A Thoughtful Faith - Mormon / LDS

Katie Langston joins me to discuss Christmas; Why it's perfectly fine not to take the Bible literally;  Why Jesus is not the Jehovah of the Old Testament; Finding new images and symbols for God, and the power and versatility of spiritual practice.


Direct download: Katie_December.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:35pm NZST

Liz Brown MacDonald was curious about the effect of the behaviour of religiously rigid parents on their children who disaffiliate from the LDS Church.

This is Part Two of the discussion.


Direct download: LizBMPartTwo.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:10pm NZST

Liz Brown MacDonald was curious about the effect of the behaviour of religiously rigid parents on their children who disaffiliate from the LDS Church.

'It's never good,' she concludes, 'to complicate a parental relationship with an expectation of your children's life long affiliation to your religious tradition.' 

Liz, joins ATF Podcast to discuss why.

Direct download: LizBM_Part_one.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:06pm NZST

While we honour the expectant Mary at Advent, we rarely discuss her in the context of the suffering of pregnancy and birth.  Our sacred texts and Christmas stories leave out the intensely feminine experience of a mother's body,  bruised and broken for the sake of Jesus.  Too often written out of the reflections on Advent are the earthiness, the blood and mess of pregnancy and childbirth and the scars it all leaves on women's bodies.

ReNee McDonald and Kristin Jensen, two women at different stages in their mothering, join me to discuss the suffering of mothers.

Direct download: The_Suffering_of_Mothers.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:46am NZST

How does a young gay, afakasi, Samoan, Mormon man put his spiritual life together when he sits across many religious and cultural divides?   When the moorings of fixed belief systems that defined prior generations fall away, what of the spiritual life that is so integral to Māori and Pasifika mental health? 

Is it even possible? 

My guest today says 'Yes.'

Direct download: Doron_Semu.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:34pm NZST

Lutheran Ordinand Katie Langston and Community of Christ Elder, Gina Colvin get together in this monthly series to offer our responses to Mormons who are grappling with their spiritual and religious deconstruction and reconstruction.

Today's topics, Grace; The Trinity; Telling family you no longer believe

Direct download: Spiritual_Advice_One.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:42pm NZST

For those who grew up in the 'Mission Field', Utah is often referred to as Zion. But, in the 2020 US Presidential elections, Utah seemed anything but Zion.

Utah voted for the least Mormon person on the ticket (Donald Trump).  About 20% of Utahns voted to keep slavery in their state constitution. In an age of pandemic, it's been difficult for Governor Gary Herbert to get popular compliance on the wearing of masks.  Seasoned statesman, Representative Ben McAdams (a good Mormon man) was replaced by Burgess Owen, a notorious Trumpian who thinks that systemic racism is the fault of Marxists.

To help unravel the politics of the state that (on the surface) seems at odds with the faith that dominates, scholar, strategic planner, author and former mission president Roger Hendrix joins us.

Direct download: Unravelling_the_Mystery_of_Utah_Politics.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:15pm NZST

In this conversation, blogger, Michael Mathews II  exegetes Doctrine & Covenants Section 132.  Mormons socially read Section 132 as pointing to the endurance of familial ties after death.  However, Mathews argues, there is no evidence to suggest that this is the case at all.  

The temple, he further argues, is the place where covenants to live into the promise of plural marriage under the domain of the male priesthood is contracted.

Mormons are making of Section 132 and the Temple covenants something that is literally irreconcilable with the text and the language of the covenants.


Direct download: Section_132_Mathews.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:37pm NZST

Are unique Mormon communities like Laie, in Hawaii worth celebrating? 


Mormon communities like Laie on Hawaii's North shore, which are uniquely indigenous Mormon,  have made good homes that have been blessed by the confluence of culture, faith, history, structure, spirituality and solidarity.

But, that's not the whole story. 

This conversation is an invitation to think about the shadow side of the church's involvement in places like Laie in Hawaii and Temple View in New Zealand, because there's a pattern here of blatant litigious disregard for Indigenous rights, Indigenous relationships with the land and water, Indigenous people's labour and the appropriation of their culture for financial gain. 

This is also an invitation to consider how faithful the LDS Church has been to native people's in the light of advances in United Nations and domestic legislation that have sought to place protections around Indigenous people that the LDS church has neglected to offer.

Direct download: Laie_Episode.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:47pm NZST

Whatever your position on LDS Studies, it can't be said that the Mormonism is boring.  Socially, historically, culturally, politically and theologically its a gold mine of intrigue and interest.  Nevermore so than on the topic of sex.

