Meet in this podcast two wonderful, active Latter-day Saints who are “alive in Christ,” Jesus focused, and modeling in their wards and circles a robust faith in Jesus Christ and the transformative power of the Atonement in ways that stretch far beyond forgiveness of one’s sins. They are on engagement paths that both thrill and challenge them (and even frightens them at times) as Jesus continually surprises and calls them into deeper relationship. In this conversation with Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon, Billy Phillips and Tom Gleason share their stories–quite different from each other–that led them to direct encounters with Jesus that have changed their lives and orientation toward God and their spiritual paths, and also share their views of worship that have been known to stretch the comfort zones of some of their fellow saints. How might Mormonism embrace more enlivened worship and expressions of faith related to a God who actively breaks open previous conceptions? Can Mormonism embrace a less “safe” Deity that, once in contact with, will draw those who experience at this level into a different type of engagement with the church–and, especially, its traditional, “acceptable” ways of doing things?
Fascinating stuff. Thanks, guys. I was especially interested to hear how words failed them as they tried to express encounters with the divine. That’s what I would expect when attempting to handle the ineffable.
I have questions. Both speakers made bold statements about their relationship with a living, embodied Jesus and alluded to experiences or revelations that have changed them and their outlook and contributed to that relationship. They speak of dialoguing (to use Dan’s term) with him. Yet the only concrete example of an experience that I heard was Billy’s experience of feeling the spirit at a testimony meeting. How did he, or rather how do we, get from that (rather common?) experience to talking with Jesus? And are we to take it that he literally hears Jesus’s voice, or even sees him, and carries on a conversation like two mortal people? What does it mean that he continually surprises them? That he and God are “dangerous?”
Please don’t misunderstand: I don’t mean to invalidate their experience. On the contrary I would very much like to emulate it. But what am I aiming for when I hope and ask for a relationship with Jesus? Any faithful Mormon (or Christian) would say they have a relationship with “the Savior,” but I think they would mean something materially different from what it means to Tom and Billy. I know *about* him from scripture. But I can’t say that I *know* him like these two gentlemen seem to.
Like Tom, I feel that there has to be something more to our worship than the 3-hour block’s typical experience,. I dearly want some mystical or charismatic element to my faith. I guess I’m looking to these speakers to say there’s more to shoot for than a burning in the bosom, and what that better target looks like. I understand that the target is Jesus…but how do you approach him such that he becomes more than an abstraction?
Hey Joseph, thank you for your thoughtful question. It was so strong I’ve been writing a response to it which is turning into an essay. But until that’s done I wanted to respond with the first thing that it made me think of.
It’s the idea I talk about with my college classes, which is Sanction.
In the West, particularly in the United States since the Civil War our education system was structured around the idea of authority, and pleasing that Authority. People who tried to follow the rules wait for sanction before doing things they haven’t been told explicitly to do. They do not trust themselves.
From what I’ve seen of people, the spiritual experiences people have get vetted against the expectations of their neighbors friends and leaders, even if it’s just in their mind. And anything that would not be culturally acceptable, or comfortable, or anything that would be threatening to that Authority and that doesn’t have sanction, people will ignore or dilute or explain away.
I think the first thing I would be believe it needs in order to have the kinds of experiences biblical prophets talk about is a bit of rebelliousness. We don’t need sanction we don’t need explicit invitation we don’t need approval from anyone around us. We only want the throne however he is, we’re only interested in the truth in whatever form it takes. If we do receive something real, substantial, living, we are loyal to it at whatever the cost.
This has been the foundation of all my other experiences, and all the ones beyond the burning in the bosom, that mean so much to me, definitely isolate me and separate me from some of the people in my life. I have accepted that cost.
I would like to respond with more, maybe I can mail you all the thoughts or question and spired in a letter, but I wanted to send something now. Thank you again
I love this quote and think it resonates well with the thoughts shared in this episode.
“That’s what pastors do. They mediate transcendence.”
– Robin Meyers, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8gkZddBY9A
It would be nice if the panelists could add a few resources that are important to them.
