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030: Mormon Philosophy Simplified

Brittney Lowe Hartley has just published her long-awaited book, Mormon Philosophy Simplified: An Easy LDS Approach to Classic Philosophical Questions. In this episode, she joins Latter-day Faith host Dan Wotherspoon to discuss the book, its contents, and to dive into several of Mormonism’s interesting, and, to many, expansive and ennobling angles on questions such as the nature of existence itself, the problem of evil, Atonement, Sin, Grace, Free Will, Gender, Ethics, and more. In addition, Brittney shares a terrific exegesis on the often-troubling story of Nephi slaying Laban, and they both hint at a beautiful telling of the story of the Good Samaritan that is contained in the book’s epilogue. All throughout their conversation, they wax enthusiastic about the importance of philosophy and theology and how these disciplines, or even just being aware of classic questions in these areas, can help all of us on our spiritual journeys, aiding in clarifying our intellectual and spiritual foundations and core values.

You will love this conversation! Please dig in! Share your thoughts in the comments section!
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Links:

Brittney Lowe Hartley, Mormon Philosophy Simplified: An Easy LDS Approach to Classic Philosophical Questions (2019)

Next Latter-day Faith Retreat Information and Registration

029: Covenant Belonging

In the October 2019 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as the year before at a BYU Women’s Conference, Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve introduced the phrase, “covenant belonging.” In doing so, he offered us a term that suggests much deeper meaning is embedded in the now-common phrase, “covenant path.” His messages about what covenant belonging might mean are absolutely beautiful and empowering.

Sensing this richness, Faith Journey Foundation board member and frequent guest on Latter-day Faith (and Mormon Matters previously) Mark Crego and LDF host Dan Wotherspoon came together for the discussion that is featured in this episode. In it, Mark takes us through the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) in order to discern the nature of the Covenant that God made with Israel. Moving from Adam to Noah to Abraham and Moses, he demonstrates that although each figure’s covenant with God had different specifics, each still falls under the larger framework of Covenant (singular). This one Covenant is essentially that God will be our God, and we will always be His/Her/Their people. It’s a fundamental fact for every person on earth, and it is not a covenant of “works” but of “grace.” The Covenant undermines the typical quid pro quo understanding of most Latter-day Saints that suggests IF we keep our covenants (plural) THEN we will receive God’s blessing/approval/reward. The Covenant, instead, is not a transactional agreement. Through dynamic and excellent scriptural exegesis, Mark unpacks for us how the idea of God always considering Israel (and we are all Israel: all who wrestle with the Divine) as God’s own has been present all throughout the Biblical narrative, ultimately repeated in the teachings of, and made manifest in the flesh by, Jesus Christ. God longs for us to come closer and be more intimate with Divine life, magnifying our joys all along the way.

This episode’s discussion is an example of how scriptural and pastoral theology can serve to enrich and clarify our own sense of who we are, drawing into the notion of the Covenant all persons regardless of their religion or no-religion, and shows that is it not contingent upon where a person might be along his/her/their faith path. The episode will likely be one that you will want to listen to more than once. What it unfolds is a thrilling vision, and affirms to us the inspiration that Elder Gong received (through his study and wrestles) as absolutely worth hearing and considering.

Links:

Gerrit W. Gong, “Covenant Belonging,” October 2019 General Conference talk

Gerrit W. Gong, “The Miracle of Covenant Belonging,” BYU Women’s Conference, “Strengthening One Another in the Lord,” delivered 4 May 2018.

Mormon Matters Episodes (Dan Wotherspoon host) related to Covenants:

The Covenant Path: Reflections and Extensions,” February 2019

The Living Nature of Mormon Covenants,” 1 November,2018 (encore of earlier released show)

Upcoming Latter-day Faith Retreat Information and Registration:

028: Mental Illness and Religious Discomfort

Mental illness and other mental health issues are common among the human population, including among those who attend church and wrestle with religious questions. Sufferers may struggle to feel beloved and “seen” within their faith communities. In this episode, Susan Hinckley and I talk about our experiences growing up in homes deeply affected by mental illness. We also discuss the ongoing challenge of navigating these illnesses in our personal lives, as well as ways we each feel blessed by our unique difficulties and the wrestles into which they have led us.

