Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Mormon Story

So, I subscribed to Mormon Stories Podcast when I found out that Dan was hosting and I listened to the interview he did of Richard Deutcher (even though I had never seen any of his movies -or ANY Mormon Cinema movie if I am to be completely honest-). Anyway, I stopped listening to the podcast for a few reasons: 1) Dan stopped hosting and 2) that society just isn't my society, I don't have the hang ups that the people that listen have and it made me feel a bit like a voyeur in a way. I never did delete it from my podcast subscriptions and once in a while something will just download and I'll see it and usually think- I may as well delete that- but, kinda glad I didn't because what spontaneously downloaded the other day, but a four part interview of none other then Dan Wotherspoon (sharing his spiritual journey). I have only listened to part one so far but I really enjoyed it!
One thing I really liked about it Dan, was that a big reason you were interviewed was that listeners were asking for an interview of someone that had some struggles with their faith, but still manage to find a way to stay in Mormon society and go to church, etc. So I admire your willingness to be interviewed and I'm sure it will inspire people to know that they can do it and don't have to totally give up.
I have enjoyed listening to your experiences some of which I am familiar with and many I am not. Your mission stories were particularly inspiring and interesting. I have never heard any of those stories and they were amazing. I also noticed that you are a much better interviewer then the man (no disrespect meant) that interviewed you. I hope you don't mind me broadcasting this, but I just felt that some other members of the family may just be interested in listening to this too..........

ps I laughed so hard when you did the "quack and tremble" line. Your delivery followed by that Dan embarrassed laugh was so funny to me. I also laughed a short time later when you said God gave you a kind of "Atta boy". HA!

ps (again) I watched Brigham City last month and plan on doing a review on it someday, when I ever get around to January's edition of What Emily's Been Watching. Good grief I should really get on that, it's mid February! I have totally dropped the ball this month. Perhaps I will get around to it today since it doesn't look like Matt and B are going to make it since South Pass is closed. Boo South Pass! Boo Weather!


Dan W said...

[I have written a pretty long response here that the software won't let me post in one comment. I have broken it up into segments I hope will work, so see this as the first of a multi-comment comment.]

Yikes! Thanks, Em. I'm glad you have liked the interview so far. The first segment is about my early years and includes stuff about living with you guys and some of my mission experiences.

As you say, the MS discussion is aimed at those struggling to hang in there with their Mormonism after experiencing some sort of crisis of faith. Many of the listeners are just in early stages of seeing their views of Mormonism complicated by troubling pieces of Church history they’d never before encountered, others by the Church’s actions in the political sphere, others by just the feeling that they don’t fit what they see as a “cookie cutter” image that the church wants to put out about what constitutes a good Mormon. Of the audience, the vast majority, do want to find ways to stay. Unfortunately, a vocal minority often speaks up more and takes the discussions on the community’s online forums as chances to justify their choice to leave the church and to tell those who are trying to hang in there that their choice is silly or ultimately doomed.

The good thing about the podcast is the emphasis on these interviews being about people telling their "stories." With that, there is an understanding that no one is really saying that his or her "story" is THE story, that his or her path is the one everyone should take. I like that and value that. It’s important to hear about the diversity of paths and experiences. It constantly helps remind me that Mormonism is a community rather than just a monolith. Zion is about “hearts” that knit together not “minds.” As former LDS Church Historian Leonard Arrington said about the early Church Joseph led, “Joseph Smith often opposed the dogmatists within the church who, once they got hold of a ‘truth’ sought to discourage the creative thought of others who continued to experiment with even newer truths.” For Joseph, settling a doctrine once and for all was not nearly as important as spiritual questing, each person united around certain principles but then reaching and stretching toward God.

Dan W said...

Because of this emphasis on “questing” rather than “settling” on some answers once and for all, I don’t regret doing the interview. In the end, however, I don't want anyone to think she or she should listen to this interview (at least past the first segment or two) as a way of being supportive of me in something I’ve done. I will never ask you if you listened! I have listened to it once since it was posted earlier in the week and don't really cringe over anything I said on this podcast, but please know that a ton of it focuses on complicated parts of Mormon history that many of you may not have heard about previously and may not want troubling up your minds. I do not in any way think people “need” to know this stuff. It’s far more important to learn to love and serve others than it is to know exactly what parts of what you hear in Sunday School and seminary classes really match up with history as it unfolds in all its messiness. My strange mind took me toward studying religion, which naturally led me to apply what I was learning in my study of other religions to my own religion, and in the process I came to wrestle with a lot of stuff that challenges the ideal pictures and clear lessons we get at church meetings.

In addition to your perhaps hearing about some things in Church history that have complicated loose ends, in the interview, I end up also discussing some LDS doctrines that I now mostly hold to be true in non-literal ways. I think I give enough background about literal vs mythic truth in the podcast, but it still is not easy to understand, and it may not be easy for you to hear some of my takes. It isn't testimony meeting stuff (though I'll often share in the interview what things I DO testify of when I speak in F&T meeting or in classes, etc).

Dan W said...

