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!

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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! 

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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!

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…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

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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!

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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!

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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

041: Wrestling with the Book of Mormon, Part 2

After listening to last week’s podcast on the Book of Mormon, longtime Latter-day Faith collaborator Mark Crego suggested we record a follow up that deals more directly with how to engage with the book within our own hearts (including the things in the text that trigger us!) and communities. If it is the “word of God” and most folks take that concept to mean that practically everything in the book is pretty darn close to The Truth, how might we engage with them?

To help us see things more clearly, Mark proposes four paradigm shifts we each to internalize and that also can be communicated well to others. The discussion then turns to examine in depth what it is that the scriptures themselves say about the writings and revelations contained in them, including the Book of Mormon. Again, these can be important ideas to hold and recall when and if we feel we need to speak up and help widen a discussion. Finally, our discussion focuses on what the real purpose of the Gospel is, which is to bring us the Good News of the “Revelation of Jesus Christ”; that God in Jesus Christ, is fully God and fully human; and that God is incarnated and present in all beings. This means that God is present in Christ, and in you and in me, and in Scripture (expanded to include the inspired texts we find everywhere. Check out 2 Nephi 29).

No podcast or tip can ever help us skip the hard work of our internal wrestles with God, ourselves, and scripture. What they can do, however, is help us understand what we are going through and why it is required of us in order to become transformed into the likeness of Christ. This is an excellent episode serving those purposes. Listen in! 

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Links to things mentioned in the episode:

“Sin,” Mormon Matters podcast episode, February 2017, that wrestles with the notions that “no unclean thing can enter the kingdom of heaven” and “God cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.”

Jana Riess, “A Survival Guide to the 2020 Book of Mormon ‘Come, Follow Me’ curriculum,” Salt Lake Tribune, 24 Feb 2020

Blake T. Ostler, “The Book of Mormon as a Modern Expansion of an Ancient Source,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Spring 1987

“New Perspectives on Joseph Smith and Translation,” Faith Matters Foundation Conference, April 2017 (Video of sessions)

“A Paradigm Shift in Today’s Mormonism,” Latter-day Faith podcast, September 2019

“A Paradigm Shift in Today’s Mormonism, Part 2,” Latter-day Faith podcast, September 2019

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

040: Wrestling with The Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon occupies a key place in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and very much so in many persons’ faith journeys. For some, encounters with the book completely changed their lives, offered meaning and a sense of a God who is alive and still speaking. But for many Latter-day Saints themselves, the book has become problematic. Some question its historicity, its origin stories, its teachings, as well as struggle with how it is seen within the tradition, and especially how it is talked about on Sundays and in other gatherings. For them, the Book of Mormon has become a stumbling block, and for many of these perhaps a reason they feel they can no longer associate with the church and LDS community.

In this episode, Latter-day Faith host Dan Wotherspoon is joined by his longtime friend, mentor, and discussion partner, Charles Randall Paul (Randy), to consider the Book of Mormon with different lenses, many of them personal. Their discussion begins with each of them sharing the story of their “love affair” (one that hasn’t always felt easy) with this book. They then move on to discuss it on different levels and from different approaches that have helped them retain a positive relationship with it, regardless of its historicity or other problematic areas. Randy shares how he has been helped by considering the many genres one finds in the book (in the same way as one finds in the Bible and the sacred texts of other traditions). And then they both reflect upon the term “scripture” and what it means for something to be considered as such. What is going on within us as individuals when we grant something the status of scripture, and what roles do scriptural texts and what they contain function within a faith community? 

The discussion herein might be summarized as reflections on each of the participants’ life-long wrestles with the Book of Mormon, including their gratitude for all it has brought to their lives, even despite the pain of frustrations and loss they’ve felt or certain transitions their encounters with the text and its context have forced upon them.

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Links to things mentioned in this episode:

“Embracing Myth,” Latter-day Faith Podcast, 26 June 2019 (with Charles Randall Paul)

Dan Wotherspoon, “To Make Big Shadows,” Sunstone, May 2009 (“Pillars of My Faith” talk as Dan retired from Sunstone)

Dan Wotherspoon, “On the Death of Nephi,” Sunstone, March 2005

Grant Hardy, The Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Edition (University of Illinois Press, 2005)

Grant Hardy, Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Guide (Oxford, 2010)

March 27th to 29th, 2020, Latter-day Faith Retreat Information and Registration