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024: A Paradigm Shift in Today’s Mormonism, Part 2

This episode follows up on the notion that we are experiencing a time of transition in today’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, during which the outlines of one dominant way of being Mormon, thinking Mormon, living Mormon is losing sway, and another, a more experiential way, is slowly rising and establishing itself as here to stay. Two great conversationalists, active church members, and astute trend watchers, Susan Hinckley and Mark Crego, join LDF host Dan Wotherspoon in this episode to share reactions to the earlier podcast and its proposals. What did they hear from others about the episode and its proposal? What were their own reactions to it and how it was presented? If they have, how have they experienced the shift in their own wards or circles? What cautions do they have for those who feel called to be part of the emerging awareness and to model new ways of interacting at church and in other typically Mormon settings they find themselves in? 

The episode is also full of broad themes that go beyond just the paradigm model, such as stepping into our own spiritual development, learning to experience God/Christ and speak of these in language that doesn’t move into “correlation speak,” as well as the call to be patient in trusting the slow work of God. Please listen in and comment below!

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Teilhard de Chardin prayer shared at end of the episode (adapted from a longer piece by the Center for Action and Contemplation and its Living School):

Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within us will be. Let us give God the benefit of believing that God’s hand is leading us, and let’s accept the anxiety of feeling ourselves in suspense and incomplete.

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Links:

J. Bonner Ritchie, “The Institutional Church and the Individual,” Sunstone 25th Anniversary Issue, 1999

Episode with Jana Spangler, Jody England Hansen, and Dan Wotherspoon on the upcoming Latter-day Faith Retreat, 11-13 October 2019, Salt Lake City

Description and registration information for the retreat

“Spiritually Surviving/Thriving as a Latter-day Saint”

A Latter-day Faith Retreat

LED BY:
DAN WOTHERSPOON
JANA SPANGLER
JODY ENGLAND HANSEN

1113 October, 2019
Salt Lake City, UT

Within an energetic, high-demand, service-oriented religion like Mormonism, it is so easy for us to lose sight that the purpose of our lives, including our church lives, is spiritual and personal self-transformation, coming to (re-)discover and grow into our highest selves as eternal, divine spirits. Too often we find ourselves simply going through the motions of a spiritual life, living out of pre-scripted and seldom-examined stories and worldviews. We seek a place at the grand banquet table we’ve heard we are invited to yet discover the same basic pot-luck fare. Where is the nutrition?

If you feel as if you are spiritually starving and long to (re)connect with God, Spirit, Love, your True Self, please come join us at this retreat. It will be co-led by Latter-day Faith podcast host Dan Wotherspoon, life coach and highly sought-after speaker Jana Spangler, and writer, activist, and insightful teacher Jody England Hansen. But YOU and the others in attendance will be in the real driver’s seat. Let’s discuss faith, belief, spiritual journeys, Jesus (and what he was really teaching rather than the water-downed version that has come down to us today), God, Holy Ghost, myth, ritual, prayer, discernment, spiritual practices, and more! Whatever you have in mind, we’re excited to dive into!

In choosing to attend, you are saying you want “more”—more depth, richness, understanding, and experiencing! More YOU! We can’t wait for you to join us!

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In addition to being able to attend the retreat in person, you will also have access to three monthly calls through Zoom in which we can continue where we have left off!

The retreat includes lunch and dinner on Saturday the 12th, and lunch on Sunday the 13.th

  • Friday begins at 6pm
  • Saturday runs from 9am until whenever (with all the evening portion consisting of relaxation and fun)
  • Sunday goes from 9am to 5pm.

If you have any questions about the retreat, where you might stay (if needed), etc., please contact Dan Wotherspoon at dan@latterdayfaith.org

Cost: $275 per person; $425 per couple (even two friends or family members deciding to register together).

SCHOLARSHIPS:

If you cannot afford to pay to attend, or can only swing some of the cost, please inquire abut partial or full scholarships and volunteering. We are working hard to encourage people to donate funds for others to attend, and we are happy to put you on a waiting list to see what might unfold.

If you would like to donate toward scholarships to those who cannot otherwise attend, please click below! Thank you!

We look forward to seeing you at this event! We know it will be something everyone will really enjoy as well as receiving great perspectives, renewed energies, and making new friends!

