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Faith Matters

Faith Matters Foundation

Philosophy, Christianity, Religion & Spirituality, Ethics, Mormon, Lds, Morality, Latter-day Saint, The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-day Saints, Mormonism

4.41.3K Ratings

Overview

Faith Matters offers an expansive view of the Restored Gospel, thoughtful exploration of big and sometimes thorny questions, and a platform that encourages deeper engagement with our faith and our world. We focus on the Latter-day Saint (Mormon) tradition, but believe we have much to learn from other traditions and fully embrace those of other beliefs.

221 Episodes

215. Finding the Still Point in Tension — John Kesler and Thomas McConkie

This week we’re joined by our good friend and contributor to Faith Matters, Thomas McConkie, along with his longtime mentor and friend, John Kesler. In many ways, Thomas and John's paths were mirror images of each other until they eventually collided. John Kesler developed an awareness and life practice called IPP or Integral Polarity Practice that has had a profound impact on Thomas's life. You're going hear a little about polarities or fundamental tensions of human development and how in finding the "still points" in these seeming opposites, we can experience a real relief of that tension and a transcendent peace. Both Thomas and John believe that one of the gifts of our tradition is that it has the structure and scaffolding that creates rich, fertile ground for genuine development. And at the same time, they see that at different seasons of our lives we experience struggle, even struggle around belief. And yet, as John says, in those experiences, we learn that "there's something down deep that's there that can hold us and nurture us." And that these depths can bring us not beyond belief but to the source of belief. This conversation felt so abundant. It felt like a starting place. Thomas and John will be hosting a handful of retreats and events this summer so if you are interested in learning more, you can check out all of those opportunities in the links below. Transformations of Faith Course At One Ment: Embodying the Fullness of Human-Divinity, by Thomas McConkie 7-Day Silent Retreat (August 5-12th, 2024): https://lowerlightswisdom.org/classes/7-day-august-silent-retreat-scholls-2024 10% Discount Code for 7-Day: FM7DAY 3-Day IPP Facilitation Retreat (Aug 1-3, 2024): https://lowerlightswisdom.org/classes/3-day-ipp-retreat-2024 20% Discount Code for 3-Day IPP: FMIPP20 Nobody will be turned away for lack of sufficient funds, financial aid available.

Transcribed - Published: 12 May 2024

214. Gathering All Safely In — A Conversation with Liz and Jordon Sharp

**Disclaimer that this episode mentions suicide in connection to LGBTQ youth. If you are not in a place to listen right now, you might want to skip this one. If you are, though, we really encourage you to listen on this tough but important topic that impacts so many in our community.**In this conversation, Dr. Jordon and Liz Sharp from St. George, Utah, shared their remarkable and inspiring story of moving from trauma, confusion, and loss to miracles, enlightenment, and strength as an LDS/LGBTQ family. Several years ago—even before they had thought much about this themselves—a tragic event with some family friends resulted in Liz and Jordon receiving strong promptings that God has a deep and abiding love for LGBTQ individuals and wants them to thrive. Jordon (Vice President of Marketing & Communication at Utah Tech University) and Liz (a registered nurse) eloquently described the mistakes made, lessons learned, opportunities found, and how their family bonds expanded far beyond their expectations after their son Sam came out at the age of 14. Due to what he saw as a lack of resources and support in this space, Jordon eventually helped found the Gather Conference, the largest-ever Christ-centered conference for Latter-day Saint LGBTQ individuals and those who love them. To learn more about the Gather Conference and to find resources for LGBTQ/LDS families, visit liftandlove.org. Liz and Jordon’s family story is near and dear to our hearts at Faith Matters. So often, we don’t have answers to know how we all belong in the family of God; we only have our conviction that we do belong and a willingness to figure it out along the way. Our conversation with Liz and Jordon gets deep into their personal story, including their ongoing spiritual learning and efforts to build conversations about the LGBTQ experience in the Church. We found them to be incredible examples of how to plow into uncharted territory with humility and a simple trust in one fact — that we are all beloved children of God.

Transcribed - Published: 4 May 2024

213. Leading Deseret Book — A Conversation with Laurel Day

We’re really excited to share this episode with you. It was with someone we’ve wanted to talk to for a very long time — Deseret Book president Laurel Christensen Day. We knew from afar that she was a trailblazing leader and a thoughtful publisher — and we were not surprised to find that as we got to know her a little bit that she’s a woman of deep faith as well. Uniformly, everyone we have ever spoken with who has had a chance to work with Laurel absolutely loves her.We’ve always been fascinated by Deseret Book — by the unique place it holds in Latter-day Saint culture and the responsibility it has in creating and distributing content that informs, inspires, and even shapes belief. Walking into a Deseret Book and seeing the art and the books and the scripture sets always seems to make us nostalgic for our own upbringings and tradition, even while we’re living it! And Deseret Book is, of course, much more than just a retailer — they’re a major content producer with business lines in books, music, art, and events. And of course, it does all of this as a part of the larger organization of the Church.We thought Laurel’s insights were incredibly perceptive and thoughtful. She shared with us thoughts on what to do when you make a mistake, even as a leader, or perhaps especially as a leader—with openness rather than defensiveness, and with introspection and searching for the truth in criticism. She also shared a little bit about her story, including her journey as a woman navigating her business career—along with some other insights for women and how advocating for yourself could look. And finally, Laurel was kind enough to share some advice for us at Faith Matters.

Transcribed - Published: 27 April 2024

212. Is God Disappointed in Me? — A Conversation with Kurt Francom

This week, we’re bringing you an interview with Kurt Francom, author of a new book titled, Is God Disappointed in Me? Removing Shame from a Gospel of Grace. It seems to us that culturally, Latter-day Saints don’t usually imagine an angry vengeful God but we may very well imagine a god who is perpetually disappointed with us when we inevitably fail again to live up to our highest ideals. Kurt’s book unpacks what hurts about the idea of a disappointed God and why this belief can be a real stumbling block to our growth. He explores the ways sin is very often a response to woundedness and how understanding these core vulnerabilities can help us to heal from shame instead of hiding or numbing. We've linked to a sweet video Kurt posted of his daughter learning to walk; though she is fumbling and struggling to learn, the video reminds us that as parents, we're not disappointed by this process of growth. Instead, like Kurt's voice in this little video, he was bursting with pride at her growth, joy when she got back up, and excitement that he got to be with her in the journey of learning to walk. Is this what we imagine God -a loving heavenly father and mother feels, when we make mistakes? We think these ideas are so transformative. You can find Kurt’s book on Amazon or Benchmark Books. We also invite you to check out Kurt’s “Learning to walk” video with his daughter, which we’ll link to in the show notes. We hope you enjoy this episode.Is God Disappointed In Me? (on Amazon): https://a.co/d/2soZzs5Learning to walk video: https://youtu.be/nC9CIIXRJS0

Transcribed - Published: 20 April 2024

211. Come As You Are — A Conversation with Jen and Sam Norton

We’re excited to bring you an episode with a genuine ‘lift-where-you-stand story’ of a family in the UK. Sam and Jen Norton have served young people in the church for more than twenty years and most recently as FSY Session Directors in London. FSY stands for “For the Strength of Youth”, and refers to the week-long summer events held for youth around the world. As FSY leaders, Jen and Sam began facing difficult questions about how to include and support youth with a range of perspectives and lifestyles. They wanted to affirm the wisdom of the standards set by the Church for youth; they also noticed that many youth were driven away the fear of exclusion they would experience if they fell short. As a result, many youth would drop out of Church activity before giving a chance to learn what it’s really about. Through prayer, open conversations, deep listening, and creativity, Jen and Sam were taken on a truly transformative journey; they found their way to loving the younger generation more than they thought possible, and learning how to really champion them and their unique spiritual gifts. In short, they believe in believing in the next generation and giving them a more gentle on-ramp to following Jesus and reminds them that perhaps the most important word in the sacrament prayer and baptismal covenant is ‘willing’. Their story will be valuable to anyone working with youth, or who is interested in blending top-down and bottom-up approaches to Church callings. If you want more of what you hear in this conversation, Sam wrote a book about it called Come as You Are: Creating Space for the Rising Generation to come to Jesus Christ. The book aims to be an accessible guide to parents, leaders and teachers and invites us all to rethink about how we support our young people’s faith discovery.