Taylor G. Petrey’s history of sexuality and gender in modern Mormonism is a rollicking and delightfully thorough documentation of the LDS modern teachings on gender, sexual difference, and marriage.  He joins me at ATF podcast to discuss his latest book, 'Tabernacles of Clay.'

Direct download: Taylor_Petrey.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:34pm NZST

When Mormon divorce happens acrimoniously it's never a better time to observe the LDS church's position on the wellbeing of women and children.   

The wife of a physician and the mother of four children Leslie felt that she was fulfilling 'the measure of her creation' until she found herself fleeing from abuse.   However, the involvement of church leaders, that Mormon divorce often requires, complicated financial, legal, relationship and spiritual matters again and again.

Les Butterfield joins me to discuss the pastoral care (or the inadequacy of it) when her own marriage was in free fall. 


Direct download: Les_Butterfield.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:06am NZST

Cat McFedries joins me to talk about youth spiritual and religious formation and how some radical pastoring that she received as a young person might have put her off the church, but it didn't put her off the person of Jesus.  

This disconnect between the heart of the gospel, which is on the streets,  and the fears of the church as it sits on the pews needs to change according to Cat. Until then the church will be a thing of growing irrelevance to today's young people.

Direct download: Cat_McFedries.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:39am NZST

In the wake of Joanna Brook's book that starkly presented a case for Mormon white supremacy, Samoan Mormon, Tasi Young, BYU alumna and die-hard Cougars fan wrote to the Salt Lake Tribune asking for the name of BYU to be changed sparking an important conversation among the Mormon Polynesian community.

What has been the effect of Mormon White Supremacy on Polynesians?

Two Afakasi (half-castes), (Tasi a Samoan and Gina who is  Maori) ponder and critique what it means to be Polynesian/Pasifika in a white supremacist church.

Direct download: Tasi_Young_Final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:58pm NZST

In the basic beliefs of Community of Christ The Book of Mormon is understood as follows:

We affirm the Bible as the foundational scripture for the church. In addition, Community of Christ uses the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants—not to replace the witness of the Bible or improve on it, but because they confirm its message that Jesus Christ is the Living Word of God. When responsibly interpreted and faithfully applied, scripture provides divine guidance and inspired insight for our discipleship. 

That might be so, but its not quite that straightforward in practice, as my guest Elray Henrickson has elsewhere written:

"Community of Christ has had a complicated relationship with the Book of Mormon. Although we believe it to be scripture, we can no longer say we are big fans."

Community of Christ peace and non-violence activist, Norwegian Elray Henrickson,  joins me from Belgium where he lives with his husband, Anton.  Elray attends the Graceland University seminary and has been working on repurposing and rethinking the Book of Mormon for a post-literal context. 

Direct download: Elray_Henrickson_2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:03pm NZST

Professor Rick Phillips hails from Utah and has an impressive Mormon pedigree.  He was raised under the sacred canopy of LDS belief and faith.  And it was a good life, one that Rick remains nostalgic about to this day. 

But, his aspirations to be a seminary teacher didn't last as more and more questions and conundrums took the place of the orthodoxy he was born into.

Prof. Rick Phillips joins me to discuss his subtle evolution from a profoundly vested believer of Mormonism to a deeply interested non-believer.

Direct download: Rick_Phillips.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:42am NZST

Exponent II Editor, Margaret Olsen Hemming says of the Exponent guest edition of Dialogue, "


In this issue, we asked women to write about claiming power. We hoped that writers would think creatively about the idea of power, including traditional forms of authority in an organizational hierarchy but also going beyond this sometimes-limiting definition. We wanted women to examine their engagement of power within their families, wards, workplaces, and selves."


Artist Michelle Franzoni, Mormon scholar Nancy Ross and Margaret Olsen Hemming join me to discuss this historic issue of Dialogue:  A Journal of Mormon Thought.

Direct download: Exponent_Interview_Auphonic.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:15pm NZST

The question as to whether or not Mormonism is a cult is a contentious one, but despite your definitions, one thing is for certain, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a high demand faith and as such the exercise of agency and decision making is a charged issue.

Wherever you are in relation to the LDS Church, it is useful to understand the science of belief and how we can indeed cultivate healthy cognitive responses to life's most vexing questions, so that (as Luna argues), 'we can relieve ourselves of: 

 "feelings of depression, guilt, shame, exhaustion, phobias, magical thinking, passive-aggressive behaviour, and hidden familial abuse.'"


Direct download: Luna_Corbden_Cogdis_final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:08pm NZST

Liberation theologian James Cone has said:

“It is ironic that America, with its history of injustice to the poor, especially the black man and the Indian, prides itself on being a Christian nation.”

