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The Gift of Dissonance — A Conversation with Patrick Mason
The Gift of Dissonance — A Conversation with Patrick Mason

Faith Matters

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The gift of dissonance

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It’s General Conference weekend! Time to dig up the BINGO cards and park yourself in front of the TV with some cinnamon rolls and a Diet Coke or two, to soak in some inspiration and maybe even encounter some discomfort.

We thought we’d release a re-edited episode with Patrick Mason that feels really timely.

In this conversation with Patrick, we talked about creating what Brian McLaren has called a “four-stage community.”. The “stages” we’re referencing here come from Brian’s book Faith After Doubt, and refer to different stages in which people might find themselves in their journeys of faith. McLaren defines these stages as  simplicity, where faith is straightforward; complexity, where faith becomes somewhat more complicated; perplexity, the stage where questions become more important than answers and previous faith paradigms often undergo massive shifts; and finally, harmony, where the gifts of each stage are finally realized and integrated.

It seems to us that the diverse reactions and feelings engendered by General Conference are often the result of being members of a community in which all four of these stages are manifest. Messages that seem to be tailored to members at a particular stage of faith may not resonate with listeners at a different stage. This can feel like misalignment, and it can sometimes feel jarring.

In this conversation, Patrick points to a couple of practices that have helped us turn that dissonance we sometimes feel into a gift: for one, being intentional about deeply listening to those we might be inclined to disagree with, and orienting ourselves toward generosity, asking what virtues and values might they be speaking from. Patrick also pointed out there’s a real potential for growth when we choose to stay in relationship with people we disagree with. As Eugene England points out in his essay “The Church is As True as the Gospel,” in many ways, that struggle is the point.

Patrick is the Leonard Arrington Chair of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University and the author of several books including Restoration: God’s Call to the 21st Century World. He brought the wisdom, insight, and optimism that he always seems to meld so beautifully. We really hope that you can take what feels valuable in this episode, and use it as we come together in solidarity as a community this weekend, with all our varied life experiences and perspectives to be inspired by and stretched by General Conference.

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