Latter-day Contemplation exists largely to explore and document our journey of study and faith as we seek to become more like our Savior, Jesus Christ. We are by no means experts in anything that we’re going to be talking about, but what we do have is an openness to questions, a hunger to discover truth wherever we can find it, and a desire to live a life of peace for ourselves, our families, and our community.
We love that you’re here, and we hope that you find value in this discussion to enhance and strengthen your own discipleship of Jesus Christ.
Episode 47: The Importance of Mentors
In this episode, Riley and Christopher discuss the critical importance of mentors in our lives. In the process, they wander back and forth through the various benefits and risks inherent in the establishment of mentor/protégé relationships. At its core, mentoring is about teaching, but on a deeper, more personal level. Mentorships include expectations of both parties, involve bi-directional growth. Mentors can help us grow in all areas of our life, secular and spiritual. In particular, spiritual mentors or gurus can help us grow spiritually. A traditional guru/disciple relationship is a long-term devotional practice. Christopher and Riley discuss the necessary discernment and grace that should attend mentor/protégé and guru/disciple relationships, as participants seek to learn and grow together. Realization of our full potential is difficult to impossible without the patient guidance of mentors. Fortunately, mentorship opportunities lie in wait if we prepare ourselves. “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
Episode 46: The Stories We Tell Ourselves
Christopher and guest co-host Shiloh Logan talk about the power of the stories that we tell ourselves and the impact that they have on our lives. It has been said that “we don’t live in reality, but, rather, we live in our stories about reality.” What does this mean? Human beings are story and meaning-making entities. We are what makes meaning out of reality, and we do this through the stories that we create around and about events and ourselves. Stories are how we make sense of our world, and they are helpful and beneficial to us until they’re not. A primary problem for human beings is when we can’t differentiate between reality and the stories that they have made about reality. This is problematic because once a story is no longer helpful for us, we often can’t shed it from our lives, repent, and move on, because we confuse the story-of-out-own-making for reality itself. One way of first being able to help us differentiate our stories from reality is to see that our stories can never be purely objective, as anything that we create is going to be inherently and necessarily limited. The entirety of our worldview is constructed from the things we-know-we-know and from the things that we-know-we-don’t-know. However, beyond these two things is the entirety of reality of things that we-don’t-know-that-we-don’t-know. Our stories are made by what we-know-we-know and what we-know-we-don’t-know, and because of this, they will never be entirely objective in accounting for the infinite reality of things we-don’t-know-that-we-don’t-know.
Episode 45: Being Present to Our Values and How We Spend Our Time
In this episode, Christopher and Riley discuss being present to our values and how we spend our time. They reminisce about the 60-second TV spots “Family. Isn’t It About . . . Time?” (Remember those?) Using these TV spots as a springboard, they talk about the process of formulating values, the difference between the quantity of time and quality of time, and the importance of being present to our values and how we spend our time. Whatever our subjective judgments about which activities might help us attain or keep what we value, hearing God in the process is a function of being present to the “still small voice” that speaks guidance to us in the moments along the way.
Episode 44: Contemplating Jesus
“Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21) “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou have shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret, shall reward you openly” (Matthew 6:6). “He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given” (Matthew 13:11). These scriptures all point to a mystical understanding of Jesus Christ and his mission. At his core, Jesus is the mediator of our atonement with God, our guide and spiritual mentor to the transformed inner life of discipleship, and revealer of our divine nature. In this episode, Riley and Christopher welcome former chaplain and Institute director Philip G. McLemore to discuss the wisdom of Jesus, his mediation, message, and atonement. We discuss the difference between doing and being in the context of discipleship and the transformative power of “inner work.” For those interested in mystical union with God, Jesus doesn’t just point the way, he is The Way.
Episode 43: Contemplating Symbols and Meanings
In this episode, Christopher and Riley are joined by guest Daniel Meehan for a discussion contemplating symbols and their meanings. After a brief discussion defining symbols and meanings, they delve into a discussion of some symbols and meanings beginning at convention and culminating with invention. Dan demonstrates his devotional practice of definition, deconstruction, and reconstruction of symbols and meanings, following the wisdom pattern, as Richard Rohr, OFM calls it, of order, disorder, reorder, to discover differing and deeper meanings of the symbols discussed. Riley and Chris follow Dan’s lead and prove the power of his practice by passing from convention in the interpretation of symbols to invention, discovering differing and deeper meanings of symbols discussed with him.
