Recent Posts

051: Preparing for General Conference

It’s LDS General Conference week, and in this episode Ian Thomson and Stephanie Dix join Latter-day Faith host Dan Wotherspoon in discussing the ways each of them prepare for it. For many God- and Church-wrestlers, these semi-annual gatherings (and this time a virtual gathering only!) sometimes are greeted with less-than-enthusiastic attitudes, perhaps fear about the possibility of hurtful or tone-deaf messages, or perhaps confusion as that recognize internal shifts that cast conference and the speakers and messages differently than the way they held them before. Each and every member approaches conference weekends with anticipations unique to them.

Ian, Stephanie, and Dan’s conversation centers around the panelists own journeys with conference, how they thought of it at earlier times in their lives, what has shifted in them through the years as their journey took them into new perspectives, and more. Each of them also speaks of framings they hold today as they approach conference. Where do they, if they do, find optimism about possibly wonderfully delivered and inspired messages and announcements? How do they temper tendencies toward cynicism and dismissing entire talks or sessions as being ruined or tainted by poorly thought out or insular speech and/or declarative stances? They share experiences in which they felt their hearts and minds shift more toward gratitude and appreciation rather than critique. All in all, it is just a terrific exchange that works toward ways to “get the most out of” conference, whether it is through particular spiritual practices, not engaging with it live but only later in print, or whatever it may be. 

Listen in as you ready yourself for this most unusual conference to come!

Link:

“Lunches with Dan,” Mondays and Wednesdays from noon til 1:30 MDT. Drop by to lunch virtually with “fellow travelers,” including LDF host Dan Wotherspoon.

050: Fresh Views of the First Vision

In this episode, Latter-day Saint historian Ron Barney joins LDF host Dan Wotherspoon to talk about the actual historical records related to Joseph Smith’s “First Vision.” And the documents show that how we generally talk about this event now is far from how it was seen and spoken and written about in the early days of the church, and by Smith himself. Today’s assumptions about a clean history of a magnificent visitation by God the Father and Jesus Christ are the result of a long line of decisions that chose to canonize the 1838 version in today’s Pearl of Great Price. 

This conversation differs from many that simply teach the various accounts and allow those who read or listen to puzzle for themselves how these various tellings agree or disagree with each other. In no way does this discussion tell anyone what to think in these areas, but it instead concentrates on the history of the documents, the circumstances in which they were created, if they were written or overseen and corrected by Joseph Smith himself, who Smith’s scribes were and what scribal choices ended up in the established version (things such as when the event took place!)

Throughout it all, Ron and Dan talk openly about the complexity of all things surrounding the First Vision while also sharing how they hold these documentable complications in a way that allows them to also incorporate elements of faith that are too often easily dismissed by the skeptical world. Even though no one can ever really know the nature of what Smith experienced in the grove or in any of his visions/visitations, both believe the record quite concretely shows that real spiritual and/or revelatory things occurred that affected him greatly and from which he drew great strength throughout his short but action-filled life. There are too many parallels with other theophanies that led to great movements to dismiss Smith’s out of hand simply because he at times shared different details.

LDS General Conference is coming up, and it is said it will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the First Vision. Immerse yourself in Smith’s world as Ron shares fabulous details and offers a clear-eyed view of the documentary record itself as it relates to things church leaders likely will focus on this weekend. This episode is definitely worth your time and attention!

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Links:

Ronald O. Barney, Joseph Smith: History, Methods, Memory (University of Utah Press, forthcoming)

Mark Ashurst-McGee, Robin Jensen, Sheralyn D. Howcroft, eds., Foundational Texts of Mormonism (Oxford University Press, 2018)

“Ask of God: Joseph Smith’s First Vision,” Video created for the Church History Museum that offers a fairly broad telling of the First Vision, 2017

“Lunches with Dan,” Mondays and Wednesdays from noon til 1:30 MDT. Drop by to lunch virtually with “fellow travelers,” including LDF host Dan Wotherspoon.

049: Behavioral Science Insights for Mormons

In this really insightful episode, LDF host Dan Wotherspoon turns loose his wonderful guest, Jordan Harmon, a Latter-day Saint therapist who brings a wide variety of insights to his work with clients and who has developed specialties in therapeutic practices based on behavioral science. What’s especially interesting is Jordan’s journey began with his having a very low opinion of behavioral therapies, primarily because they have often been abused, such as in LGBT+ “conversion” therapies and in our criminal justice system. Over the course of his work with clients, however, he slowly began to gain respect for behavioral therapies, especially now as it has evolved into something that takes in the whole of a person involving deep listening and empathy.

In each segment, their conversation features tie-ins to Mormon scripture, themes, insights, and application, as well as certain deficiencies and how these can translate into harmful forms of spiritual counseling. Jordan and Dan discuss questions about agency: how much agency do we really have (we are in a situation of both being an actor but also very much being “acted upon”) , and how might we increase it in relation to our deep values? Jordan openly shares about a difficult time as he and his wife tried to work with one of their children, and in the process of that section offers terrific insights into parenting approaches that can also assist us as we interact with our own parents and other loved ones. As they end, they also speak a bit about the LDS concept of Zion and how behavioral science might inform it.

You will really want to listen to this episode! It is definitely one that leads to us into deep thinking about ours and others’ difficulties, while also offering validation and framings that are extremely helpful.

Links related to discussion:

Harmon Psychotherapy and Consulting

Dan Wotherspoon’s dissertation: “Awakening Joseph Smith: Mormon Resources for a Postmodern Worldview,” Claremont Graduate School, 1996

048: Living, Loving, Learning in the Age of Coronavirus

Latter-day Faith host Dan Wotherspoon is joined by his two Faith Journey Foundation partners, Mark Crego and Susan Hinckley, for this episode reflecting on the times we are now facing vis a vis covid-19/coronavirus. We are all very likely undergoing big shifts in our daily routines, as well as being hindered in various plans for travel, certain kinds of recreation, and dealing with shut-down schools and universities, and more. Dan, Mark, and Susan reflect on this moment in time, sharing about their current lives and what’s being impacted, but ultimately they focus on the kind of spiritual shifts that are happening within them. Even though we are being forced to make changes and give up certain freedoms and opportunities, might this time be a Lenten-type season for us (and we actually are in that season of the Christian calendar)? What are other framings that might be helpful at this time and place?

Listen in! This episode is being released just a few hours after being recorded, but even with a bit less post-production than usual there is a great spirit and much good thought in what is offered. Share with us about your experiences in the comments section!

Sending only good thoughts for all of you and your dear ones during this difficult season! 

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Don’t forget to register and join us for this Thursday’s virtual fireside on expanding our understandings, as well as our repertoire’s, regarding prayer. Registration is free, but we need you to do it in order to receive the Zoom link for joining in the call!

