble or impressive about being cynical. Skepticism is easy—anyone can do it. It is the faithful life that requires moral strength, dedication, and courage. Those who hold fast to faith are far more impressive than those who give in to doubt when mysterious questions or concerns arise.”

    In the podcast you explained how it could be perceived that skepticism is easy, it is the action that follows skepticism that is hard. But how do you “justify” the remainder of the paragraph?

    I see my “skeptical” journey as being incredibly hard… much harder, and bearing much more risk, than the passive journey of my neighbors who remain with the mainstream belief (Utah County).

    Also, he tells me that I have less (or zero) moral strength, dedication, courage and I am “less impressive” than my stage 3 neighbors. How am I not supposed to take that as a personal attack? My lived experience shows me that his words are petty and untrue.

    He could have complemented those who stay faithful without throwing everybody else under the bus.

    Let me guess. If I were as educated, evolved, and spiritual as the panelists, this comment would/should endear me to Uchdorf!

    So, please explain to me the “nuance/context” I should apply to this paragraph.

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      Is “faithfulness” only to be heard as related to the church and its teachings? To me (and the panelists, I’m pretty sure we agree),” faith” is not the same as “beliefs,” and a “faithful” life is one committed to acting in ways consistent with one’s values, talents, sense of calling–and doing it steadily. As you discuss the harder road of skepticism that you walk (and I don’t think any of us ever said skepticism was easier–there we would have been talking about cynicism. See the blog writeup and you’ll find me explicitly saying there that doubt and skepticism are second nature to me/us), it sounds to me as if you are being faithful to it.

      I agree that his words there can be taken as throwing some under the bus. But it sounds to me, as you reference your own personal experience, that you realize he ISN’T talking about you. In that way, and similar to how Jordan spoke a few times on the episode, his words served you well.

      In all of this, please don’t think I have been thrilled with most of the talks and messaging that we discussed in this episode. But I also think, as would be clear from our conversation, that we also quite often listen defensively in ways that don’t allow us to hear/read what they say in other possible ways–or how we might let the messages they give serve us in some positive form. My plea every conference is that in their speaking to the center and catering to those who need to feel guided through life’s chaos (the job description of a GA), that they’ll just NOT say a bunch that makes it harder for those within the church who are engaging the gospel in less “just tell me what I need to do” ways. Unfortunately, this was not a conference in which that wish was fulfilled.

      1. Thank you Dan for your reply. I appreciate your thoughts. You are right that I am still in a very “defensive” place. I think I understand your concepts at a logical level. It is difficult, however, to emotionally accept them.

        I believe that most conference listeners interpret leader’s words at “face value”. They do not spend as much time pondering them as you do.

        Specifically, my wife and daughter are stage 3 TBM. They take the talks at face value. When I think of the messaging they are receiving from their trusted leaders about their “apostate” husband/dad, it makes me crazy. Not helpful for family cohesion.

        1. I hear you on that gap between understanding logically and feeling something emotionally. And when you add in the sense you share of having your family receive messages about you (false as they are) makes it extra hard. Feeling for you, brother. Be steady, show them something different. Eventually they will have to face that disconnect, and you’ll be the one with them 24/7 and in a far more powerful place from which to influence versus vague memories of things they thought from some conference talk. One of my favorite stories comes from a Catholic nun, Joan Chittister. After being taught in her Catholic school that non-Catholics go to hell, she went home very upset because her dad wasn’t Catholic. When her grandmother drew out of her what was upsetting her, grandma then asked, “Well, what do you think about that teaching?” After thinking about it for a while, young Joan said, “I think they just don’t know Daddy.”Trust your path. The rest will work out.

  3. Thanks for the reply, Dan. I really have been a long-time fan and contributor. But this episode really rubbed me the wrong way.

    “what are the other four that you singled out as having doubt as a central focus? (Schwitzer’s, though, wasn’t about doubt so much as standing up against the world and its arguments.)”

    You have a good point here. “Doubt” was too broad of a brush. It may be more accurate to say that nine talks targeted doubting, questioning authority, asking for accountability from leaders, looking to unapproved sources of information — including personal study, and/or finding truths internally. But the ultimate target is the same: the people on ATF and who follow this podcast. Taken individually–but especially collectively–these talks lay concrete foundations for marginalizing of our kind.

    “In your comments you seem just as upset that no one argued “we have space for you here” the way some did in previous conferences. Am I reading you right?”

    Yes, this is substantially true. Absolutely no outstretched hand to help people find space. But that’s not all. They also took aim proactively.

    “In our discussions, we tried to focus on what was said, certainly, but also noting a difference in “how” these messages are “heard.” Did any of that make sense to you?”

    Yes, of course, and that’s what ticked me off. It came off as victim-blaming. These guys said insensitive, hurtful things. It must be my fault because I wasn’t mature enough to find the “good” message. Far too conciliatory. I had hoped you’d call them out for meanness. And then helped talk me down from my anger/frustration. Instead, I felt the guests (not Adam) we’re looking for ways to apologize for

    “Were the actual messages so damning of doubt and the internet (to me, besides Stanfield’s, they weren’t) or were you listening for positives that weren’t as prevalent this time around?”

