Blog Archives

290–291: Past, Present, and Possible Futures of Mormon Studies

August 27, 2015
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290–291: Past, Present, and Possible Futures of Mormon Studies

The academic study of religion has been around for a long time. And although there are many examples of books and articles that have used academic lenses to explore various aspects of Mormonism, it’s only in the past two decades that we’ve begun to see the formal rise of “Mormon Studies.” In this episode, Brian Birch and Spencer Fluhman, two thought leaders in this emerging field, help us understand Mormon Studies. What types of inquiry fit under this umbrella term–and how settled is the definition? What are the key developments in the growth of the field? What institutions have Mormon…

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289: The Gift of the Holy Ghost     

August 17, 2015
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289: The Gift of the Holy Ghost     

This episode on the gift of the Holy Ghost is the fourth in a series discussing what the Articles of Faith refer to as the first principles and ordinances of the gospel. All four have featured Samuel M. Brown, author of the book First Principles and Ordinances: The Fourth Article of Faith in Light of the Temple, with this episode marking the third time he is joined by philosopher and theologian Adam S. Miller. How is the Holy Ghost, and more specifically the “gift of the Holy Ghost,” generally viewed and discussed by Latter-day Saints? Do we as Mormons explore…

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287–288: Joseph Smith’s Use of a Seer Stone in Bringing Forth the Book of Mormon

August 10, 2015
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287–288: Joseph Smith’s Use of a Seer Stone in Bringing Forth the Book of Mormon

  On Tuesday, August 4th, the LDS Church in conjunction with the Community of Christ held a press conference announcing the newest volume in the ongoing Joseph Smith Papers project. This new two-volume work contains high definition color pictures of each page of the Book of Mormon “printers manuscript” (owned by the Community of Christ) on one side of each page spread, with a transcription on the other. It will be a wonderful boon to scholars and others interested in the Book of Mormon and processes by which it came into print. What has overshadowed the news of this important…

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286: Sunstone 2015

July 21, 2015
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286: Sunstone 2015

Sunstone is a unique organization within the Mormon intellectual world. For more than forty years it has published a magazine and annually convened symposiums of many varieties, hosting voices from all over the Mormon spectrum. It has faced many challenges through the years but is now thriving again, continuing to fill niches that only it can do. In this episode, Sunstone magazine’s  editor, Stephen Carter, and it outreach director and symposium planner, Lindsay Hansen Park, join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon for an overview of the organization and what it’s up to now, plus an introduction to some of the…

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284–285: Worthiness

June 29, 2015
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284–285: Worthiness

“Worthiness” is a word that pops up quite often in LDS circles. It is as prominent as it is primarily because it is invoked when talking about ecclesiastical interviews, most often tied to temple recommends but also associated with the charge bishops receive to regularly interview the ward’s youth. And it also has taken hold in Mormon minds with regard to discussions of the sacrament–especially the practice of some who, by choice or bishop’s counsel, elect to not partake of this ordinance. But is the term and concept of “worthiness” helpful, or does it too often lead to some having…

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283: Being an Ally

June 16, 2015
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283: Being an Ally

Every group that struggles for greater voice, rights, and fairness welcomes and draws strength from “allies,” people who are not a member of that group yet stand up for or work (mostly) behind the scenes to further the cause. It’s an important role, and one that can be very satisfying, but it’s also an unusual position as allies don’t typically lead. The stories of being silenced or suffering injustices is not theirs to tell. It also contains many challenges. In some ways, being an ally is fun, as activism on issues often garners praise and camaraderie, but it is also full…

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282: Baptism

June 2, 2015
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282: Baptism

What seem to be very simple rituals and teachings become, under sustained reflection and a reflective spiritual walk, immensely rich. This is the case with this episode, which continues a series started this past December and January (episodes 261, 263-264) discussing topics in Samuel M. Brown’s book, First Principles and Ordinances: The Fourth Article of Faith in Light of the Temple (Maxwell Institute, 2014). Joining Sam again, as he did for the episode that covered Faith and Repentance, is philosopher and theologian Adam Miller, this time for a terrific discussion of the ordinance of baptism. What are some of the ancient world’s…

