“Latter-day Struggles”

An early contributor to the Exponent said that reading the magazine is like “getting a long letter from a dear friend.” Almost 50 years later, that is my experience. In the Spring Issue, I read an essay that had me saying “Yes! Yes! Yes!” Not quite like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally, but close. The piece is “Truth over Comfort” by therapist Valerie Hamaker.

The essay addresses “real-talk about womanhood, psychological growth, and spiritual development” and what happens when these things are discouraged in the church, embodied by a real event where Valerie got called out publicly by a mistress of patriarchy. It ends with these lines about how lonely and hard this process can be and the need to mourn with those who mourn: “This begins with encouraging—demanding—open dialogue, and even having the courage to start the conversation. This begins with cultivating the fundamental importance of personal authority. I am choosing truth over comfort.” And when she mentioned that she had started a podcast, “Latter Day Struggles,” to address “the silent suffering of the Latter-day Saint who dares not speak up because they know what will happen,” I knew I needed to reach out to Valerie and help spread the word. 

Valerie is delightful. She’s kind and thoughtful and wicked smart. As a therapist she became aware of the pain that gender issues were causing some of her clients and noticed patterns of suffering among Mormon women that led her to try to uncover what contributed to their pain. She began reading and researching, using what she knows about family systems to inform her approach along with books like Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings

When I asked Valerie what inspired her to start her podcast, “Latter-day Struggles,” she said that the things she learned led her to want to share these insights. And she was also spurred by the event she wrote about in Exponent, where she encouraged a group of LDS women to “live a faith that was authentic and connected to God, considering, but not being held hostage to, general handbooks of instruction, or even the folks in the red chairs” (that imagery!) and was called to repentance by a woman in attendance who successfully shut down the whole conversation. I love that in the face of censure her response was not caution, but boldness, not silence, but amplification. 

The first podcast dropped in February of this year and the big themes are gender, sexuality, and power/patriarchy within the context of the LDS church. Let me highlight some episodes to give you a feel for what “Latter-day Struggles” has to offer.

Episode #2 What are Bad Thoughts? In this episode Brannon and Valerie discuss “bad thoughts.”  They talk about how trying to control bad thoughts lead to shame and self rejection. They break down the notion that all sexual thoughts are “bad.”

Episode #9: How Does Ignoring the Divine Feminine Hurt Us? Join Brannon and Val as they look at how history has been trying to demonize and then erase the feminine divine for thousands of years and how the divine stature of women has morphed from holy and revered to marginalized and subservient.  The bottom line: It hasn’t always been this way. Our LDS culture’s current interest in this topic may just be part of the restoration of lost truths.

Episode #25: When Mom Feels Like a Robot Join Valerie in this episode as she breaks down a typical client that comes into her private counseling practice…the numb, exhausted, dutiful, mom. Our work together is to learn more about how she got here and how it’s possible that she can feel so crappy after having done all of the right things. 

Episodes #33: Stages of Faith Development–How We Get Stuck, How We Get Unstuck Join Valerie on this episode as she walks you through one of her Sunstone Presentations breaking down the following:

1) Scott Peck’s Stages of Faith Development

2) Characteristics of institutions in lower stages of faith development

3) Valerie’s theories on why we as an institution are stuck

4) Actual comments from podcast listeners about their faith deconstruction and how this is often faith progression (not regression)

5) Why those in the orthodoxy and those in skepticism struggle with each other 

6) How to become a truly open community where all stages of faith are welcomed

Episode #35: The Shadow of Joseph’s Polygamy and its Ongoing Institutional Reverberations Did you miss the AMAZING Sunstone Symposium 2022?  No worries!  In this episode you’ll catch at least one lecture!  Join Valerie as she shares her session formally called “The Jungian Shadow and Mormon History” where she will cover:

  1. The meaning of the Jungian Shadow
  2. How we all try to DENY our personal shadows in creative ways that estrange us from owning and integrating our shadow parts
  3. A case study in shadow integration:  King David self confronts with the help of the prophet Nathan
  4. A case study in shadow non-integration:  Joseph Smith Jr. does not self confront (in spite of Oliver’s attempts to be his “Nathan”)
  5. How this unresolved shadow continues to haunt us as an institution today in the form of deep struggles around the issues of sexuality, patriarchy, and hard power
  6. What we can do to help our institution heal from this collective shadow

Episode #43 A Case of Subservience over Conscience In this episode Valerie takes you back to the 1970s and recounts LDS church headquarter’s handling of the national Equal Rights Amendment [ERA] and how large numbers of church members gladly relinquished their own wisdom and judgment in the service of loyalty to the institution.  After tracing these fascinating events, Valerie shares several thoughts about what this cautionary tale can teach us about the dangers of a society that struggles cultivating in its membership spiritual discernment, psychological freedom, and agency to act according to conscience.  

What has been the response to this podcast? For the first six months it had about 5k downloads, but since July and Valerie’s appearance at Sunstone, it has shot to 39k and growing. When I asked Valerie why it seems to resonate with so many, she thinks it’s because they (she currently has her husband Nathan as a co-host, early on it was a fellow therapist Brannon Patrick) are faithful truth tellers who are not orthodox or apologetic and are actively engaged in the gospel. 

I am not the only person to reach out to Valerie. She had so many folks looking for guidance on how to “honorably navigate a faith crisis” that she started weekly virtual support groups, which she personally facilitates. Here is how she describes them:  

My vision is to offer a safe place for people to process their faith journeys. I try to integrate my understanding of trauma with my understanding of the unique nature of LDS doctrine, theology, loyalty, testimony in God [on the bright side] with my understanding of struggles with truth claims, social issues, and our collective and ingrained fear of personal authority [on the dark side, lol]. It’s a place to help people not feel alone and feel validated in the complexities of their experience in the current LDS church. It also helps them find people in a similar “place” on their faith journey with whom they can connect in real life. Those interested should email Valerie at info@valeriehamaker.com

If Exponent is like reading a letter from a friend, then this podcast is like a satisfying discussion with one. Join the conversation. 

The podcast can be found on Spotify, Apple, Google, Overcast, and more.

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1 Response

  1. Katie Ludlow Rich says:

    I’ve only listened to a little bit, but this is a great podcast! Looks like there are many more episodes I should check out.

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