We explore some of the reasons mental illness is perhaps considered more taboo and something to hide within religious (including Mormon) communities. What theological hurdles does mental illness bring into play? How might it create real or assumed distance from other members of our congregations?

We talk about bright spots that indicate an effort to normalize these struggles for Latter-day Saints, but also dive into the challenging effects of mental illness on personal spirituality and one’s sense of connection with the Divine.

This is a very personal episode but one we hope you’ll connect with, and share with anyone who might benefit from an open discussion of this topic. We’d love to foster increased awareness and conversation—in our homes, church communities, and within ourselves.

Links to items mentioned in the episode:

“Thru Cloud and Sunshine, Lord, Abide with Me!”, Sister Reyna I. Aburto, October 2019 General Conference

“Like a Broken Vessel,” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, October 2013 General Conference

Mary Jane Woodger, “‘Cheat the Asylum of a Victim’: George Albert Smith’s 1909–12 Breakdown,” Journal of Mormon History 34:4 (Fall 2008). This link is to a PDF of the entire issue of the journal the article is in. You’ll have to scroll to find it (starts on page 113).

Mary Jane Woodger and Joseph H. Groberg, From the Muddy River to the Ivory Tower: The Journey of George H. Brimhall (BYU Studies, 2010)

Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness (Vintage, 1996)

Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament (Free Press, 1996)

Barbara Taylor Brown, Learning to Walk in the Dark (HarperOne, 2015)

Dan Wotherspoon, “Seeing Beverly,” Sunstone, May 2003
Searching for a copy to post here. Will be up soon

Information and Registration for Upcoming Latter-day Faith retreat:

RETREAT: Understanding and Navigating Healthy Faith Journeys

A Latter-day Faith Retreat

LED BY:
DAN WOTHERSPOON, Ph.D.
NATASHA HELFER PARKER, LCMFT, CST
JANA SPANGLER, IPC

March 27th – 29th, 2020
Salt Lake City, UT

Many of us find ourselves a bit outside the Mormon norm but still feel committed to continue our journeys as engaged members of the church, or we are committed to a spouse who chooses this. This retreat is focused on building community among and strengthening Mormons like us in the following ways:

  • Navigating faith development in adulthood, including the integration of new and enriching perspectives within a less-traditional Mormon paradigm
  • Creating and nurturing healthy relationships with family, friends, and loved ones, especially in light of faith and worldview differences
  • Finding ways to full and healthy sexuality
  • Raising children in ways that encourage them to have confidence and depth as they negotiate various Mormon terrains
  • Finding friends/community who have similar outlooks and can offer support

Cost$275 per person; $425 per couple (even two friends or family members deciding to register together). Click below to register:

SCHOLARSHIPS:

If you cannot afford to pay to attend, or can only swing some of the cost, please inquire abut partial or full scholarships and volunteering. We are working hard to encourage people to donate funds for others to attend, and we are happy to put you on a waiting list to see what might unfold.

If you would like to donate toward scholarships to those who cannot otherwise attend, please click below! Thank you!

SCHEDULE:

Friday (27th): 6 to 10 pm

Saturday (28th): 9 am to 9 pm or later
(includes lunch and dinner, and entertainment afterward—much of it starring you!)

Sunday (29th): 9 am to 5 pm (lunch included)

CONTACT AND FURTHER INFORMATION:

To learn more about retreat content, purposes, logistics of the venue/meals, etc., what to expect, or to inquire about possible scholarships that would allow you to attend:
Dan Wotherspoon: dan@latterdayfaith.org
Natasha Helfer Parkernhelferparker@gmail.com

We look forward to seeing you at this event! We know it will be something everyone will really enjoy as well as receiving great perspectives, renewed energies, and making new friends!