Nice job Dan, Billy and Tom. I’ve spent the last 6 years trying to figure out the changes I am feeling and seeing around the church. There is a sense I get from other OpenStories Foundation podcasts that everyone associated are liberal politically and therefore losing their faith to atheism or other crisis. Dan W, on the other hand, is proving my assumption wrong about podcasters. I don’t know Billy’s nor Tom’s politics, but it doesn’t matter because they are keeping the main thing, the main thing. I liked very much what Billy (Paul) had to say about the changes needing to come from us which gives new meaning to some of the old assumptions about “setting the church in order” by “one mighty and strong.” Maybe the one mighty and strong is a bunch of us working in the Spirit to discover Jesus Christ and other servants like Joseph Smith, Elijah and Paul who have gone on before us. I’ve experienced some of what Billy says he has done with Christ myself, but I’ve also experienced things with Joseph. Others I know have dealt also with Paul and Elijah. It’s a whole new time to be alive. Herah for Israel!
Jonathan, being theologically liberal and politically conservative has put me in a basket without many others. This nonsense that liberals are caring and conservatives are heartless is disproven easily by looking at which group of individuals gives more to charity. Liberals want government to do it, conservatives by and large do it themselves. I am so excited that members such as the guests are finding vibrant, spiritual life in Jesus. My son decided to send his 6 yr old son to a Christian school this past year. Yesterday he called and told me his son loves talking about Jesus now, when he was hesitant before, and corrected him and his wife when a Bible story was mis-told. He reported that his son is awakening to a spiritual joy he has not experienced growing up in Mormonism.
I personally think that we need to be cautious when we attribute a spiritual experience we have to a particular individual. We all have a very limited understanding of the dynamics of the spirit world and those in that world that may or may not be communicating with us mortals. Thus when we read revelations in the D&C that claim to be from God/Jesus that make statements, which to me, I would rather not associate with God/Jesus, I question the source. Likewise, when we have a feeling or maybe even hear a voice, there are many possible supernatural sources in addition to natural ones: our personal spirit guide, deceased relatives who remain close to us, such as our deceased parents, other advanced beings of light, or the ubiquitous love of God that is all pervasive and not necessarily attributable to any identifiable spirit being. In other words, when we have meaningful spiritual experiences, we should be grateful for them, but not necessarily assume Jesus as the only possible source, IMHO.
Okay, I really loved this discussion. Dan, I vote for having these two back on again! As a musician and music enthusiast, I heartily agree and have witnessed the complete flame-out of music in our congregations. I’d seriously LOVE to hear even some acoustic guitars in our meetings. What we have isn’t reverent, it’s stale and bordering on comatose. Aside from McConkie’s contributions and a few Janice Kapp Perry primary tunes, we haven’t had any new or current music in decades. In our congregation most people sleep and type texts through the hymns and there is NO enthusiasm.
How about an apostle with some musical background instead of another businessman?! Heck, in the old testament prophets were as much poets and musicians as they were “seers and revelators”.
99% of what’s available at the lds distributors musically speaking are just hymnal rehashes. Some of that is pretty fun, it’s cool to hear some of those reinterpretations, but I fear our leadership is too archaic and old-fashioned to embrace anything more modern… unless of course it’s at a temple open house cultural celebration, in which case anything goes! If we can celebrate world music at those events, why not elsewhere in our worship?
I’ve never seriously considered just packing the kids in the cars and going to a baptist or pentacostal congregation. My TBM wife would think I’m on the fast track to hell if I suggested that, but I may try it myself for kicks. “Honey, I’m going for a drive, you hold down the fort”.
I’d like to know more about this choir you guys talked about. Dan, I’d really like to see links to things like this, if there are any. I agree with the other poster that it’d be nice to have some references and links to things that Tom and Billy discuss… even scriptural references and books that have moved them and helped them form their approach to spirituality.
I’d love to have heard more about the “God is Dangerous” theme mentioned in this episode.
