A Thoughtful Faith features the stories and perspectives of thoughtful Mormons and other religious thinkers who have something to say about the common challenges and issues facing those who are seeking to live a life of faith within Mormonism and beyond.
What is death when you are on the other side of Mormon orthodoxy when the belief system you might have inherited might not serve you well any longer?
When our former stories of death and dying tire, what frames of meaning-making take their place?
In this reconstructing death series, I talk with a range of LDS spiritual, palliative and health care professionals whose work is with those at the threshold of death. Each of them explores their evolving understandings of dying and death as a result of both their professional work and their personal faith development.
My guests reflect on their refreshed understandings of death which we hope helps furnish us with new and enriched perspectives and stories about death that support our ‘falling upward’ (as Fr Richard Rohr calls it) into our second half of life spirituality.
Ana Nelson Shaw
Episode 1: Ana Nelson Shaw: Spiritual Care Co-ordinator
Ana Nelson Shaw lives in Butte Montana where she works coordinating spiritual care and volunteer services for hospice patients including making spiritual care visits. Ana talks about creating environments of kindness and compassion for those at nearing death.
Dr Ryan Williams
Episode 2: Dr Ryan Williams: Internal Medicine Physician: Idaho
Dr Ryan Williams is a Board Certified Internal Medicine Physician. He served for 4 years in the US Air Force and he went on to specialize in Hospital, Skilled Nursing and Hospice Care. He has been practising in the Boise Idaho area for 10 years. Ryan discusses how his maturing faith has gifted him with more uncertain views of death and dying but have improved his capacity to respond to his patients with more openness.
Episode 3: Anni Lehti-Niemenan: Oncology Nurse: Finland
Anni Lehti-Niemenan is a registered nurse who works in outpatient palliative care at a university hospital in Tampere in Finland. Anni talks about dying, death and grief in Finland including how LDS funerals can sometimes be in competition with Finnish customs and needs.
Dr Julia Durrant
Episode 4: Dr Julia Durrant: Neurocritical care attending physician: Oregon
Dr Julia Durrant is an attending physician in neurocritical care at a university hospital in Oregon. Julia has attended hundreds of deaths and she talks wisely about the point at which religion, faith and science intersect which has caused her to strongly believe that God is not orchestrating anyone’s death.
Dr Kathleen Moncrieff
Episode 5: Dr Kathleen Moncrieff: Family and community-based physician: Calgary
Dr Kathleen Moncrieff completed medical school, her family medicine residency, and her master’s degree in medical education at the University of Calgary and she currently works in community-based family medicine. Kathleen talks about assisted dying in light of Canada’s new laws. She discusses how religious and cultural pluralism has shaped her approach to the dying and their families.
Dr Taylor Petrey and I talk about the Bible, its wonders, its frustrations and its possibilities. And we discuss openly and honestly the widely felt frustration that Sunday School classes are not always welcoming of the skills of Biblical interpretation, while the formal Sunday School curriculum is not always sound as it could be.
Janné Grover’s Ordination at the 2016 Community of Christ World Conference
Community of Christ is a worldwide church, and though small in numbers maintain a consistent effort to “proclaim Jesus Christ and promote communities of joy, hope, love, and peace.” Their vision is a ‘table’ with everyone invited, participating and belonging regardless of gender, race, or sexuality.
One of their first progressive actions was to ordain women which they did so in 1984. Today five of the council of twelve positions in Community of Christ are held by women. At the 2019 world conference, Catherine Mambwe from Zambia was the first African woman to be ordained an apostle.
So, what does spiritual formation look like for a woman in Community of Christ?
Janné Grover is a member of the Council of Twelve Apostles, the lead missionary quorum of Community of Christ. She is assigned to the Central USA Mission Field. She is also director of Formation Ministries.
Her previous employment includes disciple formation ministries specialist for Community of Christ and is a musician by training and vocation.
Apostle, Janne joins me to discuss spiritual formation and what it means for a woman to be in senior ecclesiastical leadership in a progressive worldwide church.
Church College of New Zealand, which was opened in 1958, had a short life by education standards. For 52 years it served the mostly Māori Mormon LDS community. But, in a swirl of confusion, it was finally closed in 2009 and demolished.
The school’s motto was ‘Build Now For Eternity’ which motivated many Māori Mormons to contribute money, material resources and years of labour for the building of the school. Today, despite promises to develop the land and reinvigorate the community of Temple View, few of the promised improvements which were offered to replace a much-beloved school have been realised.
Peter Witehira, former Chair of the Temple View Heritage Committee, and Rā Puriri join me to discuss the beginning and end of Church College of New Zealand.
In 2019 Professor Peter Lineham was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to religious history and the community. And that honour is well deserved.
Few, if any scholars in the field of religious history in New Zealand have the sweeping knowledge and intimate understanding of religion in Aotearoa. He’s written about Māori prophets to Catholic missionaries, including LDS history over the period of his distinguished career.
Peter’s fluency and his impressive breadth of understanding of the New Zealand Mormon history highlight the issues arising out of an American church who are in a complex relationship with New Zealand Māori.
Anthony Miller lives in Billings Montana. He grew up in the church. He did all the things required of good Mormon boys, and he thought he knew where his life was heading. But a dramatic and sudden period of faith deconstruction had him reconsidering everything about his religious life.
Mormon leave-takers don’t usually manage the God and church conversation without some nervousness but Anthony wanted to understand his inner journey well and despite his resignation, he has remained open and curious about spirituality and spiritual formation inside and outside of the LDS Church. And, Anthony has found gracious and wise ways of accommodating his still adherent wife’s journey in the LDS faith.
Anthony joins me to talk about gracious LDS leave-taking, deconstruction and spiritual reconstruction.
At the beginning of May 2019 two mothers of children who were sexually abused by convicted paedophile, Michael Jensen, appeared back in their former ward in Martinsburg, West Virginia to warn the congregation that the children there are not safe.
This is a community, they argued, that circled their wagons around the perpetrator and their leaders. This is a community that made sinners out of those who pointed out the sin. This is a community that never apologised for their role in creating a climate that turned a church against the victims and their families.
Alice Koivu and Kelly Plante join me to talk about their journey back (as uninvited guests with a message) to the LDS Church pulpit.