Transcribed - Published: 13 April 2024

210. The Gift of Dissonance — A Conversation with Patrick Mason

It’s General Conference weekend! Time to dig up the BINGO cards and park yourself in front of the TV with some cinnamon rolls and a Diet Coke or two, to soak in some inspiration and maybe even encounter some discomfort.We thought we’d release a re-edited episode with Patrick Mason that feels really timely.In this conversation with Patrick, we talked about creating what Brian McLaren has called a “four-stage community.”. The “stages” we’re referencing here come from Brian’s book Faith After Doubt, and refer to different stages in which people might find themselves in their journeys of faith. McLaren defines these stages as simplicity, where faith is straightforward; complexity, where faith becomes somewhat more complicated; perplexity, the stage where questions become more important than answers and previous faith paradigms often undergo massive shifts; and finally, harmony, where the gifts of each stage are finally realized and integrated. It seems to us that the diverse reactions and feelings engendered by General Conference are often the result of being members of a community in which all four of these stages are manifest. Messages that seem to be tailored to members at a particular stage of faith may not resonate with listeners at a different stage. This can feel like misalignment, and it can sometimes feel jarring. In this conversation, Patrick points to a couple of practices that have helped us turn that dissonance we sometimes feel into a gift: for one, being intentional about deeply listening to those we might be inclined to disagree with, and orienting ourselves toward generosity, asking what virtues and values might they be speaking from. Patrick also pointed out there’s a real potential for growth when we choose to stay in relationship with people we disagree with. As Eugene England points out in his essay “The Church is As True as the Gospel,” in many ways, that struggle is the point. Patrick is the Leonard Arrington Chair of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University and the author of several books including Restoration: God’s Call to the 21st Century World. He brought the wisdom, insight, and optimism that he always seems to meld so beautifully. We really hope that you can take what feels valuable in this episode, and use it as we come together in solidarity as a community this weekend, with all our varied life experiences and perspectives to be inspired by and stretched by General Conference.

Transcribed - Published: 5 April 2024

209. What's so good about Good Friday? — Eric Huntsman

As Latter-day Saints, we often say that we focus more on Jesus’ resurrection than on His death, and we consider the atonement in Gethsemane as the most sacred event in Jesus’ life. In this episode, we consider a question we don’t think about too often, stemming from this: why have we not cultivated more robust ways to celebrate Holy Week, and all the events leading up to Easter Sunday? Especially when we compare it to all that we do leading up to Christmas? We sat down to talk with Eric Huntsman, a professor of ancient scripture at BYU and author of God So Loved the World: The Final Days of the Savior's Life. Eric has done a lot of work as a scholar to understand the events of Holy Week leading up to Jesus’ death on the cross on Friday, his resurrected visitations on Sunday, and where, as Latter-day Saints, we might place the points of emphasis differently than other Christian denominations. His family has cultivated Easter traditions, complete with meals, activities, and scripture readings, to help them really feel and anticipate these events, and invite a deeper witness of the Savior. By getting more creative with our Holy Week traditions, Eric says we can connect ourselves more deeply with the rest of Christianity while immersing ourselves more fully in a scriptural journey. We hope this episode inspires you to get more out Easter Weekend, which is coming up in just a few days. And for more on this topic, you can check out Eric’s book God So Loved the World at Deseret Book, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.

Transcribed - Published: 27 March 2024

209. What's So Good About Good Friday? — A Conversation with Eric Huntsman

As Latter-day Saints, we often say that we focus more on Jesus’ resurrection than on His death, and we consider the atonement in Gethsemane as the most sacred event in Jesus’ life. In this episode, we consider a question we don’t think about too often, stemming from this: why have we not cultivated more robust ways to celebrate Holy Week, and all the events leading up to Easter Sunday? Especially when we compare it to all that we do leading up to Christmas? We sat down to talk with Eric Huntsman, a professor of ancient scripture at BYU and author of God So Loved the World: The Final Days of the Savior's Life. Eric has done a lot of work as a scholar to understand the events of Holy Week leading up to Jesus’ death on the cross on Friday, his resurrected visitations on Sunday, and where, as Latter-day Saints, we might place the points of emphasis differently than other Christian denominations. His family has cultivated Easter traditions, complete with meals, activities, and scripture readings, to help them really feel and anticipate these events, and invite a deeper witness of the Savior. By getting more creative with our Holy Week traditions, Eric says we can connect ourselves more deeply with the rest of Christianity while immersing ourselves more fully in a scriptural journey. We hope this episode inspires you to get more out Easter Weekend, which is coming up in just a few days. And for more on this topic, you can check out Eric’s book God So Loved the World at Deseret Book, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.

Transcribed - Published: 27 March 2024

208. Curious Mind, Open Heart — A Conversation with Bill Turnbull and Kathy Clayton

This week we sat down with Kathy Kipp Clayton and Bill Turnbull to talk about the fascinating chapters they contributed to a new book entitled No Division among You: Creating Unity in a Diverse Church. Bill, and his wife Susan, are two of Faith Matters’ co-founders. Kathy and her husband Whitney have served around the world on Church assignments for the past two decades. Whitney served in the presidency of the Seventy until his release in 2020. They now help supervise and often travel the world with the Tabernacle Choir. Kathy is an author and an education innovator.In their essays, Kathy and Bill share how the everyday, sometimes uncomfortable situations we find ourselves in at Church can be a profound opportunity to get curious about what others are seeing, especially when we don’t see eye to eye with them. They talk through their own experiences learning to love people they didn’t expect to love, and finding ways to open themselves to questions rather than fear — to look at differences or aberrations from the norm as ways to connect. At a time when in-person gatherings, clubs, and associations are in decline across society, these experiences we have with others at Church might be increasingly rare. We really hope you enjoy this conversation.

Transcribed - Published: 23 March 2024

207. Feeling Separated? So did Jesus. — A Conversation with Kerry Muhlestein

As Holy Week and Easter Sunday approach, we thought it would be helpful to visit with someone who could help us reflect on these sacred events in a new way. Our guest today, Dr. Kerry Muhlestein, recently wrote The Easter Connection, which dives into the biblical account of Holy Week and illuminates the theme of eternal unification. In this short book—you could read it in just one sitting—Kerry explores the various ways Jesus’s final week teaches us about disconnection, and the idea that through the atonement of Jesus Christwe can overcome the separation that seems to be at the heart of our suffering. One of the things we appreciated about our conversation with Kerry is that, while his new analysis offers a fresh understanding of the atonement, he also leaves space for the mystery of the atonement, and the ways it surpasses our understanding. Holy Week is a time for contemplation, of sitting with the story of Jesus’ atonement and death on the cross and letting it transform us. While we always hope for new insights that increase our understanding, the magnitude of what we can’t comprehend about the story is part of what keeps us coming back to the story again and again. We appreciate Kerry drawing us to the beauty of mystery in the atonement. We also appreciated the practical takeaways from Kerry’s book; when we see human suffering and sin as a product of separation and disconnection, it is easier to be merciful with people’s flaws and mistakes, not to mention our own. Kerry helps us see how love and unity are always what we are seeking, deep down. Kerry’s book, The Easter Connection, is at Seagull, Deseret Book, and Amazon.

Transcribed - Published: 16 March 2024

206. Tragedy in the Holy Land: What Can We Do? — A Conversation with Chad Ford

Ever since October 7th, we’ve been wanting to better understand the conflict in Israel and Gaza and how we as Latter-day Saints can be good neighbors and friends to everyone impacted by it. We know there are no easy answers. Our guest this week, BYU Hawaii professor Chad Ford, has been working on peacemaking initiatives in the region for several decades and acknowledges the very real fear people involved in this conflict feel: that peace isn’t going to happen in their lifetime. In the conversation, Chad walks us through a brief history of the conflict in the Middle East and why, at this moment, there is so much suffering and resistance to peace. We talk, as well, about the difficulty of resolving conflict in our personal lives, and how tempting it is to want to justify ourselves and be “right”, at the expense of fostering love in our relationships. We were also really aware of how easy it can be to sit in a position of relative comfort and ease and make pronouncements about what people directly involved should do or think. We tried really hard not to do that and focus more on what we can do to be engaged peacebuilders where we are. As is often the case with difficult conversations, we’re asking for some extra grace because we certainly didn’t handle any of this perfectly. As challenging as this conversation was, we also found much of it invigorating. Chad has spent years thinking through passages of scripture that seem to justify war and how Christ’s overarching message counteracts them, reminding us that it is more important to be “right” before our brethren than it is to hold the “right” position. He reminds us, as well, that as Latter-day Saints we have one of the most compelling examples of peacemaking in our scriptural canon, in the story of the Anti-Nephi Lehites who set down their weapons of war out of commitment to God. Chad shares unforgettable stories about peacemakers in Israel and Gaza who have used their faith, creativity, and commitment to loving their neighbor to find ways for Israelis and Palestinians to connect and form awareness of their common humanity. Most of these people, he says, are not giving up, even with the situation as dire as it is. If you want to hear more from Chad, we encourage you to check out Chad’s book, Dangerous Love: Transforming Fear and Conflict at Home, at Work, and in the World. We should mention that Chad is one of the most fascinating people we’ve ever interviewed; he seems to have lived many lives in one. He not only holds a degree and has decades of experience in conflict resolution, but he has a law degree and had a whole other career as a writer and analyst at ESPN—you’ll hear in the episode how that side of him has tied into his peacebuilding work. Later this year, Chad is relocating from Hawaii to Utah to join the faculty in religious studies with the Haravi Peace Center at Utah State University.

