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!


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

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

016: Defending the Family: Alternative Emphases

In this episode, Latter-day Faith host Dan Wotherspoon is joined by Jordan Harmon, a terrific and thoughtful therapist, to talk about the threats to the family that loom larger than the external ones most often emphasized in religious circles: acceptance/normalizing of same-sex marriages, ubiquitous pornography, and so forth. Certainly, these are valid and shouldn’t be dismissed. But what if, instead, we focused our attention within ourselves as well as on our relationships with family? What internal motivators are driving our interactions? Are they healthy, or are might they be clues to some deeper wounds we need to explore and heal from? What habits of mind have we developed that keep us from fully knowing how to love others and to receive love from them? (There’s more to both of these than we usually give attention to!) Are we trying to protect ourselves and our family from life’s vicissitudes by trying to control everyone and everything, insisting they do things “our” way rather than accepting others’ agency and differences and truly trusting that they have the wisdom within to figure things out for themselves? We can certainly discuss things with them, seek to understand and validate the emotions they feel as well as what is coming up for us, but when our fears lead into unrighteous dominion, we have definitely missed the mark for the unfolding of happy and healthy families. The panelists also discuss so much more!

Put on your headphones, car stereos, or whatever ways you generally listen to podcasts and give this one a good listen! It contains many terrific ideas that you might find yourself chewing on for many days to come!


015: Let’s talk about “Blessings”

We hear people throughout the religious world use the language of “blessings” when something difficult in their lives is resolved in a wonderful and what seems to them somewhat mysterious way. For some who are attuned to trying to experience the heartbeat of the cosmos, we will hear about all of life as a blessing, the very large and very small, all the good and all the bad, light and dark, life and death, things unexpected, desired, dreaded, or confusing. For others who think of God in quite personal terms, as a being that somehow pays really close attention to them and all other individuals on the planet, they sense that blessings are a result of actions they have taken, thinking of them being doled out by this personal God according to some formula that they don’t fully understand but are sure it is in play.

A common refrain from some is that it was God, following their prayer of desperation, who helped them “find their keys,” healed their loved one, or perhaps led them safely home through a terrible storm. They will testify to this in a spirit of gratitude, certain that God was definitely the primary actor in such things. However, for many who hear their testimony of God’s particular care, such expressions that seem to move beyond “this happened” to why they were particularly gifted with this result bring up many questions: Why didn’t my loved one recover from their illness, be warned of an impending accident so they might not have been so badly injured, or worse, from what happened on the highway. Some become fraught with questions and frustration: So God cared about their keys being found just in time to make it to the important meeting—or the temple session they wanted to attend—yet doesn’t care enough to rescue others who are imprisoned in sexual slavery, who are murdered or raped or abused, who lose their livelihood from circumstances far beyond their own control? It all can make one stop believing in a God at all and, sometimes, at least for a while, imagining life is meaningless and everything that comes up in life is purely random.

In this episode of Latter-day Faith, Susan Hinckley, along with host Dan Wotherspoon, explore the idea of blessings and the various ways people think and speak about them. In an effort to “seed” reflection, they explore notions and orientations to blessings like those things mentioned above, as well as reveal their own struggles with the evolution of their ideas about blessings in their own journeys. Are they something that are sort of “earned” by righteousness, or is there a more mysterious sort of calculus in play, such as that suggested by Elder Dale G. Renlund in a recent General Conference address when he proposed: “[Y]ou do not earn a blessing—that notion is false—but you do have to qualify for it.”? Or is a better way of approaching life’s various movements in terms of “grace,” a term for that which is given freely to all things and persons simply through the energies that create and infuse all life? Is that best approach found in the idea of “original blessing,” a concept that allows for both God and creation’s own mysterious work drawn from the story of Creation in Genesis 1 in which God creates and at each step of separation and differentiation declares it “good,” and, ultimately, after the creation of humans, pronounces the result “very good.”

Please enjoy this discussion! May it stimulate wonderful reflection on this “close to home” topic!

014: Engaging Scripture: The Practice of Lectio Divina

The spiritual practice of lectio divina (divine/sacred reading) originated in the early centuries of Christianity and survived from then until recently primarily in monasteries and convents. In the past few decades, it has found many practitioners among spiritual seekers. Primarily focused on Bible texts but applicable to all scripture, including LDS ones, and sacred readings, lectio is a way of engaging these texts that concentrates on our discernment of what in the passage is calling to us to explore, and then using it as a catalyst for our inner work. In this way, it becomes a form of scripture reading that truly allows these texts, with their stories and symbols and metaphors, etc. to become daily bread and living water for us. It isn’t so much reading for content or just the action of the story or in an effort to nail down some hard and fast truth in ways that will build testimony of our previously held notions, but a way of approaching the texts with an open heart and soul that allows it to draw you into conversation with it, and with our deepest selves.

In this episode, Latter-day Faith host Dan Wotherspoon introduces this practice and its various elements–lectio (reading), meditatio (meditation/reflection), oratatio (prayer), andcontemplatio (contemplation)–in an attempt to get you excited about engaging scripture in ways that aren’t taught in most traditions. He speaks about each of the aspects, as well as shares as an example some of the ways that his personal practice of lectio led him to discover new things in and about the story told in Luke 4:14-30, but even more to reflect on and help get unstuck in trying to overcome a personal struggle of his.

We hope you’ll enjoy learning about this practice and potentially trying it out for yourself! We all need to draw fresh each day from the well of the Spirit and Divine guidance and encouragement, and this is one discipline that has been extremely helpful for other fellow travelers along the spiritual journey trail.


013: Rhetoric and Ideas about the Term “Latter-day”

This episode focuses on the term “latter-day” and how it is understood by Christians, including Latter-day Saints, in many different ways, each leading to quite varied theologies.Mark Crego and LDF host Dan Wotherspoon distinguish between “last days” and the idea of an impending apocalypse, “latter” vs “former” days of both early Christianity and early Mormonism, and, third, as referring to now, this present moment in time. They review each, discussing scripture and precedent in Christian discussions, as well as evaluating the practical and social impact of the various camps. Do some lead to apathy and waiting for the fix for social ills to come from the Second Coming of Jesus? Do some lend themselves best in creating power dynamics that can often be coercive or controlling. Ultimately, this episode zeros in on the way this podcast, Latter-day Faith, emphasizes the concept of latter-days as being about faith for these current days of so much information and competing voices and sensibilities. It also offers framings for how to interact with those in our families or communities who might think about prophecies of Christ’s return differently than we do. All throughout, both Mark and Dan share quite personal stories and reflections about pivotal moments in their lives related to how they have come to view the idea of latter days.