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 68: Contemplating Art with Greg Olsen
In this episode Christopher and Riley welcome artist Greg Olsen. Greg is particularly well-known in LDS circles as a painter of Jesus. Our hosts had the opportunity to mine his experiences becoming a professional painter of religious iconography and images that convey the relatable nature of the Savior. Of course, he is much more than his public works and this conversation takes them through his contemplative practices, the nature of symbols, and simplifying our faith by practicing loving-kindness.
Episode 67: The Bhagavad Gita (Part 2)
In this episode Christopher and Riley welcome Phil McLemore and Ben Heaton, Bhagavad Gita enthusiasts and students of Vedic wisdom, to finish our discussion of the seminal Hindu scripture. Our hosts dive into the usefulness of the book, approaches to understanding it, and a few favorite passages.
Episode 66: On Exodus
The Book of Exodus can be divided into three parts: First, we witness the power of the Lord as he extends his arm against Pharaoh, sending the ten plagues and finally parting the Sea of Reeds, which swallows up Pharoah and his army, letting Moses and the Israelites escape into the wilderness. In the second part, Moses will ascend Mount Sinai and receive the law (Torah). The final section of the book is devoted to the construction and description of the tabernacle, or the portable temple the Israelites will carry with them over the next 38 years they spend in the desert. A three-part division is also seen in the Sinai episode where the people are gathered at the bottom, the elders are partway up, and Moses is on top speaking with God. We see a similar tripartite division in the third section’s description of the tabernacle with its courtyard, Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies. Later mystics and teachers would use these three-fold divisions to describe the soul’s journey to God, labeling the stages with terms such as ‘purification,’ contemplation,’ and ‘union’.
Episode 65: The Bhagavad Gita (Part 1)
In this episode, Christopher and Riley discuss one of their favorite religious texts, an excerpt from the Mahabharata, called the Bhagavad Gita. This seminal Hindu work introduces the various forms of Yoga as an allegorical discourse between the warrior prince, Arjuna, and the reincarnated God, Krishna. Contrary to the Western understanding of Yoga, this has less to do with stretching muscles and more to do with stretching the soul. Christopher and Riley share some favorite commonplaces from their reading and offer their interpretations as a starting point for those wanting to explore the beauty and great value of “the Gita.”
Episode 64: Contemplating Satan
Christopher is joined by guest co-host Shiloh Logan to talk about the history of “Satan” from the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible through today. This is not a theological discussion but a historical discussion of how the idea of Satan has evolved. Shiloh and Christopher use scholar Ryan Stokes to show how the idea of “the Satan” was understood before the Jewish captivity in Babylon, how that changed and was possibly influenced by Zoroastrianism, and how the Dead Sea Scrolls solidified the idea of “Satan” that made it into the New Testament. Christopher and Shiloh also use scholar Elaine Pagels, to expand on how our idea of “Satan” affects and influences our view of the other and justifies us in our view. They conclude with a discussion of “Satan” through a Jungian lens, and conclude that the first step in improving our views of the other and our society lies in integrating our own “shadow.”
Episode 62: Beyond the Great Apostasy
In a church with global proselytizing reach, which must outgrow its geographic origins theologically and practically, the Great Apostasy, as historically understood in LDS theology, has become problematic. For this episode we welcome back our friend, Sufi al-hajj Daud, a.k.a. Dr. David Peck (www.ofsaintsandsufis.org) to discuss his contribution to the book, Standing Apart, a scholarly collaboration on the historiography of the Great Apostasy. He describes how to deconstruct and reframe the Great Apostasy through the lens of the universal ur-covenant or First Estate. Recognition of this common entry point on the covenant path helps us commune with brothers and sisters of divergent but related faith traditions. We highlight other overlapping ideas between faiths such as the light of Christ in a wide-ranging episode that we hope will open up to you a path of greater and increasing appreciation of other faiths.
Episode 62: On Sufism
Among the world’s many religions are shadow traditions that express the esoteric or mystical experience of divine union. In Christianity this is manifest in ecstatic, revelatory examples, such as within restorationist movements, in monastic cloisters, and through spontaneous re-emergence among individuals and small groups accessing truth through mystical experience. Parallel to the ascendance of the Islamic faith was a movement that drew from a deep and ancient well of mystical practices and understandings, called sufism. In this episode we welcome Sufi master, al-hajj Daud, also known as Dr. David Peck to discuss his fascinating discovery of sufism as an active and participating latter-day saint, how it has enhanced his faith, and what we can learn from his journey and discovery. His upcoming book and podcast, Of Saints and Sufis, will both challenge and intrigue those with the courage to continue the path of the seeker.
Episode 61: Our Faith and Identity
In the opening of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches that the kingdom of heaven belongs now to the "poor in spirit", which translates as "the very empty ones". What does that kind of poverty or emptiness imply? Surely Jesus wants us to have an abundance of His Spirit, but is our vessel empty? In this episode, Christopher and Riley break down identity recognition, formation, and cleansing. They hit on what might be considered positive and negative aspects of the identity formation process, with a view towards the beatitudinal ideal of non-attachment to the identities of what many have referred to as "the false self".
Episode 60: Certainty From Doubt
In this episode, Christopher sits down face to face with Riley on a visit to Heber, Utah from Bakersfield California to talk about arriving at certainty through methodological doubt. The conversation begins with the uncannily similar methodological doubt of medieval Muslim philosophical theologian and Sufi mystic al-Ghazali (1056 or 1057-1111) and the first modern philosopher, René Descartes (1596-1650), by which each arrives at certainty through direct experience of what Descartes calls “clear and distinct ideas” and Riley and Christopher share their own experience.
Episode 59: On Knowing
In this episode, guest-host Lindsey Ohlin is joined by educator Tom Bogle as they discuss their similar experiences with an unhealthy relationship surrounding the idea of knowing. What stumbling blocks might we encounter in our pursuit of perfect knowledge and how might that influence how we see our place in the world? What is the relationship between knowledge and faith, and where does wisdom fit into that equation? The pursuit of knowledge can often lead us toward better answers, but can the pursuit of wisdom lead us down a path toward asking better questions?