139: A Beautiful Vision of Mormonism

November 14, 2012
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This episode was planned to be an exploration of the joys and perils of being a public face of Mormonism, especially as a woman, and in particular as women who write and speak about Mormon theology. What it ended up being is a rich, wise, affectionate, celebratory, pragmatic exploration of LDS theology, community life, and connections with ideas and people that truly are among the lovely and of good report in wider religious discourse. Using the jumping off point of Fiona and Terryl Givens’ new book, The God Who Weeps: How Mormons Make Sense of Life, Fiona Givens, Joanna Brooks, Jana Riess, and Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon go deep, laugh, commiserate, but mostly celebrate the depth and richness of the Mormon vision of God, life, purposes, and possibilities.

We know you will love listening in. Tell us how much—and, okay, where we missed something—in the comments section below!

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17 Responses to 139: A Beautiful Vision of Mormonism

  1. Paul Barker
    November 14, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    This is so wonderful! Thanks Dan for putting together this all star cast. Fiona thank you for your wonderful book!

  2. Travis
    November 14, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    Hi Guys. Just finished the podcast. So beautiful. And inspiring. I’m midway through the book. I love it. And I think I have a Mormon crush on Fiona (I already have one on Jana and Joanna—sorry Dan).

  3. James
    November 15, 2012 at 12:38 am

    This idea of God sending the best minds during the apostasy stood out to me. Aren’t these the same minds that shaped Christianity in ways that makes Catholic theology distinct from Mormon theology?

  4. MelissaMay
    November 15, 2012 at 11:27 am

    Great discussion! This is what every Relief Society should sound like and feel like. Bravo! And I hope we will be hearing a lot more from Fiona, she is like a breath of fresh air. I’m on my way to buy her book now.

  5. Mark A. Clifford
    November 15, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    “History is the unfolding of a revelation.” Brilliant.

    This is one of the most wonderful, inspiring, and inspired things I have ever heard.
    I would that all of the Lord’s people were prophets indeed! These are three of my personal favorites. Dan, is there any way we can get every single Mormon everywhere to listen to this podcast?

    I guess I will just have to keep talking up Mormon Matters!

  6. MoMo
    November 15, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    This is one of my favorite podcasts so far. Makes me feel optimistic about Mormonism, optimistic about how I want to engage in my Mormonism and optimistic about Deseret Book *grin*.

  7. Bill
    November 18, 2012 at 9:33 pm

    Just when I think I can’t put up with things any longer (My disaffected wife and I just finished discussing this past General Conference…) something like this comes up. Thank you all for your strength and intellect! I’m really glad we have folks like you around to balance what sometimes seems unbalanceable!

  8. Kristen
    November 19, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant! I feel so encouraged when I hear these types of discussions. It makes me want to take greater ownership of my religion and faith. Sometimes it is good to be reminded that I am just as capable of understanding and interpreting the scriptures for my life as anyone else. THIS type of discussion makes me a better disciple of Christ! Thanks Dan for a great discussion and thank you Fiona for writing such a beautiful book!

  9. B-Happy
    November 19, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    I am dying to hear Fiona talk about the Divine Feminine in the Old Testament. Her syllabus and sources, how she incorporates the information with correlated material. I would LOVE (x20) to hear more about this.

  10. Bill
    November 20, 2012 at 10:35 am

    Re: Should we speak up? I taught EQ for several years and gave what I thought were insightful and provocative lessons. In fact, several quorum members would only come to class when I was the teacher. I received lots of thanks and comments for my views. During one lesson a student said “that is not inspirational, we should not talk about that.” I was shocked. It hit me for the first time in 46 years in the church (Including a mission and 5 years @ BYU!) that there are many people who do not come to church to have interesting discussions–they come to parrot back the answers they find comforting. For every person who really enjoyed my lessons, there were probably three sitting there rolling their eyes! It was a rather disheartening realization. I was released shortly thereafter and now lead the music in Primary! In Primary, the kids always enjoy my insights!

  11. Jeremy Norton
    November 23, 2012 at 2:51 am

    Wow thank you for the post.

  12. Jeralee
    December 6, 2012 at 9:02 am

    I just finished this beautiful, thoughtful, and rich podcast and immediately started it over again! Can’t get enough. I could listen to Fiona all.day.long! Joanna, and Jana, what a incredible team of women you are, all in one discussion! This podcast will be a reference point for me that I know I will visit again and again when everything around me seems a little gray. So uplifting and full of beautiful hope! Thank you ladies, and my dear friend Dan for all of you positive and loving thoughts! May you each know life’s blessings and beauty for all that you share with so many! So.much.gratitude!

    • lightattheend
      March 18, 2013 at 9:45 am

      Amen to all! I have attempted to quote Teryl and Fiona’s book in sunday school and relief society. It has been very well received. I feel SAVED by these ideas. I feel SAVED by the timing of this progression!! My husband and I know and love Fiona and Teryl from my husband’s mission and I feel it has all been divinely lead. They have been the hope I have had in the terror of my husband’s disaffection for the church. There is soo much hope around the corner. I have learned that it is I who am responsible to be the change I want to see in my ward in regards to more universalism, deeper theology and understanding of the authentic doctrines. I am finally stepping out of a dark tunnel that has been so lonely. Thank you. Praying for ways to emulate this brilliance and pass it on to my family in an artful way. It is quite the tight rope walk. It is a slow, patient climb. Hope for my children’s, neices’, nephews’ better experience than the one we have had at 30! Hooray!!