047: The Spirituality of Activism

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has recently released policies (and made policy reversals) regarding LGBTQ+ persons that have brought on protests, with activists staging events on the Brigham Young University campus (both Provo and Rexburg), near the Church Office Building in downtown Salt Lake City, as well as across from the LDS temple in New York City. And there are no signs that these gatherings and expressions of grief and disagreement will die down anytime soon. In the midst of these troubled times, we at Latter-day Faith have decided to add to the mix some thoughts on activism, its role and place within the ongoing Restoration, in spiritual journeying writ large, as well as about the spirituality that is inherent in and available to those who find themselves called to make their voice heard in the public arena.

In this episode, Latter-day Faith host Dan Wotherspoon discusses with his friend, a well-known and powerful activist on LGBTQ+ issues, Jody England Hansen, about her journey to arrive at a point in her life and spiritual development that she can sustain a life of active involvement in social issues that are in service of those who are being harmed by various societal and cultural practices being able to make themselves and their pain more visible in ways that might lead to positive changes. In all of this, Jody recognizes how her engagement in these ways is sustained by her understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, many teachings of the Restoration, and especially through her inner work with herself and the Divine. What perspectives assist her the most? How have they come to be part of the very fiber of her being and to be understood as vital spiritual practices? What cautions does she have for activists that might help keep them from demonizing those persons and situations against which they are fighting? How might we all draw from her many decades of practice and hard-fought wisdom keys to allowing ourselves to hear the Divine call to grow, expand, and be God’s hands and mouthpieces when we are prompted?

Jody is powerful, articulate, and clearly grounded in Spirit when sharing about these things. Please listen in on this conversation. This is one of the most powerful LDF episodes to date!

046: Jungian Insights for Psychological and Spiritual Health

In this terrific episode, Latter-day Faith host Dan Wotherspoon brings on his good friend and a Jungian analyst, Christine Chao, to talk about the psychological insights of Carl Jung and, especially, how they relate to good mental, social, and spiritual health. In their conversation, Christine introduces us to Jungian terms and ideas, many of which we likely already heard of yet don’t really understand all that well. If you’ve heard of concepts such as the collective unconscious, archetypes, complexes, dream analysis, individuation, Shadow, and others, Christine wonderfully elucidates these, illustrating them from her own life experiences as well as those of her colleagues and Jung himself. Following this tour through many of the basic insights, the discussion turns to difficulties she and others have with Jung the individual and also with some of his teachings. In this section we can find many similarities with Latter-day Saints who are forced to wrestle with bad ideas and hurtful teachings by Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other LDS leaders while still recognizing the brilliance and spiritual power they ushered into the world. C.G. Jung understood human as well as spiritual development, and this episode closes with the way he responded near the end of his life to questions about whether or not he believed in God.

Listen in! You’ll love meeting Christine and will find much here to chew on!

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…thoroughly unprepared we take the step into the afternoon of life; worse still, we take this step with the false assumption that our truths and ideals will serve us as hitherto. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the programme of life’s morning; for what was great in the morning will be little at evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening have become a lie.

                                                            C.G. Jung, Collected Works, Vol. 8, para 784

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Links:

“Introversion and the Mormon Experience,” Mormon Matters podcast, December 2014.

Latter-day Faith Virtual Fireside, March 19th, 7 to 9 pm Mountain Standard Time.
Topic: Expanding our Understanding of Prayer.
Read more about it and sign up for the free link to join the Zoom discussion!

Latter-day Faith Retreat, March 27th to 29th, Salt Lake City (Murray area).
“Understanding and Navigating Healthy Faith Journeys”
Read more about it and register soon! We hope to see you at the end of the month!

045: Psychology and Spirituality

In this terrific episode, Latter-day Faith host Dan Wotherspoon is joined by Dr. Lisa Tensmeyer Hansen, a psycho-therapist and longtime friend, to talk about the nuts and bolts of our brains, our conscious and subconscious minds, our theological notions about God and the meaning of our lives, and the overlay of spirituality upon it all (or is it the underpinning of it?). Lisa takes us into the brain and how it processes experiences and stores memories, how our subconscious minds carry both incredible wisdom and traumatic memories, and how we can access these and heal (and how the areas of the brain activate when we do). The participants also move into how we create God (Spirit, Life) via our own experiences and theologies in ways that often determine whether we will remain stuck in certain kinds of suffering or move on to new understandings that are based in deep and overpowering experiences of divine love, acceptance, and peace. They also discuss hypnosis and hypno-therapy and how that works and is often effective in calling out of us and our subconscious minds deep meaning and wonderful, healing insights.

This is a most excellent episode! Listen in!

044: The Divine Feminine, Part 2

In this episode (Part 2 of 2), we continue our discussion of the divine feminine with panelists Kristen Rogers-IversenKathryn Knight Sonntag, and Brittney Lowe Hartley. Whereas the first segment featured each participant’s search for and journey with the feminine divine, as well wide-ranging conversations about goddesses in faith traditions besides Mormonism, various other female deities or aspects that are reverenced, symbols such as the Tree of Life, etc., this discussion zeros in more directly on ways to talk about her in communities that have failed to emphasize Mother. For Mormonism, is it or isn’t it a blessing that not much direct teaching on the feminine divine has come forward in comparison to the lists of qualities and attributes of Father in Heaven? What opportunities and spiritual blessings are open to us with a Mother that is much more mysterious? How might we know when the time is right to say speak up about Her? How do we know when the setting isn’t optimal for being received well? What are some prerequisites to sharing effectively from the pulpit or in classroom settings, or even among family members and other groups that are predominantly Mormon? What are the best strategies for pushing this discussion in the church and helping it grow spiritually through paying closer attention to the divine feminine? 

Each panelist shares wonderful insights! Listen in!

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Links: (Forthcoming)

043: The Divine Feminine, Part 1

Goddess figures have abounded world wide and at every stage in history. Many are tied to creative and generative powers, Wisdom, accessibility, Presence, and more. In all cultures, the prominence of Mother or the Goddess waxes and wanes depending on group needs, and especially when authoritative, declarative, military, masculine powers take the fore. Yet, even during these times, each culture features groups of people who in some way keep her dearly needed presence alive. Such is the case in Mormonism, with many continuing to seek the divine feminine, most often in the figure of Heavenly Mother but in others, as well.

This episode, the first of a two-part discussion about the feminine divine, features three wonderful panelists, Kristen Rogers-IversenKathryn Knight Sonntag, and Britney Hartley, who share their journeys with Mother, and with nature, the earth, embodiment, motherhood, and more. Each brings unique perspectives and questions to the forefront. The conversation here focuses on their longings, quests, research, deep dives into symbols of the divine feminine, such as the Tree of Life, personal and communal spirituality, mysticism, and faith journeys that require us to find balance between the feminine and the masculine. We also learn why they have chosen the forms or approaches they have when writing or presenting about their quests. It’s a wonderful, vulnerable, at at times challenging and wistful discussion.

Please listen in!

