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  1. Man, wish I could be part of the ATF group.
    I couldn’t make out the word that Ian Thomson (was it?) was saying as to what he would admit if he were cornered in a dark alley.
    That there is nothing ???? equal?

    1. Around the 2min mark (1:48) of the 2nd download.
      I’m at a stage where I think I rub people the wrong way when I don’t necessarily intend to.
      Bubble burster if you will. I think my purpose for doing so is to help people avoid the pain that can come with a Stage 4 disappointment after believing the script so much.

      But I do suppose that if people enjoy the bubbles why should we go around bursting them, even if they do cause some degree of pain… because all bubbles aren’t necessarily perfect or painless, and some people may be ready to transition from one bubble to the next.

      My guess is that with time the Mormon Church will become like the Catholic Church, and that future doesn’t necessarily excite me.

    2. I haven’t listened to the podcast, so I’m not sure exactly the word I said, but I would guess it was “nothing.” The point I was making is that my empiricism probably leads me to believe that there is nothing beyond this life (in either direction). There is a strain of nihilism in me, that I work to keep at bay. I can’t fully get rid of it and it is always lurking there in the background when I really put myself to think about the nature of eternity and my existence. My religion is a “manufactured” response to that nihilistic tendency . . . it works as a counter-measure to keep me sane and to imbue my life with some semblance of meaning.

  2. Ian, Chris, and Dan,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to have and record this discussion. I am certainly looking forward to Dan releasing a book. That is exciting to hear.

    There is one issue that I can’t quite figure out. I hear you guys saying you had a decade where going to church is hard and I am only 6 years into my faith transition and maybe I am just getting impatient. My issue is it seems like for many there is an undercurrent of “look past all the issues because it is good for you to be in church.” It isn’t that I am stuck in the anger phase, but I just can’t quite figure out why there are so many voices saying, “go to church” (even if it isn’t “True” nor is it the best church). Maybe it comes down to how the church meetings week to week not only frustrate me, but I just don’t get much from them. On top of that if I say what is on my mind in the most polite way I can or if I wear my rainbow tie pin – I get the stink eye from most of the people around me.
    It was mentioned that science and religion answer different questions, but the bit of studying and application I have done on the science of happiness (such as the work of Sonja Lyubomirsky and the sorts) have improved my emotional state much more than anything that has come from the church. I do like a portion of the people at church very much, but it feels those relationships are very conditional on me being orthodox and hiding my beliefs. I just can’t figure out why it wouldn’t be a better use of my time to align with the Oasis group that has several service projects lined up each week and make my friends there.

    I do realize me even writing this may make you want to say, “If that is your truth, go for it!” I may be over analyzing this, but I just get the feeling I am not getting something that others seem to find at church. Before I go stress many relationships (including my marriage) I feel I need to make sure I understand how many nuanced people keep pointing to an underlying, “stay in the church” (I know the TBM version of “stay in the church” is much different).

    Thanks again for all the time and effort. I am sure you all don’t know how many thousands of listeners are really mulling over what you are sharing.

    1. Post
      Author

      Thanks for your great comment and willingness to be so vulnerable.

      At least for me, I don’t go to church with the hope that I’ll “get something out of it” (although I often do, which I’ll comment on in a bit) so much as simply the joy of being with my people. I truly love the people in my ward, and along the way I got to the point where not much that happens there or is said there “triggers” me or puts me in a funk. Sometimes I find myself depressed at the level of discourse, knowing that the material under discussion has so much more richness to it. I’ll often comment in an effort to point to something deeper and different, but it only sometimes works to shift the discussion. Instead of wanting to get something out of church, if I had to say what my main hope is it would be that I can be of service to them in some way. My full-time job, so to speak, is religion and Mormonism. My schooling and journey have been gifts to me, and they are ones that I have a strong desire to share, so I go and sense that at least three out of four times I attend I’ve been a catalyst for a minority but still significant number of folks thinking about something in a slightly different way, while also sensing that a solid majority are glad I’m there in their midst. But sure, I’m very often still very bored.

