Ben Petersen and Shiloh Logan’s long friendship has coalesced around a deeply shared love of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. They’ve spent countless nights together with their families talking about the wonders of hope, love, and peace that come from the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In these podcasts, we are searching for moments to sit with the Divine. As we contemplate each week’s readings, we look for how we can understand and use the Sermon on the Mount and the atonement of Jesus Christ to more fully understand the greater narratives of the scriptures.
Episode 69: D&C 106-108
Shiloh is joined with guest co-host Christopher Hurtado to discuss modality in terms of the priesthood. Modes are, in a sense, stories that we believe in as real and that we pour our intentionality into to produce experiences. By “story” it is not necessarily to say a “fiction,” but it is a narrative that frames our belief(s) and that we combine with our faith unto action. When we say something as simple as “I am going to go pray to God,” we often do not take into account the richness and complexities of the assumed stories and expectations that go into that short phrase. In that statement is the assumption of what we construct as the “I” (the thinking, acting, believing, and producing thing that is conscious and aware), the assertion that the “I” has intentionality and that that intentionality and hope matters, that there is a “God” (and all of the beliefs, assumptions, expectations, experiences, and thoughts of what that entails), that we are in an important relationship to this “God,” and that this “God” is of a type of entity, being, or thing that cares or is in response to our own intentionality and purpose to have a conversation. Just the simple concept of “prayer” is a rich story full of narratives, experiences, assumptions, and expectations. So, what of “priesthood”? Modality is not the only way to think of priesthood, but it certainly opens a new discussion than what we typically have in recognizing the richness of that conversation and of the sometimes unexamined assumptions and beliefs that we have concerning this part of our religious experience.
Episode 68: D&C 102 – 105
Ben and Shiloh discuss some of the history and context of Zion’s Camp. These were unprecedented times for the early Saints, and there was a lot of uncertainty about the problems in Missouri. Were they to abandon Jackson County entirely? But what of the prophecies of the New Jerusalem there? How would they get their property back? Would they have to fight? Would the law support them? The Missouri governor, Governor Dunklin, was somewhat sympathetic to the Saints and had made certain promises to help them regain their land, but these promises ultimately failed. There was a lot of violent rhetoric and metaphor used by the Saints and church leaders right up to the point of actually committing violence. Their confusion in what the Lord wanted from them is understandable. The Lord commanded that “the redemption of Zion must needs come by power” (D&C 103:15), but the Lord stops short at defining what kind of “power” he means. Was it the power of the sword? Of the law? Of… what? To add to the seeming confusion, the Lord states that his “presence” would be with the Saints “in avenging me of mine enemies” (D&C 103:26), but the Lord stops short at defining what “avenging me of mine enemies” entails. And then something interesting happens: the violent rhetoric turns to divine commands to “sue for peace, not only to the people that have smitten you, but also to all people” (D&C 105:38). How are we to make sense of all of this? Is it possible that the Lord never intended violence at all and that something else entirely was going on? How does the Lord avenge himself of his enemies?
Episode 67: D&C 98 – 101
Shiloh and Ben open up about their experiences in studying the Constitution as BYU students and their journey into peace studies. Section 98 is a type of bridge in their life between the Lord’s justification of his people to follow the principles in the Constitution that protects the rights and freedoms of all people and the Lord’s command to “renounce war and proclaim peace.” How often do we really “renounce war,” and does it mean to “proclaim peace.” How often do we unwittingly assume that “peace” is what naturally follows when everyone finally agrees with us? How often do we think that “peace” is what Jesus Christ brings when he returns to violently kill all of the violently evil on the earth? Are there no tools that God has given us to preach and establish peace during times of contention and warfare? Are we to only “renounce war and proclaim peace” in times of “peace”? What does it mean and what would it look like to “renounce war and proclaim peace” during wartime, and how popular would that be? There are always justifications for war. There are always reasons that we can deem the justice and rightness of our particular cause. War is rarely lacking for initial supporters. What answers, if anything, can the Sermon on the Mount provide us to answer these questions?
Episode 66: D&C 94-97
Ben and Shiloh discuss the concepts of “unclean” and “chasten.” Are these concepts to be taken as metaphysical reality, or are they epistemic ideas that help us break through the layers of perception of the false self? The gospel of Jesus Christ provides many modalities of experiencing God, and in the restored gospel narrative, such as in Section 89 with the Word of Wisdom, we have a front seat view in learning how many of these modes are created. As we pour our intentionality into these modes, we awaken and are made aware of the reality of God that is always already existent around us at all times. God’s work leaves nothing to waste, and all of His creation is reincorporated back and into His purposes.
