107–109: LDS Salvation Theology and Practices

June 28, 2012
By

“Am I saved?” “Is this idea or that practice ‘pertinent to my salvation’?” Many Mormons and other Christians focus quite a lot of energy on concerns about possible rewards or punishments in the afterlife. And many, as seems natural for humans living in an unpredictable and confusing world, long for and (even very consciously) seek assurances here and now that their life is acceptable to God, their “salvation” is secure. Concepts such as having one’s “calling and election (a New Testament phrase and idea) made sure” reveal this longing and concern. Christians seek to know they are “saved” in many different ways, as do Latter-day Saints, but Mormonism also has a formalized ritual in which these concerns are directly addressed and assurances that one’s life is fully accepted by God are given.

“Salvation”—it’s a huge idea. But it often comes as a bit of an eye-opener to those who are raised within some form of Christianity to learn that the idea of “sin” as the major problem we need to overcome in this world and that we as humans would need a “savior” (especially a god of some sort to intervene on our behalf) to overcome it are not obvious to those in other traditions. In fact, many religions do not focus much at all on “salvation” in terms of eternal rewards or punishments, instead viewing religion much more practically in terms of seeking meaning or mediating social conflicts that affect us in “this” world.

In this three-part episode of the Mormon Matters podcast (our biggest one to date), host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists Jared Anderson, Chelsea Shields Strayer, and Danielle Mooney dive deep into “salvation.” What are the various ways other world traditions view the human predicament and how to overcome it? How does Christianity differ from these, and Mormon views from those of other Christians? What, exactly, is Mormon salvation theology? How is the LDS “plan of salvation” typically presented—and what are some approaches to it that might lead to more profound insights and understandings? Finally, how does the idea of “calling and election” fit into this story? Is it still part of today’s Mormonism? What about the ritual of the “second anointing” that was practiced intensely at times in LDS history but has had declines and resurgences from time to time. What are its major features? How does it make sense within the overall salvation narrative? What information is available about its being offered today? Also, what is the currency in today’s Mormonism about other seemingly exotic teachings related to a soul’s journey toward salvation and exaltation? In all of this, the panel tries to pay close attention to insights from myth and ritual studies, scripture, and concepts about blessings and acts serving as tokens of promises to come rather than automatic sealings of those promises. Within such contexts, are LDS notions and practices really all that “weird”?

Big podcast about big ideas. We invite you to listen and then join in the conversation below. Just as the panelists in this podcast took great care in the way they described temple-related concepts and rituals, we insist that all who comment here show similar respect to the sacredness of temple promises and practices. Even if you do not share the feeling that such subjects deserve serious consideration, you will not have a chance to be heard in this forum if you at least do not exercise restraint in how you communicate about your possible disagreements or critiques.

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Links:

“The Fulness of the Priesthood”: The Second Anointing in Latter-day Saint Theology and Practice, by David John Buerger (Dialogue 16:1, Spring 1983).

Wikipedia entry “Second Anointing”

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  • Travis Washburn

    You guys are great. Love that you’re doing this.

    Just as a side note, I wanted to share a piece of art with you: it’s a digital painting of the Plan of Salvation. http://helamangallery.com/2010/miscellany/mormon-plan-of-salvation-painting/

    Carry on, carry on!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=29005245 Ingrid Nilsson Goatson

    Dan, I loved your comments on the benefits of a multiplicity of interpretations within Mormonism. I know that you’ve talked about the many times in previous podcasts, but I’d love to hear a whole podcast devoted to plurality, maybe, or postmodernism and the church, relativism, or something along those lines. It sounds like everyone on this panel had a different point of view and I would love to hear more. 

    • Dan Wotherspoon

      Hi Ingrid,

      We tried to get to the heart of some of what you suggest in our “Oh, Say What is Truth?” episode. Here is a link: http://mormonmatters.org/2011/12/07/oh-say-what-is-truth/. And perhaps you’ve heard it already. If so, or when you do, I’d love to hear your feedback, especially about areas that deserve greater treatment. In some ways I sense that we throw the term “postmodernism” around a lot in our conversations, and I wonder if we lose some people there. What think ye, anyone? Would a show more directly on the various elements of modernism/postmodernism be helpful?

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=29005245 Ingrid Nilsson Goatson

        Dan, thanks for directing me to that episode, it’s one of the few I haven’t listened to yet. I’ll let you know if it answers my questions. 

  • JT

    From what was described in the beginning of part 1 – it seems that basic “problem” that these religions seek to solve is that of social organization, cooperation, and stability in environments that generate conflict from within (individual competition) and from without (out-group competition and nature).  The individual transcendent experience aspect may be a secondary development or even a by-product tied to the particulars of evolved human cognition.  One can interpret much of Mormon theology and practice in terms of its group-function.

    What follows are general audience treatments of recent research applying Darwinian principles to cultural evolution of religion utilizing group selection.

    Darwin’s Cathedral (Book by by David Sloan Wilson): 

    http://www.amazon.com/Darwins-Cathedral-Evolution-Religion-Society/dp/0226901351/ref=la_B001H6MNP6_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1340926285&sr=1-2

    Survival of the Selfless (Short New Scientist article by David Sloan Wilson ):

    http://evolution.binghamton.edu/dswilson/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/New-Scientist.pdf

    Short video clip of David Sloan Wilson – at 2 minutes he explains the group function of the Jain ascetic (they comprise a very small fraction of the followers).

    Religion and Other Meaning Systems (1 hour video lecture by David Sloan Wilson )

    In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion  (Book by Scott Attran)

    http://www.amazon.com/Gods-Trust-Evolutionary-Landscape-Evolution/dp/0195178033/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1340927139&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=Scot+Attran

    The Evolution of Religion: How Cognitive By-Products, Adaptive Learning Heuristics, Ritual Displays, and Group Competition Generate Deep Commitments to Prosocial Religions (A comprehensive review article by Attran):

    http://hal.inria.fr/docs/00/50/51/93/PDF/biot_a_00018-atran_proof1.pdf

    Now, back to the podcast!

    • Chelsea Shields Strayer

       JT, I know all of this literature and have taught courses on the evolutionary psychology of religion. It is fascinating and I would love to explore it more. I just didn’t think that this particular podcast needed to go any more in depth than we did. Plus, people with out the background in this subject tend to think we are being reductive and/or explaining away religion via these types of arguments, whereas I find them to contribute to and/or complexify religion. Other sources you might be interested in: Justin Barrett’s “Why would anyone believe in God” in which he outlines psychological modules, HADD, MCI’s, etc, anything by Pascual Boyer- especially his work on OCD and ritual, Richard Sosis’ work on religious badges and longevity, Candace Alcorta and religion as an adaptive complex, Rebecca Bird and costly signaling, Patrick McNamara’s brilliant (but expensive) three volume tome on “Where God and Science Meet,” and a good websites: The Institute for the Biocultural Study of Religion: http://www.ibcsr.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=frontpage

      • JT

        Thanks Chelsea,

        I agree with your overall approach to the podcast.  I thought Jared’s framing of religion in terms of problems they solve was insightful and simply wanted to add this one which seems important.

        I’ve read Barrett’s book (he has a nice video lecture as well) and his new one – “Born Believers: The Science of Children’s Religious Belief” – is waiting on my shelf.  Boyer’s “Religion Explained” got me started in this and I am familiar with Sosis’ work through several articles, particularly one discussing the adaptionist-byproduct debate.  Alcorta is apparently his colleague and I recall one co-authored paper on ritual – but I’ll look for more.  And I’ll explore these other aspects of their work – thanks.