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281: LDS Film: Present, Future, Roles, Tensions

May 26, 2015
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281: LDS Film: Present, Future, Roles, Tensions

This episode features a fantastic conversation on film and the many roles it plays in human lives and communities, especially religious ones. Along the way it wrestles with the tensions that are always present in films for niche audiences, especially when filmmakers try to tell compelling stories while at the same time hoping to make money, which often means making many decisions based upon their sense of what their target audience expects (and, in so doing, sometimes lessening a story’s potential impact). How does this environment of tension between art and commerce hinder (or help) foster great storytelling and a…

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279–280: Mutual Respect: Creating Healthy Relationships When Loved Ones Choose a Different Faith Path

May 12, 2015
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279–280: Mutual Respect: Creating Healthy Relationships When Loved Ones Choose a Different Faith Path

For more than a decade, Chelsea Shields Strayer and her parents, Eric and Heidi Shields, have held very difficult but ultimately fruitful conversations regarding her struggles within Mormonism, which eventually led her to no longer believe its teachings or choose to continue to engage as an active member. Their journey together during this time has been painful, but their relationship has ultimately grown stronger and continues to unfold in rich ways. How have they managed this feat? What has this journey felt like to each of them? What mistakes have they have made along the way? What are the key…

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278: Encountering Other Traditions, Part 2: Roman Catholicism

April 29, 2015
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278: Encountering Other Traditions, Part 2: Roman Catholicism

This episode is the second installment in the Mormon Matters “Encountering Other Traditions” series that explores the fruits that come from bringing Mormonism into dialogue with other faiths. The focus of this conversation is an exploration of Mormon and Catholic connections as well as differences, and the ways that intimacy with the other tradition can enhance one’s own understanding and spiritual life. Panelists Fiona Givens and Mark de St. Aubin, two cradle Catholics who converted to Mormonism while they were young adults, along with Mathew Schmalz, a Catholic scholar of religions with a strong interest in Mormonism, are wonderful guides.…

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277: Does Powerful Faith Require Scriptural Literalism?

April 22, 2015
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277: Does Powerful Faith Require Scriptural Literalism?

In speaking at the April 2015 General Conference about the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland boldly stated that “the simple truth is that we cannot fully comprehend the Atonement and Resurrection of Christ and we will not adequately appreciate the unique purpose of His birth or His death–in other words, there is no way to truly celebrate Christmas or Easter–without understanding that there was an actual Adam and Eve who fell from an actual Eden, with all the consequences that fall carried with it” (“Where Justice, Love, and Mercy Meet”; lds.org; italics in original). In…

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276: Being Heard in Today’s Church

April 8, 2015
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276: Being Heard in Today’s Church

At the April 2015 General Conference, several church members took the unusual step of voicing opposition during the sustaining of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. Frustrated with the lack of dialogue between the church’s top leaders and those with questions about church doctrines, or who hope to help leaders see the negative effects of certain teachings, practices, or types of rhetoric, members of “Any Opposed” felt that being vocal about their dissatisfaction–even at the risk of disruption of a well-known and sacred ritual–was worth the negative pushback they would receive. Surely much went on within the hearts…

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274–275: Beyond Belief and Unbelief

March 31, 2015
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274–275: Beyond Belief and Unbelief

We bring our faith crises to word most often through expressions about our no longer “believing” this or that teaching. We’ve been confronted with evidence that challenges a truth claim or leads us to no longer unquestionably follow leaders or our current life scripts, and we naturally concentrate our attention on those claims that are now called into question. For complex reasons, some of us seem to have higher tolerances for uncertainty than others, while for others of us this questioning of previously held notions quickly turns to active “disbelief” and even outright rejection of our faith tradition: “If it’s…

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273: The Passion (Final Week of Jesus’s Life)

March 25, 2015
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273: The Passion (Final Week of Jesus’s Life)

