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 Spangler, Thomas 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!
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)
Next Latter-day Faith Retreat Information and Registration
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
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!
Brittney Lowe Hartley, Mormon Philosophy Simplified: An Easy LDS Approach to Classic Philosophical Questions (2019)
Next Latter-day Faith Retreat Information and Registration
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.
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:
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:
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!
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.
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
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.
Within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the various rituals and ordinances that take place in LDS temples are considered to be the highest expression of God’s love for us and the path of human ascension. And for many church members, especially the ones who have really leaned into temple ritual, it is. But for a significant number of others, most likely a majority of those who have participated, temple experiences baffle them or even become sources of deep internal conflict or discouragement, or they even play a role in their choosing to leave Mormonism, either through being less involved or even fully removing themselves from its membership records.
In this episode, my very good and wise friend Jody England Hansen and I acknowledge the experiences of participants all along this spectrum of reactions, but discuss the temple and ritual in general through the lenses of myth and ritual studies, symbolism and archetypal energies and truths, and our own experiences with the temple, including key moments from our own journeys with the temple that have led to our own shifts toward greater appreciation of what gifts lie within when we let go of certain preconceived notions and wrong-headed rhetoric about the nature of the endowment and other ordinances. A key feature in our journeys through life and in faith must be a willingness to allow our world views to expand as we accumulate more and more experience. What can seem like THE truth at one time in our development must be able to yield to the lessons found in all the complexities life will lead us into. And an absolute key in all of this shifting must involve embracing mythic truths and rich symbolic methods that teach us in ways that are impossible simply through what our minds alone can discover.
I think you will find the discussion herein to be challenging but also liberating, unusual in its frankness while also empowering. May it be so!
Dan Wotherspoon, “Why Ritual ‘Makes Sense,‘” Sunstone, Fall 2016
Charles Randall Paul, “The Sacred Secret Open to All: Ye Are Gods,” Sunstone, May 2009