Thanks guys for your time and your Spirit… I felt it and want more of it. 🙂
So glad you liked this episode! I hope Billy and Tom will respond, too. In the meantime, I added a link to the Unity Gospel Choir webpage. Best! Dan
Cool, thanks Dan. Our ward has been discussing increasing the frequency of special musical numbers, drawing on talent from the ward, so I’m hoping we’ll get a spiritual boost this year as people share their testimonies of Christ through music. I’ve found that music is an avenue to pure spirit that communicates with me in a way spoken words rarely do… maybe I have the gift of musical tongues? 🙂 To each is given a gift, right?
Ultimately, we tend to take from our meetings what we put into them, and I’ve recently been feeling that “bringing more with me” will make all the difference in my personal experience.
Well thanks for all you do guys. Love hearing your experiences and thoughts.
It sounds like you love music as much as I do!
Because music also plays a huge part in my worship I wanted to share some thoughts about music’s impact in my spiritual journey:
My religious music tastes have evolved. There was a time especially after my mission that I really loved singing the LDS hymns, then a few years ago I went through a period of rediscovering the lyrics to the hymns especially any messages about Jesus and the Atonement. Suddenly the hymns took on new meaning, almost sounding different as well as providing me new connections to the divine and especially to Jesus. I got to know him even more as I studied the lyrics and listened to who he is and who I was becoming because of him. Soon I asked myself where else are they singing about Jesus and what are they singing about him, and how are they singing? That is what led me a few years ago to take my family to the Calvary Baptist Church in Salt Lake City during the Christmas season two years in a row. There I heard some new songs and some familiar ones like “Holy Holy Holy” sung gospel style. I sang along enthusiastically with the lively congregation and choir. I couldn’t believe I was actually singing gospel music while clapping, and calling out my fair share of “amens” and “hallelujahs!” It was awesome and VERY authentic and real. Music was so important there, and I wanted to be a part of their choir or some gospel choir some how, but I would have to wait a little longer for that opportunity. More on that later.
Now with renewed vigor to worship through music I went on a musical expedition on Spotify and searched different religious music…I first searched the Baptist and found some really great gospel songs that moved me, touched my spirit, and drew me closer to God. Especially listening to “Let it Rain” sung by Bishop Paul S. Morton and “Take Me to the King” by Tamela Mann. Wow, I said, if that can happen with the Baptist music what other music can I find? Oh I found more, a lot more and I really dug it. I searched Catholic music and found selections that spoke right into my soul like “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” sung by David Wigram, Christopher Muhley and Tony Wingram, and “The Servant Song” by David Haas…I couldn’t believe what was happening, I was actually feeling myself transforming/shifting even more through other religions’ music. But that isn’t where it ended…then I discovered what the Evangelicals sound like today and that’s when I discovered all this contemporary Christian music. Songs like “In Christ Alone” sung by Keith and Krystyn Getty, “I Love You, Lord“ sung by The Maranatha! Praise Band, “The Potter’s Hand” by Hillsong Worship, sung by Darlene Zschech, and the game changer song for me “Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)” by Chris Tomlin (I actually had a guy sing this song with guitar at the conclusion of my Elder’s Quorum lesson I taught on Elder Uchtdorf’s talk about grace!)…The music and messages they are putting out today is exactly how I think of Jesus. Full of hope, joy, redemption, grace, mercy, forgiveness, rest, becoming, love, and lots of love! I could go on and on. I think I am onto something here and I do not want it to end. In fact, because I would love to be in a Christian rock band, now I occasionally attend a Christian church called the Rock Church to get my Christian music fix! You should come with me sometime!
So that leads me back to what I am doing now. I mentioned earlier I wanted to be in gospel choir. Well the Lord put one in my path called the Debra Bonner Unity Gospel Choir and that is where I have been the last 4 months singing praises and inspiring people through gospel music. I am so blessed that my journey has taken me here!
My hope is that I can help incorporate into our church worship-culture some of what I have experienced and learned spiritually through my musical journey. If the church is not ready for it then I guess I have to be content knowing that I am.