Transcribed - Published: 10 March 2024

205. Tough Love from the Book of Mormon — A Conversation with Grant Hardy

Book of Mormon scholar Grant Hardy knows that there are lots of different views about what The Book of Mormon is—how it came to be, how credible its origin story and originator are, and what its value is to Latter-day Saints, and to the world. Though he himself falls firmly on the side of belief, he believes the approach of the Book as sacred text asks its reader to consider that “every word or phrase may hold existentially significant meaning” — regardless of exactly how one views the Book’s origins and historical value. That’s the perspective that he brings to a newly produced work, The Annotated Book of Mormon, a remarkably thorough and rich exploration of The Book of Mormon which is the first “fully annotated, academic edition of the Book… in its 200-year history,” and which was published by Oxford University Press. We loved talking with Grant, and for us, some of the most powerful moments of the conversation were his reflections on how the Book of Mormon is calling us, as a people, to hold up the mirror and ask what we can do better. You’ll hear Grant specifically bring up the topic of how we as a church use and disclose our financial resources. We want to note that this part of the conversation is challenging—and while the views Grant shares, like those of all guests we have, are his own, we really appreciate his vulnerability and willingness to engage these tough issues. We know not everybody’s going to agree on this, and we’re very aware of our inadequacy in navigating difficult topics. We hope that one thing we can do at Faith Matters is to help keep conversations going in good faith, and that’s what we tried to do here, however imperfectly. We really encourage you to pick up the Annotated Book of Mormon, which does an amazing job of making this text easier to study and understand by reformatting it with headers, punctuation markers, and paragraph styles in line with modern bible translations. Grant is donating all royalties for the book to the Humanitarian Aid Fund of the LDS Church. Grant is a Professor of History & Religious Studies at UNC Asheville, where he’s taught since 1994. We think that this is a special episode with a remarkable person and message, and we really hope you enjoy this conversation with Grant Hardy.

Transcribed - Published: 3 March 2024

204. Advice from "The World's Worst Mom" — A Conversation with Lenore Skenazy

When Lenore Skenazy’s son was nine, he asked her repeatedly if she would let him have a solo adventure in their hometown of New York City. Her son had a specific plan for this adventure: he wanted her to take him somewhere new in the city and then let him find his own way home. Lenore took the leap of faith, and when her son burst into their apartment later, he was practically “levitating with pride and joy” at what he had accomplished. Lenore then wrote an article in the New York Sun called “Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride the Subway Alone” — and a media firestorm ensued. We’ll let Lenore share more about that particular time, but she realized then how radical and important an idea it was for modern parents to “let go.” In 2017, Jonathan Haidt, co-author of The Coddling of the American Mind reached out to Lenore with two others, all of whom shared concerns about the increasing fragility they’re seeing in young people in America, and the poor outcomes that follow. They went on to launch Let Grow, a non-profit organization that promotes childhood independence. Lenore’s message is that parents can sometimes become compulsive about protecting children from every possible danger, but blind to the trade-offs: decreased independence, resilience, social skills, and creativity, and increased anxiety and depression. But this message also has broader implications for our lives and our faith: while we often tend to try to micromanage everything with the mistaken belief that we can prevent anything bad from happening, deep faith can help us see that there’s Something Bigger going on — and we don’t always need to be in control. We found Lenore to be delightful—she’s sharp, funny, and has profoundly important things to say for anyone interested in helping our next generations to be resilient and happy. We really hope you enjoy this conversation with Lenore Skenazy. ——— Subscribe to Wayfare here: wayfaremagazine.org

Transcribed - Published: 24 February 2024

Proclaim Peace: A New Podcast by Faith Matters and Mormon Women for Ethical Government

Today we’re sharing with you an episode from a brand new podcast that Faith Matters is co-sponsoring in collaboration with Mormon Women for Ethical Government, called Proclaim Peace. This podcast is hosted by Jennifer Thomas, Co-Executive Director of MWEG, and Patrick Mason, Leonard Arrington Chair of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University, and longtime friend and advisor of Faith Matters. In this first season, these two will be exploring with guests a “peaceful reading of the Book of Mormon.” In the episode we’re sharing, they have a fascinating conversation with Jennifer Finlayson-Fife on some of the tension-filled early chapters of The Book of Mormon. They dive deep on the conflicts that Lehi’s family couldn’t seem to escape—what was done well and what might have been different—and how the unhealed rifts in this family eventually had existential societal consequences. We’re proud to be a part of this effort that we see as a hopeful and faith-filled response to President Nelson’s prophetic call to “follow the Prince of Peace, [and]... become His peacemakers.” You can subscribe now by searching “Proclaim Peace” on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, or anywhere else you listen to podcasts.

Transcribed - Published: 18 February 2024

203. Love is a Law, not a Reward — Adam Miller at Restore

We’re back sharing a favorite session from last year’s Restore Conference. In this session, Adam Miller retells the parable of the prodigal son and a highlight from the Children’s book series, 'Frog and Toad", to re-examine our relationship to love. It is our nature to think we have to work hard to earn love, and we constantly tell ourselves stories about what we have to do to earn it. But if God’s love is constant, then these stories are elaborate distractions. We feel guilt and shame whenever we try to earn love that is already given. We always appreciate Adam for his wisdom, but also for the way he presents it. This session feels like a meditation that allows us to see the worries we carry that we are unworthy of love and release them, which God invites us to do. And, as Adam ends his session, “While [this] is still very hard work, it is work of an entirely different kind.”

Transcribed - Published: 10 February 2024

202. The Surprising Rebirth of Belief in God — A Conversation with Justin Brierley

A little less than two decades ago, you might walk past a bookstore and see The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins featured among the bestsellers. The mid to late 2000’s were the heyday for the New Atheists, a small cohort of scientists and philosophers who were convinced religion was both untrue and a bad influence in the world. At the time, it was easy to see the rise of the New Atheists as the latest peak of secularism, a sign that public belief in religion was long gone, and there was no going back. Where we sit now in 2024, we can see that the New Atheist movement fell apart due to internal disagreement and concern about its own influence on the world. According to our guest Justin Brierley, public opinions towards religion are complex and mixed, not nearly as negative as the New Atheist movement would have anticipated. In fact, there are many signs that a Christian renewal is underway. From notable conversions of high-profile individuals to the rise of secular thinkers defending Christianity to the increasing skepticism that science and atheist worldviews can answer our most important questions, Justin observes that the Christian story is far from dead. Justin Brierley is a writer, speaker, and podcaster committed to building dialogue between Christians and non-Christians. His first book was titled Unbelievable? Why, after ten years of talking with atheists, I'm still a Christian and in September 2023 he published his second book, The Surprising Rebirth of Belief in God. Zach interviews Justin in this episode, and the conversation ends with several fascinating questions: will there be a renewal of Christianity and belief in God? If so, are the churches prepared for it? How can the Christian world transcend tribalism and culture wars to welcome a new batch of seekers?

Transcribed - Published: 3 February 2024

201. The Counter-Culture of Commitment — A Conversation with Pete Davis

In 2018, Pete Davis was graduating from Harvard Law School and was chosen to give a commencement address that ended up going unexpectedly viral, having now been viewed over 30 million times. The thesis of Pete’s speech was that our culture has entered what he calls “infinite browsing mode”—with so many options to choose from, and devices that present those options to us literally endlessly—we can become paralyzed by choice and inadvertently live out our lives without ever dedicating ourselves to something. And this lack of choosing and committing over the long haul has real consequences, Pete argues — it prevents us from finding the meaning and impact that we’re longing for. Pete’s ideas eventually crystallized into a really incredible book—Dedicated—which explores these ideas in depth. We loved this book and found it to be so relevant to conversations we seem to always be having. In this conversation, we were able to talk with Pete about many of the reasons we might fear committing to something, including the fear of missing out, the fear of regret, and the fear of association with something with which our values aren’t totally aligned. But, Pete argues, commitment in the face of those fears is what leads us to long-term purpose and impact, real community, and connection with something truly transcendent. We can’t emphasize enough how important and relevant we found this book, and how infectious we found Pete’s enthusiasm for these deeply resonant ideas. We are so excited to share this episode with you, and we really hope you enjoy the conversation with Pete Davis.

Transcribed - Published: 27 January 2024

200. The Awakened Brain — Lisa Miller at Restore

Today we’re sharing another fantastic session from our Restore Conference last October, this time from Lisa Miller. Lisa is a clinical psychologist and professor at Columbia University who specializes in the science of spirituality. She’s also the author of the popular 2021 book The Awakened Brain: The New Science of Spirituality and Our Quest for an Inspired Life. We often think of science and spirituality as separate ways of knowing that don’t really speak to each other, where science focuses on what we can see and empirically observe, while spirituality focuses on the unseen. Lisa’s research bridges these worlds, building an empirical case for the reality of spirituality and its benefits across the lifespan, and showing how science can be a “witness” to spirituality. She believes we all have an innate, in-born capacity for spirituality, or “relational, transcendent awareness”. Individuals who cultivate a strong spiritual core are less likely to experience despair, addiction, and depression throughout the life course, and a spiritual core is correlated with growth and resilience after facing challenges. We really loved Lisa’s session as well as her beautiful spirit. As we got to know her in person at Restore, we realized what a special person she is and felt the love she has for our community. We think you’ll be able to feel that as you listen to her talk.