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Links to books by the authors and other things mentioned in the podcast:

Kathryn Knight Sonntag, The Tree at the Center (By Common Consent Press, 2019)
Kathryn’s website: https://www.kathrynknightsonntag.com/
You can also follow her here:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/KnightSonntag
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/knightsonntag/

Kristen Rogers-Iversen, Interwoven: Junipers and the Web of Being (University of Utah Press, 2017)

Brittney Hartley, Mormon Philosophy Simplified: An Easy LDS Approach to Classic Philosophical Questions (2019)

Peggy Orenstein, Boys and Sex: Young Men on Hookups, Love, Porn, Consent, and Navigating the New Masculinity (Harper, 2020)
RadioWest episode with a great summary of the book’s themes

042: When Stories Collide

In this episode, the brilliant Stephen Carter joins with LDF host Dan Wotherspoon to talk about two types of stories that don’t easily play well with each other, yet are both very much needed. How might we learn to hold these in a healthy tension? Stephen’s doctorate is in narrative studies and he is always on the look out to notice the types of stories that capture imaginations and direct lives. And often with specific attention on the ones that influence Latter-day Saints. The two he brings up today he names “Circle” and “Line” stories, and he and Dan explore what can happen when one dominates the other in an individual human life as well within the collective. 

“Line” stories indicate direction. I tell myself a line story that indicates what my values and goals are, the direction I should move in order to get there, and what I should be on the look out for that might prove to be tough obstacles I need to avoid or conquer. For good and ill, line stories also provide for us ways to judge our progress toward these goals. By themselves, however, we can’t really define and have a firm grasp on what is or isn’t meaningful.

“Circle” stories are directionless. We are all living a circle story–our lives and what we are learning, how we are changing, who we are becoming–but in themselves don’t really direct us. Instead, they require us to self-examine, to wrestle, to conquer fears, and to allow what we value and want to reveal themselves as fruits from our struggles. And all the criteria for judging how we are doing come from inside rather than through those that dominate the line story. The “meaning” of our lives comes from Circle stories.

Mormonism nods toward the importance of Circle stories and has deep resources for talking about them, but it primarily emphasizes Line stories as our guides and evaluation criteria. The Plan of Salvation is laid out clearly, and the goal is the celestial kingdom. We are to raise children who will follow this same path, hold these same values. We are to listen to these particular guides but not those. But how would it look if the Circle story gained equal footing, got equal attention in church or in general conference addresses? Both types of stories are essential for a balanced, meaningful, and joyful life. By naming these types and exploring how they work, might we be of service in re-balancing our religion and lives within the church? Stephen and Dan believe so.

Listen in! This stuff is rich!

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Links:

Latter-day Faith Virtual Fireside, “A New Paradigm for Latter-day Saints,” February 20th, 7 to 9pm Mountain Standard Time. Click here to learn more about it and register. The event is free. You will be participating in a Zoom call.

March 27th to 29th, Latter-day Faith Retreat Information and Registration

Misc items mentioned in the eposode:

“Mormons Encountering Death,Mormon Matters Podcast, Episodes 430–432, December 2017 (Stephen Carter one of the guests)

Sunstone — Podcasts, Symposium Call for Paters, Articles mentioned:

Call for Papers for 2020 Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium, March 1 deadline

Sunstone Podcast (co-hosted by Stephen Carter)

Sunstone Magazine Podcast (Audible quality presentations of classic Sunstone essays and articles)

Stephen Carter, “Call Me By My Name,” Sunstone, November 2019 (reflections sparked by the Carters’ transgender daughter)

Dan Wotherspoon, “To Make Big Shadows,” Sunstone, May 2009 (Published version of Dan’s “Pillars of My Faith” presentation that employs the concept of “Size”)

U. Carlisle Hunsaker, “Mormonism and a Tragic Sense of Life,” Sunstone, March 2014 (reprinted from September/October 1983 issue)

Armand L. Mauss, “Alternate Voices: The Calling and Its Implications,” Sunstone, April 1990 (includes his “Decalogue for Dissenters,” a list of ten commandments for those who want to successfully step into this role within Mormonism)

Books Mentioned or Discussed:

Stephen Carter, ed. Moth and Rust: Mormon Encounters with Death (Signature Books, 2017)

Rachel Naomi Remen, My Grandfather’s Blessings (Riverhead Books, 2001)

Rachel Naomi Remen, Kitchen Table Wisdom (Riverhead Books, 2006)

Share:

041: Wrestling with the Book of Mormon, Part 2

After listening to last week’s podcast on the Book of Mormon, longtime Latter-day Faith collaborator Mark Crego suggested we record a follow up that deals more directly with how to engage with the book within our own hearts (including the things in the text that trigger us!) and communities. If it is the “word of God” and most folks take that concept to mean that practically everything in the book is pretty darn close to The Truth, how might we engage with them?

To help us see things more clearly, Mark proposes four paradigm shifts we each to internalize and that also can be communicated well to others. The discussion then turns to examine in depth what it is that the scriptures themselves say about the writings and revelations contained in them, including the Book of Mormon. Again, these can be important ideas to hold and recall when and if we feel we need to speak up and help widen a discussion. Finally, our discussion focuses on what the real purpose of the Gospel is, which is to bring us the Good News of the “Revelation of Jesus Christ”; that God in Jesus Christ, is fully God and fully human; and that God is incarnated and present in all beings. This means that God is present in Christ, and in you and in me, and in Scripture (expanded to include the inspired texts we find everywhere. Check out 2 Nephi 29).

No podcast or tip can ever help us skip the hard work of our internal wrestles with God, ourselves, and scripture. What they can do, however, is help us understand what we are going through and why it is required of us in order to become transformed into the likeness of Christ. This is an excellent episode serving those purposes. Listen in! 

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Links to things mentioned in the episode:

“Sin,” Mormon Matters podcast episode, February 2017, that wrestles with the notions that “no unclean thing can enter the kingdom of heaven” and “God cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.”

Jana Riess, “A Survival Guide to the 2020 Book of Mormon ‘Come, Follow Me’ curriculum,” Salt Lake Tribune, 24 Feb 2020

Blake T. Ostler, “The Book of Mormon as a Modern Expansion of an Ancient Source,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Spring 1987

“New Perspectives on Joseph Smith and Translation,” Faith Matters Foundation Conference, April 2017 (Video of sessions)

“A Paradigm Shift in Today’s Mormonism,” Latter-day Faith podcast, September 2019

“A Paradigm Shift in Today’s Mormonism, Part 2,” Latter-day Faith podcast, September 2019

Latter-day Faith Virtual Fireside, “A New Paradigm for Latter-day Saints,” February 20th, 7 to 9pm Mountain Standard Time. Click here to learn more about it and register. The event is free. You will be participating in a Zoom call.