Fascinating! What I love about that story is that you simply said “I wanna do that” and you did it, joining a gospel choir. So unconventional. But why should convention rob us of joyful and fulfilling experiences?
Mormons really struggle with their bubble. I have struggled with it all my life and am just beginning to wake up and realize I am a free man who can choose to believe and do whatever I want with what little time I have on this beautiful blue orb we call home.
My wife has been a fan of Christian music for some time and I listen to it without complaining, even though some of it feels a little repetitive and gaudy to me. I’ll get on Spotify and see if I can find the songs you referenced. Thanks for that! Of the Christian musicians that resonate with me, Audrey Assad has been particularly good for me. She is down to earth and accessible, and much of her music speaks to my heart.
One song, the first I heard, had a real impact on me. “New Song” from her album “The House You’re Building.” I first heard the song as I was tripping and stumbling through an unexpected faith transition. I was hurting and afraid, and frankly, angry. So much was/is on the line, in my relationships with my family, but also with God. I began searching for something to uplift me, and this song played on a random playlist on Spotify and it broke me inside and out, and healed me and gave me direction. The words exactly and perfectly reflected how I felt.
New Song – Lyrics
Far-off hymns and funeral marches sound the same again.
My ears are worn and weary strangers in a strange land
and I need a new song. I need a new song.
All I am is breath and vapor and shadow.
All I have is what I need and this I know.
I need a new song – I need a new song.
Waiting in the night for you. Burning in the sky for you.
There’s an aching in my body, within my lungs.
This web of bones around my heart is coming undone.
I need a new song. I need a new song. I’m waiting in the night
for you – burning the sky for you. Waiting in the night for you
I’m burning in the sky for you. Words are failing… my melodies
falter; my voice is breaking; my heart is burning…
Because blessing and honour, and glory, and power and praise and
worship. They belong to you.
I’ll always be grateful for that song and how it touched me at a low point, and to the musician for creating it. So many people fighting through faith transitions at some point come to the realization that they need a “new song” as it were, a new way of seeing the world, a new way of believing, a new way of relating to friends, family, and neighbors. I’m still trying to write and sing a new song.
Those who find Christ in the process and embrace his message somehow manage to come out brighter in the end, they can still sing positive and hopeful things. So many who lose Christ find another song, often an angry and vengeful song. Many of our friends who have left the church have found a fight song, and are waging war.
I’m trying to find a way to wage love and wage peace. I’m not sure how successful I’ll be.
In the end, what matters is what’s in my heart, that’s what God will judge. And I’m trying to manage it, but I’m honestly not doing that well. Hopefully time will heal the wounds and my life album will have a few bright songs on it. Only time will tell. I feel like I’m still working on the first song.
I followed that link to the Unity Gospel Choir page, and they don’t have any events planned. I’m wondering if they perform regularly somewhere that we can see? How much does it cost to book them for an event? Do they do small things like ward mutual nights or firesides? It would be super interesting to get the choir director Debra Bonner on Mormon Matters to discuss the choir and her experience leading it.
K. I’ll be quiet now!
Thank you for your interest in the Debra Bonner Unity Gospel Choir. It has been a blessing to be a part of this movement. You can learn more here: https://www.facebook.com/LDSgenesisgroupgospelchoir/?fref=ts.
Yes, the choir performs several times a month in large and small venues such as churches, event centers, malls, stadiums, arenas, TV, Radio, etc…And we even released a video of “Joy to the World” for Christmas! See: https://youtu.be/jrEWaVc4Wzg.
We sing at firesides, corporate events, concerts, parties etc…The cost depends on the event and budgets. Anyone can come hear us sing at the Genesis fireside on the first Sunday of each month. For more info about the Genesis Group see: http://www.ldsgenesisgroup.org/ and https://www.facebook.com/groups/ldsgenesisgroup/.
