Episode 102: Book Club: The Backslider

19 comments on “Episode 102: Book Club: The Backslider”

  1. Dgostlund Reply

    What a great discussion. I really like this new feature — the Book Club with live listener feedback through Ustream and skype that will hopefully gain momentum over time. Mormon Enigma, here we come! And in that vein, especially with John surrounded by these three intelligent women, I think the new studio should hereafter be known as “The Mansion House.” What do you think, Zilpha — too pretentious?

    • Anonymous Reply

      Are you Glenn’s sock puppet?

      I like “The Mansion House” and yes, it is pretentious. 🙂

      Can’t wait for the next one as I am a big fan of Mormon Enigma. Love that book!

  2. Glenn Reply

    It’s interesting, John.  You talk about folk doctrines vs. official doctrines, and make statements like converts moving to Utah and coming across cultural Mormonism, scorekeeping, a vengeful god – but that was never my conception of God (one of the reasons why I still have that soft spot for the God I grew up with) — but we came up through different Mormon experiences.  You came from this Frank-like stock of people in your Larsen-line who wouldn’t ever completely take off their garments, and maybe some of that traditional folk belief or learned behavior made its way into you as you were growing up.  One of the panelists mentioned the kinder-gentler rural Mormons.  I guess I just wonder how many different flavors of God there are like that, and how many blends there are from different folk-mixings and dilutings and concentrations through time – (who said “the God we create in our mind?”  That was awesome – I wish I could keep the voices straight – I just couldn’t follow who was who after the first few comments – sorry).  Also, we talk about “Mormon culture” as if it is one single reified thing, maybe with extremes. 

  3. Glenn Reply

    (this comment box has given me all kinds of trouble Rich)

    I like the way the discussion wrapped up that a different version of Jesus is the answer.  I thought Peterson was trying to show Mormons that they can recreate a Jesus that works for them personally and stop beating themselves up — trying to show us that we can make-believe. I am totally going to go back and highlight all the different versions of God/Jesus that are mentioned — great suggestion.

  4. The Whiner Reply

    Now I’m interested in reading the book. Who knew LDS fiction could be anything but boring and trite?

    Also, if I were supreme ruler of the world, I’d make a rule for podcast guests: no talking over other people. It’s impossible to listen to. Totally detracts from the listen-ability. Don’t get me wrong, the guests had great things to say and I think they did a great job. But they sure clobbered John into silence with their interruptions. Take turns, ya’ll. 😉

  5. Wes Cauthers Reply

    Great discussion. Sounds like an interesting book as well. I related very much to what was said about the vengeful, guilt-inducing, “you better not mess up or else” Mormon God as well as the distorted views of sexuality. That’s what I grew up under for sure in a devout Mormon family. I have a hard time with the idea that this is only true in isolated pockets of Mormonism and that it’s just individuals who come up with these ideas on their own. There are numerous examples of Mormon leadership making statements that both endorse and encourage such ideas. One example is “The Miracle of Forgiveness” by Mormon prophet Spencer W. Kimball. The title is beyond ironic in light of the content.

    I think it’s great if there are Mormons who were fortunate enough to not grow up with such ideas. Perhaps their parents were selective in what they listened to from Church leadership. But for parents like mine, who wholeheartedly believe that Mormon leaders are divinely inspired with direct authority from God, every word from the top should be followed and obeyed without question. So it seems highly problematic to say that these ideas originate with individual Mormons.

    I agree that the Cowboy Jesus is far more compelling than Frank’s Jesus (which is pretty much the Jesus I was taught based on teachings from LDS leadership). The Cowboy Jesus also sounds much closer the Biblical Jesus or “the Jesus that everyone else believes in” to quote John Larsen. For me, the biggest tragedy of Mormonism is the problems that arise from the distortion who Jesus is. More often than not, it seems that either Mormons remain in the church with some variation of Frank’s experience or they leave and reject Jesus altogether as either a jerk or a purely fictional character.

    There are some great books out there on Jesus that I would highly recommend for anyone who may be interested in someone like the Cowboy Jesus described in The Backslider. Obviously, the Bible is a great place to start. I would suggest starting with a modern translation like The Message. Additionally, authors like Philip Yancey and Brian McLaren are a great introduction Jesus. Here are links to 3 books that have been immensely helpful to me personally:

    The Message by Eugene Peterson

    The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey

    The Secret Message of Jesus by Brian McLaren

    • Fanson Reply
      • Wes Cauthers Reply

        Thanks, Fanson. Yes, I like the NLT too. Haven’t read Palmer’s book on Jesus yet, but it’s on my list.

        • Fanson Reply

          I love the Grant Palmer book. I recommend it to everyone – Mormon and non-Mormon alike.

          It tends to get one nicely refocused on the central core of what it means to be a Christian: the worship of, devotion to, emulation of, and service to Jesus Christ above all else.

        • Fanson Reply

          I love the Grant Palmer book. I recommend it to everyone – Mormon and non-Mormon alike.

          It tends to get one nicely refocused on the central core of what it means to be a Christian: the worship of, devotion to, emulation of, and service to Jesus Christ above all else.

    • Anonymous Reply

      I knew that was you! Cool that you called in. I guess you’ll be calling next time when they review your friend’s book?

  6. Anonymous Reply

    Sorry to hear that dude. The best and most reliable way to post on a Disqus board is to sign up for a username and password with Disqus. That way you can also get e-mailed when people reply to your comment, and other such goodies. The Facebook integration is not working so I had to remove it. I have been in contact with Disqus support and they claim I am doing everything right when implementing Facebook so they are stumped as to why it doesn’t work. Sorry to everybody who has problems with this system. For all its flaws, I still think it’s better than without. I especially like the “like” feature.

  7. Michael Gonda Reply

    Great episode everyone. I really like the book club idea. I will definitely have to read Mormon Enigma for next month!

    Count me as one who really sees a lot of me (at least when I was the more “faithful” me) in Frank. I felt for a long time that God was somebody who I would never be able to measure up to enough for him to really care about me.

    I don’t think the characterizations of different types of mormons were that extreme for the time period. I also think sadly today that there are a lot of LDS people who still feel that God is petty and vindictive. They think if they can do enough good works, that their works will save them. They also seem to think that no matter how many good works someone does, if they don’t have all the ordinances, they are out of luck.

    I think I am in the boat with Marianne. I don’t pray as much these days, but when I do pray, I feel like I want to pray that God won’t be the way that I thought he was as a young person.

  8. Anonymous Reply

    “Cowboy Jesus” the authentic Mormon Jesus!

    Shame some people never see cowboy Jesus in church even though he is there every Sunday. Shame, just a darn shame….

  9. Fanson Reply

    Well the only Jesus I’ve ever known, loved, worshiped and followed is the Cowboy Jesus.

    I don’t know who that hard arsed, legalistic, angry S.O.B. in the sky is that others worship, love, follow and talk about is but he’s obviously an impostor.

    My name’s Fred, thanks for letting me share.

  10. bsmith Reply

    Good discussion about the only Mormon fiction book I’ve liked! As others have said, I could really relate to Frank, both in my upbringing, where I lived, and the theology. For Darkmatter who said it’s a shame we didn’t see Cowboy Jesus, because he was there every Sunday – that may be true for you, but as far as I’m concerned, he wasn’t there. Or it didn’t matter, because he had an SOB for a father, and he was the guy we had to deal with.

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