    I don’t have much to say here. Even my TBM wife felt the whole theme of conference was a double-down. Same with my circle of NOM friends. Much disappointment and frustration. I guess it’s anecdotal. But more likely you and the panelists found a way to focus on the positives.

    Ballard: Off-handly admits that leaders have made mistakes as a rhetorical device to deflect serious inquiry. Then goes on to defend the apostles and the Old Ship Zion as the only way to access God. Clearly he intended to take aim at folks who have questions or lack confidence in church leaders.

    Holland: Maybe he didn’t specifically target doubters. But his words carry an extra sting for those who have become NOM or left the church. “Finally he leveled with me. “Jeff,” he said, “however painful it is going to be for me to stand before God, I cannot bear the thought of standing before my mother. The gospel and her children meant everything to her. I know I have broken her heart, and that is breaking mine”…. But with the grace of God, her own tenacity, and the help of scores of Church leaders, friends, family members, and professionals, this importuning mother has seen her son come home to the promised land. Sadly we acknowledge that such a blessing does not, or at least has not yet, come to all parents who anguish over a wide variety of their children’s circumstances, but here there was hope.”

    Stanfill: Wow. Enough said.

    Martino: “Eventually I began to be sincere [i.e., people in faith crisis are not sincere]…. My questions led to increased faith…. Brothers and sisters, remember Nephi and the sons of Mosiah, who had spiritual experiences and then acted in faith so that answers came and their faithfulness grew. Contrast this with Laman and Lemuel, who doubted and murmured. Even though they sometimes acted in worthwhile ways, work without faith is dead. We must have faith with works to receive answers.”

    Andersen: “Give Joseph a break”

    Uchtdorf: “Brethren, let me be clear: there is nothing noble or impressive about being cynical. Skepticism is easy—anyone can do it. It is the faithful life that requires moral strength, dedication, and courage. Those who hold fast to faith are far more impressive than those who give in to doubt when mysterious questions or concerns arise.”

    Schwitzer: Great and spacious building metaphor aimed directly at doubters

    Christopherson: “With the keys of the kingdom, the Lord’s servants can identify both truth and falsehood and once again authoritatively state, “Thus saith the Lord.” Regrettably, some resent the Church because they want to define their own truth, but in reality it is a surpassing blessing to receive a “knowledge of things as they [truly] are, and as they were, and as they are to come”30 insofar as the Lord wills to reveal it. The Church safeguards and publishes God’s revelations—the canon of scripture.”

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      Thanks for continuing to engage!

      Let me apologize for not stating this more clearly in the episode. I didn’t like any of the talks (or portions thereof) that we spoke about in the discussion. I don’t like it when people, let alone church leaders, primarily play defense or move mostly into their “warning” mode. I understand it when they do, and some things like “careful of cynicism” and “mocking tones” are good warnings, but that SO many talks played in these areas (and thank you, very much, for sharing excerpts from others we didn’t put into our list) is absolutely discouraging. Part of that frustration is that I believe all these guys have far more subtle views (or could come to see things more aligned with us) but seem to not be able to give themselves permission to preach about ways to actually grow spiritually, so worried they are about people falling away from a stability they once had. I am absolutely saddened by this.

      Our habit at MM has NOT been to do “conference wrap-up” episodes, and generally when we do shows that engage things at conference it’s generated by some things there that have us scratching our heads–or worse. (Think of the one we did prompted by Elder Holland’s April talk that seemingly said one had to believe in a literal Adam and Eve, literal Eden, etc., to appreciate Easter and the Atonement.) Such was the case again here, as we saw the upset of so many over the un-careful and un-inspiring characterizations of doubt and skepticism and the Internet as a place that can be helpful for faith journeys. What happened, though, I think, is we as panelists decided to just talk in ways about those topics that we normally would and didn’t concentrate on the critique portions as much as we might (with the exception of Stanfill’s far too broad and overstated caricature of the Internet and those who engage here).

      When I asked about how things are “heard” versus what is actually said, you replied:

      “Yes, of course, and that’s what ticked me off. It came off as victim-blaming. These guys said insensitive, hurtful things. It must be my fault because I wasn’t mature enough to find the “good” message. Far too conciliatory. I had hoped you’d call them out for meanness. And then helped talk me down from my anger/frustration. Instead, I felt the guests (not Adam) we’re looking for ways to apologize for.”

      My comments above were partly in reference to this paragraph, but let me talk about victim blaming here. Mainly: I wish that phrase would go away. Both words are generally unhealthy. Any and all of us can call ourselves “victim” of about anything these days when mostly we’re just breathing and moving in an atmosphere that doesn’t easily support our seeing ourselves for the big, bright, gods that we are. When everyone swims in waters like that, how helpful is that language? “Blaming” is even less helpful, but it is the part of the equation that is ours to own. And, unfortunately, it’s pretty easy to externalize blame, and so natural, so much so that we, again, hardly notice we’re doing it. But of the blame we place, the worst (and hardest to see) is when/how we blame ourselves. Mostly it comes in comparison–some ideal we have of ourself doesn’t match the reality. And this comparison state is where ego truly shines. Ego loves it when we “win” the comparison game, but as much fun as that is, it completely HATES (way more than it loves) when it’s caught in its acts.