Let me know if you have anymore questions about the choir or if you would like to come sing with us! 🙂
Thanks Tom. I looked at the web site and facebook page, and didn’t see a reference to the Genesis fireside anywhere. It’s not on your web site or facebook event calendar. I’d definitely like to come check that out, I’m sure I can get my wife and kids to come along. Can you tell us where it takes place and how much room there is? If I invited some members of our ward choir to come along, would there be space for a dozen people?
The next Genesis Fireside is on Feb 6. You’ll want to be in your seat by 6:30 pm so you can hear the choir sing the prelude for 20-30 min. More than half the attendees are there by then to hear us sing so be there early to get your seat. We usually have 400-600 people there. There should be room for all of your group…more the merrier!
The address is:
6710 South 1300 East Cottonwood Heights, Utah
Very good to hear this podcast. I can talk about different things that have rocked my faith, such as Church history, current politics, lack of transparency, conformist culture, etc., etc. But honestly, I felt like I was so rock solid in my testimony that I don’t think any of those things could have REALLY shaken my faith. I mean they could, and they did a little, but not in a hugely life-shifting way. What really hit me hard was having my own experience with God. Growing up and to a certain point in my life, I had had many experiences with God, but they all fell in line with what I had always been taught. But through many life experiences, and coming to a place where I was ready to be told “contradictory truth,” if you will, it was amazing and wonderful to have a powerful experience with Jesus (similar to how you described). I will make clear that in my experience, I did not see a Being, nor did I audibly hear Anyone. But I felt His spiritually palpable presence, LOVE, CARE, and had the scriptures opened to me (like a whole cannon in a day) in new, surprising, wonderful ways, and felt His transformative power through amazing grace and witnessing my ability to love, “heal,” perform good works, be in tune to the needs of others, and feel a presence, companionship, ONENESS, as I have never felt. The excommunications that year, the first General Conference after that experience, etc., were probably the biggest shakers — because it was very clear to me that many of those messages were not from Jesus. I can’t go into all of it, but it’s been very hard for me feeling that constant contradiction between the corporate institution and the Body of Christ. The treatment by my family when I tried to tell them of my experience, and because I was telling them that the two didn’t match, with my mother who had always treated me like her shining star, shouting “Blasphemy” at me. Finding that the corporate church is God for so many. So much of the difficulty has caused me to at times re-interpret my experience, start doubting everything, etc. But . . . I do know that there is a “hastening of the work” going on, and it’s not the same “hastening” that we hear about from HQ. I admire both of you for being able to just boldly, lovingly, and with patience keep your relationship with God and the church going strong. I like to always keep myself in check and am constantly re-questioning my assumptions, interpretations, etc., to make sure I’m not becoming “weird, fundamentalist, etc.,” but that also may mean losing a bit of the good zeal, too. I am still active in the church, with lots of ups and downs. I feel like the church is a blessing and a curse. Sometimes it feels like it really limits my growth, but other times, it really aids it. I do know that when I am filled with the Spirit of Christ, nothing matters but love, unity, joy. But I struggle to keep that Spirit with me. I do see the value in all kinds of people and experiences, in and out of the Church, and I am grateful for them all. Glad all of you are here. [p.s. just thought I’d mention a fairly recent convert we have who came from an evangelical choir background. She often writes her own music (not formally; it’s in her head), inspired by her own Jesus experiences. She’s been asked to sing in RS a couple of times a month. Another older convert one day said, “When she sings, I just want to clap — why doesn’t anyone else clap. I’m going to start clapping.” Pretty soon, everyone was clapping. A stop was put to that, but she still sings. She sings in a very different style than we’re used to. I think everyone enjoys it, but for most of the sisters, they think, “well, that’s nice because she hasn’t learned yet. We’ll tolerate it because we love her.” I think, “her music is the sound of angels, amazing, beautiful, touching. We are so blessed to have it. How poorer we’d be without it.”
Thanks for sharing. Were you seeking that experience when you had it, or was it a gift?
