In his recent book, Planted: Belief and Belonging in an Age of Doubt, Patrick Q. Mason offers an optimistic vision for the future of Mormonism, even given the number of Latter-day Saints experiencing faith crisis. He points to as a bright sign the Church’s release of a dozen new Gospel Topics essays dealing with difficult topics in Mormon history and thought, but he is most pleased that these and other factors have led members of the Mormon community to talk now more than ever about the role of faith and church in their lives. With a dual audience of both church members facing faith crises as well as their church leaders and people who love them, the early chapters of Planted offer a terrific overview of the types of issues and questions and struggles that many church members are facing, with later chapters focusing on a robust vision of the gospel of Christ and Mormonism that can make a wonderful home for Latter-day Saints of all faith types and at all levels of development.
In this Mormon Matters and A Thoughtful Faith podcast co-release, Patrick Mason and fellow scholar and teacher of Mormon Studies Boyd Jay Petersen join co-hosts Dan Wotherspoon and Gina Colvin for a discussion of several key topics from the book’s early chapters. They focus on the need for books like this and various reasons faith becomes challenged, the emphasis on “belief” and historical challenges as key elements of many crises and how things might be framed more broadly, the potential positive role that doubt plays in a faith journey, faith challenges that arise because of differences in how we as Latter-day Saints experience God and Spirit, and much more. It’s a terrific conversation! A second episode with Mason and Petersen will be released in the coming few weeks with a focus on themes in the book’s second half.
Please listen and share your thoughts in the comments section below!
Patrick Q. Mason, Planted: Faith and Belonging in an Age of Doubt (Maxwell Institute and Deseret Book, 2015)
Boyd Jay Petersen, Dead Wood and Rushing Water: Essays on Mormon Faith, Culture, and Family (Greg Kofford Books, 2013)
Excellent episode! I’m in the middle of listening, but I can’t wait to read Patrick and Boyd’s books!
Loved the discussion at the end regarding addressing that many people do not experience God/deity/supernatural in any recognizable way. The responses weren’t exactly satisfying (they rarely are on this sort of question), but I like that y’all are grappling with this. There were definitely other parts of this podcast that intrigued me, but I’ll have to listen again when I have more free time so I can listen without distractions.
Excellent podcast, I’m concerned about the comment section being hidden behind the Other comments tab, the feedback survey seems to be preventing more comments from being seen. Please keep the comment coming, it’s nice to see a positive spin on Mormonism which it well deserves.
I agree with Deg that “The World Table” kinda confuses me…is that where we’re supposed to comment? I don’t see any comments there, and it looks like the regular wordpress comments are kinda hidden off.
Anyway, I started listening to the podcast for a second time where I was able to direct my fuller attention to it.
I guess I’ll start at the part around the 30 minute mark where Patrick explains the sort of “beliefs” that he feels are foundational to being Mormon. Although he describes these beliefs in a very minimalistic sort of way that seems to be willing to accept a wide range of people (e.g., belief in God, belief in Jesus, belief in the Book of Mormon, BUT the temple recommend questions don’t seem to require you to believe in certain ways about these things, so there’s a lot of leeway), I still think that there is a bit of narrowness in his view as to what is possible for a Mormon community.
At some point (around 35 minutes?), he says (ellipses are areas where I’ve cut out material, but I think I’m still capturing the basic gist): “There are different things that people can mean when they say they believe Joseph is a prophet of God…some people say, “Well, I can be a Mormon but not believe Joseph is a prophet of God”…but…it’s hard for me to imagine how we can have a meaningful Mormon community — we can have other meaningful communities, but not really a Mormon one — if someone completely dismisses Joseph Smith as a fraud/charlatan/etc.,”
I think that there are possibilities in between here. Like, I think that someone could honestly not feel OK with calling Joseph Smith a prophet (in any reasonable permutation or interpretation of the expression, or not feel comfortable saying they believe in God at all, for any permutation or interpretation of the phrase that seems reasonable to them, and yet, they
1) may not express such extreme views as fraud/charlatan/etc., (whether they believe it but just don’t talk about it, or whether they wouldn’t state their beliefs as being like that at all)
2) still identify as Mormon and be able to engage in Mormonism for other reasons.
Like, I agree with how Dan frames it later on…if you’re going to church and every time something is mentioned, you have a “trigger” to point out that you disagree with Smith, think he was a fraud/charlatan, etc., then you’re probably not going to be able to have a productive dialogue.
But, outside of that, I think that a nonbeliever or former believer still has familiarity and awareness of the vocabulary, etc., So, it’s not like Mormons and disaffected Mormons are totally speaking different languages. There is *possibility* for productive dialogue.
I think a bigger failure point is values mismatch. Later in the podcast, the team talks about doing good/pursuing a Zion project, and how we can do this ecumenically (“Open to people of good will”), but that there is a value in particular communities (so there is a value in people who do good because of Smith, because of Jesus, because of Marx, because of Buddha, etc., and then there’s a value in these groups working together as well)…but I think that a bigger failure point to any particular community is a values mismatch within that community. It’s when everyone agrees that they want to go out in the world — but what’s good to one person looks profoundly evil to another.
This is where I think there may be a breakdown of productive dialogue, but I don’t think that this breaks down as neatly along the lines of “belief in God, Joseph Smith as prophet, Book of Mormon, etc.,” In other words, if someone sincerely and truly believes that the policy re: gays is good, is revelation, is what God wants, etc., then I don’t really know how I can really have productive conversation. Clearly, they have such a different experience of this world, of morality, and so on, than I do.
But it’s not just nonbelieving atheist ex-Mormons who think this way. Obviously, I find kinship with a lot of liberal/progressive believing Mormons…and obviously, a lot of liberal/progressive believing Mormons — who absolutely would fit Mason’s minimalistic criteria for Mormon belief, would NOT find moral kinship with their conservative, believing brethren.
So even though in the podcast Boyd says that a lot of the vision comes from Joseph, I just don’t see that.
At some point in the podcast, Mason (I believe) frames it in terms of asking “where do you get those values from” or “what is the thing that makes you want to go out and do good in the world”…and that there’s power in building communities based on that (so you’re a Mormon if you get it from Joseph Smith, etc.,)…but I don’t think that propositional claims are necessarily getting at that. Drawing on the same scriptures and having the same language doesn’t mean that one has the same values or morals, and drawing on different scriptures doesn’t mean that one’s values are incompatible.