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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142–143: Process Theology and Mormonism

December 10, 2012
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142–143: Process Theology and Mormonism

The term “process theology” refers to a system of thought that emerged in the early twentieth century and is based primarily upon the reflections of Alfred North Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne. Both its name and its scope, however, engage questions that date to the beginning of formal philosophical thought about the nature of reality and whether it is best thought of in terms of “Being” or “Becoming,” as primarily static and unchanging or dynamic and constantly in process. As a theological system, process thought is characterized for its strong divergence from many elements of classical theism, rejecting such ideas of…

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140–141: A Christmas Primer: Exploring the Nativity in Scripture, Legend, History, and Hearts (Encore Presentation)

November 26, 2012
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140–141: A Christmas Primer: Exploring the Nativity in Scripture, Legend, History, and Hearts (Encore Presentation)

This is an encore presentation of a December 2011 podcast episode examining the Christmas story as it traditionally gets told—looking closely at what the scriptures actually say and do not say about the birth of Christ and all the pieces of this familiar story? How do the Matthew and Luke accounts differ—even irreconcilably? What motives are behind the Gospel writers’ decisions to shape the stories the way they do? What about the Jesus’s place of birth and the reason the family was in Bethlehem (if they were)? Was there a great tax and registration? What about “no room at the…

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139: A Beautiful Vision of Mormonism

November 14, 2012
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139: A Beautiful Vision of Mormonism

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,…

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137–138: Science and Religion

November 5, 2012
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137–138: Science and Religion

What is science? What is religion? What are the methods/disciplines and underlying assumptions that animate each? What does each investigate? What practices and institutions does each have in place that lead to self-correction and ensuring that they truly are working for truer, deeper understandings of the universe? Should science and religion remain separate from each other? How much can each say fruitfully about the other’s “realm”? Can science teach us how to live more richly? Can religion be trusted as a guide in any way to how the universe “works”? In this episode, Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon is joined…

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135–136: Racism and the Book of Mormon

October 28, 2012
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135–136: Racism and the Book of Mormon

This episode examines the status of the claim that the Book of Mormon teaches that dark skin is a curse from God, that because of their wickedness God cursed a group of people and actually brought about a miraculous change in their skin color so as to make them seem “loathsome” and not enticing to a more righteous group with whom they were in conflict. This claim relies upon a literal reading of various passages in the Book of Mormon that seem to draw this conclusion, as well as an extremely strong view about prophetic and scriptural inerrancy. But is…

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133–134: LDS Spiritual Supplementing

October 21, 2012
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133–134: LDS Spiritual Supplementing

Studies are showing a huge increase in the number of people who claim hybrid spiritual identities, in which their religious lives include a combination of practices and emphases from different traditions. Mormons are no exception, with many, and for many reasons, supplementing their LDS lived religion with meditation, energy work, channeling, nature spirituality, participation in Freemasonry, and with many more things. In this two-part episode, we discuss with Doe Daughtrey her research into LDS women who, to use a term coined by Janet Bennion, “double dip”—that is, they draw on resources in both Mormonism and another tradition in their quest for spiritual…

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131–132: The Word of Wisdom

October 15, 2012
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131–132: The Word of Wisdom

The Word of Wisdom has been in the news again, triggered by a claim about caffeine made on a network news show, which led to an official LDS Newsroom statement clarifying the church’s position, which led to fascinating discussions and events, including hilarity at BYU over its policy of serving only de-caffeinated drinks, as well as some church members exulting that now they have an official statement that they can use to tell others to back off when they try to force their “spirit of the law” Word of Wisdom interpretations on them. What is it about the Word of…

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129–130: New Missionary Age

October 9, 2012
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129–130: New Missionary Age

The LDS Church recently announced changes in the ages that young men and women can now serve missions. Will this announcement usher in a new age in missionary work? A new age for Mormonism itself? In this Mormon Matters episode, host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists Adam Jacobsen, Hannah Wheelwright, and Maxine Hanks speculate on just that. What are the far-reaching implications for missions and mission culture, for women’s leadership both there and post mission, for LDS dating and marriages, and, most importantly, for the way women view themselves as valued for their own spiritual gifts and strength and abilities far…

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Matters of the Heart 3: A New Story for Mormon Women

October 8, 2012
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Matters of the Heart 3: A New Story for Mormon Women

A NEW STORY FOR MORMON WOMEN  By Joanna Brooks In this episode of Matters of the Heart, Joanna Brooks reads an excerpted version of her Ask Mormon Girl blog essay about the October 2012 announcement that the LDS Church has lowered the age at which women can serve missions. As Joanna shares her joy over this announcement, it’s clear that this marks more than just a change in age limits: Mormon girls will now live in an entirely new narrative. Imagine possibilities with her!

