As my good friend Jana Spangler and I talk in this episode about the quality of “spiritual maturity,” we note the difficulty involved in a subject like this because such maturity is more of a thing that we might notice in other people and, perhaps, ourselves, yet it is hard to explain in words (and definitely not something someone should claim about themselves). But we pushed on anyway! Our approach was to discuss three qualities or hallmarks that we believe are universal across all spiritual traditions and communities. Jana leads us through a discussion of transformational vs transactional relationships with God and others. We move next to someone’s ability to examine what ego needs are playing out with others and ourselves, leading us in our relationships and soul work to over-identify with these needs and trying to protect others and us from seeing them rather than coming to center in our highest selves. Our final topic is differentiation. How comfortable are we with expressions of genuine difference, whether they be in others’ experiences vs ours or even another’s critique? Are we able to validate the positions of and see those who differ from us as fellow travelers rather than enemies who are standing in the way of our vision becoming normative? Do we lead out always with love and compassion first? Are we comfortable enough with ourselves to be okay even in settings in which we might feel a bit like an outsider?
This episode contains many terrific insights. Jana knocks everything out of the ballpark here. Prepare for a good and potentially important transformative listen! Cheers!
Links to things mentioned in the episode:
Mormon Matters episode on the Enneagram for Mormons”
On Being episode with Alain de Botton, “The True Hard Work of Love and Relationships“
In this episode, I invite my good and very interesting friend Stephen Carter to share some of his deep wisdom about the effect that stories have on us. So often we feel like we are writing and living out our own story—whether it be religious, familial, communal, or many others—when, according to Stephen, it is actually stories living us. It’s an interesting and fruitful angle to try to think from and within, and especially so for Latter-day Saints and others from different traditions who are finding the story that they had been caught up in and experiencing the world through no longer matches our deepest desires, or even has become harmful.
As Stephen and I frame our discussion, we note how difficult it is to want to explore new stories or ways of thinking, believing, or acting. Our brains are wired to prefer the familiar more than the foreign, and routine over novelty. Yet, it is only by pushing past our initial aversion to real changes that we can grow. We point out how our religious (and even academic, scientific, historical, et al) traditions prefer stories that “confirm” previously held notions over those that place us in a tension that forces us to really think, struggle, and change even though a group’s highest ideals say our primary task in life is to progress along a Godward path.
I learned a lot from and am mulling over many things that come up in this podcast, especially related to my own spiritual path and how I might be keeping myself from new vistas and experiences because of how I stubbornly hold onto particular ideas conveyed in my story. Should you listen, I believe you will also be drawn into an inner dialogue of this sort. Luckily, by now we know that these wrestles, though challenging, are ultimately very important, and even delicious.
Among the many topics that spiritual seekers must wrestle with, the concept, uses, and experiences of revelation eclipse most others. We seek to know what’s best for us, what God (however defined) would have us do next, and, often, how can we make this or that right: how might we approach this person we’re in conflict with, who we need to apologize to, or who seems to be moving away from what’s good, true, or beautiful? Yet, in the discernment process we so often wonder, “Is this God I’m sensing, or my own mind? How can I tell?” These questions also loom large when groups come together to seek guidance—and, for this podcast in particular, we are including within the horns of this dilemma a church’s leading quorums and/or other decision-making bodies. No one is spared the often agonizing process of wondering how much we are being influenced by past ideas, patterns, and influences versus being open to new ones—including ones we can’t even yet imagine. All of us, religious leaders included, are human beings with histories, personalities, preferences, egos, fears, limitations, et al, and none of these fully recede when seeking revelatory direction for our or our group’s lives.
