201: Good Shepherds

November 21, 2013
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201: Good Shepherds

My recent call for stories of LDS leaders who through their vision and love and ways of inhabiting their pastoral roles have made a wonderful difference in people’s lives has been answered spectacularly by four listeners—Loree, Brian Dillman, Brian Kissell, and Katie Langston (whose segment also includes a neat surprise). As each person tells her or his stories, we not only hear about loving, accepting, encouraging, inclusive leaders but also something about their own spiritual journey. Sharing stories and opening our hearts to others’ lives: a magical formula for a memorable podcast! After listening, please share your thoughts and stories…

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200: Let’s Collaborate!

October 31, 2013
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200: Let’s Collaborate!

This short episode announces two projects I’d love to work on with collaborators from the Mormon Matters listening community. The first is a call for stories that would become part of a podcast episode, or a series of episodes, and possibly also a book (or series of books). Right now I want to call this project “Good Shepherds.” It will be stories of LDS leaders–bishops or bishopric members, Relief Society presidents/presidencies, Young Women’s and Young Men’s presidencies and advisors, visiting teachers, home teachers, stake leaders, others–who in the capacity of their callings have been amazingly open, creative, loving, welcoming, concentrating…

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199: Untangling Faith, Belief, and the Expectation to “Know”

October 21, 2013
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199: Untangling Faith, Belief, and the Expectation to “Know”

We think we know what it means to “believe” or to “have faith.” But do we? Has the current ways we use these terms remained stable throughout history? No, says Frances Lee Menlove in an important essay in her new book, The Challenge of Honesty: Essays for Latter-day Saints. She argues further that these changes have had a large negative impact for many Christians and Mormons today, but she hopes that through better understanding of these shifts and opening ourselves to the terms original meanings we might begin to undo some of the damage that has been done—damages done by…

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198: Engaging Mormonism from Outside the Fold

October 14, 2013
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198: Engaging Mormonism from Outside the Fold

Over the course of its run, Mormon Matters has received emails from non-LDS persons who have become regular listeners to the podcast, as well as participants in online LDS “Bloggernacle” groups and other discussions about Mormonism. This episode features four of them—three in person, Bridget McGregor, Karrie Higgins, and Les Gripkey, and one who sent in her story, Bryony Leech—who share why they engage to the strong degrees they do with Mormonism. They each also weigh in with views of what Mormon ideas or aspects are most appealing to them, where Mormonism is strongest or should step forward even more,…

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194–197: Genesis, Part 1—Creation, Garden, Expulsion, Cursing

October 1, 2013
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194–197: Genesis, Part 1—Creation, Garden, Expulsion, Cursing

The texts that Latter-day Saints and other Christians call the Old Testament (differing from scholars, who use Hebrew Bible or Tanakh) is both wonderfully rich and very problematic scripture. Its richness derives from its status as an account of how ancient persons saw the world, the nature of God, and the human condition. These venerable writings contain great wisdom and insight, as well as wonderful plays on words and intricate literary forms. They also contain differing viewpoints from different sources that redactors (editors) placed side by side, unafraid that readers would encounter diverse accounts of everything from the Creation to…

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193: Ordain Women and Renewed Conversations about Priesthood

September 21, 2013
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193: Ordain Women and Renewed Conversations about Priesthood

On 5 October, a group of women (and some male supporters) will, either through tickets granted by LDS leaders (they have petitioned leaders for them) or via the stand-by line, attempt to gain entrance to the priesthood session of general conference. Spearheaded by the group Ordain Women, the announcement of these plans has set LDS blogs afire, reinvigorating a several-decades-long and very important but complex discussion of pathways to full equality of men and women within Mormonism, including the possibility of women being ordained to the priesthood. In this episode of Mormon Matters, two members of Ordain Women—April Young Bennett…

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192: The Hero’s Journey

September 17, 2013
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192: The Hero’s Journey

Joseph Campbell spent a lifetime studying myths and stories from around the world, especially the ones that related to life’s biggest questions: Where did everything come from?; Is there purpose to the things that come up in our lives?; How do we as human beings fully flourish? For him, we as human beings aren’t seeking meaning so much as experience–the “experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive”–and he believes that life is structured…

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190–191: The Institutional Church and the Individual

September 6, 2013
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190–191: The Institutional Church and the Individual

Are we made for the Sabbath, or is the Sabbath made for us? Likewise, are we here primarily to serve the Church, or does the Church exist to serve and assist us as individuals? Most of us would think the second part of each sentence represents the deeper truth, yet so often it seems we act and think as if we as individuals are made for the Sabbath or the Church rather than them being given and continuing to exist in order to help and bless us. In a classic article, “The Institutional Church and the Individual,” organizational behavior professor…