Transcribed - Published: 20 January 2024

199. Integrity and Institutions — A Conversation with George Handley on Lowell Bennion

We’re excited to share with you this interview with George Handley, a professor of humanities at BYU. George recently published a fascinating and moving intellectual biography of Lowell Bennion. As we’ve learned more about Bennion, he’s begun to loom large for us as a truly inspiring figure who models some of the best of what our faith tradition has to offer. He was an educator, humanitarian, and practical philosopher who had an outsized impact on the Church in the 20th century, even if few might recognize his name today. Lowell Bennion was both committed to intellectual integrity and to prioritizing people over ideas. In the interview, George walked us through how this dual commitment led Lowell to a heart-led vocation that refused to compartmentalize the gospel—to separate it from either intellectual inquiry or from the practical, everyday needs of society. It also allowed Bennion to navigate the tricky, bumpy moments in relationship with other thinkers and educators in the Church with love and integrity. His list of projects is truly extensive, but among the most memorable are his founding of the Institute of Religion next to the University of Utah, and of a boys ranch in Idaho—the Bennion Teton Boys Ranch—where George spent time as a boy. As an educator, Bennion took an expansive view of the gospel that sought to blend itself with secular learning and embrace all truth. Even on the occasions when those who disagreed with his approach made decisions that cost him professionally, Bennion was committed to seeing these events as part of the adventure of life. The topics that came up in this episode really struck home with us. Lowell Bennion’s life invites us to consider not just what the right ideas are, but what ideas are for, and how they can be turned to the service of humanity. We’re thankful to George for taking the time to bring this impactful, if understated, thinker to our attention through this book.

Transcribed - Published: 13 January 2024

198. Seven Gospels — A Conversation with Adam Miller and Rosalynde Welch

To kick off the new year, we recently had the privilege to speak to academic duo and long-time friends, Adam Miller and Rosalynde Welch about the new book they co-authored together, titled Seven Gospels: The Many Lives of Christ in the Book of Mormon. Their book examines the many ways that Christ shows up in the lives of individuals in the Book of Mormon, including Nephi, Abinadi, Abish, and others. Like the New Testament gospels, these distinct witnesses both affirm and challenge each other, showing how Christ’s message for each of us intimately reflects our personal questions and circumstances. This episode not only guides us through these distinct witnesses but also describes the close reading process that allowed Adam and Rosalynde to observe such differentiation in the first place. By slowing down with the scriptures and zooming in on details—even supposedly mundane ones like punctuation and phrasing—scripture can teach us things we don’t expect to learn. Just as there are a multiplicity of witnesses of Christ in the Book of Mormon, Adam and Rosalynde make a case that our scriptural canon is a springboard to endless interpretations that speak to us according to our spiritual needs. For those who don’t yet know these two, Adam is a professor of philosophy at Collin College, and Rosalynde is the Associate Director and Research Fellow at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute. Adam and Rosalynde are two of the brightest minds in Latter-day Saint studies, so to have them team up on a book is a special privilege, and we loved talking with them, as we always do.

Transcribed - Published: 6 January 2024

197. The Divinity and Humanity of the Book of Mormon — A Conversation with Jared Halverson

Today we’re sharing a conversation that we had a lot of fun with, along with an exciting announcement about the work we’re doing at Faith Matters. Our guest was our friend Jared Halverson. Few people we know exude as much enthusiasm for scripture—the Latter-day Saint canon in particular—as Jared does. He’s someone who clearly loves and cherishes these holy texts, and has taken the best they have to offer to heart. He’s as genuine, loving, and big-hearted as they come. So we felt Jared would be the perfect person to talk to to kick off this year’s study of The Book of Mormon, the book Joseph Smith called “the keystone of our religion.” In our discussion with Jared, we talked about how we might be able to gain something from engaging with the Book, regardless of where our faith is at; how scriptures are the means, not the end, and how they’re not frozen in time—they’re part of an ongoing conversation that we’re a part of. With all that said, we could not be more excited to tell you that Faith Matters is formally teaming up with Jared to bring his podcast, Unshaken, one of the most widely engaged scripture study podcasts out there, into the Faith Matters network of podcast and YouTube shows. We’ll have more to share about that in the future as that network expands and grows. For now, it means that Jared will continue to bring his signature blend of scholarly rigor and devotional reflection to his discussions of scripture that move with the Come Follow Me curriculum. But whereas in the past, Jared’s podcast episodes have been deep dives of 3-5 hours per episode, the new Unshaken format will shoot for an hour or so to make them a bit more digestible. Unshaken will continue to operate on its own Youtube and Podcast channels, while the Faith Matters podcast will continue to operate on this one. If you’re interested in Jared and his work based on what you hear today, we’d highly recommend you head over to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or YouTube to subscribe. For those unfamiliar with Jared, he’s an associate professor of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University, and has taught religion courses at the high school and college level since 1998. He studied history and religious education at BYU and earned a PhD in American religious history at Vanderbilt University.

Transcribed - Published: 31 December 2023

196. Peaceable Things: Three Names of Christ — Terryl Givens at Restore

This week, we’re sharing another session from our Restore conference, this time featuring a scholar most of you will be familiar with: our long time friend and advisor Terryl Givens. Terryl’s heartfelt session explores what he finds to be the “peaceable things” of Christ, referred to in scripture. An unsettling experience at the age of sixteen led Terryl to confront the inherent risk and uncertainty of our choices in life. And while life may not always be “peaceful,” Terryl says, we can always access “peaceable things”, which he anchors in the Restoration’s understanding of God. If you know Terryl’s work, you know of his gift for illuminating gospel truths gleaming quietly throughout Christian history. Terryl guides us through three names of Christ–Creator, Emmanuel, and Paraclete–that show God to be relational, loving, and open-hearted. This God doesn’t seek to judge or condemn, but to invite us at their table as peers and mutual witnesses of each other’s inherent goodness. We hope you enjoy this hopeful message that cuts straight to the heart of the fear and uncertainty that so many of us feel, day to day.

Transcribed - Published: 23 December 2023

195. Who is the Church for? — A Conversation with Patrick Mason

Nearly everything we do in the Church — from missionary work and ministering efforts to baptisms and temple work — hinges on an underlying question: who is the Church for? Is the project of the Restoration to find and shepherd the elect of God to exaltation in the next life, or is it to create a Zion community here that strives to include those on the margins, the way Jesus ministered? Should it be one or the other? It’s seemed to us that there’s an implicit discourse around this question playing out on social media, in Church meetings, in books and articles, on podcasts — and even in forums like General Conference. And it has significant implications — the answer holds real weight as for we participate in the work of the Restoration, but not just that — what does it say about the nature of God? This past conference, Pres. Dallin H. Oaks declared “the purpose of this restored Church is to prepare God’s children for salvation in the celestial glory and, more particularly, for exaltation in its highest degree.” In theory, that destiny is available to all God’s children. But what about the multitudes of God’s children who may seem to be left behind-–those for whom any quest for exaltation seems buried under conditions like grinding poverty, mental illness, abuse, or other serious obstacles to thriving. Is the restored church for them too? We thought it could be important and helpful to have an explicit conversation around this question that’s often felt more than heard. And, we think we ended up with the perfect conversation partner, and someone we know many of you love and admire as much as we do — Patrick Mason. Patrick helped us walk through some of this tricky territory with his signature blend of love for the Church, enthusiasm about the restoration, and clear-eyed realism about where we are as a community and tradition — and where we could hope to go. Patrick Mason is the Leonard Arrington Chair of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University, has been a frequent guest on this show and is long-time friend and advisor to Faith Matters.

Transcribed - Published: 16 December 2023

194. Sacred Struggle — A Conversation with Melissa Inouye

Buy Melissa’s book here: https://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Struggle-Seeking-Christ-Resistance/dp/1639931872/As we’ve gotten to know her over the past few years, we’ve noticed that Melissa Inouye, in any group, has a remarkable way of reorienting a conversation. She tends to be the one with the eyes to see “the least of these.” She has a profound and sincere empathy for those who are in deep struggle, those on the edges, the marginalized, the looked-over, the passed-by. When these people and their difficulties are invisible to others, she gently call others’ attention to them as well. That uniquely empathetic perspective she brings has found a beautiful expression in her new book Sacred Struggle: Seeking Christ on the Path of Most Resistance. It’s a “treatise on trials” — one in which Melissa asks the deepest, most difficult questions without shying away from them, including those around her own experience with cancer.The book, and the conversation we had with Melissa, deal with struggle itself, but also with its second-order effects: how can struggle be alchemized into connectedness — into Zion — instead of driving us apart? Who gets to assign meaning to struggle? Is there a way to avoid pain in a community, or is it built into the experience?Melissa received her Ph.D. from Harvard in 2011 and became a Senior Lecturer in Asian Studies at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. She’s now working as a historian for the Church History department.We were grateful, as we always are, to benefit from her deep wisdom born of lived experience.