        I’ve read about the costly signaling hypothesis (and felt the tension of it in sacrament meetings for a while :)) but Rebecca Bird is a new name.  I just checked McNamara’s book(s) on Amazon – I see what you mean about cost ($275).  I’ll find the table of contents and look for on-line available articles as “work arounds.”  There is some general-readership stuff on the neuroscience angle (e.g. Andrew Newberg).

        I am reading Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind” that emphasizes “our groupish overlay” of moral sentiments forged relatively recently by group-selection via gene-culture co-evolution. I’m about to hit the chapter tying it to religion.  He writes well and has an extensive bibliography.

        Best wishes,

        JT

  • Paul Barker

    Exalted as a human family… very beautiful

  • Tampinha

    Great discussion!  

    I have never liked the idea that the purpose of life is to “go” somewhere, as in the Celestial Kingdom.  However, I really like the idea of “becoming”.  I believe Elder Oaks gave a talk titled “the challenge to become” and he talked about this idea.  It seems so much more in line with the realities and experiences of this life.  That is why the “calling and election made sure” doesn’t resonate with me.  The idea of becoming a God, if truly possible, seems like a process that should extend well beyond this life.  I just don’t see a whole lot of people getting their deity diploma upon graduating from this life.  But yet I feel like this is the idea among a lot of Mormons.Sometimes as Mormons, I feel like we act like we know so much about pre-mortality and the after life, when in reality, very little has been revealed.  We have a very rough sketch of a few things, but yet we pretend like we have all the answers.  I think we do have some powerful ideas, and what I appreciate about Mormon Matters is that Dan is always trying to explore these ideas and give light to them, so thanks for that.

    • Dan Wotherspoon

      Totally agree on how rough the sketch is in comparison to how many view what’s “known.” And (I’m reading agreement here, so correct me if I’m wrong!) aren’t ideas far more powerful when they are open-ended anyway?! Point us and let us take the adventure! (And I don’t know about you, but I don’t even mind if I’m pointed the wrong direction sometimes. Fun/important to learn how to discover that, too.)

      Glad you’re enjoying listening! Thanks!

  • Larrin

    So Dan summarized the podcast as coming to the conclusion that salvation is the “transformation of the soul.” I don’t remember any discussion of the “mighty change of heart” though. Is this the same thing?

    Also, when is the Sunday School podcast mentioned coming?

    • Dan Wotherspoon

      On the Sunday School podcast Jared is starting, he recently wrote: 

      Just recorded Lesson 25! It will be published by Tuesday with the discussion. I will be publishing the Introductory podcast this weekend. 

      My two cents on mighty change: I certainly think “mighty change of heart” is a piece of the kind of transformation I (at least) was imagining. Perhaps a sine qua non. But, at least for me, that phrase feels too one-time-eventy for me to capture it fully. Ultimately the kind of transformation I think of when equating it with salvation (and here I’m really talking exaltation, of course) is reaching the point where our life (here or in eons to come) and character perfectly reflect the Divine will. We’re so in tune, we simply know how to act the way a god would. No thinking, no weighing, simply compassion flowing, modeling love even as that might end up being the kind of love that presents a mirror to another they may not love seeing but yet knowing how to present that in a way that they truly recognize it simply as feedback and not as condemnation or that we don’t still see the divine in them. 

      The scariest but ultimately best moments of my life are when those kinds of messages come to me via prayer/meditation (or from someone truly with this kind of love and the authority that flows from that love who serves as a mediator). But, always, after the mirror is presented, it ends up coming into my heart to say, “Yep, thanks for helping me see that,” and even though it hurts to see how I’m not be as awesome as I want to be, I feel encouraged/glad to have been ready to be able to see that next area to work on.

  • JT

    Listening to this discussion particularly heightened my awareness of my contrasting worldview, at least relative to some of the panelists, but not to their basic human sensibilities and values. In other words, I feel some of the same “transcendent” emotions expressed, but I am satisfied that they emerge from our human gene pool rather than being endowments from a supernatural realm.

    I can understand the attraction to giving certain emotions a distinct ontological category – the spiritual.  It imbues them with an unassailable celestial legitimacy that supercharges them with meaning.  When I stopped privileging private subjective experiences – supported as they were by the authority of a parochial religious tradition – and looked more broadly for objective evidence, this “spiritual” attribution became superfluous.  Which means such experiences were not negated – it only redefined the nature of their authenticity.  And while this may be perceived as hopeless terrestrial isolation for the believer, for this non-believer at least, in the words of Dorothy Gale, “there’s no place like home.”

    It appears that humans evolved a disgust response to protect them from poisons and disease.  Over many millennia this response was co-opted by our moral instincts to protect us from antisocial behavior.  Perhaps a similar co-option occurred with respect to positive feelings – spiritualized emotions serve pro-social ends (sacredness is the flip-side of disgust). So, perhaps we owe our survival as a species to the invention of spirituality, which is why I hesitate shouting “the emperor has no clothes” when I hear “spirit talk” that takes religious doctrine created for literal (“teenage”) consumption and charges it with greater “robustness” by saying it merely “points toward” the ineffable transcendent.  To me this feels to me like promiscuous metaphor-mongering. I refute it thus – Ouch! I just stubbed my toe on the rock of salvation.

    I know I’m mostly showing my idiosyncratic agnostic mind that lacks the disposition to construct a stairway of metaphors toward heavenly mysteries. It’s just that too many wonderful things spring directly from the earth to get me excited about theological speculations – at least in the aftermath of experiences with traditional Mormonism that created the space for me to discover them.  I no longer want what feels like immunity from the insult of the reality.

    This does not mean I’m averse to metaphors that keep one’s feet planted on the ground.  Jared’s “deeper digging” (an apt metaphor!) about 32 minutes into Part 2 turned salvation into a metaphor for transforming the lives of the living.  He said:

    “The whole purpose of salvation, the whole purpose of THIS life (emphasis mine) … is we are HERE (emphasis mine) and we are saved in as much as we become like God … [meaning] a perfection of love, peace, growth, joy and freedom [use of agency] … and one reason I like that view of salvation is that it works no matter what.”

    I can live ecumenically with this dual role (and do) as long as I can treat God as a metaphor for an open canon of humanism (or even a more broadly construed “-ism”).  But as long as “salvation” and “God” are merely metaphors, I think I prefer using “transformation” and “open canon” to avoid any misconceptions.

    I understand that this podcast is about Mormon matters and the point is to work within that construct.  Still, I was glad to hear Dan acknowledge non-Mormon listeners, of which I am now officially included.  So I take this as an invitation to offer my perspective in the “spirit” of that perspective, which I make along with a $ donation.

    Thanks to all,

    JT

    • Dan Wotherspoon

      JT,

      Thanks for all the ways you contribute to Mormon Matters and online discussions! Man, what an excellent writer and wide, wide reader. Truly impressed whenever you jump into the conversation. You’re a regular here in the various comments sections of MM episodes, and I’m guessing you’re the same JT who weighed in several times in the comments for the Mormon Stories interview with me a year+ ago. There/then, as I often do here, I choose not to weigh in when I don’t see things the same way as do some of those who comment, especially when they don’t ask me direct questions. I’m inconsistent in this, of course, but my general desire is to allow people to have their own experiences with things I say and why I choose to continue to engage Mormonism in the ways I do.

      For the past few days, however, you and your approach have kept coming to my mind over and over, so I am risking a response here. I don’t offer it in any kind of hope that I will persuade you to change your position. I have a strong sense we share more similarities in interests than what is most easily seen, so I’m just writing with a few thoughts that might shed light on perhaps where we diverge and why.