027: Characteristics of Religious Experiences and Down-to-Earth Ways of Talking about Them

With quite a bit of help from the early twentieth century intellectual giant William James, in this episode I introduce two framings that assisted me greatly when my faith first began to shift. One is a model that contains four characteristics of religious/mystical/direct experience and helps differentiate such events from emotional experiences or other day-to-day moments when we feel close to God, feel God or the Spirit is “with” us, comforting us, etc. The second is the down-to-earth way that James, a skeptic by nature (but an empiricist who chooses to go where ever the evidence seems to lead rather than trying to fit what he sees and experiences into already-circumscribed and confining boxes), speaks about religion and its power in human lives. And he does this without feeling the need to get specific and express the dynamics of religious experiences in terms of “God’s” actions in the world and in us. In this presentation, I introduce James’ term, the MORE, as a very broad and yet very powerful category to elucidate that “something” that is beyond what our physical senses and intellectual faculties can touch. James speaks of an “intimacy” with this MORE that far exceeds that which we can experience through other means. It’s beautiful, and it’s very helpful for anyone who feels uncomfortable or triggered by God-talk or typical spiritual/religious terminology. It can even help us explain to more traditionally believing family and friends what is going on within ourselves as we wrestle, and do it in ways that they might be able to understand and not be offended by.

I hope you’ll give this a listen!

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026: Healing Journeys

This episode takes on the topic of healing, but foremost through the sharing of two healing journeys and the new world and sense of self that can open up when we find the courage to explore those messages and wounds that we pick up through life that distort our vision of reality, and especially our own sense of self worth. Too often, we choose to keep on functioning with certain stories of ourselves and others simply because they are known to us, they form the world we know that isn’t great but at least it’s predictable. Luckily God/Life/Love keeps serving up to us invitations to go inside and figure out what is hidden in the shadows so we might heal from negative experiences and integrate in healthy ways the lessons and perspectives these have given us. Sometimes it is great love that causes us to start exploring our patterns and views, but far more often it takes great suffering and finding ourselves at the end of our own resources to deal with it that forces us to confront what we’ve tried so hard to hide from ourselves and others. That’s really not what we went to hear, but it is pretty close to universally true.

In the discussion you are about to listen to, Carma Hyde and Shelly Wilkinson, two wonderful and brave women who have chosen to risk being vulnerable about their healing journeys, share sadnesses and messages and events in their past that have led them to seek and eventually find peace through going inward, facing shadows, and trusting that light and love would be with them all the way through. Both have now emerged as healers themselves, with one of them, Shelly, formally as a sought-out healer in the Salt Lake Valley. In addition to hearing their stories, we got to a more objective view, drawing from all our experiences to reflect on aspects of healing in general. 

Please listen in! You’ll be glad you did!

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025: The Importance of Having Our Own Spiritual Connection

Kajsa Berlin-Kaufusi is a wonderful example of someone whose spiritual connection has guided her and encouraged her even through her many spiritual wrestles. She has a varied and rich background, familial as well as scholarly, and, in addition to being a mom of three, she teaches Ancient Scripture courses at the BYU Salt Lake Center. I know you’ll very much enjoy getting to know her and learning about the various ways she has come to be able to bring together in such a neat way her faith and academic understandings, in addition to her multi-cultural and multi-religious experiences.

She is powerful, and our discussion throughout highlights again and again just how vital it is that we first and foremost ground ourselves in and remain connected with the Divine. I believe you will also find fascinating the way she approaches scripture in her college classrooms, as well as those times in which personal and institutional revelations don’t mesh. She is a great model for thoughtful, prayerful, soulful wrestling alongside a deep commitment to engagement with and service in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I know you will be glad you listened in!

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024: A Paradigm Shift in Today’s Mormonism, Part 2

This episode follows up on the notion that we are experiencing a time of transition in today’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, during which the outlines of one dominant way of being Mormon, thinking Mormon, living Mormon is losing sway, and another, a more experiential way, is slowly rising and establishing itself as here to stay. Two great conversationalists, active church members, and astute trend watchers, Susan Hinckley and Mark Crego, join LDF host Dan Wotherspoon in this episode to share reactions to the earlier podcast and its proposals. What did they hear from others about the episode and its proposal? What were their own reactions to it and how it was presented? If they have, how have they experienced the shift in their own wards or circles? What cautions do they have for those who feel called to be part of the emerging awareness and to model new ways of interacting at church and in other typically Mormon settings they find themselves in? 