Transcribed - Published: 9 December 2023

How to Celebrate Advent — A Conversation with Eric Huntsman

Resources: Good Tidings of Great Joy: An Advent Celebration of the Savior's Birth (Eric's book): https://www.amazon.com/Good-Tidings-Great-Joy-Celebration/dp/1606416596/r Come, Lord Jesus: An Advent Invitation (Wayfare Magazine): https://www.wayfaremagazine.org/p/come-lord-jesus Celebrating Advent: https://huntsmanseasonal.blogspot.com/2013/11/celebrating-advent.html First Advent: https://huntsmanseasonal.blogspot.com/2013/12/first-advent-hope.html Christmas Resource Guide (Daily December devotionals): https://huntsmanseasonal.blogspot.com/p/christmas-resource-guide.html Advent Carols: https://www.amazon.com/Advent-Carols-Countdown-Stories-Christmas/dp/1639930477 Professor Eric Huntsman has an infectious enthusiasm when he talks about Christmas. He’s up for the fun, the decorating, the shopping, the lights, and the gift-giving. He also has a deep intellectual curiosity and many years’ academic research into the historical development of this holy day. And of course, most importantly, he has a profound devotional attachment to the holiday’s namesake, Jesus Christ. So it’s only natural that he would spend years developing ways to help his family, students and community find more meaning throughout the Christmas season. One way that he’s done that is through the observance of Advent. Much more than just the calendar many of us think of checking off the days in December leading up to Christmas, Advent is a traditional Christian season that’s been observed for at least 1500 years and is marked by the four Sundays prior to Christmas, each of which celebrates a theme of Christ’s birth: hope, love, joy, and peace. In today’s conversation, Eric shared with us the background and purpose behind Advent and some of its symbolism, how he celebrates it, and what he recommends for anyone looking to observe Advent as part of creating their own traditions or rituals.

Transcribed - Published: 2 December 2023

193. How to Celebrate Advent — A Conversation with Eric Huntsman

Professor Eric Huntsman has an infectious enthusiasm when he talks about Christmas. He’s up for the fun, the decorating, the shopping, the lights, and the gift-giving. He also has a deep intellectual curiosity and many years’ academic research into the historical development of this holy day. And of course, most importantly, he has a profound devotional attachment to the holiday’s namesake, Jesus Christ. So it’s only natural that he would spend years developing ways to help his family, students and community find more meaning throughout the Christmas season. One way that he’s done that is through the observance of Advent. Much more than just the calendar many of us think of checking off the days in December leading up to Christmas, Advent is a traditional Christian season that’s been observed for at least 1500 years and is marked by the four Sundays prior to Christmas, each of which celebrates a theme of Christ’s birth: hope, love, joy, and peace. In today’s conversation, Eric shared with us the background and purpose behind Advent and some of its symbolism, how he celebrates it, and what he recommends for anyone looking to observe Advent as part of creating their own traditions or rituals. Resources: Good Tidings of Great Joy: An Advent Celebration of the Savior's Birth (Eric's book): https://www.amazon.com/Good-Tidings-Great-Joy-Celebration/dp/1606416596/r Come, Lord Jesus: An Advent Invitation (Wayfare Magazine): https://www.wayfaremagazine.org/p/come-lord-jesus Celebrating Advent: https://huntsmanseasonal.blogspot.com/2013/11/celebrating-advent.html First Advent: https://huntsmanseasonal.blogspot.com/2013/12/first-advent-hope.html Christmas Resource Guide (Daily December devotionals): https://huntsmanseasonal.blogspot.com/p/christmas-resource-guide.html Advent Carols: https://www.amazon.com/Advent-Carols-Countdown-Stories-Christmas/dp/1639930477

Transcribed - Published: 2 December 2023

192. Why Church? — Tom Christofferson at Restore

A few weeks ago, Faith Matters released a video we called “Why Church?” It features several of our favorite people, who gave really thoughtful answers to that question that is present for so many. This week, we’re sharing Tom Christofferson’s Restore talk, which addresses the next question: “How Church?” Tom describes in poignant and sometimes hilarious detail his experiences joining a new ward where so many people are so unlike him, and, in the end, found that that was kind of the point. For us, this was one of the very most memorable sessions at this year’s Restore. We love Tom deeply and know he has so much to teach us. When he talks, we always stop to listen.For those of you who don’t know, we’ve decided to release all of this year’s Restore sessions on YouTube totally free of charge. If you’d like to watch them, just head to YouTube and search “Faith Matters” — you’ll see our channel pop up and you can subscribe there.

Transcribed - Published: 25 November 2023

192. How Church? — Tom Christofferson at Restore

A few weeks ago, Faith Matters released a video we called “Why Church?” It features several of our favorite people, who gave really thoughtful answers to that question that is present for so many. Today, we’re sharing Tom Christofferson’s Restore talk, which addresses the next question: “How Church?” Tom describes in poignant and sometimes hilarious detail his experiences joining a new ward where so many people are so unlike him, and, in the end, found that that was kind of the point. For us, this was one of the very most memorable sessions at this year’s Restore. We love Tom deeply and know he has so much to teach us. When he talks, we always stop to listen.For those of you who don’t know, we’ve decided to release all of this year’s Restore sessions on YouTube totally free of charge. If you’d like to watch them, just head to YouTube and search “Faith Matters” — you’ll see our channel pop up and you can subscribe there.

Transcribed - Published: 25 November 2023

191. At-One-Ment — A Conversation with Thomas McConkie

Our guest today is a long-time friend and collaborator, and an incredibly unique voice in the Latter-day Saint tradition: Thomas McConkie. Thomas is an author, developmental researcher and meditation teacher who has been practicing under masters in the traditions of Sufism, Buddhism and Christian contemplation, among others for over 25 years. Thomas is the founder of Lower Lights School of Wisdom, and is is currently researching and writing on transformative spiritual practice at Harvard Divinity School. He’s also the author of a brand new book published by Faith Matters Publishing called At-One-Ment: Embodying the Fullness of Human-Divinity. This is, in our opinion, a monumentally important work, and one that has the capacity to powerfully change the way we see the world. The book reminds us that much of Christianity has spent centuries focusing on what to believe. Thomas redirects this conversation to the simple but potent practices we can engage in body, heart, mind and spirit to awaken us to a greater measure of the Sacred right here and now. “At-one-ment” becomes a spiritual reality in which we can all participate, not just a historical event in which a select few believe. In our conversation, we covered some important themes of the book, including how we can all at once seek transformation and already feel whole; how we are both individuals and yet deeply connected to everything and everyone around us, and how the mind, while indispensable and so prominent in our modern society, is far from the only way of knowing. We really encourage you to pick up this book — it’s available now on Amazon and we think it makes a great gift as well. And, as a note for those interested: Thomas will also be leading a 3-day retreat in Salt Lake City in May 2024, diving deeper into the concepts of At-one-ment. Additional details can be found here:https://lowerlightswisdom.org/classes/the-art-and-practice-of-becoming-one-retreat-may-2024

Transcribed - Published: 18 November 2023

190. Romney: A Reckoning — A Conversation with McKay Coppins

We’re very excited about this week's episode. In early 2021, in the wake of January 6th, McKay Coppins contacted Mitt Romney with a bold request: he wanted to write a biography about him. But McKay had stipulations: not only would he have full access to the Senator — he’d also retain full editorial control. To his surprise, Romney agreed, and shortly had given him stacks of journal entries, emails, and texts. They met over 45 times over the coming years for lengthy interviews, and McKay also interviewed many of Romney’s closest friends, family, and colleagues. That unprecedented access has now turned into a book called Romney: A Reckoning, which just debuted at #3 overall on the New York Times Bestsellers list. We hoped that this interview would offer a unique take on this subject, and we spent some real time on questions of integrity, culpability, and faith. McKay brought not only deep insight into the psyche of one of the most fascinating—and in some cases polarizing—political figures of our time, but he also brought really clear-eyed discernment of his own. He helped us work through some other fascinating questions: what does it take to live on the edge of inside, and what does it cost? Is it possible to stave off cynicism while remaining pragmatic about having impact for good? McKay Coppins is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he covers politics, religion, and national affairs. He’s a former visiting fellow at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics and has won the Aldo Beckman Award from the White House Correspondents Association for his coverage of the Trump presidency and the Wilbur Award for religion journalism.

Transcribed - Published: 11 November 2023

189. The Future of Spirituality — A Conversation with Casper ter Kuile

Organized religious communities have seen steep declines in participation in recent decades and the rise of the “nones,” those who have no particular religious affiliation, is a well-rehearsed story. But that story isn’t just about loss and lack. New forms of spiritual life and meaning-making are emerging that seek to fill the universal longings of the human heart: belonging, transformation, and love. Casper ter Kuile has studied this horizon of spiritual frontier for many years. 10 years ago, he and fellow Harvard Divinity School classmate Angie Thurston wrote a report called "How We Gather", which looked at how millennials were seeking spirituality in seemingly secular communities like crossfit, soul-cycle or social justice movements. Since that report, Casper has continued to explore the changing spiritual practices of young people. He started a very beloved podcast called Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, wrote a book called "The Power of Ritual" and has recently launched a new project called The Nearness, which is an online space to explore life’s big questions in small communities. In this conversation, Zach Davis talks with Casper about what he’s learned in his years studying and working on the edge of America’s evolving spiritual landscape.