Episode 65: D&C 93
Shiloh and Ben discuss topics of truth, grace, light, intelligence, God’s nature, knowledge, agency, glory, the spirit, Satan’s nature, the true/false self, obedience, and family obligations. There is a lot to unpack in Section 93’s few pages. In our religious observances, it is common to ponder over the question of God’s existence. It would seem that the most powerful experience we could have in this life would be to actually see and physically converse with God face-to-face. But is this really so? Consider the many theophanies documented in the scriptures. The rapturous and celestial event fades away and the person is left again to its own devices, weaknesses, and reality. While the memory of the event may remain, the day-to-day struggles impact the same after as before the divine manifestation. Individual nature is not forever changed by these angelic or divine manifestations. So, is seeing the face of God really such a long-lasting and transformative experience? What types of experiences are long-lasting and transformative? The 6th Beatitude tells us that the pure in heart will see the face of God, yet there are still Beatitudes beyond God’s appearance to experience. Are there possibly metaphorical ways that we can experience and see the face of God that is more transformative than a direct heavenly visitation?
Episode 64: D&C 89 – 92
Ben and Shiloh talk about the Word of Wisdom and in how we create our modes of worship. The Word of Wisdom is a fascinating conversation, but it is often criticized because of its seeming inconsistencies. The Word of Wisdom has evolved and has been through various revisions, interpretations, and levels of enforcement, and this has sometimes caused a lack of belief in its importance or its power. However, when we understand the Word of Wisdom by means of creating religious modality, we can also create space for historical changes and nuance while also strengthening our choice to adhere to the Word of Wisdom. Any seeming incongruity or inconsistency in our modes of worship need not necessarily derail or detract us from finding deep meaning and purpose in those modes that we experience God through.
Episode 63: D&C 88
Shiloh and Ben talk about the law and light of Christ. We often think of “law” as a list of rules and standards, but does D&C 88 offer us a new insight into the nature of God’s law that isn’t commonly addressed? In what possible ways does understanding that the “light of Christ”—which is in and through all things”—is the law by which all things are governed” change the way that we view the law? Here in D&C 88 we also have a rather rare short description of the nature of God that describes God’s omniscience, omnipresence, and a type of panentheism that we don’t commonly equate to an embodied God. Is it possible that the parable in D&C 88 also offers a glimpse into a universalist understanding of God where the various “degrees of light” often metaphysically equated to the three degrees of glory has more to do with our perception of those glories than of the metaphysical nature of those glories?
Episode 62: D&C 85-87
Ben and Shiloh discuss the parable of the wheat and the tares as found in Matthew 13 and D&C 86. A common interpretation of this parable is that the “wheat” and the “tares” are people, and in this interpretation, we typically include ourselves as wheat and those who we disagree with or who are not living our standards as tares. However, is this really the point of the parable? How often do our interpretations and assumptions of scripture serve to unnecessarily “otherize” us from our brothers and sisters? What if the point of this parable was not to “otherize” but to show how God leads, guides, and builds each of his children with compassion, patience, and watchful care? How can we learn from this parable of the universal and unconditional love of God that leads his children out of sin not through guilt, shame, or punishment but through charity, reconciliation, and unity? What would that even look like?
Episode 61: D&C 84
Shiloh and Ben talk about the many ascension themes on priesthood found in Section 84 and compare these themes to Section 76. Whether discussing priesthood, the kingdoms of glory, the Beatitudes, or temple ordinances, the theme of ascension plays a prominent and central role in scripture and in our religious experiences. But what is this “ascension” talking about? Is it only or mostly metaphysical? That certainly seems to be the way that we discuss these themes when they appear. However, what could be gained and seen if we look at these themes in terms of epistemology? What if, metaphysically speaking, we were always already worthy and that repentance and our construct of “worthiness” was a matter of our perception and worldview? What if our construct and idea of “sin” was far more epistemic than metaphysic? What would that look like? Would it necessarily tail-spin our theology into hopeless relativity or “eat drink and be merry” hedonism? Does the way we perceive reality have more to do with our behavior than what reality is itself?
Episode 60: D&C 81-83
Ben and Shiloh talk about the love, mercy, and compassion of God in our weakness. How often do we find ourselves believing that disappointment, pain, struggle, or sadness are because of our sin and wickedness and that if we were just more righteous then we would be happy, joyful, and always feel like rejoicing? How often in our weakness, self-accusation, and trauma do we imagine a God that is various shades of disappointed in us or that is disinterested in our pain and struggles because we deserve the consequences for our actions? What if pain, struggling, sadness, etc., were not merely the consequences of sin and wickedness, and what if the idea of a disappointed and apathetic God was not God’s nature at all? What would change in our behavior if we knew that we were always already completely, fully, and unconditionally loved by God and that what was needed was merely for us to recognize, believe, and experience this love uniquely in our own lives? What if we don’t have to bind God down to bless us, but what if God is naturally and hyper-actively vigilant in creating that which is good in our lives at all times and places? What if we didn’t have to use covenants to hold God’s feet to the fire to bless us in ways that God wouldn’t bless us otherwise, but what if covenants were merely modalities (read: ways and means) by which we can overcome our own fear, distrust, and unbelief in God’s already hyper-active work in our own lives?