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!

______

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! 

_____

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!

____________

…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

____________

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!

__________

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!

__________

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!

———

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: