70: Is the World Getting Worse?

January 17, 2012
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70: Is the World Getting Worse?

We hear them all the time, statements about the world “going to hell in a hand basket,” sighs and longings for “the good old days,” warnings of rampant moral decay and declarations to all who want to follow God that they are living in “enemy territory.” For those prone to depression and anxiety, such framings of the world and today’s moral and spiritual state exacerbate their struggles. For children, these notions feed fears and cause some to wonder if this world is really worth engaging. There are also dozens of other subtle ways that these kinds of assessments can act…

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69: Patriarchal Blessings

January 10, 2012
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69: Patriarchal Blessings

One of Mormonism’s unique features is the patriarchal blessing in which LDS church members–generally mid-teens or older, though there is no official age limit–are given the chance to have hands laid upon their heads by an experienced and humble priesthood leader who has been set apart as a “patriarch” and to receive from him words of wisdom, inspiration, encouragement, guidance, and in many cases, prophetic-type pronouncements about possibilities for their lives, with some of these statements quite specific or unique. Most Latter-day Saints consider their patriarchal blessings wonderful treasures in their lives, and as containing words (as panelist Richard Bushman…

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67–68: The Happiness Puzzle

January 3, 2012
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67–68: The Happiness Puzzle

What seems like something very simple to answer–”What is happiness?” or even, “What makes me happy?”–turns out to be anything but easy. How much do our expectations or pre-conceived ideas about what will make us happy come into play? How does the number of choices we have affect satisfaction with our lives? How much of our happiness level reflects what we experience in the moments of our lives versus how we reflect upon our experiences–the stories we tell about them? How much do our relationships with family, loved ones, and people we enjoy being around contribute to our feelings of…

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66: Spiritual Secrets of Addiction Recovery

December 28, 2011
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66: Spiritual Secrets of Addiction Recovery

As the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous discovered, something profound can happen when addicts invite God or a power higher than themselves into their lives and efforts at recovery. Through understanding addiction as a symptom of spiritual “dis-ease” and addressing recovery as an attempt to restore a healthy balance between one’s own ego and desires to run things versus the will and wisdom of God or the universe, AA and its Big Book and Twelve-Step offspring programs have saved countless lives. What are the spiritual principles at work in addiction recovery? Do addicts at their wits’ and wills’ ends discover secrets…

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65: LDS Views on Christ’s Second Coming and the End Times

December 20, 2011
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65: LDS Views on Christ’s Second Coming and the End Times

Elder Boyd K. Packer’s October 2011 General Conference encouragement to youth to not fear that because of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ they will not have a chance to have a full life, including having children and grandchildren, is the latest in what seems to be a trend among LDS leaders to de-emphasize the kind of apocalyptic thinking that was prevalent among Mormons even just a few decades ago. Yet class discussions during recent lessons in the priesthood and Relief Society manuals on the signs of the Second Coming, what will happen upon Christ’s return, the Millennium, and the…

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64: Mormons and Prayer

December 13, 2011
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64: Mormons and Prayer

Mormons pray . . . a lot!  Latter-day Saints are encouraged to have daily (twice or more) personal prayer, family prayer including children (in addition to parents praying together), prayers before meals, prayers for safety, and even other injunctions to “pray without ceasing.” Mormon meetings and classes all open and close with prayer, and Mormons offer scripted prayers when blessing the emblems of the sacrament, when baptizing, and performing certain temple ordinances, and they offer blessings and other types of prayers in language that isn’t scripted but that must include certain elements. LDS rhetoric also often prescribes certain language forms…

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63: Oh Say, What Is Truth?

December 7, 2011
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63: Oh Say, What Is Truth?

We Mormons have heard it countless times: “I know the Church is true?” But what does  this mean? Heck, even more basic, what does “true” mean? In this podcast, host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists Joanna Brooks, Dennis Potter, and Rhett Tenney take a deep dive into these questions. Explorations include overviews of major philosophical approaches, especially those most relevant to thinking about religious beliefs and practices, the shifts in thinking that in the past century have revolutionized thought about the nature of truth, including strong recognition of the way we all inhabit discourses that shape our views of truth and…

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62: A Christmas Primer: Exploring the Nativity in Scripture, Legend, History, and Hearts

November 29, 2011
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62: A Christmas Primer: Exploring the Nativity in Scripture, Legend, History, and Hearts

This podcast episode examines the Christmas story as it traditionally gets told—but what do the scriptures actually say and 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 inn,” the manger, the star, the magi, the story of…

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61: Mormon Views on Satan and the Origins of Evil

November 22, 2011
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61: Mormon Views on Satan and the Origins of Evil

Most religions, cultures, and philosophies contain stories or theories about human evil and its origins. Some, including Mormonism, place a major portion of the blame for moral evil on a fallen angel, Lucifer, and his followers, who after being ousted from heaven become devils whose only desire is to thwart God’s plans and make loathsome humans as miserable as possible. What many Latter-day Saints don’t realize is how much their version of the war in heaven and the role of Lucifer, who becomes known as Satan, differs from that of wider Christianity, Islam, and the hints of the story found…

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60: Matters of Integrity

November 15, 2011
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60: Matters of Integrity

Latter-day Saints who experience a faith crisis are thrust into unfamiliar and difficult territory, where they are forced to face many issues, including the decision to remain actively engaged with Mormonism, to step away for a while in an effort to regain their bearings and perhaps live into new perspectives or find fresh ways to engage the church, or to sever ties altogether. At the heart of many of these difficult decisions is a strong desire on the part of the person in crisis to live a life of integrity, to act in harmony with their ideals, highest values, and…

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59: Mormon Messages about Priesthood, Fatherhood, Patriarchy, and More

November 8, 2011
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59: Mormon Messages about Priesthood, Fatherhood, Patriarchy, and More

In August, Mormon Matters hosted an important and fascinating discussion about messages Mormon women hear about their divine roles as mothers. What messages do Mormon men hear? Are they equally challenged to consider fatherhood their most important role, or do priesthood duties and responsibilities take first priority? Have messages about men’s roles evolved over the past several decades? In what ways does Mormonism support the institutions of power and attitudes about gender difference and roles of patriarchal societies? Why isn’t there as robust a discussion within Mormonism geared toward teasing apart cultural constructs from gospel truths as we see in…

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58: Obedience and Agency

November 1, 2011
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58: Obedience and Agency

Mormonism teaches the importance of being obedient to God and God’s will while at the same time emphasizing the bedrock fact of our individual agency. The gospel ideal is that we fully and knowingly submit our will to that of God, and in this way be obedient while still acting entirely out of our own agency. Of course, life is much messier than this, and the ideal hides from us a bit. How can we truly know God’s will and when we’re hearing God’s voice and not our own? Because of difficulties like this, one of the most common ways…

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57: LDS Young Single Adult Experiences Revisited

October 25, 2011
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57: LDS Young Single Adult Experiences Revisited

Mormon Matters episode 31 featured a panel discussion about the LDS Church’s struggle to meet the needs of many of its young single adults and some of the possible reasons why. Episode 33 then highlighted in a more personal way through first-hand accounts from two people in this group some of the tensions they face as singles in Mormon culture as well as in their own spiritual journeys. This episode revisits the LDS young single adult experience with new panelists—Kayela Seegmiller, Derrick Clements, and Megan Sanborn Jones—who each experience the gospel and both the blessings and the tensions of being…

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56: Mormonism and Wealth

October 18, 2011
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56: Mormonism and Wealth

The recent Occupy Wall Street movement and its ongoing spread, along with the cover essay in the October 2011 issue of Harper’s that draws what the author of that piece sees as a direct link between Mormonism’s economic ideals and its rise in influence in society at large, and certain factions of the Republican Party in particular, provide excellent springboards for a great discussion about LDS views about wealth, prosperity, business principles, economic systems, cultural attitudes that sometimes suggest a connection between righteousness and personal prosperity, and much more. And that’s what this podcast episode contains. In dialogue with each…

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55: Cult Claims and the Media

October 11, 2011
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55: Cult Claims and the Media

This week’s Mormon Matters episode discusses two stories from the past week: (1) The dust-up over and media slam-down of remarks made by Texas mega-church pastor and Governor Rick Perry supporter Robert Jeffress that Mormonism is a cult—does this episode represent a real shift in the tenor of the “Mormon Moment”?; and (2) the news that the LDS Church has recently sent out a survey that aims to understand how its members interact with today’s social media and view particular blogs, bloggers, and reporters—including two of this episode’s panel members, Joanna Brooks and McKay Coppins. The episode’s third panelist, Morris…

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54: The Atonement in Mormon Thought and Experience

October 4, 2011
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54: The Atonement in Mormon Thought and Experience

The central claim of Christianity is that all human beings are “fallen,” held captive by sin, or are in some other way in a dire circumstance that can only be overcome through God’s aid, which comes through faith in the infinite love and sacrifice of God’s own son, Jesus Christ. According to the Christian tradition, this is the central truth of the human condition, and it is only through what has been labeled the Atonement of Jesus Christ that there is a way out. Throughout history, many Christians have celebrated their feelings of being rescued from the grasp of sin, selfishness,…