I had been having a conversation with a sincere friend not of our faith, who seemed to know Christ, spoke very reverently of Christ, was now also somewhat Taoist, and close to nature and the earth, etc., but had previously been fairly atheist, relying on the mind (who I had known when they were atheist and had respected when atheist as having deep integrity, but was now overwhelmed by the deep transformation of the soul), with whom the conversation had been a little guru-like. My friend wouldn’t say much at all, would never try to convince me (as they had tried to do when atheist). But I would think on the few words and would find little pieces of enlightenment. I was telling my friend about the power and authority of the priesthood. I was explaining how I had many issues with the culture of my Church, etc., but I knew the priesthood had been restored, and that our Church had that authority, and that’s why I was still here. My friend spoke of priesthood as though it were real, but said that a religion that believes it has EXCLUSIVE access needs to go into its closet and pray, that God is open and generous. The words bid me to go into my own “closet” and pray. I prayed sincerely for a few days, and I went to the temple. I felt God’s “presence” in the celestial room, and I decided that that was my answer, that I couldn’t deny that we have the priesthood (as I already knew). A few weeks later, I was reading in the BoM, Jacob 5, not really thinking about my question (as I thought it had already been answered), when BOOM, the chapter opened up to me as it never before had. I saw a universal, unconditionally generous, loving God, and a great work before us. I was filled with gratitude and JOY. It began a whole week of “miracles and learning; I was being fed scripture after scripture (even when not reading), and learning of the real Jesus, in a very personal and powerful way. It was amazing and so Good. But to be honest, I allowed it to get to my ego, and was wearing down, and “Satan came and brought me down.” The story of Jesus’ temptation and Moses Ch 1 felt real to me, except that I failed in comparison to those two, though at least I quickly recognized that I failed and was instantly forgiven. But it was scary and has messed with me (felt like that terrible instant of looking into the Palantir and seeing the eye of Sauron). (And no, I have never done drugs, 🙂). Pretty vulnerable stuff to type on a public blog.
Thank you for sharing so wonderfully, Tiani! Beautiful experiences that match in feel and content with much that I, too, have experienced. I hope you will keep engaging them over and over. As Kim Puzey said in a recent episode (#360), these experiences are “ours” and we are fully green-lighted to keep diving in again and again, allowing them to open to us in ever deeper ways.
I love how you’re wrestling both with God and corporate Mormonism, drawn to and repelled at the same time from Mormon groupthink and a culture of shallowness (but, only, I think because they haven’t tasted what you and others of us have tasted–hence our call to be teachers, if we can). At the end of the Hero’s Journey (as outlined by Joseph Campbell) is the call for the hero to, after she/he has fought to kill ego and all things that frighten her/him most, to return to the community but now as “master of both worlds.” To understand the community, love it, yet be a teacher and guide for those who can sense their mastery (or experience) in spiritual realms and feel drawn to it. I sense you are on that journey.
Wow, Tiani. Amazing story, thanks for sharing that. I’m so impressed with those who care deeply, and am always concerned with those who struggle against the dark while seeking the light. I remember always feeling uncomfortable with Joseph Smith’s telling of his struggle with darkness before his vision, but I’ve come to realize that the darkness is just as real as the light, both vying anxiously for our attention.
I often wonder why it is that more people don’t find themselves wrestling with the darkness as you have, and I think perhaps it’s because so few of us are actually striving for the light. The darkness is happy to leave us alone so long as we are pacified and neutral. While serving on my mission back in the 80’s, I found that we often struggled against the darkness while striving to bring souls to Christ… there were often great temptations for us and those we were teaching, especially as we approached the baptism date. Then there would be a sort of deliverance as they entered the waters of baptism and were blessed with the gift of the holy ghost, there would be a weight lifted and a new sense of wonder and light.