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023: Spiritually Surviving/Thriving as a Latter-day Saint

This short(ish) episode contains the announcement of a change to the upcoming Latter-day Faith retreat to be held October 11th to 13th in Salt Lake City. Natasha Helfer Parker can no longer be part of that event, so Jana SpanglerJody England Hansen, and LDF host Dan Wotherspoon have re-designed the retreat to focus more on spirituality, development, practices, faith journeys, and possible reframings of what we had previously experienced only in limited ways, and more. And though this episode was launched because of the changes to the upcoming event, the panelists all try to make what they share here relevant for those who might not even be able to consider coming to the retreat. What are some of the larger issues at play in LDS lives and faith journeys that serve as excellent jumping off points for our own spiritual reflections? Listen in to see what they say!

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Link to write-up (and registration) regarding the retreat.

022: A Paradigm Shift in Today’s Mormonism

In this episode, Latter-day Faith host Dan Wotherspoon goes solo to talk about some of the dynamics he sees at play in today’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Specifically, he utilizes the language of paradigm shifts to try to make sense of this current period, arguing that what we see fits the pattern often found when an all-encompassing vision of “the way things are” (a very strong, well-articulated paradigm that a majority of people think, react, and think out of) begins to show its limits as it can no longer reach and satisfy the curiosity and priorities and values of people who have begun to operate from a different sensibility. Ideally, this is a natural process and does not have to fraught with conflict and the result can be the instantiation of a new paradigm that honors and builds on the strengths of the previous one even as it shows how much “more” can be discovered and explored via the new one.

What cracks are beginning to show themselves in today’s current LDS paradigm? What is happening to reassure members of the church that today’s paradigm can explain and still inspire, protect, and bring peace at this time. What things are signaling that the current reactions to the new needs are not at all satisfactory, and that the paradigm requires expansion if it is to accommodate new data, events, trends, discoveries, and enrichments? If someone is experiencing tension with the old paradigm but does not want to abandon it or the church it dominates, what can they do to assist in a smooth transition from the one to the other? What are some of the values and methodologies and blessings that lie at the core of the new paradigm?

This episode is intended as a beginning to a discussion and does not pretend to be polished and very well articulated. Observations, hunches, sensibilities, and hopefulness are its hallmark, and Dan invites you all to suggest, challenge, tweak, and in any way you’d like become an active voice in identifying the issues and assisting in making a stronger case for the needs revealing themselves in today’s church dynamics. Or, again, please fight back. Propose alternative visions that frame things differently. However you react, please don’t keep things to yourself!

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021: Gathering Zion “from Beneath”

Expanding on several previous Latter-day Faith episodes that centered on scripture or the concept of Zion, our discussion this week revolves around several elements in LDS scripture and early church teachings that shifts our thinking regarding these areas in wonderful ways. Guided by the brilliant Brittney Hartley, we explore how we need to create a better balance between the scriptural teachings about Zion being brought down “from above” as well as up “from beneath.” (D&C 84:100) The vast majority of teachings about creating Zion have been driven by church leaders and through top-down pronouncements, even to the point of talking about how Zion should be “administered”! Instead, Brittney asks what would it mean to take seriously gathering Zion from below?

You don’t want to miss this discussion! It is very frank about current failings, including really missing the point in how we understand 2 Nephi 29’s critique about “A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible,” but it is also full of optimism and very practical steps we might take to restore proper balance and become the kind of church needed today in this pivotal time of increasing disaffiliation among members, and especially among the rising generations.

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020: Engaging Scripture the Ignatian Way

For so many of us whose religious world views have begun to shift, and previous ways of viewing various elements of what we had been taking for granted start to become less stable, scripture is one of the components for which we can easily lose affection and appreciation. But rather than abandon our reading and study practices altogether, there are approaches to it that match well with what our journeys have prepared us be able to engage. One such method is the focus of this episode, an Ignatian spiritual practice/approach to scripture. (We’d already introduced another practice, lectio divina in Episode 014, but the Ignatian method is quite different from that.) 

Our guide into this practice is Mark Crego, a regular guest on Latter-day Faith podcast as well as Mormon Matters. In this discussion with host Dan Wotherspoon, Mark briefly introduces us to Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, which came to be known as Jesuits and that is a recognized monastic order in Catholicism, one that places high value on education, scholarship, and science while at the same time nurturing deep self-reflection and enlivened spirituality. (The current pope, Francis, is the first Jesuit to receive that ordination.) Mark then takes us into a few more elements of the Jesuit worldview and what they hold as the highest goal of a human life, but his main focus in the Ignatian practice of imaginatively entering into scriptural stories (settings, persons, what and who else is there that the scripture isn’t mentioning) that can lead into insights and personal transformation that can gained through a practice of this type. In the course of the conversation, he and Dan briefly reflect on ways we might shift our understandings of the Adam and Eve story, and then Mark shares a powerful piece he wrote about his experiences and transformations of insight and how he came to understand himself differently as he practices this approach during Holy Week 2017. It is gorgeous, rich, emotional, discerning, and not to be missed. From it and a closing few minutes that re-introduce the various steps in the Ignatian method, you will be able to gain both a delicious taste of and some know-how about this practice and what it can yield.