Transcribed - Published: 5 November 2023

188. Disagree Better: Governor Spencer Cox with Judge Thomas Griffith at Restore

This week, we’re sharing with you one of sessions we had to kick off our Restore conference, which featured Utah Governor Spencer Cox along with Judge Thomas Griffith. Before we get going, we’re very excited to announce that we’ve decided to give free digital access to all of our Restore recordings! Although we were joined by 3500 of our closest friends, we know there were so many who wanted to join us but couldn’t for a variety of reasons, so we decided to make all of the sessions available, free of charge. Please head to our YouTube channel and subscribe in order to make sure you see them when they drop in the next week or two. Gov. Spencer J. Cox is is Utah’s 18th governor and is serving as the 2023-2024 chairman of the National Governors Association. He is developing a national reputation as both a bridge-builder and as a tenacious fighter against social media companies and their effects on teen mental health. That bridge-building is also the foundation of his NGA Chair’s Initiative called “Disagree Better.” After Governor Cox’s initial remarks, you’ll hear him be joined on stage by Thomas Griffith, who was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D. C. Circuit from 2004-2020. Currently, he is a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, a Fellow at the Wheatley Institution at Brigham Young University, and Senior Policy Advisor to the National Institute for Civil Discourse. Judge Griffith is also a trusted advisor and friend of Faith Matters. These two were passionate in their advocacy for disagreement with civility and kindness, and we thought did an amazing job pointing a path forward in all areas of society where we find ourselves opposite someone else on an important issue. We really think this one’s memorable. Thanks as always for listening, and with that, we’ll jump right into the session.

Transcribed - Published: 28 October 2023

187. All Things New — A Conversation with Fiona and Terryl Givens

For this week’s episode, we’re sharing a conversation we had originally released almost three years ago — before many of you had started listening to the podcast! It’s the discussion we had with Fiona and Terryl Givens about the ground-shifting book they published in 2020 through Faith Matters Publishing, called All Things New: Rethinking Sin, Salvation, and Everything in Between.When this book was first published, we knew it had the potential to truly change lives, and change how Latter-day Saints see the world. It certainly did for us. The book starts by tracing the roots of our religious vocabulary and shows how many fundamental gospel concepts and words have become unmoored from their original foundations and in many cases, can get us stuck in a gospel of fear that places limits on God’s love and grace.Fiona and Terryl show us how we can renovate that vocabulary to embrace a gospel of hope where there is no final buzzer or sad heaven, because in their words, "Salvation and heaven are not rewards that God can dispense, or that we can earn. Relationships are forged. Life is the school of love, and our growing capacity for love constitutes the bricks out of which the heavenly Zion will be constructed."In the book, and in our conversation, Terryl and Fiona address everything from our concepts of heaven, sin, salvation, exaltation, and family togetherness in the eternities. We found the work they do in this important book to be immensely healing and hopeful.

Transcribed - Published: 7 October 2023

186. Both Things Are True — Rosalynde Welch on the Writings of Kate Holbrook

In July of 2022, Rosalynde Welch had a distinct impression while cleaning her house — that she should reach out to Kate Holbrook and ask how she could help share more of Kate’s own writing and thinking with the world. As many of you know, Kate was a historian, scholar, and a light in so many lives. Kate had been previously diagnosed with a rare eye cancer, which had just entered a terminal phase. As she cleaned, it struck Rosalynde that Kate had spent so much time promoting others’ voices, particularly the voices of women, that the insights Kate herself needed to share were preserved. She reached out immediately, and Kate responded gratefully. Rosalynde, and a few others who she mentions in the episode, began an urgent work of gathering, compiling, and filling in gaps to complete what is now a brand new book of Kate’s writing: Both Things Are True, which is part of the BYU Maxwell Institute’s Living Faith series. Kate, tragically, would pass away only a few weeks after this work began, in August of 2022. And we want to be really clear about this — this is a really special book. What comes shining through so clearly is Kate’s gentle nature alongside her “backbone of steel” (as Rosalynde puts it), and perhaps more than anything, her authentic discipleship. As the book’s title indicates, it wrestles with what Joseph Smith called contraries: how the church can be both true, and open to further truth; how revelation can be, how what Kate calls “the crucible of housework” can bring about a sense of both inadequacy and divinity. And, true to Kate’s hope that she’d be remembered for her recipes, the book ends with Kate’s own recipe for what she calls “the perfect chocolate bundt cake.” Our guest, Rosalynde, is an incredibly insightful scholar who currently works as a Senior Research Fellow at the Maxwell Institute. She has also hosted the Maxwell Institute podcast since March of this year, a resource which we can’t recommend strongly enough, especially with Rosalynde at the helm.

Transcribed - Published: 30 September 2023

185. Your Faith Isn't Broken — Brian McLaren at Restore

For this week’s episode, we’re sharing one more talk with you from our Restore gathering in 2022. This was one of our absolute favorite sessions, and it was the final presentation, right at the end on Saturday afternoon. We were privileged to hear from Brian McLaren, who shared his simple and incredibly resonant framework for faith development. It’s one that we’ve referenced before on this podcast, and we think you’ll love hearing Brian teach it. Brian does a beautiful job emphasizing that the point isn’t to get everyone to a particular “stage” of faith — rather, it’s creating a Church and a community where each stage is welcome and included. First, you’ll hear Brian give his presentation, and afterward, Tim and Aubrey sit down for a live Q&A with him. We think Brian brought really key insights to both parts of this session. When we listened back, there was so much there that we hadn’t fully absorbed, and even if you were with us at Restore last year, we think this one’s really worth a listen. For those of you who haven’t heard Brian from before, he’s a bestselling author, speaker, and public theologian. A former college English teacher and pastor, he is a passionate advocate for a Christianity that is just, generous, and works with people of all faiths for the common good. He is a core faculty member of The Living School and podcaster with Learning How to See, which are part of the Center for Action and Contemplation. His newest books are Faith After Doubt, released in 2021, and Do I Stay Christian?, which was released in 2022.

Transcribed - Published: 24 September 2023

184. Your Brain on Awe — A Conversation with Dacher Keltner

Dacher Keltner is a scientist who has been studying happiness and well-being for decades. He writes that he’s taught happiness to hundreds of thousands of people around the world and that twenty years into teaching happiness, he’s actually found an answer to how to live the good life: find awe. To that end, he’s written a new book called Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How it Can Transform Your Life. The book was not only moving, fascinating and thoroughly researched, it also raised lots of really important questions for us. Among the most important was what implications his research on awe has for religious people. It seems like what Latter-day Saints call “feeling the Spirit” has a strong connection to what Dacher refers to as awe, and we were able to ask Dacher about that. While he’s not a traditionally religious person himself, his exploration of awe has led him to believe that there is a realm of understanding and human experience that is beyond scientific explanation. On a really practical level, Dacher’s book, and the conversation with him, helped us understand how we can integrate awe into our everyday lives, and illustrated the astounding benefits that an “awe” practice can have for each of us. Dacher received his PhD from Stanford University in 1989 before joining Berkeley’s psychology department in 1996, where he’s been ever since. Over 500,000 people have enrolled in Dacher’s EdX course, The Science of Happiness, and he’s the host of the podcast also called The Science of Happiness.

Transcribed - Published: 16 September 2023

183. Sex Educated — A Conversation with Bonnie Young

When therapist Bonnie Young was a teen, the subject of sexuality was for her, “drenched in fear.” And many of us can probably relate. For many Latter-day Saints growing up in a sexually conservative culture and with a strict law of chastity — for all of the goods those things can bring — feelings of anxiety, fear, and shame around sexuality may be more the rule rather than the exception. Bonnie’s on a mission to change that, and we think she’s done really important work to do so with her new book, Sex Educated: Letters from a Latter-day Saint Therapist to Her Younger Self. As the title implies, the book is structured as a series of letters, from Bonnie, to herself at various ages, starting as young as ten. It serves as a really useful retrospective, to get into our own minds at various stages of development, and helped remind us that there are really good, constructive, healthy ways to talk about sexuality to kids of any age. That “talk” — the one that can produce so much anxiety among both kids and parents — is one of the main subjects of our conversation with Bonnie. She also had amazing insights around the difference between lust and arousal, about healthy sexual relationships between committed partners, and how this all fits beautifully into the theology of the Restoration. Bonnie Young is a licensed marriage and family therapist, frequent presenter and podcast guest, and published author of several academic articles and essays on religion and mental health. She is the founder of Azure Counseling, an online mental health clinic focused on treating clients with anxiety, religious OCD / scrupulosity, and sexual disorders. Bonnie holds a bachelor’s degree in history with an emphasis in Mormon women’s history and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, both from Brigham Young University. She’s currently completing her doctoral studies at Utah State University in marriage and family therapy. Her dissertation work explores questions about women’s experience with power dynamics in Latter-day Saint marriages.

Transcribed - Published: 9 September 2023

182. Missionaries Ministering Through Service — Jeff Strong at Restore

This week, we’re excited to share with you another gem from our Restore gathering last year. This is a presentation by Jeff Strong. Now his name may sound familiar to you because Jeff also came on for an incredible episode called “Getting Real About Missionary Work” last year- episode #124, which we highly recommend. That episode is one of Faith Matters’ most listened to of all time. But in today’s episode, you’re going to hear about Jeff’s experience as a mission president of the Bentonville, Arkansas Mission where he and his wife led a phenomenally successful pilot program with his missionaries. I’ll let Jeff fill in the details — but for us, the story of the Bentonville, Arkansas mission has totally revolutionized the way we imagine missionary work and we can’t wait for you to hear about it. There are some really interesting visuals in this presentation you may want to see so you can also go to our YouTube channel to watch the video there. To tell you a little bit about Jeff, in addition to serving as a mission leader with his wife Sara from 2018- 2021 in the Bentonville, Arkansas Mission, Jeff has been a senior level executive at several multinational companies, and has spent almost 3 decades in management. He’s also worked as a consultant and private equity advisor and has served as a special project director at BYU’s Marriott School of Business, where he led the startup of the Marketing Lab.