      You are aware of my basic story, and I’m grateful for your sharing a bit about yours in the comments section for the podcast on Mormon Doctrine (http://mormonmatters.org/2012/06/20/105-106-mormon-doctrine-and-other-fuzzy-things/). In that post you suggest that perhaps a key difference between you and many who choose to remain LDS is that others of us have a stronger affinity for being a member of groups, that we like/need having “a people” to belong to, more than
      you do. I admit I do like belonging/associating to a group and all that it brings me both good and frustrating (which in my mind is also, ultimately, “good” just not particularly fun during the middle of storms)—but I think you place too much emphasis on this difference. In that other thread, you also add, “From what I gather, Dan has struggled with dissonance to preserve his attachment….” This is the other idea I’d like to challenge. Perhaps by responding to the “struggle with dissonance” comment first, the other will come into focus more easily.

      You’re not the only one in these Mormon Stories/Mormon Matters and other Open Stories Foundation discussions to claim that those of us who still affiliate and are comfortable engaging from “within” the Mormon story/mythos must suffer from a lot of “cognitive dissonance” or engage in “mental gymnastics” in order to remain affiliated or answer temple recommend questions affirmatively, etc. And to some degree, this is true (my guess is it is true for all of us who have met head on questions of history and claims that don’t add up yet still choose “in”). But, for me at least (and I can see the same is true for people like Claudia Bushman who basically said as much a few weeks ago on a podcast), there came a time when “cognitive” and “mental” and anything else that indicates a primary focus on “head” stuff simply found a place a bit lower down (or, if not lower, perhaps alongside) other ways of knowing. Since most people begin their entry into faith crisis/transition from coming to see mismatches between previously held ideas about the past, about claims, about the nature of revelation, etc. (all confrontations in the realm of ideas—where thinking/head is primary), this is entirely natural. And, for me, this re-thinking was, indeed, a huge piece of my journey, a definite process.

      It’s not now, however. Of course I highly value my mind and all the ways it works, but I no longer experience cognitive dissonance when it comes to any piece of Mormonism. Some may feel its arrogance or cockiness, though I don’t think those are primary factors, but like Claudia seemed to
      indicate was what happened in her case, I have just somewhere along the line lived into a confidence in my own spiritual path, which also happens to include Mormonism as its primary language. It doesn’t mean that I think every idea I have about the universe will bear out, and I’m always reading and keeping an ear out for new angles and fuller contexts and finding neat new things to integrate or be forced to think in new directions by, but I’m quite confident that I’ve caught the scent/smoke trail of how we as human beings might live as large and deep and lovingly as possible if we continue toward the source of the fire that makes the smoke. It’s not a Mormon fire I smell/chase, but Mormonism has aided me (hence I sense it is capable of doing the same for others) in developing the faith to try to have the experiences (versus chase the head knowledge) that are key to eventually living within that fire (my metaphor for the sense of the ultimate being as large and joyful and compassionate as possible).

      This process of journeying toward life in the fire includes becoming acclimated at each step before being able to move forward: we can get peeks at the peaks ahead, but there’s a lot of “living into” new existential spaces before the next ones begin to really take shape. With this smoke scent in my nostrils, I find wonderful things within Mormonism that match it, and I concentrate there. In group settings, I share those things—and they are recognizable by members of the group as Mormon or “fair game” within the wider gospel context. Mormonism, like every other tradition, has built up a bunch of habits and developed currents with their own energies that trap people or lead
      them to stall in eddies for a while (and some, perhaps, their whole lives)—and these habits and grooves obscure the smoke trail or take people down useless (even harmful) side roads. But the animating power of Mormonism is still this connection to the fire (downwind though it and every other religion necessarily are—though there are good things about organizations, too). Given this confidence that I’m on a good path, there is no teaching of Mormonism I feel I have to believe or that would require me to twist my sense of the highest/deepest/most valuable things to fit (my definition of “cognitive dissonance” and/or “mental gymnastics.”). Sure, on Sundays and with some in my ward and family and circle of acquaintances I don’t always say what I might think, but it’s fully from my sense of who an audience is and my desire to be effective in communicating whenever I do share. It’s never because I don’t think my ideas are fair game within Mormonism. It’s only because I don’t think I will be “heard” (again in the “let them who have ears, hear” sense) and perhaps that I might scare someone off their eventually trying to catch the same scent should what I say sound just too weird or “out there” given their not having been on the same trails I have.

      (Quick aside: I recognize that there are many approaches to developing the different qualities of character needed if we want to live within the fire’s burnings. My approach is “moving me toward” greater love and compassion, but there are many who haven’t even begun to imagine the crazy places I have traveled with my brain who are far more loving and compassionate than I am, and whom I fully honor as closer to truly knowing that piece the fire we are all trailing toward. Many of these are Mormons, and I’m grateful for their power that knocks me upside the head and reminds me to slow down the “idea stuff” and to live more here on earth/in the present. My head knows that where I’m trying to get is all about “relationships” and experiences of “connection,” but sometimes I forget unless I hang out with folks who better “get” that piece of it.)

      In saying what I have above, I am trying to keep alive the part of your speculation about why I value “group” life, but I still want to say more about possible reasons we aren’t sensing the same things about the ultimate nature of the universe even though we’ve had what seem to be, on the
      surface, many of the same experiences. I’ll end this portion of my response here and will post the rest in a bit.

    • Dan Wotherspoon

      Part II of my reply.

      In your post about your life experience coming into Mormonism, you talked about your experience with the temple being a turning point of sorts when you were “confronted with the tight in-group vibe of the Temple ritual,” causing you to feel “no small measure of anxiety and [to] instinctively [start] looking for the exit.” This you attribute to temperament, which I agree is likely a big part of it. And you also portray temperament as a piece of your decision to choose Occam’s razor to cut in the direction you did.

      I am totally not dismissing the temperament piece, but I’m also wondering to what degree previous “spiritual” experiences might also have played a role (and I recognize that predispositions to such experiences might also be primarily temperament at work—I still want to forge ahead a bit, though)? For instance, by the time I first entered the temple, I’d had experiences of what felt like something deep within me rise up and help me turn to a more inward, reflective path. I’d felt elements of the Mormon story connect with my own life. By the time I went to the temple, I hadn’t yet had any of the paradigm exploding spiritual experiences that were yet ahead for me, but I definitely had a lot of surprisingly powerful moments that oriented me toward these things. (By “paradigm exploding” I mean powerful and surprising by an non-quantifiable factor over anything that I’d ever named “emotion” before, unexpected in terms of informational content—even though not conveyed discursively—than anything previously imagined, and long-lasting in terms of what I can only describe as existing on a ‘higher (or at least different)” plane of existence.)

      By the time I got to graduate school in religion where I intensely studied the kinds of books and approaches your long list names, however, I had had those experiences. Because of them, it was literally impossible for me to believe that those approaches (psychological, sociological, philosophical, economic, etc.), even in combination, could fully capture the kinds of things I
      then “knew” (in ways untouchable by words, descriptors, external means of any sort) about what kind of being I was, what brought the most exquisite joy—and what the fire is that is at the core of religious origins and what still drives religions today (in addition to the fear, hopes for controlling chaos, social cohesion, etc.) but that is so often dismissed by these approaches because they
      can’t touch or measure it. (If you’ve read Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy, there is, currently, no amber spyglass through which to view the movements and doings of “Dust.”) I LOVED studying all the theories you are playing in the midst of, and I feel you when you talk about the “wonderful things [that] spring directly from the earth” which keep you from getting “excited about theological speculations,” but they were always, and remain today, partial for
      me.