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188–189: Hugh Nibley—Part 3: Prophet of Zion

August 29, 2013
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188–189: Hugh Nibley—Part 3: Prophet of Zion

In this third and final installment of our Hugh Nibley series, we look at Nibley’s powerful, far-ranging, and definitely direct/hard-hitting/deliciously skewering social critiques. Ranging from warnings and insights about the accumulation and concentration of wealth to the forces driving war, environmental destruction, and keeping us from truly enjoying the abundance the Lord desires for us, Nibley is at his best as keen observer, critic, and encourager toward a larger vision. His is a prophetic voice–a clear-sighted voice operating from outside the hierarchy and those charged with running things (and generally preferring the status quo) yet squarely within the Mormon tradition–that…

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186–187: Hugh Nibley—Part 2: Scholar and Defender of the Faith

August 26, 2013
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186–187: Hugh Nibley—Part 2: Scholar and Defender of the Faith

These episodes (186 & 187) constitute the second of our three-part series on Hugh Nibley (1910–2005), focusing this time on Nibley as scholar of the ancient world and the ways he applied this scholarship to places of intersection with LDS scripture, history, and theology. In these episodes, Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon is joined by Nibley biographer Boyd Petersen, along with Mormon scholars Brian Hauglid and Kevin Barney, for a discussion of Nibley’s areas of scholarly interest outside of Mormonism and in, the types of work he did and approaches he took—primarily seeking for and writing about parallels between Mormon…

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184–185: Hugh Nibley—Part 1: A Fascinating Life

August 21, 2013
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184–185: Hugh Nibley—Part 1: A Fascinating Life

These episodes launch a three-part series on Hugh Nibley (1910–2005), a towering figure in twentieth-century Mormonism who every Latter-day Saint deserves to know better. Most often viewed as an intellectual, scholar of the ancient world, teacher, and defender of the faith, Nibley is also one of Mormonism’s most vocal and incisive social critics, a beloved figure by Mormons of all temperaments who was also able challenge many of the culture’s foibles–the attitudes, assumptions, and habits that keep individuals and the wider church from embodying the ideals of Zion. We are thrilled in these episodes to present him and frame his…

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182–183: Is Mormonism’s God Worthy of Worship?

August 17, 2013
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182–183: Is Mormonism’s God Worthy of Worship?

Mormonism has a distinctive view of God that differs quite a bit from that of traditional theism. And though we as Latter-day Saints recognize and most often celebrate the differences, in our Sunday and typical discourse about God and God’s power and influence, we very often sound as if there is little distinctiveness. One way into a discussion of things like this is through the term “worship.” The Bible and LDS scriptures all speak of “worshiping” God, yet the term has pretty distinct meanings in wider theism that perhaps don’t match up with the kinds of attitudes toward God that…

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181: Grieving (and Can We Do it Better?)

July 12, 2013
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181: Grieving (and Can We Do it Better?)

The death of loved ones and other difficult transitions really shake us up, and it is very natural for us to want and need to grieve our losses. Unfortunately, we sometimes don’t take the time to fully acknowledge our pain and the complicated emotions associated with that person (or situation) or choose to allow our feelings the chance to play out. Many times, we will distract ourselves from these vital processes, or, at times, we will feel cultural pressure to “move on” quickly, to seamlessly return to our normal lives and become our regular, cheery selves before we are really…

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180: Mormon Missions Take to Facebook!

July 1, 2013
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180: Mormon Missions Take to Facebook!

On Sunday, June 23, 2013, LDS leaders announced changes to the LDS missionary program, with most of the new focus directed to decreasing door-to-door contacting, and instead shifting attention to conversations on and teaching through Facebook and missionary blogs. The shift is to unfold gradually worldwide, having been piloted the past couple of years in several missions, and eventually Mormon missionary companionships will also employ iPads, with the use of other technologies possibly also on the horizon. How will these changes translate into actual practice? What are the most compelling reasons for opening the use of social media and other…

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178–179: Tolerance

June 17, 2013
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178–179: Tolerance

Tolerance is a tricky virtue. In a list of ways one might interact with others, it’s certainly better than active persecution but falls far short as an ideal way to engage people or ideas we don’t fully understand or (yet) trust. How do we draw the line between the need to protect ourselves from potentially harmful influence while still being open to the possible richness that might be added to our lives—and to theirs as they interact with us—should we come to truly engage them? In two recent addresses, Elder Dallin H. Oaks and President Boyd K. Packer, take on…

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176–177: The Adam-God Doctrine: What? When? Still?

June 6, 2013
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176–177: The Adam-God Doctrine: What? When? Still?

