Blog Archives

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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263–264: Ordinances

January 29, 2015
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263–264: Ordinances

In the Doctrine and Covenants, we read that it is through ordinances that “the power of godliness is manifest” (D&C 84:20). There are many ways to read this scripture, various angles to take, and all of them are fruitful. In this two-part episode, Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists Samuel Brown and Brad Kramer first look at the “ritual” aspects of ordinances, the origins of and way that actions designed to take us out of the normal flow of life’s activities and consciousness and into something more purposeful and symbol-drenched can affect our ability to experience things in ways…

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262: Gospel Burn-Out

December 17, 2014
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262: Gospel Burn-Out

Ever feel worn down, your spiritual life lagging, feeling like all you are doing is going through the motions, and church engagement is feeling more like “gospel grind” than blessing? When we find ourselves in one of these moments–perhaps days, months, years!–what might we do to recover a little of that energy and sense of joy we remember? In this episode, Jana Riess and Mark De St. Aubin join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon for a discussion of insights into the phenomenon of “gospel burn-out,” various framings for acknowledging it and making our way through the doldrums and into deeper…

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261: Faith and Repentance

December 8, 2014
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261: Faith and Repentance

Because they come up so often in gospel lessons and are indeed the “first principles” of the gospel (Article of Faith 4), we might think that a 90-minute podcast on faith and repentance would be redundant and boring. Not so when talked about by Sam Brown and Adam Miller! Mixing personal stories with scripture and wonderful insights from their study and writing, Brown and Miller challenge the over-emphasis on faith as belief and repentance as being primarily about seeking forgiveness that we often encounter in Sunday discourse, and open these principles to fresh angles, examining them especially in light of…

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260: Introversion and the Mormon Experience

December 3, 2014
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No two individuals are exactly alike, and no schema can fully capture our particular essence or personality. Yet it is sometimes helpful to speak about different temperaments or “personality types.” One of the largest personality type groupings distinguishes between “extroverts” and “introverts,” with certain studies recognizing between 30 and 50 percent of people as introverts. Society at large, and Mormonism in particular, seems to have a bias toward extroversion–fitting more easily those persons with larger, perhaps more recognizably adventurous personalities, often seeming more at home in large group social situations. For this reason, we often find more extroverts than introverts…

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259: A Reason for the Hope That Is In Me

November 19, 2014
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259: A Reason for the Hope That Is In Me

In 1 Peter, we are encouraged as Christians to always be ready to give voice to “a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). This past weekend, I was given an opportunity to do just that when I shared reflections from my spiritual journey as part of the Sunstone Northwest Symposium. I feel strange releasing a Mormon Matters episode that isn’t a panel discussion (so please forgive me and know that we’ll be back to our regular type of programming again next week!), but I have chosen to do it because in…

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258: Question 7

November 12, 2014
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258: Question 7

In the LDS temple recommend interview, Question 7 reads: “Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?” This question came into public consciousness this past week when, in the wake of the midterm elections, an LDS bishop from southern California celebrated on his blog the rise of a new Republican majority in the U.S. Senate, which also meant the demotion of LDS senator Harry Reid from his position as majority leader. In his exultation, this bishop…

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257: Negotiating Adult Faith within a Developing Institution

November 3, 2014
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257: Negotiating Adult Faith within a Developing Institution

Just as many theorists understand individual human maturation through developmental stages, a great deal of literature suggests that institutions (churches, corporations, governments) as well as other all other groups, cultures, and societies, also undergo similar processes. In this episode, guest host Katie Langston and panelists Dan Wotherspoon, Marybeth Raynes, and Brad Kramer discuss ideas about socio-cultural evolution at large, but ground it always in lived Mormon experience. As Mormonism has developed so have expectations for church members, but there is always a “lag” of sorts between the changes individuals are called by societal and cultural forces to make and the pace of change an institution is…

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256: The Church’s New Articles on Plural Marriage

October 27, 2014
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256: The Church’s New Articles on Plural Marriage

The LDS Church has just released via its website, LDS.org, several new essays under the heading “Plural Marriage in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” The cluster includes a framing article (named above) and links to three more detailed pieces: “Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo” (new article), “Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah” (which has been available on the site since mid-December 2013), and “The Manifesto and the End of Plural Marriage” (also new). The articles have been widely hailed as major steps forward in helping the church confront its history with this most difficult practice,…

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255: New Church Video on LDS Temple Clothing and Garments

October 21, 2014
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255: New Church Video on LDS Temple Clothing and Garments

Through its Newsroom website, the LDS Church recently released a new video and essay that depicts Mormonism’s sacred temple clothing, along with the garments worn by those who have gone through the temple and made covenants there. The video and essay frame temple robes and garments as continuous with the phenomenon of sacred clothing worn by adherents in many other faith traditions, speaks about their use in temple rituals and daily life, highlights how similar they are for both men and women, and even depicts Latter-day Saints at distribution centers shopping for garments. It also directly addresses the inaccurate and…

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254: Meet the Mormons–Is It Signaling a Shift in Mormon Identity?

October 16, 2014
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254: Meet the Mormons–Is It Signaling a Shift in Mormon Identity?

Meet the Mormons was filmed for use in LDS visitor centers, but in a surprising move it was released in U.S. theaters on October 10th, and was seen by a substantial number of people–mostly Mormons, and many there from encouragement by leaders or local organizers to attend the opening weekend and convince theater owners to keep showing it for at least another week. Reactions to the film itself have been genuinely positive when evaluating it as a tool for visitor center guests, but it has been almost universally panned were one to judge it as a “documentary.” It is more…

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253: Supporting Missionary Work During or After a Faith Transition

October 14, 2014
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253: Supporting Missionary Work During or After a Faith Transition

The importance of actively participating in sharing the gospel is a prominent topic in contemporary Mormonism. For youth, there are big pushes to prepare for and serve a full-time mission. For parents, one of our most important calls is to raise future missionaries. We’re frequently called on to pray for inspiration about who in our lives might be open to hearing the gospel and having missionaries teach them, and we sometimes sit (often uncomfortably) in meetings where we are directly asked to commit to submit names for contact by missionaries. We’re occasionally asked to accompany ward and full-time missionaries as…

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251-252: Mormonism’s Apostasy Narrative

October 1, 2014
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251-252: Mormonism’s Apostasy Narrative

No story differentiates Mormonism from other Christian traditions more than its claim to be the restoration of the church Jesus Christ set up while on the earth—an organization led by twelve apostles who were granted priesthood and authority to continue Christ’s saving work after he died. This framing narrative of an original church organization with priesthood keys that entitled its apostles to special revelation that, following the death of these leaders, fell into apostasy for some eighteen centuries before being restored to the earth, has provided a key part of our understanding of ourselves as Latter-day Saints and our historical…

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249–250: Being Authentic within Mormonism

September 23, 2014
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249–250: Being Authentic within Mormonism

Mormonism is a powerful tradition, presenting a worldview and truth claims that are extremely potent, but also creating a culture that can be, for many of us, totalizing. When we feel safe and secure within its teachings and the sense of meaning it presents, it can be a wonderful, comfortable home. If, on the other hand, we find ourselves holding a more complex view about its doctrines or occupying a position at odds in any way with the community and dominant culture, we can feel very much an outsider. For those of us in this situation, our preoccupation often becomes…

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