Transcribed - Published: 3 September 2023

181. Creative Stewardship — A Conversation with Stake President Ben Behunin

Today we talked with Ben Behunin, and we think when you hear him, you’ll feel immediately what we felt: this is someone who is absolutely full of pure, good energy who has been able to fully align his own gifts to serve in the world. Ben is a full-time artist, potter, and writer who makes his living through creativity. He’s also a stake president in downtown Salt Lake City. In our conversation with Ben, he talked about his mission experience and conversion to the Church — his story is incredibly moving and illustrates in a powerful way that God seems to be working through good people in every tradition and culture. Ben also shared a lot about how his creativity plays into his role as a leader in the Church, and it was inspiring to hear how innovative he is in his stewardship and work to serve and bless others. Ben also shared what he believes are the gifts that Latter-day Saints, in particular, have to share with the world. All in all — this is a special one that we really think you’re going to want to hear. We can’t wait to introduce you to Ben. You can find out more about his pottery, writing, and other work at potterboy.com. Links: https://www.potterboy.com/ https://www.instagram.com/protopiansunited/ https://www.amazon.com/stores/Ben-Behunin/author/B00J428YU8

Transcribed - Published: 27 August 2023

180. Renewing Our Religious Language — Terryl Givens at Restore

This week we’re sharing something really special — it’s Terryl Givens’ talk that opened last year’s Restore gathering. In it, Terryl gets more personal than we’ve ever heard him, telling a dramatic story about nearly drowning off the West coast of Africa and how the experience has helped him frame key aspects of his faith.Terryl also shares some other really meaningful moments from his life and career. In one of our favorite moments, he says "I have come to know the love of God as it is manifest in a community of people working to keep one another from drowning."We imagine that almost all of you know Terryl by now, but as a reminder, he’s a Neal A. Maxwell Senior Research Fellow at BYU’s Maxwell Institute. He formerly held the Jabez A. Bostwick Chair of English and was Professor of Literature and Religion at the University of Richmond. He is the author of many books about Latter-day Saint history and culture, including, along with his wife Fiona, All Things New, which was published by Faith Matters in 2020.

Transcribed - Published: 20 August 2023

179. The Path of a Seeker — A Conversation with Charles Stang

Religion in America is undergoing a revolution. In 1972, 90% of Americans were self-professed Christians. Now, that number is about 64%. There are now large and growing populations of non-Christians, as well as many who have no particular religious beliefs. Such a time of change has made it an exciting time to be a scholar of religion, charged with making sense of the shifting landscape of American religious experience. For today’s conversation, Zach Davis sat down with one of those scholars, Charles Stang, the Director of the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School. Zach went to grad school at HDS and Charlie was one of his very favorite professors. In the conversation, Charlie discusses his life as a scholar of religion, the path his own spiritual life has taken and shares details about the exciting new research initiative he is leading at Harvard called Transcendence and Transformation. Charles M. Stang is Professor of Early Christian Thought at Harvard Divinity School and the Director of the Center for the Study of World Religions. His research and teaching focus on the history and theology of Christianity, in particular asceticism, monasticism, and mysticism in Eastern Christianity. His most recent book, Our Divine Double, was published in 2016 by Harvard University Press.

Transcribed - Published: 12 August 2023

178. Modesty from the Inside Out — A Conversation with Jennifer Finlayson-Fife

Before we get started, we just wanted to give you a quick note that this episode does contain frank discussion about sexuality, so you can determine if it’s appropriate for anyone listening in. For this conversation, we were really happy to bring on our good friend and one of our favorite people, Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, and we know many of you are fans of her of her work, too. For a long time, we’ve wanted to have a discussion with Jennifer about the concept of modesty—something that anyone who’s grown up in our tradition is intimately familiar with, and which has certainly driven lots of opinions over many years. And we were really glad to be able to talk through several aspects of this topic with her, including the different experiences for men and women, how our cultural definition for modesty can often be too small, and the principles behind the practices. But once the conversation got going, as it always does with Jennifer, it led back to something bigger — about how all of this, including our sexuality, points toward the ability to have deeper embodied joy, and how there is a real wholeness waiting behind a developmental process that each of us need to go through, including with our own sexuality. Jennifer is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor with a Ph.D in Counseling Psychology from Boston College, where she wrote her dissertation on LDS women and sexuality. She leads both in-person and online courses, workshops, and retreats helping people increase their capacity for deeper emotional and sexual intimacy. You can find her podcast “Conversations with Dr. Jennifer,” on major podcast platforms, and find out more about her work at finlayson-fife.com.We should also mention that Jennifer will be presenting at this year’s Restore gathering in October.We’re super grateful to Jennifer for coming on, and really think you’re going to enjoy this episode.

Transcribed - Published: 6 August 2023

177. Tackling the Teen Mental Health Crisis — A Conversation with Gov. Spencer J. Cox

In recent months, Governor Spencer J. Cox of Utah has been in the news for the passage of two new state laws: one that puts strict limits on access to social media for teens, and another that would prohibit social media companies from using designs that are addictive to teens. Governor Cox believes that social media and smartphones really are the culprit behind a teen mental health crisis that has manifested, for example, in a skyrocketing rate of depression among teen girls. That rate has doubled since 2010, when the smartphone began mass adoption. With this in mind, Governor Cox has made Utah the first state to act in such a direct way. In this conversation, we asked Governor Cox about the rationale behind these laws, the pushback he expects, and what he thinks the long-term legislative vision should be when it comes to teens and social media. Governor Cox argues that In any other context, if we saw the statistics we're seeing about social media, we would drop everything to fix it. Given these drastic and unprecedented changes in mental health, it seems this is a crucial issue for our young people and that all people of faith should be engaging with this issue that is so important for kids and for the connective tissue of society.We also want to mention that Governor Cox will be appearing at our upcoming Restore Gathering in October; in that presentation, he’ll be talking about his new initiative as incoming chairman of the National Governors Association: to help Americans “disagree better.” We hope that regardless of the side of the political aisle you find yourself on, you can help us engage with the important ideas and issues Governor Cox is bringing to the forefront. As he might say, though we certainly won’t all agree, we can all benefit from learning to do it better.

Transcribed - Published: 29 July 2023

176. The Cherished Doctrine of Heavenly Mother — A Conversation with McArthur Krishna and Michal Thomas

The Gospel Topics essay titled “Mother in Heaven,” on churchofjesuschrist.org states “The doctrine of a Heavenly Mother is a cherished and distinctive belief among Latter-day Saints.”It’s with this in mind that three Latter-day Saint women — McArthur Krishna, Ashli Carnicelli, and Trina Caudle, have curated a new collection of writing, poetry, and art called Cherish: The Joy of Our Mother in Heaven.We were lucky enough to bring McArthur on, along with another one of the book’s contributors, Michal Thomas. We thought that those two women were the perfect pair to come on and speak with us.Among the subjects we discussed was Elder Dale G. Renlund’s April 2022 General Conference address on the subject of Heavenly Mother — McArthur described the joy she felt when she heard Elder Renlund address the topic in General Conference, in her mind, effectively ending the speculative taboo that Church members shouldn’t even talk about Heavenly Mother. Of course, Elder Renlund did call for an end to “speculation” about Heavenly Mother, and McArthur and Michal fully endorse that idea. As McArthur explains in the episode, it appears that it was unfounded “speculation” by a seminary teacher that led to the half-century-plus “sacred silence” around Heavenly Mother.These two emphasize that there is so much we can do with our existing beautiful doctrine; everyone should be able to see deity in their own image, and women, in particular, can better understand their own nature by understanding the nature of a Mother in Heaven. And because Heavenly Mother is infinite, there are infinite ways to connect with Her. McArthur and Michal explore that in this conversation, and of course, this new book is a great example of how many are doing it.We’re really grateful to McArthur and Michal for coming on and having this discussion with us. You can find this new book, Cherish, on Amazon.

Transcribed - Published: 22 July 2023

175. The Story of You — A Conversation with Ian Morgan Cron

This week we are covering the Enneagram, a fascinating topic and a tool that we’ve found to be very helpful and deeply meaningful over the past few years. For this conversation, we were lucky enough to bring on one of the world’s foremost proponents and teachers of the Enneagram — Ian Morgan Cron.Ian is a bestselling author, psychotherapist, Enneagram teacher, Episcopal priest, and the host of the podcast "Typology," which has over 20 million downloads. His books include the Enneagram primer The Road Back to You, which has sold over 1,000,000 copies, and the book we based today’s conversation on: The Story of You: An Enneagram Journey to Becoming Your True Self (December 2021).For those unfamiliar with the Enneagram, at its most essential it is a personality typing system identifying nine types of people and how they relate to one another and the world. But it’s intended to be much more than that — not just a typing system, but in Ian’s words, “a prescription for deep change.”In this conversation, Ian does an overview of the nine basic Enneagram types, and you’ll probably see yourself in at least one of them. But he also goes deeper — Ian says that we all have stories we tell ourselves, and the Enneagram can help us see them, recognize when they’re unhealthy, and start to rewrite them. As we continue on that path, Ian says, we’ll begin to “wake up,” as the mystics have said — and find that everything is brimming with God’s presence.