      I guess what I’m saying is that even when I am doing what we might call the “theological speculating” that I do, it doesn’t feel like that’s what I’m doing—“really.” Sure, I’m using tools and language common to theology, but feels more like trying to sing the song I am hearing in the distance (my “fire” metaphor is breaking down! “trying to warm the conversation with the
      fire’s embers”? Not gonna work!), the song that was taught to me in these blow-me-away experiences. (It’s also the song that I think Mormonism and all religions teach, but perhaps each only specializes in different parts of it and can only hint at what the full orchestration sounds like. Luckily they all have within them urgings for anyone and everyone to try to hear the full thing for
      themselves. To have faith enough to trust letting go of one’s ego, one’s day-to-day modes of thinking, acting, reacting), and to put oneself in holy places/states where who knows what might happen if/when we don’t try to force it.)

      In short, I’m wondering if, given that we don’t share in having these kinds of experiences, we would naturally diverge on how deeply we follow the trail of studies you and I both are aware of. But I’d maintain that we’re both using Occam’s Razor fairly. I’m simply adding as “evidence” or “belonging in the data set” these experiences and their vistas and you are not. This is why my use of the razor of what “most efficiently explains” cuts differently than yours—but both of us cut fairly and honestly.

      Aside as I close this segment of my reply: Love your statement: “I can understand the attraction to giving certain emotions a distinct ontological category – the spiritual. It imbues them with an unassailable celestial legitimacy that supercharges them with meaning. When I stopped privileging
      private subjective experiences – supported as they were by the authority of a parochial religious tradition – and looked more broadly for objective evidence, this “spiritual” attribution became superfluous. Which does not mean that such experiences were negated – only that I redefined the nature of their authenticity.” 

      What I may not have been clear on in any of the above is that I don’t think of “the spiritual” as a separate ontological category. I think fully in terms of the “natural.” There is in my system, no category of the “supernatural.” All of my thinking and experiencing feel fully in alignment with my understanding of the basic nature of the universe, and when I look to subjective experiences as part of my data pool from which I try to fashion my song, I feel I am simply paying attention to
      the “internals” of things rather than only the “externals.” Science and much academic discourse has co-opted “natural” to mean the things it can measure, describe, put on display. I think the preponderance of evidence about what some have described the “perennial philosophy,” that experiences of the kind I have talked about are evoked when one practices certain types of disciplines, that these experiences lead to blown-open/transformed lives, etc., all hint toward the “factualness” (absolutely within the category of the natural) of the assertion that there are energies of the sort I work to describe available for humans to unite with. Any comfort I have with the term “spiritual” is simply the way it is shorthand for the area of human experience that religions
      are comfortable focusing on, not that it implies a separate ontological category of existence.

      A final section to come….

    • Dan Wotherspoon

      Part III of my reply:

       

      My musings have been way too long already, but I feel I want
      to at least propose something for your (JT or anyone else) possible response that rationally “makes
      sense” (at least to me) about why it isn’t so strange to think about there
      being possibly something truly “there” to be experienced when one is in brain/mind-in-background
      mode or through non-rational approaches to the question of what really is or
      isn’t part of the natural universe. The following plays in the realm of all the “ritual
      spaces” stuff that have been coming up for me again and again in recent
      podcasts.

       

      As we examine other religions and spiritual disciplines, one
      finds descriptors of persons seeking “enlightenment” or becoming united with
      primordial energies via means that clearly work to take one’s focus away from
      our heads/what is rational/identifying our “selves” with our thoughts, etc.
      Meditation (quieting mind chatter, deliberately trying to concentrate on breath
      or energy-flow kinds of things), Yoga (similar to the statement about energy
      above), drumming, dancing, psychotropic drugs, ritualized performance (acting
      or dancing the Gods or cultural heroes, deliberately stylized
      words/phrases/gestures), and even the practice of truly outward-focused
      compassionate service—all work against staying in one’s head and/or focusing on
      language and what it can describe; all work to move you into deeper vibrational
      levels, different rhythms, different “spaces.” I love to talk about the Greek
      idea of “chronos” vs. “kairos” time because of the emphasis on “possibility” or
      “expectation that something surprising might happen” that is associated with the term kairos.

       

      My sense is that all of these ways have in common that fact
      that the actions and effects that followed from them (of course not every time
      one engages in these does one have a major energy-shifting experience) all
      preceded anyone ever really “thinking” about them. The practices/actions triggered
      the new experiences, they were “good” and wonderful and the discoverers wanted
      to share them, others tried the same techniques and had similar empowering/enriching experiences,
      communities formed around them—and really only then did thinking about them and why they
      might work in this way or that way (it’s God, it’s the Tao, it’s x, y, z) began
      to spring up. In this model, which to me seems rational enough to at least
      consider as possibly being actually the case regarding the nature of the
      universe, these modes of being and the accessibility of the energies via these
      practices are fully natural phenomena. No gods or ancestors push buttons or judge if we’re “worthy” of the blessings of these new vistas and empowerments. “Without compulsory means…” enlightenment,
      compassion, changes of heart, wider perspectives, and intense energies flow simply
      as we’re in alignment, when we enter into liminal states where possibilities of
      different but very real powers might flow.

       

      I’m likely already past anyone’s wanting to read or respond
      to these musings, but here they are. If any of it makes enough sense to anyone
      that they want to respond or ask for clarification, I invite it here, of course.
      My more fervent hope, however, is that he or she might give some of the
      practices a genuine try. If thoughts and fears of being “wrong” (I won’t be
      fooled again!) are holding you back, my hope is some of this might help you
      push past that. Love your mind and all it can do but take a risk and bet on
      there actually being something “there” to be experienced that will help you
      live more richly, that will allow you to concentrate on things other than
      problems of claims and this or that not “adding up,” that will allow you to more
      easily love family, friends, and others “where they are” just as you’d want
      them to honor you with that same gift.

      • JT

        Dan,

         

        I’m now convinced that for you it’s not about
        group-affiliation and cognitive dissonance – the latter term becoming as
        irritating in its overuse as its under-appreciation.

         

        For someone who advocates “against staying in one’s
        head and/or focusing on language” you sure spin a mean rush of words.

         

        Best wishes for following the smoke toward the fire, singing
        the song of new existential spaces (while avoiding the eddies), tapping into energies,
        vibrational levels, and rhythms, and setting your clock to kairos.

         

        I trust that you’ll always give preference to “love
        and compassion” over paradigm explosions. 
        My only advice is to avoid going the psychotropic drug route.  They might work as well as any other
        means of achieving enlightenment, but they’re a lot riskier than Mormonism … perhaps.

         

        And I’ll keep “playing in the midst” of theories.

         

        Best wishes … over and out,

         

        JT

        • Dan Wotherspoon

          Favorite post ever! Thank you for your good wishes, fine sir. (And did the drug route–though not for enlightenment purposes, per se–and totally agree to stay away! If your or anyone is ever interested in a fascinating non-fiction adventure story of sorts, I highly recommend Storming Heaven, by Jay Stevens. All about Timothy Leary and cohorts taking such things as serious attempts at enlightenment.)

  • Lietta

    Second Annointing – Amazing!  Bring it back.  It brings a tremendous sense of balance.  Exciting to learn there might have been balance in the earlier days of Mormonism. 

  • Sean

    Thanks to Dan and the panelists for presenting this discussion. 

    Perhaps I’ll have other reactions I’d like to share and get others’ perspectives on as I consider the podcast further, but I’d like to start with this, particularly in connection with the role and administration of the second anointing.  It seemed to me that Dan went out of his way to request and present a perspective on the ordinance that was not elitist (even though there was not much discussion — at least in the final edited version of the podcast — presenting a responsible view that the administration of the ordinance is in fact elitist). 

    So here’s the issue that’s caught my attention:  the practice and the ordinance are,  so far as I can tell, the very essence of elitism: the ordinance is administered only to a very narrow slice of faithful members of the LDS Church, it is an ordinance that by its very nature effectuates a change in the recipients’ perspective of themselves and the cohort they become a part of — those who are predestined for eternal life, it is administered by core “insiders” to those who border on being core “insiders,” it is clearly *not* available to those not part of the insider group, and the very existence of the practice is subject to secrecy commitments.  Dan remarked in this regard, that what might seem from the outside as elitist might be the very opposite of elitism from the inside.  I would benefit from a greater explication of that concept because I’m not seeing how *the ordinance as it is administered* is not the very essence of elitism.