When Brigham Young first taught in initial outlines of what is now known as the “Adam-God Doctrine” (or the “Adam-God Theory”—the preferred term by those who want to downplay its status within LDS doctrinal development) some commented that with this theological position the cat was truly “out of the bag!” It came as a huge surprise to almost all who heard him preach it, but soon most leaders and members came to accept it and even like it very much. Indeed, although never presented to the Church membership for approval or made official through insertion in scripture (unless one wants…

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174–175: The Chaplains on . . . Suffering

May 20, 2013
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174–175: The Chaplains on . . . Suffering

When we meet someone who is suffering, whether physically or emotionally, we naturally want to be of service to them. Sometimes our fears overcome us, and we avoid opportunities we’re presented with to “bear one another’s burdens” or “mourn with those who mourn” (Mosiah 18:8–9). Other times we step in but viscerally feel our inadequacies. Sometimes we realize our good intentions have gone wrong, and we have said something or done something that has caused even greater pain. Sometimes this happens without our even realizing it. Even with its many challenges, we are all called to learn compassion, to be…

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172–173: Proactive LDS Parenting

May 3, 2013
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172–173: Proactive LDS Parenting

Most Latter-day Saints who are negotiating a faith transition, including developing a new relationship with God and the church in which they were nurtured, naturally hope to create a smoother road for their children than they have had themselves. For those who find themselves in this new faith terrain and who still have a strong desire to stay active and raise their children within the Mormon fold, key tasks emerge. How do we parent in such a way that our children will come to feel a rich connection with their faith tradition? How do we help them develop a true…

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170–171: Toward Expanding and Improving LDS Discourse about Sexuality

April 22, 2013
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170–171: Toward Expanding and Improving LDS Discourse about Sexuality

So often in Mormon discourse, the term “virtue” is treated almost exclusively as relating to sexual purity, chastity, and virginity, completely missing its much broader and wonderfully expansive meanings. Similarly, most talk about “morality,” “passion,” “modesty,” and “sensuality” are spoken about almost solely in terms of sexuality. We receive, without careful parsing, statements about how molestation and rape victims have been deprived of “that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue” (Moroni 9:9). Messaging and publications for youth still put forth the idea that sexual sins are “next to murder” in seriousness, never…

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166–169: The Couplet (and Teachings about Theosis) in Today’s Mormonism

March 29, 2013
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166–169: The Couplet (and Teachings about Theosis) in Today’s Mormonism

The 2013 LDS Priesthood and Relief Society manual, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow, features a lesson, “The Grand Destiny of the Faithful” (Chapter 5) in which one of President Snow’s most famous teachings makes a fresh appearance. Often referred to as “The Couplet,” it states: “As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be.”Encountering this teaching in an official Church publication has been surprising to many Church watchers who have noticed in the past couple of decades a dramatic drop off in LDS comfort levels with the teaching that we human beings…

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165: Mormon Women Sharing Their Lives

March 21, 2013
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165: Mormon Women Sharing Their Lives

This past week saw the publication of a book, Mormon Women Have Their Say (Greg Kofford Books), which is comprised of essays drawn from research into Mormon women’s histories that have been prompted by or collected as part of Claremont Graduate University’s Oral History Program. In this episode, the book’s editors, Claudia L. Bushman and Caroline Kline, speak about the project and book, and they share some of their favorite passages and what they reveal about LDS women’s lives and the ways they negotiate tensions between faith and culture, as well as their desires to be supportive and part of…

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164: New Version of the LDS Scriptures

March 15, 2013
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164: New Version of the LDS Scriptures

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has just announced the online release of a new edition of the LDS scriptures, with physical copies to be made available beginning in August. Although the new version includes some spelling and punctuation changes along with minor tweaks to fonts and layout, the vast majority of the changes are to study materials, including to chapter headings and introductions to the various texts—some of them quite substantive, especially when seen as signals to an increased openness to admitting historical and doctrinal development. In this episode, panelists Gina Colvin, Charley Harrell, and Ben Park…

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159–163: An Easter Primer

March 12, 2013
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159–163: An Easter Primer

One of Mormon Matters podcast’s most popular episodes explored Christmas through a close examination of scriptural narratives and traditions related to the Nativity as they unfolded through the centuries of Christian history. One of the reasons for this episode’s popularity was the information it provided for Latter-day Saints about many aspects of Christmas celebrated and explored in wider Christianity that never fully became part of Mormon traditions. We’re at it again, this time focusing on Easter. With a forty-day Lenten season that flows to a conclusion in Holy Week and its beautiful rituals, for many Christians, Easter (even more than…

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157–158: C.S. Lewis and Mormonism

March 4, 2013
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157–158: C.S. Lewis and Mormonism

