We all live our lives within mythic structures, and we always will. But early on, as James Fowler states, we take these overarching stories as literally true (he names his Stage 2 as Mythic-Literal). Then life, in ways that we can comprehend, serves up alternate mythologies. We begin to see the stories of others as genuine options for us to adopt, or at least appreciate deeply. In that dilemma of seeing more than one story or mythic framing being as capable of leading people to experience rich and joyful lives, with strong values and a dynamic sense of purpose, we must begin to shift our perspective. We are now forced to see our myths as value stories rather than factual truth, and begin to enter into a new relationship with them.
Making this shift is extremely difficult. At first, most of us want to hide or re-cocoon ourselves solely within our story as being THE right or best one. This transition toward comfort with our overarching stories and sense of the world/universe/purpose as being mythic and something other than what we thought it was can take a very long time. But it is a shift worth making, because all of a sudden the world and universe come alive for us in ways we can’t, in our fears, imagine. Now we are playing on a much larger stage: a lure that calls us to embark upon the hero’s journey, the quest to overcome what scares us or holds us back, and into a new life that can help heal ourselves and the communities we are part of.
In this episode, my wonderful friend Charles Randall Paul (Randy) and I dive deeply into the importance and value of myth (debunking any thought of it as “not true”) and the excitement of being in a broader world in which we are now able to be creators and teachers and livers of our highest values and experience harmony between our old and ever-emerging selves in ways that enliven our family and community bonds and experiences and, hopefully, model for others the boons of these journeys into the unknown that lead us back transformed in powerful ways.
I hope you’ll join us in this important conversation, this attempt to assist us all in “unlearning” any perjorative thoughts of myth as being less powerful or vital than “facts.” I also hope you’ll find attractive, as well, what we do in the sections that help bring alive gorgeous aspects of Mormonism’s foundational myths.
n this episode, I am joined by the wonderful scholar Taylor Petrey for a conversation on “church.” Our goal was to try to open up the concept of church to allow more breathing room so we might consider it beyond a particular religion and its various leadership, ritual, and community forms. In the first part of our discussion, Taylor leads us through the origins of the term and understandings of it in the New Testament and early centuries of Christianity. We discuss whether Jesus deliberately tried to set up a church with a particular organizational structure that was to be perpetuated following his death. This leads us to briefly reconsider the story of Apostasy and Restoration that have been emphasized within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We also consider “church” as it is used in Latter-day Saint scriptures.
The second half of our discussion is more personal than historical or theological. How do we approach church as participating members who have studied, or at least become conscious enough of, the difficult aspects of churches and their teachings, and as organizations that naturally focus on “administering” their affairs and providing messaging that will be safe and digestible for the majority of its adherents, rather than “ministering” to and feeding each and every member’s particular needs? We ask about what church means in our lives. We conclude with messages of appreciation, as well, for the many good things a church can provide, and, of course, I throw in my pitch for the secret to thriving within a structured faith community (no matter its set-up) as being our willingness to do our own inner work and commune directly with God rather than imagine we are forced only to approach the Divine through a church’s authoritative structure and leaders. Interesting and better “questions” are far superior when it comes to our spiritual lives than are “answers”!
I’ve just released a new and very powerful episode of the Latter-day Faith podcast. I hope you’ll check it out! We live so much of our lives unconsciously, in many ways reacting, seeing, and judging based on understandings that were primarily “given to” us during our formative years. Among the toughest of these biases regards race. In fact, this week’s guest, Dr.LaShawn C Williams, suggests that if we can talk about this one, we can talk about anything! And so that’s what we do in this episode.
After a fairly Mormon specific, what’s-occurring-today chat, LaShawn and I dig into the subject of bias, using race as a primary example, but at every turn also generalizing from it to all the types of bias that we unconsciously hold, while also offering strategies for becoming aware of them and moving through healing processes. In short, as is the case with most Latter-day Faith episodes, we always tie bias with inner work and how to remove it as a block or cover that keeps our full, deepest, true soul manifesting itself and the love and compassion that is the its natural stance.
As part of the discussion, we get into a great section about situational vs systemic privilege or oppression. About the importance of understanding the way our bodies work with regard to scary or foreign situations and people. About the importance of trying to understand all situations and others’ as well as our own biases, in context. How did they or we come to hold these biases? We talk about how important it is to seek to understand how this or that action, reaction, or attitude “make sense” to that person or to us. Only in this way can we avoid thinking of them, or parts of ourselves, as evil. We must also learn how often our interactions with and understandings of others are based on our “projections” onto them. Do we really know who they are? Are we really experiencing them, or just ourselves?
All of this is very hard work, but it is also joyful work, and at each step LaShawn exudes hope and optimism alongside her realism. She models the best of ways we can approach the world and our lives through inner work, as well as reminding us of the importance of patience in all these processes. LaShawn is powerful, and this is a powerful and empowering episode. Listen in! You’ll be glad you did!
“Becoming Powerful,” Mormon Matters episode with LaShawn C. Williams, October 2018
Zandra Vranes, Facebook post on grief among Latter-day Saints referred to by Dr. Williams in this episode
According to Joseph Smith, faith is the first principle of the gospel. And many of this teachings show that he understood it profoundly. But ever since the early church published its “Articles of Faith” with all but one of them beginning with “We believe,” Latter-day Saints, like so many other Christians who now live downwind from when their various traditions broke off from the main church and in doing so felt they had to distinguish themselves from other denominations by sharing how their beliefs differ from the others, “faith” has become far too conflated with what a person or group believes. The active, relational, magnificent engine of change and hope and well-being aspects of faith become, far too often, forgotten. And one set of circumstances in which this distortion of the concept of faith is often a bigger stumbling block is for those who begin to doubt the truth claims that they once held and/or feel out of place within a church of culture that seems to demand a high level of belief, whether in the form of creeds to assert or questions posed by ecclesiastical leaders.
How do we (re)claim in our own lives the power, hope, and love that are the core features of faith? How can we be “persons of faith” and persons who walk in faith even if we don’t/can’t actually give mental consent to very many particular claims about the nature of God, Jesus, Spirit, the universe, human beings, scripture, rituals, salvation, and so forth? Mark Crego and Latter-day Faith host Dan Wotherspoon believe <grin> that the first steps involve attaining more clarity on the subject/phenomenon of faith, unlearning the habit of equating it too much with beliefs, and most of all beginning to understand that it actually is all about relationships.
We hope you’ll enjoy this terrific, insight-filled discussion! Let us know if you did in the comments below! Thanks!