    Mind: I’m not opposed to elitism, per se.  When I was in a hosptial in great pain for completely unknown reasons, I wanted the very elite diagnosticians of the hospital to examine me and to choose a course of treatment.  I’m still alive because of those very few — elite — individuals.  In a broader sense, anyone who has attained a degree of development and skill can find herself or himself in an elite class by virtue of that development.  And the world benefits greatly because of cadres of elite mathematicians, agronomists, physicists, and the like.  So some folk being among an elite class is not a problem for me.  Nor is it a problem for me for the elite group to affiliate as an elite group.  Credentialing is a not-unreasonable requirement in many situations that work to the good of all.  But I think if we’re going to consider the second anointing ordinance in the context of elitism, we should find something to it other than secretive separation from and exclusion of others.  If it isn’t necessary to LDS doctrinal understandings of salvation, then what is its purpose?  If it is necessary to LDS doctrinal understandings of salvation, then how can its secrecy and limited administration be justified?  Why keep it so limited?  What happened to “we desire all to receive it”?  How does the ordinance fit into a world of Matthew 25 where the righteousness-seeking-disciples are condemned and the compassionate-but-not-particularly-religious are blessed?

    • Dan Wotherspoon

      Hi Sean,

      Thanks for the chance to expand the discussion on this. Overall, I think the other panelists did a good job of presenting the “it IS elitist in how it’s administered” counterpoint to my attempt to soften the elitism critique. (No post-production editing of any more stringent things they might have said, I promise!) Your stating things the way you do in your “So, here’s the issue…” paragraph reiterates angles they also put forth. Glad to have that out there in print now. And especially glad for the invitation to say more about what I poorly expressed during the podcast (by the time we got to that point it was 3+ hours into our conversation and approaching midnight for Jared and me, nearly 2 a.m. for Chelsea and Danielle!–amazed any of us could be coherent that late into the game).

      Perhaps a way into what I was trying to say can come from a look at the words you used to make the elitism case versus ones I might use. You concentrate on “narrow slice” where I’d place the focus on “faithful members” as the recipients. You speak of the change going through this ritual would have on recipients’ perspectives in terms of how they’d now see themselves even more as part of a cohort of insiders with much/some of this status marker being reinforced through secrecy. If I’d talk about changed perspectives, I’d likely focus on what an experience of extreme humility and extended self-reflection it would trigger in someone should they have this experience. It would be something they’d be unpacking and drilling down on for the rest of their lives.

      As they did this post-ordinance reflecting, my guess is there would be very little focus on “Made it, baby! Eternal life for me!” and much on the desire to be worthy of that promise and to serve others in ways that would reflect a god’s perfect love. I also think, as Danielle and I exchanged a bit about in the podcast, that they wouldn’t think in terms of “I’m now done” after receiving this ordinance so much as in close to the same way we are taught to think about our temple sealings–this is the beginning of a journey that might lead to one day having the blessing of a marriage being sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise (or whatever language one wants to use for actually living into the blessing rather than simply being started on the path to it). In this case, even if one thinks of SA as essentially saying, “Hey, I’m going to the celestial kingdom,” I can still imagine the huge gulp that would come to the recipient of the SA, causing them to say to themselves, “Getting ‘in’ is one thing, actually taking my place in that society of beings, well that’s another prospect altogether. Wow, do I have a lot more growing and experiencing to do.”)

      On the larger question of exclusion of others (which is really where I mostly focused during the podcast), your query about if it’s necessary to salvation how can it’s secrecy and administration be justified opens to what I hope might be a good angle to approach this issue. If as an outsider to the ordinance we think we “know” even close to the essence of the experience of sincerely receiving that ordinance, I believe we are wrong. As I was trying to say in the podcast, if someone is not comfortable with myth, not really able to enter into the kind of openness that ritual can invite, they simply cannot “know” how un-silly and truly profound the experiences can feel to those who are inside the story/liminal space. YET those who often call it silly, call it weird, or who sneer at “oh isn’t it cute that they dress up in funny clothing and do these silly plays” actually think they “know” what’s going on! They’ve read the script, heard the descriptions, perhaps (as we talked about in the tokens section) can even demonstrate actions that are thought by some to be essential in getting to the celestial kingdom, but with their outsider status and failure to “enter into” the mythic/ritual space themselves, they know basically nothing of what’s truly “going on.” But, again, they “think” they do and that right there makes it all the more difficult for them to ever truly “get it.” Without humility of the sort that mythic and ritual spaces invites, those who think outsides and that which can be known solely with heads are actually (from the perspective of the gospel story but also I think life as a whole’s big story) worse off than those completely ignorant of the ordinances. Let them who have ears and eyes, hear and see, etc.  In this way, the secrecy component doesn’t feel nearly as sinister than it might if it truly were about cronyism, separating the elite from non-elite.

      I am agnostic to highly doubtful that the second anointing ordinance does anything to actually change someone’s eternal standing in a sort of “check list” way: this couple has it, they are in, done deal. But I’m very open to it being one of a ton of kinds of experiences persons can have within the mythic structures of the LDS religion and religions the world over that truly DO have the power to actually change their eternal standing (or “this life” depth of experience) in the only way that counts: what kind of being have they become/are they becoming? It’s neat to me that the term that is often used to describe the main phase of ritual is “liminal,” which comes from the Latin for threshold or doorway, as it gives a chance to recall the amazing image found in many parts of the scriptures that suggest that if we seek we shall find and if we knock things shall be opened unto us. Nothing automatic. Genuine seeking, genuine knocking, and sometimes the door opens to gorgeous vistas and burnings and insights (none of them describable by language!) that truly do have the power to transform us. Invitation open to all. Second anointing and its imperfect administering (and even ambivalence among church leaders to its status in the realm of salvation), I can let slide. Maybe Joseph was onto something, maybe not. Given all the other invitations to experience the divine (and the divine within us), we don’t need this ordinance in any way that really counts. At least that’s my thoughts on it for now….

      • Emily

        Dan, thank you so much for your insights.  I have recently learned about the SA and was so disenchanted by it.  Your explanations have broadened my perspective and made me realize that I really don’t “know” as much as I thought I did about the ritual even if I have read some personal accounts.  I think I will have more peace about this once disturbing subject from here on out.  