March 27th to 29th, Latter-day Faith Retreat Information and Registration

040: Wrestling with The Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon occupies a key place in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and very much so in many persons’ faith journeys. For some, encounters with the book completely changed their lives, offered meaning and a sense of a God who is alive and still speaking. But for many Latter-day Saints themselves, the book has become problematic. Some question its historicity, its origin stories, its teachings, as well as struggle with how it is seen within the tradition, and especially how it is talked about on Sundays and in other gatherings. For them, the Book of Mormon has become a stumbling block, and for many of these perhaps a reason they feel they can no longer associate with the church and LDS community.

In this episode, Latter-day Faith host Dan Wotherspoon is joined by his longtime friend, mentor, and discussion partner, Charles Randall Paul (Randy), to consider the Book of Mormon with different lenses, many of them personal. Their discussion begins with each of them sharing the story of their “love affair” (one that hasn’t always felt easy) with this book. They then move on to discuss it on different levels and from different approaches that have helped them retain a positive relationship with it, regardless of its historicity or other problematic areas. Randy shares how he has been helped by considering the many genres one finds in the book (in the same way as one finds in the Bible and the sacred texts of other traditions). And then they both reflect upon the term “scripture” and what it means for something to be considered as such. What is going on within us as individuals when we grant something the status of scripture, and what roles do scriptural texts and what they contain function within a faith community? 

The discussion herein might be summarized as reflections on each of the participants’ life-long wrestles with the Book of Mormon, including their gratitude for all it has brought to their lives, even despite the pain of frustrations and loss they’ve felt or certain transitions their encounters with the text and its context have forced upon them.

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Links to things mentioned in this episode:

“Embracing Myth,” Latter-day Faith Podcast, 26 June 2019 (with Charles Randall Paul)

Dan Wotherspoon, “To Make Big Shadows,” Sunstone, May 2009 (“Pillars of My Faith” talk as Dan retired from Sunstone)

Dan Wotherspoon, “On the Death of Nephi,” Sunstone, March 2005

Grant Hardy, The Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Edition (University of Illinois Press, 2005)

Grant Hardy, Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Guide (Oxford, 2010)

March 27th to 29th, 2020, Latter-day Faith Retreat Information and Registration

039-Nature, Evolution, Spirituality

Because many Latter-day Saints, as well as many people in general, have not been taught evolution very well, they will often dismiss it out of hand, especially when it it encroaches upon their understandings of the origins of human beings. Likewise, it is very unlikely that they have explored the evolutionary process, along with the environment, all of nature, and persons in a web of life, as wonderful gateways to spiritual exploration and transformative experiences.

In this Latter-day Faith podcast episode, host Dan Wotherspoon is joined by evolutionary biology professor T. Heath Ogden in an effort to focus on the spiritual sensibilities that go hand in hand with evolution as the creative force that brings forth change, increased complexity, specialization, and the ever-widening diversity that is produced through its quiet but powerful work. They don’t delve here into the nuts and bolts of the basic processes (so no real biology lessons here) as much as engage each other in an effort to convey how their understandings and acceptance of this process have enriched their spiritual understandings and vitality for life, including a greater appreciation for their fellow beings as also part of this pathway to growth, development, and flourishing.

There is a spirituality in the study of nature and in immersion in the natural world that, when experienced, changes us, grounds us, and brings forth in us greater compassion, gratitude, and also a greater appreciation for all life and its significance–including our own lives. Toward the end of the discussion, they also wrestle together about how the concept and reality of God might or might not enhance and inform, or perhaps distract and obscure, all the wondrous views of life and energy that are ours to experience, should we allow ourselves to do so.

Listen in! We know you’ll find a lot in it worth chewing on.
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Additional materials related to nature, oneness, spirituality found there, etc.

Birdtalker, “One,” song and video


Mary Oliver, “The Summer Day”

Who made the world? 
Who made the swan, and the black bear? 
Who made the grasshopper? 
This grasshopper, I mean- 
the one who has flung herself out of the grass, 
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand, 
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down- 
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes. 
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face. 
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away. 
I don't know exactly what a prayer is. 
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down 
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, 
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, 
which is what I have been doing all day. 
Tell me, what else should I have done? 
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon? 
Tell me, what is it you plan to do 
with your one wild and precious life?

Symeon the New Theologian, “We Awaken in Christ’s Body”

We Awaken in Christ’s Body
English version by Stephen Mitchell
Original Language Greek

We awaken in Christ’s body
as Christ awakens our bodies,
and my poor hand is Christ, He enters
my foot, and is infinitely me.

I move my hand, and wonderfully
my hand becomes Christ, becomes all of Him
(for God is indivisibly
whole, seamless in His Godhood).

I move my foot, and at once
He appears like a flash of lightning.
Do my words seem blasphemous? — Then
open your heart to Him

and let yourself receive the one
who is opening to you so deeply.
For if we genuinely love Him,
we wake up inside Christ’s body

where all our body, all over,
every most hidden part of it,
is realized in joy as Him,
and He makes us, utterly, real,

and everything that is hurt, everything
that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
maimed, ugly, irreparably
damaged, is in Him transformed

and recognized as whole, as lovely,
and radiant in His light
he awakens as the Beloved
in every last part of our body.

038: Renewal

Here at the beginning of both a new year and new decade, Latter-day Faith host Dan Wotherspoon reflects on the spiritual concept of “renewal” and ways we might keep that notion and its power activated in our lives. He reflects on the opportunities that our calendar (primarily the Christian calendar in this case) provides for us to renew, to gather energy afresh, and to release what is worn down, not working, and that does not represent our highest ideals. The rituals that precede these special days/seasons even allow us to mimic deterioration in fun but symbolically potent ways. Dan also takes us into the heart of what renewal means and how it is best instantiated within our core selves through daily spiritual practice that allows us to tap into far deeper sources of energy and greater abilities than what our simple will-power alone can provide. (Insert your own instances when your “resolutions” didn’t last much past the first few days of the year or season.)

037: A Christmas Conversation: Birthing the Christ Within

This show continues the conversation with Phil McLemore, a yogi in the lineage of Paramahansa Yogananda and also a Latter-day Saint, this time focusing on Christmas and its various symbols and the opportunities the season provides for better understanding Jesus and, more widely, Christ, the divine consciousness of God in every part of creation. Phil and Latter-day Faith host Dan Wotherspoon first discuss the importance of understanding things related to our divine development through myth and symbology rather than worrying if this or that story or account of something miraculous really happened historically. It’s an important shift to make, allowing us to read scripture, situations, others, and all of life with new and fresh eyes, for in each is much that we can draw on for strength and insight for our journeys.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the divine feminine more widely, then take front stage as Phil pulls wonderful wisdom from every aspect of what she represents as a virgin, as pregnant with Christ consciousness, as giving birth, and much more. The turn next to what the inn and innkeeper represent. What about the cave/stable? How can we look at the shepherds and the wise men/magi (and their gifts) more expansively? Elizabeth and Mary, each carrying in her womb a powerful, God-conscious child can also be seen as much more than simply cousins communing together during their pregnancies. And more!

