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)

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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