Dive in!

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Links:

Read Mark Crego’s writeup of his imaginative entering into the place of Jesus’s final instructions to his disciples (men and women included at the table) and Last Supper.

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Reading Scripture the Ignatian Way

Ignatius of Loyola was much like many of us: he aspired to be great and significant in the world, but as luck would have it, he was injured, and spent much of a year in recovery. During this period, he had few books to read, so he spent his days reading scripture and daydreaming.

He found that his daydreams of grandeur, of recovering the life he once aspired to, caused him to feel depressed. On the other hand, his daydreams of imagining himself within the stories of scripture brought him joy. In fact, as he lived within the narrative about the life of Jesus, he came to a personal relationship with the subject of scripture: the Christ as manifest in both the narrative and in his creative consciousness. He came to know God, not just know about God.

Motivated by his love for and with Jesus, he and his companions devoted their lives to not just reading and contemplation, but to active involvement in the world: that the love of Jesus is best manifest in our being men and women for and with others. They founded the “Society of Jesus”—Jesuits—based upon these principles of seeing God in all things, of practicing spiritual exercises including imaginative reading of scripture, of daily self-examination, and practicing love in the world, all for the greater glory of God.

I personally have found great benefit in reading scripture the Ignatian Way, that is, allowing scripture to open up as a creative, spiritual exercise, to live within the narrative, or as Nephi put it in the Book of Mormon, to liken scripture to ourselves.

To read the Scriptures as Ignatius suggests is not about just reading the text. Rather, it focuses on specific stories. For example, during the first phases of Ignatian spiritual exercises, it’s a good idea to explore the nature of sin—not as a stain on our soul, but as the process of learning to discern. The story of the Garden of Eden is particularly useful, exploring how Eve and Adam made choices in the Garden, and how those choices enabled them to learn through their own experience how to discern good and evil.

Another story is the birth narrative in Luke. In the video “Mr Krueger’s Christmas,” the title character played by Jimmy Stewart finds himself daydreaming as if he were physically present at the birth of Jesus. As he looks around, he sees shepherds, animals, Mary and Joseph, and of course the Jesus child. As he walks through the narrative, he connects in relationship with the baby Jesus, praying from his heart and enveloped in love.

My personal encounter with Ignatian spiritual reading of scripture was in contemplating the Atonement as expressed in John chapters 13-17: the “Last Supper.” As I entered the narrative, I heard the words of the Savior through the voice of my deceased mother express God’s intimate, personal, and unconditional love for me. In turn, if I love God, I will be motivated to love others “as God loves me,” that is, with intimate, personal, and unconditional love. The experience transformed everything I thought I knew about the Atonement. Click here to read the full article.

So how does Ignatian Imaginative Reading work for me?

Before reading scripture, I find it very helpful to prepare for the experience, by going to my own personal sacred space—a place outside of the noise of the world: could be a room in my house, could be in a library or church, could be anywhere where I can be outside of my daily interruptions and concerns.

There are many ways of imaginative reading—just use your imagination! The key, in my impression, is to find a story that resonates with me, then, reading the story four ways.

  1. I read the text as written, straight through, so that I can remind myself of the complete story line: What is the story itself saying?
  2. Next I read the text for what isn’t written: What is implied in the narrative? Who is witnessing this story? What are the factors, before and after, that affect the story line?
  3. Next I let the text go and put myself inside the narrative. Who am I in this story? Perhaps I could be one of the named actors, or simply an observer. Perhaps, in the story of Jesus’ birth, I’m one of the animals. I’m creative here—I’m putting myself in the story and letting my creative imagination run with it. I ask myself: What are my senses telling me as I become fully aware of the story? What am I feeling? What are my emotions telling me? This reading is purely contemplative—I allow the spirit to enter my heart and reveal what I need to learn from this reading.
  4. Finally, I return to the text itself. Yes, I have had an experience beyond the text in my imagination, but now, as I read the text, is there new meaning to be found? How does my new perspective open up the text to me to make me a better person—more loving towards and with others? How has God spoken love to me in this text?

As I close my reading session, I find myself physically and emotionally giving gratitude for the text. For me, I do a little ritual of closing the text and my eyes, touching the text to my forehead, and giving thanks for the experience I felt in the text.