      If I could say how I’m benefitted the most, it would be from my knowing so many good people and rubbing shoulders with them and being confronted so starkly by their goodness, the purity of their intent, their eagerness to serve, and the wonderful things they want and make their lives about. I can think circles around most everyone there (in Mormonism and in most every sort of philosophical/theological area–most often it’s because of training but also in many cases simply the genetic blessing of having more brain power), but in so many things that make someone a beautiful human being, I’m far, far behind. So I guess what I get out of it is a strong dose of “humility”? I see clearly that every life isn’t about the things my life is about. Others’ gifts are different than mine. And i need to be reminded about that at least once a week, so it’s pretty convenient that Sundays roll around at that pace. 🙂

      Hope this makes some sense. “Woo hoo! Go to church to get humbled!” It’s kind of like the joke I made in the episode about John Belushi’s character in Animal House trying to rally the guys. It’s a hard sell. But I’ll just say in closing that it’s been a long, long time since I’ve been sorry that I went to church that day.

    2. Happy Hubby: I don’t have an answer and in lieu of answers I’ll spin out some random thoughts —

      >I’m not one to say “go to [Mormon] church” or “it is good for you to be in [Mormon] church.” I do have a soft conviction that it is good for a human being to be part of a religious community. (“Soft” meaning I wouldn’t pound the pulpit and I haven’t explored the corners and limits, but it seems like a good idea.)

      >I think if I had been raised Catholic I would have had very similar issues and anger, and I would have ended up in a very similar place — participating Catholic with a very light touch. On the other hand, I know people raised Mormon and people raised Catholic who are better off and happier leaving their tradition.

      >My approach to the LDS Church involves very low expectations.
      –Low expectations of myself — about the most extreme cafeteria style one can imagine while still being involved). I do ask of myself respect, which boils down to being silent or positive in public meetings. However, it has not been my experience that private relationships and conversations are conditioned on orthodoxy or masks.
      –Low expectations of the Church. When one bishop asked why I still attend LDS meetings I gave him the in-the-moment honest reply that it is where I know the hymnal. Keep that green book around and you’ve met my expectations.

      >It occurs to me that if I left completely I wouldn’t get to have conversations with Dan Wotherspoon and Ian Thomson, and now (in a sense) with you Happy Hubby. I find real pleasure in these conversations. I am inescapably Mormon, and at the same time not exactly like any other Mormon (and especially not like the Church’s definition). More than 20 years ago I let go of anybody else’s definitions. Without a need to convince or satisfy or fit anybody else’s box (or ship), the conversation is satisfying and enjoyable for me.

  3. Thanks for taking the time to listen and engage. I just have a few points in response to your comments. First, I want to clarify, although Chris and Dan both admitted to going through long periods of struggle, either in anger or questioning whether the Church was going to work for them, I actually don’t relate to that feeling very much. I can, however, absolutely identify with what Dan pointed out in his comment, and what I think you are alluding to: Church is most often supremely boring, and I frequently wonder what exactly I’m getting out of my attendance. But I’m someone who is just as interested in hearing things I don’t agree with, or in hearing the same thing for the fiftieth time, precisely because my internal dialogue is always asking, “can you come up with yet another new reason why that is so wrong? What is another way to look at that problem, or can I devise a new reformulation of the question that should be asked?” It’s the same type of exercise with temple attendance—there is never anything new in the endowment…it is the very definition of rote worship and dialogue. And yet for that same reason, I find it the most inviting to experimentation of thought; this is my time to get as wacky as I want to be…just keep it to myself. I’m sure you might ask, “well, can’t you do that somewhere else?” The answer is—obviously—“Yes. Yes you can. But I choose to do it here.”

    Second, I hope I’m not grouped with the folks you characterize as advocating that one should stay in the Church, or keep going regardless of the problems. I would only advocate that where the person had answered my question, “what do you want out of religion?” and their continued church attendance somehow satisfied that need or desire. If it does, however, address some need, then, like everything else, it largely comes down to a cost-benefit analysis. Is it worth the trade-offs? What I wanted to communicate in sharing my thoughts is not so much that I believe others should be following my lead, or looking for success where I have found it, only that I want others to respect the sincerity and seriousness of how I see my own engagement.