So, what sense does a profoundly faithful black Christian woman make of America still mired in its many racial sins?   What can be said about a nation who remains at odds with itself in its resistance to the spiritual healing that it so desperately needs?

In this very personal conversation,  The Rev. Dr Fatimah Salleh mourns with me the brokenness that is her nation and her church.

Direct download: America_is_broken.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:24pm NZST

Is the USA a democracy, a nascent theocracy, or a mobocracy?  Perhaps it's all of those things and all at the same time.  

The Nauvoo experience gives us a strong sense of the unsettled ideological, economic and religious arguments that remain unresolved in the United States.  Powder Keg is what the United States feels like in 2020, and after reading Kingdom of Nauvo that covers a short period of American religious history between 1839-1846, this book brings some of these centuries-old quandaries about America into perspective.

Faith and violence are twinned in this remarkable telling of a doomed social and theocratic experiment to find a religious utopia under the leadership of the Joseph Smith.  

Plodding and boring this story is not.  

Direct download: Ben_Park.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:28am NZST

In this much-needed volume, that follows the evolution of LDS Church thought about race,  from its earliest beginnings to its contemporary constructions, Professor Brooks seeks to account for a religious tradition that has never made a definitive departure, nor offered an explanation or an apology for why being racist is not a matter for Mormon censure while advocating for the increased authority of women or the safety of children is?

In Mormonism and White Supremacy: American Religion and the Problem of Racial Innocence Brooks offers a vital racial critique of the faith of her ancestors and her birth. 

Direct download: Joanna_Brooks_Racism_Te_Mutunga.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:43pm NZST

Professor of Law, Annick Masselot and I reflect on the many gender inequalities that the COVID-19 pandemic has made apparent.  

With research foci on equality and anti-discrimination law, gender equality, pregnancy and maternity rights, and work-life balance, Annick argues that world leaders are well-positioned to create new economic and social arrangements that are fairer and more humane particularly for women.




Direct download: Annick.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:03am NZST

One of the great American phenomena is the enmeshment of religion and politics.   That relationship is never more present than in the Book of Mormon belt where being Republican is a matter of faithfulness.  From Southern Alberta down to Arizona being Mormon means listening to Fox news like its a sermon;  supporting the NRA like its a mission and loving the Constitution like its scripture.  

For Steve Otteson, this was the ideological food that he grew up with.   A Mormon boy of pioneer stock who was raised simultaneously without much space between the politics of his region and the religion of his ancestors.   

And then one day it all came crashing down;  both his political and religious certainties.

Direct download: Otteson.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:36pm NZST

Great, great-great-grandson of Joseph and Emma Smith, Lachlan Mackay, is a member of the Council of Twelve Apostles in Community of Christ.  

A native of Independence, Missouri, Lach argues that context is absolutely critical when doing church history. Unbundling theology from history offers these disciplines the integrity they both need and deserve. 

This has been important to Lach both professionally and personally as someone who sits in a faith tradition founded by a great-grandparent who continues to be one of America's most controversial religious figures.

Direct download: Lach_MacKay.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:27pm NZST

John Hamer, the Pastor of Centre Place in Toronto,  joins me to talk about how digital technology has radically changed his congregation. 

The Toronto community has had a long and continuous presence in Canada since the very early days of the Restoration. 

Now, from a congregation of dwindling numbers, the pastorate team have transformed Centre Place into a community without borders which, during the COVID-19 pandemic,  has welcomed nearly 1000 weekly participants from 26 different nations.

Direct download: Hamer_Centreplace_Final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:42am NZST

The Navajo Nation has approximately 356,000 people living on the reservation and from the Navajo Times on Monday 27 April 2020 we read:

 “As of Monday evening, there are 1,769 positive COVID-19 cases on the Navajo Nation, more than one per cent of the residents on the reservation...The total number of deaths remains at 59.”

For comparison, New Zealand has a population of 5 million and has had 1472 cases and 19 deaths.  

Something is clearly amiss and to discuss the urgent situation on the Navajo Nation, Jo Overton (Lakota) joins me.

Direct download: overton.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:45pm NZST

In this episode, my guests Nancy Ross from St George and Brittany Mangleson from Saratoga Springs discuss the Utah response to Covid-19 including some of the philosophical, ideological and religious issues with which this disease intersects.

Direct download: Ross_Mangleson.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:55am NZST

What happens to Easter when a member of the LDS Church Alumni Association can no longer believe in one of Christianity’s greatest stories? What happens when there's too much religious hurt caused by an emphasis on literalism and religious authority that made about 150 too many supernatural claims that became tests of fellowship? Could Easter ever offer hope again?