All in all, I guess I’m saying that this was a podcast in which I knew I was being interviewed for a group who already is familiar with difficult issues, already wrestling. For them, because I knew I wasn't introducing ideas for the first time, I chose to speak openly and as “laying it all out there” as I could. I have received a dozen or so huge thank yous through my private Facebook account, plus there are some nice notes in the comments section (along with a few “Dan’s full of crap” kind of ones) of the podcast’s webpage. But, again, I was speaking to that community and not necessarily my family or those who “know” I’m a bit adventurous in my thinking and theology and worldview but who don’t really “KNOW” exactly how adventurous. For those in this latter category, I worry that unless you are struggling with similar issues as many in this podcast community, you really won’t be prepared for all that’s in this interview.

So what am I saying? I guess is it is "Thanks, Em!" for noticing that I’ve done something that is public I am glad there's a chance for any of you to hear some cool stories from my life and mission that you haven’t heard before or may not have remembered. (Besides the first segment, I think the second part isn’t too rough, either.) After that, however, it’s like the red pill in The Matrix. Don’t take it (listen from that point on) unless you want to really see how far down the rabbit hole I have traveled. I have put things back together in such a way that I really enjoy church meetings again and value the many experiences I have had and continue to have in Mormonism, but I’m not at all sure my way of reconstructing will be easy for someone to grasp who hasn’t been on a similar journey.

Ugh! None of this has come out exactly right/wright, but I will still post.... Happy to talk privately with anyone who'd like to. Love to you all...

Dan W said...

BTW, can't wait to hear what you thought of Brigham City (featuring many shots of Mapleton, Utah).

Smiling at "quack and tremble" ("quake") in your post, and I do remember that laugh of mine there in the recording. I totally hate my voice and stupid giggles when I get excited or nervous... Oh well, though.

Emily said...

Heehee Dan, I will take your "thanks Em" as semi-sarcastic. I want you to know though that I think we all know your struggles, and I know I haven't listened to the whole thing yet, but I know z bit at least of what has bothered you in church history, etc. I am sure it will be full of stuff I have not heard or pondered but (and people like you that question everything probably look at people like me as kind of simple minded), when I hear of stuff that confuse me or don't make sense, I turn my brain down a little and look to my faith and think- can I deny my relationship with God and Christ and the personal witness that this church is true? The answer is a big "no way" and I then let it all go and figure that I have a mortal mind and perhaps not all the facts or the "big picture" therefore it's either none of my business or it's been jumbled a bit in history or whatever. I can just let it all go knowing that there is no way I can deny the simple fact that the church is true. Anyway, like I said, I'm certain that simple faith is kind of a cop out to deep thinkers, but I am not going to change it and am willing to face (and have in the past) face ridicule about it.
I feel in your explanation, you worry about what we will think and perhaps worry about putting things in our heads that weren't there before, so I wanted to let you know where I stand at least.
In hindsight, perhaps I should have cleared it with you if you wanted this announced on the blog, but I stand by my post and the reason I posted it. I think it was brave of you to do the interview, because I look to you as a giant in this particular community and the fact that YOU are able to keep your faith and go to church and hold callings etc is a HUGE deal and very inspiring to people that are struggling themselves and I know hearing your story will help people in that situation for the better and I wanted to give you props for it.

ps- haha on the "quack"! Been around Scout too much I guess. Also, you will have to wait a little longer for my blurb about Brigham City. Matt and B ended up making it down here and I ended up making a big dinner for us and them and Cat and Ben. Perhaps today will give me time but I doubt it. But it WILL be sometime in the next few days.

Dan W said...

Thanks for continuing the conversation, Em. You nailed it that I was worried primarily about putting thoughts into heads where such things are not wanted. I never worried about the things we discussed in Sunstone magazine or at the symposiums because we never "recruited" folks to subscribe or attend. The people who read us or came to our conferences self selected to do that because of some issues that already had a foothold in their minds, etc. In this way, the Mormon Stories audience is similar. And even though I'm one of the "faithful" voices in that conversation, it's still a pretty wild conversation with lots of things put on the table and pulled apart and reassembled (or not) that most Mormons would never even dream to try to confront.

Neat to hear how you handle the unwanted (and unnecessary) discussions you come across. If that were possible for me, I'd join you in that. No charges of "simple minded" or anything like that coming from me! Just yesterday, our Sunday School class was taught by a woman in our ward who I find to be extremely powerful. She's completely "in" the Mormon story, but she is truly committed to growing within the gospel, taking the challenges of leaders seriously, seeing the scripture at different levels, etc. Because of this, when she teaches, as I said, it's very powerful. I have likely studied ten times as many things "about" religion and factual history and the pros and cons of various theological positions as she's ever even dreamed of, but in terms of commitment to growing, she's unmatched. She challenges me, and I'm grateful for her and the chance to interact with her in classes as well as out (we’re in the same book group). Her husband is also one of my best friends in the ward, and I count them both as very cool blessings for my “hanging in there” when it could have been so easy to leave at various moments in my journey.

Anyway, thanks again. My "thanks" before wasn't really even semi-sarcastic at all. I truly am grateful that you thought enough of me and my journey and the role I play in this "borderlander" community to alert everyone to this new interview. My reply was, as you surmised, simply to add for those who didn’t realize it already, that there may be content in this podcast that might be challenging in ways that they won’t want to be challenged. And there’s nothing wrong with saying no to that challenge.