On 29 March 2015, the Christian world will celebrate Palm Sunday, which commemorates Jesus’s entrance into Jerusalem for what turned out to be the final few days of his life. This final week, especially his suffering in Gethsemane, betrayal, and crucifixion, are also widely known as “The Passion,” and commemorations of these and other events of this seven-day period (ending with his resurrection on Easter Sunday) take place during Holy Week. The things that occurred during this final week have special significance for Christians, and they are among the few events in Jesus’s life that are mentioned in each of the…

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272: Paul’s Theology of Grace

March 16, 2015
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272: Paul’s Theology of Grace

The Apostle Paul’s theology can be difficult to grasp–and, in a few ways, especially so for Mormons. Some challenges arise from Latter-day Saints’ primary use of the King James Translation of the Bible, which has often very beautiful language but also contains archaic expressions that sometimes confuse English readers and obscure key connections between ideas. Another factor has been Mormonism’s attempts to differentiate itself from mainline and evangelical Christianity, which has caused it to de-emphasize Paul’s writings since they are so pivotal in shaping the understandings in these other traditions. One huge cost of this shying away from things that…

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271: Speaking with Loved Ones about Faith Differences

March 10, 2015
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271: Speaking with Loved Ones about Faith Differences

In this episode, co-released with Mormon Stories, Wendy Williams Montgomery, John Dehlin, and Dan Wotherspoon speak about the difficult dynamics at play in discussing with loved ones, whether family, friends, or ward members, about differences in faith positions after one party or another has shifted. In contrast with the types of challenges presented to people by “outsiders” to their faith, a change in stance and the new worldview presented by those who were once in sync with you (or at least perceived to be in sync) can be far more devastating. Their shifts often feel very personal, a rejection of…

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270: “Yes, and . . .”: Activism and Renewal in a Tragic World

February 26, 2015
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270: “Yes, and . . .”: Activism and Renewal in a Tragic World

We all recognize that there is a significant distance between the “real” world we live in and the “ideal” one we’d love to see instantiated. Parker Palmer calls this space between real and ideal the “tragic gap.” He uses “tragic” to denote the inevitability of this distance and to acknowledge that even the greatest person living the best kind of life will never live to see her or his ideals fully realized. “Tragic” implies those things that are inescapable conditions of life. In Mormon theology, even God lives in the tragic gap. God can call and urge and try to…

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269: The Effects of Excommunication on All of Us: Healing Perspectives

February 11, 2015
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269: The Effects of Excommunication on All of Us: Healing Perspectives

This week’s excommunication from the LDS Church of John Dehlin, and its making fresher the memory of Kate Kelly’s excommunication last summer as well as other actions taken against persons of conscience who have found themselves in tension with the church, is taking a great emotional and spiritual toll on many of us. We are sad, angry, disappointed, frightened, thrown into turmoil with family members and friends who react differently than we do, and we can’t help but wonder if we have the fortitude to keep fighting on, to keep witnessing for truths we’ve come to feel deeply. Many may…

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267–268: The Gospels

February 10, 2015
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267–268: The Gospels

In this two-part Mormon Matters episode, Taylor Petrey and Eric Huntsman join host Dan Wotherspoon to help ground the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the political, geographic, linguistic, and religious contexts of their times. What do we know (and not know!) about the authors of these texts, when they wrote, and their intended audiences? How are their gospels organized? Which covers which parts of the story? How are they similar and dissimilar in their portrayals of the texts’ central character, Jesus, known most often now by the term Christ (messiah), as well as regarding various other story…

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265–266: Mormonism as a “Religion”

February 3, 2015
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265–266: Mormonism as a “Religion”

Of course Mormonism is a religion. But do we always think about it through the lenses of such a big and diverse category? Among those who are born into and/or otherwise live and experience the world primarily through the lenses of Mormonism, most often their focus is on its “truth claims” as well as the pathway it lays out for “salvation—” And for them Mormonism and the LDS Church are mostly defined in terms of their community and the institution that sets forth its beliefs and practices, including administering its sacred ordinances. But like every other religion, Mormonism is more…

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