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53: Mormonism and Capital Punishment

September 27, 2011
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53: Mormonism and Capital Punishment

The recent execution of Troy Davis brought to the front once more the issue of capital punishment, especially arguments about the very real possibility of executing the wrong person, the unreliability of eye witness accounts, law enforcement pressures for conviction, and the possible brokenness of many of the safeguards that are in place to assure that miscarriages of justice at this ultimate level do not happen. This podcast uses this moment of reflection to discuss Mormon attitudes about the death penalty, and especially what social and theological aspects of Mormonism play into these attitudes. It discusses things such as agency and…

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52: Rebirth of the Student Review

September 20, 2011
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52: Rebirth of the Student Review

From 1986 to 1997, the Student Review enjoyed a wonderful run as BYU’s independent student newspaper, which at its peak published weekly and reached a circulation of 10,000. During its years, SR featured a cross section of news reporting, essays, and wonderful humor and satire, with some of its stories resulting in changes to campus policy, as well as impacting life in the wider community and state. As a result of some of its coverage of difficult issues, the publication occasionally rankled school administrators, sometimes even triggering official efforts to shut it down. A team of current BYU students has…

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51: The Dynamics of Guilt and Shame

September 14, 2011
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51: The Dynamics of Guilt and Shame

Many people–and Latter-day Saints are no exception– struggle with feelings of “not being enough,” worthlessness, or that they are unlovable by others, God, and themselves. Those who feel this way are caught up in the throes of toxic shame–a distortion and perversion of natural and healthy feelings of “guilt” over wrong choices or healthy types of shame that help moderate the ways we act in public and in interactions with others. The gospel teaches us of our infinite worth and of our Heavenly Parents’ unconditional love for each of us no matter what mistakes we make. So why do we…

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50: The Call to Be Peacemakers

September 6, 2011
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50: The Call to Be Peacemakers

The tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks provide an important moment for all of us to reflect on life’s most precious things and what we hold in our hearts about family, friends, neighbors, our wider communities, strangers, and those with whom we disagree about what’s most important for the world and how to bring it about. This sacred occasion also provides a good incentive for thinking about what it means to be called by Christ as peacemakers. In this podcast, Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists Charles Randall Paul, Liz Shropshire, and James Faulconer reflect upon today’s world…

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49: Mormonism’s Messages about Motherhood

August 30, 2011
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49: Mormonism’s Messages about Motherhood

This panel discussion examines the wonderful gifts of Mormonism’s strong emphases and teachings about the divine role of motherhood as well as the external and internal pressures that come with these messages and how they sometimes work against the more basic gospel goal of helping women fully flourish and grow in godlike qualities. In this far-ranging and insight-packed conversation, panelists Chelsea Fife, Chelsea Strayer, and Jennifer Finlayson-Fife all maintain the utmost gratitude for their own role as mothers and for church emphases on motherhood’s many joys while also examining ways we as Latter-day Saints might change some of our messaging…

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48: Mormonism and Evolution

August 23, 2011
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48: Mormonism and Evolution

This year marks the one hundredth anniversary of the controversies over the study and teaching of evolution at Brigham Young University that resulted in the resignations or firing of three of Brigham Young University’s prominent faculty members and a significant blow to the university career of another. This Mormon Matters episode tells key elements in the story of those 1911 events, but it primarily uses them as a launching pad for a tour of the history of LDS views and approaches to evolution from then to now, as well as more specific reflections on the various tensions between Mormon scriptural…

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47: When Worldviews Go Haywire: Breivik, Jeffs, and the Religion/Mental Health Matrix

August 16, 2011
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47: When Worldviews Go Haywire: Breivik, Jeffs, and the Religion/Mental Health Matrix

The recent tragedy in Oslo and the Warren Jeffs trial provide two recent examples that remind us of the way various personality traits and/or mental issues coupled with isolation and the refusal to allow one’s own ideas to be challenged can lead to horrific acts of violence and depravity that the perpetrators claim to view as righteous. In this podcast, Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists Joanna Brooks and Natasha Helfer Parker examine various angles into how distorted worldviews like these take hold, the influence of nature and nurture (including religious factors), as well as some of the things…

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46: In Memoriam—Sister Chieko Okazaki and Elder Marion D. Hanks