      • Sean

        Dan, thanks for the thoughtful response.  I’d like to pursue one skein of thought a bit further.  You make the point in this remark that outsiders can never really understand the insider’s experience, and therefore the outsider is likely to discount the importance of the insider’s experience.  I agree with this point, and I would assert that it is true of any subjective experience that can be shared in community to any degree.  Just as temple worshippers can find value in temple rituals that educated (about the temple rituals, that is) outsiders are unlikely to understand, so too are devoted members unlikely to be able to understand the experience of “insiders” to the experience of disaffection from the Church.  It’s a pretty universal truth.Drawing the conclusion from that truth that the net benefit of a particular practice must be positive if some derive positive subjective experience from it, however, seems a leap over the space.  Just as every experience has an “internal” subjective component, so too does every experience have an “external” objective component, as well.  If you posit Wilber’s AQAL take on reality, the two are distinct aspects of the same, indivisible experience.  We can know some things only through subjective experience, others only through objective experience.  I imagine that’s relatively common ground between us, though I’d welcome your correction.But in such a world, we have a ritual that is, from an outside perspective, intentionally and overtly concealed from — shall we guess and say — 99% of the endowed LDS Church population.  Their only personal, subjective “experience” with the ritual is either the false belief that they’ve already received all the saving ordinances the Church has to offer them, or (if they’re among the few who read Dialogue or listen to MM or have closely textually analyzed the D&C and temple endowment script) their subjective experience is the belief that there are, in fact, further ordinances, but they’re ordinances that they have never been permitted to discuss, let alone receive.  To the extent that they believe such ordinances to be salvific (and let’s be clear that so far as LDS theology is concerned, passing through the Final Judgment is a required salvific experience, whether in this life or the next), they might realize that in order to receive an invitation to receive the ordinance, they either need to have a relationship with a General Authority, or they must have a stake president who is sufficiently impressed with their devotion that the SP will recommend them to the GAs.  Is it possible that someone who desires to receive God’s official expression of approval would be so selfless as to not be influenced by the structural incentives such secrecy engenders to curry favor with Church leaders?  Of course, it’s possible — just as it’s possible to grow up in a patriachal culture without being unwittingly stained by the structural culture of patriarchy.  But it doesn’t seem likely.  It’s *that* world in which we need, IMO, to evaluate the impact of the ordinance to insiders relative to the impact of the ordinance on outsiders.  And it seems more than slightly problematic that the only people who are positioned to make that assessment are all insiders as a result of the very network that may be the structural problem in the first place.See my point?

        • Dan Wotherspoon

          Yay,
          Wilber AQAL! Love it. We’re definitely on similar ground there with the insider/outsider
          experience part of the discussion. Absolutely no thought in my head that I was
          breaking new ground. But since it is true that no one can experience
          another’s exact experience yet we often forget that (especially those who judge
          things as silly from supposed position of knowledge), it’s always good to offer
          reminders about it, I think. 

          I also think it’s fair to complicate the “insider/outsider”
          can’t-know-the-other’s-experience dilemma by an appeal to family resemblance,
          of sorts, one finds among those who report positive experiences
          from ritual participation. For instance, as someone who has become comfortable within
          ritual/mythic ways of knowing and experiencing, I am far, far less prone to
          ever call another’s reported experience gained through an immersion in liminal
          types of spaces “silly.” This is a fair way, I think, to do at least a little
          speaking from the particular to the general. We can hear others’ songs at least
          to some degree because we sing our own.

           

          I
          offer next to zero defense of the way Mormonism puts up barriers to most of its
          members even being aware of the second anointing ordinance. It’s definitely way
          messed up. What small grace I can grant is that I think there is a high
          degree of ambivalence among church leaders about its importance, what exactly
          it means to have received it, etc. I think this is partly why we see its fits
          and starts, and the hit and miss way it seems to find those to offer it to. Until
          the “brethren” get it together and all become comfortable with it as actually a
          key part of Mormonism, especially in terms of a person’s salvation, I don’t
          foresee anything changing. The ambivalence, to me, belies the fact that many of
          them DON’T think it’s essential for salvation/exaltation. I support them in
          that, for, as I said in my earlier post, there are plenty of ways to come to
          the kind of soul transformation that I (and the podcast panel) think is the
          sine qua non of what constitutes “exaltation.”

           

          Let
          me push back a bit on your statement “let’s be clear that so far as LDS
          theology is concerned, passing through the Final Judgment is a required
          salvific experience, whether in this life or the next.” If you’re thinking
          here solely about Mormon teachings that declare that indeed to “pass through the Final Judgment”
          on a celestial walk one would have had to receive baptism, and for the second level, their endowment, and for the third level, a temple sealing of their marriage. So
          I guess there’s something bureaucratic about that that a concern about
          second anointing might enter into—i.e., Yikes, should second anointing be part of this
          list? (And, obviously, at least a few general authorities don’t think so
          because no one seems to be rushing to include it.) 

          But at the non-bureaucratic level
          I focus on, your statement about “passing through” as a “salvific experience”
          rings like a much shallower version of even the kind of conversation one generally
          finds on Sunday. My sense is that on most Sundays and in most wards, it wouldn’t
          take more than ten seconds should a statement like the one above be made before
          someone would move it right into: “Well, of course, no one gets into the CK
          just because they’ve had those ordinances.” Everyone would agree. Ten seconds
          later, someone would go to the next step, “Yes, they will have had to live a
          life in which they’ve gained, or shown great momentum toward, the qualities of
          godliness.” Everyone would nod. In this way, within thirty seconds, “passing through” would
          become “living into,” and if someone then went to the next step of “these
          are not blessings God doles out but rather empowerments that flow without
          compulsory means to us as we embody these qualities,” he or she would not
          receive any backlash. In this way, I give Mormonism, even on what’s fair to
          talk about (and what actually often does get talked about) on Sunday a lot more
          credit than any worry about “Got ordinances?”.

           

          I won’t deny that there are
          some extra fearful, extra competitive church members, when left to their own musings, who would not connect the
          dots between going through an ordinance and having it do you any damn good at all
          without you living into the qualities of a person who would might be able to really
          “receive” the blessings promised in it. But because these folks actually exist, some may indeed skew themselves in the
          ways you lay out (trying to suck up to GAs so they can get be on the radar for
          second anointing, etc). But if a Latter-day Saint has listened to and let sink in even average
          sort of discourse about ordinances and the path to exaltation, she or he wouldn’t be
          tempted to twist themselves into the knots you suggest. At least that’s my
          sense of things and why, even though I think I “see your point” about the problematic nature of those judging the effects of a messed up system being products of the system themselves, I don’t find the point all that compelling. It would only really be an issue of concern for those who want to receive the second anointing out of fear or worry about external affirmation of their own righteousness. Most of those who would seek SA for those reasons would not be considered for it, and if they somehow happened to receive it, they’d be just as clueless (or even more spiritually blind) afterward.
          What did I miss here that you were asking me about? Happy to keep engaging.
          Dan

          • Sean

            You:  For instance, as someone who has become comfortable within ritual/mythic ways of knowing and experiencing, I am far, far less prone to ever call another’s reported experience gained through an immersion in liminal types of spaces “silly.” This is a fair way, I think, to do at least a little speaking from the particular to the general. We can hear others’ songs at least to some degree because we sing our own.
             
            Me:  I very much like the way you’ve expressed this.  For a long time, I’ve been quite omnivorous in my spirituality and the experiences that have arisen from that approach have reinforced it.  Chicken and egg, I suppose.  Through that omnivory I’ve discovered that practices that one tradition rejects as foolish superstition at best and sinful idolatry at worst – bowing to an icon of the Buddha, for instance – can open my heart and mind wide to aspects of reality and beauty that I’d barely sensed before.  So I’m 100% with you regarding the potential magnitude of a practice that may look foolish from the perspective of an outsider.
             
            Y :  But at the non-bureaucratic level I focus on, your statement about “passing through” as a “salvific experience” rings like a much shallower version of even the kind of conversation one generally finds on Sunday. My sense is that on most Sundays and in most wards, it wouldn’t take more than ten seconds should a statement like the one above be made before someone would move it right into: “Well, of course, no one gets into the CK just because they’ve had those ordinances.” Everyone would agree. Ten seconds later, someone would go to the next step, “Yes, they will have had to live a life in which they’ve gained, or shown great momentum toward, the qualities of godliness.” Everyone would nod. In this way, within thirty seconds, “passing through” would become “living into,” and if someone then went to the next step of “these are not blessings God doles out but rather empowerments that flow without compulsory means to us as we embody these qualities,” he or she would not receive any backlash. In this way, I give Mormonism, even on what’s fair to talk about (and what actually often does get talked about) on Sunday a lot more credit than any worry about “Got ordinances?”.
             