Yogi Phil then takes us into greater depth, sharing some of the teachings and practices of Yogananda in relation to Christmas, and he then offers us a powerful meditative practice that will help take us deep in the meaning of this holy season and the patterns and archetypes playing themselves out in its stories and symbols, and even more importantly, within each of us as we journey toward divine consciousness and communion. Will we allow ourselves to be open to its many gifts?

Links:


Marcus J. Borg, Jesus: The Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary (HarperOne, 2015, new edition)

Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan, The First Christmas: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’s Birth (HarperOne, 2009)

Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan, The First Paul: Reclaiming the Radical Visionary Behind the Church’s Conservative Icon (HarperOne, 2010)

Information/Registration for March 2020 Latter-day Faith retreat

035–036: The Real Gospel of Jesus

Following up on the recent “Wisdom Jesus” show, this two-part episode features the wonderful yogi Phil McLemore offering extended insights in some of the things talked about in that conversation but also taking us deeper into the heart of what Jesus was really teaching and what his life actually means in relation to the notion of Atonement and our lives. In conversation with Latter-day Faith host Dan Wotherspoon, Phil teaches us about the “perennial philosophy” that underlies all spiritual traditions and shows how Jesus’s life and messaging align perfectly with each of its elements. He also takes us through his own spiritual development journey and how the insights he has have come through direct experiences with the Divine.

In the second of the two episodes, they move the conversation into what has often been referred to as the “dark night of the soul.” What does this mean? Does everyone on a spiritual journey experience what is often characterized as the terror of losing one’s identity? Are there more helpful ways of discussing the type of surrender of our “small” selves to the eternal, glorious identities that we are, and to a love that surpasses all understanding?

You won’t want to miss these conversations!

Links:

Philip G. McLemore, “The Yoga of Christ,Sunstone, June 2007

Information/Registration for March 2020 Latter-day Faith retreat

034: Stages of Change/Stages of Faith

In this episode, experienced family therapist, Julie Keanaaina introduces a model known as the Stages of Change that has been found to be very helpful in not only addiction therapy but applied more widely, and then she and Latter-day Faith host Dan Wotherspoon work to compare its categories/levels with those of Stages of Faith author James Fowler’s adult stages of faith and worldview development. It’s an instructive and fascinating conversation that is part teaching, part conversation, part personal storytelling, and all terrific and insightful. 

The Stages of Change have, without calling each by the names discussed in the podcast, been adapted into a wonderful poem by Portia Nelson:


Autobiography in 5 Short Chapters

Chapter I

I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I fall in.

I am lost … I am helpless.

It isn’t my fault.

It takes me forever to find a way out.

Chapter II

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I am in the same place.

But it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there.

I still fall in … it’s a habit.

My eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.


Chapter IV

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

Chapter V

I walk down another street.


Listen in! You’ll find a lot that will cause you to think with more focus about our lives, issues, changes, and our faith journeys.

Link:

Information and registration for the March 27-29 Retreat (note the date change from what was announced in previous episodes)

033: Dream Like Jesus

Rebekah Simon-Peter is a Christian teacher from a Jewish background who specializes in helping clergy (and anyone who feels “called” by God to do something “kingdom oriented”) to “dream like Jesus.” We are excited to have her on Latter-day Faith where she and host Dan Wotherspoon explore together what a Jesus-like dream looks like. In likely the most inspirational LDF episode to date, they draw from and discuss elements of  Rebekah’s new book, Dream Like Jesus: Deepen Your Faith and Bright the Impossible to Life (Market Square Publishing, 2019), to ask us all if we are dreaming big enough, involving our communities, as well as trying to do our part, like Jesus, in bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth. Rebekah is so remarkably powerful that it is not hard to believe that we can, in partnership with God, do in this world far more than we have ever imagined! 

Listen in! Discuss! You’ll likely be returning to this episode often!
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Links:

Rebekah Simon-Peter, Dream Like Jesus: Deepen Your Faith and Bring the Impossible to Life (Market Square Publishing, 2019)

Rebekah Simon-Peter, A Jew Named Jesus: Discover the Man and the Message (Abingdon, 2013)

Rebekah Simon-Peter, Green Church: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rejoice! Abingdon, 2010

Information for Writing Retreat, “Book in a Barn,” that Rebekah and Dan attend and recommend. If you think you have a book “in you,” please think about getting a boost and launch in this way!

Next Latter-day Faith Retreat Information and Registration

032: Wisdom Jesus

A common refrain in Christianity today is someone claiming something like this: “There are those who think of Jesus is merely a great teacher of morals or wisdom. But we know he is actually the Son of God and Savior of the world!” It is a binary, either/or proposition intended to discourage people from exploring the deeper, wisdom teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Well, in this episode, friends Jana SpanglerThomas McConkie, and LDF host Dan Wotherspoon turn their attention directly upon sayings and parables and types of consciousness that are, indeed, best read and understood through wisdom and contemplative lenses. Each panelist tells her or his own “Jesus story,” and also talks about various scriptural passages and insights that only come truly alive when approaching Jesus in this way. It’s a wonderful conversation, followed by beautiful centering exercise led by Thomas.

Listen in! Be ready to re-embrace a powerful and even more compelling Jesus!
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Links:

Philip G. McLemore, “The Yoga of Christ,” Sunstone, June 2007

Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind–A New Perspective on Christ and His Message (Shambala, 2008)

Andrew Harvey, Son of Man: The Mystical Path to Christ (TarcherPerigee, 1999)

Terryl and Fiona Givens, The Christ Who Heals: How God Restored the Truth That Saves Us (Deseret Book, 2017)

Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God (David C. Cook, 2009)

Thomas Withlin McConkie, Navigating Mormon Faith Crisis: A Simple Developmental Map (Mormon Stages, 2015)
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Next Latter-day Faith Retreat Information and Registration

031: What is “Doctrine”?

In two October 2019 General Conference talks, President Dallin H. Oaks shared thoughts about what constitutes church “doctrine,” limiting it to what is taught by the entire First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. He also shared that we too often think we know more about things, such as the afterlife, than we actually do.

This podcast episode was prompted by his talks, and it features a conversation between Charles R. Harrell (Charley), author of the wonderful book “This is My Doctrine”: The Development of Mormon Theology, and Latter-day Faith host Dan Wotherspoon. The two of them speak of many things, some at the meta level, such as why so many people want there to be settled doctrines, ultimately concluding that this is a desire that never has nor can ever be fulfilled. Doctrine, like revelation/inspiration, evolves because human beings are active participants in the process of trying to discern God’s truth and will, and in then teaching what they feel inspired to, all the while burdened with leadership concerns such as protecting and warning the Saints, as well as not being able to fully escape their own biases and imaginations. Finally, Harrell and Wotherspoon turn particular, speaking of the development of ideas about God and Godhead and showing that even this most fundamental concern of religion has undergone many iterations (and perhaps is on the cusp or an even more profound change than what has happened in the past).