Lately my biggest struggle has been with regards to revelation at the ward level. I’ve been sitting in ward councils for nearly 7 years, and have occasionally seen a bishop claim that he received revelation on a specific important calling. Most of the time, however, callings are meted out in a much more simple fashion. “That seems right”, or “that feels good to me”, is the verbiage used for the majority of the callings I’ve seen happen. Who knows if it’s the spirit, or someone just feeling good about having made a decision so they can go home to their family. That naturally leads me to wonder “what about my calling to my current position, was it inspired, or was it merely convenient because I was available and have never said ‘no’ to a calling”.
I’ve always said “yes”, no matter what, because I’ve felt that it was required in order to “support and sustain” my leaders. At one point the bishopric called a man in the ward to serve with me in a presidency. The man said “let me pray about it, I’ll let you know when I get an answer”. I was like “oh, that’s cool, he’s seeking an answer from God for himself, that must mean he’s going to be amazing if he says “yes”. Haha. Days later he agreed to serve, and then rarely did his job, came to meetings he was in charge of, or attended presidency meetings. It was the weirdest thing to watch.
In his defense, he was a busy guy, as we all are. I’m not the best example myself of diligent service, I burn out easily because some of these callings are so demanding. I’ve come to conclude that, in the end, we are men and women doing our best, most often according to the “arm of flesh”, in other words, we strive to do our best but sometimes don’t truly involve God in how we go about our business.
You can always tell the difference when someone is truly relying on God in all that they say and do, driven by the Spirit, by love, by compassion, by faith. It’s like a light has entered the room, and all are drawn to it. It’s raw, it’s vulnerable, and it’s beautiful.
It seem so me that you’re on the right path Tiani. Nobody is perfect, but when someone is truly striving, it is an inspiration to see. May God Bless you for it.
Thank you, TJ, for taking the time to read and express so much. I think, ultimately, we ask the best questions and get the deepest answers, when they’re not abstract, but vitally relate to our lived experience. Hence, what you struggle with relates to the contradictions in your experiences, and me, mine, and so forth. Life is an amazing education system so individually tailored. I appreciate your supportive words. I relate to both paths . . . the path of doing my best “according to the arm of flesh,” without “truly involv[ing] God in how [I] go about [my] business,” as well as the path where I’m “truly relying on God in all that [I] say and do, driven by the Spirit, by love, by compassion, by faith,” etc. I’d like to say that once I’ve experienced the latter, I haven’t gone back to the former, but as I’m sure you well know, it rarely, if ever, works that way. We live in a busy, complicated world, and it’s easy to lose focus, perspective, etc. But it’s always nice to be reminded (as this podcast does), and re-commit. The experience I shared was the most compactly intense, with a dramatic change that while good, also turned my life a little upside down, upping the challenge level. But, minor experiences happen fairly often, serving to aid me, comfort me, and remind me (Prior to the one I shared, I had had a few other fairly intense experiences that were very helpful; they brought me to change in good ways, and changed my paradigm a little, but also seemed to confirm most of what I had always known, so while they super pleasantly surprised me and were a blessing of grace; they didn’t shock me in the same way). All of my best to you on your continued journey.
Thank you, Dan. It’s always nice to feel understood and appreciated. Thank you for all of the good work you do. I’ll need to take a listen to Kim Puzey. I, of course, have been exposed to some of his wisdom. But, it sounds like the podcast has some unique treasures. And though I’ve heard numerous references to Campbell, I haven’t read that first hand. So might get that out as well. To all the kindred spirits out there, which are many.
I am rejoicing over Tom touching on the need for more in terms of our musical worship. LDS Music is an untapped resource that is commonly overlooked.
Last year, I conferred with my Bishop to create an experimental class for our Ward Choir which we call “Music and the Spoken Word.” We have a Sunday School class where we teach a condensed Gospel Doctrine lesson (the same lesson in the normal class and thereby fulfilling the Sunday School element) and then spend the second half of the class practicing pieces for Sacrament. It’s transformed the music worship in our Ward. They actually sound like a Choir and the majority don’t read music. These are just people who love to sing.