C.S. Lewis is a towering twentieth-century figure, known especially as an author of fiction and meditations on Christianity and the work of God in human lives. His own life journey—he was born and raised within a Christian home and was a highly imaginative child who loved literature and mythology but later rejected both Christianity and theism only to, in his twenties and thirties, begin to feel “stalked” by Spirit and eventually convert back to a belief in God and, later, Christianity—makes him especially compelling for those with intellectual proclivities. How could this towering intellect begin to believe again? What is…

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155–156: LDS Military Chaplains

February 21, 2013
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155–156: LDS Military Chaplains

This two-part episode offers a wonderful peek into military chaplaincy, a career unlike any other, and, in particular, experiences of LDS chaplains. Two active duty LDS Army chaplains—Nathan Kline and Jason Unsworth—and one retired LDS Air Force chaplain—Phil McLemore—share the history of chaplaincy and how it has evolved since even before the beginning of the American Revolution, what it takes to become a chaplain today, the many roles chaplains play, the particular pressures they face, as well as the incredible opportunities it provides for unique service and spiritual vistas. This conversation describes first hand what is sometimes called a “ministry…

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153–154: Integrity with Self and Family: Parents on Sharing Their Faith Transitions with Their Children

February 14, 2013
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153–154: Integrity with Self and Family: Parents on Sharing Their Faith Transitions with Their Children

This episode continues a series of conversations about parents and children communicating about changes in faith perspectives. Episode 146 featured faithful, committed Latter-day Saint parents whose children shared with them their movement away from their earlier firm beliefs in Mormon truth claims. This current episode also features LDS parents, this time, however, the parents are the ones undergoing a faith transition and are wrestling with (or have already) how much of that change to share with their faithful, committed Mormon children. The three parents featured here—Carey, Jeff, and Gail—have each approached these questions differently. We learn about their own faith…

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151–152: Short Takes—Adventures in Spirit

February 7, 2013
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151–152: Short Takes—Adventures in Spirit

We are experimenting with a different type of show this time. Instead of diving into a single huge topic, this show features short takes: thoughts, stories, and combination of ideas that have been important to each participant, that have stuck with them, that have caused them to feel more oriented in the cosmos. As it turned out in this first episode of this sort, we, not with any real planning for it to go this way, asked four folks to be on who, it turns out, truly are what one might call “spiritual adventurers.” Each has explored religion and the…

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149–150: Near-Death Experiences

January 29, 2013
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149–150: Near-Death Experiences

Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) fascinate. Most share similar features that suggest the existence of a spirit or consciousness separate from the body that can continue to exist after the body and brain have ceased functioning in ways generally thought to be necessary for “life.” Those who have experienced a NDE also often undergo changes in worldview and personality traits, including a greater sense of compassion, less desire to judge others harshly, a sense of one’s own importance (even divinity), and peace amid life’s chaos that stems from a feeling that no matter what, everything has purpose and all will work out…

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147–148: LDS and Pacific Islander Layers of the Manti Te’o Saga

January 24, 2013
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147–148: LDS and Pacific Islander Layers of the Manti Te’o Saga

Very little coverage of the story of the cruel hoax perpetrated on Notre Dame football player Manti Te’o has focused on aspects of the Mormon and Pacific Islander cultures that helped shape him and how these might help illuminate and give context to what seems so baffling to so many: how Te’o could be as trusting and naïve as he would have to be to be so victimized, as well as why he might be extra hesitant to share the story earlier than he did. In this podcast, panelists Anapesi Ka’ili, Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, and Stephen Carter, along with Mormon Matters…

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146: Relationships First: Mormon Parents Face Their Child’s Faith Transition

January 21, 2013
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146: Relationships First: Mormon Parents Face Their Child’s Faith Transition

In this important episode that affirms love and clear vision, three LDS parents—Jeralee, Jim, and Teri—share their experiences in meeting the challenging situation of an adult child’s faith transition that leaves uncertain whether or not their future will include Mormonism in a significant way. In addition to sharing the outlines of their conversations and experiences with their children (in these cases, three grown sons), they discuss ideas and shifts of perspective that have helped them find peace about what is happening. Note: This episode uses the real names of both parents and children, but it foregoes last names in order…

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144–145: The Kingdom of God is Within You—Believing It, Trusting It, Accessing It

December 17, 2012
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144–145: The Kingdom of God is Within You—Believing It, Trusting It, Accessing It

As we mature spiritually and are ready for deeper and more expansive experience, so much that religion focuses on—propositional statements of belief and messaging that leads us to believe “If we do this practice or that amount of good, we will be ‘saved’”—can begin to hinder our connection. Using the phrase attributed to Jesus that “the kingdom of God is within [us]” (Luke 17:21) as an entry point into a discussion of deeper forms of spirituality taught in and urged by the scriptures, as well as the inner call of our own spirits, this two-part episode focuses on the vitality…

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