August 10, 2011
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The first week of August 2011 saw the passing of two giants in the Mormon universe: Sister Chieko Okazaki, a former counselor in the Relief Society general presidency and beloved author and speaker, and Elder Marion D. Hanks, a long-time general authority who many looked up to as one of Mormonism’s greatest champions for love, equality, and Christian service. This episode is a celebration and appreciation of their lives through conversation with intimate friends. Mormon Matters host, Dan Wotherspoon, first interviews Sister Aileen Clyde, who served from 1990 to 1997 as a fellow counselor with Sister Okazaki in the Relief…

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45: The Mormon Practice of Bearing Testimony

August 2, 2011
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Testimony image

In this episode, Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists Brent Beal, Brian Johnston, and Jana Riess explore various aspects of one of Mormonism’s most regular (and sometimes it seems regulated) rituals: the monthly opportunity for church members to bear testimony. The discussion ranges from the nature of the expectation that those bearing testimony, including children, will focus on particular truth claims, to the peculiar way Mormonism encourages members to extrapolate from experiences of feeling “the spirit” within a gospel context to conclude that all other LDS claims are therefore true (and even that this is the “one and only”…

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44: A Vital Legacy of Independent Mormon Thought: Dialogue and Sunstone

July 27, 2011
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Sunstone cartoon

The Sunstone Symposium that begins next week (3 – 6 August) provides an excellent springboard into a discussion of the history and focuses of two of the longest-running and most important entities in independent Mormon thought: Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought and Sunstone (magazine and host of multiple conferences each year). In today’s Internet world with ever-increasing numbers of Mormon-themed websites, blogs, and podcasts, it is sometimes easy to forget that many of the most frequent topics under discussion in today’s forums have been debated and discussed in uncorrelated publications and gatherings for more than four decades, and that…

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43: Healthy Approaches to Teaching Modesty

July 20, 2011
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43: Healthy Approaches to Teaching Modesty

In today’s LDS youth programs, especially those for young women, modesty has become even more of an emphasis than in years and decades past. Of course modesty is important, but are some of the ways modesty is being taught today more harmful than helpful for youth who are undergoing important transitions in their lives? Is modesty being taught too often as an end in itself rather than as a fruit that flows from a life and self-image rooted in healthy spiritual, emotional, and physical confidence? Furthermore, is modesty being taught too early, becoming an emphasis far ahead of when it…

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42: Pros and Cons of Keeping Mormonism “Weird”

July 13, 2011
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42: Pros and Cons of Keeping Mormonism “Weird”

Recent decades have seen a decrease in emphases of and public and internal discussions of many of Mormonism’s most distinctive doctrines and practices–especially some that are often thought of as “weird.” Has this trend of downplaying Mormon differences from mainline Christian views, as well as many of Mormonism’s interesting and unique blend of views about human progression, the nature of God and humans, God’s power and goals for the world, the idea of a Heavenly Mother, and so forth, been a net positive or negative for the tradition? Clearly Mormonism is more publicly accepted today (with obvious exceptions), but would…

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40–41: Ritual within Mormonism

July 5, 2011
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40–41: Ritual within Mormonism

In this two-part discussion, Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists Julia Hunter, Chelsea Strayer, and Chelsea Fife explore insights from myth and ritual studies and the ways these ideas help illuminate aspects of Mormon devotional and cultural experience. Can having a better understanding of ritual structure, how ritual functions in social life, and ritual’s intent to lead us out of everyday rhythms and ways of relating to each other and into new head and heart spaces in which we learn and feel things of significance in different ways help us gain deeper appreciation for Mormonism’s many rituals? In Episode…

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39: Intellectuals and the Mormon Tradition

June 28, 2011
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39: Intellectuals and the Mormon Tradition

In early June, the Deseret News published a list compiled by Leonard J. Arrington in 1969 of the “most eminent intellectuals in Mormon history.” As you can imagine, the feature generated a lot of discussion both on the newspaper’s website, as well as in many corners of the Mormon bloggernacle. Who among those listed still belong in the Top Ten? Who should be on there now? Why aren’t any women listed, and which women should have made that list then or if a new list were compiled today? <br /> In this Mormon Matters episode, host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists…

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38: Illegal Immigration and Religion

June 21, 2011
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38: Illegal Immigration and Religion

On 10 June 2011, the LDS Church released an official statement on immigration that calls for Latter-day Saints and others to honor families and treat each other, foremost, as children of God while at the same time calling for the federal government to provide strong border security and discouraging its own members from entering any country illegally. It also expresses strong concern for the nearly twelve million people who are already in the United States illegally, urging lawmakers and citizens to strive to keep families together and work toward these people being able to “square themselves with the law and…

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