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.
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.
In two October 2019 General Conference talks, President Dallin H. Oaks shared thoughts about what constitutes church “doctrine,” limiting it to what is taught by the entire First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. He also shared that we too often think we know more about things, such as the afterlife, than we actually do.
This podcast episode was prompted by his talks, and it features a conversation between Charles R. Harrell (Charley), author of the wonderful book “This is My Doctrine”: The Development of Mormon Theology, and Latter-day Faith host Dan Wotherspoon. The two of them speak of many things, some at the meta level, such as why so many people want there to be settled doctrines, ultimately concluding that this is a desire that never has nor can ever be fulfilled. Doctrine, like revelation/inspiration, evolves because human beings are active participants in the process of trying to discern God’s truth and will, and in then teaching what they feel inspired to, all the while burdened with leadership concerns such as protecting and warning the Saints, as well as not being able to fully escape their own biases and imaginations. Finally, Harrell and Wotherspoon turn particular, speaking of the development of ideas about God and Godhead and showing that even this most fundamental concern of religion has undergone many iterations (and perhaps is on the cusp or an even more profound change than what has happened in the past).
Listen in! You’ll learn and have cause to think a lot!
Charles R. Harrell, “‘This is My Doctrine’: The Development of Mormon Theology (Kofford Books, 2011)
“Mormon Doctrine and Other Fuzzy Things, Episodes 105/106, Mormon Matters Podcast, June 2012
“Patriarchal Blessings,” Episode 69, Mormon Matters Podcast, January 2012
March 27th to 29th, 2020, Latter-day Faith Retreat Information and Registration
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 Spangler, Jody 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!
Link to write-up (and registration) regarding the retreat.