Listen in! You’ll learn and have cause to think a lot! 

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Links:

Charles R. Harrell, “‘This is My Doctrine’: The Development of Mormon Theology (Kofford Books, 2011)

“Mormon Doctrine and Other Fuzzy Things, Episodes 105/106, Mormon Matters Podcast, June 2012

Patriarchal Blessings,” Episode 69, Mormon Matters Podcast, January 2012

March 27th to 29th, 2020, Latter-day Faith Retreat Information and Registration

030: Mormon Philosophy Simplified

Brittney Lowe Hartley has just published her long-awaited book, Mormon Philosophy Simplified: An Easy LDS Approach to Classic Philosophical Questions. In this episode, she joins Latter-day Faith host Dan Wotherspoon to discuss the book, its contents, and to dive into several of Mormonism’s interesting, and, to many, expansive and ennobling angles on questions such as the nature of existence itself, the problem of evil, Atonement, Sin, Grace, Free Will, Gender, Ethics, and more. In addition, Brittney shares a terrific exegesis on the often-troubling story of Nephi slaying Laban, and they both hint at a beautiful telling of the story of the Good Samaritan that is contained in the book’s epilogue. All throughout their conversation, they wax enthusiastic about the importance of philosophy and theology and how these disciplines, or even just being aware of classic questions in these areas, can help all of us on our spiritual journeys, aiding in clarifying our intellectual and spiritual foundations and core values.

You will love this conversation! Please dig in! Share your thoughts in the comments section!
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Links:

Brittney Lowe Hartley, Mormon Philosophy Simplified: An Easy LDS Approach to Classic Philosophical Questions (2019)

Next Latter-day Faith Retreat Information and Registration

029: Covenant Belonging

In the October 2019 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as the year before at a BYU Women’s Conference, Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve introduced the phrase, “covenant belonging.” In doing so, he offered us a term that suggests much deeper meaning is embedded in the now-common phrase, “covenant path.” His messages about what covenant belonging might mean are absolutely beautiful and empowering.

Sensing this richness, Faith Journey Foundation board member and frequent guest on Latter-day Faith (and Mormon Matters previously) Mark Crego and LDF host Dan Wotherspoon came together for the discussion that is featured in this episode. In it, Mark takes us through the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) in order to discern the nature of the Covenant that God made with Israel. Moving from Adam to Noah to Abraham and Moses, he demonstrates that although each figure’s covenant with God had different specifics, each still falls under the larger framework of Covenant (singular). This one Covenant is essentially that God will be our God, and we will always be His/Her/Their people. It’s a fundamental fact for every person on earth, and it is not a covenant of “works” but of “grace.” The Covenant undermines the typical quid pro quo understanding of most Latter-day Saints that suggests IF we keep our covenants (plural) THEN we will receive God’s blessing/approval/reward. The Covenant, instead, is not a transactional agreement. Through dynamic and excellent scriptural exegesis, Mark unpacks for us how the idea of God always considering Israel (and we are all Israel: all who wrestle with the Divine) as God’s own has been present all throughout the Biblical narrative, ultimately repeated in the teachings of, and made manifest in the flesh by, Jesus Christ. God longs for us to come closer and be more intimate with Divine life, magnifying our joys all along the way.

This episode’s discussion is an example of how scriptural and pastoral theology can serve to enrich and clarify our own sense of who we are, drawing into the notion of the Covenant all persons regardless of their religion or no-religion, and shows that is it not contingent upon where a person might be along his/her/their faith path. The episode will likely be one that you will want to listen to more than once. What it unfolds is a thrilling vision, and affirms to us the inspiration that Elder Gong received (through his study and wrestles) as absolutely worth hearing and considering.

Links:

Gerrit W. Gong, “Covenant Belonging,” October 2019 General Conference talk

Gerrit W. Gong, “The Miracle of Covenant Belonging,” BYU Women’s Conference, “Strengthening One Another in the Lord,” delivered 4 May 2018.

Mormon Matters Episodes (Dan Wotherspoon host) related to Covenants:

The Covenant Path: Reflections and Extensions,” February 2019

The Living Nature of Mormon Covenants,” 1 November,2018 (encore of earlier released show)

Upcoming Latter-day Faith Retreat Information and Registration:

028: Mental Illness and Religious Discomfort

Mental illness and other mental health issues are common among the human population, including among those who attend church and wrestle with religious questions. Sufferers may struggle to feel beloved and “seen” within their faith communities. In this episode, Susan Hinckley and I talk about our experiences growing up in homes deeply affected by mental illness. We also discuss the ongoing challenge of navigating these illnesses in our personal lives, as well as ways we each feel blessed by our unique difficulties and the wrestles into which they have led us.

We explore some of the reasons mental illness is perhaps considered more taboo and something to hide within religious (including Mormon) communities. What theological hurdles does mental illness bring into play? How might it create real or assumed distance from other members of our congregations?

We talk about bright spots that indicate an effort to normalize these struggles for Latter-day Saints, but also dive into the challenging effects of mental illness on personal spirituality and one’s sense of connection with the Divine.

This is a very personal episode but one we hope you’ll connect with, and share with anyone who might benefit from an open discussion of this topic. We’d love to foster increased awareness and conversation—in our homes, church communities, and within ourselves.

Links to items mentioned in the episode:

“Thru Cloud and Sunshine, Lord, Abide with Me!”, Sister Reyna I. Aburto, October 2019 General Conference

“Like a Broken Vessel,” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, October 2013 General Conference

Mary Jane Woodger, “‘Cheat the Asylum of a Victim’: George Albert Smith’s 1909–12 Breakdown,” Journal of Mormon History 34:4 (Fall 2008). This link is to a PDF of the entire issue of the journal the article is in. You’ll have to scroll to find it (starts on page 113).

Mary Jane Woodger and Joseph H. Groberg, From the Muddy River to the Ivory Tower: The Journey of George H. Brimhall (BYU Studies, 2010)

Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness (Vintage, 1996)

Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament (Free Press, 1996)

Barbara Taylor Brown, Learning to Walk in the Dark (HarperOne, 2015)

Dan Wotherspoon, “Seeing Beverly,” Sunstone, May 2003
Searching for a copy to post here. Will be up soon

Information and Registration for Upcoming Latter-day Faith retreat:

027: Characteristics of Religious Experiences and Down-to-Earth Ways of Talking about Them

With quite a bit of help from the early twentieth century intellectual giant William James, in this episode I introduce two framings that assisted me greatly when my faith first began to shift. One is a model that contains four characteristics of religious/mystical/direct experience and helps differentiate such events from emotional experiences or other day-to-day moments when we feel close to God, feel God or the Spirit is “with” us, comforting us, etc. The second is the down-to-earth way that James, a skeptic by nature (but an empiricist who chooses to go where ever the evidence seems to lead rather than trying to fit what he sees and experiences into already-circumscribed and confining boxes), speaks about religion and its power in human lives. And he does this without feeling the need to get specific and express the dynamics of religious experiences in terms of “God’s” actions in the world and in us. In this presentation, I introduce James’ term, the MORE, as a very broad and yet very powerful category to elucidate that “something” that is beyond what our physical senses and intellectual faculties can touch. James speaks of an “intimacy” with this MORE that far exceeds that which we can experience through other means. It’s beautiful, and it’s very helpful for anyone who feels uncomfortable or triggered by God-talk or typical spiritual/religious terminology. It can even help us explain to more traditionally believing family and friends what is going on within ourselves as we wrestle, and do it in ways that they might be able to understand and not be offended by.