            M:  I wonder if we’re talking past one another here.  I agree that in 90% of the LDS Sunday school meetings I’ve attended, no “all you need is ordinances” statement would survive without the “amendment” process of others pointing out that you have to remain faithful until the end.  While I’m not so sure my Church experience would reinforce the universality of the “becoming” point that you make, but at some point, remaining faithful and becoming could be argued to converge.  But what I was focused on is the complement to that statement – the essentiality of the ordinances.  I’d give you the same 90% figure for Sunday school classes in which you’d be bound to hear, “sure, living your life well and being kind and compassionate are all fine, but you still have to receive the ordinances or you’ll never get into the Celestial Kingdom.”  It was that stance that I had in mind when I referred to salvific necessities, and it’s in that context that I think the second anointing/calling and election/Final Judgment fit.  From an LDS doctrinal perspective, that’s part of the Plan of Salvation/Happiness.  If you don’t go through it, you don’t reach the Celestial Kingdom. 
             
            Y:  I won’t deny that there are some extra fearful, extra competitive church members, when left to their own musings, who would not connect the dots between going through an ordinance and having it do you any damn good at all without you living into the qualities of a person who would might be able to really “receive” the blessings promised in it. But because these folks actually exist, some may indeed skew themselves in the ways you lay out (trying to suck up to GAs so they can get be on the radar for second anointing, etc).
             
            M:  I don’t think that members who want to have their calling and election made sure are extra fearful or extra competitive.  They’re seeking what God has promised to his faithful children.  That doesn’t seem to me anymore a product of fear or competition than seeking the peace of the Comforter that Jesus promised his disciples is a product of fear or competitiveness.  I don’t think of those wanting to receive the second anointing materially differently than I think of golden investigators who hear something about the Church that captures their hearts and minds and spirits which leads them to seek out the missionaries – those who can help them receive a fullness of what they’ve sensed in tiny measure.  
             
            In a sense, what’s going on with regard to the second anointing is essentially the same thing that’s going on when faithful members conduct themselves in their mortal existence in ways that are specifically intended to obtain for themselves particular blessings (an eternal family, for instance) in a post-mortal life.  You and I may share a basic disagreement with those who view God as a divine sort of vending machine into which we insert coins of belief and righteous conduct in exchange for material and spiritual blessings, but I’d guess you’d find many more who hold that essential belief among active members (just listen to conference talks for loads of examples) than you’d find those who affirmatively reject such an understanding. 
             
            What’s different about the second anointing/calling and election, apart from what I think is the corrupting influence of secrecy about its administration, is that it marks an *endpoint* to the need for vigilance, and *endpoint* to the need for introspection and self-monitoring, an *endpoint* to the path in exactly the same way that the teaching of the Final Judgment marks such an endpoint.  [As I write that sentence, it occurs to me that perhaps a real, honest to goodness endpoint to a do-this-to-get-that view of God might be exactly the thing that a person with a transactional understanding of God would need to let go of such a limiting approach.  I’ll think on that some more…]
             
            Y: But if a Latter-day Saint has listened to and let sink in even average sort of discourse about ordinances and the path to exaltation, she or he wouldn’t be tempted to twist themselves into the knots you suggest. At least that’s my sense of things and why, even though I think I “see your point” about the problematic nature of those judging the effects of a messed up system being products of the system themselves, I don’t find the point all that compelling. It would only really be an issue of concern for those who want to receive the second anointing out of fear or worry about external affirmation of their own righteousness. Most of those who would seek SA for those reasons would not be considered for it, and if they somehow happened to receive it, they’d be just as clueless (or even more spiritually blind) afterward.
            M:  I think you and I must differ in the degree to which we think that clinging to desire and hierarchical affirmation matter in the lives of active LDS church-goers.  I think, and I think 121 reinforces this, that it’s a constant pressure on every member of the Church and vanishingly few are able to withstand it fully.  I think that all of the ways that the Church reinforces its authority – functionally-male-only priesthood, silencing dissenting voices, refusing to allow financial transparency, to name a few – affect every active member.  Who among us has not bitten her tongue when confronted with a Church leader (local or general) who says, “Here’s my decision….” even though she knows that it’s, in fact, a decision that will cause more harm than good?  And of those tongue-biters, how many of them did so solely based on unmitigatedly pure compassion and love, rather than on a mixture of incentives, including the implied threat of ostracization and exclusion that results from not sustaining one’s leaders? 
            Just as those hierarchical pressures are constant and ubiquitous, so too are the conscious and subconscious responses to them.  Hence why coercion is so corrupting and 121 is so illuminating.

          • Dan Wotherspoon

            Can’t wait to follow up, Sean. Unfortunately I’m heading out of town until late Saturday with no connectivity (camping in Moab), and I just have too many things, including getting out the next MM episode, between now and when I have to go tomorrow. Can I catch you within a few days of my return?

            Best!
            Dan

          • Sean

            No rush.  Enjoy Moab.  One of my favorite places.

          • UTManMI

            To follow-up on what Dan said here, see Elder Halstrom from Saturday morning session of April 2012 General Conference on the difference between (and the necessity of both) the Church and the Gospel.

  • Rileyyates

    Fantastic.

    Since I refuse to do dishes ;) so I’ll have to utilize my travels from Utah to Wyoming to get these in.

  • Alien_Cowboy

    There’s a piece coming up on 20/20 this Friday that includes Mormonism and might be interesting to everyone here–but nowhere near as interesting or in-depth as Mormon Matters :)  ”This Friday, on a special two-hour “20/20,” Barbara Walters meets with religious leaders from different faiths around the world to get a range of perspectives on heaven and the afterlife.”
    http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/07/inside-one-of-the-holiest-rooms-in-mormon-temple/ 

  • Marco_nl

    Hi Dan,

    I listened to podcast 109, great stuff. I have a question; at 29:22 Danielle Mooney makes a comment about how Joseph Smith only has 1st wives being sealed for eternity, that seems odd, since the gist of D&C 132 seems to be that polygamous marriages are per definition for eternity. Do you have a good link where I could read up on that?

  • Guest

    I have a very close family member who had the second anointing.  I know this because I took this person (whose spouse was deceased, by the way) to the temple at the appointed time.  Because of my close relationship to this person and (at that time) my very active status in the church, I was given ‘permission’, or something like that to take (drive) this person to the temple at the appointed time.  I was not told why I was doing this at the time, but like I said, because of the close relationship to this person (who was getting on in years and somewhat home bound) over time and after some conversations I started to put two and two together.  Even though I already knew about this practice to some degree, I did a search on the internet for any other information I could get and then use this information to ‘bait’ (devious, I know, but…) this person in conversation who would respond with somewhat wide-eyed surprise and state, “How do you know about things like that?! You’re not supposed to know anything about that.”  And then this person would ‘button up’. I always thought it curious that, again because of my very close relationship, this person never talked about it with me and the few times I broached the issue this person would never respond with any desire to talk about ‘such things’.  That always bothered me. The secrecy and a sort of wedge I felt was placed between me and this family member.  It was almost like I wasn’t this person’s family any longer. It’s like the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, but worse because it involves eternal family bonding, which may be fractured. Anyway, that night after I dropped this person off at the front door of the temple (on a Sunday evening) I parked off to the side to wait.  While I was waiting in the car off to the side I saw one other older couple that I knew and recognized from a ward I used to attend entering the temple.  Interesting.

    So, I have mixed feelings about this practice (it makes me feel better to refer to it as a ‘practice’ instead of an ‘ordinance’).  I will never have it, this I know for sure for a lot of reason I won’t discuss here.  Oh, and I might add that this family member and the deceased spouse were well know and well regarded by a particular member of the high leadership ‘15’ (for whatever that’s worth).  Even me to a lesser degree because of my relationship to this family member (but again, for whatever that’s worth, especially at my age and inactivity now).