This episode is for those who find themselves in this sometimes lonely corner of the Christian world where there's still faith even when literal belief in Christianity's more persistent supernatural claims are no longer.

Direct download: Resurrection_final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:35am NZST

Dr Joanne LaFleur is Associate Professor in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Utah. Joanne has taken an interest in questions that lie at the intersection of science and morality.  In this state of lockdown, there are surprisingly many things to see as science, public health, politics, economics, morality and philosophy generate many new questions for all of us.  Whose lives are worth saving?  How is life-saving to be done?  Does this moment expose the flaws in our economic systems?  Does Covid-19 bring us into conversation about alternative ways of understanding the structures we depend upon for human survival?

Not, all of these questions will be answered in this conversation, but I hope Joanne’s reflections on this moment as a scientist and an epidemiologist and as a regular person who is entering into the question with refreshing honesty and humility, will give us permission to wonder anew this thing we call life.

Direct download: LaFleur_Final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:17pm NZST

Rome stands out because of its Christian history and now, even churches have shut down leaving Rome almost empty of the crowds who for centuries have arrived daily to make their pilgrimage to the eternal city.

To discuss Italy's lockdown, its cultural impact and the comfort hope he’s found in online Community of Christ ministry, Michael Wright joins me from the Eternal City.

Direct download: Michael_in_Italy_Final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:36pm NZST

Duke Divinity School graduate and Baptist Pastor,  Rev. Dr Fatimah Salleh and Exponent II Chief Editor, Margaret Olsen Hemming team up to give the Book of Mormon a Social Justice Reading.  The Book of Mormon for the Least of These is the result.

Refreshingly, and without making any origin or belief claims,  Fatimah and Margaret offer a new perspective on the Book of Mormon arguing that there are yet spiritually useful things to pay attention to that goes beyond our squabbling about whether or not the book is what the church says it is.

As Marcus Borg argued, "believing something to be true has nothing to do with whether it is true.”

Direct download: Final_Fatimah_and_Margaret.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:08am NZST

One of the most important issues confronting those who have left fundamentalist faith traditions is what to do about their faith life.

In this episode, I discuss deconstruction and reconstruction from a personal perspective for those who are curious about how others proceed across the bridge of what once was a reconstructed spiritual life. 

Of course, one's faith reconstruction will be done on one's own terms and in one's own way, but it might be useful to hear another’s story!

Direct download: Deconstruction_and_Reconstruction.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:33pm NZST

"When Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth” (Matthew 6:19), the term “lay-up” did not simply speak of having possessions, but of your possessions having you. “Lay up” could be better translated “hoard” or “stockpile.” - Greg Laurie

Theologically what are we to make of a church that religiously taxes its adherents, demands their labour for a lay clergy and then banks its money only to watch it accrue? 

Is it justifiable?

Most actively participating and paying Mormons won’t question it.  They’ll call it good stewardship and an indication of the care with which the LDS Church Corporations treat its donor revenue.    For others, including my guest, former Salt Lake City tax attorney Mark Barnes, there are more than legal reasons to question the LDS church’s outsized fortune.    

Direct download: Mark_Barnes_Final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:30pm NZST

Let's be fair.  Neither Joseph nor Brigham could be considered as good men in their care, affection, fidelity and love for their wives.  To the contrary, they were want to swap them, share them, manipulate them, ignore them, betray them and abandon them.   We might make much of Joseph's affection for Emma, but he broke her heart over and over again.

These were two men for whom the idea of a good husband had entirely eluded them.  And there was a terrible price to pay for all of the women who had to endure what could only be considered a despicable mischief.  

Joe Geisner joins me to discuss wives, sex, priesthood, power in Joseph's inner circle.

Direct download: Joe_Geisner_Part_Two__GB.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:03am NZST

Maxine Hanks and I have a conversation about Christmastide. Christmastide runs from 25 December until early January.  More particularly we discuss the delicious idea of incorporating Mary  as more than just incidental to our celebrations. According to Maxine Christmas is Mary’s holy time.  Mary symbolizes so much more than the vessel through which the Christ child emerged into the world.  Mary is prophetic, priestly and queenly.

But getting to that reading of Mary requires a deeper way of engaging scripture so we begin with a conversation about hermeneutics and suggestions for deepening our reading of the Christmas story. And with another year to prepare perhaps this will help enrich our forthcoming Christmas celebrations.

Direct download: Maxine_Mary_Final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:33pm NZST