    And lastly, I hear in your comment, a possible hint at pulling even further back than I had found the need to go for the purpose of our conversation—and that is in an exploration and discovery of ultimate values. You essentially say, “my study of the science of happiness has done more for my emotional health than…” and ask, “wouldn’t going to Oasis and serving do more for me than…?” I hear somebody who may not be privileging the same values I do. For example, when I sat down to have that conversation the other night, I was already assuming that when I am evaluating my religion’s “value” to me, I am largely going to be assessing it based on a metric of daily life purpose and existential meaning. I can tell you right now that for many that same metric or rubric is not going to work or resonate at all. In fact, the majority of people will say, I don’t need that. (“Why are you asking me to adopt your existential angst? I don’t have any. You are trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.”) That is more specifically what I refer to as a “workshop of values.” We have to know ourselves well enough to know what really makes us tick—what are our supervening values, what are the characteristics and attributes of life that we simply can’t do without? Answering that question requires a fair bit of introspection, reflection, and self-discovery. I would posit that one’s identification of these ultimate values is even more fundamental than religious choice. This is the “radical freedom” that the existentialists talk about—not simply the choice between chocolate and vanilla, but even whether ice cream altogether. What is most important to us? Freedom and independence? Security and safety? Certainty and exactness? Meaning and purpose? Attainment and satisfaction? Acknowledgment and validation? Solidarity and brotherhood? Connection and understanding? Power and control? And I could go on. Most often these values will come into conflict with one another, and will occasionally be exclusive to one another when they compete for our attention and esteem. If we do not know what our soul most desires, we will never find the “emotional well-being” I suspect you are referring to. I highly value meaning and purpose in my life; consequently, an explanation through a religious framework is a proper path to meet that need. My wife cherishes her freedom above almost everything else. As you can guess, organized religious observance becomes an impediment in that search, and can be a real drag. It is at this most fundamental level that true pluralism becomes invaluable. You can imagine how well it is going to go over if you try and convince someone who wants nothing more than to feel safe and secure that they should really be pursuing adventure and variety. And that is where a very narrow view of Mormonism (or religion generally) can become quite stifling for people, because we walk around assuming that everyone approaches the world the same way we do, and as a result must be pursuing the same values that we do. What a shock when we realize that is not the case.

  4. Good discussion. Perhaps experiential learning can be summarized as follows:

    1) Take ownership of one’s own faith.
    2) Craft one’s own discipleship based on the circumstances of one’s life.
    3) Center authority within one’s own conscience.

    Isn’t life on this sphere crafted as a customized gift for each within a context of agency and with opposition from evil forces?

    Of course, as Mormonism is currently structured, these precepts may be viewed as heretical.

  5. I loved this discussion. Thank you. The end of the episode really summed it up for me. I too struggle with how to bring up these kinds of views in my church involvement because I very much have that feeling that Dan has in his analogy of the animal house bit. (I was there to witness his telling of that a couple of weeks ago in the workshop he spoke of and I wish everyone could have seen his discription of that. It was hilarious)
    Just today I looked ahead at the lesson we will have in gospel principles next Sunday and I texted my good friend and asked him to go to lunch with me this week so I could get some of the energy out before Sunday so I can contain myself more effectively.
    The last thing I will say is not being so much of a bianary (I have spent 30 years perfecting that) has helped me so much and there difinately is a desire to help others to see things in a different way because it has set me so free. It definetly takes time and for me it took a stumbling block for me to even get there but I’m glad it has at least started.
    Thanks again all.

  6. I currently don’t see a clear way forward in continuing with activity in the church. I appreciate that Dan and Chris survived periods of anger but wonder how to get through my current anger. I feel like when my current temple recommend expires I won’t be granted a new one because I will be honest that I no longer believe in Book of Mormon historicity. I want to believe it is “true” and feel anger that I have tried for so long to get a sure testimony without a Moroni 10:3-5 experience. I feel bitter about giving so much effort to trying to “know” without success. It is not currently appealing to me to switch to believing the Book of Mormon is inspired fiction.

    It is hard to trust in the small quiet promptings or assurances I have had over the years as I have tried to be faithful. I feel defeated and want to quit but feel obligated to keep trying for my family. Our Elders quorum had a good discussion on Sunday and I expressed vulnerability in the meeting. I came home from church and muttered swear words the rest of the day while watching TV to try and not think about church. This is becoming a common Sunday activity for me and I wonder if it would be healthier to stop attending for a time. My Bishop doesn’t think that would be wise. I resist not attending church because I want to renew my temple recommend so I could try and draw strength there. But honestly, I’d love to stop attending. Thanks for the discussion. It has given me some things to think about.

    1. Have you listened this podcast?
      https://mormondiscussionpodcast.org/2017/02/premium-tension-paradox-temple-interview/

      It might help you keep a recommend if that’s what you are interested.
      If the purpose is to notify leaders of your nuanced beliefs than, than yeah ruffle some feathers go ahead.

      Some leaders will be okay with it, others it will be unacceptable. If I were interviewing I would give you pass, but then again I’m currently not on leadership and I have sort of ruffled some peoples feathers as of lately. I’m trying to avoid going around bursting other people’s bubbles. I need to be more gentle and kind.

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