  13. December 23, 2012 at 8:43 am

    I hate to rain on everyone’s parade but I find Joanna Brooks to be incredibly elitist and condescending towards the unwashed masses of ignorant Mormons that she so valiantly endures. I suppose I should feel greatly blessed that she deigns to share her vast, modern understanding about what Mormonism really means. And don’t we all wish that “The Brethren” would hurry and catch up with her true understanding of God and recognize her preeminence.

  14. March 5, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    I appreciate the discussion here and look forward to reading the Givenses’ book. But I do want to say one thing about the dissatisfaction expressed toward the correlated Church curriculum.

    I’m not sure when “correlation” turned into a scorned concept, but I guess I can see how people could feel that the limitations of official Church manuals and materials were a subtle attempt to squash and control the inclusion of other great thoughts from outside sources. I’d like to offer an alternate viewpoint. First of all, I would point to Preach My Gospel and “Come, Follow Me,” the Church’s newest youth curriculum. For anyone who feels that the institutional Church wants you to parrot back pre-approved paragraphs from a lesson manual, these two approaches to teaching are absolutely amazing. I’d encourage you to look through and even use them for some of your lessons. It’s beautiful the way we’ve been learning line upon line about effective teaching and learning and what that means for our ability to reach out to the diverse group of saints and those interested in the Church.

    Secondly, I’d like to offer up the perspective of what correlation means for a worldwide church. I grew up in an area in the American West where Latter-day Saints were still a minority but where conservative politics were a big way of life for everyone and I was under plenty of cultural and social pressure to believe that the Church and the Republican party were basically the same in purpose. Not that I begrudge my Republican friends within the Church of their right to be active in politics as they see fit, but in spite of a well-correlated Church curriculum, I still had plenty of experience with “personal insights” being presented as Gospel truth. I still struggle when friends and family feel that my political attitudes are not sufficiently “Mormon” enough and that there must be something going wrong. I’m always refreshed when Sunday meetings bring a reprieve from this and we can teach and learn principles from the Scriptures and General Conference that let us for once talk and listen as brothers and sisters in the Gospel. I’m grateful for the doctrines of the Church being presented through official channels and the personal interpretations being left (for the most part) in the private conversations in which they belong.

    Now, extrapolate that out to the worldwide Church. I’ve lived in various East Asian countries over the past few years and I’ve seen what the Church means there. Let me tell you, there are enough linguistic and cultural differences for the Gospel to struggle through without throwing an uncentralized, heavily academic set of doctrinal expectations into the mix. As a missionary in Japan I made it a point to get rid of non-official stories, poems and handouts that were all over the sister missionaries’ apartments. Not because these things were made with ill intentions, but because there was too much at stake in terms of translation, both linguistically and culturally, to be passing these things around to members and investigators as examples of Mormon doctrine. I went to an FHE gathering with mostly newly-baptized members where someone read a translated version of an email story about trees that grew up to be Christ’s cradle, boat and cross. The discussion then spun off into a confused debate about whether plants have spirits. Now, there’s a time and a place for people to talk about things of interest on their own, but it’s really dangerous when things are coming through official-seeming channels and new converts, especially those from non-Western backgrounds, are trying to make sense of what their new religion actually teaches. I was SO grateful throughout my mission for the standardized set of Church materials available in a variety of languages. I liked that in multi-lingual meetings, where we had a sister teaching in Japanese and I was sitting there with a Chinese and a Filipina investigator on either side, that I could hand each of them a manual in their native language and I could help them follow along.

    As fascinating and worthwhile as theology influenced by medieval and renaissance-era Western philosophy can be to a certain demographic of Western Latter-day Saints, there are plenty of good reasons that we can’t make it our Sunday School manual. Academia (through the nature of its primary creators) is, currently, profoundly ethnocentric. As a Church, we have to teach the basic principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ – not because we’re dumbing things down but because we’re translating across linguistic and cultural divides and we need to focus on the truths that are vital to all of us. I LOVE that the newest curriculums constantly prompt teachers to ask the class for personal experience and insight. Seriously, almost every other sentence of the Gospel Doctrine manual says “Read this scripture and then ask the class how they’ve experienced this principle in their lives.” That is how we’re doing our best to adapt a very profound and beautiful worldview to a variety of cultures and peoples. And it’s not even a cop-out. Some of the best and most profound discussions I’ve had with very intelligent and scholarly friends have come when we’ve addressed a simple question like “What have the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel meant to you in your life?”

  15. lightattheend
    March 18, 2013 at 10:13 am

    Profoundly grateful for this light shining at the end of the tunnel of disaffection. So much hope and progression ahead of us! Sharing some of these ideas in church has been very well received. Please keep all of this beauty and truth coming!!!!!!!!!

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