I hope you’ll give this a listen!

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026: Healing Journeys

This episode takes on the topic of healing, but foremost through the sharing of two healing journeys and the new world and sense of self that can open up when we find the courage to explore those messages and wounds that we pick up through life that distort our vision of reality, and especially our own sense of self worth. Too often, we choose to keep on functioning with certain stories of ourselves and others simply because they are known to us, they form the world we know that isn’t great but at least it’s predictable. Luckily God/Life/Love keeps serving up to us invitations to go inside and figure out what is hidden in the shadows so we might heal from negative experiences and integrate in healthy ways the lessons and perspectives these have given us. Sometimes it is great love that causes us to start exploring our patterns and views, but far more often it takes great suffering and finding ourselves at the end of our own resources to deal with it that forces us to confront what we’ve tried so hard to hide from ourselves and others. That’s really not what we went to hear, but it is pretty close to universally true.

In the discussion you are about to listen to, Carma Hyde and Shelly Wilkinson, two wonderful and brave women who have chosen to risk being vulnerable about their healing journeys, share sadnesses and messages and events in their past that have led them to seek and eventually find peace through going inward, facing shadows, and trusting that light and love would be with them all the way through. Both have now emerged as healers themselves, with one of them, Shelly, formally as a sought-out healer in the Salt Lake Valley. In addition to hearing their stories, we got to a more objective view, drawing from all our experiences to reflect on aspects of healing in general. 

Please listen in! You’ll be glad you did!

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025: The Importance of Having Our Own Spiritual Connection

Kajsa Berlin-Kaufusi is a wonderful example of someone whose spiritual connection has guided her and encouraged her even through her many spiritual wrestles. She has a varied and rich background, familial as well as scholarly, and, in addition to being a mom of three, she teaches Ancient Scripture courses at the BYU Salt Lake Center. I know you’ll very much enjoy getting to know her and learning about the various ways she has come to be able to bring together in such a neat way her faith and academic understandings, in addition to her multi-cultural and multi-religious experiences.

She is powerful, and our discussion throughout highlights again and again just how vital it is that we first and foremost ground ourselves in and remain connected with the Divine. I believe you will also find fascinating the way she approaches scripture in her college classrooms, as well as those times in which personal and institutional revelations don’t mesh. She is a great model for thoughtful, prayerful, soulful wrestling alongside a deep commitment to engagement with and service in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I know you will be glad you listened in!

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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

Relational Prayer: Falling in Love with God

In last week’s Latter-day Faith Virtual Fireside on Prayer, we explored how prayer can be difficult. Many of us learned to pray transactionally, meaning that we ask for blessings or miracles from God, hoping that we are faithful enough to merit them.  

What if prayer is nothing like that? What if prayer is really a conversation with God? Alma said, “Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings.” (Alma 37:37) If the purpose of prayer is counsel, then perhaps the concept of transactional prayer needs to be set aside in favor of something deeper, something where we actually can relate to our counselor.

As I see it, this idea of God as a counselor fundamentally changes who and what we think God is. Instead of being the Almighty God of Creation—so far above us that we bow in humble reverence, where “no unclean thing can come into his presence”—a counselor is someone with whom we have a relationship. It brings God down from the heavens into our daily life. God is present in our suffering, in our wandering, in our weakness, and in today’s challenges. God weeps with us.

But isn’t this what Jesus did? Paul said, Jesus did not consider his equality with God as something to be exploited, but rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness (Philippians 2:6-7). When Lazarus died, amidst Mary and Martha’s sorrows, Jesus wept (John 11:35). Jesus even set aside his clothes at the last supper, girded himself in a towel as if he were a slave, and washed the excrement off his disciple’s feet (John 13:4-17).

But then he did something amazing. He invited us to be his friend (John 15:15). He invited us to love…to love one another, as God and Jesus have loved us (John 15:12).

Sometimes I like to imagine myself in that upper room with Jesus. Everything I thought I knew about God, His Glory, His exaltation, His honor and power—none of this really matters when I am there in that room with Him. I hear him say to me, personally, “I love you, Mark,” and in a very intimate way, for the voice I hear is my mother’s voice saying those words as the last thing she said to me as she departed this world.

I wonder if this is what prayer really is: falling in love with God. I’m not sure I can fall in love with our LDS image of a “Heavenly Father.” A first century Jewish rabbi doesn’t quite resonate with whom I have come to understand as God. Instead, I hear God in my mother’s words, in the beauty and wonder of the universe, in the gentle falling of rain. I find the image of God weeping amid our suffering as we grapple with these troubling times. I find the image of God in all things, for to me, God is being one with the Way (John 14:6)—all things testify of God (Moses 6:63).

And when I think about that, when I envision myself in the moment, part of creation, infused with divine nature, and connected with you and all that is, I fall deeply in love.

Reimagining Prayer

I’ve spent a lot of my life bouncing prayers off the ceiling. I’ve also had some good experiences with it—times when I felt uncannily heard, even if I wasn’t quite sure what I needed to say. As if sometimes the desires of my heart just managed to express themselves more effectively than I did. But how to account for that unevenness of experience?

For many decades, I’ve been consistent in trying to pray. Why hadn’t it ever quite become a place where I could find reliable personal refuge from the storms of life?

I think prayer has often functioned for me as a way to express my fear and voice my desire for control of the things about which I feel helpless, even though I’ve often yearned for it to be something more. I never dared stray far from the same, well-worn strand of words that slipped through my mind starting in childhood. 

And then about a year ago, I finally attempted to reclaim prayer for myself by coming at it from a new direction. I decided to spend a month writing a prayer every day. I wanted to use words completely different from anything I’d been taught to say by someone else. I wanted to put my prayers into the universe under their own power, unfettered even by the constraints of their previously prescribed destination—recipient unknown.

These written prayers were comprised of the observations of my every day—small things I found worthy of note as I went, things I wanted to write and hold and even share, but not with anyone I could identify. When I’d feel a nod from the Universe, I wanted from these prayers a tangible way to acknowledge it with a nod in return. Here’s one of them, the prayer sitting at the heart of the project itself:

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN—

You have given me a voice from the beginning. Did you not expect that I would want to use it? Filled me with the press of questions, with wonders deserving the honor of my attention but also my words. Trusted me with children who could not grow strong under my silence, in addition to yours. We must both tell them what we know.