Transcribed - Published: 15 July 2023

174. Faith Journey 101 — A Conversation with Jana Spangler

Over the years, much of the work that we’ve done at Faith Matters has tried to take into account much of the wisdom and research that’s been done in the field of faith and adult development. It’s also been important to us to share and discuss some of the existing models, including Brian McLaren’s four-stage framework, and the “creation, fall, atonement” framework that our amazing friend Jared Halverson has spoken about at Restore and on this podcast.All that said, we’ve never done a deep dive into the model that deserves as much or more credit than any other for helping people think along these lines in the first place, and that’s James Fowler’s Stages of Faith. Fowler published a book by that title in 1981 that laid a real foundation for understanding faith development systematically. So we’re delighted that in this episode, we finally got a chance to talk about Fowler’s work specifically and in a Latter-day Saint context, and to do that, we brought on our good friend Jana Spangler.And to be super clear upfront, and this comes out in the episode — it would be a misuse of any stages model to paint a given stage as “better” or “worse,” than others — what matters is not so much the stage we’re in, but how we approach the world around us as we see through the lens of that stage. As Jana says, each stage has its gifts and shortcomings. What these frameworks can do is help give each of us the humility to recognize that there is another way to see things, and to give ourselves enough grace to accept the stage we’re in and confidently live through it thoroughly, and without fear.Jana Spangler is a Certified Integral Professional Coach at Symmetry Solutions, and member of the International Coaching Federation. She is an alumnus of The Living School where she studied contemplative spiritual traditions and the work of transformation under the direction of Fr. Richard Rohr. Jana’s professional and personal experience combined with her training makes her an expert in the field of faith transitions. She is a sought-after podcast guest, speaker, presenter, and retreat leader.

Transcribed - Published: 9 July 2023

173. The $100 Billion Question — A Conversation with Aaron Miller

In May of this year, the news program 60 Minutes aired a segment exploring the finances of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. David Nielsen, a former portfolio manager at Ensign Peak, the investment arm of the Church, alleged that the Church had been operating improperly as a tax-exempt organization and called for that tax-exempt status to be revoked. 60 Minutes also interviewed W. Christopher Waddell, first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, who denied Nielsen’s claims. Near the end of June, the Wall Street Journal published an article of its own, again emphasizing the size of the Church’s assets and the opulence of its temples. This is an issue with an extraordinary amount of complexity, and significant moral weight. Though the Church hasn’t publicly disclosed the value of its assets, estimates place it at over $100 billion — put in context, that’s about double the size of Harvard’s endowment, making the Church one of the wealthiest religious institutions, or non-governmental organizations of any kind, in the world. The questions this raises are clear: how did the Church acquire this much wealth? Is it reasonable to see assets of this size as a “rainy-day fund,” even for a religion with a name attesting that we live in the last days? Is tithing simply “God’s money” and a matter of faith alone, or should members have insight and transparency into Church finances, and how their donations are used? And of course — what good could be done in the world with $100B or more? We felt like it was the right time to explore these questions on Faith Matters, and we brought on Aaron Miller to help us sort through some of them. Aaron is a Teaching Professor in BYU’s George Romney Institute for Public Service and Ethics, where he teaches classes on business ethics and nonprofit structure and finance. Though he’s quick to point out that he doesn’t have privileged insight into Church finances, he was able to walk through these issues in a really detailed but understandable way, and to us, he represented extraordinarily clear, objective, and open-hearted thinking on this subject. Aaron also hosts a really cool podcast called “How to Help” that presents conversations and ideas about living a life of positive impact on the world and the people around us. You can check it out wherever you listen to podcasts. We’re really grateful that Aaron would come on and discuss this tough but important issue. As is the case with all sensitive topics, we’re sure we got something wrong here. Our goal is always to explore tough issues with as expansive a lens as possible, and explore arguments on both sides charitably. No doubt we did that imperfectly, but we hope you know that is our intention.

Transcribed - Published: 2 July 2023

172. Exploring Atonement — A Conversation with Terryl Givens

A few weeks ago, we released a conversation with Terryl Givens about the life of Eugene England. England’s work on atonement theology had felt like it necessitated another conversation, but it was too big to fit into the first one. So this week, we brought Terryl back to talk not just about England’s views, but about atonement generally. The conversation starts with the fascinating premise that our faith doesn’t actually have an official theology of Atonement. What is clear, doctrinally, is that Christ brought about something of universal importance: as the Book of Mormon says, "we talk of Christ, rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, (and) we prophesy of Christ." (2nd Nephi 25:26) We accept Christ as both savior and healer — but that doesn’t mean that we’ve achieved a consensus understanding of how Christ’s atonement actually accomplished those goals of “saving” and “healing.” So in this conversation with Terryl, we discussed various atonement theories — what some of the greatest Christian and Latter-day Saint thinkers have posited over the years about how the atonement works; why it’s necessary, and how it can apply in real life. It seemed to us that there was something to value in nearly all of these explorations, and it was fascinating to see how those views have evolved over time. And, as it always does, conversation with Terryl brought us back to what’s really important: how Christ’s atonement can bring less retribution and more healing to society, and how we can participate in that work. Terryl reminded us that Atonement is about reintegration into loving relationship — not just vertically with God, but horizontally with those around us.

Transcribed - Published: 25 June 2023

171. My Lord, He Calls Me — A Conversation with Alice Faulkner Burch

For this week’s episode, we were honored to bring on Alice Faulkner Burch, General Editor of Deseret Book’s new collection of essays by Black American Latter-day Saints: My Lord, He Calls Me. The title of the book comes from an early Black American spiritual called “Steal Away to Jesus.” The book shares contemporary experiences of Black Americans in the Church, and stories from every era of the Restoration.The essays found in the book are extremely personal — the type of stories you’d only hear as a trusted friend. Alice says that these stories are offered “as a gift for Black Americans and an invitation to white Americans.” In the interview, she shared really important perspectives on not just the experience of Black Americans in the Church, but what it means for each of us to be part of the body of Christ, and how we can more fully embrace the gifts of the Spirit, even “charismatic” ones like those shared in some of the remarkable stories in this book. Alice was baptized into the Church in July 1984. She served as the first African American in the Chile Santiago South Mission from 1987 to 1988, and in 1989 she was called as the first African American ordinance worker in the Salt Lake Temple. She has served the community as secretary of the Utah Chapter of Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society, secretary for the Utah Black Roundtable, and a member of the annual Utah Juneteenth Committee.

Transcribed - Published: 17 June 2023

170. Reckoning with Mountain Meadows — Richard Turley and Barbara Jones Brown

In September of 1857, one of the greatest atrocities in the history of Mormonism was carried out. Now known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre, a group of Latter-day Saints led a siege in Southern Utah against a wagon train of emigrants on their way from Arkansas to California. After the siege had dragged on for several days, and under the guise of a truce, leaders of the Mormon party lured the emigrants out of their protective circle of wagons and marched them a short distance across the valley before turning on them in surprise and slaughtering at least 120 unarmed men, women, and children. The details of this evil are difficult to talk about at all — much less dive deep on — but at the same time, historians Richard E. Turley and Barbara Jones Brown believe that it’s important that we confront history, even its most difficult episodes, with as much honesty and depth as we can. Rick has served in many roles at the Church over many years, including as managing director of the Family and Church History Department, and managing director of the Public Affairs Department. Barbara is the director of Signature Books Publishing and former executive director of the Mormon History Association. Together they are the authors of a new book called Vengeance is Mine: The Mountain Meadows Massacre and its Aftermath, which is the second in a two-volume series of exhaustively researched masterworks on the subject. The first book, Massacre at Mountain Meadows, on which Rick was one of the authors and Barbara was a content editor, was published in 2008, and this second volume is the culmination of over 18 years of research, writing, and editing by countless contributors. Though brilliant historians have written about the Massacre before, these books include new research from documents and records that have never before been available. As we spoke with Barbara and Rick, we were struck by not just their comprehensive knowledge of these tragic events, but by the depth of their empathy for the victims, and insights about how knowledge of difficult history can be part of a larger story of healing and reconciliation. They and many others have been important in spearheading efforts in recent years to allow for that healing, including working with the Church itself and organizations of victims’ descendants. In fact, Henry B. Eyring credited the work done on the first book in 2007 in an official statement given at the site of the massacre on its sesquicentennial. As part of that statement, he said, “What was done here long ago by members of our Church represents a terrible and inexcusable departure from Christian teaching and conduct. We cannot change what happened, but we can remember and honor those who were killed here…We express profound regret for the massacre carried out in this valley 150 years ago… and for the undue and untold suffering experienced by the victims then and by their relatives to the present time." What we hope for this episode is what we think Barbara and Rick hope for their book: that it can promote the same work of at-one-ment that is at the core of the Gospel by fully acknowledging the sins of the past, actively listening and working toward healing in the present, and looking forward to a future of deep relationship and connection.

Transcribed - Published: 10 June 2023

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