Reply All, a podcast from Gimlet Media, tells stories that have to do with the Internet. It is a highly entertaining, well-produced, and interesting podcast. This week’s story (titled “The Line”) focuses on the Internet’s role in the current state of Mormonism.
The hosts, PJ and Alex, talk to Karen Duffin, a formerly active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and a producer of some pretty dope podcasts. They connected some dots that I actually didn’t know were part of the same trajectory. They talk about the origin of the church, John Dehlin, Hans Mattson, and the difficulty of asking questions in a church whose past, like most churches, contains some rough history. They also discuss efforts from the Church to help members understand the answers to hard questions: Gospel Topics essays, and even Elder Uchtdorf’s compassionate words regarding doubt in our faith.
Listen, don’t turn on this podcast if you don’t like hearing about difficult gospel topics… or if you really dislike John Dehlin; it brings a lot to the surface. Also, it’s worth noting that no active members of the Church were interviewed as part of the episode. There’s nothing slandering or insulting, but it talks about Dehlin’s story, about Hans Mattson’s story, about new policies regarding gay members of the church, and it’s hard. It’s really hard. While it’s actually quite validating to hear people outside of the church agree that being a member seems challenging at this time, it doesn’t make it any easier.
I’ve been quiet these past few months on the TWIM blog, partly because: I work full-time, just bought a house and also am trying to keep a one-year-old human alive, but mostly because some truly difficult, heartbreaking and painful things for me have happened with regards to the Church and church culture. I don’t have answers to a lot of questions, and I am deeply saddened when I think about the people who are directly affected by these changes. I struggle sometimes to fully associate myself with an institution that enforces a few, certain policies that don’t seem to align with my idea of Christianity. However, if I am true to myself in this moment, I am not ready to give it up. I get that some are. I do. Yet, for me personally, I can’t seem to forget some really powerful and special moments I’ve experienced that prove to me that God is alive and aware of me.
I heard a snippet of a TED talk a couple of months ago where Lesley Hazleton talks about faith and doubt. She says this:
“We have to recognize that real faith has no easy answers. It’s difficult and stubborn. It involves an ongoing struggle, a continual questioning of what we think we know, a wrestling with issues and ideas. It goes hand in hand with doubt, in a never-ending conversation with it, and sometimes in conscious defiance of it.”
This quote resonates with me because even though I have technically been Mormon my whole life, it hasn’t always been easy. In fact, it’s hard more often than not (often, admittedly, because of my own stubbornness and misunderstandings). However, it makes me feel better to know that somewhere in the universe, there is an idea that doubt and faith go hand in hand. The ever too-present practice in our Mormon culture to KNOW everything “without a doubt” seems, ironically, like a fragile stance to take. I hope the space that welcomes doubt, fear, and questions grows in our church and within our culture.
Anyway… wasn’t I talking about a podcast?? I was. Take a listen to the newest episode of Reply All for a pretty interesting summary of how the Internet has influenced the various changes and reactions in the Mormon Church during the past few years. I do wish they could have talked to someone who is currently active in the Church, given that just the name John Dehlin is anathema to many saints. The hosts mention that they unsuccessfully tried to talk to representatives of the Mormon Church, but even tape of a supportive, active member would have gone a long way in my opinion. Evenhandedness is better for all of us in the long run.
In any case, for me, it was a really interesting segment to talk about the current state of Latter-day Saint affairs, and as I said before, it feels validating even though they discuss some harder topics.