Within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the difficulty of “revelation” has recently come to the forefront again through an April 4th reversal of a previous policy that had been in place that had been declared “revelation.” For three-and-a-half years, the LDS First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve, and other governing bodies had declared restrictions of Latter-day Saints in same-sex marriages and their children in terms of membership or other privileges granted to others in the church, and then these ended. Many church members were then left to ask if God’s mind regarding these restrictions suddenly changed, or is this a case where even prophets, seers, and revelators “got it wrong.” Compounding the difficulty of the wrestle with this matter is the fact that this short-term policy/revelation deeply wounded tens of thousands Latter-day Saints, perhaps even causing distress to such a degree that it was a final factor in some choosing to end their own lives, and confused and depressed hundreds of thousands, or even perhaps a million or more, church members who experienced a agonizing split between their own conscience and the personal light they felt they had received regarding the status of same-sex marriages and that which the church’s top leaders claimed to be God’s will on the matter.
In this two-part Latter-day Faith episode, the brilliant Carol Lynn Pearson and Charley Harrell join host Dan Wotherspoon for a broad and deep discussion about revelation and its messiness. Certainly the recent policy change was the discussion’s impetus, but it isn’t the primary focus. Listeners should not expect anything nitty-gritty about this particular instance. Instead, the panelists focus on how revelation has been thought about within not only Mormonism but also throughout the history of other Christians. Charley leads out there, introducing various models that have arisen as faithful persons who believe in God and God’s ability to communicate with and influence us for good have had to come to terms with what is patently evident: revelation has human hands, minds, desires, fears, confusion all over it!
This discussion (comprising much of the first of the two parts) is then followed by a powerful wrestle with the “shadow” that a failure to understand and talk about this messier-than-we’d-love-to-believe matter of receiving clear revelatory messages has cast upon the entire history of Mormonism. (Listeners from other religions, I believe you’ll find many parallels here with your own traditions.) From Mormon beginnings forward, the unnoticed biases, desires, fears, and trust in inherited world views have influenced and warped minds, hearts, and souls as they gave rise to the practice (and theology) of plural marriage, restrictions on full participation and priesthood for Latter-day Saints with black African ancestry, and ongoing issues such as the role of women within the church, this issue regarding LGBT+ members, and the “culture of certainty” and all its harmful effects on individuals and the church itself. The shadow is dark (it’s not been exposed by healing Light) and healing it is and will be difficult. Yet, approach it we must, trusting in God, the power of Truth and Love, and the goodness of our God-permeated souls to show the way, open hearts, and allow us to continue to work toward living fully the Kingdom of God (the way of viewing and prioritizing things as God does) as taught in scripture as being within all of us.
n this inaugural episode of Latter-day Faith, host Dan Wotherspoon shares what the podcast will be about. As he moves into this new adventure following eight years as host of the Mormon Matters podcast, he emphasizes that Latter-day Faith will be far broader in scope, less LDS/Mormon centric, and will, at its heart, be about universal themes related to our faith lives. It will tackle the nature of faith itself, and how it should not be narrowed to assent to truth claims (beliefs) but instead be or become a trust that can only grow through participation and risk and stretching within a relationship with God (with God not solely limited to what can be thought with our minds or said with words—but only experienced). It will talk about scripture, religious practices, mythic and archetypal truths that are not best approached through discursive thought, community, institutional religion and how it can and does bless our lives while at the same time, too often, can obscure of place limits on our vision if we allow it to. It will feature many guests who are members or good observers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but also others from outside this tradition, many deeply immersed in their home or adopted religions, but always with an active and powerful spiritual life. Mormonism (the tradition) will certainly be mentioned in each episode, sharing touchstones within its teachings or group dynamics, but it hopes many others will also find Latter-day Faith (read: Faith needed Today!) a great resource for their spiritual journeys.
We are excited to bring you this new podcast! Please subscribe via iTunes or any of your podcast listening apps! And visit https://www.latterdayfaith.org/ to read the soon-to-be-started blog and learn of workshops and retreats or other offerings and announcements. Latter-day Faith intends to grow with its audience, and in dialogue with what listeners hope it will cover or do. Welcome to Latter-day Faith!!!