Again, there are many ways to read scripture, and my approach, informed by Ignatian Spirituality is but one way. The key, in my impression, is to allow the text to open up for me, to speak to me, to become alive in my imagination, and then walk the journey of faith according to the inspiration I feel thereby.

I hope this helps. What are your thoughts about how you read scripture?

19: Surrender and Spiritual Expansion

In this episode, Latter-day Faith host Dan Wotherspoon goes solo this time to talk about the aspect of “surrendering” or “yielding” or “allowing” the Divine to work in us. He asserts that if we allow the idea that God is all in all and in and through everything, including ourselves, and if we seek to abide in and be influenced by our spiritual center that exists “in” God and is God, we will be able to grow spiritually in ways our minds and plans and goals can’t even imagine, as experiencing deep abiding in God is far richer than these can ever touch. From there, he moves into aspects of surrender and yielding, and reveals through various LDS scripture how deeply embedded this practice is, this stance of allowing something more than what our dualistic minds and beliefs can change us in our very core. 

If “ideas about” God or aspects of the universe as describe in religions language are increasingly feeling constrictive and impotent, let this episode and its focus on experiencing God sink in a bit. You’ll be intrigued and hopefully motivated to trust the deepest calls of your soul.

Links:

One” by Birdtalker, video and lyrics

Latter-day Faith Retreat, October 11th to 13th

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Change the Game

Life is so immeasurably vast,
that to conclude
you are limited
is only because 
you are accessing
a minuscule, subjective twig
of infinite Reality.

There will come a time,
when you will not be bound
by this current body and brain,
and instantly you will
experience and remember
more of your eternal heritage
and ethereal nature.

Why wait for that time,
when it is available to you now
while you are still here?

The game changes
when you release
your current reference points.

Poem from Educare Unlearning Institute (daily emails)

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018: Zion


This episode features an interview with the wonderful Kim McCall about the concept (and small instantiations) of Zion, and especially how it activates and animates his soul and spiritual life. Latter-day Faith host Dan Wotherspoon gets into sharing mode about it, as well. Kim’s recent reflections on Zion were prompted by his being asked this past year to give a sacrament meeting talk on the Second Coming, a topic Kim wasn’t at all enthusiastic to speak on. (Neither would many of us, we suspect!) But then, as he further queried his heart and mind, he found a way into the topic: Zion and how it animated so many early Latter-day Saints’ focus and efforts and unified extremely diverse people with genuine purpose and a sense of call to prepare a community to which Christ would feel comfortable returning. Kim shared his beautiful heart with his ward, at the Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium this past week, and even more in this episode. The conversation here also explores what it means to have a “good will,” as well as how we can each catch the vision of Zion and go about implementing it in our portions of this world despite a world and mindsets that do not (yet?) hold much space for such things, and even work against them.

This is a terrific episode! Please jump in and then share your own vision of Zion and tales of bringing these ideals into your spheres of influence.

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017: The LDS Temple and the Vitality of Ritual Immersion

Within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the various rituals and ordinances that take place in LDS temples are considered to be the highest expression of God’s love for us and the path of human ascension. And for many church members, especially the ones who have really leaned into temple ritual, it is. But for a significant number of others, most likely a majority of those who have participated, temple experiences baffle them or even become sources of deep internal conflict or discouragement, or they even play a role in their choosing to leave Mormonism, either through being less involved or even fully removing themselves from its membership records.

In this episode, my very good and wise friend Jody England Hansen and I acknowledge the experiences of participants all along this spectrum of reactions, but discuss the temple and ritual in general through the lenses of myth and ritual studies, symbolism and archetypal energies and truths, and our own experiences with the temple, including key moments from our own journeys with the temple that have led to our own shifts toward greater appreciation of what gifts lie within when we let go of certain preconceived notions and wrong-headed rhetoric about the nature of the endowment and other ordinances. A key feature in our journeys through life and in faith must be a willingness to allow our world views to expand as we accumulate more and more experience. What can seem like THE truth at one time in our development must be able to yield to the lessons found in all the complexities life will lead us into. And an absolute key in all of this shifting must involve embracing mythic truths and rich symbolic methods that teach us in ways that are impossible simply through what our minds alone can discover.

I think you will find the discussion herein to be challenging but also liberating, unusual in its frankness while also empowering. May it be so!
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Links:

Dan Wotherspoon, “Why Ritual ‘Makes Sense,‘” Sunstone, Fall 2016

Charles Randall Paul, “The Sacred Secret Open to All: Ye Are Gods,” Sunstone, May 2009