The episode is also full of broad themes that go beyond just the paradigm model, such as stepping into our own spiritual development, learning to experience God/Christ and speak of these in language that doesn’t move into “correlation speak,” as well as the call to be patient in trusting the slow work of God. Please listen in and comment below!

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Teilhard de Chardin prayer shared at end of the episode (adapted from a longer piece by the Center for Action and Contemplation and its Living School):

Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within us will be. Let us give God the benefit of believing that God’s hand is leading us, and let’s accept the anxiety of feeling ourselves in suspense and incomplete.

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Links:

J. Bonner Ritchie, “The Institutional Church and the Individual,” Sunstone 25th Anniversary Issue, 1999

Episode with Jana Spangler, Jody England Hansen, and Dan Wotherspoon on the upcoming Latter-day Faith Retreat, 11-13 October 2019, Salt Lake City

Description and registration information for the retreat

“Spiritually Surviving/Thriving as a Latter-day Saint”

A Latter-day Faith Retreat

LED BY:
DAN WOTHERSPOON
JANA SPANGLER
JODY ENGLAND HANSEN

1113 October, 2019
Salt Lake City, UT

Within an energetic, high-demand, service-oriented religion like Mormonism, it is so easy for us to lose sight that the purpose of our lives, including our church lives, is spiritual and personal self-transformation, coming to (re-)discover and grow into our highest selves as eternal, divine spirits. Too often we find ourselves simply going through the motions of a spiritual life, living out of pre-scripted and seldom-examined stories and worldviews. We seek a place at the grand banquet table we’ve heard we are invited to yet discover the same basic pot-luck fare. Where is the nutrition?

If you feel as if you are spiritually starving and long to (re)connect with God, Spirit, Love, your True Self, please come join us at this retreat. It will be co-led by Latter-day Faith podcast host Dan Wotherspoon, life coach and highly sought-after speaker Jana Spangler, and writer, activist, and insightful teacher Jody England Hansen. But YOU and the others in attendance will be in the real driver’s seat. Let’s discuss faith, belief, spiritual journeys, Jesus (and what he was really teaching rather than the water-downed version that has come down to us today), God, Holy Ghost, myth, ritual, prayer, discernment, spiritual practices, and more! Whatever you have in mind, we’re excited to dive into!

In choosing to attend, you are saying you want “more”—more depth, richness, understanding, and experiencing! More YOU! We can’t wait for you to join us!

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In addition to being able to attend the retreat in person, you will also have access to three monthly calls through Zoom in which we can continue where we have left off!

The retreat includes lunch and dinner on Saturday the 12th, and lunch on Sunday the 13.th

  • Friday begins at 6pm
  • Saturday runs from 9am until whenever (with all the evening portion consisting of relaxation and fun)
  • Sunday goes from 9am to 5pm.

If you have any questions about the retreat, where you might stay (if needed), etc., please contact Dan Wotherspoon at dan@latterdayfaith.org

Cost: $275 per person; $425 per couple (even two friends or family members deciding to register together).

SCHOLARSHIPS:

If you cannot afford to pay to attend, or can only swing some of the cost, please inquire abut partial or full scholarships and volunteering. We are working hard to encourage people to donate funds for others to attend, and we are happy to put you on a waiting list to see what might unfold.

If you would like to donate toward scholarships to those who cannot otherwise attend, please click below! Thank you!

We look forward to seeing you at this event! We know it will be something everyone will really enjoy as well as receiving great perspectives, renewed energies, and making new friends!

Share:

023: Spiritually Surviving/Thriving as a Latter-day Saint

This short(ish) episode contains the announcement of a change to the upcoming Latter-day Faith retreat to be held October 11th to 13th in Salt Lake City. Natasha Helfer Parker can no longer be part of that event, so Jana SpanglerJody England Hansen, and LDF host Dan Wotherspoon have re-designed the retreat to focus more on spirituality, development, practices, faith journeys, and possible reframings of what we had previously experienced only in limited ways, and more. And though this episode was launched because of the changes to the upcoming event, the panelists all try to make what they share here relevant for those who might not even be able to consider coming to the retreat. What are some of the larger issues at play in LDS lives and faith journeys that serve as excellent jumping off points for our own spiritual reflections? Listen in to see what they say!

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Link to write-up (and registration) regarding the retreat.