      The trick to getting out of ego space, in my experience, is working to center ourselves in the kind of feedback we get from God/Spirit. It’s a mirror, but with no blame attached. We may not like the mirror (who wants to be seen by ourselves to be in ego space?) but it’s quite neutral. It’s just “here is where I am right now” but doesn’t have any judgement attached to it (no “should”). And, in fact, a God mirror is even cooler than that because it’s pretty actively also showing your brighter, bigger self reflected at the same time (if we’ll just notice it). Seriously, if you haven’t ever read and really thought hard about the book, “You are Special” by Max Lucado, I hope you (all of us!) will. When we catch what’s going on there with both the “stars” and the “dots” that we wear, and how to let BOTH drop off, it’s crazy powerful. A children’s book, but about the most powerful one I’ve ever encountered.

      If we “hear” conference talks in different ways, that’s all it is: “different ways.” No blame, no judgement, no “more than”/”less than.” Even if a speaker is being judgmental, we can hear without fear of it being a condemnation of us, because NOTHING is a condemnation of us. As Jordan talked about in the episode, everything can teach us, even mean-spirited talks as well as panelists who sound like they think they are “more mature.” Games/comparisons like that are traps.

      I know it is a risk to talk like this, possibly triggering you even more and running the risk of being thought arrogant, but I’m going to go ahead and post anyway. Everything above is also my journey. I still sit in ego far too much. I’ve compared myself with everyone. In those moments when I have found my way to stopping it, I’ve found peace. And that’s always my hope for everyone, as well.

      1. Dan, I appreciate your response here. And I especially appreciate all the hard work you put in to produce this podcast and fill the shepherding void that many of us need so badly. You have a talent for re-framing issues and finding better angles. Thank you. You’ve done it again here. I acknowledge your point about ego — it’s an excellent point. And worthy of my focus. I certainly carry around more ego than most. But I think it misses the mark in this case. It’s not my ego that’s harmed but my will to engage. My will to carry on in the face of extreme head-winds. Now you (rightly) tell me that, not only do I need to work through this faith journey by focusing on the positive, but I also have the added burden of overcoming my ego to meet the standard of mature, serious engagement. A worthy endeavor, to be sure. But if venting frustration requires me to first achieve some worthiness of ego… then I guess I’m cooked.

        I usually enjoy and deeply appreciate your work on this podcast. I felt like this episode let me down a little. I just wanted to express that sentiment. But I’ll keep listening. I’m not entitled to love every panelist or episode.

  4. I enjoyed this podcast from a generic spiritual perspective. However, in the context of Mormonism, which bills itself as the only true church with gods exclusive mouthpiece and only way to true salvation, the Podcast was disappointing. Virtually every argument made by the panelists regarding faith and spirituality could be made in any other faith tradition in an attempt to keep a doubting parishioner engaged.

  5. Thanks for the great podcast! In reading the other comments, it looks like a lot of the listeners were disappointed that the panelists weren’t more critical of the brethren at GC. Maybe the panelists could have been more direct and focused on any negative and prickly reactions they felt from the talks, but in the end they were asked to be the panelists–they were just being honest with their feelings. Not everyone sees it the same. No one needs to agree, but we should respect their point of view. For me, it was refreshing to hear panelists that were trying to take a calmer view and position. Rather than running a defensive posture they were more humbling willing to look inward and see what they could personally learn from the messages and what in their lives would give the brethren cause to offer counsel. I’ve found myself too often looking for something to disagree with, subliminally looking for cause to be a victim, to be castigated, to justify my continued disagreements (and I’ve found many), but this conference I was determined to just try and take it in. I enjoyed it more, for sure, though I didn’t catch some of the nuanced prickles some have illuminated and that might be a good thing. Am I trying to sneak back in under the bubble? No, but I didn’t miss the rain. 😉

  6. One thing that has been helping me lately is the realization that when I get offended by anything that anyone says, the fault is mine, not theirs. The reason I feel offended stems from an unreasonable expectation of mine that people be what they are not. The church is filled with Stage 3 people, and nothing will change that any time soon. I am happiest when I realize that they are what they are, and I manage to be more accepting of that situation. Also, let me add that people being what they are is just fine. That is the way it is supposed to be, because we all all here on earth to learn. And like the old Chinese proverb says, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” In other words, you can’t help where you are right now, you can only change where you will be in the future. Spiritually, speaking we are all at the spiritual level that we are at right now, and that is where we begin our learning today.

    As far as the General Authorities are concerned, being human beings also, they also are what they are, and they also are where they are. It is unreasonable to expect them to guide us in ways that are beyond their spiritual understanding or to be sensitive to things that they do not understand—especially when, as far as I can tell, they are doing the very best that they can at the level of spirituality that they are at.

    The bottom line is we should be working on our attitudes to get to the point where we can accept people as they are, not allow ourselves to be upset because they are not more to our liking.

    This is not meant to be a criticism of what anyone has said here, merely an observation that may provide some with more happiness in the face of having to deal with a church that they wish was better than it is.

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