212: A Fresh Look at Mitt Romney

February 6, 2014
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212: A Fresh Look at Mitt Romney

Beginning shortly after the close of his 2012 presidential bid, Mitt Romney has kept a pretty low profile. However, the recent Sundance Film Festival has forced some renewed public attention on him with the screening of the documentary, Mitt, by filmmaker Greg Whiteley, along with the film’s availability on the popular media streaming service Netflix. The film eschews politics for an intimate look at Mitt and the Romney family during both the 2008 and 2012 presidential runs. In this episode, Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon is joined by political watchers McKay Coppins and John Hatch to discuss the film and…

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211: Genesis, Part 4—Abraham

January 28, 2014
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211: Genesis, Part 4—Abraham

In this episode, members of the Mormon Matters “Genesis Team”—David Bokovoy, Tom Roberts, and Brian Hauglid—discuss and give textual and theological analyses of the Genesis and Book of Abraham accounts of the great patriarch Abraham. Where do the texts differ? Are there resources from ancient studies or the wider Judeo-Christian literature that bolster some of the Book of Abraham’s distinctive points? Why did Abraham flee Ur? What was the episode in Egypt all about when Abraham told Sarai to say she was his sister rather than his wife? The members of the team also discuss the “Abrahamic Covenant” as well…

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210: Genesis, Part 3–Cursing of Canaan and the Tower of Babel

January 14, 2014
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210: Genesis, Part 3–Cursing of Canaan and the Tower of Babel

In this episode, the Mormon Matters “Genesis Team”–David Bokovoy, Tom Roberts, and Brian Hauglid–share good, fair, and scholarly framings of two difficult biblical stories: (1) the cursing of Canaan, Ham’s son, to become a servant to the races descending from Noah’s other two sons because of his Ham’s indiscretions upon discovering Noah naked within his tent; and (2) the Tower of Babel and God’s confounding of human languages. There is so much more going on in the Genesis text than typically gets discussed in LDS devotional settings. This episode also folds in sections of the Book of Abraham and Book…

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209: New LDS Statement on Book of Mormon Translation

January 6, 2014
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209: New LDS Statement on Book of Mormon Translation

The LDS Church has recently published on its website, lds.org, a short article titled “Book of Mormon Translation” that lays out in greater detail than perhaps ever before in an official statement some of the lesser-known aspects of the Book of Mormon translation process, such as Joseph Smith’s use of (and even preference for) a “seer stone” that he had found years before receiving the plates and two clear stones set into a bow that he identified as “Urim and Thummim,” and how little the actual plates were used during translation, with them instead usually covered somewhere in the room…

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208: Who Was/Is Jesus?

December 31, 2013
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208: Who Was/Is Jesus?

In this episode that was co-produced with the Mormon Sunday School and Feminist Mormon Housewives podcasts, Eric Huntsman, Jared Anderson, and Lindsay Hansen Park join me for a fascinating examination of the what has often been referred to as the “quest for the historical Jesus,” and especially the ways in which the Jesus who lived and breathed and walked the roads of ancient Palestine (or, if not that, at least the Jesus we can uncover through historical methods) might differ from the “Christ of faith.” This is a hotly contested subject, made all the more difficult because of the fragmentary…

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207: Teaching the Old Testament to Latter-day Saints

December 24, 2013
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207: Teaching the Old Testament to Latter-day Saints

One of the most difficult but important things we can do as Mormons who are alerted to the complexities of cultural differences and sacred writings is to learn how to share in church settings insights we’ve gleaned from our studies. We have a dual challenge: (1) to try to be as faithful as possible to the scriptural text and the context in which it was written and the people who lived in those places and times, while (2) still honoring in some way the Christian and LDS overlays that have become deeply ingrained in ours and others’ faith journeys and…

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206: At Peace with Human Prophets–Personal Journeys

December 14, 2013
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206: At Peace with Human Prophets–Personal Journeys

The recent official statement on Race and the Priesthood has highlighted in a fresh way the difficult issue of prophets and apostles who are subject to the influences of culture and largely unexamined assumptions of their day that color their understandings of and impact their statements about sometimes very important matters. If this is so, how then should we view them and the nature of “prophetic inspiration”? What does it mean for us as church members when we come to understand “revelation” as a much more human-saturated process than the “hotline phone with God” model that we perhaps once assumed?…

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204–205: The New Statement on Race and the Priesthood

December 10, 2013
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204–205: The New Statement on Race and the Priesthood

On 6 December 2013, the LDS Church posted on its website, LDS.org, a new document titled, “Race and the Priesthood,” along with videos and other resources for better understanding the history of race issues within Mormonism, as well clarifying its current positions. The key piece of the statement is a renunciation of past teachings about black persons descending from Cain and Canaan, which teachings through centuries of biblical exegesis have been used as justifications for black slavery, and within Mormonism for the withholding of priesthood and temple blessings. The statement also repudiates the teaching that persons born with black skin…

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202–203: Genesis, Part 2—The Flood

December 2, 2013
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202–203: Genesis, Part 2—The Flood

In this two-part episode, we continue our series on the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible by examining one of scripture’s most difficult stories–God choosing to unleash a flood designed to kill all living beings on the planet except a select few. In this episode, panelists David Bokovoy, Tom Roberts, and Brian Hauglid examine the scriptural text itself, including the interwoven (and quite different) J and P sources and the stories and traditions that they borrow from. The also explore takes and angles on the story presented by LDS thinkers, the wider Christian world, and Islam. What theological or devotional value can we…

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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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