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

Latter-day Faith Virtual Fireside

“A New Paradigm for Latter-day Saints”

When: Thursday, February 20, 2020, from 79pm Mountain Standard Time

Hosts: Dan Wotherspoon, Mark Crego, Susan Hinckley

Last September, we presented an episode (#022) titled, “A Paradigm Shift in Today’s Mormonism,” in which LDF host Dan Wotherspoon asserted that over the past few decades, as current top-down leadership and an organization that fails to acknowledge and welcome those on the margins is showing its cracks, we are seeing among more and more Latter-day Saints the emergence of a spiritual confidence and excitement to share a much larger vision of life and energetic engagement with Mormon texts, themes, practices, approaches, and sensibilities. It is taking hold in such a way that we feel it has become time to better articulate this emerging paradigm so it and its spiritual and practical benefits might move more into the forefront.

In this virtual fireside, we will host a Zoom call (no cost) geared toward describing the new paradigm more clearly and brainstorming ways we all might be part of its establishment as a genuine way to fully participate in the church that will be not only acceptable, but also attractive and compelling to many others within the LDS community.

Share:

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.)