You’ve demanded—commanded—my honesty, but not the kind that speaks in my language, not the secret begging for daylight. How could you have placed me here within this world’s tangled knot, asked me to let the thread ends lie helpless on the table?

Am I meant to walk in silence? Am I meant to notice only the things pointed out by someone else? When will it be my turn to point and name, to ask but also answer, to speak my way to the front of the question?

Let me draw close to you with my mouth, press my shell heart against your ear. You’ll know when I have said what I needed to say. When my foot finally rests from its eternity of nervous beating. When my silence becomes listening, rather than marking time.

That particular project to remake my personal prayers did make a difference for me. It wasn’t easy. I didn’t have trouble thinking of them as prayers, but I did have to give myself permission to write them. New permission, every single day. As if the prohibition of such a radical act was deeply imprinted somewhere too complicated to reach.

Since that project I’ve added other new things to my “prayer life,” in addition to the usual Mormon-style prayers that still punctuate my days and from which I do continue to draw real comfort. Meditative evening walks now fall under the prayer heading for me. These are less about words than they are about reaching for something without them. I’ve come to suspect I may have so far relied on language too much in my attempts to communicate with God.

I’ve started having non-prayer conversations with God too, right out loud and whenever I like. I feel we can call ourselves by our first names in these conversations, so to speak. As if our friendship has finally become just that. We use whatever kind of language suits us at the moment. We can each say what we need to say. Not everyone would recognize these as prayers, but they function like that for me, in the same way I feel better after pouring my whole self out across a table to someone for whom I don’t need to explain much.

Trying new approaches in my desire to pray has brought me closer to something that feels like two-way communication. I’ve come to the realization that praying always must surely allow prayer to look like as many different moments as there are in my day. Somehow, my “heretical” experiment with written prayers got me out of my own way just enough to finally let myself speak directly to God.

On March 19, 2020, Latter-day Faith will be hosing a virtual fireside discussion exploring ways we might approach prayer. We hope you’ll join us.
 

Praying Through Our God-Mind Within Us

In last week’s post, I explored how whatever we think about a God “out there”, the interface with God is “in here,” within us. For me, and perhaps others, our non-conscious mind may be the only God with whom we have to do.

How, then, do we pray? How does prayer work if we are praying to ourselves? How can prayer to a being within me result in a divine intervention on behalf of those for whom I pray?

How I used to pray

In the Latter-day Saint tradition, prayer has a formula:

  1. We call upon our Heavenly Father
  2. We thank him for things
  3. We ask for things
  4. We close in the name of Jesus Christ and say amen

Our formula also includes a requirement to use reverential language in addressing God: we use “thee” and “thou” in English, in such a way that prayer language somehow differs from our casual speech.

When I learned Spanish for my mission, I learned how many languages have a formal and informal reference to “you.” To someone superior to me, I use the form “usted” to demonstrate my respect. When I’m talking to a friend, I use “tu,” to connect more equally and intimately with my friend, child, or lover. A missionary never uses the informal “tu” form to talk to others: we are always to show respect.

But in prayer, in almost all languages that include a formal/informal “you,” we use the informal. We speak to God as an intimate friend, not as a superior. Oddly enough, the “thee” and “thou” from archaic King James English we use in prayer were the informal form of English. A lover would always say to the beloved in those days, “I love thee.”

How our understanding of the God-Mind changes prayer

My previous post proposed that we have within us a constant companion in our non-conscious/subconscious mind. This entity lives and reasons outside of our conscious ego-selves, forming memories from observations and emotions, and cleaning up the confusion of our lives. Because we share memories and feelings with this entity, we are in a very intimate way connected. Our non-conscious mind is indeed a “constant companion,” often a “comforter,” who helps us sort out all truth.

However we define God outside of ourselves, the reality is that our non-conscious is the interface to our conscious selves through our thoughts and emotions. When we awake from a dream, or experience a thought/feeling outside of ourselves, we become aware of the work of our non-conscious entity within us. Thus, in a very real sense, our non-conscious is our interface with God.

Within each human being, we have both a human and a divine nature, not in conflict with one another, not with one over the other, but rather, in partnership: like life-long friends who care for each other, deeply.

How, then, would I communicate with such a friend? Would it be with very formal, stilted language? Would I have to address my friend as “My Father,” with its implication of maleness and patriarchy over me? Would I have to invoke my elder brother’s name to talk to my friend? Would I use “thee” and “thou?”

Maybe I would. Sometimes friends develop a special kind of speech to talk to one another. Because I was raised with a specific Latter-day Saint formula for prayer, I tend to use “Lord” and “Heavenly Father” even if I do not accept the patriarchal aspect these words imply. But I do not think for personal prayer, the words we use—if any—actually matter: our friend understands us.

It seems to me that it’s more important for me to realize that this friend is there for me, comforting me, guiding me, a sounding board–always available, for me to articulate my concerns.

An experiment on Prayer

Over the past few weeks, I have been exploring prayer as a means to improve my contemplation each morning. The formula I’m using is not as important as the act of doing it—there are many formulas to follow. Each day I am feeling an increase in love from and for this constant companion within me as we discover the “more” that is beyond both of us.

The idea that I am talking through a real entity present with me fundamentally changes my perspective. I no longer am looking to ask for a bunch of things. Instead, I’m more reflective, more grateful, more seeking of guidance and reconciliation than intervention.

And I’m getting answers. I’m finding myself able to overcome challenges and frustrations easier, because I know there is someone alongside of me coaching me and helping me through my fears and anxieties. Prayer is no longer a magical process of getting divine intervention, but I’m experiencing the miracle of divine compassion and love, transforming my heart and actions. And I’m finding that my friend has a wicked sense of humor, and although deeply aware of my feelings, never condemns me for them.

In a couple of weeks, on Thursday, March 19th, Latter-day Faith will conduct a virtual fireside on Prayer. I’m looking forward to sharing our experiences with prayer, to make it the means for increasing our conscious contact with the God of our understanding.

What are your thoughts on prayer?

Latter-day Faith Virtual Fireside

Expanding Our Understanding of Prayer”

When: Date & Time: March 19, 2020, from 7–9pm Mountain Standard Time

Hosts: Dan Wotherspoon, Mark Crego, Susan Hinckley

Participants: YOU!

In last month’s Virtual Fireside we talked about how our understanding of God changes, matures, becomes more nuanced. We move from a kind of God who intervenes supernaturally in human affairs, to a God who weeps with us in our suffering, who comforts us.

How do we communicate with God? How do we develop a richer, more intimate relationship with the Spirit? Our prayer formulas of our childhood often fall short of a real relationship, and many of our listeners have communicated that prayer is difficult when the target of our prayers is different than we once understood.

This month’s Virtual Fireside will be an open, unrecorded private online video discussion of prayer: what are the challenges, what works and what doesn’t, and how we can develop a richer tradition of prayer and contemplation in our Journey of Latter-day Faith.

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