    I could go on with other bits of information that I ‘pieced together’, but this is what I posted a while back on some discussion board that you may find interesting:

    The ordinance of the Second Endowment almost always occurs on a Sunday evening at one of the temples. At least one member of the First Presidency or Quorum of the Twelve is in attendance and they need not be in temple clothing. It is reserved for those who have had a long, proven history of being without any mitigating factors, loyal to the church and unmitigatedly always will be. It is a quite common occurrence in the present day — more than general members realize — many have had the ordinance preformed (you’d be very surprised to know who some have been). It is NOT just for those who have had high, illustrious callings. Your UNQUESTIONABLE and UNFAILING SERVICE and LOYALTY to the church must have been demonstrated over a long period of time. Listen to the very first words spoken at the beginning of the regular endowment ceremony — “candidates” — but “there will come a day.” Then you are no longer a mere “candidate” but actually “elected.”

    True, it’s a “saving ordinance” of the highest order that can be bestowed in mortality, but it can also be regarded as a “comforting ordinance” as well in the sense that it “comforts” those who qualify to receive THE final “reward” or “award” you might say. It’s like the “gold wrist watch” gifted to you at your retirement dinner. But of course I’m being cynical when I put it that way.

    The church’s position on this matter is that if it has not been bestowed in this life, it will be in the next if you are deemed worthy. That’s what makes it all “fair” or “just” for everyone who “misses out.” But for some (again, quite a few actually, but you could also argue not so many when you consider the entire active, world-wide membership of the church) they get that “recognition” (“election” to be exact) in the here and now.

    end of entry

    Anyway, I feel it is a very elitist practice and in fact even absurd when you think about it.  Why?  Well, how is someone ‘called’ and ‘elected’?  One way is (or was perhaps — I don’t know now) because a general authority would ask a stake president who he ‘thinks’ is a worthy candidate.  Think about that.  Here is a person (or couple) that doesn’t have to stand before the judgement bar of *Christ* after they have died and be judged by a perfect all-knowing God in order to be admitted into the highest heaven, but rather gets in because some stake president ‘thinks’ this person is a ‘good ol’ boy’, or that a husband and wife are coming to the end of their days now, and they have always ‘seemed’ to be for the church and never gave anyone any grief, etc.  Oh… and they always paid their tithing (VERY important factor).  And I know how the LDS church would defend this: “It has nothing to do with a stake presidents whims and assumption; the list is inspired by God. It’s all divine revelation!” Oh, and also: “whether by mine own voice or the voice of my servants , it is the same.” Don’t forget about that. And so there is an answer for everything when it comes to religion. All is justified whether it’s purchasing indulgences in the Roman Catholic church, or paying your tithing and other factors to become a Priest and a King (god) in the eternities.  Quiet a bargain actually, when you think about it — sixty to eighty years or so of ‘faithful’ and ‘known’ membership in the LDS church in exchange for an eternity of being assured that you will rule and reign forever over your own planet(s) or even UNIVERSE.  Wow, had I known.

    Anyway, this whole matter makes me feel lousy and makes me feel like I don’t care about family unity anymore (‘families can be together forever’).  I’m out, that’s for sure, and I just feel beaten down and like a real looser or lesser. And yet I also feel that ‘my’ Jesus doesn’t want me to feel this way, but SATAN SURE DOES! Go figure.

  • UTManMI

    Anyone know of a summary of wicca/pagan/goddess worship that would fit in with the short explanation Jared gave at the begining of part 1?

  • James

    Hey Dan, can you send a source to the JoD index reference you mentioned there at the end?

    • Dan Wotherspoon

      Hi James,

      I just wrote to Brian Stuy about the status of this project that I know he just completed after working on it for as long as I’ve known him–some fifteen-plus years, I’d guess. He replied to me with this: “Just tell him it will be published in 2013, and it will be a large, single-volume index that kicks serious ass.” :)

      When it comes out, I’m sure there will be buzz that ought to find its way to you. An important project. 

  • apriles

    Salvation is not complicated. In order to be saved, you must repent and come unto Christ, obeying him in all things. As Lamoni’s dad put it, you tell the Lord “I will give away all my sins to know thee.” Then you put your money where your mouth is, obeying the Lord rather than man.

    There is no separate brand of “Mormon” salvation. Salvation comes through Christ alone, and thus is the same for every Christian. This means that you cannot hang on to your favorite sins, nor support the sin of others, and still expect that your salvation is secure.

    Endorsing and supporting sin — even when it’s not your own — will exclude you from the presence from the Lord, since you loved sin more than you loved him.

    Failing to stand up for the Lord and his righteousness will cause you to lose your salvation, because the Lord said if you are not for him you are against him.

    In short, the only reason salvation is “complicated” is because humans have devised so many ways of avoiding it and throwing it away.

  • TopHat

    I am just now catching up on podcasts and just wanted to say that I have heard “calling and election made sure” over the pulpit in the past 10-15 years. I’m 26 and when I was a teenager, my dad gave a talk and referenced it. I remember it well because I had never heard about it myself and it reminded me of the Jehovah’s Witness’ 144,000 being saved and everyone else in a garden issue- which is ridiculous to me. In fact, I laughed really loudly when he said “calling and election made sure” and some of the congregation turned to look at me and give me disapproving looks. I want to say that happened in the early 2000s. But my dad was the kind of person that if I had a gospel question, his answer was, “Look it up in Mormon Doctrine.” Bad advice. Our edition, while it didn’t mention the “Great and Abominable Catholic Church” still had a pretty condemning entry for “Negroes.” Oh, my childhood was interesting.

  • Scott C

    Hey guys,

    Did someone mention that Jared Anderson had his own podcast site? I thought I heard Dan mention this. If so, I would love to find it and subscribe.

    Much Obliged,

    Scott C.

    P.S. I really enjoyed these two podcasts. Btw, I am nearly fifty years old and was raised in the LDS Church on the east coast. I grew up hearing the “calling and election made sure” all during my raising and throughout much of my early adulthood. I can clearly recall GA’s speaking about this as well. Bruce R. McConkie and his brother that taught religion at BYU spoke of this regularly, if my memory serves me well. My children have no idea what I am talking about when I mention this to them. Seminary must not address it as it did in my day.

  • Josh Mangelson

    Dan, I’d like to mention that it’s perplexing to me tip think that I’d have to pass by anges that stand as sentinels and give them tokens when my resurrected body presented the degree of glory i was raised to enter. To make sense of this practice I’ve come to believe that the tokens are no more than a ritual handshake to denote agreement to a contract since a handshake is like the oldest form of contract making. It’s the kept covenants with God that passes you higher than the status of mere angel.. For what it’s worth. I agree, though, the freemasonry is inexcapable.

  • Diane

    I am not a Mormon, but a Unitarian Universalist, raised as a Catholic. At a recent book club meeting, several Catholic friends “explained” to me that Mormons are not Christians. After the meeting, I looked it up, and rebutted them, saying, no, Mormons DO consider themselves Christian. Response? “I don’t know why Mormons claim to be Christians,” and links to some websites that say Mormons aren’t Christians because they don’t follow all of the main tenets that Catholics and Protestants do. She even commented that if Romney were elected, he would be a non-Christian president, and told me that I was free to believe what I wanted to believe about Mormonism, and she had her opinion. What say you? I’m rather appalled at my friend’s intolerance, yet, she is a conservative.

  • B-Happy

    (I have not read the comments yet) I believe in progression between kingdoms. Progression is eternal, dependent on our desire and heart. How could there be a glass ceiling slapped on that? The thought makes reason stare. No matter what BRMcK said…. hasn’t most of his stuff been dismissed by now anyway?