Episode 42: Mysticism
Mysticism, properly understood, is a process or pursuit of divine oneness or communion with God. While that seems like a worthy aspiration, many can feel uncomfortable with mystical practices such as transcendental meditation. Mystics over the centuries have largely been misunderstood, characterized as heretical, or marginalized to protect orthodox authority. Indeed, Joseph Smith was treated similarly by religious leaders of his time; and yet today within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints there exists a strong, literal, materialist tradition which becomes the filter through which we view God, leaving many with unmet spiritual needs. In this episode, Riley and Christopher suggest that our image of God and the ways in which we represent the divine, are inherently incomplete, and were never meant to be the truth of all things. While structure, dogma, practice, and liturgy are all important in pointing us to the truth of God, the first-hand, spirit-filled experience of divine communion itself, untranslated and ineffable, is far more profitable. Fortunately, this pursuit is not only possible but a present reality.
Episode 41: Contemplating Good and Evil
In this episode, Christopher and Riley contemplate good and evil from the loss of paradise in the duality of the fall to the regaining of paradise in a return to unity in the mystery of the conjunction of opposites and the sacred marriage of heaven and earth. In the course of the conversation, Riley and Christopher ponder the problem of evil postulated by Epicurus and the theodicies, or solutions to this problem, offered by philosophers and theologians from antiquity to modernity, and thus the purpose of good and evil from the fall of humanity into duality to its redemption in unity.
Episode 40: Contemplating Resurrection
In this episode, Riley and Christopher take on the topic of resurrection. Is resurrection something that happens after we do, or do we need to be resurrected before we die? What would it look like to be resurrected before we die and what does a resurrected life in Christ look like? Christopher and Riley answer these questions and related questions about spiritual death and life with New Testament and extracanonical scriptures from the Gnostics, touching on the ordinances of baptism and the Sacrament and offer suggestions for living a resurrected life in Christ in the present.
Episode 39: Poetry and the Sacred
The language of the sacred is often poetic, rather than propositional. It speaks of feelings, not facts. The fact is, any experience of the sacred is inexpressible in propositional terms. It should come as no surprise then that many of the sacred texts of the world’s religions are in poetry, not prose: the Hindu Vedas, Upanishads, Mahabharata, Bhagavad Gita, and Ramayana; Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezequiel, the twelve minor prophets, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon and the Book of Revelation in the Jewish and Christian Bibles; the sacred text of Taoism, the Tao Te Ching; and the Muslim Qur’an. Even philosophers and theologians have tried to express their propositional ideas about the sacred in poetry (e.g. Lucretius, Dante, and Goethe). Finally, Muslim mystics and Christian contemplatives have both expressed their experiences of the sacred in poetry, including in love poetry as evocative as the Song of Solomon in the Jewish Bible. In this episode, Christopher and Riley read and comment on passages from examples of the above-mentioned sacred texts in poetic translations evoking the same images and feelings as the originals.
Episode 38: The Word of Wisdom
In this episode, Riley welcomes guest co-host Shiloh Logan to talk about the modality and usefulness of the Word of Wisdom as a contemplative tool. They go into the history of the revelation and its subsequent modified orthodox adoption as a commandment under Heber J. Grant in order to deconstruct the popular understanding that what we read in Section 89 is God’s law of heath. While the Word of Wisdom may be the result of a culturally infused, early 19th-century zeitgeist, it nevertheless represents an example of Joseph Smith’s ability to bring awareness to every aspect of our temporal lives in a way that makes all things new and spiritual. Understanding how the Word of Wisdom is used in the Church today, where it has become essentially an “effective boundary maintenance device,” can help us separate the policy from how a revelatory event became a model for incorporating an awareness of what we consume as part of our spiritual growth. Is there a difference between the spirit and the letter of the Word of Wisdom? Will becoming intentional about our consumption help us better connect to God? Is the Word of Wisdom Still relevant as a model of the spiritual/temporal connection?