Bill Reel is widely known within the Mormon podcast world as a fellow traveler on the road many of us have found ourselves on—often quite reluctantly. At one time, we have thrived within Mormonism. It contributes greatly to our identity, and provides our primary social group. It helps shape our thinking and character in ways we don’t often reflect upon. We have everything figured out. Our religious worldview tells us what’s of foremost importance, and where various traps are that might lead us from the path God says we should follow. And then . . . a bump . . . a hiccup . . . a fact that shakes us or an idea that once we truly examine it leaves us scratching our head. Things accelerate. If this practice or that idea are showing themselves to be something less that purely divine in origins, to have changed over the centuries, to have human fingerprints all over them, we move into what many call a “faith crisis.” And, now it dawns on us that we will have to decide things for ourselves. Those values we were taught and believe—were they truly the best ones (or the best ones for me), the ones that my spirit or temperament tells me I’m truly meant to hold above other ones? What about this particular religious path? I see others traveling down different ones, should I explore those? And on and on it goes …
Bill and I, and so many of you, know this territory well. We’ve lived it. And we’ve faced it in different ways according to our experiences, temperaments, needs. But via our moving into this complexity, for some of us, our continuing to live or push through the tensions and difficult processes of choosing (very reflectively) our own values have ultimately led to a newfound peace. It’s not a “tensionless” peace, but we end up coming to find those places where ideas and personalities and practices rub against each other (and never fully come to make perfect “sense” according to our rational minds) to be important catalysts for growth and creativity and a discovering a new sense of purpose—and peace. One much sturdier and less susceptible to discouragement and despair when life does its “life-ing” and humans do their “human-ing” and leaders and family members and friends shift, or fail to shift, in the directions we’d like them to.
I’m grateful that I got the chance to interview and have a great conversation with Bill. I know you’ll find him very insightful, as well as relatable, vulnerable, and good-hearted. He shares his journey with us—so far!—and reflects on faith development and shifts from ego-centrism and tribal thinking to our centering in a wider cosmos and valuing the gifts of every religious tradition, every person. Finally, in addition to talking about Mormonism as a wonderful workshop in which to all tensions to do their refining and expanding work, we discuss how he now views and “holds” his Mormonism (including addressing a shift—that many have noticed and talked about—in his podcast’s tone beginning about two years ago) and how new understandings of myth and ritual and practice have helped him become re-centered in Mormonism, but far more “on his own terms.” Bill is a wonderful teacher and person, and I trust you will all very much enjoy this episode!
Mormon Discussion Podcast homepage
Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Harper, 2015)
Dan Wotherspoon, “A Real Fight,” Sunstone (May 2004)