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128: The One True Church

September 30, 2012
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128: The One True Church

One of the most difficult things for many who have begun to think deeply about religion—their own as well as others and the relationship between them—and want to maintain a positive relationship with the idea of religion is the specter of exclusivism: claims that one’s views or one’s church is “the” Truth, or the “best,” while others are not or are lesser. Many religions make this claim either explicitly or tacitly, with Mormonism belonging to the first category, boldly declaring its special place as the possessor of priesthood keys and being the only church authorized by God to perform certain…

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127: Grace

September 23, 2012
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127: Grace

Grace is one of the central concepts in all of Christianity, yet also one of its most contested. What is it? How does it work? Do we as human beings have to do something first for it to perform its healing work? Can we even turn from sin without Grace first being extended to us? What, exactly happened in the Garden of Eden (literally or metaphorically) that caused separation from God (a Fall), and what are its effects on (or the state of) our souls that requires the transformative action of Grace? Certainly, the concept of Grace is no less…

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125–126: Mormonism and Politics: Historical Perspectives

September 12, 2012
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125–126: Mormonism and Politics: Historical Perspectives

Too often today’s political discourse reduces politics to partisanship, whether one affiliates with this or that political party. It’s a much broader topic, however, encompassing big notions about citizenship in a society, how we as a group of people make decisions, how we navigate our responsibilities to each other, to our government, and to our consciences and deepest religious convictions. When we weave in a particular group of people, such as Mormonism, it becomes even more clear that the political sphere is ever evolving—that even as certain themes maintain some influence in how each period of history unfolded, change concerning…

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Matters of Perspective 2: The Sacred Secret Open to All: Ye Are Gods

September 5, 2012
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Matters of Perspective 2: The Sacred Secret Open to All: Ye Are Gods

In this second episode of the “Matters of Perspective” series, Charles Randall Paul reads his May 2009 Sunstone article, “The Sacred Secret Open to All: Ye Are Gods,” a wonderful exploration about the concerns many people have with the secrecy related to Mormon temples and how Latter-day Saints might do a better job communicating about what goes on there. Drawing on historical sources, Paul demonstrates a reversal in public perspectives about secret/sacred rites that has taken place in the past two centuries—a shift from seeing those who participate in rites such as the Eleusinian mysteries or Freemasonry as highly trustworthy…

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123–124: Emergence Christianity and Mormonism

August 29, 2012
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123–124: Emergence Christianity and Mormonism

It goes without saying that religion is intricately entwined with culture. And since this is so, when we find that the various ways of thinking and institutions that create culture are shifting, so will we find religion in all its forms asking new questions, sorting through “the way things have always been done” and asking if these ideas and forms are meeting today’s needs, lamenting the decline in previously transformative energies and searching for revitalization. Many claim that such shifts are happening today, and within western Christianity, the upheaval and reconfiguration that is taking place has been labeled “Emergence Christianity.”…

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122: Challenges in Making Church “Work” For Everyone

August 23, 2012
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122: Challenges in Making Church “Work” For Everyone

In this episode, sociologist Jim Smithson talks of the LDS Church and all of its programs and organizational systems as a vehicle for delivering the gospel message, and uses the metaphor of a minivan in describing Mormonism’s vehicle type. Minivans are great cars, but they fit best in middle-class and suburban areas where people can afford them and the fuel they consume, where there are mechanics and the infrastructure that helps keep them up, etc. But how efficient are minivans in locales where there are no paved roads, few trained drivers and technicians, in international or domestic areas where bicycles…

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119–121: The Problem of Evil and Suffering

August 15, 2012
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119–121: The Problem of Evil and Suffering

One of the most prominent and difficult issues in philosophy of religion addresses the dilemma that arises when one asserts the existence of an all-powerful God who is also perfectly loving, while also asserting the presence of genuine evil in the world. As David Hume puts the case: “Either God would remove evil out of this world, and cannot; or He can, and will not; or, He has not the power nor will; or, lastly He has both the power and will.  If He has the will, and not the power, this shows weakness, which is contrary to the nature…

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117–118: Truth in Revelation and Scripture

August 8, 2012
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117–118: Truth in Revelation and Scripture

What does it mean to still claim that scripture is “true” or “inspired” when we fully recognize that much of it is fictional (parable, allegory, poetic, mythic, clearly “shaped” to achieve certain effects) or when some scriptural claims clash with other scriptural claims or with historical and scientific facts? Once revelation or scripture has begun to shed for us some of their “authoritative” status and become more obviously a product of human hearts and minds or a divine/human admixture, why does or should it remain compelling? What are other ways to read and gain from prophetic utterance or scripture that…

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114–116: Brazilian Mormonism

August 1, 2012
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114–116: Brazilian Mormonism

This three-part episode features a wonderful discussion about some of the peculiarities about the LDS Mormon experience inBrazil, as well as the many ways that LDS experience seems universal. In doing so, it introduces Antonio Trevisan and Marcello Jun de Oliveira, two Brazilians who are leading the ABEM–Associação Brasileira de Estudos Mórmons (Brazilian Mormon Studies Association)—a fledgling group modeled somewhat after Sunstone as a similar effort to explore Brazilian Mormonism through historical inquiry, scholarship, and other mediums, including an annual conference. It also features a terrific young scholar moderator, Rolf Straubhaar, who served his mission to Brazil and has returned…

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113: Mormonism and Environmentalism

July 25, 2012
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113: Mormonism and Environmentalism

How “green” is Mormonism? What is holding the tradition and culture back from becoming more environmentally sensitive—or even overtly activist? What theological and practical resources are there in Mormon thought and practice for fostering an ethic of greater care for the earth and its systems, including all the other forms of life with which we share the planet? How can Latter-day Saints who are environmentally active be effective in moving Mormon culture toward greener awareness and action? Prompted by the release of the new Sunstone magazine issue with a terrific collection of articles and essays under the heading of “Earth…

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