We generally sing once a month in Sacrament, an anomaly for most LDS wards. We’ve been bold choosing Gospel spirituals such as “Peace Like a River,” “Jesus Loves Me,” “I Want Jesus To Walk With Me,” which receive the most feedback from the congregation. I can’t tell you how many cards, emails, and teary hugs I’ve received for choosing non-traditional LDS hymns. People simply feel moved by modern music, especially music centered on Jesus.
Ward Choirs are largely nonexistent because nobody wants to go to an extra hour of church every week. Having Choir practice during Church means we actually have a Ward Choir. By singing non-traditional hymns, we have a class full of people each week eager to sing music that speaks their language.
I’m loving this idea. I’m going to suggest this to our Choir Director. She’s flabbergasted at how poor our choir attendance has become lately. Thanks for sharing.
This was a great podcast, Dan! I could definitely tell there’s something that Billy and Tom have experienced that is markedly different from the typical experience. I am unsure if this is something that is available to everyone though, much less if people know how to get it even if they wanted it.
Thanks for listening to the podcast! Just curious, why do you think the way that I experience Christ might not be available to everyone?
Speaking from my experience, I know I haven’t experienced anything I would call spiritual, much less anything comparable to what y’all were talking about on the podcast.
But in my experience, it seems that many folks – even those who would describe themselves as believers – have different motivations and experiences. I don’t think this is necessarily a matter of choice.. it’s just how things shake out.
I just listened to this episode and am very impressed with your guests and fascinated by the experiences they have had. We definitely all need “more Jesus” in our lives. I think that’s the point of the Gospel and the Church, and of our own lives on the Earth.
I would be interested to know if either or both of them–or others who have had these kinds of experiences–feel that they have received the promised Second Comforter. How would they relate that promise to what they are experiencing in their relationships with Jesus.
Also, does/did temple worship play a role in their lives and if so, how or if not, why not?
I just listened to this episode. I found all of it fascinating but felt most moved by the discussion about music.
I get that some of us would like a more modern sound. My only plea is: Don’t dump the organ yet.
Wake it up. Use it like it was meant to be used.
I’m an enthusiastic organist. Maybe I just like pushing buttons and making noise. But at any rate, members of my ward regularly tell me that they love the peppy tempos and the full-throttle final verses. They say they never found church music moving or engaging, but now they’ve changed their minds. I’m so happy to they’re having a good experience.
Here’s my take on how we ended up with soul-less music in the church:
1. Our skewed sense of excellence. We get called to jobs we don’t know how to do and somehow that gets normalized to “It doesn’t matter that I’m not good at this. I pay my tithing. God loves me. I don’t have to be excellent.” Maybe I’m judging too harshly, but the worst case I ever saw was an organist who, ten minutes before the meeting, practiced the songs of the day, passing them off as “prelude.”
2. Our skewed sense of reverence. Our earliest converts were English and Scandinavian, some of the most buttoned-up ethnic groups around. I once ran across a book making light of Lutherans—their blandness, their frugality, their love of Jello—and almost thought I’d stumbled onto a book about us. Anyway, I believe these are the people that set the tone for our meetings ever after. “Reverence,” to those who police it among us, means “the way things are done back in the Pleasant Grove 2nd Ward.”
I’ve made it my personal mission to familiarize my ward with a wide array of Christian hymns by including them in our prelude and postlude music, and by posting a weekly music blog with links to lyrics and YouTube videos. I’m under no illusions about converting everybody to all this music, but I do have a handful of appreciators. I’m surprised how much I like reading and listening to these hymns because, for quite a few years, I was hymned out.
Two things I notice about church music outside Mormondom:
Many of our hymns are all about “We’ve got work to do! Better get to it!” Their’s express gratitude and relief for God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice.
And their use of “forbidden” instruments? In the church services I’ve attended, in the videos I’ve watched (many are taped church services), I see the drums, the trumpets, the electric guitars. But they don’t rock out like I would have expected them to. I’ve never seen them do anything but augment. Always tastefully in the background, they never steal from the central focus of the music which is, consistently, the message: Jesus, God, he loves me, how amazing, he did this for me, what can I give back.
So much beauty out there.